Makes Sense Now

Last night I could not understand why I felt so bad. Like way worse than I’ve felt anytime recently. I had eaten a few things not on my diet plan. But, nothing that made me tumble so quickly in recent days. Well, I’m hoping I found the answer earlier.

Around 2am this morning I took a couple more ibuprofen. I just couldn’t understand how my 9pm nighttime meds had done nothing. After all, I even took an extra muscle relaxer around 11pm. Well, come to find out I never took my nighttime medicine. How my mind missed it I do not know.

However, when I went to take this mornings 9am meds I discovered last night’s meds still in the container. I literally went 12 extra hours without taking my most needed medication for my nerve pain. This explains why my body has felt totally inside out. Why I kept tumbling down and down with each hour. I’m lucky to have even slept a few hours.

I literally have 4 alarms set per day for this stuff. I check behind this stuff thoroughly knowing I need every medication I’m scheduled to take. Somehow, Satan pulled one over on me. It was a roller coaster of a night. Hopefully, my body and meds get back regulated real soon. Just shaking my head in disbelief. Still I’m grateful for answers!

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Looking Back Helps

Even after hours in the tub and a lot of water digested. My hands and feet are itching. That old familiar surgical spot is aching constantly. There doesn’t appear to be any quick fix in sight. A little surprised the meds I took hours ago don’t have me totally comfortable.

Now, I’m not lying here freaking out. I’m uncomfortable, but I’m not feeling desperate. This season’s worse days don’t compete with last season’s average bad days. Back then the pain never ended and no hope seemed in sight. Now, I know this is just a rough patch that God will counter sooner than later.

So, it’s very important I remember days of old. Not to live in the past. But, to draw great faith from the past. I used to live in the fiery furnace morning, day, and night. Now, I actually get surprised when I have great discomfort lasting more than a few hours. Thank you God for taking me through those unbearable days. Now, I know I can trust you with anything.

“I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.” Psalm 143:5

Gotta Stay Disciplined

Lots going on the past few weeks towards taking my body down. Busyness, stress, less sleep, and hardly any exercise in forever. However, the biggest issue has once again been a change in my diet. Of course, there’s no such thing as eating perfect. I did consistently eat extremely clean and healthy for nearly 80 days straight.

Now, I’ve not totally fallen off the healthy eating wagon. I still eat and drink with great discipline. But, the past week has not been acceptable. A few very poor food choices are starting to catch up with my body. All it takes is a small window for me to start tumbling due to increased inflammation.

For the most part I’ve been very fortunate on the days I’ve swallowed any inflammatory foods. But, it seems a few consecutive days of poor decisions have caught up with me. Chinese food and two donuts earlier certainly got my attention. I can feel the fire inside me rekindled. Nerve pain is radiating throughout my body from my feet to my face. Now, all I can do is get back on track tomorrow and give my body time to settle down.

Praise God I know where to find the fire extinguisher. It’s all starts with what I choose to eat and not eat. Like it or not this is the lifestyle I must live and breathe. So, once this inflammation settles I will start another streak. I will make one good decision at a time in a world where temptation sits on every corner. With God’s help I will continue on this health journey. God just needed to remind me that my diet really does matter!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Pray About Everything

Well, my dad looked a lot better tonight. At least, compared to the past several weeks. The circles under his eyes give away his sleepless nights. His constant agitation gives away his discomfort. But, sometimes things can only get better. Overall, I see increased strength and his appetite has improved.

Probably the biggest reason for this improvement is his week long break from chemotherapy. Yes, he is still having to take chemo pills nightly. But, he’s not had to go in for his usual Monday and Thursday chemo injections. He has also had a break from steroids until his chemo injections resume. Seems like everything he takes has so many side effects.

Even still he continues to fight and be in good spirits. This is so hard to do when your nerves are fried. When your back is against the wall. When everything about the future feels so up in the air. It’s really when God must become real in your life.

My 9yr old read his granddaddy some scripture and prayed with him. He really doesn’t understand most of what’s going on. However, he knows the power of prayer. He knows that my dad needs us to keep prayer lifting him forward.

As faith rises so does the peace of God. None of us like to feel out of control. Yet, it’s a feeling all too familiar in this life. Dad and I discussed how we can see God at work. How these are the seasons God draws us closer than ever. That is if we choose to turn everything over to Him. I’m very thankful for God’s answered prayers so far.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Tired Of Playing Games

On March 4th I will turn 45 years old. I have to say those years have flown by. Seems like yesterday I was still in grade school. Most of my school years I was best known as a class clown. Yet, more than ever I’m tired of playing games. It’s time to rise up. To live out my God given purpose with great faith.

When I turned 40 I thought was having a midlife crisis. I’m sure my extreme health issues the past 4 years contributed highly to some of my thinking. However, this time I feel pretty certain. I’m close if not already years beyond the midway point of my life expectancy. Statistics show the average age of death male or female in U.S. is 78.87 years old.

Now, I don’t know how this motivates or frightens you. But, it puts a fire under me to make everyday count. It’s time now to seek God’s will like never before. It’s time now to love others as God lavishes love on me. It’s time now to tell every soul I can about Jesus. I would like to see every person I encounter in Heaven one day.

You see, this life is but a vapor. You’re here one moment and gone the next. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. So I plan to live each day as it might be my last. Lord knows I don’t want to play games anymore. The brevity of this life lets me know I can’t afford to waste another minute. God take me over and use every second remaining for your glory.

(Psalm 90:12) Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

 

(Psalm 144:4) Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

 

(Ephesians 5:15-17) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

(Hebrews 9:27)People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

Learning To Fight Differently

Dad preached again this Sunday. Even though he could have collapsed any moment. I can totally relate to the calling he feels within him. I’ve had countless Sundays I had no business getting out of my bed. Still God put a fire in my bones compelling me to share His words of hope with others.

I just got off the phone with my dad. Thank God he was able to get a couple hours sleep today. The chemo, steroids, cancer and many side effects have made it very tough. Dad basically has to get rest anytime his body will allow. The past 3 days have left him winded, exhausted and at times very weepy. We all know a lack of sleep will suck the life out of anyone.

Dad loves for my 9yr old Asher and myself to call and pray for him. It seems to be a form of spiritual CPR always resurrecting his spirits. Dad knows only prayer is going to run this demon out. This battle is just way bigger than he can conquer alone.

Praise God dad is determined to get through this storm. He’s not just seeking to weather it. He plans to thrive in the midst of it. Daily he’s been forced to recognize his limitations. However, his growing faith keeps raising his expectations.

God is at work! Especially as dad continues to let his pain lead him to his knees. The more dad humbles himself. The more his strength and hope keeps rising. I really feel a peace about where we are regardless of where this may or may not end up.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

A Preacher’s Saturday Night

I’ve now been in the ministry for 27 years. I spent 11 years as a student minister and associate. The past 16 years I’ve been a senior pastor. Honestly, my Saturday nights have never been normal as a minister. But, since becoming a senior pastor things have drastically changed.

Now, in many ways a pastor never feels off duty. However, as a preacher Saturday nights feel like you’re waiting for the big game. You know so many people rely on your effective deliverance of God’s message. You do your best to pray and prepare the best of your ability. Then, you just keep asking God to get you out of his way.

Underneath the God-given role there are always some anxious nerves. For you know in your flesh alone things are bound to fail. Yet, guided by God’s spirit and truth lives are bound to change. As the time to preach gets closer and closer. You keep asking God to please get you out of His way and to have His way. Then, come Sunday morning somehow God does more than imagined despite you and through you.

“Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

So Glad To Fight

Tonight was a huge rarity for me. Not only did I stay awake past midnight. I enjoyed every minute of it. I sat down for hours at our dining room table. I barely had any pain. There I enjoyed playing two games of monopoly with my boys.

It really did feel like we went back in time. Due to my nerve condition it’s been nearly 5 years since I could endure such a time. Typically, I’ve had to pass all family game nights. But, not this time my friends. I was finally back in the game.

Just minutes into the first game competitive spirits were rising. Anyone watching might have thought a street fight was about to occur. But, it was one of the best nights of my life. There were plenty of looks and laughs. And, while playing Monopoly felt more like a family feud. I was beyond grateful to be able to fight and enjoy quality time with my boys.

“ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Been A Long Time

Well, it’s certainly been awhile since I’ve been this way. Nerve pain running throughout my body. Pain in my lower back just wreaking havoc on me. My hands and feet are constantly itching. All of this because the pain has gotten on top of me. I guess it was just a matter of time.

This week I’ve spent hours daily in the tub. I’m seeking to be reactive and proactive towards calming my pain. Not resting well night after night has caught up to me. I always hate feeling this way. Fortunately, it’s no longer always this way.

There was a time when this was a morning, day and night thing. But, I’m encouraged because it has been so long. Satan loves to get us focused on all that is going wrong. All I can see is how much has been going right for so long. God has actually given me my life back.

Fortunately, I have medications for times like these. Presently, I’m just waiting on them to kick in. It could take 30 minutes to an hour to settle down my flaring nerves. For now I’m just focused on all God has done. This has given me great confidence in what God will do. He’s proven this to me time and time again. Everything is always going to be okay in His time.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

God Is Working

Dear Refuge Family,

8 years ago this church was only a dream and need for this community. 6 years ago this church started Sunday worship with just a handful of people and a God-given vision. Now, we have over 30 key leaders and many other volunteers. 240 souls worshipped with us this past Sunday. Over a hundred souls have been baptized into the faith since we began. People from 10 different countries have walked through those doors. God has and continues to bless the faithfulness of many.

Now, you need to know we’re just getting started. God is just pouring the foundation of this ministry. He’s raising up folks up like you to be His soldiers. Yes, this world is a wreck in so many ways. But, that only makes this mission together even more urgently needed. People are searching for hope in all the wrong places.

There are people who still need you to reach out. To let them know there’s a place they will always feel God’s love and hear His voice. Tell them to come as they are to a place where God’s grace and truth abounds. 9 out of 10 first time visitors say they wish they knew about this place much sooner.

So, please keep praying for God to raise up an army. Make sure you are making yourself completely available to God. You see, the harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. God wants to use you to accomplish more than you can imagine. Make sure you continue to help us Love, Lift, & Lead people to Jesus.

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. AsK the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38

http://www.RefugeChurch.org

Faith Under Fire

This past week has been really tough. Both physically and emotionally I feel drained. God has been doing a lot of really awesome things. Yet, my emotions keep taking me for a ride. I’ve had a lot on my plate and I’ve not slept well all week. My legs are heavy and so is my heart.

In many ways, I’m in the prime of my life. God is putting so many things in order. Things I’ve prayed about for years are happening daily. Yet, at the same time I keep coming face to face with new giants and my humanity. No matter how much I do there’s always much more to be done. I mean this as a husband, father, son, brother, friend and pastor.

There is one thing I cannot deny. God has my full attention. Not in a bad way at all. I’m learning to lean on Him completely. My feet are on the prayer pedal around the clock. I just keep giving God all that’s on my heart. I keep thanking Him for all He has done, is doing and will do. I’m back on another faith walk for sure. One that feels really deep, but is also deepening my faith.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7

The Humble Pie Club

It’s been 20 days since my dad found out he has advanced Multiple Myeloma Cancer. It’s taken at least half that time for reality to move from our heads to our hearts. At first you just want to fall apart when you see someone you love struggling so much. Then, you catch your breath and start trusting God with each breath forward. That’s where we are at this point in this painful journey.

My dad is just a couple weeks into his chemotherapy treatments. Everyday appears to be unpredictable. Dads had some really good moments and some really bad ones. Putting this cancer in remission seems very possible. However, the journey towards that remission is proving long and painful. I truly hate to see my dad feeling so weak all the time.

Now, tonight my dad and I grew a little closer together. He said, “Son, I hate that you had to eat the first piece of humble pie. I realize now why all that pain you had before changed you so much. Now, it’s my turn to eat humble pie. And, it’s changing the way I think about everything. I pray more now than ever before in my life.”

I couldn’t help but get choked up as I could taste his pain. I could identify with how it strips you down to the core. When the pain is so great you can hardly catch your breath. You can’t hide your extreme weaknesses from the world anymore. All you can do is keep crying out to Jesus for relief and healing.

I was able to tell my dad how his pain was not being wasted. It’s not just changing his life, but mine too. I’m now making decisions with much greater urgency and perspective. I’m thanking God for each moment. Not just looking ahead for what may never happen. We’re both official members of the humble pie club. And, while I hate the pain I see in His eyes. I can’t deny I feel God working both in, through and around him.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Maybe It’s Just Me

We all know this life is full of ups and downs. One moment you feel on top of things. The next minute things feel on top of you. Presently it just feels like there’s a dark cloud hovering over this world. Maybe it’s just what I’m feeling in my soul.

Now, I don’t think things just suddenly got this way. American values have been spiraling downhill for quite sometime. No, I’m not talking about what’s going on in the White House. Im talking about things in my house, your house and even inside the school house.

I’m afraid the average American has turned their back on God. Sure, many reference the words “In God We Trust.” But, does it really count when someone’s heart is so far from meaning those words. You see, to trust God is much more than a few words.

It’s saying God I surrender all. Please forgive me of my sin and selfishness. Take my heart and lead my life. I believe your son Jesus paid it all for me on that cross and even overcame the grave. Be my salvation, my stronghold, and my reason for living every breath.

Then, somehow God lavishes us with His grace and healing. Hope becomes more than a word. It becomes a certainty in our heart no matter what life brings. By grace through faith in Christ alone. We find forgiveness of sin, eternal security in Heaven and a hope that can’t be taken away.

Maybe it’s time for America to spiritually wake up. Get down on your knees. Let God take you over. Trust God with all your heart, soul, and situation. Worry alone will change nothing. Giving things completely over to God can change everything.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Her Love Carries Me

This woman by my side is something special. Her love looks beyond my many imperfections. Morning, day and night she seeks to love me for better or worse. There’s no way our marriage is still standing without her unconditional love and unwavering commitment. There’s no way I’m still standing if she hadn’t carried me through every valley.

She’s deserving of so many (P.H.T.) Putting Him Through awards. Since the day we got married I’ve never felt alone. She got me through college & seminary. She’s believed in me when others didn’t. She’s helped me through every shipwrecked moment. She’s helped me recover from things I never thought possible. She’s made me look better than I am just by her presence and consistent character.

I’m a hot mess to begin with, but she knew that before marriage. However, as a pastor’s wife she has to share me with so many others. She chooses to stay behind the scenes because she doesn’t do anything for self-glory. But, sometimes I just have to acknowledge the jewel she has always been.

One of my greatest New Year’s resolutions is to treat her like a queen. To not take what she does for granted. To enjoy more dates and even go on a few more memorable trips. Ministry is a very huge passion of mine. But, if I fail to treat her right. I will consider myself a failure. After all, I really can’t do much without her. I love this preachers wife God gave me!

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4

Before You Look Ahead

It’s that time of year again. A time that most of us think about new beginnings and resolutions. A time we aim for old and new targets on the wall. We hope and pray this new year is full of God’s blessings. Honestly, I believe we should be looking forward with great expectations. However, there’s one thing we should do before we ask God’s blessings forward.

We need to thank God for past and present blessings. For God’s hand of protection and provision up to this point. For all the things God made possible that otherwise were impossible. For faith, family and friends that bring so much joy into our lives. Yes, we need to count our blessings naming them one by one. Otherwise, we will just be focused on what we don’t have instead of all God already has provided.

Going into 2020 I have a lot of things I’m hoping to accomplish. But, I don’t want to pursue any of it without being full of gratitude. Too often I’ve been focused on what needs to be done instead of all God has done. This sucks the joy out of my sails and makes everything feel like a job. So, my first New Year’s resolution is not just to see God do more in my life. Instead, I hope I will continually see and celebrate what God has done, is doing and will do.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Always Hope In Christ

Tomorrow will be 2 weeks since my dad discovered he has cancer. Even still today was a good day. His kidneys have improved a little. His pain has become a little more manageable. The eye of the tiger is back in his eyes. Regardless of this disease’s progression. His doctor really feels confident in their ability to treat this particular cancer.

In some way, form or fashion dad may always be battling this disease. Putting it in remission is definitely achievable. But, it’s going to take at least 6 to 9 months of chemotherapy before that happens. While only two weeks have passed. It feels like it’s already been 2 months as we’re all walking this journey together.

Sometimes the enemy gives you a knockout blow. Well, at least he hopes it knocks you out. Satan seeks to discourage you with bad news. He aims to paralyze you with great fear. Then, he tries to steal every ounce of hope from your heart.

It’s in these intense seasons you must recognize the devil’s strategy. Jesus always has plans for hope, peace, purpose, life and joy. Satan plans to derail all of these things. No, you can’t overcome these attacks by yourself. However, through Christ the victory has already been won. Trust him, follow him, and keep your eyes on him.

Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Bring On 2020

Well, I definitely came into the New Year sick. This past Monday morning I went to the doctor. Seems I have some kind of viral infection. My throat has been killing me. My head has been beyond stuffy. I’ve struggled to do much. Even still I’m coming into this new year feeling stronger than ever.

By far, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in quite some time. Physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually I’m very encouraged. My overall pain has been very minimal. Making constant healthy choices have become a way of life for me. From what I eat to what I do. Finally, I’m fully embracing my new normal.

The biggest thing God has taught me the past year is crystal clear. That is with God all things are truly possible. All I’ve done is trust Him everyday. Sought to do all I can while trusting Him for all I can’t. In every way possible God has poured constant blessings into my life. He will do the same for you if you’ll just keep taking the next God led step.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Considering A Diet Change?

Sixty days ago I resolved in my heart to start eating clean. For me this has meant eating only vegetables, fruits, nuts, grilled lean meats and beans. Yep, I had to wave goodbye to sugar, caffeine, and lots of other tasty things.

Rarely have I eaten anything outside of these lines. The one day I did eat whatever I wanted was Christmas Day and it proved very painful. There’s no doubt that eating healthy has much greater value than just losing weight.

Most know that I’ve got a lot history of major chronic pain. In fact, prior to this new diet my nervous system crashed weekly for over four years. All of that changed when this diet was put in place. The inflammation throughout my body has drastically decreased. My pain level has now been consistently bearable. This new way of eating has helped me eliminate 3 medications. Also I was able to greatly reduce the dosage of 3 other medications by fifty percent. My stamina and ability to focus has completely returned.

Day by day I’m convinced that what we eat and don’t eat really matters. In fact, your diet is just as important as any physical exercise, rest or stress management. The right food is the best medicine on the market and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. So, if you want to feel better don’t overlook your daily diet.

Eating healthy could drastically increase both the quality and quantity of your life. No, it’s not easy, but so worth the daily discipline. Many are learning this truth. Most won’t believe the difference eating healthy can make. That is until they wholeheartedly try it for themselves and choose to eat and drink counter culturally.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

I Should Not Be Surprised

It’s been several weeks since my nervous system last crashed. Lord knows I’ve been doing all I can to eat right and live right with my condition. However, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I totally abandoned my daily diet. I knew in my heart there would be some pain to follow. Had no idea that my entire body would be vibrating with pain so quickly.

Once again a huge confirmation that my diet has been changing my life. Without warning my heart began racing and my nerves just crashed. Thank God I don’t typically feel this way. It’s paralyzing and very deflating. All this has come from just one day of me consuming a lot of sugar. Just one day of me eating like a mad man whatever I desired.

Been eating totally clean all day. Hoping now to cleanse this out with water and sleep. These breakdowns are so hard to explain to most. It’s like suddenly relapsing in your recovery journey. You feel like you were doing so good. Then, boom you find yourself in pieces on the ground. With time and rest this will change soon. While all the food was very tempting and delicious. There’s no doubt I clearly lived outside of what I knew was best for me.

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17

Sad But Glad Christmas

Well, it’s been a very blurry past five days. The blurriness began after finding out my dad is battling some very serious health issues. Since then our family has just been walking through this valley together. My dad is still in the hospital and only time tell when he gets to go home. Anyone knows that living in the hospital is no fun at all.

Fortunately, we did get to spend Christmas Eve all together in the hospital cafeteria. Then, today I was able to see my parents for a short visit. The great news is my dad is still here to be seen. And, as long as God remains in control hope will always be found.

Physically I fell completely off the wagon with my necessary diet. After 55 days of eating so disciplined the dam of discipline finally broke. I’ve had more sweets the past 24 hours than I’ve had the past 55 days combined. I have thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas. Just the opportunity to be present, clear minded and feeling good. I will likely pay big for all the consumed sugar. However, my tastebuds thoroughly enjoyed every bite eaten.

Overall, this was my best Christmas physically in nearly 5 years. It amazes me what God has done in my life. This new season of strength is much needed right now. My past weaknesses are proving to be today’s strengths. Somehow God keeps using yesterday’s difficulties to really help me appreciate today’s trials and victories.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Partly Cloudy And Cold

Based on stats alone it was a much better day on the books. My day began after 9 hours of sleep. Then, I ate all the foods I should and stayed away from those I shouldn’t. Overall, I was only active for a little over six hours. And, most of that was spent sitting down or lying on my side. However, I’ve just not had much energy all day long.

Of course, these rare freezing temperatures here in South Carolina aren’t doing my nerve wrecked body any favors. Inside or out it seems to cut right through my skin. Overall, I just feel zapped of all my energy. I may have some kind of bug. Right now it’s just too early to tell.

Finishing up preparation for my Sunday sermon feels impossible right now. So, I’m going to bed and praying I feel much better in the morning. If I don’t I will quickly make a doctors appointment to get on top of this sickness. I have taken some medicine for sinuses and cold symptoms. Seems like my body doesn’t handle a sugar or a little sickness well. This to shall pass!

““Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10

The Stats Do Matter

My body is definitely in need of some quality rest. The last four days straight have been very fruitful. However, they have been way too busy and long. I don’t have to look long at my Fitbit stats to recognize the problems. The past has proven the stats do matter.

Now, I’m been doing great at keeping my daily walking under 3 miles daily. But, I’m been averaging 10-12 hours of activity daily. I’ve learned 7-8 hours should be my daily max. I’ve been averaging under 7 hours sleep nightly when my body requires 8-9 hours. No wonder I’ve been coming home every night and having to spend many hours in a tub for relief.

So, tomorrow morning I will do nothing all morning. I will seek to get the rest my body desperately needs. I will give my mind rest from having to work so much. I will seek to make the next few days a lot shorter work days. This is why I keep my Fitbit charged at all times. The stats and facts speak for themselves. They provide revelation, confirmation and direction.

“Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

Psalm 26:2

Celebrate The Blessings

Finally, I’m home from a very physically and emotionally draining day. Anytime, I’m out of the house for nearly 12 hours I’m asking for increased pain. But, this wasn’t one of those days I could just stay in the bed. I needed to get up and show up. I’ve already missed too many big moments in the past due to my health. I was determined to see my oldest son’s college graduation.

So, despite the fact my body was already exhausted I joined the family for this special day. God keeps telling me to remember the blessings. The fact I’ve gotten so much stronger. The fact my pain has become so much more manageable. That I’m no longer just stuck home and soaking in misery. I’m out living and enjoying the next God-given moment.

Now, I will probably spend hours tonight in this soaking tub. I’m just way too sore to even consider sleeping right now. Yet, my blessings are overflowing. I’m so grateful for days like today. For family and reasons to celebrate. For God carrying me this far in my recovery journey.

Having to eat so disciplined is getting much harder at day 47. However, I’m very thankful for answers and options for pain relief. With God’s help I will make this way of eating a constant part of my recovery lifestyle. That way I can be around for many more God moments to come.

Even when I want to wallow in my pain. God keeps pointing out countless reasons to keep praising Him. I’ve already run out of fingers and toes in my attempt of counting them all. So often satan seeks to elevate the pain over the gains. What’s going wrong more than what’s going right in your life. God wants us to choose to dwell on the praiseworthy.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Don’t Give Up On God

I’m still breathing in my new normal. They say if God brings you to it. Then, surely God will take you through it. Well, that’s exactly what I experienced firsthand. I truly had to see it to believe it. Honestly, I didn’t always see things working out in any positive way. I was prepared to wave my white flag of surrender at any moment.

Most mornings I could barely get out of the bed. Most days I could barely handle each minute. Most nights the only way I got to sleep was by intoxicating myself with lots of medications. It was nothing for me to spend 12 to 14 hours in the bed and 6-8 hours in the tub. Misery was my main company for much of the past four years.

Then, God reached into my desperate situation. Pulling me out of such a deep distressed black hole. I saw no way out or through before. Then, God proved He had bee working everything for my good and His glory all along. Everyday I feel like I’m getting stronger and stronger. I may not be cured, but I’m certainly on the other side of the valley.

Who knew that a total change in my diet would bring so much promise. For 45 days straight I’ve just stay away from all inflammatory foods. Now, I’m feeding myself nothing but whole and healthy foods. It’s breathing new life in me everyday that I stick to the script. I will spend my life telling others in breathtaking chronic pain there is always hope for your situation. Just put your little hand in God’s big hand. He won’t let you down. Do all that you can while trusting God for all that you can’t do.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Life After My Shot

I’ve now been on ice half of the day. My shot this morning went as smoothly as possible. In fact, it was the least painful procedure I can recall. I’ve just gotta keep icing often and resting properly. It’s not easy to stay lying down. But, I know the next 48 hours I have to let my body heal.

My doctor said today he could tell my diet was really reducing my inflammation. That if I continued on this path I won’t need a shot every three months. So, it was encouraging to heat his feedback. He said there’s just too much evidence out there. That there are inflammatory foods and non-inflammatory foods. He said people just don’t realize that the wrong diet fuels their pain. I told him I’ve definitely learned this is so true.

Not being able to use heat or the tub has been difficult. However, these shots have knocked me down way more in the past. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be. Every area of my life has progressed forward. I’ve just got to keep take one step at a time.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Keep Walking By Faith

Been a long and fruitful day. I’m so grateful God keeps giving me opportunity to be a blessing. My stamina, focus and ability to minister keep growing daily. Things have been very busy lately. Driving any distance continues to be a challenge. These are just a few things I have to work around and learn to balance.

I am now officially replacing breakfast with a cup of juiced vegetables. Again, it’s not great on the taste buds, but it’s good for the body. I keep eating several times throughout the day in order to stay ahead of my hunger. I’m learning how to maintain my new diet whether home or away. I’m always around food I can’t eat and drinks that aren’t best for me. I continue to take this one step at a time as day 42 is about to begin.

I still have to spend hours most evenings in the tub for relief. But, thank God I’ve got a very deep soaking tub that I thoroughly enjoy. Tomorrow morning my wife will be taking me to get another quarterly shot. While I know I will be sore for several days afterwards. Time has proven that I need to proactively get these caudal injections. Otherwise the lower back coccyx pain will take me down quickly.

As I’ve said to you all many times in the past. God wants to use your pain as a platform. God wants you to know that with his help you can get through anything. God just ask that you keep taking the next right step. Then, after you’ve done all you can trust God fully with all you can’t.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

God Uses Genuine Faith Walkers

I want to ask everyone to pray for my Uncle Mitch. Tonight he had to be admitted into Trident hospital due to extreme pain. The kind of pain you cannot hide even if you aim to mask it. CT scan revealed there is definite life threatening concerns. But, no clear answers as to what he’s dealing with exactly until other specialists get involved. I just know things are so heavy on his heart physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Right now just pray that he knows God’s love, feels God’s presence and is calmed by God’s peace. The kind of peace you can’t find anywhere else. He’s never been the church going type. However, I know he believes in Jesus. He just needs to feel the love of Jesus through people like you and me.

Earlier tonight in the Emergency Room my youngest son and I were visiting him. My 9yr old grabbed my Uncle’s hand for prayer. Then he uttered a prayer that only a person with a true childlike faith can. Power was felt in that room as God flooded His love through a little boy to a grown man.

Because my Uncle is somewhat withdrawn. I know he’s had very few if any of these type moments. The kind where you can’t help but feel God’s power in the room. The kind where God’s love surges from a little boy’s heart to a grown man’s heart. He was obviously moved even in such pain.

All I know is too often we expect people just to come to church. When we should be seeking most to be the church. People are searching in every direction for hope. Before we pray for them to change. We need to demonstrate the change God has made in us. We do this best as we love and care for others like Jesus does for us.

Even though he is my little boy. God uses Asher often to touch my heart. My son tells me that God has given him the gift of prayer. He also says that love is His super power from God. Who am I to argue with a 9yr old? One who speaks so confidently and expresses His faith so loudly. So, I’ve decided to join him in loving and praying for those around me. I encourage you to do the same.

“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5

40 Days 40 Nights Of Fasting

Maybe I need to get myself a trophy or a small ribbon. All I know is the last 40 days and nights have felt like 40 years. I’ve now gone 40 days straight eating with a discipline only God could give me. This has all been motivated most by wanting to live in much less daily pain.

This entire time has been such an eye opener. I now know without any doubt that what you eat highly impacts how you feel. You’re either feeding yourself inflammation or quality nutrition. I’m not only seeking to stay away from all inflammatory foods, but I’m trying to eat healing foods.

So far, I’ve been able to reduce a lot of my medications. No longer am I just living in a fog. Instead, I can actually concentrate most of the day. Sure I still have pain due to my nerve damage. But, eating clean has changed my extreme pain anywhere from 50-75 %. This entire time I’ve mainly eaten only fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and very lean meats.

I just officially started juicing very healthy veggies. None of it does good to my taste buds. But, it feels like medicine as I chug it down. I’m aiming to eat around 12 servings of veggies daily. Seeking to resist all the delicious foods around me has been very challenging. Especially during the holiday season. However, by the grace if God I’ve stayed the course and my body keeps thanking me for it. If you’re trying to get healthy. Start with your diet before you take any other steps forward.

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:8

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

God has proven faithful once again. He not only got me through both services. He kept my mind focused on the task at hand. It’s awfully hard to override fogginess when you can’t have caffeine or sugar. Still somehow I was able to keep myself out of God’s way this morning. And, I feel much much better than I did before.

I’ve got to brag on God’s faithfulness a little bit more. Based on the past 26 years of ministry God has always come through. When I feel like nothing good can happen. When I feel I have nothing more to give. God picks me up and carries me through the fire. Based on the past He can be trusted 100 % of the time.

I could share story after story of His provision, protection, and power being so evident in my life. I can promise you I’m not worthy of being a pastor. I’m not capable of being a pastor. Apart from the call of God and the goodness of God my ministry would have long ago ended. God keeps working on me to make me what I can only be through Christ. My heart will sing his praises forever.

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:23

Take My Hand Lord

For the first time in a month I’m not feeling well on a Saturday night. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I can do. All I know is nerve pain is running throughout my body like electricity. Over the past few years this is what I felt every single Saturday night. Then, I would get up on Sundays and preach back to back services feeling blinded by pain.

Somehow by the grace of God I’ve made it through every Sunday in the past. Somehow God uses my weakness to demonstrate His strength. God uses my desperation to help me totally depend upon Him. I guess we’re all tempted to think we can depend upon ourselves. It’s only when we reach the end of ourselves that we can be totally full of Christ.

Now, I’ve taken medication that should ensure that I get much needed sleep. But, I have no idea how I will wake up feeling Sunday morning. I do know God’s grace will be sufficient. His strength will be enough. I’m doing all I can on my side so I’ve got to trust what God sees on the other side. Lord, take my hand and lead me where you want me to go. I know I can trust you with all my heart.

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Restore My Joy Lord

Sitting here just taking one deep breath at a time. Honestly, I’ve got a lot of settling down to do. Physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. I need to be still and know God is in control. My overall pain is under control presently. The angry nerves throughout my body just won’t quit going crazy. Now, all I can do is control what I know might help.

One, I don’t need to talk about it too much right now. Two, I need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Three, I need to keep doing what I do know as I trust God with all I don’t know. Four, I need to keep taking the next God led step. Lastly, I need to realize that I’m not where I used to be and I’m not all I’m gonna be.

The last month has been such a blessing. I’ve not experienced any neurological crashes. My ability to focus and live have been so encouraging. I’ve just ran into a few rough patches and discouraging moments. But, life is full of ups and downs for us all.

My blessings still far out weigh my disappointments. No doubt my glass is still more than half full. Today’s tough days are nothing compared to my worse days in the past. Thank you Jesus for peace, healing, answers, purpose, and the joy of knowing you are always at work. Especially in the midst of our trials you are working for us and despite us.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

Let’s Not Repeat This

Written 9pm 12/6/19

Here I am 13 hours later still hurting very badly. In fact, it feels like someone released fire ants to run loose throughout my entire body. No, I’m not exaggerating about how I feel right now. The misery just hasn’t gotten out of my system. Today’s been one of those days I pray is not repeated anytime soon. After further assessment I don’t think there is just one culprit this time.

As I’ve done throughout my recovery. I keep up with critical stats and consistency through my Fitbit and personal journaling. While I totally believe something in my diet took me furtherest over the ledge. A few other things have definitely impacted my current situation. One, I walked nearly 1 1/2 miles further than I should have daily this past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Two, on those same 3 days of walking further I was active daily for nearly 3 hours longer than time has proven is good for me. Thirdly, my sleeping schedule has been much later and inconsistent all week. These are what I call measurable success stats.

Time has proven it all matters. I’m not just managing food, but miles, sleep, stress and overall daily activity. This is what I mean about maintaining respect of your condition and consistently doing what’s best for your overall health. Oh, and I have been taking Mondays off but I worked all day on this one. Yes, we’re all going to have off days, but it’s when a series of off days pile up that we’re typically asking for trouble.

All day I’ve been fighting to right the ship. All day I’ve been paying for thinking I could just ignore these consistencies all week. Again, it’s usually not just one thing that takes you down. It’s when all the poor choices collide that you will go down. Even still I’m thankful for answers, measurable stats and a chance to get it right moving forward. While I hate the pain these insights give me hope.

I know things can and will change. This was just a day that tackled me from every angle. My heart is not crushed and my future is not shattered. God is just needing to get my attention so that I keep learning how to live a continuous recovery lifestyle. Ask yourself, “what might you need to adjust in your life to get back on track?” Whatever it is I pray you decide to do it.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Painful But Preventable

Written 1:15pm Today

The only thing good about this day is at least I have answers. Pretty much I have to read the ingredients of EVERYTHING so closely. I can’t eat anything partially normal compared to others. Anything with sugar in it pounds my body so quickly. Grams of sugar add up so quickly even through foods we perceive are totally good for us.

My body has been raging all day with nerve pain that makes me want to throw up. Fortunately, I know it’s due to sugars that I didn’t even realize were in certain things. It’s so hard to keep reading the fine print or having to research everything before you eat it. I’m sure I’ve drank at least 60 ounces of water so far just in hopes of flushing out my system. However, the damage happens so quickly.

I’ve really not added anything much to my diet. I’ve just not recognized the sugars that were in certain things. So, today I learn another painful lesson. What I digest into my body is the biggest game changer in my condition. I can’t emphasize enough to some of you who think this knowledge isn’t for you. Your diet always impacts your overall health. Your diet affects your mood, your fatigue, your pain from inflammation, and your overall health in general.

If you want to feel better and live better. Choose right now to eat better. Quit drinking those sodas and energy drinks. Quit eating lots of sweets and fast food. Seek one step at a time to make healthy food and drink choices. I’m telling you that in less than 1-2 weeks you will feel a major difference. Learn from my pain so that you can reduce your pain. Trust me, you will thank me later for telling you this absolute God ordained truth.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

Why I Write A Lot Less

I used to literally write day and night about my pain. It wasn’t something I just talked about. Pain was something I was continually living and breathing. In fact, it had me really, really down for so long. Therefore, I had to find a way for God to use it to encourage others. Somehow it lifted my spirit to lift up another.

Now, I find myself writing a lot less. One, I’m back to living out my new normal. Two, while I’m still always in pain. I’m not always consumed by that pain. Thirdly, I don’t like to feed my pain. Used to I always wrote in the midst of my greatest pain. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to be still and allow God to calm you. Then, after the storm settles you can better share of God’s goodness despite your pain.

My steps towards recovery are still day and night. I still watch closely my daily activity, exercise, sleep, diet, and overall health. I don’t have much time to write about all I’m seeking to put into practice. I still try not to waste my past or present pain. Daily I’m able help somebody up because I know what it feels to be knocked down. God never ceases to put windows of opportunity in front of me. In some way, I hope my divine journey has encouraged you.

Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” John 9:3

Just 35 Days Later

In just a little over a month my eyes have been opened big. Who knew that diet alone could play such a big role in drastically reducing my chronic pain. I’m not talking about because of any weight loss. I had already lost 30 pounds prior to starting this elimination diet. Even after maintaining my body’s ideal weight for over 8 months straight. It never did anything significant for reducing my pain.

However, once I wholeheartedly started my present diet my life quickly changed. There’s no doubt that what you eat impacts the chaos within your body. As long as I stay strictly within the lines of this diet I’m nearly 75 percent better then just 35 days ago. The moment I get away from this discipline my nerve wrecked body begins to melt in just a matter of hours. Maybe we are actually what we eat.

Anyone who has watched my journey up close can see the drastic difference in me. Before I was barely hanging on. Fighting everyday to have the ability to focus. Now, I’m not afraid of crashing anytime. I can maintain focus daily. Before my mind couldn’t get off the pain and my nervous system crashed weekly. Now, I’m living with consistent quality moments and I’ve never crashed while sticking to the daily plan.

Has it been easy? Absolutely not! Has it been worth it? Absolutely yes! It’s not what I would have chosen to do. However, if through this God can give me a better life. I’m willing to maintain this discipline until the day I die. The past 35 days I’ve only been eating fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meats and beans. I’ve been staying away from corn, dairy, eggs, gluten grains, white table sugar, shellfish, soy, beef, pork, processed meats, coffee, tea, and chocolate.

Today, I’m officially adding back to my diet eggs, cheese, corn, shrimp, and lean beef. I’m going to add these back one by one to see how my body responds. But, I have no doubt that white sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine create havoc quickly inside my body. Maybe there’s other foods on my elimination list that are keeping me sane. All I know is this diet has change my life completely. Anyone’s health would change for the better eating this way.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.”1 Corinthians 10:23

Total God-Made Day

Before my day even started I was blessed with nearly 9 hours of sleep. I did have to take some muscle relaxers, but I woke up very refreshed. After eating some fruit I headed out the door. Fortunately, a friend was able to drive me to Columbia,SC to watch my favorite college football team’s big rivalry game. Other than hating the traffic I really enjoyed my day and the weather was beautiful.

Due to eating totally clean all day I’ve had no major pain all day. There’s no doubt that what I eat always affects my pain levels. The results just keep proving themselves time and time again. It’s such a relief knowing I can actually do something to better my condition. With hope sitting in front of me I’m not about to waste it.

Tomorrow someone is blessing me with a really nice juicer. I will be making sure my body gets the nutrition it needs each day. I will continue learning how to live this new lifestyle of eating. I’m not going to complain anymore about the food I have to eat and the food I can’t eat. No, it’s not easy. But, the quality of life is well worth the discipline. Thank you Jesus for a great day without any painful surprises. Watch out devil I’m seeing the light.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Thanks For Answers & Perspective

Earlier I felt deeply the crippling pain that once owned my body. In the past, things would have just kept spiraling downhill. My heart would keep racing. My body kept aching and I would just lay there feeling anxious and hopeless. Those days are officially behind me as I’ve seen the light. I now know without a doubt the power of eating healthy.

Over 100 ounces of water and a few hours later I’m back on track. Physically and mentally I’m even more on track than before. There’s no doubt that even most artificial sweeteners are not good for me. Even the decaf coffee I started drinking is not good for me. Even my sugar free popsicles must go. Bottom line is before last Friday night I was eating totally clean without question. My body had never felt better until I started adding things that were questionable back to my diet. I should’ve stuck with what was working.

Goodbye popsicles, artificial sweeteners and anything that might even have the least bit of caffeine. I know how easily you guys flood inflammation to my nerve wrecked body. I will now very happily eat my salmon, asparagus and sweet potatoes. In fact, I will smile and be grateful with every single bite. In fact, this water has never tasted so great.

Folks, I’m telling you try eating totally clean and good for you self. That is after you actually discover what that means. It will reduce your pain and anxiety. It would help your overall health. It will proactively and reactively fight many battles for you. For the one who maybe needs to hear this the most. Diet alone has done more for me than any doctor or medications could do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

Shipwrecked Again

I can’t believe I’m saying this again. My entire body is aching terribly and I’m so nauseous. I’m barely able to handle even the simplest conversation. My nerves are just a wreck. The only possible inflammatory food I’ve had is sugar free cool whip. Between last night and today I easily ate half of that regular sized container. Most of that was eaten today.

I’m guessing that once you’ve eaten as clean as I’ve been doing. Even an artificial sweetener is going to create havoc in your system. The only other things that could have contributed was sugar free creamer in a small cup of decaf coffee. I also had two sugar free popsicles last night. Who knows and I guess it really doesn’t matter. I guess it all produces way more inflammation than I could ever imagine.

God willing I will be going to the Carolina vs Clemson football game. For now I’m guzzling at least 100 ounces of water in hopes of flushing all of this out of my system. This is like having a disease that is so hyper sensitive. I’m feeling absolutely miserable right now. But, this is just further confirmation that everything I eat affects my condition. It’s all the motivation I need. Lord knows I never want to feel this way ever again.

I hate that I even gave the devil a small window. I’ve been doing so good and I’ve got to be even more disciplined moving forward. God please keep guiding me towards what I should and should not do. The more I’ve swallowed the more it has helped. And I’ve also taken a product my doctor gave me that is supposed to counter any potential food allergies. Thank God I eat least have answers this time. I will be going to bed extra early and hoping to be much better in the morning!

Pain & Hunger Don’t Mix

Because of much tougher seasons I’m pretty used to pain. I truly can’t remember waking up and not aching in some significant way. However, I feel like food can make one just as crazy. I guess you could say it was the one thing I could still control. Before, I could wake up and eat whatever I wanted. Then, all that seemed to change overnight.

It’s been 30 days, but now reality has finally hit me. If I’m going to do this I have to eat differently than most around me. I can’t just grab some ice cream, pie, cake, or banana pudding. Notice, I’m just listing a few things I would give anything for at this time. However, I know if I started feeding my real appetite things would get out of hand very quickly.

Earlier I was waiting on some salmon, asparagus, and sweet potatoes my wife was baking. All I did was walk in the kitchen to see things every direction my body shouldn’t digest. After discovering some sugar free cool whip in the fridge I began to indulge in what felt like a drug. After several big dips with some strawberries I got another big wake up call. I’m thinking to myself “this is my new reality.”

This not easy and the battle is not over. I literally yelled for my wife to come take the cool whip bowl from me before I cleared it all out. Yep, for me there really is no in between. Either I will eat disciplined or I want. Either this fight is worth the discipline or it’s not. Fortunately, my mind knows the right answer and my stomach is now full of salmon, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. But, it has left me irritable and moody to say the least.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Praise Report After Thanksgiving

#1 I fell asleep quickly last night and slept over 7 hours with great comfort.

#2 I woke up able to focus and finish this Sunday’s sermon.

#3. My pain level has been manageable all morning as I’m just very sore from the past week.

#4. I’m still only 5 ‘11 weighing in at 169.2 pounds since I didn’t eat any of the good stuff that I’m sure many enjoyed. How I stared those desserts in the face I will never know. But, it was not easy.

#5. God woke me up another day feeling very hopeful.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

I Made It Through Thanksgiving

Been a long, but blessed day with family. We’ve literally been gone since noon and should be home before 11pm. I didn’t start out this day feeling great. But, somehow I’ve survived the day without totally collapsing. My chronic pain has shown it’s ugly head in many ways.

Sadly, because I look so healthy on the outside most can’t see my inside brokenness. The fact that every step is painful in my present state. I’ve been very grateful for the quality moments I’ve had today. But, I would be absolutely lying if I said there were many easy moments. Pain just has a way of sucking all the joy clean out of you.

Even still, God keeps using my pain to increase my humility and compassion towards others. I’m literally drawn to anyone whose pain I can see in their eyes. Today, I had a few conversations that would not have been possible prior to my painful journey. Funny how you can feel God working so much when you can barely hold your head up.

Hopefully, tonight I won’t have such a tough night. Praise God, I was still able to stay completely on my diet. Plus, I’ve taken my nighttime meds early hoping to keep my pain from getting too out of hand. I’m sure I will have to spend a few hours in the tub. But, I can’t wait to get in my bed.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Thank You God

Thanks for your many prayers. I’ve gotten my breakthrough once again. I just finished sleeping almost 4 hours once the meds and prayers kicked in. Just gonna have to take at least one muscle relaxer much earlier each night. That is until I get back on top of things.

My recent days have been alright, but my recent nights not great at all. There are a combo of reasons this is happening. I’ve just made too many drastic life changes over the past few weeks. Medication reductions, totally new diet, and a major increase in daily activity. Even seeking to drive more recently has done me no favors.

Praise God I do have medications that can help me rest if I’m able to stay on top of the pain. Life is all about adjustments. I will learn from here. Still far beyond where I was before in this journey. Just gotta stay proactive with my self care at all times. Gonna try and get a few more hours sleep even now. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.” Psalm 36:1

Just Ask For Prayer

I’m laying here just drowning in pain. My entire body is aching and my legs are throbbing so much. Seems it’s actually gotten worse instead of better. Even after a muscle relaxer and muscle rub the fire just won’t die. There’s definitely been some extra anxiety associated with this unexpected, escalated pain.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because I need your prayers once again. God impressed upon my heart to get over my pride. Don’t worry about what others might think. Be honest about your struggle and invite others to join you in prayer. So, here I am spilling my guts.

I really have no idea how things have gotten this bad. Or why things are so much worse at night. All I know is I’m laying in a bed of pain I can’t make go away. I do believe some things can only come out by prayer. And, this man be one of those things.

“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:21

Lots To Swallow Daily

My mind and heart are gradually calming down. I’m laying in bed on my side. Presently this is my only possible position for some comfort. Right now, I can’t lay on my back, sit up or stand without discomfort. My nights continue to make me feel trapped inside of my own body.

Anytime I’m forced to lay here in pain so much goes through my mind. Mainly, I try to remain a student of my condition. How can I possibly have a more positive outlook? What must I do to thrive not just survive? What should I do to give myself the greatest chance of healing. Here are a few things I know I must do physically everyday to be my healthiest.

#1 Get A Good Night’s Sleep

#2 Take necessary supplements and drink plenty of water.

#3 Eat Healthy & Stay Away From Unhealthy & Inflammatory Foods

#4 Walk Enough, But Not Too Much

(At least 2 miles no more than 3)

#5 Stretch Properly Morning, Day & Evening

#6 Keep Respecting My Condition

#7 Don’t stand, sit or drive more than 30 minutes at a time.

#8 Limit my stress load.

#9 Do what I can, but trust God with all I can’t.

#10 Get in the bed early. Generally in bed no later than 9pm and aim to be asleep before 11.

I Can Eat Whatever I Want

They say it takes at least 6 weeks to establish a new habit. Well, I’m exactly 4 weeks into this healthy eating lifestyle. And, I feel it may take much longer for this way of eating to feel like a true way of life. Especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas both hitting me over the next 30 days. Yes my efforts have been very strong so far. That’s only because I discovered my quality of life depends on it.

You see, this is not just a change of foods. This is a total change of perspective. Most don’t really believe that what they eat affects their overall health that much. Sure, eating clean may sound good to most. But, until you believe that you’re feeding yourself poison. You won’t see an urgent need to make changes.

Honestly, I don’t want to believe this even now myself. But, the leading killer on planet earth may be the American diet. Yes, I know that dressing, macaroni, fried chicken, and casserole takes so good. Don’t even get me started drooling over all those desserts. However, our decisions shouldn’t be fueled by our momentary gratification alone. Nor should it be dictated by the fact everyone else is or is not doing something.

We need to think about the long term impact of our present decisions. How will what I’m doing now affect those I love later on? This can be said about food, relationships and other lifestyle choices. As I close out another challenging day of choosing to eat healthy. I have to keep reminding myself why this is so important. Why this is worth such extreme measures. Why? I want to be as healthy as possible for my wife, kids, family, friends and ministry.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

Gotta Keep Believing

Earlier I was out of the house doing a few things. My normal 2pm medicine alarm went off as usual. So, I reached in my backpack to get my medicine. It was then I realized everything was in there except for ibuprofen. I had refilled my weekly medicine container this morning. Somehow, I forgot to put ibuprofen in my 2pm and 8pm slots. So, I took everything else planning to take my ibuprofen a little while later.

Around 5pm I arrived home feeling like someone with the flu. My entire body was aching from my feet to my face. I literally felt like someone had beaten me up. It was not until around 5:30pm that I remembered not taking my ibuprofen. Which meant it had been 9 1/2 hours since my last dose of ibuprofen. Of course, I took my ibuprofen immediately along with some CBD oil.

My body is still seeking to recover as my heart has been pounding. I’m typically so detailed with my medications, but Satan found a small window towards taking me down. Sadly, the pain got so much on top of me that it will take a little while for my aching nerves to settle. I can’t believe how missing just two ibuprofen could leave me feeling so bad.

Finally, I’m back in the tub for some relief. In fact, outside of being asleep it’s my only escape from this pain. I’ve been trying so hard to keep my mind on anything that could help my health. However, it seems I just can’t win for losing. I will definitely be going to bed right at 8pm and hopefully waking up much better tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, the past has taught me many reasons to keep believing. God always has a plan and a way to carry me through the pain. In the middle of the pain it’s so hard to see especially if it’s blinding you. God has proven His faithfulness in days gone by and promises His faithfulness days to come. I’m trusting that even now God is using my pain to encourage someone walking through a similar pain. If that’s you know that I’m praying for you and God will take you through.

“I remember the days gone by; I think about all that you have done, I bring to mind all your deeds.” Psalm 143:5

God Is My Strength

One thing I hate about chronic pain is it’s never fully behind you. Even when you’re having a great day you know any moment could humble you quickly. Thank God I got over 7 hours sleep last night and I didn’t have to take a muscle relaxer. Maybe I should have considering my pain was very high. But, I’m no longer just trying to hide or drown the pain. Plus I don’t like waking up clouded by extra medication.

Honestly, the past few weeks have shown tremendous progress. Several nights have just proven I’m still a member of the chronic pain family. Guess I needed this reminder. Often my downfall has been when I quit respecting my condition. So, I will just take the last few nights as wake up calls.

I still feel this cooler weather has fueled my increased aches and pains. Plus, my ability to focus more has led to working longer days. So, I always have to reign things in by governing how much I sleep, eat, walk, sit, stand, drive or work. Trust me, it’s a lot to juggle subconsciously while trying to live a normal life. I’m just thankful to have bearable pain again and a greater quality of life. Praise God I’m back up for now.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Pain, Pain Go Away

The last several nights have not been great to me. Every evening that old familiar pain keeps throbbing in my lower back. It melts me down so quickly. Funny how these intense pain moments make you feel like nothing much has changed. When I know good and well I’m not like where I used to be.

I’m still eating great and getting so much more accomplished during the day. However, driving, sitting and even standing are often a big issue. Been trying my best to stay away from certain medications. Yet, the pain has been forcing me to take some extra medication the past four nights.

Right now I’m drowning in pain and begging God to help me sleep. Anyone that battles chronic pain knows it can so easily get on top of you. And this colder weather is certainly not doing me any favors. I’ve been doing so well in so many ways. But, these moments help me see that I’m far from fixed. God just keeps holding me together. If I can actually get some quality rest. It would go a long towards greater healing and relief.

“At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly.” Job 30:17

A Day To Just Breathe

There’s never a day I put my Christianity in the closet. I stay ready, open and willing for whatever God leads me to do. Honestly, this has been my way of life for over 26 years of ministry. However, time brings perspective and wisdom leads to change. Therefore, I’ve drawn a line in the sand. For now Mondays must be my day of personal recovery and renewal.

God has led me to simply be still every Monday. Honestly, it’s the closest I get to a true day off. Ministry never stops because there are always needs surrounding me. I love God and people with all my heart. But, I’ve had to stick to leading everyone to the Savior instead of trying to be everyone’s savior.

As each week passes I’m more and more grateful for this chance to catch my breath. This day that God just calls me unto Himself. I get to withdraw from the world and just breathe God into my very being. I ask God to renew my heart, mind, body, and soul. No one can do this except the God who created me and knows the plans He has for me.

God keeps showing me that all I need to do is walk with Him. I don’t have to figure everything out. I don’t have to rescue every hurting soul. I just need to walk with Him and allow Him to work through me. While continually giving God all my cares, concerns and all the glory. My recovery Mondays don’t fix everything, but they give me a much needed physical, mental and spiritual alignment.

Now, I know Mondays aren’t an option for everyone. Yet, we all really need a day that we’re not working. That we’re not worrying about everyone or everything else. A day we can just breath in God’s grace, mercy and love. A day we truly allow God to recharge our batteries. Otherwise, we are bound for burnout and can’t reach our full potential in Christ. One true day of rest can lead to 6 days of feeling even more blessed.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

Something Got In My System

Friday night while still out of town in Myrtle Beach, SC. I stopped and ate supper at a place called the Healthy Living Cafe. While the food I ate was great and most of it was very healthy. I’m pretty certain that the non-gluten oatmeal cup was filled with a little more than just organic bananas, carrots, raisins, pecans, honey, oatmeal and unsweetened almond milk. I made sure I asked the lady what ingredients she used. I should have known better just because of it’s sweetness.

However, I took her word for it. I was so excited to eat something that tasted like a desert that I bought three of them. I ate two that night and one more the next morning. It’s the only thing I’ve eaten anytime recently that I wasn’t fully of aware of all the ingredients. It didn’t take long for my stomach to tell me something just wasn’t right. By Saturday evening my entire body was vibrating like it would if I had a lot of sugar or caffeine.

Last night was a very long, stressful, and painful night. Of course, things always hit the night before I’ve got to preach. Even still, my increased health helped me override what could have been a day of disaster. So far, things still aren’t out of my system.

I can promise I won’t be swallowing anything questionable anytime soon. The pain and discomfort just aren’t worth it. Just another reminder that what I put into my body always matters. I am disappointed with the unnecessary pain I’m feeling, but I know it should be out of my system in the next 24-48 hours.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Come To Me Child

Headed to bed early tonight. I got to bed way too late last night and got very little sleep. Now, after a day of driving several hours back home my body is exhausted. I’ve been away the past five nights and six days from my family. God laid it on my heart to just get away. To seek Him about many things going on both now and ahead.

Of course, one week doesn’t fix everything. But, daily God has been changing me. I’m learning to be still and breathe God into my lungs. My identity can’t be wrapped up in anything but Jesus Christ. It’s never about seeing what I can do. My job is to be obedient and let Christ work on me, in me and through me.

In so many ways God is reconstructing me for this new season. A season of walking closer with Him than ever before. Trying to do God’s work is very wearisome. Mainly because He doesn’t call us to do His work. He calls us first to come to Him and trust He is at work. It’s only in God’s presence we find comfort and peace for our restless souls. So, I’m just seeking to keep my little hand in His big hand. Lord knows I can’t even walk without Him holding my hand.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

My Present Diet

For my present diet I’m simply doing what many call the “Elimination Diet.” Because my first goal was to make sure I eliminated things that have proven to most likely be inflammatory or create further health issues. My second goal was to make sure I didn’t just starve my body of bad stuff. But, I needed to know some stuff that I could eat to fill and nourish my body. So, it’s just this simple.

Foods To Remove:

Corn, Dairy, Eggs, Gluten Grains, White Table Sugar, Shellfish, Soy, Beef, Pork, Processed Meats, Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Caffeine.

Foods To Eat:

Fruits, Vegetables, Lean Meats, Nuts, Seeds, Healthy Oils, Legumes, Non-gluten Whole grains.

Now, it’s through this process of elimination that you start seeing how these things can affect the body. And, it doesn’t mean that all of these things have an equal affect on everyone. But, I can promise you this diet will make you healthier and definitely feeling healthier. When I started it I went all in because I was desperate for change.

Everyday I’m shocked at how much this not so easy diet is so worth it. And, daily I’m learning how to better approach my eating. You’ve got to stay on top of your hunger. You’ve got to keep foods around that you will eat that are allowed in this diet. As I’ve said, just eliminating high levels of sugar and caffeine would be a big step forward. But, if you want maximum results you’ve got to give maximum effort.

I’m praying for all of you who are seeking to take the next right step towards a healthier you. With God’s help you can do this. Don’t worry what you can’t control. Seize to do what you can control. Find someone who will support you through this journey of life change.

To Whom It May Concern

I think it’s very important to clarify that my new diet has not miraculously healed me. I still live a recovery lifestyle morning, day and night. I still watch how much I sleep, exercise, work, and now everything I eat and drink. It’s definitely not a walk in the park. I still deal with daily discomfort. But, my good moments far outweigh my bad ones. I’m discovering a much higher quality of life.

I simply had no idea how much my diet alone could help my nerve wrecked body and actually reduce extreme inflammation. In fact, most people’s diet increases their inflammation. Caffeine and sugar alone are like throwing flaming arrows into anything that is already struggling within your body. In ways I don’t even understand, but have observed firsthand. Much of what we call “normal” foods were never meant for healthy bodies. And, if you’re already struggling with other issues you don’t need to create further issues.

Honestly, if I had not long ago reached my breaking point. I would have never given up the banana pudding, carrot cake and processed foods lifestyle. I journaled my life practically everyday the past 4 plus years trying to discover things I could do to help my nerve wrecked body. Many times my body crashed after just a few cups of black coffee alone. I thought “Little Debbies” were my friends. But, after getting an absolute sugar high I would be suffering for days because my increased pain brought me to an even lower low. Just back to back nights of one cup of ice cream has made me feel deathly ill by the 3rd day.

Now, if my nerve damage was not so extensive I may have never registered this food related issue this early. But, if it can affect the body my nerves will let me hear about it quickly. It was only after I really stayed away from foods that have proven to create havoc in the human body that I realized my diet was killing my chances of any quality life. So, everything I share comes after a lot of sleepless nights and too much unnecessary pain.

The good news is you can control what you eat. And, if you’ve suffered long enough like me you should be willing to do anything that could change things. My longevity of pain has given me a huge compassion for those in pain. So, I plan to live the rest of my life sharing anything I have learned that can help. Anyone who thinks I’m just being radical just hasn’t gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired. Brokenness will eventually create openness.

Anyone wanting to read more about my story and steps forward can visit my craigcrosby.blog site. There is well over 1000 articles written under the “Faith Walking” category alone. Everything in that section is about me dog paddling my way by faith through what has felt like a nightmare most of the time. Now, I’m believing that God has allowed my pain so I can help others through their pain. I don’t write a lot of things on my personal FB page about my health issues because I know many don’t like to hear about misery. But, those who live in misery are very interested in others who can identify and offer hope. For that you can follow my Faith Walking page on Facebook as well.

Living My Best Life Now

Grilled Tuna with brown rice, quinoa, mixed veggies, & broccoli. Organic bananas, carrots, raisins, pecans, honey, oatmeal cups made with unsweetened almond milk.

23 Days of feeding myself nothing but healthy stuff. I’ve dropped 4 medications and reduced 2 others. Will turn 45 in four months, but feeling my best yet. I was 205lbs in January. I’m now down to 169lbs and holding. I eat triple what I was eating a month ago. But, because it’s good stuff it all turns into God stuff.

If you want to see your overall health do a complete 180 degree turnaround. Start with your diet it’s done more for me in one month than any medication, shot, surgery, or physical therapy was ever able to do. I share because I care. I’ve seen the light and I won’t be returning back to the darkness. Living my best life now!

Sorry, I’m still in awe of what God has done and is doing. Maybe someone reading this needs to see this post. None of this is about weight loss. It’s about healthy living.

Dear Mr or Mrs Not Okay

I’m in a season where God is rearranging my life. It’s obvious I can’t go back to living life as I once thought was normal. I’m now on a new journey towards true health. I’m aiming to be the healthiest I can be physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. I realize there is no perfect blueprint and I will never arrive to perfection this side of Heaven.

We all know life can so quickly get off course. One moment you’re on the highest mountain. The next finds you in the lowest of valleys. Yes, I understand part of that is the earthly nature of this life. Another part of that is so many of us keep following a world that is headed for burnout, disappointment, and disaster. Part of it is us thinking we can simply hit the cruise control button. When in reality life is about dealing with real things in real time.

So, I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to keep taking the next best step in front of me. Weekly at the bare minimum I will evaluate my life’s direction and overall health. Daily, I will do what’s necessary to be the healthiest me possible. I will live in a proactive fashion that doesn’t make me such an easy target for the devil. Sure, it’s okay to say that you’re not okay. But, I’m not just striving to be an okay man, husband, father, or pastor. I plan to thrive in every way possible.

If that means greater discipline bring it on. If that means more times with just God and my Bible sign me up. If that means saying 99 no’s to ever 1 yes that’s exactly what I will do. If that means learning how to live totally opposite of how I’ve always lived. I am willing and ready to do whatever is best in the long haul. Instead of what seems right through my blurred perspective in the moment. Don’t just talk about the need for change. Start making the necessary God led changes. Then, watch as God changes you for the better and increases your overall quality of life.

Sincerely,

Someone who has already tried doing things His way and didn’t like it one bit. So, it’s time to give God the full reigns and look forward with great expectations!

“Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Proverbs 14:12

I Needed A Big Healthy Steak

I’ve been out of town all week on a spiritual retreat. God put it very heavy on my heart that I just needed to get away. To breathe Him in and hear His voice clearly about my next steps forward. I’m used to needs constantly surrounding me and my body failing me. Therefore, I’ve been making some big decisions for my physical, mental and spiritual health.

Recently, I’ve been surrounded by restaurants every direction. No matter where I’ve checked there’s been next to nothing I could eat on my present diet. Even the places you might think would be healthy are filled with things that are proven to be toxic. Most just haven’t discovered or don’t realize what they are digesting into their bodies morning, day and night. I’m not judging anyone because I’ve only recently fully realized this myself.

After literally not cheating on my diet even once the past 20 days. I just had to eat something familiar, filling and refreshing. I pulled into a local steak house that had excellent reviews. I ordered the best steak they had on the menu. It was my first time every eating Filet Mignon. I must say that every bite literally melted in my mouth. It was worth every dollar it cost me and fortunately I didn’t follow it up with dessert. It’s been another God made day.

(Psalm 107:8-9) “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Hope Keeps Rising

I’m in such a season of undeniable and explainable breakthrough. Like a prisoner of war I feel God has set me free. Everything that the devil seemed to have taken from me. God has given it all back and more. I really believe I’m living my best life now and even better days are to come.

Without so much drowning medication my mind is coming back to life. I can see so clearly God’s vision for my life, marriage, family and ministry. I finally feel back in the game instead of watching from the bench. I may not be who I used to be. But, in so many ways that is a really good thing. God has used the pain to humble me, grow me, and give me a whole new perspective of life. Even when my body feels exhausted I feel so hopeful with every step forward.

I’m thankful for every quality moment. Tears flood my face every time I think of countless days of seeming hopelessness. Then, God reached down and changed everything. No, it’s not been overnight. However, as I keep doing all I can He keeps doing all I can’t. There’s so much I’m looking forward to in the days ahead.

I’ve got a lot of date nights to look forward to with my beautiful wife. I’m going to spend as many quality moments I can with my boys. I will spend more time with family and friends who mean so much to me. I will joyfully lead out the mission of Refuge Church. I know God is going to touch thousands of lives as I keep following His clear vision.

I have so much that I’m thankful for today. I’m so excited to say I’ve made it 20 days straight eating totally clean and healthy. I’ve literally not cheated even once by the grace of God. Although I’m sure there will be challenging moments to come.

God is literally breathing new life into me. He is slowing me down and marinating my soul in His love. I feel more alive and hopeful than I’ve ever felt in my life. I can’t fully explain how I got here. All I know is God is good and greatly to be praised.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1-4

1,522 Days Later I’m Shocked

Today, has been a day of recognizing all God has done and still is doing. Praise God, it’s been awhile since I religiously kept track of every day of my misery. Earlier I decided to look back and see just how long I’ve been on this roller coaster journey of pain. Yep, 1522 days ago my body and life were flipped upside down. For the majority of this time I felt like I had been given a life sentence of total misery.

All I could do was meditate on God’s words of promise and choose to trust Him daily. While I kept my faith in Him I kept losing faith in myself. My exhaustion and depression were gradually taking me down. I knew I had many praying for me. But, often it felt like the prayers weren’t working. Daily I thought there was no chance at a quality life. I certainly didn’t believe I could continue pastoring a church.

Yes, I had seasons of great optimism. However, each of them were quickly followed by crash after crash. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how I made it through such a long period of absolute Hell. I tried to be as strong as I could on the outside. However, on the inside my heart was racing constantly full of anxiety. I just kept casting all my cares on the Lord.

Day by day God kept giving me breakthroughs and hope. Hope that things could get better and healing could take place. My faith kept rising with every sign of victory. I changed my entire lifestyle and approach to ministry. Slowly but surely it felt like the titanic was not going to sink after all.

I had to learn how to equip others for ministry instead of trying to do it all myself. I had to do everything from sun up to sun down to keep my nervous system from crashing. From walking, stretching, counseling, shots, and medication I did all I could do to stay on top of the pain. Even then it was like trying to hold down a wild beast.

Then, God intervened with one more major life change. Never could you have convinced me that I would need to change my entire way of eating. Here I am 19 days later still living without sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten grains, processed foods, beef, pork, corn, soy, eggs, and shellfish. Here I am feeling better and clearer than ever before.

God is restoring order in my life in every way. He is anchoring me, my family, and my ministry. Here I am just in awe of what God is doing. No longer do I fear the next nerve crash. Instead, it’s simply a thorn in my flesh reflecting the glory of God. I could have never gotten myself out of such a deep, dark hole. Yet, God reached in and lifted me over the giant wall that was in front of me.

To say I’m in awe is an understatement. I’m more like shocked. Like is this a dream? Did I just have a really bad dream and I’m just finally waking up? Or was that me on the verge of falling totally apart and God put me back together? For the rest of my life no one will be able to convince me they are hopeless. They may feel like it, but with God in the mix everyone has hope. I will forever praise the one who pulled me out of the grave and resurrected my hope.

(Psalm 18) “I love you, Lord; you are my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. 3 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.4 The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. 5 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. 6 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.

16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me.

18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. 20 The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. 21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. 22 I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. 23 I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. 24 The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. 25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. 26 To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. 27 You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud. 28 You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. 29 In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. 30 God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. 31 For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?

32 God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. 33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. 34 He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. 35 You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. 36 You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

16 Days Of Total Life Change

There’s no way to argue with such obvious results. This radical diet has literally changed my life. While it has definitely not been easy. It’s certainly working to reduce the inflammation and chaotic nerve pain inside of my body. In fact, I’ve never been so clear minded and optimistic during this entire 50 months of my rehabilitation.

I actually see myself having a future. My quality of life has increased drastically along with my optimism. No way you could have told me that a diet alone could change so much. After all, I had already lost 30 pounds since January of this year. In fact, I’m down a total of 35 pounds now. Yet, outside of coming off blood pressure medication. Losing weight alone really didn’t improve my condition. Starving myself was not the answer.

However, the diet I’m living out now has not been just about what I’ve chosen not to eat. But, it’s been just as important what I have been eating. Nothing but veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, and very lean meats (mainly chicken) have been swallowed. I’ve not had any caffeine, white sugar, gluten, eggs, processed foods, corn, bread, white rice, or even one dairy product. I’m not sure I can even spell the word dessert anymore.

Yes, I’m still in shock that I’ve made it this far and stayed this disciplined for 16 days straight. Sure, I’ve had many dreams of me eating cake, pie, ice cream, banana pudding or just a big bowl of cereal. And, maybe there will come a time I can eat some of those things with moderation. But, my freedom from insane pain has me pretty motivated to stay this course for now.

No matter what I know my way of living has to change for good. I believe I’m on track to be the healthiest I’ve ever been in my adult life. I’m now walking consistently, stretching as necessary, and always making sure I keep a proper balance. God is pouring out His blessing in my life. I honestly believe my God story is going to inspire so many others towards hope in their painful journey.

Piece by piece, God is making me feel whole again. The past two weeks have totally pulled me out of any depression. As my medications continue to be reduced. My vision keeps getting clearer and clearer. I feel God’s hand upon me. Healing is taking place physically, mentally and emotionally within me. God is restoring order in my life day by day. And, all I can do is praise Him while I keep taking the next right step. Four months from now I will turn 45 and I wholeheartedly believe the best is yet to come even with some aches and pains.

“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.” Job 42:12

Gotta Keep Moving

Well, I’m finally in a very comfortable and consistent groove of eating healthy. I certainly wouldn’t be without a wife that will practically do anything to help me have the food prepared I need. She has always gone above and beyond to me my helpmate. I believe she can see that I’m committed to maximizing my health and recovery daily. This blesses me, her, my family and those God has call me to pastor.

Yesterday was a very long day for me. I drove myself to my own doctor’s appointment an hour away for only the second time in several months. Driving plus the colder temperatures did my pain levels no favors. In fact, it only confirmed the visit with my pain specialist was worth it. He is scheduling another quarterly shot injection for sometime late December or early January. The coccyx pain is definitely the main thing I can only contain with shots.

My doctor was very pleased with my progress. He is normally not very talkative. But, after he heard all the meds I had dropped and steps forward I had taken. He said, “ Wow! Great Job. You’re eating right, doing therapy and trying not to just live on anymore medication than necessary. I don’t see many patients like you.”

I may be a grown man, but his words made me cry. Because it’s not easy to make these changes sun up to sun down. To be able to measure any progress lifts your spirit and gives further motivation. We have now put together a plan of decreasing the dosage of my Neurontin by 100mg monthly per month. In 10 months I will officially be only taking 1800mg per day after being on 3200mg daily the past three years. Every pill gone gives my mind a greater chance of not being so cloudy. It’s not an overnight process. I’m now officially daily taking just 2700mg of Neurontin, 1200mg ibuprofen, 50mg Amitriptyline, and CBD oil. I take several necessary supplements to give my body what it needs to heal and help promote new nerve growth

Now, time to get one past habit back on track. About to head out for my first strategic walk in a long time. My walking won’t be about distance, but consistency. I’m aiming to walk at least a mile each day. To eventually get back to where it’s how I start and end each day. I’ve got to keep my lower back use to movement or it will be a very stiff and painful winter. Whatever you need to do to move forward. Focus on what you can do and trust God for what you can’t do.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14

Observed While Eating Healthy

I’m now 34 pound less than I was just 11 months ago. Even more important I’m way healthier now than I was 11 months ago. Here are some things I’ve observed along my short journey of trying to eat healthier.

1. Most Are Clueless.

Most are clueless as to what they are doing to their own bodies. How their eating habits alone are affecting their everyday health. Trust me, I too was ignorant before my eyes were opened to what eating healthier looks and feels like. The average American’s diet is wrecking their quality and quantity of life.

2. Society Has A Careless Attitude.

It’s hard to go anywhere and find much of anything you should eat on the menu or in the grocery store. Weight gain is not the greatest concern I see. It’s realizing we’re poisoning ourselves with every bite from the drive thru and even our own kitchens. Oh and please don’t overlook the impact of those delicious, but very dangerous sweets.

3. Eating Healthy Feels Good Because It Is Good.

Piling in the sugar, fast foods and even what most call soul foods aren’t so good for the soul. That’s why later you feel like something just ain’t right. Not one day since I’ve started eating totally clean have I not felt internally much better. The flare ups in my nerve damaged body have been far less since I’m no longer feeding my own inflammation.

4. It’s Hard To Eat Healthy

With God’s help I’ve been staying away from almost everything that is normal for most to eat. It’s hard when everyone around you eats stuff you know tastes much better than your dishes. It’s hard when you’ve been eating one way so long and you’re having to totally reprogram your mindset. However, the fact is it’s worth it. It keeps helping me feel way better. This alone has me striving daily to make wiser diet choices.

5. Most Don’t Act Urgent Until Things Are Urgent.

Why wait for your health to get much worst? Why wait until you’re battling some life threatening condition that could be avoided? If I didn’t believe this stuff was life and death related you wouldn’t be hearing this rant. This is not a sermon to make people feel bad. This is a love letter from somebody who cares.

I pray it wakes up at least one person. To the one continuing to fill yourself with whatever tastes good to you. I encourage you to do your research and understand what you eat really does matter. In fact, it matters a whole lot more than you can imagine.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

GOD IS FAITHFUL

I’ve been feeling much better the past couple hours. Earlier I did go through another dark spot and let down. However, those times are just a part of life. Yes, some valleys are deeper and longer than others. Honestly, I’ve been experiencing way more breakthrough than let downs lately. In fact, today some very big prayers were answered in my life.

Now, I can’t go into detail as to everything that has happened. I can tell you that God has given me great closure and hope moving forward. I no longer feel like I’m just on the edge of a cliff. I’m no longer facing many of the battles only God totally knew about in the past. But, I do finally feel I’m at the beginning of a new era of hope in my life.

Later you will read in the book God has led me to write about things I trusted God for in the midst of my greatest brokenness. Many of those days I had tears rolling. Anxiety was constantly sweeping over my body. All I could do was cry out to God and keep believing in His faithfulness.

I prayed some very big prayers and just kept seeking to be faithful. Often I only shared pieces of my story feeling compelled by God not to waste it. I waited and waited for God to rescue me. There were many days I wondered just how long more I could hold on. Everything in my life was falling apart especially me. I just kept believing, crying, and praying.

God kept impressing upon my heart that everything was going to work out. That this was not where things were going to end for me. I could see Him using the pain to reshape and rebuild me. However, it took what seemed like forever for God to restore order in all other areas of my life. Now, I’m seeing God fully restore not just me, but resurrecting everything around me.

Today, marked the official end of a very dark tunnel I’ve been trapped in for quite some time. It marked the beginning of a new era of God displaying His faithfulness to me and my family. All I can say is God is good and worthy to be praised. He will not abandon you. He will carry you to a land of great promise. You just have to keep holding on by faith and trusting in His faithfulness.

“But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Isaiah 54:17

First Major Meltdown In 21 Days

To a certain degree I could see it coming from a mile away. In another respect, it just ran over me without warning. All I know was one moment I seemed okay and the next moment I clearly was not. I just finished having what I’ve not had in over 21 days. I just had a stressed induced neurological breakdown.

When this happens my entire body feels like it’s being electrocuted. My mind and body feel completely out of control. Now, that I’ve calmed down a little I can only try to catch my breath. Once again, I just reached my limit. A limit I’ve learned many times before must become a respected reality. Bottom line, I’m just not who I used to be and that I have to fully accept it. I’ve tried to do too many things for too many days straight in a row. And, I’m very disappointed in myself if I’m honest.

I’ve dealt with a lot of emotional things all week. From sun up to sun down I’ve been dealing with intense ministry moments. For nine days straight I’ve been eating with extreme discipline. And, feeling great from it I might add. However, while I have been taking great care of my body. I failed once again to fully respect my condition. The fact that I just have to straight up tell people that here is what I can and cannot do. I truly believe that overall health is made up of several components. Physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health all matter.

Honestly, while I’ve been doing great with what’s necessary for me physically. I’ve not consistently done what’s best for me mentally, emotionally, socially, or spiritual. I’m praying this reminder helps someone else besides just me. Seek to be healthy in all areas of your life. Because anything you let go for too long is bound to catch up with you sooner than later. Especially when you live with a condition that leaves little room for error.

Overall, I thank God for all the great days of breakthrough I’ve enjoyed. And, all the great days that still lie ahead. I would love to perfect this thing called recovery. But, there is no perfecting it. It’s just doing your best and trusting God with the rest. It’s daily seeking to learn, adjust, and seek to live life to the fullest. Well, I just had my 9 year old little faith walker pray with me and I feel much better. Now, I’ve got to do better.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)

So Tough But Worth It

I just finished a really long day of ministry. I dealt with as much today as sometimes I do in an entire week. Right now the body aches a lot. Eating with continuous discipline is not easy or convenient. Even still my resolve is very strong simply by the results I’m seeing.

Staying away from toxic food and drinks has erased my fears of when my nervous system might crash again. I’m actually able to focus now that my mind is not held hostage by so much medication. It’s like waking someone up from a coma they’ve been in forever. It feels like overnight my eyes were opened and my condition became so much more hopeful.

My life right now revolves around constant discipline and sacrifice. In the midst of it all I’m constantly free falling into God’s arms. No doubt I need divine strength, discernment, and devotion to keep going. I plan to do whatever it takes to thrive. Yes, it’s extremely tough as a patient, husband, father, and for sure a pastor . However, God has never led me down a tough road that He didn’t prove with time it was worth it all.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Major Adjustments, Major Results

Well, I’m up much earlier than usual. Part of that is how brutal Sundays are on my body. The other part is being in another major health transition period. You see, I’ve not gone to sleep without major medication in nearly 4 years. In fact, any time I’ve tried in the past I remained awake all night long. However, this is a new era and I’m in a new healing season.

Anyone following my story knows it’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions. However, when I tell you this pain is leaving me better I really mean it this time. I’m absolutely certain that the changes in my diet alone are changing my life drastically. Forget about the delicious foods it’s taking away from me. Realize the quality and longevity of life it’s giving to me.

So, much has already changed in just a couple weeks of diet and further life adjustments.

One, my body feels healthier than it has in over 4 years. Two, I’ve now officially eliminated or reduced 6 different medications. Three, my body is now not only avoiding bad foods, but is consuming good nutritious foods. Fourthly, my overall pain is nothing compared to what it was before. That is as long as I stay away from inflammatory foods that most people don’t think are hurting them. Trust me, you will keep hearing a whole lot about my eating habits because my eyes are being opened more with each new day.

Honestly, I have a true shot at getting off most of my medications. No, this is not going to happen overnight. Every week I’m looking at how to take another strategic step forward. So far I’ve not been disappointed and every sacrifice has been worth it. Last night, I only slept 3 ½ hours. That was due to me completely eliminating two muscle relaxers and 25mg of Amitriptyline. The fact that I was able to fall asleep at all was a big deal. I’m certain that I will get more rest in a little while. I try my best to make Mondays my weekly day of rest.

Just for the sake of informing anyone interested. Here are the foods I’ve removed and the foods I’m allowing myself to eat. I will be getting some specific allergy testing done next week. This testing will let me know if there are other foods I need to eliminate. And, whether there are some things I’ve eliminated that I can at least eat in moderation. Here’s what I’m daily living by at the present time. And, I’m talking zero cheating outside of the stupid caffeine I allowed into my body yesterday.

FOODS REMOVED:

Sugar, Dairy, Eggs, Gluten Grains, Corn, Shellfish, Soy, Beef, Pork, Processed Meals, Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

FOODS ALLOWED:

Fruits, Healthy oils, lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, non-gluten whole grains.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

200 Ounces Of Water Later

Well, it was certainly another eventful Sunday at Refuge Church. I woke up excited to share another God led message. I figured the extra hour of sleep would give me an extra boost. Instead, after I took my morning medication I was quickly battling a major fog. I felt no choice but to drink something caffeinated in hopes of improving my ability to concentrate. Then, it all backfired on me.

Basically, I had the equivalent of three small cups of black coffee. No sugar or anything else I’ve recently eliminated totally from my daily diet. During the first service the entire room was spinning in my eyes. Unfortunately, my eyes have not adjusted well to wearing my new progressive bifocals. Honestly, nothing was clear all morning as I felt like a blind mind stuck behind some circus mirror. Experience has taught me to just keep giving my best God will do the rest.

After feeling God move mightily the first service conclude. As soon as I got ready to walk off stage my legs way. Just like they did the last time I had 3-4 cups of coffee. At best they were 25 percent as strong as usual. So, now I not only felt blind but crippled. I knew I had to drink plenty of water to clear the caffeine out of my system. Between services alone I drank well over 100 ounces of water in less than 30 minutes. I also had a little time to cry out some of the toxins that built up in my system.

After flushing my system out the next several hours my legs finally began feeling normal again. Once, again though I was reminded of how much inflammation caffeine alone can create. Overall, today I’ve drank over 200 ounces of water just to get myself to level ground. Thank God I’ve experienced another day of eating healthy and staying from all sweets. I’m just trying to do all that I can while trusting God to do all that I can’t. We all know the trial of life are constant, but the goodness of God is as well.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I Love Carrot Cake

Back to back nights have been historic first ever moments for me. Halloween night I passed out every kind of candy available and miraculously ate not one bite. Tonight, I did something even way bigger. I watched people eating my Mom’s homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing. It literally took everything within me to not tackle someone for at least one bite.

While at a family gathering earlier tonight. All the party food looked so delicious. There was nothing I didn’t want to inhale like someone who hasn’t seen real food in days and days. Outside of eating 3 meatballs I stopped right there. I brought my own lunch box. Like a school boy I heated up my boring, but much healthier meal. Somehow I got through the night without giving in or giving up on my seeking to eat healthier.

Now, I didn’t get to this point just by making a choice. I had to reach the point of desperation and verification that what I eat impacts my pain levels deeply. I know beyond any doubt that my diet has great impact on my level of misery. Therefore, I’m aiming towards having a greater quality of life. I’m willing to do anything possible to improve that quality.

I can’t just say by faith God will take care of me. Faith is doing all you can while trusting God to do all that you can’t. When God enlightens me to know what is or not beneficial to me. It’s up to me to say no if necessary to ever cake, pie, and even banana pudding. But, man I may have nightmares for days just over longing for that carrot cake. God help me to keep taking the next healthiest step.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

God’s Not Done Yet

Today has certainly been one of the absolute longest days of my life. Last night I managed just over 3 hours sleep once my nervous system settled. Then, I drove an hour one way to my medical appointment. My medical assessment started at 8am and went continuously until after 2pm. I’ve been to a lot of doctor visits, but none anywhere near that long. Thank God I was able to use a heating pad throughout the day.

Outside of a lot of unexpected struggles today was a huge leap forward. Finally, I got to sit down with a caring and compassionate doctor. We discussed throughly my medical history. Looking at what has worked and what has not. What has healed and what has not. What we can’t control and what we can control.

Now, I will have to go back for several more allergy tests in the near future. But, they can’t be done until I’m off certain allergy medications for at least ten days. However, we didn’t need testing to identify certain things that must be addressed. I really came into this appointment as desperate, ready, and expectant as ever for God to take things further. The following are the things that begun today. Keep in mind this is a place that seeks ways to help your body heal and thrive the best possible.

One, they’ve given me resources to help me start recognizing and eliminating foods that are clearly creating greater inflammation. Two, they’ve given me supplements that can boost my energy, clarity and overall health. Three, they’ve given me natural supplements that can replace both my sleeping and pain medications. Most of all, they’ve given me the hope of my nervous system healing much further.

This place is not conventional and that’s a great thing. They don’t look how they can get you dependent on the next medication. Instead how they can support naturally your body and minds ability to heal. For so long I’ve just been dealing with symptoms. No one has taken the time to help me deal with the roots of my everyday pain.

Honestly, this journey has just begun. I’ve got a lot of information to digest. I’ve got a lot of new action plans to put in place. But, I don’t mind a bit because it all has given me great peace and home. I will with time be off most of my medication. I will with time be a much healthier me inside and out. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the least bit normal.

For now, I will not promote this specific place. I will let time and my story speak for itself. Everything feels like it’s finally heading in the right direction. Not just a direction of surviving, but thriving. I firmly believe this begins with my diet, other learned disciplines, and patiently trusting God for further healing. I truly believe God is writing the last chapter of this faith walking season. And, once this season reaches its end I will finally be ready to share my full God story with a world of others who suffer greatly. Thanks for every prayer uttered on my behalf. I’m exhausted, but way more at peace about the future.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

In The Eye Of The Storm

Misery cannot adequately describe the way I feel in these moments. Anxiety is feasting underneath my skin. My very bones ache as I try to catch my breathe. It’s like someone has my body hooked up to electricity. Even as I type this I know it sounds absolutely absurd and dramatized.

Honestly, this is me using mild words to explain a very heavy weight. To describe things as they actually feel to me would sound like some horror film. Like I’m job crying out to God for just a little relief. I’ve been doing so well recently all things considered. But, Satan has tainted me all day knowing I’m staring further breakthrough in the face.

I know there is a reason for all this pain. It is just so tough to endure. Especially as it continues to take more and more from my life. What I’ve got to do just to feel on top of it requires 24/7 discipline. I’m well on my way as I’m truly willing to do anything to find consistent relief. I’ve learned a bunch with still so much more to learn. The eye of this storm is so powerful. Yet, the one who calms the storm is more powerful.

“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:24-27

So So Anxious Inside

Right now, it’s just after midnight. There’s literally not one fiber of my body that is not fried and aching with nerve pain. My heart is pounding and feels like it could explode. My hands, face, legs and feet are consumed with a constant burning situation. I’ve taken an emergency Valium just hoping to calm the fire raging within me.

I haven’t slept well the past two nights. Sadly,I won’t have a chance to sleep much tonight. In less than 5 1/2 hours I have to get up. I will drive an hour to a medical appointment that will last from 8am until around 3-4pm. I had to get a lot done early so I could focus on this very important health assessment. Now, my body is just trembling.

When I get in this condition I feel paralyzed by even the slightest stress. I long to talk with someone who truly understands the madness within my body. I will never understand how it can jump from zero to sixty in a split second. In these moments you can’t trust your feelings. It makes me feel like I’m going crazy. It’s breathtaking and so painful. All I can do is pray and ask others to pray for you.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus Help Me

15 days of no major sugar or caffeine. Just day two of no sugar, gluten, dairy or caffeine. I’ve never held this amount of candy in my life and not eaten one bite. I can’t decide if I want Jesus to just take me on to Heaven now or not. I’m absolutely convinced there will be all you can eat sweets in Heaven. Between this new necessary diet and glasses I’m not very happy, but I will do whatever it takes to keep my nervous system from crashing!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

My New Outlook

Recently I got glasses for the first time in 44 years of existence. When I picked them up they said I probably needed glasses for a long time. I actually jumped from thinking my vision was perfect. To putting on my new pair of progressive bifocals. To say it’s been a major adjustment is an understatement.

I can see things far away that were once so unclear. Signs and colors pop out like never before. I no longer just see fuzzy objects. Instead, I see every detail of God’s creation. It’s opened my eyes to a who new world I didn’t even know I was missing.

Now, I’m still getting used to this new found sight. It’s going to take awhile for my eyes to fully adjust to these glasses. Much like what I’ve experienced through my pain. God really opened my eyes to see things that I couldn’t otherwise. It’s humbled me and given me clearer eyes of compassion towards others. Sometimes pain is necessary to open our eyes and heart to God’s greater will.

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. For the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:8-9,14-17

Undeniable Breakthrough

Anytime you try to recover from something that has knocked the life out of you. All you can do is just walk through the pain one faith step at a time. I’ve been doing that for what seems like forever. However, I’m feeling more hopeful than I’ve felt in quite sometime. I can honestly see light in what has been a deep, dark tunnel.

Tomorrow will be two weeks straight that I’ve cut out all significant amounts of sugar from my diet. I also very rarely drink anything with caffeine. There’s no doubt that eliminating these things has drastically changed my painful condition. I’ve not even had one total nervous breakdown in this two week stretch. Prior to this time I had never had at least one day per week that my nerve damage didn’t totally take me down.

These two weeks have not only brought some relief, but way more consistency. Along with this clear discovery I’ve now officially reduced two of my main medications. I’ve reduced my Neurontin by 400mg and my Amitriptyline by 25mg. I’m now very motivated to do whatever it takes to keep this recovery momentum.

Earlier I started back physical therapy after several months of not going. I felt by far the best I have in over four years. This Friday I will be going to a place that will do a full assessment of my medical history. I’m praying this place will discover even more that I can do to increase my quality of life. Honestly, just feeling hopeful again has elevated my spirit so much.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16:20

Just Another Crossroads

I feel like I’ve been in this place a thousand times before. That place where nothing in my body feels right. That place where I’m not sure how much longer I can live this way. That place where Satan wants me to feel totally hopeless while I’m fighting to feel hopeful. Then, I’m reminded that it’s just another crossroads experience.

I’ve not been writing a lot recently for several reasons. One, the times I ever started writing my body was just too exhausted to finish. Two, I’m in that place where it’s not good that I feed my pain anymore negativity. Three, I’m so disheartened at times that it’s actually left me feeling speechless.

Very calmly I’m able to say that my silence doesn’t mean I’ve gotten any worse. There’s no doubt I’ve had many, many days in the past that I’ve felt much worse than today. However, I woke up today just tired of never feeling great. Sick of having this storm cloud hanging over me. Anyone that has dealt with chronic pain or illness very long understands what I’m saying. After awhile you just get tired of dealing with constant issues associated with your condition.

However, quitting is still not an option. I’m going to keep seeking to take the next God led step. I’m going to keep walking by faith through every crossroads. Even when I’m not sure of myself or how anything will ever change. Only God knows the purpose of this lingering storm. I’m fully confident that if I continue trusting Him. Everything will work out for my good and His glory. God help me to keep trusting you fully with each crossroads. For you’ve proven your constant faithfulness in every one in the past.

“This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

Mentally I’m Shot

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve given everything I had to give and some I couldn’t afford to give. When I say I’ve been going morning, day and night since Monday. I wish I was exaggerating. Praise God my physical pain overall has remained under control. However, my mental circuits are shot. I’ve literally been trying to get my sermon for Sunday finished the past 15 hours.

Finally, I just had to call it a night. My mind has to get some rest. I will get up very early tomorrow morning hoping to find greater clarity and peace. The perfectionist in me doesn’t like feeling this way. Not to mention I never take the platform God has given me lightly. I generally spend at least 10-15 hours preparing anything I ever preach.

I guess this is what I get for preaching a message entitled “Living Confident.” God started putting this message on my heart a couple weeks ago. And, while it’s absolutely what I believe God wants me to preach about this Sunday. I’m feeling anything but confident about what I’ve prepared so far. Deep down I know this is a combo of spiritual warfare and absolute mental exhaustion. Plus, God is further teaching me how to live out this message before I preach it to others.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Focus On The Blessings

The past 3 days of my life have felt like a constant blur. I’ve literally been busy with ministry from sun up and beyond sun down. I’m just winding things down for today after starting out at 7am. I know for certain I can’t repeat many 15 hour days. If I do, I know I’m playing with fire.

I am thrilled to say that my pain has been manageable for the past 5 days. With God’s strength I’ve been able to do two things consistently. One, I’ve been staying away daily from heavy amounts of sugar or caffeine. Two, I’ve reduced my daily dose of Neurontin/Gabapentin by 400 mg. I’ve taken at least 3200mg daily for well over two years. However, after several days of just taking 2800mg I’ve not felt any complications.

My goal is to get off every ounce of unnecessary medication possible one day at a time. There’s no doubt the collide of my present medications has really affected my mind. I struggle to focus and keep a clear train of thought. My vision is blurred most of the time. It all together makes everything feel so uncomfortable. Most around me just have not idea how much I struggle. And, in some ways that’s a good thing.

Crazy as it sounds with all this going on with my health. I’m beginning to feel the most peace I’ve had in a very long time. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer fighting to cure myself or living in denial. Maybe it’s because I keep seeing God at work despite me. All I know is I just keep feeling hope swelling up within me soul. I really do believe God can heal me. In many ways I feel God began that process long ago. It’s just not quite looked the way I expected.

All I know is it’s best you take things one day a time. Recognize what God is doing. Don’t dwell on all the uncontrollable stuff and brokenness. Focus on how God is at work in the brokenness and proving He is in control. Celebrate how God is using your pain to develop your character, faith and closeness with Him. Look how God is using you even when you feel like you have nothing to offer. I find seeking to live as a blessing and counting my blessings medicates my heart more than any pill I could ever swallow.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

A God Made Day

Last night God blessed me with 8 1/2 hours of sleep. I woke up feeling as good as I have all week. So, we got up and headed out to watch my favorite football team the University of South Carolina. Of course, I knew only time would tell whether I could endure the entire game. Especially knowing it would be colder than usual and the forecast called for a 100 % chance of rain.

Well, the weather man was right about the rain. Even wearing ponchos my wife and I were soaked even before halftime. The game was awesome. It was back and forth from the opening kick. We both have sore throats from cheering so much. The excitement was perfect for those who enjoy such sports.

By the fourth quarter I knew the colder temperature mixed with heavier rain was taking me down. Even still I enjoyed something other than pain for a change. Despite my team losing it was worth every second in that stadium. I’ve been only drinking water and staying away from heavy sweets for the past 3 days. There’s no denying it’s made a great difference. Not once today have I struggled with any anxiety or unbearable pain.

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Help Me Soar Lord

I’m away overnight with my wife. It’s after 10pm on a Friday night. Tomorrow we’re hoping to watch the University of South Carolina Gamecocks beat the University of Florida Gators at Williams Brice Stadium. Our hotel is just ten minutes from the stadium. Hopefully, I can get a good nights sleep once my medications kick in.

Right now, I’m lying here waiting on my body to quit throbbing in pain. This cooler weather is doing me no favors. In fact it’s supposed to be a 100 percent chance of rain tomorrow at noon kickoff. Well, that just gives me even more to pray about. None of these make my body feel good. However, I knew coming this way that I might not make it to or through the game. I’m certainly going to try and enjoy something I love to watch.

Those battling with chronic pain know exactly what I’m talking about. You hope and plan for the best. Yet, you know your body will determine what you can and cannot truly enjoy. I’ve sold all my season tickets so far except for this one. This being an early game gives me the best chance to make it. And, if all else fails I will leave the stadium and watch the game on television.

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Your Most Important Step

I still believe I’m in the heavyweight fight of my life. I also believe I’ve finally discovered a profound and simple secret. No matter what you may be facing. Regardless of how overwhelming you may feel. Especially if you’re struggling to even get out of the bed. Your next step is by far the biggest key to moving forward.

Every morning and practically every night I feel exhausted and somewhat paralyzed. My wife watches me lying in bed not sure if I can go on. As I lay there consumed in pain and disappointment. I feel like I’ve exhausted all known options. Of course, I ask God for strength and discernment. I know I’m always desperate for His healing touch. I know God can always take me through whatever I’m facing.

However, I’ve been wrong about there being nothing more I could do. God needs me to keep taking the next right step. By that I mean doing what I can while trusting Him with all I can’t. That next step might be simply getting up. That next step might be going for a walk. That next step might be talking with someone who can encourage my faith and perspective. That next step might be making that medical appointment that could change my life. That next step might be choosing to eat or live healthier.

This may sound so easy. But, it’s not when you feel defeated, discouraged, and broken. Sometimes the next right step is reaching out for a hand to hold. You may need a little help to take that next step. Regardless of your situation the next step is your most important one. Don’t worry about tomorrow and what it may hold. Trust God with the next step of your life. Just surrender everything to Jesus and keep following His lead.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

Another Day, Another Valley

So, I’m back in bed hoping my body settles down sooner than later. It’s been a very uncomfortable past 24 hours. Earlier I facilitated my monthly chronic pain support group. Each of us had one big thing in common. We each absolutely hate how we feel each day. And only in Christ do we feel any hope.

I knew I would barely make it back home before I would be nearly in tears. But, it makes such a difference to know you’re not alone. That as much as you may hurt others can identify. I’m in another one of those stretches where all I can do is hold on. Just like all the times before I just didn’t see it coming again.

My entire body is throbbing with pain and I’m feeling so nauseous. Every time I feel this way I just want out of my misery. I can totally understand why people quickly turn to certain drugs. This pain makes you so desperate for momentary relief. Only God knows how I’ve made it this far. Only God knows how I will make it further.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.He renews my strength.He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

Severe Panic Attacks

It’s like someone shot me right in the heart while I was sleeping. My heart starting pounding and pounding. Surging vibrations continue to run throughout my body. It was all I could do just to sit up in my bed. There was no denying I was having a severe panic attack. So, I had to quickly take one of my emergency Valium.

My heart rate is fine. However, I’m still not able to lay back down. Every time I try to it just adds to the remaining anxiety. I went to sleep easily tonight after a long day. Suddenly, I was awakened by what felt like a rocket into my chest. This kind of experience is definitely new to me.

I did reduce my Amitriptyline by 25m earlier today. Basically I just eliminated the 2pm dose of 25mg and continued my nightly 50mg dose. It’s very likely this created this issue. So, later I will still take a half dose at 2pm. I’ve got to gradually wean myself off the daytime dose.

I’m doing this because it’s been keeping me way too drowsy during the day mixed with extreme fatigue. Hopefully, I can just take 50-75mg of Amitriptyline at night since it makes me so drowsy. Although, time has proven a couple years ago that this medication can make my heart “feel” like it’s racing heavily at that level dose. Gonna have to see how it goes tomorrow and discuss it with my doctor soon. All I know is severe panic attacks are no joking matter.

“Be still and know He is God.” Psalm 46:10

New Levels, New Devils

Anyone who knows me knows I seek to be very transparent. I’m just a man like everyone else. I try my best in everything I do. Unfortunately, I fall short constantly. Right now, I’m experiencing the worst and best in my life. Please allow me to explain.

On one hand I’m seeing God do many amazing things. People are coming to Christ weekly. Church services are full every Sunday. I’m seeing God bless my obedience to His call on my life. Even within me God is doing a new work as He teaches me how to truly walk with Him. Not just work for Him.

These new levels have brought new devils. My body hurts as bad as ever. My heart hurts as bad as ever. Satan is attacking me, my wife and my children more than ever. We’re talking an all out spiritual war while I’m constantly feeling like a totally wounded warrior. My brokenness and depression can’t be hidden at this point.

Fortunately, I knew one day we would turn this corner and begin reaching multitudes of unchurched and lost people. I knew the devil would not like us invading territory he has dominated so long. Others who have done similar things before have experienced similar things. When your life starts making the greatest difference for Christ. You can expect the greatest adversity. Make sure you put on the full armor of God or you will not be able to finish faithful.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-18

God Never Waste Pain

It tears you down. It wears you down. When the pain never stops. All you can do is keep dog paddling so you don’t drown. Physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually it makes everything feel ten times harder. You know in your heart the season you’re in will never leave you the same.

Honestly, even after 49 months of nonstop discomfort. I still have a lot of dog paddle moments. Times when I’m just shaking my head in disbelief of the breath knocked out of me. There’s no denying the brokenness gives you greater humility. God suddenly has your full attention.

I’m in another season of embracing my new normal. I can’t stay obsessed with my pain. I must seek God with all my heart to press through my pain. Time has definitely proven I can’t get through this alone. However, if I keep my little hand in God’s big hand. I’m certain I will see the goodness of God. Hopefully, many will see the glory of God.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Take The Mask Off

We’ve all done it before. We smile and act like everything is alright. When inside we’re bleeding with pain. Personally, I don’t believe that’s how God intended us to live. Actually, we call that pretend relationships. God wants us to experience real relationships.

Well, for realness to happen you must be real. Those closest to you should be able to know the good, bad and ugly in your life. You should allow them the opportunity to share the same with you. True relationships are built on honesty, trust and unconditional love. It’s two imperfect people loving each other guided by God’s perfect love. It’s knowing no matter what you say that person cares. That if it matters to you it matters to them.

I observe so many people who continue to keep their mask on. So afraid to let others see their real struggles. Listen! Anyone who really cares about you cares about your struggles. So, realize it’s okay to say you’re not okay. Because I’ve never met anyone perfect other than Jesus. So, take the mask off and know it might inspire others to take theirs off too.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

Tired Of Explaining Myself

I’ve cried a lot this past week. Sadly, I’m not sure I’m done. Not going to lie or sugar coat anything. Recently, it’s just been a living Hell as my nerve pain keeps rearing it’s ugly head. Every time things escalate it sends me into a level of shock. In fact, anytime your entire body keeps vibrating it feels like you’re being shocked.

Probably one of the greatest pains on top of the pain is misunderstanding. Anyone battling something that is invisible to the human eyes understands. Those who have no clue really have no clue. To them if you look great on the outside. You must be doing great on the inside. It gets exhausting trying to even explain your inside struggles and pain.

Guess that’s why I felt led to start this monthly faith walking group. This Thursday 6pm at Refuge Church (203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro) we will meet again. This is an opportunity for anyone that struggles some kind of chronic pain or illness. Join us to be encouraged and to help encourage others. We all need those who truly understand our struggle. I pray you can join us this Thursday!

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Pain Changes You

I’m in a very low spot that’s for sure. Not depressed, but certainly overwhelmed by the pain. Been having to just take deep breaths in and out. Fortunately, I’m not in unfamiliar territory. But, the pain and anxiety are no walk in the park.

Satan is trying his best to knock the wind out of my sails. I’ve known for months God has been greatly at work. I’ve been able to taste and see breakthrough. All I need to do is stay faithful and rely on God’s faithfulness. I would be completely doomed if I was relying on my abilities.

I feel so out of breath and outmatched. But, that’s often what it takes to realize my total dependence on Christ. I rarely enjoy the process while it’s happening. In fact, I struggle to see future life beyond my present pain. Lord Jesus once again I’m free falling into your arms.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

In The Moment

Yesterday, I really did think I could have a stroke any moment. My heart was pounding more than ever before. I felt so light headed I could barely see to drive to Urgent Care. My wife wasn’t home otherwise I would’ve never driven myself. Only my growing fear by the minute compelled me to get checked out.

It was such a great relief for my blood pressure and heart to be okay. Thank God my wife was able to take me home. All I could do was let my nerves settle and my medications put me to sleep. I’m not going to lie. Yesterday’s experience took me back in time. Like back to when this nerve condition felt like a death sentence.

Fortunately, I’ve had enough experiences to know things can change. Not just for the worst, but for the better. Right now I’m just catching my breath. Once again I feel like I’m waking from a bad dream. I know deep down God is good and God will use all of this for His glory. These seasons just never feel good in the moment.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

It’s Just Where I Am

I just got home earlier from Urgent Care. The only reason I went this time was things just felt so different. In fact, to be honest I was terrified. I really thought I could pass out any minute. My heart felt like it could jump out my chest. My face was flush and my head was faint. My entire body felt it was full of electricity.

Yes, I’ve felt similar hundreds of times. And, my wife is usually able to remind me that doctors can do nothing for my condition. But, I really thought I could have a stroke or heart attack any minute. By the time, I got to Urgent Care there was no hiding the tears or pain.

To my surprise my blood pressure and heart rate were normal. EMT workers hooked me up to an EKG machine and offered to take me to the hospital. I do believe my wife was right that I simply had a very severe panic attack. I’ve had plenty in the past, but none quite this level. I just knew I couldn’t take lightly what I was feeling.

It’s very discouraging when you fight something day and night for over 4 years. When you strive to do everything possible to make yourself no longer a burden to others. Especially my family that doesn’t deserve to put up with anymore. I should be much better by now. All I can do is give God my broken heart and body. I’ve not lost my faith. I’ve just been hit with a really big dose of reality that hurts physically and emotionally.

I’ve had a couple Valium and my nighttime meds. I’m way more settled now than I was earlier. But, this is far from over as so many questions stare me in the face. It’s so much harder than most understand. To keep going through Hell everyday while trying to live normal. God knows I’m giving all I can while trusting Him for all I can’t. Thanks so much for the prayers. I certainly wouldn’t ask for them if I wasn’t desperate for them.

“Jesus Wept.” John 11:35

I Hate The Pain But

Laying on my heated mattress top trying to stay still as possible. The heating pad covering my back is on high. The pain has made me so nauseous. I would give anything for an IV drip of morphine. I’ve been so blessed to go days without this rotten feeling. All I can say is I hate pain.

But, I can’t deny it reveals where my real strength comes from. It exposes my great weakness and my total lack of control. Funny how you think you’ve got life by the horns. Then, you find yourself in a puddle of grief, pain, and total God dependance.

This pain humbles me every time. It instantly elevates my prayer life. It reminds me there is no such thing as a pain free life this side of heaven. It makes me wholeheartedly depend on the one who breathes life into my soul.

While I hate the pain. I can’t argue that in God hands the pain gets me right back where I should always be living. That is drawing close to God. I need keep my little hand in His big hand.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 1Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10

Help Me Do Better Jesus

I hate days like today. There’s been very few moments that I’ve not been miserable. I’m also very mad at myself. Once again I didn’t respect my nerve condition enough in recent days. It’s that denial I talk about often. You start feeling better so you think you’ve been cured. You want to believe you’ve totally overcome this thorn in your flesh.

Honestly, I’ve been doing so much better overall in recent weeks. But, I’m just really upset at myself right now. So, I will do whatever it takes to get quality sleep tonight. I will operate proactively to ensure I don’t repeat recent stupid behavior. I don’t have a choice but to calculate my every step. I must always control what I can control. This means living with a constant recovery mindset.

This demands I operate with the right routines. I need to do stretching exercises at least twice daily. I need to walk enough, but not too much. When I know my body is nearing a danger zone I must stop working. I know I can do better. I will do better and feel better soon. God please help me not have another day like this anytime soon.

“I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 5:13

Understanding Chronic Illness

When I say chronic illness I’m talking about a life altering health condition that affects a person daily. Something doctors say they can’t cure. Sadly, all they can try to do is contain your symptoms. All you can do is learn how to best deal with it. Understanding what you can and can’t do takes quite awhile. I’m four years into coping and I’m still learning and adjusting to my new normal.

All I can speak from is my experience and perspective. However, I’m believing this can help others get just a glimpse of what chronic illness brings to a person’s life. One, you go through a lot of denial. Two, once you begin to digest your new reality it really affects you mentally and emotionally. Dark, depressive days are bound to come. Three, you fight with it until you’re absolutely tired of fighting.

After so many days of fighting the same painful battle. You’re finally at a major crossroads of brokenness. You can either give up or give things up to God. The only way forward is to keep giving things up to God. To believe that God is bigger than your pain and constant life disruptions. To believe that you don’t have to figure anything out. You just have to keep believing God has a plan.

A person with chronic illness is often uneasy. They just don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Life is never easy from sun up to sun down. Even sleep is much harder to find. They don’t need you to fix them. They just need you to understand that the battle is real and constant. They need your compassion and prayers. These folks typically know how to lavish compassion towards other’s pain. Why?Because they know what it’s like to live in pain.

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

A Very Painful Day

Seems I can’t ever go more than a few days without my entire body crashing. It is always a combo of several factors. Often it’s a couple tough days that lead to the worst days. Sunday I drank way too much caffeine and walked way too much. Monday I did not rest like I should have and walked way too much again. Monday night I was not able to sleep until 4am Tuesday morning. Then, by last night after a stressful day my body officially crashed.

I’ve spent last night and today in the bed. My entire lower body is hurting and tingly intensely. The pain in my tailbone has been hurting and hurting. You wouldn’t think I just got a shot in that area a month ago. The worst part is my nerve pain is at a very high level. Meaning anything can make my entire body hit panic mode. It’s like having electricity running throughout your entire body.

I had to take one of my emergency 5mg Valium after being up for just an hour. Sadly my wife and kids have to deal with this roller coaster of pain and emotion. I’m learning that there is no use in trying to explain something to them I can barely understand myself. So, I just headed to bed, and took whatever necessary to calm the raging nerves within me.

These moments body slam my every emotion. They rip my heart out because I rarely see them coming. I’m left to feel like the only thing I can do is be still and pray. I’m no longer trying to fight with it. I’m just believing God has purpose for it. Now, I’m going back to sleep and hope to wake up better later on. We all know pain is never welcomed, but often a part of this imperfect life.

“We know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

No Sleep In 3 Years

Well, the title of this may be a little misleading. I’m sure if I had been up that entire time it would be a world record. It has definitely been well over 3 years since I’ve slept a wink without medication. Every time I’ve tried to not use some sleep aid. I’ve been left wide awake all night.

Here I am 3:30 in the morning and I’m just waiting to get some sleep. I did take my normal nightly medications many hours ago. But, I had to deal with some things and missed the window of opportunity to rest. So, I had to take another muscle relaxer as I wait on it to kick in.

For me, this is just another part of my new normal. There’s still not an hour of my life I don’t have to strategically plan out due to my condition. It definitely gets exhausting having to always live with a recovery mindset. But, I have to stay focused on my health so I can be able to help others. And, I certainly know that proper rest is a necessity. So, I do whatever it takes to get sleep.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I’m Doing Good, BUT

Anytime I look at how far down I was before. I can’t help but thank God for where I am now. I know what it’s like to feel you’ve totally lost control. I know what it’s like to feel one step away from giving up. To feel so bad that you can’t imagine continuing life in your present state of health. I know what it’s like to not even have your own home. To feel like you’re having to rely on others to take care of your family.

In so many ways God has restored my life. I’m able to get up each day with bearable pain. I’m able to actually sleep at night with the right medications. I’m able to dream again as God has blessed us with a new home and a new normal. In so many ways, my life and health have changed for the better. God continues to bless our faithfulness.

But, the devil continues his efforts to steal our joy and eternal focus. Satan preys on the weakness of my body in hopes of knocking the air out my sails. Satan tries to divide my marriage. Satan seeks to confuse and spiritually attack my children. Satan’s goals are never going to change. He always seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. Therefore, I must keep seeking, trusting and obeying Jesus. Only in Christ can I experience life to its fullest.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Every Time She’s Gone

My wife is presently away on a women’s retreat in Pigeon Forge, TN. She along with several ladies from our church are hoping to get spiritually renewed and refreshed. Personally, I’m ecstatic that my wife is getting this long overdue time away. I can’t think of anyone I know more deserving. This woman lives unselfishly from sun up to sun down.

Every time she’s gone I fully realize many things. One, what she does on a daily basis is amazing. Just one day trying to partially fill her shoes totally exhausts me. Two, even my best efforts can’t substitute for her presence. Usually my boys give me a look that verifies I’m not a very good Mr. Mom. Somewhere in there eyes I see them saying “God bless his heart for even trying.”

Finally, every time she’s gone I learn to fully appreciate her. Not just what she does, but who she is as a person. I can’t imagine life without her. I don’t want to imagine life without her. She completes me in every way. These times only confirm I truly married the right person. Because I only love her more as each day passes.

“I found the one my heart loves” Song Of Solomon 3:4

You Are Not Alone

I’m about to tell you something many need to hear. I talk with so many people who feel their life is a train wreck. People that feel they are the only hot mess. They feel this way because everything seems to be falling apart. They take one step forward and then start rolling backwards. They deal with issues they just can’t seem to overcome.

I try to assure them that we’re all in the same boat. Even with Jesus sometimes your life boat still feels like it’s sinking. No matter how hard you paddle you just can’t seem to get ahead. You feel like you’re giving all you’ve got, but it’s just not enough. You feel like you’re just one step away from a total meltdown.

Welcome to my world. Even though I’ve learned to cope much better these days. Even though I’ve learned to live wiser most days. Most days I’m far from having it all together. Even with both knees on the floor and continuous prayers. I can’t even walk without God holding my hand. So, don’t apologize for your struggles or feel you need to hide them. Without God’s grace where would any of us be.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Parenting Reflections From A Dad

As a dad of four boys I’ve learned more from them at this point. My boys are ages 20, 18, 16, and almost 10 years old. Of course, I give my wife the greatest credit for being an amazing full time mom. I hope I’ve been an above average part time dad. I say part time simply because my wife has devoted her life to motherhood. I’ve been working and trying to be like her when I grow up. Here are some things I know now that I really couldn’t fully see in real time.

First, your kids really do grow up fast. One minute you’re wishing that baby would stop crying. The next you’re wishing that same child would let you hold them. One minute you’re dropping them off at elementary school. The next you’re waving goodbye as they head off to college. Yes, they really do grow up in a blink.

Secondly, it’s the quality times together you will remember most. I remember every vacation we ever took together. The times I wasn’t working and could give them my undivided attention. I remember hearing constantly “are we there yet?” And while most of those car rides were full of shouting and threats. I would go back in time right now simply to see their excitement as we headed towards our family vacation.

Thirdly, I now realize just how important it is to parent intentionally. Every age brings a new season of opportunity. It’s so important regardless of their age that you seize the God given windows of opportunity early and often. For example, it’s much easier to teach a young child about faith, hope, love, and respect. Do know that your teenagers will seem like they were invaded by a hard headed alien. Keep on loving and teaching them the way they should go.

Finally, I realize it’s such a great privilege and responsibility to be a parent. Our kids will remember less what we preached and more what we practiced. We must strive to model for them the way God would have us to live. Good or bad they will learn and often repeat the values we demonstrated.

Now, we can’t do anything about past mistakes or missed opportunities. But, we can strive moving forward to be the best Christlike examples possible. Regardless of how old our children are at this time. Parents we should lead the way in showing them how to love God, love people and follow Christ. Why? Because at the end of our lives it will be God who gives us our final report card.

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Something Had To Change

I woke this morning feeling like I had been tear gassed. By far it was the deepest fog I had ever experienced. I knew if I could get everything out of my system something had to change.

A deep fog was constant in my head. My ability to think, focus or even function period was beyond limited. I knew I had to fix things by process of elimination.

While the extra Amitriptyline did help initially it’s obviously colliding with some of my other meds. Whether it be my CBD, Zannaflex or the recent Valium I had to take for quick relief. Anything I read says certain combos of these can certainly increase dizziness, fatigue, and leave one very mentally limited. I was definitely experiencing this the past few days.

So, now I’m only going to take the Amitriptyline a few hours before bedtime. Instead of spreading out the dosage three times a day. I will not take even an occasional Valium except for extreme emergencies. I believe I should see a major change. My head has already been drastically clearer the past six hours. And, all I’ve done so far is not take my 2pm Amitriptyline.

One thing I’ve found on this journey is there is no perfect scenario. Every medication that helps also has some side effects. You just have to determine if the relief is worth the side effects. Right now I would say absolutely not. I’m just a shell of myself taking the Amitriptyline throughout the day. I’m very confident things will clear up soon. And, my night time meds are doing their job so goodnight!

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I’m Surprised He Is Not

Here I am headed back to bed. My heart still feeling like it could jump right out of my chest. I have no choice but to be still. To let God be God in my life. My weakness is leaving me speechless. My pain has clearly knocked the breath out of me.

It’s always unsettling when you feel you’ve lost all control. Panic knocks relentlessly at your heart’s door. Satan hopes you will freak out. He hopes you will give up the faith that God can or will change anything. Those temptations still stare me in the face daily.

Fortunately, this is not unknown territory for me. I know God is near my broken heart. I know God will give me the strength and support needed. With every breath in and out I’m praying. Just asking God to calm me, hold me, and help me through this present storm. I really didn’t see it coming. However, I know nothing takes God by surprise.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

God Is Not Done

After taking a Valium earlier mid afternoon I finally settled down some. I slept over three hours. Something I never do during the day. But, my nerve wrecked body gave me no choice. I still feel overall like I’ve experienced some traumatic event. My nerves are just very stirred within. I’m still not comfortable in my own skin.

There’s no denying that these things are always associated with breakthrough moments. I’m determined and I’m trying with everything I’ve got to move forward by faith. I know God is leading my heart. In fact, I know He is holding my heart. Otherwise, I would have long ago been in some psychiatric ward.

Somehow this is part of my story. This pain, this thorn in my flesh. I’ve really never asked God to remove all my problems or fix me. I just keep asking Him to hold me together and use everything for His glory. Pain is a part of this life. We all have to learn how to walk through it by faith. Personally, I’m still learning everyday.

I know this for sure. God has proven His faithfulness time and time again. Just when I think I’m paralyzed he resurrects my spirit. Just when I think I’m useless. He shows me one more soul that is being encouraged through my faithfulness. I don’t know what the future holds. But, I do know who holds the future.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Dear Counselor

*Below is exactly how I would start out if I were meeting with my counselor right now. Of course, I would elaborate even more on certain things. But, if God gives you anything to share below please do so. It would not only encourage me. But, it could also encourage someone else reading this that might have a similar battle. I’ve said it before… This page was not created to just share the good stuff, but finding ways to walk by faith through the toughest stuff. So share any scripture, thoughts, or truths that you feel appropriate. Praying for each of you and I appreciate your prayers.

DEAR COUNSELOR

My visit with you is long overdue. As I’ve told you before I believe strongly in being proactive not just reactive. I really need to at least get back to seeing you monthly. Time, distance, and my inability to drive any distance has kept me from coming to see you. I’m definitely at that point again where I need somewhere on the outside to work through my present feelings on the inside.

Overall my mind, heart, and faith have grown leaps and bounds. I’m no longer looking for a way out. I’m just constantly looking for how I can keep walking through this ongoing battle. That is and still be a husband, dad, and pastor. My stimulator and medications have at least brought me to a place of consistency. Meaning, at least I know what to do to keep my extreme pain under control. Unfortunately, anything that is helping me most is always giving me major side affects such as constant fogginess and fatigue.

This brings me to why I’m coming to see you. I’m here because my condition keeps making everything flat overwhelming. It’s like being in a non-stop war with flaming arrows coming at you from every direction. There is no break except when I’m asleep. I’ve been shot so often that my body just can’t recuperate. Sadly, I see know sign of anything changing anytime soon.

All of this to say, I need you to speak into my life. What might I need to hear? What might I need to do? I’m taking things literally one day and sometimes one minute at a time. It’s like I’m having to be my own caregiver all the time. There is nothing at home or beyond that is not affected by my condition. I can’t do anything without considering if my health will allow it. It has gotten back to feeling like this condition is a massive ball and chain.

Any prayers for myself are back to feeling like whispers. I’m just exhausted from feeling this way. If most truly understood what I am fighting they would be amazed that I even get out the bed. They would assume that I must be totally depressed. That there is no way I could be happy.

Honestly, I’m still very happy. I’m still very much believing God to take me beyond this season. I know I’m a walking, talking miracle. I know that I should be in a full blown depression. But, I’m just looking forward to whatever I can do with God’s strength. As long as lives are being touched I’m excited. As long as I can know I’m doing everything I can to faithful to God. Then, I can have the peace of God. I’m just back to being very weary.

I know the devil is constantly testing me. He is trying to see if I will finally give up . I can promise you this for sure. Giving up is not even a possibility. I just know I have to keep processing things. I have to keep giving things up to God.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

More Than I Can Handle

I have to write this just to get it off my chest. I’m sure somebody else can identify. Right now I feel like a complete prisoner in my own body. It’s wrecking my every thought. My heart keeps beating faster and faster. I can’t figure out anything I can do presently to change things.

Fortunately, I’m not in unbearable pain. However, every nerve within me is on edge. Every part of my body is on the verge of breakdown. All it takes is the smallest amount of pressure, stress, or conversation. Honestly, just sitting still my entire body continues to vibrate. My ability to do any more than 25 percent of what I used to do is just not there. Everything takes so much more effort and time.

My medications have stolen my ability to concentrate. Every minute continues to be full of cloudiness. I’m squinting to see and fighting to stay awake. This is going on morning, day, and night. Even coffee and my usual healthy energy drink has been no match for my fogginess.

Whether I like it or not this is where I am. I will probably go back to see my counselor very soon. Not that he has all the answers. Sometimes you just need a safe place to process your greatest struggles. Especially when you have a chronic condition that others around you get tired of hearing about. But, you get even more exhausted and discouraged having to deal with it.

If this is similar to your battle. Know that you’re not alone. God has proven He will take us through whatever comes our way. It may be way more than we can handle. It’s never more than God can handle. I pray we all continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Keep believing God my friends!

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Mark 10:27

Faith Must Override Feelings

Today has been one of the most uncomfortable days of my life. From the moment I got up my world has been spinning. I’ve not been able to see anything clearly. My entire body has been vibrating with nerve sensations. There is only one common denominator for any of these moments that occur.

Anytime I even make my way towards Refuge Church. Anytime, I’m absolutely sure what God wants me to say or do. Bam! Out of nowhere my body is rocked and my nerves are shot. Even a simple conversation with my wife seems impossible. Doing anything to further God’s kingdom brings extreme attack upon my every step.

Tonight, I stared a room full of leaders in the face while feeling extremely uncomfortable. In fact, had I operated off of feelings alone I would have run out of the building. Fortunately, I’ve learned all I can do is my best. I’ve got to trust that God is bigger than my condition. One friend even pointed out how the more I struggle the more the church keeps growing.

It’s so crazy how this take up your cross thing works. It’s not about operating based on feelings alone. It’s not about choosing easy street. It’s choosing that Hell or high water you’re going to serve the Lord. You’ve just got to trust, obey, and believe God is working with every faithful step you take. Sometimes there’s nothing you can make sense of even in the midst of your obedience. You just know that God said it and you believe its exactly what He wants you to do.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Thankful And Partly Cloudy

Recently, I shared how I had to increase my medication dosage. Well, it’s certainly been doing it’s job. My nerve pain is much more under control. I’m very happy for the relief. Especially the fact I no longer feel like I’m constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

What I don’t like is the haze this medicine has greatly increased. The last several hours have felt like a blur. Even though I got nearly 10 hours of sleep. I still feel like I could sleep for ten more hours. I know my body was exhausted, but it’s definitely the medication making everything partly cloudy.

The room feels like it’s spinning. It’s so hard to focus or feel normal. Guess I’ve got to go through another season of adjustment. I certainly don’t want to go back to having unbearable nerve pain. So, I’m beyond happy for the relief. But, for now it’s making everything look partly cloudy.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

What Are You Worried About?

For many of us our minds are filled with emotions. We over think so many things and situations. What could go wrong? What might go wrong? What has gone wrong? Next thing we know we need somebody to give us a chill pill before we totally freak out.

No, you’re not the only one that over thinks life’s endless possibilities. Satan looks constantly for any windows he can find. His hope is to get us all worked up. To make us so worried about everything the we can’t do much of anything. He knows that worry full blown will paralyze us from moving forward by faith.

Jesus himself addressed one of mankind’s greatest tendencies. In fact, over 300 times God’s word tells us to “Fear Not,” “Don’t Be Afraid” or “Don’t Worry.” Because any of us can fall prey to being consumed by worry. Therefore, we must understand the enemy’s strategy. We must understand how to counter satan’s lies with God’s truth. Otherwise there will be a whole lot more worrying than happiness in our everyday lives.

Jesus said “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:25-31

We All Need A Day Of Rest

I’ve been a minister of the gospel for twenty six years and counting. Nearly twelve years were spent in associate roles. The past 14 years I’ve been a senior pastor. Just like most ministers I can tell you that Sundays are anything but a day of rest for me. In fact, for me it’s by far my most challenging day of the week. I literally give everything I’ve got towards allowing God to speak through me.

Somewhere, I can hear someone saying the following underneath their breath. Well, preacher aren’t Sundays the only day you actually even work? I’ve learned to not even respond to that common joke. The truth is ministry to people is a twenty four hours a day and seven days a week deal. The only breaks you get are the ones you give yourself. And, it’s very important you give yourself a true day of rest.

For me, I try to make Mondays my clear day of rest. One, because it usually takes all of Monday to even think about recovering from Sundays. Two, because we all need a day that we truly unwind, rest, and get renewed. We can’t just keep going and going unless we want to get totally burned out.

So, I would suggest to most to make Sunday their biggest day of clear rest. Take your family to the church of your choice. Seek to just breathe in and breath out. Position yourself to be renewed and rejuvenated. Guard that day of rest the best you can. Because there’s nothing harder that trying to pour out to others when you have nothing pouring into you.

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

Hilinski: Bringing Hope Beyond Football

Ryan Hilinski is just another 18 year old. However, he was one of the most sought after college quarterback recruits in the nation. At least 32 top 50 schools offered him a full scholarship to play quarterback. Schools such as Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas A&M, Stanford and his state’s pride and joy the USC Trojans. However, Hilinski chose to play for the University of South Carolina.

Sadly, Ryan’s brother Tyler the quarterback for Washington State University committed suicide on January 16, 2018. This left Ryan, his parents and one remaining sibling beyond heart broken. The entire family moved from Orange, California to Columbia, South Carolina after just one year of grieving his brother’s passing. They moved across the country to get away from places that only made them miss Tyler more. They also brought with them way more than a quarterback. They brought a mission way beyond football.

Ryan has only been the starting quarterback for USC four games. Yet, with every game you can see God using this young man mightily. Winning or losing, the Hilinski Hope foundation is touching countless lives. This humble young man plays football wearing his deceased brother’s number three on his jersey. At the beginning of every third quarter home game everyone in Williams Brice Stadium holds up three fingers. One in memory of his brother. Two, in an effort to bring greater awareness to mental health issues.

An entire nation has heard about the Hilinski Hope foundation. No telling how many lives have already been changed and saved in recent weeks. Thousands continue to support this cause. Many young and old have shifted their focus away from Football. Hilinski keeps reminding us all that some things are way more important.

There’s no doubt this kid has been God sent to South Carolina. His love for others is so genuine. His brokenness is so real it spills out to those around him. He and his family can rest assured that Tyler Hilinski’s memory remains strong. His death has not been wasted. God is using his passing as a beacon of hope to many. It just reminds us that God can use even the darkest tragedy as a platform of hope for many.

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” John 9:3

To support this great cause go to

www.hilinskishope.org

Invisible Pain, Obvious Frustration

People see me on the outside and say man you look like you’re doing really good. Thank God I am now able to say I’m doing much better. I’m coping better. I getting around better. Overall, I’m just ecstatic that I’m even able to have a quality conversation, pick up a few groceries and still minister to others.

The problem is underneath everything is still going haywire. My legs quickly feel like I’m dragging someone everywhere I go. My lower back is always just a moment away from everything being unbearable. When I am feeling great with relief. My mind is floating in space due to my necessary medications. Long story short I know the brokenness is always there.

My improved coping is due to the fact I understand this is my new normal. I’m truly seeking to live my best life now. My frustration is feeling like I have to explain things often to those who mean no harm. Sadly, very few on the outside can understand my constant battle on the inside. It truly helps me the most when I know I’m talking to someone who truly understands. It does this nerve wrecked body a world of good. I believe we all have the longing to feel understood.

My advice to anyone battling something on the inside that others can’t see on the outside. Find someone who has faced a similar pain. Whether it be an online support group or local individual. Don’t expect those who have never experienced your battle to understand your pain. We all have to find our common ground tribe for the greatest of understanding. Thank God Jesus always understands our weakness and pain.

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Day and Night Difference

So, I’m pretty sluggish and feel like I could sleep upside down. The extra medication has definitely made me very drowsy. However, not one bit of nauseous or extreme nerve pain all day. Just like that I’m back on track with bearable pain. I’m so thankful for the relief.

It seems God has to allow us to endure the very bad times to appreciate the good times. Often we must experience the extraordinary pain to thank God for the ordinary pain. Such a burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Yes, I’m still hurting at times. But, I’m no longer bleeding inside with the deepest of pains.

We should not just talk about the tough times. We should also praise God in the good times. Apart from His grace I would not still be going. Apart from His strength I would have long ago fallen apart. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow. This has certainly been a God made day. A day I may have overlooked in the past. Yet, today I celebrate with a very grateful heart.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

My Nerves Are Now Settled

First thing this morning I made a medication adjustment. My pain management doctor recommended this in the past. He said with the severity of my nerve damage I would need to be taking at least 75mg of Amitriptyline to keep things calm. Well, that day has finally come and praise God it’s working. I was already taking 25mg twice a day. But, now I’m taking 25mg of Amitriptyline three times a day.

Just as I expected I’m dealing with a bit of a fog and extra drowsiness. But, I will take that all day over unbearable nerve pain. I will see my primary physician 3pm today. We will discuss my recent nerve flare up. I will ask his opinion on my best medication options. I like to talk with this doctor because he doesn’t just throw medications my way. We discuss together all the pros, cons, and what time has proven.

By the grace of God I’ve stayed away from narcotics. Daily I take Neurontin, Zannaflex, Amitriptyline, CBD caplets and oil. Outside of a low dose of ibuprofen I take several supplements such as turmeric, calcium, and magnesium. I simply aim to have bearable pain. I also aim to keep myself fully functional. That’s why I only take the muscle relaxers at night. But, once again God has calmed the raging storm. And, I’m praying that something I’ve shared will encourage and help you through your pain.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

A Day I Hope Not To Repeat

Finally laying down in hopes of getting some sleep. I’m going to bed feeling I could throw up due to these constant nerve sensations. There is not a part of me that doesn’t feel uncomfortable. This stuff is kinda like an earthquake inside of my body. It just shakes me all over. Afterwards I’m just left to deal with its aftermath.

Today is not one of those days I hope to repeat anytime soon. It’s the kind of day that makes you feel all progress is lost. It really has been weeks if not months since my nerves felt so out of whack. It’s been nearly two months since I’ve even had to adjust my spinal cord stimulator. And, I’m not really sure of doing so can help these nonstop tremors.

I’m just asking God to help me fall asleep quickly. To settle my heart, nerves and body. Right now you would think I got into some kind of accident. Yet, I’ve not even left the house today. As you can tell I’m deeply disturbed by these feelings. Thank God they are just feelings and I know things can change.

“Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.” Psalm 6:2

Dear God’s Child

I know you’re frightened by the way you feel right now. You wonder how you can possibly do anything in your shape. Especially when you never know when this condition is gonna rear it’s ugly head. Your body, heart, and mind are being rocked to the core. However, you know you’ve experienced far worse before.

Remember all those days you literally stayed in a bed or bath from sun up to sun down? Remember when you thought you might go crazy any minute? Remember when getting through any day without a complete nervous breakdown was a rarity? Remember when you wondered how you could ever keep ministering to others in such a debilitating state? Remember the days gone by when I showed up and always saved the day?

Well, didn’t I prove my faithfulness to you time and time again? Recently, hadn’t the good days far out weighed the unbearable ones? Aren’t you still much better than you have been in the past? Haven’t I shown you that no matter what happens I’m still with you? Just as I turned all the other pain into God stuff. I will continue to use even the seeming bad stuff to accomplish God stuff. I will do this both in you and through you.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Once Again In Deep Waters

I’m sitting here completely still in my living room chair. There’s not a piece of my body that is not continuously vibrating. Inside I feel so nauseous and paralyzed at the same time. It’s like I’m being held hostage in my own body. Like someone flipped a switch inside of me. Like my entire nervous system is on fire.

I put forth great effort to get up and get out. I got my shower and got dressed. There’s so much I need to get done. Yet, my body is screaming for my attention. If I didn’t know any better I would think I might have a stroke any minute.

These are the moments you really can’t fully explain to anyone. Only someone with the severity of this nerve condition could ever understand. I’m trying so hard to move forward, but there is an invisible force field every direction. I know inside I’m due for a good cry. It’s like this nerve pain is fluid and has filled up my entire body.

Fortunately, I know how to cope with this much better than in days gone by. I know there’s nothing anyone can do, but pray. That I just have to wait for this storm to get totally out of my system. It forces me to be real and raw. All I can do is get it out and give it up to God. Thank God it’s been awhile since I’ve had one of these episodes. Where my heart keeps pounding and my humanity keeps staring me in the face.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

I Can’t Fight These Feelings

I’ve felt these feelings so many times before. It’s like my body is a wind chime. Right now the wind is piercing through my entire lower body. And I’ve not even gotten out of bed. I’ve laid all night on a heated mattress pad.

Crazy how even the slightest changes in temperature affect my body so much. I told my wife when I headed to bed last night. Something just wasn’t the same. I can’t always pinpoint the issue or the solution. It’s just obvious when my nerves are all fluttering inside of me. These painful sensations leave you feeling like your body has gone through some kind of radiation.

Even still, I know so many have it worse than me. Yet, every time my nerves rage within I can hardly bear another minute. Makes me feel so nauseous and on edge. Every time it makes me so miserable I can’t ignore it. All I can do is pray and ask God to calm things down again. He always comes through eventually.

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace,be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39

Why I’m Not Writing As Much

Just thought I would jump on here and share a few words of encouragement. I do pray for each of you often as I know many reading this struggle greatly. However, I’ve had to apply to myself something I’ve preached to others for years. That is you must tend to your own health before you try to help anyone else.

Now, that doesn’t mean God can’t use you in the midst of your greatest struggles. However, you do have to position yourself to stay as healthy as possible. Whatever it is you know you must and can do to protect yourself. God wants you to be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthy. God wants you to take care of yourself so you can be around to care for others.

For me personally, I have to guard myself before my day ever begins. Before I even wake up there are many wanting and needing my help. However, I can’t help the world long if my health falls completely apart. So, I now seek to use my time, energy and opportunities wisely. Sometimes that means others hear a lot less from me. Just know that my silence is often associated with my striving to practice what I do often preach.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16

Tempted To Quit

I’ve been up since 2am this morning. Considering my day has lasted almost 19 hours. I’m very lucky to not be consumed with too much nauseating pain. Both services I preached this morning were nothing but a blur for me. Just as it has been the past few Sundays. It was all I could do to stay focused and even see anything in front of me.

To say I felt uncomfortable in my own skin is an understatement. Deep down I wanted to run away from everyone. I felt like there was nothing I could hide. In my mind I was stumbling and stuttering with every word spoken. I had no choice but to totally rely on the power of God’s truth and the Holy Spirit alive within me.

I sought the best of my ability to preach the gospel truth God had given me. I absolutely hated to admit what I’ve been pondering the past few weeks. Satan has been trying to get me to give up. To step down as pastor as each day is such a great challenge. Just when I needed God’s jumper cables He delivered on time.

Early this afternoon I had the privilege of baptizing a dozen new Jesus followers. Of course every soul changed is worthy of celebration. But, I could see firsthand that despite my limitations. God still wants me to have great expectations. I needed to see the difference this ministry was making beyond just keeping me up at night. I needed to see further reason to keep fighting the good fight.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Hold Me Jesus

I slept a few hours and suddenly woke up around 2am. No matter what I just couldn’t go back to sleep. Of course, I’ve got a very long God made day ahead. Two services to preach and several to baptize at the river. Honestly, I’m never worried about God doing His part. I just don’t want to fail to do mine.

Sometimes all you can do is crawl up in God’s lap. I’ve been tossing and turning for the last few hours. In between my fight to sleep I’ve been praying without ceasing. I really don’t care much about my comfort. I just want God’s will to be done despite me, around me and through me.

Lord Jesus you know my every thought. Settle my heavy and anxious heart. Calm and strengthen my nerve wrecked body. Focus my mind on you. Help me to put all my trust in you. Hold me Jesus and help me to feel your presence. I give you everything on my mind and heart. Have your way today and may you be glorified in everything said and done.

“Oh, love me – and right now! – hold me tight! just the way you promised.”

(Psalm 119:76)(The Message)

Another Saturday Night

Last night my body felt every degree of temperature change. Any coolness in the air cuts straight through my lower body. Even sleeping in pants, socks and on a heated mattress cover I’m still being impacted. As I continue to recover from my recent shot. It’s been quite a double team of preying on my body’s weakness. In many respects it’s just another Saturday night.

As I lay here about to go to sleep my heart keeps pounding. I really can’t remember the last time my heart wasn’t pounding on a Saturday night. While I’ve come so far I still feel so very weak. I’m talking the kind of weakness that frightens you deeply. That feeling that you’ve lost all control and things will never be the same.

One thing for sure is it plays with your confidence. That is you no longer feel you can trust in yourself. Maybe that’s exactly where God is trying to lead me. He wants me to realize that only He can give me the next breathe. Only He can give me a calming peace. So, once again I must free fall into His arms.

“We don’t have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all we do.”

2 Corinthians 3:5 (CEV)

My Front Porch To Yours

Someone asked earlier if I just write about certain things or from firsthand experience. I quickly responded by saying I only write about things I’ve personally experienced. In fact, I don’t just write about them, but I most often write while I’m going through them. The truth is without the struggle I would rarely write anything. Somehow God keeps using the pain to grow me and hopefully encourage others.

I’m convinced that pain is a universal language. Pain can affect us physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. My own pain affects me in all of the above ways. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t give me a free pass from pain. In fact, sometimes it just puts a bigger target on my back.

It has been my experience that God grows us most in the pain. You know, while He has our full attention. When we can’t escape our total dependence on His grace and strength. If we never felt pain we may rarely realize how much we need His divine intervention. While I always hate the pain. I’m constantly able to see how God uses pain in so many profound ways in our lives.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 1 Corinthians 1:3-7

When The Devil Body Slams You

No matter how many times it happens you never get used to it. In fact, you try to avoid in every way possible. But, when the devil body slams you he usually doesn’t ask your permission. It’s like he comes out of nowhere. Doesn’t matter the time or day. Suddenly he knocks you to the ground.

Often this happens when you finally feel you’re headed in the right direction. In your heart and mind you’re trying to do what’s right in God’s eyes. You may have just experienced some major spiritual breakthrough. You’re excited about what God has in store. Then, just when you feel some spiritual momentum here comes your enemy hoping to wreck God’s plans.

Please know you’re not alone in this battle. We all deal with flaming arrows from the devil. Especially when the enemy sees we’re very serious about our walk with God. It’s then the he seeks to shake our confidence and shut down our faith. He figures if he discourages us enough we will give up the fight for what is right. So he continues to pounce just hoping to knock us back off track.

In these times you must hold on to your faith more than your feelings. Your own mind and heart can be used to deceive you. If you know God has led you a certain direction just keep taking the next right step. Expect the devil to not be happy, but expect God to reward your faithfulness. Often I too feel like I don’t know what hit me. Then, I’m reminded that the devil is going to do anything he can to shake me to my very core. It’s then I know I must rely on Christ and keep taking up my cross.

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” (1 Peter 5:8-11)(The Message)

The Temptation To Quit

Trying to minister to others with my nerve condition is very difficult everyday. This thorn in my flesh makes it so hard to study, think, counsel, and ever feel comfortable. At the same time I know God has a reason for this struggle. But, it takes everything I’ve got to keep pressing forward by faith.

Nothing I try to do comes easy. If it wasn’t for God’s clear call on my life. I would definitely step away from the pastorate. The only way I’ve made it this far is a total tribute to God carrying me through. All I’m trying to do is keep my eyes on Jesus and keep taking the next right step. I’m also doing everything I can to maintain a healthy mind , heart, and body. But, there’s no denying that the test and temptations to quit are constant. But, somehow His grace is enough.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Purposeful Pain

Here I am again dealing with radiating pain all throughout my lower body. This time it was actually self-inflicted. I chose to get another epidural injection yesterday morning. I knew from the past that this shot would bring me greater pain. Way before I will receive any relieving gain. I knew the reward of future relief was worth the present pain.

While I don’t like hurting I’m very encouraged. This purposeful pain will help me greatly in days to come. Even though I feel so limited right now. Even though I hate this feeling. I know God is taking me towards greater days. It helps so much when you know the pain is purposeful. That it’s producing something really good that otherwise won’t come.

Often we get so blinded by our pain. The way we feel over shadows what God is doing. We struggle to see that God is at work in and through the pain. The pain is purposely getting us where God needs us to be. The pain in God’s hands will lead to brighter days. We must trust that God is using our present pain so He can purposely reveal His future glory.

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11

Why The Church Must Change

What I’m about to say is something I feel very passionate about. It may not be accepted by all who read it. It may not be perfectly explained. It may not sound very encouraging. All I know is the church must change. Here are 3 major reasons why.

TIMES KEEP CHANGING

No you don’t change the truth. You can and should change your delivery of that truth over time. What good is what you’re preaching if no one understands it? Times change and churches must change their approach as well. Speak in a language that best gets the message across. Use current technology and methods to further platform the gospel. Don’t just operate with a mentality of “we’ve always done it that way.” Times change and churches must keep making necessary adjustments in order to have maximum impact.

PEOPLE AREN’T COMING

At some point the increased empty seats must wake us up. Yes, I realize many don’t have their priorities in order. But, gone are the days when people are running to the church. So, the church must figure out how to go to them. We aren’t called to just have church, but to be the church. Churches must seek to remove every barrier possible between them and the unchurched. Or you can keep looking at one another wondering why no one else is coming. Churches should be willing to do anything short of sin in hopes of reaching just one more soul.

SOULS AREN’T BEING SAVED

The church should always care deeply about reaching lost people. After all, Jesus died on the cross in hopes of saving everyone of them. There are two kinds of churches. Those with a club mentality and those with a mission mindset. Club churches are setup to satisfy members on the inside. Mission churches do all they can together to reach the next lost soul on the outside.

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:36-38

Time For Another Shot

Tomorrow bright and early my wife will take me for another epidural injection. This is to treat the lowest rooted nerves in my spine. Time has proven this area will keep giving me fits if not kept in check. So far every injection in this area has proven to help manage the pain. For once I’m going into a shot for proactive pain management.

So many times in the past the pain got too much on top of me. By the grace of God my pain has not been extreme anytime this week. Of course, I’m continuing to listen to my body. I’m seeking to get proper rest, exercise and stay away from obvious pain triggers. I’m really starting to feel alive again as my pain is consistently kept in check.

Tomorrow’s shot will be done by a highly respected man named Dr Patel. I have great confidence in his ability and this procedure. Please pray this gives me great relief. Pray my recovery from the shot itself won’t be very long. I’m just thankful God has provided the health care needed at this time.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

When I Look Back

In the midst of your greatest struggles. It can be very hard to see what God is doing. You’re just consumed by the pain. It’s not that you don’t think God has a purpose for everything. You’re just trying to survive the next minute of misery.

Trust me, I’ve been there on many occasions. I was just trying to stay strong. I was just trying to keep the faith. All I could do was hope God would rescue me from my misery. I kept believing God would work all things together for my good and His glory. I just kept seeking to love God and lift God in everything I pursued.

When I look back I remember the breath taking pain. Pain that no longer has me totally under its control. When I look back I see God was at work the entire time. He was piecing together the new me, my family and my ministry. Yes, when I look back I see God was working even more both in and through the pain. When I look back I see a God who carried me through so He could carry me to this place of greater blessing.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Measuring Success

Today was a very long day. It started around 5:30am and is finally ending at 10:30pm. As I lay here I’m just trying to catch my breath. I’ve ministered to so many people today. I’ve given the best I’ve had to offer. I continue to see God changing so many lives Sunday after Sunday. Yet, I often find myself thinking of all the things I didn’t get to do.

There comes a point that you have to make sure you have a realistic view of success. I believe a successful day is knowing you did everything you could to carry out God’s will. If just one life is impacted it was a great day. There will always be things you couldn’t do and people you couldn’t reach.

The older I get the more I keep asking myself “Am I really living my best life now?” I’m in the process of making sure my priorities are in order. l’m making sure God’s priorities are driving my life. I’ve got a lot going on in my heart and mind these days. But, really all that matters in the end is whether I did my best to follow God’s plans for my life.

“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

Anxiety Weighs You Down

It starts out by making you feel unsettled. Then your heart begins to race. Your mind feels so unsure about everything. Anxiety knocks the wind out of your sails. As it seeks to tie a brick around your neck that feels heavier and heavier.

I’m very familiar with this emotion. Why? Because I deal with it every day of my life. Nights are the worst as it stares me in the face every direction. For me it’s still a combo of two things. One, it’s just so hard to swallow how I feel most days. Two, the way my pain limits me makes practically everything feel stressful.

It’s like I’m walking a tight rope. It just doesn’t take much to bring me down these days. What before was so easy to handle is suddenly a very big deal. Being a husband, father, or pastor takes all I have to give. Even then I keep having to accept that all I can give is my best. Then, I have to trust the rest with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart of a man, but a good word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Way Better Than Yesterday

Yesterday was just not a good day. Satan had a field day with my mind, heart and body. Yes, I do realize it was Friday 13th. However, everything felt like a physical and spiritual war. I was so worked up within all day. I was up the majority of last night due to my anxiety.

Now, we all know that some days just get the better of you. Just one bad day can make you feel like everything is falling apart. As if you can’t do anything right. You feel let down and defeated. You go to bed desperately praying that tomorrow will be better.

Well, today wasn’t perfect but way better than yesterday. Thanks to yesterday I’m able to feel more very grateful for today. There are times the only way to measure forward progress is to remember past misery. God allows the rainy days so we can be grateful in the sunny days. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be. But, make sure you praise God you aren’t where you used to be.

“This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Just Keep The Faith

I’m at that place where without faith I’m sure to fall apart. The enemy has thrown countless flaming arrows my way. My heart is leaking from all the holes created over time. Still I’m fighting with all I’ve got within me. Most importantly God is fighting for me.

Even as a pastor I have to apply every truth I ever preach. So many times in life faith is all you’ve got. You can be trying with all your might to make all the right decisions. You can be reading your bible and praying around the clock. Still the storm you’re facing shows no sign of going away.

It’s in these defining seasons our faith is tested to the max. Will you still trust God fully when faith is all you’ve got? When everything feels so uncertain and even hopeless in your eyes. Will you let God be your certainty and hope?

Is faith truly real if it can’t remain when our flesh gives way? Is faith truly real if we abandoned our beliefs as soon as things don’t go our way? We can’t deny that it’s in the most difficult times that our faith either takes flight or a total nose dive.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been facing the biggest tests of my life lately. I’m learning how to trust God even when I can’t see beyond the moment. I’m learning how to trust God even when I don’t feel like it. I’m learning how to trust God even when the waiting for breakthrough feels like it’s taking forever.

This I know for sure my friends. Faith is not a small word. It’s an all or nothing decision to believe God knows what is best. Faith is not just words. It’s choosing everyday to let go and let God have his way in your life. Keeping the faith makes the difference between dreams only discussed and dreams realized.

This world is full of nonstop trials. As soon you get past this trial another is sure to follow. So we must find a way to trust God with the struggle and even through the struggle. We can’t endure these things ourselves. But, with God all things are possible.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20

SUICIDE: WHAT CAN WE DO?

Rarely do I ever speak to someone that has not been impacted by this dreaded reality. For most it’s a word we don’t like to use or hear. The very thought of it makes us uncomfortable. However, due to the growing number of surprising suicides it’s time for us all to ask ourselves what can we do to help those struggling with mental health issues.

According to the National Center For Health Statistics the suicide rate has increased nearly 25 percent since 1999. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. In 2017 alone,1,400,000 people attempted suicide. On average there are 129 suicides per day. These suicides typically range from those aged 15 to 85. Meaning, no one’s struggle can be taken lightly.

This is very dear to my heart. I’ve preached the funerals of young children parents never thought would take their own life. I’ve known the middle age man or woman that suddenly couldn’t keep it together anymore. I’ve been at the home of a senior citizen who finally shot themself due to ongoing suffering and complete isolation. At the church I pastor there are people on every other row that have considered suicide. We can’t ignore what is happening all around us. Here are some things I’ve learned we can do to help.

One, never belittle what someone else is going through. They are not crazy for feeling a certain way. They are struggling and need somebody to listen. Let them share how they really feel without you trying to fix them. Let them bear their bleeding heart without judgement. This could be their first step towards healing.

Two, show them you really care. It’s been said, “people don’t care how much you know until they they know how much you care.” Many may listen to someone, but love is an action verb. Pray for them and with them. Check on them frequently if you know they are in a very low place. Be that friend or family member you would want someone to be to you. As a lady once told me “I’m not sure there is anything more powerful than holding a hand.” Make sure they know they have a hand to hold.

Finally, do everything you can to lead them towards hope. There are doctors and medications that can help. There are counselors that can encourage. There are 24/7 hotlines to call. There are support groups that can be found. Most of all, there is a God who always cares and loves them dearly. He sent His only son Jesus to die on a cross to bring us all everlasting hope and peace.

For anyone reading this who feels suicidal. I’m praying for you! Here is the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call 1-800-273-8255 anytime.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I’m Coming Out The Closet

Right now I’m just flat shot. I’m not talking just a little tired. I’m not talking about just a bad day. I’m talking about a series of days that I must admit have left me feeling broken. But, everybody knows we should never let others know such stuff. They might not think the same of us. Especially if we are often claiming to have such faith.

Well, right now in the midst of my absolute exhaustion. In the midst of feeling so stressed. In the midst of knowing I’m not at all okay. In the midst of absolute inside turmoil. I’m coming out of the closet with total honesty.

The truth is I’m often overwhelmed, discouraged and on the fence of depression. Yes, I keep pressing forward by faith. However, I rely on my faith because my flesh keeps failing me. In fact, the entire reason I ever said yes to Jesus was because I’m not okay without him. Definitely not without His grace, strength, comfort and peace.

Anyone who ever tells me they’ve got it all together shouldn’t stand next to me. I would be too afraid the lightning might strike us both after that big lie. My advice to every person out there struggling. Don’t be afraid to admit your struggles. Don’t be too prideful to let others know you’re just not okay.

Holding things deep within for too long just creates greater hardships. So, find someone you really know loves you. Let them know if you feel overwhelmed. None of us were meant to make it through this life alone. Often we need to know that we’re not the only person with skeletons in our closet. With nonstop struggles that apart from Jesus we certainly can’t bear.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We All Cope In Different Ways

By now many of have probably noticed a trend. When I’m really hurting I write a lot. I don’t do it for self-pity. I don’t just do it so it might encourage someone. I do it because I feel compelled to share my story. For me it’s one of the key ways I cope with my nonstop pain.

My wife asked me earlier what all was hurting. My initial response was one word. Everything! It’s like someone gave me an IV full of self inflicting pain. My skin keeps crawling from my feet to my face. My lower back feels like someone has kicked me relentlessly. This has been going on practically the entire day.

I’m just waiting and hoping these medications kick in soon. Considering I took things two hours ago I would think relief would have already come. As I’ve stated before this is not a club I chose to join. This pain chose me and for reasons I may not fully understand God continues to allow this suffering.

In the meantime, my heart keeps pounding. The longer this misery continues the harder it is to be still. I’m certainly trying to be still and know that He is God. Yet, everyone has their limits when it comes to enduring pain. Evidently I’ve once again reached all I can take in one day.

“At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly.” Job 30:17

Give Up The Fight

This past Sunday I preached about being caught in a raging storm. I knew before I preached it that I would be forced to practice it very soon. Some folks didn’t make it out the parking lot before they were pounded. Others like myself had about 24 hours before the next storm hit. And, I’m not talking about Hurricane Dorian. Although there have been many affected by that too.

You really can’t wake up expecting things to be perfect. We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people. Jesus told us this world would be full of trials and sorrows. He also said to take heart because He has overcome this world. I think we must remind ourselves it’s Jesus and not us who has the power to overcome these unavoidable storms.

Too often I find myself wanting to fight for myself. Foolishly thinking that I should be strong enough to overcome anything. Seems God just waits on me to quit fighting a losing battle. To surrender fully the battle in front of me. To let Him fight for me what is way beyond my ability to overcome.

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

What A Long, Long Day

All day I’ve tried to shake it. I’ve uttered many prayers. Talked with others hoping for encouragement. Tried to rest it off. Kept myself from anything possible to reduce my stress level. Still this storm cloud over my head won’t move.

The devil is working overtime to knock me down. With every move forward I feel resistance instantly. It’s like trying to swim during high tide. The current is so strong and keeps threatening to take me under. I’ve had to calculate my every move knowing the enemy is looking for any window to take me down.

Tonight I’m doing what I know is my best escape for now. I’m taking my nighttime medications early and getting in bed. Quality sleep could give me a huge lift. Outside prayers from friends and family could give me true breakthrough. Lately, God has been really at work. It’s no surprise Satan hopes to derail God’s plans by wearing me down. Only in Christ can I overcome and pass this intense test of faith.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:35,37

Just Barely Hanging On

Today has just not been easy. My neuropathy has been flaring all throughout my body. My vision is still blurred by my meds. My mind has struggled to see anything in a non stressful manner. I’m just having one of those really tough days.

I guess the good news is I’m able to recognize what is actually happening. That I’m not going crazy or being dramatic. I’m just dealing with one of those days. Those days when the condition you have makes you feel defeated. In your mind you just can’t see beyond how you feel in the moment.

Yes, I experience this quite often. Generally at least once a week I totally crash inside. I feel stuck in this broken body. I wonder if it’s one day gonna take me totally down. Then, I remember how many times God has picked me up. Even in the midst of the panic attacks and the total brokenness.

Fortunately, God has taken me through many tough days. Therefore, I know how to take joy in what God is doing when I can’t do anything. God often uses the pain to accomplish His greater purpose. The toughest days Get us back aligned with God if we choose to trust Him with the trials.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

If I’m Honest Lord

Lord Jesus, here I am again down on my knees. In need of you holding my heart. Seems every time I get going I try to run ahead of you. Time keeps proving the only way I can do anything is to walk with you. To know that you are always with me.

If I’m honest I get so easily overwhelmed. Somehow I can only handle a fraction of what I used to feel like was nothing to me. It’s as if I have an electric fence around me. The moment I step too far out I’m zapped with anxiety. This is soon followed by total awareness of my extreme limitations.

Yet, God you have called me to lead out a mission meant to impact thousands. I see You at work more than ever before. I also see brokenness every direction. I find myself feeling Moses in scripture. He gave You every excuse in the book as to why he wasn’t able to be the leader You called him to be. You just kept reminding him “I AM WITH YOU.” Seems I need this reminder every hour. I feel so outmatched and so called at the same time.

God you have proven yourself faithful time and time again. Please settle my heart down once again. Reveal your great strength where I am so weak. Have your way in me and through me. Wherever you lead I will always go. I trust you with all of my heart.

“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”

Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12

You Gotta Watch Yourself

There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people find greater peace and purpose in Christ. It’s something I’ve been doing for so many years. So long that it’s simply a way of life for me. Yet, while my heart has not changed my body’s limitations have drastically changed. Enough that I have to constantly watch myself and respect my necessary boundaries.

These days the demand on my life is nonstop. Before I even wake up there are so many seeking my help. Whether it’s someone dealing with a death, a marriage in crisis or someone desperate for spiritual advice. I never wake up wondering if there is anything to be done. I wake up knowing I can’t do it all. Therefore I must operate led by clear priorities and boundaries.

Anyone hoping to live healthy must watch themselves closely. Don’t say yes to things you know will take you over the edge. Don’t keep doing things that prove to be unhealthy for you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to over extend yourself. You can be pursuing many good things, but it not be a God thing for you. You must keep respecting your limitations by making healthy daily decisions. Because if you don’t watch yourself you will wreck yourself.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

Exhausted and Blessed

Overall, today has been a really good pain day. Everything was bearable and allowed me to do several things. I gave all I had when I preached both morning worship services. When your heart is so connected to what your saying it’s definitely emotionally draining. Yet, I could see what God was doing in the midst of so many hearts.

After leaving church we had a small family birthday party for my son Joel. It felt so good to be present. To actually let his special recognition come before my pain. These are moments I may have taken for granted in the past. We celebrated two of my boys birthdays this weekend. Yesterday one turned 18 and today my oldest turned 20.

Now, early this morning I had to load up with lots of caffeine to override the drowsiness from my medications. Seems it’s always a fight to stay awake prior to preaching. But, I made it through somehow today feeling pretty good. I’ve spent the evening in the tub after going to the grocery story for potential hurricane supplies earlier. Sadly, making such a trip is still something I must scratch off my todo list. Well, I’m going to try and get some rest knowing I gave all I had to give today.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” Colossians 3:23

You Will Be Alright

A lot has changed for me over the past few years. This nagging pain has changed my entire approach to life. There’s many unpredictable moments I have to deal with daily. Fortunately, my coping skills have improved greatly. But, I still don’t like it.

I don’t like feeling like my nerves could crash any moment. I don’t like not going places with my family because my body aches so much. I don’t like not being able to sit, drive or stand for any extended period of time. I don’t like how this pain drains my energy and denies me of so much opportunity.

However, I can now identify with my grandad who lived to be 87. My grandad was asked, “Johnny are you alright?” He replied,”I’ve never been alright. I’ve just learn how to deal with it.” Fortunately I’ve learned how to deal with it myself. Yes, I’m still getting used to my restrictions and knowing 9pm should typically be my bedtime. But, this life is all about making adjustments.

Remember, whatever you’re going through God is not surprised. He saw it coming way before it happened. Yes, life is full of not fair moments. However, you can bet that God is always good. He will take you through whatever lies ahead. Just keep putting your little hand in His big hand.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I’m Taking Another Extensive Break

I’ve been thinking about this the past few days. I believe it’s best I take another extensive break from posting anything about my pain journey on social media. No, I’m not the worst I’ve ever been especially compared to a year ago this time. A year ago I really thought I needed to file for full disability, resign from pastoring, and just accept that I couldn’t get any better. In fact, I was still walking with a cane. Praise God I was able to overcome a very dark, dark season and get back up on my feet.

Now, I’m certainly not where I hoped to be this time this year. In fact, how I’ve been feeling lately has been discouraging way more than physically. I’m once again emotionally and mentally drained from my efforts towards recovery. Right now my present approach just isn’t working. Also, me writing about my pain isn’t helping so something must change. There’s a big difference between working through your pain and wallowing in it.

So, just as God led me to do a year ago this exact time. I feel led to step back again and seek God more desperately. This time I’m not near as reluctant because God has proven how trusting Him fully does change things. I’m not backing down in my faith. I’m stepping up in my faith. I’m not giving up in my hope. I’m totally seeking God to carry me even further towards greater hope.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

I’ve Been So Blessed

I grew up in a Christian home raised by two great parents. Never did I feel unloved. Never did I feel scared for even one day. Compared to most I’ve always had a great life. Married a beautiful woman 23 years ago I dearly love and who I know still dearly loves me. We have 4 wonderful boys. Overall I’ve been very blessed for 44 years of my existence on planet earth.

God has allowed me the opportunity to be his vessel of comfort to many. I still consider being a minister of the gospel an awesome privilege. Even now with my limitations God allows me to be a part of His kingdom work. I thank God daily for the life and opportunity He gives me. Lord knows I don’t deserve any of it.

The past four years has been by far my most broken and painful. I’ve been like someone who was in a very bad car accident. It takes you awhile to know what even hit you. At first you just want help. Then, you hope someone can stop the pain and dry your tears. You cry, kick and scream as doctors tell you there is no fixing you. It takes awhile to process your disbelief.

Finally, you begin to embrace your new normal the best you can. It’s hard and I mean really hard. Especially when “your” dreams feel shattered. Because the pain is within you there’s no running from it. Honestly, your only way of coping is drugs or Jesus. When you choose to trust Jesus you rediscover God’s peace and learn to fully rely on His promises no matter what life brings.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Another Disappointing Night

After spending over four hours straight in the tub I thought my pain had settled down. Just minutes after getting out I was hit again with that old familiar nauseous pain. Like poison running through my veins there’s nothing that feels good underneath my skin. I looked at my wife earlier with a lump in my throat. I said, “Looks like I just need to accept this pain and call it a night.”

Everything in me truly feels like I’m due for a good cry anytime soon. I thought that was going to happen earlier today prior to preaching the second worship service. Somehow that cloud passed over me. These toxins feel so fluid and make me feel so empty within. It’s like I can move from the highest mountain to the lowest valley in a split second.

These are the moments that make even me numb and silent. I can type a message, but don’t have the energy to process things verbally. Honestly, I’m tired of talking about this struggle that has long out stayed it’s welcome. It’s hard to read scripture or even pray for myself when I reach this kind of low. I’ve just learned to take a deep breath and be still before God. Only He can truly understand or do anything about my bleeding heart.

I’m so grateful to have a wife that is understanding. We’re both in a much better place as I learn to deal with things much quicker. When you feel so bad there is so much misunderstanding that takes place. There is so much mutual heartache as you both see things have changed.

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10

Acceptance or Denial

Several times recently I’ve had people who really care about me compel some self-questioning. They wonder how I keep such a positive attitude in the midst of this never ending pain. That is apart from God giving me daily strength. God clearly is the obvious answer. However, I’m not sure that has answered all my questions. I’m wondering if I’m living in denial or acceptance.

If it’s fair I believe it’s a little bit of both. First, I have to live in a certain level of denial. Otherwise, how could I fully accept something that leaves me uncomfortable every second of every day? How can I keep fighting forward with hope if I only see myself as hopeless? How can I keep from crying all the time if all I do is swallow defeat? So, I’ve chosen to walk by faith that God is still in control and can change anything He sees necessary.

Now, there are many signs of healthy acceptance on my part. One, I wake up everyday doing all I can towards recovery because I know I can’t afford to roll backwards. Two, I calculate my daily steps knowing my health simply won’t allow me to live my past normal. Three, I keep processing it with people like you because it’s not in my head. In fact, it’s running wild throughout my body.

I’ve concluded that we all have our own coping strategies. Some of us don’t want to talk about painful stuff at all. Others of us, know we can’t keep it all inside. Regardless, you can acknowledge something and still not fully accept it. You can accept something in the present and still believe God can change it in the future. Each of us have things we feel have turned our world upside down and cause us so much pain. I’m living proof that even though you may feel like you’re going through Hell. God can still give you peace, promise, and purpose. In our hands it’s nothing but a burden. In God’s hands it somehow becomes a blessing.

“And we know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Waiting On My Rainbow

You would think I should be used to it by now. But, you never get used to rain falling down on your parade. I had gotten my shower, got dressed and was waiting on my wife to pick me up for supper at Cracker Barrel. By the time she arrived I was already melting due to nerve pain. The nausea was rising and every piece of my skin was crawling.

Fortunately, I didn’t try to force things. After all, I’ve seen this movie over a thousand times before. So, I told her I knew deep down it was best she and my youngest son go on without me. After all, I’ve ruined many an evening trying to ignore this pain. She could see my disappointment, but she too knew it was best I just walked back inside.

Here I go again sitting alone in a hot tub waiting on my nerves to settle. I quickly took medication that I’m certain will help me feel relieved soon. I hate it, she hates it and even my 9 year old hates his daddy can’t join them. I’m still not liking my reality, but I’m much quicker to embrace it. Just takes several years to swallow this much truth into your heart.

I’m still extremely grateful for my daily progress. I know how much worse I could be. I know what it’s like to feel completely hopeless. I feel really bad right now, but I’m still very hopeful about the future. However, I will spend another long, lonely evening asking to renew my body, mind, and spirit. This also means Sunday morning is going to be an incredible time of worship. God always follows these kind of storms with bright rainbows of promise.

“I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures.” Genesis 9:13-15

It’s Been Awhile Because

It’s actually been 3 days since I’ve updated you on my condition. This week has been incredibly busy in a good way. And incredibly busy in a bad way as far as it’s impact on my body. Overall, I’m very happy with how my body is responding. I’m slowly but surely turning my recovery efforts in a greater direction of hope. Let me explain.

First, I have done daily light physical therapy exercises for ten days straight. This consistent movement has broken up so much stiffness gathered around my surgical area. Yes, my lower back continues to be very weak, sensitive and painful. However, my overall body is getting stronger and more flexible.

This past week I had several key appointments. One, I had two medical massages. Just keeping myself adjusted is critical right now. Then, yesterday I started going to a place that is helping me stretch properly. This is not to be confused with normal therapy. This place called “Flexible” not only teaches you how to stretch your muscles properly. But, they stretch you in way you can’t regardless of your limitations. Compared to countless physical therapy visits this place is in a league of its own. I will be going there once a week for the next ten weeks.

Overall, I feel God showing me how to keep the titanic from sinking. Sure, I’m exhausted and it’s far from easy. But, I can feel the movement helping and my momentum changing. Maintaining the necessary exercises under these conditions is way underrated. You can’t get where you want to go without the proper rest and movement.

I’m also back to walking more as well. Overall, I’m not focused on the distance or time. I just know nothing can replace the benefits of walking daily. Basically I change my position every 30 minutes from walking, sitting or standing. I continue to keep others informed of my condition and necessary boundaries. I’m just seeking to build healthy habits and translate this all into my normal every day lifestyle. I will definitely be spending today just getting some much needed rest.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

How Did People Survive?

I can’t imagine how those back in the dark ages dealt with certain severe pain. We’ve only been without power less than two hours and I’m beyond struggling. I need a heating pad or a hot bath badly. This weather outside is cutting through my body. I feel like someone broke into my house and kicked me repeatedly. All I can do is just lay here still and pray for comfort.

Praise God I’m waiting on my nighttime medications to kick in. Again, I can’t imagine not having something to help soften the torment. I also fully understand why so many choose to load themselves up with lots of narcotics. By the grace of God I’ve not had to go that route so far. Besides my allergic reaction to codeine God’s just protected me from certain drug addictions.

Daily I take 3200mg of Neurontin, 1200mg of ibuprofen, and 8mg of Zannaflex (muscle relaxers). Other than those prescriptions I take 15mg CBD caplets and use CBD Oil. I also take several supplements like Turmeric, Magnesium, Vitamin C, B12, Ginger, Vitamin D, Calcium, and a multivitamin. I can promise you it hardly puts a dent in the pain. However, without my prescriptions I could not function and certainly could never sleep. My spinal stimulator certainly helps a whole lot. Praise God my lights just came back on! God heard my prayers.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Why Am I Being So Tortured?

I’ve tried so hard to overcome this nerve pain. I still feel deep down there’s something I’ve just not figured out yet. This condition doesn’t give me even an inch of grace or a second of warning. For the last several hours I’ve felt like I could throw up any minute. It’s so mentally, emotionally and physically debilitating. Even the smallest task seems monumental.

My body woke me around 4:30am and I’ve never been back to sleep since. I did get five hours sleep, but time keeps proving that little bit won’t work for me. I have to get at least eight hours sleep daily or I will long to be tranquilized. God only knows what this torment feels like. I wish I didn’t know as it sucks the very life out of my body.

Even as I’m typing these words I’m shaking my head in disbelief. Is this really how it’s going to be the rest of my life? How long can I bear this torture? I genuinely mean it when I say I’ve never questioned God for what has happened. In fact, if I didn’t fully trust God through it all I couldn’t get out the bed each morning.

Honestly, I’m not walking around constantly in tears. I’m not even wanting to wallow in self-pity. I’m sincerely upset that I even have to burden my wife, kids or others with my struggles. Sadly, there’s no way to mask something that has a hold on your entire body and mind. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. If one of my children had this exact condition I would grieve for them morning, day, and night.

Just as Job felt I’m a little perplexed. To my knowledge I’ve done nothing to deserve such constant agony. Evidently this is God’s plan to reveal His greater power to the world. In fact, maybe I’m the primary student meant to learn the most from this fiery ordeal. Whatever the purpose it’s all I have to smile about when it comes to this pain. I will stop here because I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. Yet, I’m still trusting God with all the faith I can muster while feeling so miserable.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

3 Reasons Marriages Struggle

This August my wife and I will have been married 22 years. We started dating 26 years ago. I thought we would’ve mastered this marriage thing by now. The truth is it’s always a challenge. Loving one another is easy. Learning how to do so in an understanding way is a constant roller coaster. I’ve learned over time there are 3 key areas that lead to breakdowns in any relationship.

One, you can’t ignore the Christ factor. In fact, any relationship without Christ is bound for separation. Only a mutual faith in Christ can keep us together. Only a mutual surrender to Christ can help us truly become one. This life is full of stress and marriage is just a piece of paper to most. Only two people who remain united in their devotion to Christ and their relationship can weather the storms satan will constantly bring.

Secondly, there is the communication factor. It’s one thing to date someone, but another thing to live together. The longer you’re together the more communication must be developed. It’s no longer just about where would you like to go on your next date. It’s about learning how to talk about the good, bad, and ugly together. That is without wanting to fist fight. It’s about learning how to understand your spouse not just get them to understand you. I still believe this is the most challenging thing for most relationships.

Thirdly, there’s the compatibility factor. I do believe there’s a lot of truth in saying opposites attract. Usually we find someone who has opposite strengths and qualities than us. Typically we admire in someone else what we do not see in ourselves. In many ways God uses two imperfect opposites to make a healthier whole. Underneath the umbrella of Christ and communication we’re able to feel like a match made in Heaven. But, any time any of these areas get out of sorts our relationship suffers and everything feels like a chore.

Please know these struggles are normal for us all. My wife and I have to work through things everyday. There are days that nothing comes easy or feels right. There are other days that come real easy and feel wonderful. Just because your relationship feels like work doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be. Anything worth fighting for requires dedication, sacrifice, sweat, and maybe even some tears along the way.

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9

Lord I Come To You

Dear Heavenly Father,

How Holy and awesome are your name. You are my rock, my refuge, my strength and my only constant peace in this life. You alone hold me together. Only by your grace can I find such favor now and have such a secure future later.

Thanks for blessing me in so many ways. For giving me parents that have always pointed me to you. For giving me a wife that completes me in every way. For giving me four boys that I know will grow up to be mighty warriors for you. For giving me a church family that loves me even in my brokenness. For giving me a platform daily to share the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

Forgive me for any way that I’ve failed you. Examine my heart and reveal anything that is not pleasing to you. Whatever you want I want dear Lord. I pray not my will, but your will be done. Help me not waste a second more of this brief life you have given me. Make much of you as I become less and less.

I’m lifting up to you not only my needs but the needs of all those around me. May all who are spiritually lost come to know Jesus the only Saviour of a man’s soul. May all who are hungry be fed. May all who are lonely find a true friend. May all who are grieving be comforted. May all who are weak be strengthened. May all who are losing faith have it renewed. May everyone feel your love, hear your voice, and choose to let you lead their lives.

Lord, I come to you not because I have to. I’m thrilled I get to by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. You are always there for me. You’ve never let me down and you’ve always taken me through even the lowest of valleys. I trust you with everything past, present and future. Use it all for my good and mostly for your glory!

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Squirming, Kicking, & Screaming

Yep, I would say that pretty much sums up me right now. From a physical standpoint there’s not much else I can do. It seems to be getting tougher and tougher to ignore. After all, you can only take so much of being completely uncomfortable. Mornings, days, and nights keep feeling like an absolute chore.

I told my wife earlier it’s just getting harder to handle. My mind and body are exhausted from dealing with the misery. Outside of God’s sustaining strength and grace I would’ve long ago given up. Thank God I’ve always felt like I have plenty to fight for and live for even now. Otherwise, I doubt things would look too good about now.

Anyone in my shoes can identify. It’s hard my friends it’s really hard. Even if I never get out the bed the pain is constant. My legs always ache and my body is rarely happy. My only chance at true relief comes only in my sleep. Even much of my sleep finds me squirming, kicking and screaming.

One day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4