Friday, May 28, 2010

"God Willing"

(Friday May 28, 2010) “God Willing”

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15 NIV)

When I wrote in my blog note last week that I planned on attending church Sunday, I should have prefaced my comment with “God willing …” I was again dehydrated on Saturday so it was back to Moffitt for more fluids. It turned into another long day at Moffitt and I didn’t feel well enough Sunday morning to go to church. We were concerned because I required fluids on both Thursday and Saturday last week, but this week I have not had any further problems with dehydration. “God willing,” I am hoping to make it to church this week.

You have faithfully kept Patra and me in your prayers and we would again appreciate your prayers as we meet with my primary physician next Thursday, June 3. We anticipate (“God willing”) that the results of the recent tests will enable the doctor to answer our questions about the success of the bone marrow transplant and to provide us a prognosis and future treatment regimen. There is some anxiety because of the recent problems with fluid retention and dehydration.

Many verses have helped to ease my anxiety, including:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

“casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NASB)

We moved our walks to the AIR-CONDITIONED mall. It now seems like summer in Clearwater. Temperatures are in the upper 80s (even low 90s) with high humidity. When you walk out the door, it feels like you have entered a sauna. We were afraid the outside walks might be contributing to my dehydration.

I have read a number of articles lately written by or about cancer survivors. Many of them have referenced a “bargain” they made with God. “God, if you will let me survive this, then I will …” Let me be very clear. I am not at all critical of anyone for trying to “strike a deal” under these circumstances. My thoughts this week have often begun with “God, if the report next week is good and these “nasty little diseases” are in remission …” But I haven’t been able to complete the covenant. I can’t get past the fact that He has already done so much – how can I ask for any more? His grace is more than I can comprehend. He gave His only Son. Great is His faithfulness. He has promised He will never leave me nor forsake me. He is always good. His mercies are new every morning.

I am left only to pray that His will be done. So my desire is not conditioned upon what He will do. My desire is because of what He has already done. When I was in the hospital and on a day that I was admittedly “under the influence” of medication, I remember telling Patra and one of our nurses that I knew what I wanted to do when I was out of the hospital. I wanted to be an “ambassador.” My mind was “foggy” and I couldn’t really express myself well but I had been contemplating what Paul had told the Corinthians.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV)

Regardless of what the future holds, my desire is to be an ambassador. I want to be a husband – father – grandfather/ambassador, a mediator/ambassador, a neighbor/ambassador, a friend/ambassador.

Next Friday, I’ll give you a report on our doctor’s visit – “God willing.”


Friday, May 21, 2010

"A Quart Low"

Friday, May 21, 2010 “A Quart Low”

Yesterday (Thursday) turned out to be a more eventful day than we originally planned. I was scheduled to go to Moffitt for tests; but when I woke up, I told Patra, “I feel a quart low.”

When the nurse took my vital signs, she said, “Oh, Mr. Bugg.” I had heard that statement and tone before, and I knew it wasn’t good. Sure enough, orthostatic blood pressure testing confirmed that I was dehydrated. So, after completing a bone survey, I spent the afternoon receiving I.V. fluid and albumin (a protein used to try and make sure the fluid goes where it is suppose to.) I am still having problems retaining fluid, so it is always a balancing act to give me the proper amount of fluid to combat the dehydration.

Since my I.V. started at noon, Patra and I ate bag lunch sandwiches. For those of you who have followed the blog, you will be pleased to know that there was a bag of salty potato chips in my bag. Patra just looked at me and we both laughed. I remember as a child my parents would give me a treat when I went to the doctor. Since our plans changed (and I was going to spend an extra 5 hours at the clinic), we both realized that the chips would be my treat.

Our day at Moffitt reminded me that I am so blessed. Patra and I have been home for over a month. A transplant patient who was discharged from the hospital the same day I was is still living in the transitional apartments and hoping that he will be allowed to go home today. Another patient finished his transplant before me and arrived at the clinic still having to use a wheelchair.

I am really looking forward to going to church this Sunday for the first time since my hospitalization. All week I have thought about a verse that I learned as a very young boy. King David really had it right. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalms 122:1 NASB)

I returned to work this week. I mediated one case. It was so good for me. Fortunately I was not dehydrated that day. Although I was very tired when it concluded, it was professionally very satisfying. I still thoroughly enjoy being a mediator. Below is a picture of my “first day of work.” Notice the lack of a tie. I woke up that morning and could not imagine putting a tie around my neck. I’m not sure I even remember how to tie a tie. (I have thought about trying to encourage a dress code of sweat pants and t-shirts for the mediator.)


Friday, May 14, 2010

"Meet the Neighbors"

Last Friday, Patra accompanied the girls and grandchildren to Busch Gardens. Adam was assigned the responsibility to babysit me. Although I wasn’t feeling great, I asked him to take me to the Christian bookstore to buy a Mother’s Day card.

As soon as I entered the store, I began to get light-headed. I quickly selected a card and proceeded to the checkout counter.

I can only imagine how bad I must have looked. Here was a skinny bald guy who was having trouble breathing (much less talking) with his son trying to keep him upright. I was afraid I would pass out, which would probably not be good for business and rather distracting to the other customers behind me. (I just hate it when that happens.)

Then, in one of those special moments of grace, the employee reached across the counter, took my arm and began to pray a prayer of healing for me. I confess that one of the best parts of her praying was that I now had an excuse to close my eyes. I also confess that I silently prayed that her prayer not be too long or I would be saying “Amen” from the floor. When she finished, I couldn’t say much of anything but somehow completed my purchase and Adam got me to the car.

In a couple of weeks, when I am feeling good, I want to go back and thank her. I pray that her act of kindness will be an inspiration to me when I see others who are in distress.

We have had several special friends come visit with us the last couple of weeks. Thanks! On Saturday morning, two of the men in my Bible study came over with their wives to walk with me. After our walk, Patra made breakfast and we had a great time of fellowship. Before they left, they prayed for Patra and for me. I couldn’t help but think that their physically walking with me was a picture of how they and many others have “walked with me” through this journey. I appreciate them giving up a Saturday morning to encourage and support me. I pray that I will remember to “walk with others” who need encouragement and support.

Patra says she had a great Mother’s Day because she was able to spend time with all of the children and grandchildren. After we posted my picture last week with the grandchildren, I knew she couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to get her own picture.


Today I finish my trilogy of children stories. I thank Jenny, Emily and Adam for everything we have learned together and for allowing me to share “their stories.”


"Meet the Neighbors"

Adam was born in full motion. He never needed time to get his motor running. He was never malicious or mean spirited but as a young boy he often got into “predicaments” because he was always busy and active. We knew early on that some day he would be involved with law enforcement - we just didn’t know how he might be involved. Fortunately when he graduated from college he went to work “on their side” as a police officer.

A couple of weeks after we moved into our current home, Adam celebrated his 5th birthday. He came home from his party and proudly emptied his bag of presents. As the toys fell out of the bag one caught my attention – a SLINGSHOT.

We immediately had a very clear discussion and laid down the rules. He was not allowed to use the slingshot without me present. “Do you understand?” “I understand.”

Within seconds of our discussion, and while I was assembling a toy, there was a very loud knocking at the front door. When I opened the door, there was a large, angry man with one hand around my son’s neck and his other hand rubbing his own neck. My eyes focused immediately on the SLINGSHOT which was hanging from Adam’s left hand.

[My son, only moments after receiving my clear instructions about the SLINGSHOT, had gone outside with his SLINGSHOT, picked up a rock in the yard and shot my neighbor in the neck. Adam has always been very athletic and lo, these 25 years later, I must acknowledge that he made quite a shot through a moving car’s passenger window before hitting the driver in the neck. ]

Although I had never met my neighbor before this occasion, it did not seem like an appropriate time to introduce myself and young son. He seemed very angry. Moreover, he wanted to take it out on ME. Even back then, I had a keen interest in conflict resolution (particularly when it involved saving my own skin) and I knew that this would require all of my professional skills. (Please do not attempt this at home.)

There were a number of things I had to do. I had to get his left hand away from my son’s neck without having him then place both of his hands around MY neck. Fortunately, my neighbor was a man of reason and I was able to appease him by convincing him that this situation would be handled and assuring him that my son would never again shoot him or any other neighbors.

Adam, even at 5, knew the instructions. But the allure and desire of the forbidden was too great.

James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (NASB)

As with each of our children, Adam survived this incident (and a number of others) and I am pleased to report that just this week he completed his first year of law school. I am even more proud of the husband and father he is proving to be.


Friday, May 7, 2010

"How Will You Score on the Final Exam?"

(Friday, May 7, 2010)
Last Sunday our family celebrated the birthdays of Andrew (5) and Austin (4). What a great day! You can see from the picture with the grandkids that Grandpa enjoyed the day. Megan and Avery (6 months) will both give me a smile when asked. I ask a lot.


Tuesday night’s trip to my Bible study was a special time. I would estimate that more than 50 men made it to the dinner that night. I was grateful for the opportunity to tell them how much they mean to me.

"How Will You Score on the Final Exam?"

Emily is our middle child. Some children are “willfully defiant” but Emily was born “willingly compliant.” She has always been an obedient child, seeking to please, wanting to serve. As you might suppose, Emily has always been an excellent student. We tease that even her blood type is A Plus (A positive).

In high school Emily took a preparatory course for the SAT. Unfortunately, she was unable to make it to the first session which included a preliminary test which would be used to measure the student’s progress during the course. While the other students took the test on Tuesday night, Emily took a make-up test on Saturday.

Later that night Emily received a call from the examiner with bad news. She had scored very poorly on the exam. “Emily, it’s OK, some people don’t test well. We’re here to help you.” The only credit she received was for getting her name correct. Even a caveman would have done better. College did not appear to be in Emily’s future.

While originally upset by the call, Emily didn’t believe she had done “that bad.” After thinking about it, she called the examiner. “By any chance, did you use the same answer key to grade my test that you used to grade the Tuesday night test?” Needless to say the examiner was very apologetic when her error was revealed.

When you have a serious illness and spend a month in a cancer center, you tend to think about big issues. My “nasty little diseases” have given me time to contemplate different “worldviews.” The Scottish pastor, Alistair Begg, spoke of worldviews as answering these important questions, “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?,” “Why am I here?,” “Where am I going?”

My worldview is a biblically based Christian worldview. I have many friends who I respect and admire who have other worldviews. When it is all said and done, what measure, template, or answer key will be used to evaluate someone’s worldview?

One worldview is universalism. All roads lead to the same place. Everyone will be fine at the end. All religions are true. Wouldn’t this be wonderful? But common sense causes us to question such a worldview? One does not have to be an expert in world religions to know that they cannot all be true since they have diametrically opposed views on significant issues. An honest inquiry reveals that some worldviews are mutually exclusive. (This of course does not prevent me from respecting someone else’s view even though I may not agree with it.)

Another worldview is simply to compare ourselves to others. If the scale tilts in our favor, then we pass the test. “I may not be perfect but at least I am better than …” But will that be sufficient for a passing grade – is that the proper measure?

Are we, the created beings, allowed to decide the criterion that will be used by the Creator? (That seems a little presumptuous, doesn’t it? ) That’s one reason why the Bible is my measure. It provides a clear authority, an unchanging standard to evaluate my life. I know that at this point in my life, my faith provides a peace, a rest, an assurance, a comfort. While I would never have chosen the journey of the last several months, my faith has only been strengthened as He has proven Himself faithful through the journey.

I am grateful that my “final exam” is not dependent upon me. As a Christian, my security is grounded in the work that Jesus did on the cross. He graciously offers His gift to everyone and I accepted.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (NASB)

Thankfully, Emily’s experience of being told that she was “not college material” didn’t permanently impact her. She graduated 4 years later from Florida State summa cum laude. Just last week Emily completed her course work for her Ph.D. and after she takes her comprehensive exams this summer (provided they use the proper answer key) she will begin working on her dissertation.


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