Category Archives: It’s My Life

Field of Spiritual Battles Won

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You’re looking at sacred ground. I know, it looks like just a vacant field, which it is. Now. But a large white tabernacle once filled that space, and oh, the memories.

For 90 years, starting in 1917, the tabernacle was the centerpiece of Rhodes Grove Camp, the United Brethren camp in Chambersburg, Pa. The tabernacle eventually became unusable, structurally unsound, beyond repair, and was torn down in 2006. But in its day, thousands and THOUSANDS of children, and adults, walked the long aisles to the front of the tabernacle, knelt at the altar, and committed their lives to Christ. Probably hundreds of them—it’s impossible to know—became pastors and missionaries.

I was one of those children. It was June 1967, during Junior Camp, just after my 4th grade year. I walked probably eight rows to the front, and knelt across from a counselor, who happened to be my dad.

“Do you know what you’re doing, Steve?” he asked.

“I think so,” I told him.

Dad explained a few things, and then prayed with me, his firstborn.

Rev. Burton Lange was the evangelist. A few years ago, when I reminded him that he was preaching the night I was saved, he told me, quite correctly, “With your background, if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else.” To be quite honest, I’m not sure anything Burt Lange said did the trick. I think it was just my time. I was ready.

Dozens of other kids made commitments to Christ that week—just that one week. Several more camps followed that summer. Multiply by 90 years. Imagine.

Forty-five minutes away is Gettysburg, a battlefield dotted with monuments to what happened there—fierce firefights, acts of heroism, turning points, valiant stands. Gettysburg is one of my favorite places. Been there many times. It’s pretty, but nothing particularly unusual—regular rolling countryside. But something epic occurred there.

Perhaps a monument should be erected in that field, where the tabernacle once stood. On this ground, children, men, and women wrestled mightily with God’s pull on their lives. On this ground, decisions were made which totally changed the trajectory of lives, families, careers, churches. On this ground, epic battles occurred between Good and Evil, and the Good Guys usually won. On this ground, God touched hearts—over and over and over—and people responded, “Yes, Lord.”

Kids still find Christ at Rhodes Grove, of course. Salvation doesn’t require a tabernacle. When God speaks, when He reaches out and touches your heart, you remember it, whether you’re in a historic tabernacle or sitting in a car. Hallowed grounds are being created elsewhere at Rhodes Grove, and those places will one day deserve monuments of their own.

But my heart is in that vacant field. I’m at Rhodes Grove now, attending a Pastors Summit. My room overlooks that field. And I am remembering.

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My Annual Meniere’s Disease Update

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It’s now been four years since my endolymphatic shunt surgery. I give an update every year for my fellow Meniere’s Disease sufferers, to let them know how things are (still) going.

In 2009 I hooked up with a new doctor in Indianapolis, Jerry House, who has since retired. He was great (after my bad experience with supposedly the best guy in Fort Wayne, who kept giving me prescription after prescription). Dr. House walked me through four surgical options, and said the endolymphatic shunt was the place to start—the least invasive, yet a high success rate. I pocketed the idea, since I was going through one of those unexpected good periods Meniere’s sometimes grants.

But at the beginning of 2010, I went to Honduras, and as soon as the plane got up to altitude out of Chicago, a nystagmus kicked in—eyes scrolling forward. It went away, and full-blown vertigo didn’t overcome me, thank goodness. But the next morning in Honduras, nystagmus hit again, and by the end of the day I was vomiting. It really sucked having this happen in a foreign country. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad, and I was still able to do what I needed to do.

But the experience convinced me to follow through on the surgery. Upon getting home, Pam and I made another trip to see Dr. House, and we set up a surgery for April 16 (Pam’s an accountant, so we had to wait until the end of tax season).

The surgery and recovery went well. I had a set-back that summer with acute pancreatitis, which threw my whole system off and made me wonder if the shunt surgery was a bust. But Dr. House said my body would adjust, and by October everything had settled down.

Skip ahead to April 2011. I had a vomiting episode…and haven’t had one since. Three years now, and I haven’t vomited. That’s how we Meniere’s people tend to measure time—how long since our last vomiting episode.

Let me give a few updates from the past year about specific aspects of Meniere’s.

  • I’ve had a few minor episodes of nystagmus—one which went on for several minutes, it seemed, but the others very very minor. But though I’m left with a bad headache, I’ve never descended into vertigo.
  • I think the hearing in my left ear (the one affected) continues to deteriorate.
  • There is always some static in my left ear. I don’t much notice it anymore.
  • I still need to watch my sodium and caffeine intake. If I’m “bad,” the noise in my ear increases (it’s reached howling pitch a couple times), and I can tell that a potential vertigo attack is down the road. However, I’ve been using much more salt than I did in my presurgery days (I now salt my fries freely, though I had totally stopped doing that before). I haven’t resumed drinking coffee, but I’ll have a half-cup now and then (don’t want to push it), and most mornings I stop for a chai or a McDonald’s mocha. Moderation is the key. (I’ve never been an alcohol drinker, so that trigger isn’t an issue with me.)
  • I’m no longer worried about flying. Next week I’ll drive to Pennsylvania and back (500 miles each way), a work-related trip, and I have no qualms about that. Before the surgery, I would have been very concerned about a vertigo attack happening while I was on the road.
  • I tend to be unsteady at times; it’s easy for me to lose my balance momentarily. Ladders and stools aren’t my friends.
  • There is always a feeling that vertigo is lurking in the background, eager to come forward. But the shunt seems to be working great to ward off vertigo attacks.

In summary–my experience has been totally satisfying. My doctor told me the things that would NOT happen–like, I wouldn’t get my hearing back, and I couldn’t start pouring on the salt and consuming caffeine again. But in everything else, the best-case scenario has prevailed…for me. As I’ve said before, I feel like I’ve got my life back. Meniere’s is always with me, and the hearing loss is highly annoying, but I pretty much do whatever I want to do.

So yes, I highly recommend the shunt surgery. Experiences differ, as the comments in some of my previous posts show. But it’s a good place to start.


My various posts about the surgery:

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This Piano and Me

steve-pianoThis piano, my favorite piano in the world, has really been around. My parents got it in 1965 when I was in third grade, living in Huntington, Ind. I began taking piano lessons on this piano from Mabel Meadows, wife of former bishop Clyde W. Meadows.

The piano moved with us to Pennsylvania in 1966, then was packed at the front of our little U-Haul when we moved to Arizona’s Mojave Desert in 1969. It sat in the back of a pickup truck on the beach there in Lake Havasu City for youth outings, and went with us to church retreats high in the mountains by Kingman.

This piano then moved with us to Pixley, Calif., and mostly left my life in 1975 when I went back to Indiana for college. Meanwhile, the piano returned to the arid desert when my parents accepted a pastorate in Fountain Hills, Ariz. Then, when they took a church in the South Bend area in 1989, the piano was with them…and very close to me, again. It spent some time with my brother Stu’s family. Then, finally, maybe 10 years ago, it arrived at our house.

This piano, at which I learned to play, has survived thousands of miles and extremes of weather. It has given me numerous hours of both frustration and joy. I still love the touch, such a familiar key action. And today, we got it tuned by Larry Merriman. It sounds great.

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Be Nice to Customer Service

I called AT&T yesterday to fix a billing error. I talked to a woman sales rep–a black woman, by the way she talked, if I may be stereotypical (and possibly wrong). She was very thorough, and got things straightened out.

I concluded, “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful and very professional.”

She immediately perked up, as if she hadn’t been complimented in years. Her friendly tone shifted up a couple notches as she wished me a great day.

Be nice to the customer service people on the other end of the line. They get chewed out by angry callers all day long for stuff they didn’t do. Give them a moment of satisfaction. Everyone needs that.

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Another One Bites the Dust

Phooey. Went to Espresso Gallery this morning, where I’ve spent numerous hours over the years writing, editing, and reading. Very comfy and classy place.

A favorite hangout for Christians, too. I frequently eavesdrop on spiritual-related conversations, and many church small groups meet there. Plus, they have a non-caffeinated “Hot Carmel” drink which I love and which I’ve never seen anywhere else (I need to avoid, as much as possible, caffeine). They know me when I come in the door.

KNEW me, rather. This morning, a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign hung on the door. I’m guessing–too much competition. Fifty yards away, inside a BP station, is a Higher Grounds coffeeshop. Last year a Dunkin’ Donuts went in just down the road. And currently under construction, right across from the Dunkin’ Donuts, is a Starbucks. Espresso Gallery probably realized they wouldn’t be able to compete. Sad.

I suggest they relocate to the north side of Huntington. McDonald’s has a lock on coffee business there, since Coffee D’Vine went out. We desperately need an alternative.

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Chinese New Year

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Today begins the Chinese New Year. We are now entering the Year of the Horse. Football fans: draw your own portentous conclusions. But know that there is no Year of the Bird (unless you count the rooster, which is the closest you’ll come to a seahawk).

In recognition of the Chinese New Year, the seven of us in the office today ordered Chinese food. One of my coworkers, Frank, who was born in China, prayed for our meal in Chinese. That was pretty cool.

Frank had taken a gift to the Chinese workers at the restaurant. They gave him a dessert they had made just for themselves (not to put out on the buffet). It was very sticky, with nuts in it. I had several pieces. It was unlike anything I’ve had before, and quite good.

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A Wasted Afternoon in a Snowdrift

Made a quick trip to Times Corners this afternoon, a couple miles from my home. Roads are very slick. Coming back on Covington, I knew the uphill grade at the Hadley intersection could be very slick and you don’t want to come to a complete stop. But a car ahead of me was spinning tires, and I had to stop…and couldn’t get going again. I slipped into the snowbank, with no chance of extracting myself. Wheels spinning on ice.

I helped the other vehicle get unstuck, then some guys came to help me…but MY DOOR WAS LOCKED. Autolock kicked on? I sure don’t remember hitting the lock. No way to get in.

I had to leave my Dodge Dakota running on the side of the road, with cars creeping and slip-sliding past. A guy took me home (about a mile), and I called Pam, who had the only other key. She left work (clear on the other side of town), picked me up, and we drove to my pickup, which had now been idling for nearly an hour.

The road was a sheet of ice. In face, a police car was spinning its wheels and had to give up trying to get thru the intersection and just turn around. I expected other cars to have slipped into my stationery truck, but none had, fortunately. Amazing.

As I approached my truck, a guy in an SUV behind it said, “Steve, you need me to pull you out?” It was my neighbor. He attached a strap and pulled me out fairly easily.

Not a fun afternoon, but everything worked out.

While waiting for Pam at home, I had a nice prayer time. I asked God to somehow protect my truck, and to provide a way for me to get my truck out of the drift. Check, and check. When I saw my neighbor there, it was like God saying, “How’s this for an answer?” God is good.

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Encounter While Giving Blood

Pam and I had bloodwork done this morning. The nurse, very personable and cheerful, was somewhere in her 30s.

“Where is your accent from?” I asked her.

“Where do you think?” she replied.

“Eastern Europe,” I said. I was sure of that much.

She brightened, and gave me a sly smile. “What country?”

“Hungary?” I guessed. I was born on the day the Hungarian Revolution started in 1956, thus my guess.

“Close,” she said, impressed. “Just 45 minutes away. It’s Croatia.”

She then volunteered some glimpses of her story. She was in Sarajevo when the Bosnian War started, and was held by Serbs as a prisoner for 3.5 years. I had read much about that horrible war, including what the Serbs did to prisoners…to women.

“I try not to think about those years,” she told us. “It is in the past. I came to America 15 years ago, and it is home now. I won’t ever go back. I don’t really have any family to go back to.”

This woman had such a happy demeanor, talking with a smile even as she recalled what were no doubt horrible memories. She was a survivor, yes, but also a conquerer.

I don’t have any great life lessons to report. It was just a fascinating encounter, and I keep thinking about it.

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Where was I When JFK was Shot? Not Sure.

I was in kindergarten when JFK was killed. I vaguely remember Dad telling me the news, but it didn’t quite register. Another vague memory: Dad was watching TV, and I was in the dining room, when Oswald was shot. Is that the way it happened? I’m not sure. Fuzziness reigns.

My clearest memories are of the funeral, particularly of the horse-drawn casket. The TV guys talked about the funeral occurring in Washington, and made references to the Potomac River. Being somewhat of a geography nerd even in kindergarten, I knew that Washington State was in the far northwest, and that the northwest part of the state had rivers. I assumed the Potomac River was one of them.

Why the funeral was occurring in Washington State, I had no idea, but it obviously was, according to the guys on TV. At some point in my young life, I learned about Washington DC and had to reorient everything in my mind.

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Do We All Feel Safer Now?

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A few minutes ago, I went through the carry-on bag I used for our trip to Miami this week. I use the bag frequently for various needs. As I looked in the bottom of one zipped pocket, I about had a coronary.

There was this 4.5-inch (closed), all metal box cutter. The weapon of choice on 9/11. I had no idea it was there, or when I stuck it in the bag.

The box cutter went through security TWICE. With me standing right there, beltless and shoeless.

By all appearances, I am not in jail wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Do we all feel safer now?

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