Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Saturday! The plans for Deb Koplen’s service are viewing at Massey Burgess Funeral home in Grand Prairie from 6:00 to 8:00 and the service on Tuesday at 10:30 at St. John Lutheran Church at 509 NE 4th street in Grand Prairie. It will be a traditional Liturgical Lutheran service. There will be a brief graveside service following, but no procession to the cemetery. Bruce and Travis will be singing, Bruce will also be ringing and I will be reading.

This morning I relaxed in bed, drank coffee and watched one of my favorite movies, Remember the Titans. No matter how many times I watch it, it always inspires me. I love the part when the team decides not to let race come between them and then the town finally gets the message.

Psalm 13: 2 says, “How long must I worry and feel sad in my heart all day? How long will my enemy win over me.” As I was drinking my coffee I began to think of how I have spent each Saturday morning for the last year. I was either in Casey’s hospital room or in my desk chair having breakfast with Casey. I had this overwhelming longing to have those moments in time back again. I missed him so much this morning and felt so sad. I began to cry and then Bruce came back from reunion group. I simply told him that I missed Casey and then we just held each other and both wept for the loss in our lives.

Psalm 13: 5-6 says, “I trust in your love. My heart is happy because You saved me. I sing to the Lord because He has taken care of me.” This morning, God never took His eyes off of me. He knew the depths of my sorrow and knew just what I needed. I needed my family. I needed Bruce, Geni and Travis. We had gone our separate ways and we were all in different places but all phoned in and met together for lunch. How great is our God who never takes His eyes off of us and knows the depths of our sorrows and knows just the balm for the soul?

How do we thank this God who loves us enough to know us well enough to provide what we need even when we don’t ask and then when we do? We praise Him in song. We dance before Him with joy. We serve in worship for those who have gone on before us. We pray for each other. We help someone who is in need. It must really hack Satan off when we are sad or in a tough situation and we praise God or God meets our need by showing His love for us. God is worthy of our praise and God deserves our praise.

As Doc Adams always says, “the destination is not in question, but sometimes the journey sucks.” Well, this morning the situation sucked, but God, in His tender mercies, made the journey a bit easier and the path a little smoother through His love. Take joy in the journey with the assurance that God never takes His eyes off of us and walks every step of the way with us.

Love you all. See you in worship, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Friday!

Our dear friend, Deb Koplen, passed away this morning around 7:45 am as I was arriving at school. The seizure Deb had last evening changed the course of her condition dramatically and she continued to decline throughout the night. The services for Deb will be on Tuesday, 10:30 am at St. John Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. Her beloved “Miss Chips” will attend the graveside service and then she will go and live with a new family in Grandbury.

In my two very recent experiences with the disease of cancer, I have learned many things. But two things have run parallel with Casey and Deb. First, cancer does not know race, faith, wealth, poverty, youth or age, surrounded by family and friends or alone. Cancer simply seeks a host. Second, cancer is unpredictable. On Monday morning, Deb was her usual sassy, order-barking self and today she has gone on to glory to be with the Father. And as sad as we are at the hole left in our lives by this lively, dog-loving, order-giving, worshipping, handbell-playing friend, we know that she is with her parents, Casey and all who have gone before her. She is now surrounded by the family she missed while on this side of heaven.

Isaiah 6:1 says, “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” When Isaiah had this vision he received a vision of Jesus as He really is and as we will all see Him when we leave this earth and meet Him face to face. This may be a vision of Jesus at the end times or it may be a vision of Jesus at our end time and how we will see Him forever in glory. I don’t know, but I like to think that Deb and Casey see Jesus in glory high and lifted up all the time now and they worship Him in spirit and truth and are witness to His glory. We are the ones who are sad because we miss them, but they are not sad. They have been washed in the healing streams and all traces of cancer, sin and this earthly life are washed away and they both stand before the Father whole, happy and filled with the glory of God.

Deb’s last complete sentence to me on Wednesday was “They can’t stop me from seeing Mama.” I told her that nothing could stop that now. She missed her parents so very much and her parting line from this earth is “We Three Through Eternity.” We mourn the loss of our friend, but rejoice with her as she is reunited with her parents and is in the presence of the glory of God. I think she took joy in the journey. Let us, too, take joy in the journey even through tears and loss, for the “weeping may endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Wake up in joy with Jesus as Lord of our lives.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Update on our friend, Deb Koplen.

Greetings from this side of heaven.

The strife is over. The battle won. Alleluia!!

She went to be with her Master this morning at a few minutes to 8am after a short, hard battle with her cancer. In the end, it had gone too far too fast for her to be able to battle it effectively, even with today's drugs. Arrangements are pending. We will keep you updated when the details are sorted out. Thank you for your prayers. Praise God for his love and mercy. Bruce

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Thursday! Is it really January? When I left for school this morning I think it was 30 degrees and by the time I left school it was 80 degrees. Only in Texas!!

Deb Koplen update: our friend Deb Koplen has become unresponsive and has slept all day. She has not taken in any nutrition or any water today. Around 5:30 this afternoon Odyssey House called me to tell me of a change in her condition as she had a seizure. She is now on oxygen and Ativan. She receives pain medication if she requests it. The hospice house will call me with any further changes. At the time of this writing she is stable. Rhonda Banks and I will keep you updated as her condition changes.

Carme update: Her surgery is scheduled for February 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm. Bruce and I will go down for a couple of days to be with her and Dave and attend the “passionately pink” party. I have received my pink bracelet fashioned by Dave’s sister, Sarah. Sarah calls them our “sister” bracelets in honor of Carme. They were created in support of Carme as she goes through surgery and recovery. It is a sign of our love and support and continued prayer. I know you will keep Carme in your thoughts and prayers and remember to “think pink!”

2 Corinthians 12: 21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by doing good.” Do you know where the logo Nike originated? (Carme, this one is for you!) In Greek mythology, Nike, was the goddess of victory. Nike fought on the side of the Olympian gods gaining victory over the mighty Titans. Nike became the symbol of winning. The Romans adopted her Latin name: Victoria.

My friend Carme has been a runner. She has run marathons and has been a PE teacher. Carme knows the value of having the right equipment to do the job. Carme’s running shoes have always been important to her. To be victorious in the race she is about to run, she is also well equipped. Carme has faith in the Master Healer, Jesus Christ. Carme has hope in our risen Lord and Savior. Carme has a fabulous attitude and a great sense of humor. She knows the possible outcomes and is facing this race with courage and determination. No matter what, the victory has already been won. I am sure Carme is concerned and nervous (as my mother so eloquently says, “they are coming at her with a knife!), but I don’t hear fear in Carme’s voice.

The ancient Greeks and Romans created all of the pagan gods and thought they had divine power. They could only hope that these gods were powerful enough to provide protection and fight off the “Titans.” They wanted these gods to bring victory.

We know that Jesus Christ is the true God of victory. Whatever the “Titans” are in our lives, the Lord of Hosts will do battle for us with just the call of His name. Jesus Christ claimed victory over death with His rising from the grave. And then He instilled in us the power of the Holy Spirit so that we could remain close to Him forever. Friends, that is power! That is victory! That is hope!

What equipment do we need to battle the “Titans” in our lives? We have God’s Word to guide us and teach us. We have prayer. We can communicate with God just by calling His name and making our requests known to Him. We have the body of Christ to support us in every battle and celebrate each victory. We have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to renew us each day and grow us in the image of God.

Put on your tool belt, your best running shoes or whatever equipment you use and take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy Wednesday! Today after school, I went to the hospice center to visit our friend Deb Koplen. I saw her on Monday before she left for the hospice house. She was alert, giving orders, swearing like a sailor and answering questions intelligently. Today when I saw her, she spoke in syllables, made no connections in her speech or was able to carry on a conversation. She knew who I was. She also said, “They can’t keep me from seeing mama.” I told her that there was nothing that would stop that from happening, but I don’t think we were on the same page. I held her hand for a long time and told her I loved her. Then I kissed her head and left my lipstick mark and told her not to let them wipe off that kiss. Then I told her to “be nice!” That is my usual parting comment to her when I leave her room. The funniest thing I found out today as I was talking to the nurses was that she does not use her call button when she needs something. Her room is directly across from the nurses’ station. So she just hollers, “Ladies!, Ladies!” I just cracked up. That is so Deb. They termed her “sassy.” I thought that was a very kind way to describe her. The nurses are so sweet and they told me “she is such a character.” How true! She is still experiencing a great deal of pain as the disease is still progressing rapidly. Say your prayers for her and pray for God to be merciful.

No news on a surgery date for our friend Carme as yet. We should hear something fairly soon. Continue your prayers for her and Dave.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I am currently involved in the lives of two very different women. One of these women has just about completed her race and the other is just beginning. Both of these women are strong women of faith running the race of their life.

Can we take a lesson from these two women? Are we willing to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely to each of us in order to live the abundant life promised in Jesus Christ our risen Savior? The only way these two women are dealing with this battle is through total surrender to the Master Healer and His perfect grace. They have surrendered not only their disease over the Jesus, but all of their lives trusting in Christ Jesus who has already walked the road ahead of Carme and Deb and is preparing them for the race ahead. Deb is in the final stretch and Carme is preparing to jump into the race as a cancer survivor. Both lives changed forever. And Jesus is cheering on both of these brave and courageous women.

We do not have to have trauma or devastating circumstances in our lives to have these scriptures apply to our lives. We simply have to surrender ourselves over to the One who loves us so much that He was willing to die so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Are we willing to get rid of our baggage? Our baggage weighs us down and we cannot run the race Christ has planned for us. Let us run friends. Let us run with freedom the race set before us by our Savior. Let us run together as a cloud of witnesses who support and care deeply for each other as Jesus cheers us on to victory.

And as always, let us take joy in the journey. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Tuesday! And happy inauguration day! Whether you voted for President Obama or not, there was excitement in the air today. And whether you voted for President Obama or not, it was a historic day in the life of our country. As I was having my prayer time on the way to school today I found myself praying for President Obama, his wife and his two little girls. I prayed for their safety and that their family would be able to weather the storms and difficulties of the most public life on the planet. I also prayed that Obama would seek guidance and wisdom from God in his decision making as he becomes the leader of the free world. I was very impressed with Rick Warren who led the invocation. He called on “the One who changed his life” and then led the nation in The Lord’s Prayer. It sounded like a great start to me.

James 1:6 says, “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” If you went to the White House to visit the president, you would be met by a protocol officer who would go over the guidelines for a visit with the president. Jesus became the most public figure on the planet during His three year ministry on the earth. Jesus told His disciples that the way to come into the presence of God was to go through Him. Scripture gives us a protocol for coming into His presence. First we must come to God believing that God is who He says He is. Remember the 23rd Psalm, “the Lord is…” We must come with a broken and contrite heart seeking forgiveness and healing of our brokenness. I think we can come to God with questions, but we must not come with doubt. We must believe that God is and always will be God. When we come before God and enter His presence we must come in faith and believe.

So friends, choose God every day. Choose the One who will leave no doubt. Choose the One who will change your life. Our new president says, “…change has come to America.” Has change come into your life? Kneel in the presence of the One who can and will change you by faith.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Monday! This picture was the scene on Saturday when the "boys" went out to play paintball. They are still talking about it. They had such a great time.

Today was a busy day. We have a brand new roof. It is so pretty. So I spent most of yesterday (while it was relatively quiet) getting things done that I needed to get one at the house so I could spend today away from the house and the hammering. Geni went back to school today and begins classes tomorrow.

Deb Koplen update: The cancer has spread very rapidly and she has multiple metastases throughout her cervical spine. She was experiencing weakness in her right side. The MRI did not show evidence of a stroke only rapid growth of the cancer. The hospice house is only a short term facility. Deb hopes to go back to her house for a few days to get her affairs in order before entering her nursing home for the remainder of her life. Each day at the hospice house the doctor will reassess and determine when she is ready for discharge. The primary purpose for her stay at the hospice house is for pain management and stabilization. Please continue to pray for her as she prepares for the upcoming changes in her life.

I spent most of the morning with our friend Deb Koplen at AMH. She left this afternoon for a hospice house in Fort Worth. I signed her DNR and signed all of the papers for admission into the hospice house. She was scared and upset as she left, but I heard later today that it a very nice place and the people have a sense of humor. Both are plusses for her. The negative is that it is far away for her friends to visit, but it is close to my school so I can pop over for a few minutes after school.

Carme Russell update: phone call from Carme today. Scans of her bones, liver and other organs are showing no signs of the cancer spreading. Praise God!! She should know tomorrow about a surgery date. She is holding a “passionately pink” party the day of her surgery, an all day event. Everyone is to wear pink (even the guys-I bought Bruce his shirt today)) and we are all going to contribute to the Susan G. Komen foundation while Carme is in surgery. Please continue to pray for Carme as she prepares for surgery and begins the healing process.

Mark 4:39-40 says, ‘He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, “What are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”’ I know I have written about this passage numerous times but it still holds a lot of meaning for me and the lens from which I view this passage changes from time to time as I read and meditate on the Word. I am a school teacher. I teach young children. If I step out of the room even for a moment the children begin to talk and some get out of their seats and they lose focus on their lessons and assignments. When I walk back into the room and the children can see me then without me saying anything they get quiet and order is restored.

It is sort of like that with our relationship with Jesus. When we stop reading His Word, when we stop praying daily, when we stop attending worship, fellowship and service, we lose sight of our Savior. Remember, He has never gone anywhere, we just lose sight of Him. When the disciples were in the boat and the storm came they panicked and then they got mad at Jesus for not being up there and panicking with them. When Jesus came up on deck and spoke to the storm, the storm stopped. The disciples were awed and amazed at the authority with which the wind and waves obeyed Jesus. In his meditation today, Max Lucado said, “The very storm that panicked the disciples made Him drowsy. What put fear into the eyes of the disciples put Him to sleep. For the disciples the boat was a tomb and a cradle to Jesus. How could He sleep through the storm? Simple—He was in charge of it.”

When a storm comes into our lives, let Jesus be in charge of the storm. Seek out His Word and go to Him in prayer. He will meet you and keep you in the eye of the storm and give you peace.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.