Friday, August 26, 2016
I went to the hospital a little over 3 years ago with chest pains. This was not the first time I had this type of experience. But in some inner sense I had a sneaking suspicion this time was going to be different.
I was right. It was different.
Tests revealed some fairly significant blockages in my arteries and I underwent a catheterization procedure to have a stent placed in the main artery in my heart. Then just a couple of weeks later I had to have another procedure. More stents were needed.
Apparently a strict diet of Doritos, Twinkies and Pork Chops was not a wise choice, after all. Weird, huh? Now, I primarily eat lettuce and once in a while for a real treat I’ll chew my way through a big pile of celery. (That’s for special occasions when I’m feeling wild and uninhibited!)
One of the main challenges of this time in my life was not physical, however. It was mental or maybe it would be more accurate to say psychological. (I’m not sure I know the precise difference between the two terms.)
When these medical issues happened I came face to face with this realization: I am getting older and I am going to die.
I know. I know. This realization is about as obvious as it gets, but it genuinely bothered me.
Oh, don’t get me wrong even though I can be a little bit slow sometimes I knew that the clock continues to tick and someday we will experience physical death. We all know that, even though some of us prefer to never think about it. When I say I came face to face with this realization what I mean is that these blatantly obvious truths became realizations for me in a new way. A more uncomfortable way. A more tangible way. A more present way.
I am not alone and that matters. Someone is walking through this with me. But these realizations of life can still hit us in ways which require a bit of mental adjustment.
In my mind, I always considered myself to be relatively healthy. In fact, I may have had an unrealistic overconfidence regarding my physical health.
My parents, who were overweight most of their adult lives, lived into their 80s (my dad almost made it to 90) and were relatively healthy into their 70’s and beyond. They went for years and years in their 40s, 50s and 60s without going to doctors. My brother and sister are—at least compared to me—relatively healthy. I assumed relatively good health was in the genetic cards I had been dealt. When all this occurred my understanding regarding my personal health took a big hit.
I did not like having to come to grips with the fact that I was dealing with such significant health issues.
I remember the first time I talked to someone after these procedures and I used the phrase, “My cardiologist…” Man! That really bothered me. It still bothers me.
I have a cardiologist?
How can a guy like me have a cardiologist?
What the heck is going on here?!? I’m not supposed to have a cardiologist! That’s for sick elderly people!!!
Ninjas don’t have cardiologists, they just chew on special, medicinal herbs based on closely guarded, ancient martial arts secrets once in a while and everything is fine.
“Where’s Kwai Chang Caine when I need him?!?”
About 3 months ago, I had another episode and ended up back at the Emergency Room. Another heart catheterization procedure followed and this time most of my major organs were removed and replaced with digital cybernetic parts. I feel fine but my friends and family have noticed I’m now speaking with a thick Austrian accent.
I’m writing this story because my cardiologist’s office called me about 25 minutes ago. “Mr. Marler?” the voice on the phone inquired, “We need to reschedule your appointment.”
“I’m sorry, who did you say this is?”
“This is Dr. __’s office. You know, your cardiologist.”
“Oh yeah, I have a cardiologist, don’t I?”
…Yep, things are different.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Most of us have had the experience of seeing people we love make mistakes and wishing we could stop what was happening. We don’t want people we care about to have to deal with the difficult consequences of unwise actions. It breaks our hearts to see them in pain.
But many of us have also discovered that there is a process of learning, growing and maturing that must take place in life. And an unavoidable aspect of this maturing process involves making mistakes. We cannot learn to walk without falling down.
Hey, think about it: there were people who loved us and they could not prevent some of the mistakes they saw us making. In a very similar way we will not be able to prevent some of the mistakes we see people making.
I’m not suggesting we can never help or give wise counsel when we see people heading in a direction that will cause pain. If we can intervene and prevent troubles, that’s great, we should do so. But sometimes they will not be ready to hear our advice and we will have to endure the heartache, be patient and… pray.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
My last post was titled: Keep Trying.
This is yet another keep trying post.
Many of the things I have tried to do have not worked. I have had a few successes along the way sure but I have failed so often that it is embarrassing to me.
(I was going to list some of my really humiliating failures here but I can only take so much embarrassment.)
The worst part of failing, however, is that it’s fairly common to reach a point at which we say something like this to ourselves: “Well, forget it. I have tried and tried and tried and I have met with failure so often that the pattern seems to be very clear and well established. Failure appears to be inevitable. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to stop trying. Give up. Go lie down in a corner and take a nap.”
However, I am not going to stop. With God’s help I am strenuously avoiding pessimism and cynicism. (When I write, “with God’s help” I mean that in a very literal and intentional way.)
I am going to keep on working and keep on trying. I am even going to be ridiculous enough to be optimistic. That’s right, you read that last sentence properly. Optimism! Because with God all things are possible!
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Note to self: Keep trying.
I have the type of personality and temperament that causes me to become very embarrassed, discouraged and self-conscious when I make mistakes and disappoint others. But I also have the type of personality and temperament that has resulted in my serving in a number of leadership positions. Positions in which I have made lots of mistakes and disappointed others.
If you are one of the many people I have disappointed please know that I am genuinely sorry. Perhaps there will be some very small consolation in knowing I am disappointed, too.
So I understand how it would be easy to give up, go hide and not try anymore. I really do. I have felt tempted to do so. In fact, I’m writing this post from my secret underground bunker. (The freeze dried meals are not very tasty.)
But I mention this to remind all of us—including myself—not to give up.
It is important for us not to let the errors, failures, mistakes, embarrassments, disappointments and discouraging moments of life cause us to quit.
Most people who have achieved significant goals and objectives have done so after falling down.
…. A LOT.
“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
Monday, July 25, 2016
I have discovered that many people experience a sense of both joy and relief when they come to understand that authentic faith in God is not fundamentally about the legalistic observance and oppressive practice of religious rituals.
At a basic level knowing God is about an actual relationship with a being who knows us, loves us and is alive. And what is even more extraordinary is that this being happens to be the almighty creator and Lord of all things!
(I know this almost sounds too good to be true. That’s why it is referred to as good news! Really good news.)
These realities are what make it possible for us to enter into something much more than the routine exercise of rituals. Rather we can enter into the knowledge, truth and presence of God, himself, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So… rejoice and be glad!
Sunday, July 17, 2016
My dear friends let’s remember that bad news is always going to get the most attention. And to be fair, sometimes the bad news is very important and deserves to be told. Some stories and events are painful to encounter but we need to hear about them anyhow. We need to be aware of what is happening.
However, it is also important for us not to become so immersed in the stories of stress, strife, pain, friction, animosity and violence in our world that we become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness and pessimism.
It is not irresponsible or unsympathetic to bear in mind that every day there are good, happy, positive, noble, uplifting and encouraging events occurring. Every day there are people who are engaged in helpful, noble, inspiring activities. Every day there are people joyfully serving others with genuinely loving hearts.
These positive stories may not be as sensational. These good and uplifting stories are often very simple and do not involve the inherent drama to draw us in like the negative stories. But they are real. These good activities are happening... all the time. It is helpful for us to keep these good activities in mind.
I know some of us hear the latest news stories and we have a sense of sadness and pain—maybe even fear—deep in our hearts. I can understand those feelings. But remember… the Light is still shining.
“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
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
I am glad to be back in Oak Lawn and am really looking forward to worshiping with my church family this Sunday. There is a feeling of enthusiasm I have for speaking and teaching this week that I have not had in a while. I’m not even sure I can explain it. I love to preach God’s word but I have a sort of fresh excitement and anticipation.
Well, whether I can explain this excitement or not (and I can’t) I suppose I should consider it to be a good thing (and I do).
We are starting a new series this Sunday, July 17th from the book of Revelation. The title of the series is: 7 Letters To 7 Churches. On July 17th, the first message of the series will present the message Jesus had for the church at Ephesus. It is a message that is relevant, interesting and helpful to our church today!
The worship team has wonderful, inspiring, God honoring music planned and we will be celebrating Communion, as well.
You will want to be here this Sunday! Seriously. God will be honored and we will be blessed!
See you on Sunday!
Love and blessings,
Sunday, July 10, 2016
My sister-in-law Paula said, “Hey look at this guy!”
It was a large cricket with pretty colors moving slowly through the sand. As I looked at the creature I was struck with an impulse to reach down and let him crawl onto my hand. So I put my hand in front of him and, sure enough, he crept onto my palm.
I said, “I wonder if he will bite.”
Paula said, “No way. He won’t bite.”
Nadia said, “He might.”
As he began crawling up toward my wrist I said, “He has some great colors. Get a picture while he is on me.”
Normally, people can easily reach their phones in less than 10 seconds but we were at a beach and the phones had been stashed away in duffel bags or beach totes and so they searched for phones while the cricket continued crawling up my arm.
By the time photos were actually taken the large cricket had ambled up my arm, onto my shoulder, around to my back and then up to my neck.
It was a strange feeling, sort of ticklish and slightly creepy as he gripped and un-gripped his cricket feet moving around my neck.
When he eventually bit me it hurt but truthfully it was not terribly painful. It was like a strong pinch. The problem was that it caught me off guard and made me nervous because I wondered if there were any potentially significant negative effects from a cricket bite.
This all happened several hours ago.
In the past 10 to 15 minutes I have noticed the emergence of… let’s see… how can I put it? I do not know an accurate way of describing it. I have noticed the emergence of something I can only describe as “powers.”
I know you’re probably laughing and rolling your eyes but I suddenly have capabilities I never used to possess. For example, two minutes ago I easily jumped over a bus without really giving it much thought. And just before that I ate close to 1 acre of a local farmer’s crops.
Oh well… I’m going to take an aspirin and lie down. I guess I’ll be fine in the morning.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Like many of you, my heart is deeply grieved at the violence which is occurring in our country. In particular I am saddened by the racial tension which is a part of the most recent national stories.
This post is likely to bother and perhaps even anger some of the people with whom I am connected on various social media platforms and I am sorry for that because it is my sincere intention to bring words of love, encouragement and comfort. However, I feel compelled to express these thoughts, nevertheless.
I honestly do not believe there is a political solution to the issues of hatred, violence and racial discord. It is not that political action is of no value or that it is completely inconsequential. I am simply suggesting that political solutions are, ultimately, inadequate because these issues originate in the heart.
This truth regarding the heart is a concept which Jesus expressed very clearly. (See Matthew 15:19)
Where there is genuine hatred; where there is a desire to inflict pain and violence on others; where there is discord or feelings of mistrust and animosity toward people who are in some way different than us there are hearts that need to change. Again, laws and political action are not without value but these responses do not, for the most part, change human hearts.
Heart-change is God’s area.
So I realize that responding with talk of God and prayer seems weak, ineffective and bothersome to some but I genuinely pray for heart change. I pray for God’s love to prevail. I pray for God’s people to be models of His love, patience, mercy, reconciliation and grace.
I have not always been the agent of God’s truth and love that I should be. I haven’t always expressed the presence of Jesus in me to the disagreeable situations of my life. Therefore, I begin by praying for His authentic and tangible work in me.
And I pray for His love in us.
God’s love is extraordinary. God’s love is profound. God’s love is perfect, complete and comprehensive. God’s love will ultimately prevail.
I pray for His love to prevail in my heart today. I pray for His love to prevail in His people today. I pray for His love to prevail in our country today.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
When I was a young man it occurred to me that my belief in God may have been taught to me and instilled in me in such a way that I almost had no choice in the matter.
“Perhaps my parents and other well-meaning people have presented these ideas about God and Christianity so relentlessly and so effectively that the result has been something similar to being brain-washed,” I thought.
I continued to wrestle with these thoughts and pursue them. I asked myself, “Do YOU really believe in God? Or, are you just going along with this particular view of reality because it is what is expected by the community of which you are a part?”
So I came to a point at which I reasoned, “You have to live with yourself. You have to believe what you really believe not what someone else has told you to believe.”
Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.” …Or, that might have been Moe Howard. I’m not sure. Anyhow, I needed to be honest with myself.
I gave myself permission to reject belief in God. I realize that may seem like an odd way to put it but in my mind that is what I did. For me, this actually involved a form of permission. “You don’t have to pretend, Dan,” I told myself. “You can put aside this belief in God and live without it, if that’s what you really believe about the nature of reality.”
What I discovered during this time of thinking and inner wrestling was very important for me. I’m not suggesting—for a moment—this would be necessary for everyone, I am saying it was important for me. Giving myself permission to abandon belief in God helped me realize I really do believe in God. Belief in God rings true with the deepest part of my heart, mind and soul.
In fact, having been through this season of life and other times of questioning and introspection, I could put it this way: I cannot deny or reject my genuine belief in God.
In the many years since that time I have done a significant amount of reading and studying and have come to discover there is a strong intellectual defense for belief in God. This knowledge has been tremendously helpful to my faith. Correct reasoning matters. Evidence matters.
But it is in my heart of hearts that I have come to realize I believe in God.
C.S. Lewis wrote a line that is specifically about Christianity—not just God—but I can relate with what he expresses: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Monday, June 27, 2016
Our beautiful summer day was suddenly interrupted by the frantic cries of a mom who quickly got the attention of dozens of people at the very busy Siesta Key Beach.
I stood up and walked in her direction. Even though she was screaming, I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying. But I thought it might have something to do with a child so I wanted to help, if possible.
Sure enough, as I got closer I saw the woman acting in a panicked manner at the edge of the water. Her child was missing. Seven or eight other people were gathering around her, as well. Now I could hear her clearly though she was so frightened and frenzied she wasn’t making complete sense. She was turning in circles calling her daughter’s name.
People were attempting to get information from the mom.
“What is her name?”
“What is she wearing?”
“Where was she playing when you last saw her?”
The beach was very busy and there were scores and scores of people in the water in this particular area. People were looking in every direction calling out the little girl’s name. “Christiana!”
We were looking, with hope and concern, for a six-year-old girl in a pink bathing suit.
This search probably went on for 7 or 8 minutes but it seemed much longer.
Then we saw a woman coming from the water holding a little girl by the arm.
When the mom saw them she burst into tears.
Christiana looked bewildered but she also had a look on her face that seemed to indicate the realization that she might be in a bit of trouble. Her mom took her in her arms and sobbed. Loud sobbing.
It is hard to describe the sound of a mom sobbing for her children but when you hear it, it is hard to forget.
When something priceless was lost and is then found there is great rejoicing.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
It is relatively easy to find the faults, problems, short-comings and errors of the doers in life.
By “doers” I mean the builders, creators, producers, artists, contributors and leaders… those people who are making an effort to accomplish goals and objectives. The doers are the people who are—at least—making an attempt to move the ball down the field of life.
Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of engaging in this simple, unimpressive, unproductive type of criticism. It is true that critics can sometimes offer genuine insights, however, being a critic often involves sitting somewhere comfortably watching, exposed to zero risk, pointing out flaws and then eating another donut.
On the other hand, in the course of life, I’ve been in the “doer” position, as well. And I have taken some of that fault-finding from the critics.
I have messed up a lot—I mean A LOT—in my attempts to be a doer. Frankly, some of the criticism that has come my way has been correct and it has been warranted. But I would still rather be a doer than a critic. In fact, I would rather be a failed doer than be a safe, untried, undefeated critic.
So, to all the “Doers” out there: Good job! Don’t give up! At least you’re still trying.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24