John 9 – Blind Faith

First of all, yes it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted. Sorry. But recently I’ve felt the conviction to begin writing again. I’ve had several people encourage me along these lines. So I figured the easiest way to get started would be to take the lazy route and post something that I’ve already done earlier this year.

At our church, Gresham Bible Church, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to preach about 3-4 times a year. Back in January on Sanctity of Life Sunday I preached from John 9 about the man born blind. Since birth defects discovered in utero are often a huge influence in a parent’s decision to abort, I felt it important to highlight God’s work in and through disability. Here’s a link to the sermon:

John 9 – Blind. Faith.


Braver Than I Am

Last Friday I had surgery for the first time. This year after numerous tests and doctor’s visits they discovered that I had non-acid reflux going on. While this doesn’t sound as serious as acid reflux, it still has its own set of risks, some of which can be serious including aspirating fluid which can cause repeated bouts of bronchitis and possibly pneumonia, problems eating and difficulty sleeping. So, several months ago I consulted with a surgeon and decided to move forward with a procedure called the “LINX”.


The concept is fairly simple. I reflux because my lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weak and doesn’t close properly, therefore allowing stomach contents to reflux all the way back into my larynx. The LINX device is a ring of interlocked magnetic titanium beads that tighten my LES and prevent reflux, but expand as I swallow to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach. It’s done laparoscopically, takes about an hour and is outpatient. It’s also completely reversible if it ever needs to be removed.

I was a little anxious about having the procedure done. I was a little unnerved about being 36 years old and living the rest of my life with a metal implant. To me the thought just made me feel so…old. Then I remembered my son.

I’ve honestly lost count as to the number of surgeries he’s had. I know it’s over ten. In addition, he doesn’t just have a small metal ring implant, but two large titanium rods in his back that he must have extended surgically ever 6 months. For me, this surgery was hopefully a one-time deal. For him, it’s part of his life.

As I went into the operating room I remembered my brave little seven-year-old, and part of me is thankful that I get to share in a small way with what he deals with regularly. I now have some scars just like him that I can show him.

What Will My Disabled Son Be When He Grows Up?

Tonight at dinner I was asking the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. Nadia has reached the “no” stage of life, so every possible profession she was prompted with was quickly shot down. I finally asked her “Do you want to be a mommy?” to which she also said “no!” I then asked Isaiah “What do you want to be?” to which he answered “daddy.”

I sat and processed that internally for a few seconds, only to hear my wife sniffle a little. I glanced at her, and she had that don’t-lose-it look on her face. I was on the verge of having the same expression and probably would have had to excuse myself had not Nadia blurted out “I want to be a daddy too.”

I was deeply moved and humbled; he wants to be like me. I don’t know what all of that means in his mind. I’m not sure to which aspects of my life he aspires, but somewhere in there he sees that I’m a daddy, and that looks pretty fun to him.

Barring a miracle, Isaiah will never have biological children of his own. Aside from the difficulties for him of mentally being able to have a wife and family, it’s just not physically possible. As he answered my question tonight a wave of both love and sadness flooded over me in an instant. A father can receive no higher compliment from his son than to hear him say “I want to be like you when I grow up.” But I was also impacted by the sad fact that he cannot have children. In the earthly sense, he cannot be a daddy.

I wrestled with that question some tonight. What will my son be when he grows up? Most likely he’ll be living with us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps as he grows into an adult he’ll be able to become more independent in some things, but what’s in store for him? We honestly don’t see college on the horizon. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic about his abilities, but I’m just facing the fact. Isaiah will never be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, etc. Those are not his callings in life.

So what will Isaiah be when he grows up? I’ve come up with three ideas:

1. Professional Happiness Generator – Isaiah makes people smile. He makes them laugh. The boy is hilarious and he has no clue that he is. He’s just himself and with that can brighten a room. His joy is contagious and his high fives inspiring. Isaiah makes people happy.

2. A Missionary – As I wrote in a previous post, Isaiah often has his iPad with him when he’s in the hospital playing his sermons. Last week after surgery on Monday we ended up back in the hospital for two more days when his bowels slowed down and he started vomiting. He recovered just fine, but this gave us two more days share the gospel with people via Isaiah’s iPad pulpit. One doctor heard about the Trinity, a nurse heard the gospel clearly presented, and a sister in Christ was encouraged.

3. A Spiritual Daddy – I truly believe that if there are not people that have come to Christ through his life already, that there will be by the time his journey on earth is done. He may not mentor or disciple others, pastor a church or write books, but God is using him and will continue to use Isaiah for his glory and to carry out his purposes. I believe Isaiah will have “spiritual” offspring, those brought into the kingdom by God’s Holy Spirit working through our little guy. I can’t wait to find out how the Lord was using him when I get to heaven.

I actually see Isaiah working in all of these jobs right now. He doesn’t get paid. He doesn’t take a vacation. And he even works on sick days. My son’s worth and value in the sight of God does not now nor will it ever depend on him having a wife and kids, a well-paying job, a college education, etc. He was created as a person in a magnificent and wonderful way with a distinct purpose in this life – to serve the Lord.

More than anything, I want my son to grow up to be a follower of Christ, delighting in the Lord and honoring God with his whole life. I believe he has been created and called to do this, and I will do everything I can as a father to help him pursue this “career.”

Update on Isaiah

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for Isaiah’s surgery. Isaiah is doing fine. I just got a text message from my wife that they are closing him up now and he should be out in the next 20 minutes or so.

Things got off a little hectic this morning. The plan had been for Cristy to take Isaiah in for his surgery while I stayed with are little girl Nadia. The departure time was supposed to be 4:30AM. So about 4:15 I wake up to notice that no lights are on. I woke Cristy, and I must say I’ve never seen her move that fast in my life =).

Isaiah will spend one night in the hospital for observation and should hopefully be home tomorrow.  I’ll be updating here later as the day goes on.

Here’s a little pre-surgery photo to brighten your day. (I’m serious folks, we don’t stage these)

Isaiah watching his sermons before surgery.

Isaiah watching his sermons before surgery.


Isaiah came through surgery like a champ and is recovering well. He’s already watched several sermons and a couple episodes of 19 Kids and Counting. He puts a smile on the face of everyone who walks in the room

We hope to be home tomorrow. Thanks for all the prayers and please continue that he’ll heal up with no complications, and also that he’d stay well.


My Plans Destroyed; My Fears Confronted

Tomorrow is Isaiah’s surgery. Friday I came down sick. Bad combination.

If you’ve had surgery before, or if a loved one has had surgery you know that one is not supposed to be sick prior. It is for this reason that we usually try to semi-quarantine Isaiah the week before surgery, keeping him away from  nose-pickers, and little humans who cough without covering their mouths and eat food off of the floor. On top of this, on a scale of 1-10 of people who are hyper-vigilant about germs, I’m at least a 13. So of course I get sick Friday. Blah.

A year ago my orthodoxy had me convinced that I shouldn’t confess the weakness of my heart when it comes to trusting the Lord in these kinds of situations. I know that we’re not supposed to doubt God, that everything God does is perfect and right, without a doubt. So therefore I pretended like the groanings of my heart weren’t really there and forced a smile. But I’m a sinner…saved, but still a sinner, and why should I seek to hide the things that God knows are there already?

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying it’s right to doubt God, or that it’s right to be frustrated with what he’s ordained. I’m simply being honest. In my weakness, I doubt, fear, and question. “How can this be right?” I ask. “How is it that me getting sick now is the best thing for our family and brings the most glory to God?” It doesn’t seem right to me. Certainly, this is not the way I would have planned it, and that is evident by the copious amounts of hand sanitizer I have used these past two weeks. It is evident in the fact that I got the flu shot the first day it was available. It is evident in the amount of vitamin C I’ve taken, elderberry extract and echinacea I’ve swallowed and zinc lozenges I’ve sucked on. My plans were to stay healthy. God’s were not.

So I’m sick; hacking, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, etc. I’ve taken every precaution and I’m still sick, and now that I’m sick I’m taking every caution to not get Isaiah sick by keeping my distance, covering my face with a rag when I cough and washing my hands like a pharisee. I take  necessary precautions, because I believe the Lord gives us common sense to be careful and wise in such situations, but ultimately I should not trust in these things.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” – Psalm 20:7

I all too often trust in my horses, in the strength of my earthly precautions and powers. I’m tempted to think and say “I’ve got this.” But the Lord says to me, “No, I’ve got this.” No amount of herbal extract can ward of the sovereign hand of the Lord.  His ways are right, though mysterious, and far beyond my understanding. Yes, there is a part of me that fears right now, but there is also the confidence that God is doing something here that I cannot see, even if it’s merely to yank me off of my chariot and cause me to rest in him.

Humbled and Blessed

Just a short post to say how humbled our family has been by the response to yesterday’s post. Many thanks to Tim Challies for sharing the story on his blog. Our prayer above all else is that the Lord would be glorified and that we would be instruments for his praise. Isaiah is a gift from God, and his life has opened up more doors for the gospel than we could ever imagine.

Thank you to all of you who are praying. I will be posting an update here on Monday after his surgery and during his time in the hospital.

Isaiah’s Upcoming Mission Trip

smilingNo, we’re not headed back to Russia (as fun as that would be). But next Monday, September 30th, we’ll be headed to Isaiah’s “mission field” with him where he’ll spend two days sharing the gospel in his own special way with all of those around him. The destination – Shriner’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

Every six months Isaiah must have the metal rods in his back lengthened in order to keep up with his growth. Although this surgery takes only about an hour, it’s still hard on the little guy. He’ll be under general anesthesia, will have incisions made in his back, be in pain, and need to spend one night in the hospital. In short, it’s no picnic. But each time we have gone in for this surgery, we have seen God open doors and impact people’s lives. Isaiah has been blessed with a very sweet, fun and gentle personality, that we’ve seen touch hearts many many times. Even some of the coldest people have warmed after an encounter with the little guy, and it’s through this we’ve seen God work.

Isaiah is probably the only seven-year-old who loves to watch sermons on his iPad. One of his favorites is the John Piper video podcast. He’ll pull them up all by himself and just sit there and watch them over and over again. One day I asked him why he liked to watch sermons so much, and he just smiled and said “happy.” It’s this love of God’s word that the Holy Spirit has mysteriously worked in his heart that has made such an impact on others. While he recovers in the hospital, he consistently asks  us to play sermons for him. He’ll just lay in his bed and listen to them, and all the while nurses, doctors, medical assistants, etc. are all coming in and out, hearing the gospel echo

sermon 2

throughout the room. I’ve watched as nurses took blood samples to the words of “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life!” Doctor’s have made their rounds to the words “God wants you to know that you do not have to die in your sins.” Sometimes we get strange looks, but we just smile and say “he likes to listen to sermons!” And the Lord never fails to provide us with the opportunity to speak with those around us.

On a side note, we even got a sweet phone call from Dr. Piper once, and I still have the voice message saved on my phone where he tell us he’s praying for Isaiah. This is one of Isaiah’s favorite things for me to play for him when he’s recovering. He just smiles and says “again!”

The Lord has not blessed Isaiah with a tremendous gift of speech. Isaiah cannot clearly, in his own words explain the gospel to you. But he can love the gospel in such a way that his life becomes a conduit  through which the words of God’s messengers can travel to ears that are normally shut to the things of Christ. In the weakness of this thirty-pound, little paraplegic boy with the understanding of a two-and-a-half year old the light of Christ is magnified in a powerful way and God is exalted. In Isaiah’s weakness he is strong (2 Cor 12:10)

We ask that you would pray for Isaiah’s upcoming “mission trip” to Shriners. Pray not only for his safety, but for the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed to all whom we encounter.

Poor Me

I’ve recently been diagnosed with laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). For those of you who don’t know what that is (as I didn’t up until a month ago), it’s similar to acid reflux, but instead of affecting the esophagus with a burning sensation it goes straight to the vocal chords and throat. The result is hoarseness, sore throat, a burning sensation around the vocal chords, almost constant throat clearing and post-nasal drip. It responds very slowly to treatment, and unfortunately if you Google it you’ll read all of the misery stories of people who’ve been on Prilosec for 2-3 years with no relief. In addition, even though the chances are remote, every website is sure to tell you just how LPR can lead to throat cancer, which of course kills like 137% of people who get it. So my wife has forbidden me to look up anything remotely medical related ever again on the internet.  Poor me.

With LPR there are all kinds of dietary restrictions, lots of don’ts and very few dos. Here’s a short list of the no-nos…

  • Coffee
  • Fried foods
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus
  • Pretty much any beef
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Anything fatty
  • Coffee
  • Pizza
  • Cheese
  • Most deserts
  • No spicy things (like no hot wings)
  • Coffee

And did I mention that I’m not supposed to drink coffee?  I’ve managed to negotiate my way into a small cup of decaf in the morning, but I’m not sure if it helps or just makes me long more for that rich robust flavor that is full bodied, fresh ground whole bean goodness. And it doesn’t help that Starbucks stores in Oregon are like Baptist churches in Mississippi. To make matters worse, there’s a Five Guys Burgers and Fries right next to the grocery store where we shop. Poor me.

Then there’s the testing, poking, probing and guessing. I’ve been on a prescription strength of Prilosec for over a month now with very little improvement, so I was referred to a GI specialist who suggested I’d benefit from having a tube stuck down my throat and into my stomach to “look around.” So while the diagnosis is technically LPR, there are a few other things it might be, like an ulcer, a hiatal hernia or another really fun thing called Laryngeal Sensory Neuropathy, which in layman’s terms simply means, “oversensitive nerves in the throat.” But I like Laryngeal Sensory Neuropathy better as it sounds much more serious and is likely to illicit pity from people. Poor me.

Tonight after dinner my little guy was rolling around the house. I was sitting in our little glider chair watching the Braves almost snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when I called over to him, “You want to come sit with daddy.” In an excited burst of energy he yelled out “yeah!” and quickly rolled over to me.  I unbuckled him and gently lifted him onto my left knee. He immediately did something that he’s done even since he was a baby; he laid his head on my shoulder and just snuggled in.

I looked down at Isaiah and just pondered my own situation and his for a few minutes. I’m complaining about my coffee, my pizza and my hamburgers. I’m frustrated that the meds aren’t working quickly enough. I’m nervous about being put to sleep while a man I’ve never met before does a photo session on my innards. Isaiah, on the other hand, doesn’t have a pill that can fix his disability. He doesn’t have one surgical option that can make things right. His are expected. It’s only a matter of time before the next surgery comes around, the next medicine has to be increased, the next test has to be done, etc.

Then there are the therapies, the catheterizations, the enemas, the not being able to walk, run, jump, swim on his own, climb, hop, etc. In the face of all this he laughs, smiles, plays with his iPad, watches his sermons and the Duggars. My trial is nothing compared to his, and I often think just how tough this little man is, tougher than I am in many ways. At the end of the day, in the midst of everything he faced, he climbs up in my lap and snuggles and I get to hold him. If only my faith was such that I could consistently take comfort in my heavenly Father. Poor me? No. Blessed me.


“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

Today, all is well. No surgeries, no infections, no big doctor’s appointments. Today we just get to live like “normal” people with requests for Kermit the Frog, high-fives, repeated questions of “Mommy, whatcha doing?”, asking for fruit chews, or us telling the kids “Stop picking your nose…take your fingers out of your mouth.” But tomorrow is coming.

I struggle with tomorrow. Tomorrow likely means unhappy stuff like surgery, fevers, long recovery times, pain, discomfort, frustration, etc. In the special needs world, over time experience begins to form expectations of what will be, and as a result tomorrow can be a fearful thing. I begin to think “Tomorrow means breakthrough seizures. Tomorrow means trips to the ER. Tomorrow means waiting anxiously for the doctor to come in and say ‘Done! Everything went fine.'” For me, in my doubt and fear, tomorrow means facing the uncertainty of the things I think I’m fairly certain will happen.

Matthew 6:34 has been a goto verse for me for many years as I’ve struggled with doubt, fear and anxiety. It’s one of those verses that I wish I could just read once and say “Whew! Everything’s going to be okay.” and go on with my life. But it’s not that easy. Many times I’ve taken this verse to the Lord in prayer with the same words of the father of the boy with the unclean spirit in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I know it’s true. I know in my heart God is good and faithful and in control, I just have a really hard time getting my body to understand that.

Is my faith weak? You betcha! But am I faith-less? No. Faith in these kinds of promises will never be perfect this side of heaven because, though I’m redeemed, I’m still in this earthly frame, with earthly eyes, heart, mind and body, all still fallen, still weak, still convinced more by what I see and touch than by what I do not. But faith is a fight. Faith is the constant spiritual battle to subdue the body, mind and emotions with the things God has granted the heart to believe. Faith wields God’s Word against the flesh, telling my mouth to stop biting my nails, my stomach to stop churning, my heart to stop pounding, my feet to stop pacing. Faith erases the doom, gloom and terror that I have fearfully penciled in on my future calendar of doubt.

Today, right now, all is well. I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know I’m not supposed to be anxious about it. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!