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Jun 21 21

No more breathing tube as the sun comes up in Austin

by davesandel

Monday, June 21, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

No more breathing tube as the sun comes up in Austin

When I walked into Margaret’s room Sunday morning, her nurse Addison said, “We’re going to get this breathing tube out of Margaret’s mouth in just a few minutes.” There was energy in the room. Overnight Margaret’s body grew stronger. Her “numbers” were good and she had peed enough. Oh, the water! Hope it don’t rain all day.

I said, “Are you getting a bunch of folks to help?” Addison’s helper said, “Nope, just us two.” They have guts, I tell ya. Four years ago after Margaret’s first open heart surgery, I watched that tube come out, and I didn’t want to watch it again. So off I went for about 15 minutes.

When I got back, the whole room seemed bathed in a warm glow.

Of course the sun was shining through the bank of windows, but this glow was coming from Margaret. She looked like a different person. Still with a feeding tube in her nose, still with wires attached all over her body, but her mouth was available to her once more. Her voice was hoarse, she sounded like Lauren Bacall, and for a little while I struggled to understand her. It was so beautiful!

We talked, then I set a little speaker by her bed and tuned in to Grace Covenant’s online service. The music played, Matt preached, Margaret kept talking through part of it, she was catching up. Andi came around 11:30, literally jumping up and down with joy when she saw how how Margaret looked. She looked so good! Andi couldn’t believe she had her mom back, ready to talk, ready to listen, ready to be a companion again.

Matt threw enough spiritual meat at us so that Andi was pleased and amazed that Margaret could have a theological conversation. Those kinds of talks are Margaret’s bread and butter, and she jumped right in. Her brain seems to have sharpened its edges during its three day rest.

When Margaret complained about trouble breathing, Addison suggested that she talk less. That made us laugh. But we all quieted down some after that. Andi told Mom a story about Miles and his helicopter, while she scratched and massaged her head. How warm and fuzzy is that? Margaret was melting.

We both left her in mid-afternoon. She wanted us to go; yesterday was Andi and Aki’s 12th wedding anniversary. I spent time in the backyard kiddy pool with Miles and Jasper while their parents had lunch at the Kura Revolving Sushi Bar and shopped at a Japanese dollar store. Andi brought me a beautiful, clear umbrella, which Jasper liked as much as I did. Happy Father’s Day!

Matt talked about Peter’s walk on water. His idea was simple: make friends with fear, and renounce safety as any kind of ultimate value. Follow Peter out of the boat a little bit every day, to practice living through fear. If you practice comfort every day, you’ll get better at being comfortable. If you look for something a little scary to do every day, you’ll get better at being afraid, and learn not be paralyzed by it . Like I said, simple. Just do it.

Margaret’s path in the next few days might be simple, first in ICU, then back on Seton’s third floor, then perhaps a short stint at a rehab center, following the path set out for her by this amazing, frightening, medical intervention. Her body is no longer stuck, and she can walk on down the road.

For us, this day was as rejuvenating as yesterday’s was enervating. But as Andi said to Jasper last week, “You gotta go slow when you’re walking on water.” Boy oh boy. That’s not just for the two year old. We’ll keep doing this one day at a time.

(Genesis 12, Psalm 33, Hebrew 4, Matthew 7)


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Jun 20 21

Why are you afraid? Don’t you yet have faith?

by davesandel

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 20, 2021               (today’s lectionary)

Father’s Day

Why are you afraid? Don’t you yet have faith?

They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths; their hearts melted away in their plight. Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting.

Saturday was a long, hard day for Margaret. Her breathing tube stayed in place, 48 hours after it was put into her body. By Saturday evening, it was still in place, and would be at least until this morning. Consequently, she couldn’t eat or speak or drink or anything else you do with your mouth, not Thursday, not Friday, not Saturday.

Let it go, God told me. I hope he told her too. God gave us a prayer for patience, not of mind but of body. Let Margaret’s body rest, settle into what this is, not what any of us, including the doctors, want it to be.

When I left they had just re-sedated her to put in a feeding tube, because it’s been awhile since she had anything in her stomach. The sedation must be a blessing now, at least for a moment. They also gave her a unit of blood and a second diuretic called diuril along with her Lasix. Now her blood pressure is allowed to return to normal, her oxygen was at 96, but they want to encourage her kidneys.

She needs to pee! Pray for Margaret to pee. Perhaps that is a new prayer for you, as Casey said it was for him, but it’s a good one. Everyone hopes tomorrow morning they can remove the breathing tube.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said, “When I set limits on the sea and fastened the bar of its door, I said, ‘Thus far shall you come, but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”

For awhile midday I played Bethel music, then music by Michael Card, and gospel songs by the Gaither Vocal Trio and friends. I sang a few Christmas songs, and Amazing Grace, and this and that. I rubbed her feet (it’s how we met, after all) and prayed while I put my hands on her head and her arm and on her abdomen where her kidneys are. Andi called, Miles and Jasper said/shouted hello, and Margaret waved to them. Aki came to see her for awhile in the evening. She was not alone. When Blake, her nurse, asked her questions or told her what he was doing to do next, she responded with big nods of yes and no.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Jesus went to sleep in the boat. But a violent squall came up, and great waves were filling the boat. They woke Jesus. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”

In the pre-op room where she and I spent more than an hour together Thursday morning, I told her about God’s words for me that released me from the weight and confusion of worrying about outcomes (see yesterday’s devotion). She loved it, and I think in that moment Jesus might have told her, too, that “what the doctors are doing for you, they are doing for me.”

Jesus woke up. He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was great calm.

But she added something more that morning, that she thought I was taking on the wrong problem. Her health and her healing is not my problem, it’s God’s, and for me to think I have to do everything, be ultra-responsible, and get overwhelmed by it all … well, that was just wrong. She said what she has always said: God knows exactly what he’s doing. So relax and let him do it.

That helped me so much. I think it helped Margaret too, to hear herself say those words. This medical journey is long and painful and boring and difficult, but only as she takes it on as her problem. When she remembers that God is the captain of her ship, then she can rest. The spiritual gift of patience becomes part of her.

And Jesus asked his friends, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you yet have faith?” They looked at him, and one another, and asked each other, “Who IS this, whom even wind and sea obey?”

As I write this it sounds like a platitude. It is a platitude, except that all this stuff we’ve so often heard on normal Sunday mornings sounds new and real now, in this moment instant of our need, as we hear the whispers in silence, the still small voice of God into our very own ears.

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come.

(Job 38, Psalm 107, 2 Corinthians 5, Luke 7, Mark 4)


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Jun 19 21

Flat down lying on her bed

by davesandel

Saturday, June 19, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Flat down lying on her bed

Many years ago our acquaintance (we went to church together) moved with his wife to married student housing at Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois. They borrowed a pickup and began moving their stuff. They put their bedframe on the bed of the pickup, then the box spring, then the mattress. It was a windy sunny spring day, and her husband lay spreadeagled down on all of it, holding it down.

God did not remove the thorn in my flesh. He just said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

His wife drove the truck quickly down Rte. 10 to the new set of apartments jutting into farm country east of the campus, only a couple hundred yards from the nearly new US weather station on the other side of the two lane highway.

Just before she turned right into their new driveway, the wind gusted, the mattress flipped up out of the truck and came down on top of her husband, flat against the pavement. His spine and skull were crushed. She stopped, ran back to see, and he didn’t move.

Her husband didn’t die. He also did not regain consciousness. He lived in the confines of a long deep coma for a number of years. When he did finally die, his wife was by his side.

So I am content with weakness, and besides that insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ.

A man told me of his friend, who cared twenty years for his wife after she lost her ability to walk. He said later, “Those were the best years of my life.” My friend Don’s wife had back surgery last fall. When she returned from the hospital and from rehab, Don did “everything” for a month while she grew strong again. “I learned how to love her,” he said. He also learned how to make beds and cook.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

But I put all these stories together later.

Most of this week I spent my mornings torturing back and forth between the ugly idea that if Margaret died we would both be better off, and on the other hand, if Margaret’s surgery was successful she would be miserable for months (or years) and I would be inadequate and exhausted trying to help her with everything she was going to need. I didn’t want to do it.

Don’t think I was sounding out these ideas to anyone. And when you keep stuff like this to yourself you get poisoned. About midweek I talked to God. Told him I felt guilty and selfish, but that I was stuck in these thoughts. Told him I was frightened, helpless, so everloving sad … and that wasn’t going away either.

Come children, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Don’t you desire life? Will you not take delight in prosperous days? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life?

Michael called what happened then an epiphany, and I think that’s right. Jesus started to say something. “Stop talking for a minute, David. Here’s the thing,” he said.

“Whatever you do for Margaret, you do for me.”

I hadn’t thought of that. If I had, it wouldn’t have helped. Religious platitudes seldom do, even if they are in Matthew 25. But when Jesus spoke, I listened. My ears perked up, my eyes sparkled, and a huge weight came off my shoulders. “And here’s something else,” Jesus said. He was on a roll. I was actually listening!

“Whatever gifts you give Margaret, you get something even better, every time. You’ll grow closer to me every day you care for her.”

I was in our apartment. I just stopped still where I was, walking from the bedroom to the kitchen in the early morning. These moments don’t happen often.

Look at the wild flowers in the field. They neither toil nor spin. If God so clothes the grass of the field, won’t he much more provide for you?

“So stop it. You’re fine. Don’t be afraid. I am here.” And he was. And I was. Fine. Finally.

John W. knows that of which I speak. He was so angry and resentful when his wife was dying, and God threw him down on his knees for his own personal epiphany. (He’s an only child, and a former rock singer … God has to be particularly tough on him.) And in his instant precious healing moment, John wept and wept. Later he shared with me stories of others (especially Proof of Heaven) who had been broken and put back together again by the Holy Spirit. As he had. As I have. When we talk about these things, boh of us so often break out in goosebumps, shivering in the spirit.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Yesterday’s secondary surgery to remove two patches that stopped a bleed in Thursday’s 14-hour ordeal was short and successful. When Andi got to see her mom for the first time yesterday afternoon, Margaret was still asleep (that makes well over 24 hours with just short periods of wakefulness to move her arms and toes). Her breath still came with the help of a ventilator and breathing tube, but all of that will soon go away and she’ll be able to begin coming out of the fog.

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

I wonder where her spirit has been these last couple days, while her body was open and then closed and then open again and closed again, and she didn’t move even an inch from her impossible position flat down lying on the bed. Hovering? Watching? Listening with every pore of her soul to the sweet siren songs of God?

Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

(2 Corinthians 12, Psalm 34, 2 Corinthians 8, Matthew 6)


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Jun 18 21

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

by davesandel

Friday, June 18, 2021                          (today’s lectionary)

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up treasures in heaven.

Many of these past long days, at the hospital and then coming home, I think of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s musical celebrations that they called “All Day Singin’ at the Dome.” Margaret and I attended several of these musical-educational-inspirational extravaganzas in Indianapolis, and every time we were bowled over by the happiness in the halls, the joy in the music that seemed to be everywhere, and the nearness of God, celebrating along with us. Old-timers and young performers admired each other, sang together in glorious ad-hoc groups, and their gratitude and generosity abounded. Here’s a little taste.

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.

Well, yesterday was the longest day yet. Margaret’s surgery began early and ended late. She left Room 350 at 5:30 am and got to ICU Room A-2 about 8:50 pm. Seton procedure allowed me to be with her during the morning pre-op though, so for an hour and a half or so we read a devotion, prayed, told more jokes, and complained about being uncomfortable on the bed. One of the nurses reminded us to kiss and hug, so we did!

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame.

Her pre-op nurse Zetta has worked at Seton for 41½ years. Seton employees stay put – we’ve heard that over and over. My West Texas buddy Casey’s wife worked at Seton for 13 years (I think) and loved it. She said the philosophy then was that “we will treat each of our patients as if we were treating Jesus Christ himself.”

Well, that’s Biblical, and a wonderful sentiment, and I think it’s a reality now, at least in our experience. I am so glad to be in this hospital system, at this time.

That said, Dr. Neely told me tonight (at 8 pm) that he thinks the operation deserves an A minus. Margaret’s heart was unrelentingly strong through the whole thing. Resecting and reconstructing the areas that were badly infected went really well. They had problems at the beginning inserting an arterial IV, and then a problem at the end stopping bleeding at one spot. He was able to insert two gauze pads in that spot, and now the bleeding has stopped. If it stays stopped and begins to clot, then late tomorrow or Saturday he’ll go back in and remove the gauze. That means another small operation, back in the OR, but really … given all that could have happened today, no wonder he gave it an A. Happy I am.

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

If I understood him right, they won’t be removing her sedation for awhile yet. She’ll stay asleep in ICU at least till late morning tomorrow. I know she’d like hearing that. The less time she has to be conscious of the pain that she’ll be feeling everywhere, the better.

Her nurse Kelly just called and said she’s doing fine. No blood showing in the drainage tube in her chest. (Can you imagine having a drainage tube in your chest?) If things go well they’ll take out her breathing tube in the morning.

In 2017 Margaret had a surgery similar to this one, and I watched them remove the breathing tube. I think I’ll skip it this time. I am really proud of Margaret. I bet you are too. She is quite a trooper.

It’s good to feel God’s blessing when it gives you goosebumps, right? That’s happening to me right now.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(2 Corinthians 11, Psalm 34, Matthew 5, Matthew 6)


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Jun 17 21

On the morning of Margaret’s surgery

by davesandel

Thursday, June 17, 2021                     (today’s lectionary)

On the morning of Margaret’s surgery

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart.

In the morning I awake all dreamed-up, caught in a flurry of monkey-mind, jumping from one thought to another like branches on a monkey’s tree. Slowly I regain myself. I am alone and Margaret’s in the hospital. A heavy dead weight lays down on my stomach. I am sad.

Good morning, Lord. Thank you Lord for this day. Good morning, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Come Holy Spirit. The prayers rush out of my mind and my lips, and I struggle to remember who I am. God’s child. It’s easier to remember who God is. In his goodness, in his mercy, he hears my prayers.

This has been my daily morning life for longer than a couple of weeks, because Margaret has been sick longer than she’s been in the hospital. What now, Lord? What happens today? Deliver us from evil.

This is how you are to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Nearly every morning when we lived in Urbana Margaret rose from her bed and sank onto her knees. She prayed, Our Father, who art in heaven. She wonders now how she will make that move of humility and worship. How can she sink to her knees when her body won’t let her?

Often after getting coffee Margaret spent some time with the Lord’s Prayer, sitting at the computer and praying her own couplets after each phrase.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

In your world, Lord, nothing is ever wasted. You don’t miss anything in our lives, and we are secure in your goodness.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Margaret’s surgery is today, this morning, 7:00 am, Dr. Neely and his team ready to do their magic on her heart. Her new aortic valve will come from a cow and her new mitral valve will come from a pig. Infected tissue between the valves will also be replaced, by bovine tissue. Nothing artificial. Because of this she won’t need blood thinners for the rest of her life. The whole idea of this transplanting is like a miracle to me, and of course it’s a miracle to anyone. It’s a miracle, period. And yet, to God, it’s our daily bread. He gives and gives and gives.

Andi came yesterday, and carefully removed the wall art by Miles and Jasper. We plan to put it all back up in her recovery room after she returns from surgery and ICU. She’ll be on the same floor, with the same wonderful nurses she’s had for the last eleven days, Ime and Audrey and Ian and Nicole, Elijah, Anna, Jocelyn and so many others.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and we fly away. God’s love and grace don’t stop for anyone, God’s love and grace goes on and on and on, and it’s not what I’ve done or undone that matters at all. Especially, Lord, forgive whatever roots of arrogance are in me that you love me differently than anyone else, and that your gifts are somehow reserved for some rather than for everyone. Let me love you, not your gifts. We are all your children, even if all our hearts are weary with evil and self-delusion and deceit.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I’m up at 4:30 this morning, and at the hospital by 5:30, and Margaret has been awake even longer. Not an easy thing, heading into the surgical theater, where someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. But Jesus goes with you, as he went with his friend Peter (John 21). I pray for Margaret’s body and her soul, and for her mind to be still and receptive to the finger of your goodness.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

Shannon gave us a book of liturgies, and here’s one for the “morning of a medical procedure.”

My great hope is secure. Let me rest in that. At the end of this day, I will still be your child, utterly dependent on you, utterly loved by you. At the end of this day, my life will yet be hidden with Christ, even as it now is. I will remain an heir to the promise that this imperfect, mortal body, though it faces temporary decline, will one day be swallowed up in a glorious immortality. You, O Lord, are tender and present and sovereign over all circumstance, and you love us fiercely and eternally.

The prayer ends with: “This day will hold no surprises for you. Let me rest in that.”

Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him.

(2 Corinthians 11, Psalm 11, Romans 8, Matthew 6)


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Jun 16 21

Last day in Room 350

by davesandel

Wednesday, June 16, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

Last day in Room 350

Brothers and sisters, consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows in abundance will also reap in abundance.

Our daughter Andi likes to spend her airport time watching and praying. She asks herself, “Where is that woman going? Why? What will she do there? Where is she coming from? What is her family situation right now? How is God loving her at this moment?” And then, perhaps, say hello. See what happens next.

God is able to make every grace abundant to you, so that you may always have an abundance for every good work.

She never gets bored, not when she’s praying these questions. And they are great in the hospital too. Yesterday Margaret was with a doctor from Bolivia, a surgeon from Mexico, a nurse from Croatia and another nurse from Nigeria. They have criss-crossed the world, and now they are standing in the same room with us, and almost everyone is happy to share some of their story.

Tomorrow is her last day in Room 350, the room Margaret has filled with both her presence and her stuff. We’ll be moving all the beautiful wall-hangings by Miles, as well as flowers and balloons, as well as our “Thank You List.” She had a left and right heart catheterization early on Tuesday afternoon. Before she left we prayed a beautiful prayer from a book of everyday liturgies our friend Shannon gave me, and off she went. There were no blockages anywhere in her heart, or her arteries or veins. Her heart is soft, strong and clean. It’s only those pesky valves that are causing the problem.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright one, and he is gracious and merciful and just. He gives lavishly to the poor.

So that clears the way for surgery at 6:30 Thursday morning. They’ll move her bed down to the surgical floor about 6 am, we think. And then her room will be cleaned and made ready for another patient. She’ll go to the Intensive Care Unit for awhile, with tubes tied into every part of her for at least a few hours. And of course, she’ll be mighty sore. No getting around that.

Margaret loves to ask for a back rub, or a foot massage, and she gets pretty much as many of those as she wants from me in these lazy hazy days of summer 2021. I always think of the 1978-79 New Year’s Eve party at Cindy Barkey’s house, where we first felt sparks for each other. I asked who wanted a foot massage, and Margaret was the first (and only) enthusiastic taker.

When you give, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Likewise when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting.

Richard Rohr often says that great love and great suffering are the paths to spiritual maturity. Marriage is filled with both, often at the same time. The desire I have to mold Margaret into someone perfect just for me is thwarted by her desire to mold me into someone perfect just for her. I imagine God watching, as if in an airport, asking, “What the heck are they doing now? Why?” And “how can I love them at this very moment?”

Oh, the pain of this desiring! God grows us up in spurts and starts, if we’ll just let him, and at last in leaps and bounds.

Turn your eyes toward me, he says, your Abba, your Father, your Daddy.

(2 Corinthians 9, Psalm 112, John 14, Matthew 6)


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Jun 15 21

Give Margaret a soft and clean heart

by davesandel

Tuesday, June 15, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Give Margaret a soft and clean heart

You know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

We are getting closer. Today Margaret had pre-operative pulmonary testing. Today at 11:45 she will have a diagnostic angiogram of both the arteries and veins in her heart. Left and right. Her heart’s strength, measured by its ejection fraction (thanks, Whitney) was in the normal range (55) on June 7, the day after she entered the hospital, when things were at their worst. That is one of the more important signs pointing toward a strong recovery from all of this.

So we are getting closer. The heart surgery itself, having taken a long time coming, will be either on Wednesday or Thursday. Looks more like Wednesday. Of course we’re nervous, but I don’t think either of us is afraid. Not for long anyhow. There is something in Margaret’s eyes that breathes confidence, not in how the surgery goes, but in God. For me too, that is something that rises up inside, this confidence in God’s goodness, not in his rewards or awards or gifts or anything like that, but his goodness.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. Praise, the Lord, o my soul.

She had a few conversations today, with Marc, video call with Andi-Aly-Jasper, with Jeannette Elliott … we took walks and sat together for awhile inside, and then outside (it hit 99 degrees in Austin yesterday), taking about this and that. We both took a two hour nap in the afternoon after our amazing nurse Audrey put a big black sign on the door, “DO NOT ENTER.”

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live.

Audrey likes to sing, and she knows how, because she grew up in an Amarillo Church of Christ with their non-instrumental four part harmonies. So as the afternoon wound down, we wound up with Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Daddy Sang Bass.” Audrey danced her way out of the room.

One of these days and it won’t be long

I’ll rejoin them in a song

I’m gonna join the family circle at the throne

Later she came back with the usual, organically unreadable forms about every possible thing that could go wrong during today’s procedure. Margaret signed them, initialed them, and passed them back. Really, there was nothing in them to fear. God’s control and love and joy inside us is palpable to her. She has known Jesus all her life. And now, she was ready for bed.

Jesus said to us, Be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and on the good. He causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Earlier, cardiologist Dr. Liu told us more about what to expect, although we have heard most of it already. As he left we shared with him our continual prayer, that God would make Margaret’s heart soft and clean. Create a clean heart, O God. His eyes softened. “That is so beautiful,” he said.

Oh the circle won’t be broken

By and by, Lord, by and by

Daddy sang bass (mama sang tenor)

Me and little brother would join right in there

In the sky, Lord, in the sky

(2 Corinthians 8, Psalm 146, John 13, Matthew 5)


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Jun 14 21

A very acceptable time for salvation

by davesandel

Monday, June 14, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

A very acceptable time for salvation

At three am on Sunday morning Margaret woke up to use the bathroom, but then she was so dizzy she couldn’t get out of bed. The red nurse’s button was beside her, right where it is supposed to be for once, and she pushed it. By that time she was really nauseous too.

Within an hour she felt much better, but the report triggered a C-T scan and a test for stroke. Her score on the stroke test was perfect. No stroke. Her blood pressure and heart rate returned to normal, and that brought her whole body back to normal. There was nothing “remarkable” on the C-T scan. Not sure what happened, but it did make her night pretty short.

The Lord has made known his salvation. Sing to the Lord a new song.

Chris came along to the hospital with me again on Sunday morning. He was triple-tasking. Besides watching both Springfield and Austin church services with Margaret, and just having a sweet conversation with her, he was also solving a computer-driven snafu with SW Airlines, so all four of his family could get their tickets checked in. One ticket wouldn’t confirm, so he talked twice to a SW human and got the problem solved, although they had to split up into twos and take separate flights.

Later Andi spearheaded a short food contest and game hour, on Zoom with Marc in Urbana and us at the hospital,  and everyone else together. What would you make with peanut butter and one other ingredient? Peanut butter supremes, buckeyes, and half a warmed apple with peanut butter, chocolate ganache and Mexican caramel? Our scorecards let us give each treat marks for presentation, taste, smell, texture, and creativity.

Aly (9), Miles (4) and Dave (71) made the buckeyes. But we weren’t the winners. The peanut butter supremes (Margaret, Andi and Jack) took first prize. As part of the presentation, Jack made little flags and mounted them on toothpicks above their dessert.

Probably this wasn’t the best way for Margaret to finish supper, but oh well. After we ate and judged the desserts, we played some parts of Cranium online for awhile. Good times.

Do not receive the grace of God in vain. Now is a very acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.

Sundays are for Sabbath, and for rest, for naps, for sleep. I didn’t get much, so I went to bed early, besides snoozing on Andi and Aki’s couch while Jasper played with my suspenders.

In the late afternoon we took a trip to Topgolf, that fancy indoor driving range. The hostess kindly told me one of my suspenders was loose. Thanks, Jasper. It takes a little bit to connect a back suspender without a mirror, but I got it! I also hit a few golf balls for the first time in three years or more. It felt wonderful. And a few hours later, nothing bent or broken in my back.

I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two .

This particular Sunday is also the beginning of surgery week, at least that’s what we expect. One day at a time. Chris named his trouble with the airline tickets “very clearly a first world problem.” And even our occasional impatience and irritation with the hospital, with the food, with a nurse now and then … all, yes, first world problems. It was 97 degrees in Austin today. In Margaret’s room the air conditioning worked just fine. She had water and ice whenever she asked. Her bottom sheet might get wrinkled, but that’s because her bed can be raised and lowered in two places, adjusted to her own body.

So I was tired, but it was good, before I left last night, to rub lotion into Margaret’s back and feet, put her hospital socks back on. Just be grateful together, all the way from head to toe.

(2 Corinthians 6, Psalm 98, Psalm 119, Matthew 5)


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Jun 13 21

Scattering seed … and then the harvest

by davesandel

Sunday, June 13, 2021                        (today’s lectionary)

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scattering seed … and then the harvest

I will take from the crest of the cedar, and plant it on the mountain heights. It shall become majestic, birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it. All the trees of the field shall that know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree and lift high the lowly, wither up the green tree and make the withered one bloom.

Along with Chris and Melissa, the cousins were across the room playing the Daniel Tiger game. Miles and Aly won. Yesterday afternoon, after we rode the Cedar Rock RR all around the park, Jasper and I traversed the splash pad over and over, getting soaked. I loved it, Jasper was not so sure. Miles and Aly went down the water slide over and over and over, 88 times, Miles said. I went down once with Jasper, and tangled up my legs at the end. Jasper was OK, I was … not so sure.

But Margaret was not there.

Let me proclaim your kindness at dawn and your faithfulness throughout the night. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

She did sleep much better in her hospital room. She’s learning how to give herself shots, and she takes several walks a day. The doctors have nothing but praise for the way her “numbers” are coming down. Tonight will be her tenth night in the hospital. She’s getting to be a pro. Next week she will have surgery, we don’t yet know when.

Chris (our oldest son) spent the morning with her. They walked a little and talked a lot, about Chris’ childhood and education, and of course about Margaret’s hospitalizable situation. Doctors came in, aides came in, kitchen people came in, and eventually we left. Even in the atrium, a cardio-rehab therapist found us. Seemed like we were the only ones not rushing around. And really, there was plenty of time for Chris and his mom to share stories and conversation with each other.

We shall bear fruit even in our old age; vigorous and sturdy we shall be, declaring how just is the Lord, our rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Margaret, Chris and I missed seeing all the big emergency and construction machines in the big Touch-A-Truck event yesterday. It was hot, but Jack and Aly, Miles and Jasper climbed in truck cabs, army tanks and ambulances. We got a picture of Aly holding a bazooka almost as big as she was. Leave it to a Texas army base to provide a bazooka for the kids touch-a-truck. She loved it.

It’s just a couple days Chris and Melissa will be here. Fill them up. Margaret reminded Chris how sensitive and easy-going he was as a kid. And as a student. As a youth minister. As a husband and father. He smiled. She’s right, of course.

We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Margaret was not with us this afternoon, but so much was she with us in spirit. Everyone in our family felt her presence. She has done deep work with so many people, and none of them more than our family. Her family. The family that loves her.

Jack spent the night at our apartment with me. Margaret was not there. But her spirit was. So we rested well in the Austin apartment that she found online, made happen in person, and continues to inhabit every way except in person.

Jesus said, this is how it is with the kingdom of God. It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land, and then sleep and rise night and day. Through it all the seed will sprout and grow, he knows not how.

(Ezekiel 17, Psalm 92, 2 Corinthians 5, Mark 4)


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Jun 12 21

Flying Wolf and Spotted Feather

by davesandel

Saturday, June 12, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Flying Wolf and Spotted Feather

Their baby’s name is Aubra. Margaret met her dad Chris on the way out to the atrium this morning. “I almost lost her,” he said. He might have meant either the baby or her mom. “They gave Aaron (mom) three quarts of blood during Aubra’s birth.” The baby is a beautiful 2 lbs, 12 oz. Strong. Holding her head up.

Aubra’s dad’s birthname is Flying Wolf. He was born on a Lakota Sioux reservation, and he’s been married 23 years to Spotted Feather. Their names in the Sioux language flew off her tongue, and I recorded them, but I can neither pronounce nor spell those beautiful sounds.

From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.

But the thing is, he might lose one of them anyway. Chris’ mom took custody years ago of his two other kids, and she’s trying to do it again. When I left yesterday afternoon I saw a uniformed officer and someone else (probably from Child Protective Services) sitting with Chris. Aaron was headed out the door to join them. What do you think? She was angry. And afraid. And feeling completely out of control, not for the first time in these last few days. She felt more personally protective than the “Protective” Services ever will.

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who does not count our trespasses against us.

In the morning Margaret brought them a small stuffed bear for Aubra. They thought they might name it Ka-Dabra, just to get a little rhythm going with their daughter’s name. Chris took some time to tell Margaret more of their story.

Really, what do you think? First we decide that western “industrial” food manufacturing has infected the hospital dining industry. Healthy nutrition is harder to come by than it should be. One of Margaret’s nurses said that there are problems with choices and distribution nationwide. And now we watch a couple run smash amok into a well-meaning system of child protection which, because of its utilitarian, “industrial” philosophy, makes too little room for personal situations. There are simple menus with check boxes for the dining service, and there are simple questionnaires with check boxes for CPS.

Our “industry,” with all its compromises, feels too much like a hollow shell. The harder we try, the further we get behind.

But still, we are grateful for so much. Margaret’s heart breaks and comes back together again, more than once each day, while she waits for the open heart surgery to do its physical repair. She’s feeling better than she has in weeks. Our son Chris will get to spend some time with his mom this morning, while Chris and Melissa, with Jack and Aly, visit Austin for a couple of days. Margaret’s friend Pam offered yesterday to come for awhile from Illinois, to help nurse her back to health. Margaret is so much loved. Thank you, Jesus.

As I was leaving, Andi began to fill up the bottom of page 2 of our public praise report.” One thing that has to go on that list is Margaret’s diabetes teacher doing the dance that Margaret is asking everyone to do when they leave the room. She did it! She’s the second dancer we’ve met among the nursing staff.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, bless his holy name. The Lord has done great things.

Successful surgery next week, along with management of her newfound diabetes, should make her, as my friend Michael said, “feel like a million bucks.” Come, Holy Spirit.

(2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 103, Luke 2)


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