Golgotha: Where Jesus Died

When Karla and I were in Israel in 2011 I snapped this shot of one of the two possible sites near where Jesus was crucified.  Matthew 27:33-34 says “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull) they offered him wine to drink mixed with gall, but when he had tasted it, he would not drink it.”

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Petra

Here are some pictures I took at the ancient city of Petra (which means rock) in Jordan when Karla and I had the opportunity to visit Israel and the surrounding areas in 2011. We were captivated by the colorful cloth and the reddish rocks….and this beautiful hidden city in the midst of a desolate climate.

Man on a camel in the ancient city of Petra
Man on a camel in the ancient city of Petra
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Petra in Jordan
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Petra

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Seven Years Ago Today I Nearly Died

Hello world,

It’s been a little over a year since I last posted on the blog. Two hundred and eighty-seven posts in the last seven plus years…but just one in the last year.

Seven years ago today at approximately 6:00 am I coded. I had brain surgery on Feb. 12, 2009 to remove the massive AVM in the left frontal lobe of my brain. The surgery was a success by neurosurgeon standards as the AVM no longer exists. But post surgery I was initially unable to move the right side of my body or speak a word. Scary stuff!

Two weeks later on February 26, 2009 I coded and if not for my wife Karla I surely would have died. She was in the rehab room with me when I coded. I don’t remember much at all from the night, just a nagging back pain.

The department heads from Cardiology, Neurology, and Vascular collaborated and soon discovered that there was a massive blood clot  in my heart and many more in my lungs. So they did the only thing they could do and performed emergency open heart surgery…a procedure that is rarely performed. The doctors did not expect me to live, but they gave it their best shot.

And with the skillful precision of Dr. Sundt’s scalpel and the prayers of thousands of you (There were 5,794 hits on the blog that day alone) I made it through the second major surgery in just two weeks, and would end up spending a total of 46 days at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Marys.

They were truly life altering, seismic shifting days in the life of our family…and yes we still feel the repercussions even today more than seven years removed. It was a very costly season for this family of seven, and by this I do not mean the $550,000 this whole venture cost the insurance company. That was a mere pittance compared to the greater tolls this did take and would eventually take on our entire family, and me losing my job (in July, 2013) as the pastor of the church I had served for nearly 18 years.

For the past two and a half years we have been attending a church in West Des Moines where we have connected with kind hearted people in a very profound way. We are experiencing true Christian community in a way that we had previously not known. We have all grown as we continue to heal.

Six months ago I completed the book I have written concerning the last six-plus years of our lives. The preliminary title is “When Your Mess Becomes Your Message.” As it sits now it is 200 plus pages long in a single spaced 12 point font in a Word document which would probably translate to 600 plus pages. So we are now going to begin the process of seeking out a publisher who might be interested. And if that doesn’t pan out then we will self publish the story.

Oh yes one more thing, earlier this evening Karla and I also submitted our official entry in the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race.”  We have been talking about this for two years. We love the show and this would be a great time to run it together as we will celebrate 30 years of marriage this December.

There is just one letter difference between the Amazing Race and Amazing Grace. Our lives are both. In addition if we should be selected from the tens of thousands of applicants and win the millions dollar prize that would be twice what Karla would have received from my life insurance policy had I died seven years ago this very day.

This morning we awoke to a text message that said a friend of ours had died after a long bout with cancer. I had just visited with him nine days earlier. And now he is with Jesus, as will all of those who have truly trusted in Christ alone for salvation. I almost got to heaven seven years ago today. Jeb is already there.

 

 

 

 

 

Endurance and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Great Antarctic Adventure

I just finished reading an excellent book about the greatest Antarctic adventure ever undertaken. Alfred Lansing wrote the book Endurance based on the compilation of diary entries of men who were actually aboard the boat aptly named The Endurance. It is an excellent read! The purpose of this blog is to write about “the human condition and everything pertaining to it.” Endurance pertains to the human condition.

Continue reading Endurance and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Great Antarctic Adventure

Thanksgiving 2014 Top Ten List

Happy Thanksgiving! This is the 7th consecutive year in which I have made up a list of the top ten things for which I am most thankful. We began this blog in November, 2008 upon finding out that I had a weird thing in the left frontal lobe of my brain called an AVM. For forty-four years this thing had been there, resting quietly. If you are interested in hearing the back story click here.

Then on the morning of October 23rd, 2008 I had a seizure. I had this peach-sized mass removed from my brain in February, 2009 by a world class neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  The day after surgery I awoke unable to speak or move the entire right side of my body. Three days later I developed a life threatening blood infection, which was followed by blood clots…many of them…one big clot in my heart and 22 in my lungs, which caused me to code. I had emergency open heart surgery that same day to remove the clot from my heart and lungs. Forty-six days later I came back home to Earlham, Iowa 50 pounds lighter, still struggling with some aphasia, and right side neurological “slowness.” Oh, and I also managed to lose my job as the pastor of Crossroad Church in July, 2013 after 17-1/2 years. So yes, it’s been a wild ride.

I am currently writing a book about our experiences from the last six years. It is roughly 80,000 words so far and not even close to being done. It will need some serious editing by the time all of my thoughts are put on paper…or my laptop as it were. But on the eve of Thanksgiving 2014 these are the top ten things for which I am most thankful.

10. My heated man-cave which provides me with a great space to read and write and swing

9. Karla’s homemade breadsticks

8. The human brain and all of its intricacies designed by the inscrutable wisdom and craftsmanship of God

7. Kindness fleshed out

6. God’s magnificence displayed in nature and the privilege of going backpacking in the resplendent Grand Tetons (just south of Yellowstone Park in northwestern Wyoming) with a couple of friends in September

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5. The ability to move my limbs and speak at will

4. Valley E. Free Church and the tremendous amount of love, encouragement, support, and healing they have provided for my family and me over the past 15 months, largely through our Life Group (adult SS) Integra

3. Our five children ages twenty-two down to nine, who keep us young in some ways and not so young in others

2. My precious wife Karla for whom my love and respect increases at a disproportional rate to the 28 years of marriage we will celebrate in December. By the way I still have weekly date days with the love of my life…my wife.

1. The fact that at the end of all things I, and all who are resting in the finished work of Christ in his death and resurrection, will be receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…and in the presence of God for all eternity (Hebrews 12:28-29)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike is 50!

Mike’s birthday is today, but he is in the Grand Tetons so I am hijacking the blog.  He won’t even know this exists until next Tuesday sometime.

Since he is not around, I would like to reflect on these 50 years he has been alive.  I do not really have any reflections on the first 20 years, as I did not know him.  I can comment on the pictures I have seen.  He has always been good looking!

The first time I ever saw him was in a Luther College chemistry class in September, 1984.  I sat in the front, and he did not, so I watched him walk by every day.  We did not meet until January of 1985, but chemistry is where I first noticed him.

This will probably not surprise many of you, but we met because I went up and introduced myself.  I wanted to meet him, and it hadn’t happened any other way!  He promptly forgot my name, but  I reminded him what it was when he went through my food service line at supper the next week.  I already knew what his name was long before I met him, so I had no such problems!

Finally meeting Mike was also good motivation to go to FCA, as he was one of the leaders.  I had several friends on my floor that had been pestering me to go to FCA all year.  I told them that I would go once if they would leave me alone.  I went.  And God grabbed hold of me a saved me that very first night!  They left me alone, but I kept going every Wednesday night.

By the end of March we were dating.  This time at his lead.  I may have been forward in introducing myself, but not in initiating the relationship.  I fell in love fast.  Mike was handsome, a strong leader, kind, a man of great integrity, friend of everyone, a great athlete, and most importantly, a passionate follower of Jesus.  I was whipped!  And when he proposed on February 13, 1986, I quickly said, “yes!” and began planning for our December wedding.  We were only 21 and 22 when we were married!

And thus began the journey we have been on together for almost 28 years.  Those character issues that drew me to Mike in the first place have only become more refined as we have gone through the fiery trials of life.  We went to grad school, were called to ministry, and eventually ended up back home in Iowa.  Mike has grown in his roles as a husband and father.  God gave me a good man to go through life with!

A person’s true character, and the depth of their faith in God, is revealed not in those times that are easy, but rather in times of suffering.  When we made our wedding vows so long ago, we, like most young people, thought mostly about the good, the plenty, and the health.  We never even imagined such things as depression rearing it’s ugly head time and again, a mother with early Alzheimer’s, losing an unborn baby, seizures, an AVM, brain surgery, heart surgery, long recovery, losing a job, or being out of ministry.  If people thought of these things before getting married, they never would!

As I look at my husband as he turns 50, I see a man who still has all the same qualities that I was initially drawn to.  But I also see a better man. I have watched as God refined him, refined us, over the past years.  I have seen Mike show compassion on our children as they go through difficulties that all children have growing up.  He is much more thoughtful in parenting than I am!  I have been with Mike as he ministers to countless people in ways no one but the people involved and God will ever know.  I have seen how Mike responds, or in many cases doesn’t respond, with grace during the hardships that come with being in ministry.  I have watched Mike battle through rehab after losing the use of his right side and losing his speech. During this past extremely difficult couple of years I have stood by Mike as he has sought God and worked diligently to honor Him in all he has said and done.  I know that I can always depend on Mike to encourage me, make me laugh, and be by my side no matter what happens.  And I know that he is grounded in his faith, always seeking to be changed to be more like Christ, and always pointing our family to honor God in all we do.

So happy number 50 Honey!  As I look toward the next 50, I am so hopeful!  God has continued to do such amazing things in our lives. The past year has been a good one for the Evans family.  God has renewed us and drawn us all closer together.  Not long ago, Mike shared with me a Steven Curtis Chapman song called The Glorious Unfolding that I now think of whenever I am concerned about the uncertainty of the future.  Here is a link if you would like to listen to it:

God has been faithful to us our entire lives, and will continue to be. It is with great anticipation that I wait to see what God has in store for us in the coming years!  And am so glad that Mike is still here to experience the future with me!  I love you, Mike!

 

The Human Condition and all that Pertains to it