Monthly Archives: November 2017

Stress Test

I have always known this but facing heart surgery brings out my inner theologian and philosopher.  The body is an intricately designed machine. All parts must work together for the body to function. From limbs and organs to the smallest part of the cell, every cell, when a piece of the body does not function properly then the whole body is compromised. I am not doctor. I am a Librarian. I will not give medical advice. I will describe what I have learned and be corrected by those who know better.

You’ve heard the mantra: diet and exercise and you will stay healthy. There are foods you should eat and stuff you should never put in your body. For me, it was not the diet, I still eat healthily, but the exercise. If I had not exercised my present condition would be substantially worse. Genetics played more of a part of my heart shutting down than anything else.

For over six weeks I felt minor chest pain. Not debilitating chest pain but a pressure in my throat and what I identified as bronchial tubes. We had been in Yosemite in August during some serious fires. Plus, because of the fires in Northern California I thought my throat was burned. I could ride a bicycle for a mile and then have to stop and relax, then ride farther and stop. Once everything was warmed up I could finish my ride without a problem. My thinking was I had either GERD without the reflux and exercise induced asthma. I know about my family history but had ruled out coronary problems.

Then I had an episode November 7th that suggested either really bad acid reflux, heart burn, or heart attack. On the way to the ER everything settled down and we didn’t finish the trip. The next day I made an urgent doctor’s appointment, blood work, chest x-ray and an EKG. The chest x-ray showed nothing. There were no elevated enzyme markers in my blood that accompany heart attack. My cholesterol was low and the EKG showed no problems. All of the indications suggest there was no heart damage. I was experiencing something other than coronary issues.

Every blood cell, and every cell in the body, is an intricately designed machine. Within blood cells are enzymes, which are proteins, that promote specific functions like helping the heart muscles contract and expand and help manage energy. Cardiac enzymes are found mostly in the heart. A blood test will find low levels if these enzymes when the heart is working correctly. High levels of the enzymes and the heart has had to work harder than in should for some reason. These enzymes generally show up in the blood hours after a heart attack, unless you take blood directly from the heart.

All of the evidence I have seen draws me to the conclusion I am a created being, not an evolved organism. As I ride the American River Park Way I see and photograph an array of wildlife, flora and fauna. Everything I see has the mark of an Intelligent Designer, from the natural to the man-made. I ride upon a ribbon of asphalt. It did not evolve. I see the gold tailings that did not just happen but are the evidence of the direct environmental manipulation of people. I also see the intricacy of the creatures. While I understand, kind of, how some may see only natural selection and evolution, I do not.

I should be dead. I am not dead. My being alive has nothing to do with luck or karma. I am alive because of the direction intervention of the God who created me.


I am not a hard-core bicycle rider. When I ride I am not all hunched over, with the racing outfit, moving as fast as I can along the trail. My intent is not to conquer distance with speed. I started riding a bicycle several years ago because my Doctor told me I needed some sort of exercise to lower my weight and get my body in better shape. When I first started with the Library 28 years ago, I had a gym membership, going several times a week using the elliptical trainer and other stuff. For over twenty years I did this, but the gym and my motivation was doing nothing to help. A gym membership is too expensive so I finally quit. I did nothing for a long time. I was over-weight and out of shape. In 2011, I started riding a bicycle.

We live about a quarter mile from the American River Parkway and Bicycle Trail. I remember my first ride. I went about a mile. That is not far. It took over a year for me to go 2-3 miles. On one of those first rides I remember seeing some of the wildlife. Blue Heron. Kestrel. Red-shouldered Hawk. Lots of deer. A Coyote. I would see something, whip out my cell-phone and take a picture, a teeny-tiny speck of pixels lost in a slightly larger blurred image on a flip-phone screen. I knew what it was. Nobody else seemed impressed. “Oh, yeah. A Bird.” So, I started carrying a bigger camera with me. I would begin looking forward to riding. I would spend more time out on the trail, not necessarily riding, but finding and discovering. By two months ago I would ride anywhere from 6-7 miles to 15-20 miles. I have ridden every mile from the J Street-Fair Oaks Blvd bridge near Sac State to Beals Point at Folsom Lake.

I have also lost weight and kept it off. I am not thin, like most hard-core riders. I have never had a six-pack. I have a single pack surrounded by a life-preserver. I do not look like someone who rides a bicycle, let alone a great distance rider. But I do ride.

My father died from complications from triple-bypass surgery.  His heart surgery was not an emergency but came after 20+ years of heart problems.  He was told he had a 98% chance for a full recovery after this surgery but he didn’t make it out of Recovery.  He had 11 heart-attacks in nine days. They opened him three times. By the end of the ninth day I had watched his body take a battering I doubted anyone could survive. My mother died from complications of chemo treatment for leukemia. My brother died from a massive heart attack. All of the family evidence points to me having heart problems. Only a reckless person would suggest I was not a candidate for the same kind of coronary problems. I wanted the problems to happen much later, closer to the end of a long, full life. I’m 63 which, in my mind, is too young.

I will be out riding as soon as I can.

Thanksgiving 2017

I am thankful to be alive!

Last Thursday, November 16, I took some time off work and drove myself to a hospital for a stress test, on the recommendation of my nephew. Days earlier my doctor and I had ruled out heart problems because an EKG and blood tests showed no evidence of heart problems.  My cholesterol levels were great. So, we began to look for other causes of my month-long chest pains.  After this stress test, I thought they would give me an inhaler and send me on my way. Instead, because I still had chest pain, they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me over to the ER. After donating lots of blood into those little vials they attach to your arm, letting them x-ray my chest, and many more EKGs, the ER doc told me I had heart damage. They wanted to do an angiogram the next morning. I have not yet had the stress test.

I have not been afraid. This is important. Many people I count as friends do not believe in God. I do. My faith in Him is based on strict intellectual questioning and discovery. There is also a credible, emotional part and a precise act of my will integral to my faith. Faith in God is not stupid, where the intellect shuts down. Faith is an act of the whole person, not just a hidden little personal, unexplainable, foible unique to me. For years, God has been teaching me to listen, believe, trust and obey. Last Thursday the faith He gave me was tested.

My family, on the other hand, was in agony. I know this agony after watching my dad, mom and brother die. My having no fear did not help them. I will not minimize the fear and distress caused by watching someone they love hover over the possibility of dying suddenly, and of having no control.

Friday morning the 17th a cardiologist did an angiogram that revealed at least one aorta 100% blocked.  He could not get the wire in it to look in it. Absolutely no blood was getting through. Had they been able, the doc would have inserted a couple of stents and I could have been on my way, after a few days in the hospital. Instead, they put in a heart balloon because my heart was not working as well as they wanted. I awoke enough for them to tell me I was being moved to Mercy General for “immediate heart surgery”, bypass surgery. Lots of other fun stuff happened that day, too. Disneyland was a better option for a family vacation, hands-down.

Saturday Morning the 18th was open-heart surgery. Apparently, I bumped someone in line. For those of you who know me, I don’t bump people in any line. What was happening was not by my design. At this time, I have zero control over anything happening to me. There is a difference between relinquishing control and keeping responsibility. Even laying on a gurney ready to go into surgery I am responsible for my attitude, how I treat others and for my family. Relinquishing control gives another the responsibility to care for me because I realize I cannot care for myself. They must do that which I cannot do. Having a relationship with God is like this. (Ask me and I will gladly explain more.)

Wearing a little, flimsy hospital gown is normal for hospital stays. My garments violated no hospital stereotype. When they took me into surgery, I was basically naked and shaved. What was the temperature in Surgery? 38F!  Okay, another thrilling ride. The anesthesiologist (everybody working on me had already come by to meet the body they would be cutting up and putting back together) told me to take a deep breath. I woke up a moment later with two thoughts: “I’m alive.” Remember, I have had no fear so I will explain later what being alive meant to me (but not today). My second thought was “rub some dirt in it.” This is a new phrase to me, given by my son, who just completed a Spartan Race without doing any penalty burpees. I’m not getting out of the work of living so easily. I am still dependent on my family to care for me but those responsibilities that are mine are still mine.

Monday morning the doc released me from ICU so I walked from there up one floor to a regular room. The day of surgery I had already gotten out of bed several times, standing and sitting in the room. Sunday, I spent more time in a chair than in bed.  Some of you will know the trauma that a body has before and during open heart surgery. Double bypass. Every appendage has something sticking out of it. And then there is my chest. I have a picture if you want to see it.  If I was supposed to do something, I concentrated to make it happen.

Death is a game changer. Facing death demands facing life first. I have a belief that has everything to do with looking at facts. I believe the evidence that a man was raised from the dead. I believe Jesus Christ died at the hands of the Romans at the prompting of the religious leaders. I believe the trauma He suffered far exceeded the little bit of pain I have been in. People wanted to torture Him to death. Almost no one wanted to help Him. Everyone who saw Him die knew He was dead. Then they saw Him alive.

No one wanted me to die. People worked hard to keep me alive. But no one can will me to live. Had God wanted me to die, I would have died. God did not want me to die. (Did they have to use a catheter, though?) I am emotionally touched at the compassion and patience of just about everyone who did something for me over the seven days and six nights I was in the hospital. I pushed the help button (I know that’s why it is there) more than I think I should have. No one who responded frowned or made me feel that I should have been doing what I was asking them to do. I can never express enough admiration or appreciation for the Staff at both Kaiser in Roseville and Mercy General in Sacramento.

My family was there. My wife was my advocate. I cannot imagine the agony and stress she was under. My children talked and listened, slept and were there. It is hard watching someone you love suffer. My sister drove in from over the mountains. Friends came. Wow.

My immediate family exchanges gifts on Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I came home the day before Thanksgiving. Thank you, Lord for my life. We enjoyed ourselves on Thanksgiving.



Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God told the man that when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Adam ate the fruit from the tree but he did not immediately, physically die. God’s command states that when he dies (physically) he will die (spiritually) (“you will die die” Genesis 2:17).

Now God tells Adam that he will live his physical life by hard, frustrating work, and that when it is his time to die he will become dust, or dirt. The very ground he works to grow food to live will claim him and he will become indistinguishable from it as his body deteriorates back to dirt. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). God used dirt to make the man and to dirt the man will return when his body dies.

What happened to Adam happens to all who follow him. Had he obeyed God then those who followed would have received God’s blessing. That he disobeyed God, rebelling against Him, means he was sentenced to separation from God and the earth was cursed. We are not going to speculate about the probability of whether people would have individually rebelled against God if Adam had not. We do not know and cannot know the answer to that question. We do know sin infected all of humanity because of Adam’s rebellion. We do know all people die and their bodies become dirt after a time. Once the body is dead it cannot be made alive again by natural means.

Scripture does not use the term “federal headship.” Yet, Scripture is filled with historical examples of the children and citizens bearing the consequences of the actions of their fathers or leaders. “Federal” is a system of government where the leaders speak for the people. It is not a democracy where each has an equal voice but a system where the leaders are charged with the responsibility of implementing the will of those they represent. It is not fair but it is just.

Adam died. His body, after his life was no longer sustained, returned to the earth from which he was made and over which he was to have control, or dominion. He kept dominion as part of the image of God but lost the ability to exercise dominion. Before the fall, he was God’s representative over the earth. After the fall, the war began between those who hate God, even as they were created to know Him intimately, and everything pointing to God.

God makes it clear to Adam, and to all who follow him, that though they work and fulfill their responsibilities, they are still wholly dependent upon Him for their lives. Yes, people have to work and their work is both painful and stressful. God, after the rebellion of the first man, calls people to turn either toward Him or allows them to run away from Him. Those who turn away from God will work in their own effort and accomplish only what lasts a short, unfulfilling time. Those who turn toward God, acknowledge their inability to accomplish anything without God’s direct intervention. Physical death becomes the great equalizer among all people. Either there is a truthful and honest admission of separation from God because of sin or there is an attitude of not needing God, which is rebellion.

Thorns and Thistles

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

Because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had said he was to not eat from, sustaining his life and the lives of his family by growing food would now become difficult and even painful. God cursed the ground, not Adam. This is a serious consequence for everyone who comes after Adam.

God had already told the man the ultimate consequence of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree would be death. Not just physical death but spiritual separation from that which sustains life. The man would be separated from God. When God cursed the ground His declaration was on top of the absolute justified sentence of death and separation. Yet, by not cursing the man, and all men, God leaves open a way for reconciliation, just as He did with the woman’s sentence. The consequence of her rebellion was pain in childbirth, with sorrow in raising children, with the knowledge that a child would come who would crush the head of the serpent. God, while holding them accountable for their rebellion, takes upon Himself the ultimate consequences of their actions.

When Adam prepares the ground to plant, then plants the seed so a crop will grow, thorns and thistles, weeds, will also grow. A weed is a plant growing where it is not supposed to grow. If Adam plants wheat and flowers grow among the crop, the flowers are weeds, taking up soil and nutrients meant for food. God says that “thorns and thistles” will grow where Adam wants food to grow. There will always be weeds, making Adam’s job more difficult. He will have to constantly pull the weeds so his crop will continue to grow.

Thorns and thistles are a constant reminder of the rebellion of Adam and the presence of sin. Adam will wage a constant war against sin as he works to sustain his life. So, too, all who follow, as they work will have to wage a uncompromising war against sin, while sin is waging an unrelenting war against them. The weeds want to take over the crops just as sin controls every thought, motive, action and consequence and wants to take over the life.

Work, to keep the thorns and thistles at bay, becomes hard. Adam will sweat as he works to get food for himself and his family. Perspiration is not evil. Avoiding perspiration by avoiding work, is rebellion. Is it not the intent of everyone who works to come to a time in life where they no longer have to put an abundance of effort into sustaining life? Those who do not have the discipline of work will not have the discipline to wage war against the sin which continually assaults.