Archive for March, 2020

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench

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“Answer me when I call you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”  Psalm 4:1  I would be remiss if I did not highlight important people in the midst of my struggle. God showed me mercy, grace, kindness, and unconditional love through precious saints every step of my journey through the shadow lands. Nobody fought harder for my well-being than Lynn, my wife. An income disappeared, an effectual parent disappeared. The stress on caregivers wounds every bit as deep as the afflictions of the sick. Many spouses walk away. My wife hitched her pants and said, “Let’s go.” My friend, Dave, never let a day pass without words of encouragement. He drew me into his world. We did water aerobics together at the YMCA. I joined a wood carving club with him. We went four wheeling up north and most important to me, we talked over coffee virtually every day. My pastors looked out for me, so did my men from Bible Study. Numbers of times, men and women brought me home from events when I struggled. Lynn picked the car up later. Bottom line, I walked in the strength of others. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9,10

Two days into Lynn’s symposium at Harvard University, she called me. “Phil, I’m catching a train out of Boston and am headed to Providence to meet a doctor. I’ll call you when I’m done.” The previous night , Lynn had dinner with her professor friend and her husband. The conversation led to my health. Mr. Hudson said, “Tell me everything.” The rest of the night centered on my story. Unbeknownst to Lynn, Dr. Hudson was a premier neuroscientist. Symptoms, treatments: the doctor absorbed the entire narrative. In the end, Dr. Hudson said, “I think I know the man who can help your husband. I attended a global conference in Tehran, Iran, last week. A doctor presented a case study very similar to your husband’s. He lives in Rhode Island. Would you like to talk to him?” Lynn responded, “Absolutely.”  Twelve hours later, Lynn was on her way to meet a man, a self described short bald middle aged man driving a BMW. God certainly has a sense of humor.

Dr. Pedro met Lynn at the station. He was leaving for Lisbon, Portugal, the next day to deliver another presentation. He said, “I need to practice my speech. Let’s kill two birds with one stone. Critique my speech and then we’ll discuss your husband.” Hours later, Dr Pedro said to Lynn, “Fly him out in two weeks. I need two hours to examine him. At that point, I will know if I can help your husband.” Lynn called me from the train headed back to Boston. “Phil, this is a God thing. The one man in the entire world that can possibly address your problem, I just met him.” My mind raced. I honestly didn’t think a cure existed. I assumed any healing would have to be divine, a creative miracle. But here was a chance, a possibility. I quickly checked myself. Six and a half years has a way of jading a chronically ill patient, at least this one. ‘God, my faith is weak, but this sure has the fingerprints of the divine all over these convoluted circumstances. Lord, help my unbelief. I’m stepping out of the boat. I’m all in.”

‘I have learned the secret of being content in any situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:12,13  My happiness in no way depended on healing. “Why me Lord?” left my head years before this moment. The Holy Spirit brought me to a place where I celebrated life regardless of my health, regardless of the opinions of others. I knew each day I belonged to God. I prayed, I read, I testified to the goodness of God. Nothing else mattered. Everything followed from my trust in the Great God, Infinite Goodness. I wasn’t interested in dying, but I wasn’t afraid of dying either. Even now, Psalm 100 rings in my mind, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” In the end, Christ is all that matters.



man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench

Photo by Inzmam Khan on

Rochester, Minnesota, home of Mayo Clinic: I arrived, finally. I needed help, a different approach. The years of prescription drugs drove me mad. The neurologists in Wisconsin conducted more sleep studies and found that the drug plan offered no relief to my sleep deprivation. They switched me to a drug called sodium oxibate twice a night, the infamous date rape drug in a salt solution. Every month, a 900 dollar bottle came to my door. Each night passed the same way, I remembered nothing. I faded out and faded in, but I remained exhausted. The sleep study at Mayo confirmed suspicions. The drug anesthetized me, had an amnesia effect, but it did not put my brain to sleep. I barely drifted into twilight sleep. The team of doctors were stunned at the record of drugs I ingested for years under the care of neurologists. “Do you want to stop the drug treatments?” I answered, “Please. The cure is worse than the curse.” From that moment on, I went off of drugs including the antidepressants.

I no longer dealt with seizures, I experienced no psychotic breaks, no more panic attacks. I always dealt with headaches, they were my new normal. Now the headaches intensified. Months passed, the exhaustion slowed me, the naps increased along with heart palpitations. It took great effort to cook a meal. I felt like a wind-up watch that had turned all but the last cogs of the stem. I sensed I was dying. Christmas of 2011 brought the kids home. During the holidays I told my family, “I don’t think I’m going to live much longer. My body is shutting down.” I didn’t realize I just ruined Christmas. I thought I was gently warning them, preparing them for my passing. Oh well, I’m still here.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”  Psalm 40:1-3  I never feared death. Six and a half years refined a divided heart, a heart that lusted after life rather than a full devotion to a divinely purposed life. My battered health drove me to God. The “why me Lord” flamed out years before. I clung to hope in God to remain relevant to a world I struggled to engage. Three fundamental statements revealed themselves in the crucible of hardship. One, as long as I have breath, I have purpose. Two, my God majors in the reweaving of lives. And three, no matter how I am compromised in the eyes of man, I am never compromised in the eyes of God. My confession came from the lyrics of a Ray Hildebrand song, “Whether I live or die, my only cry will be, Jesus in me, praise the Lord.”  I was ready to go home, but was God done with me yet on earth?

My wife packed for meetings at Harvard University, an exciting opportunity to commiserate with like minds. A Harvard professor insisted Lynn stay with her family on the coast. Who could turn that down? I kissed her and watched the car roll out of the driveway and disappear down the street. I had no idea what was about to happen. Her business trip was would change my life for the better. God has his special way of doing the miraculous and I was about to experience his favor. I went back into the house, turned the fireplace on, sat down and drifted into twilight sleep.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”  Ephesians 3:17-21