Christmas, a time to tell THE story

It’s 10 days before Christmas and I just got a strange feeling in my stomach.  I have been so excited about celebrating Christmas that I have not be strategic in telling people about the WHY of Christmas.

So, I’m being VERY strategic in the days ahead.

Many of my friends on Facebook and around me in West Michigan ARE Christians — they have a profound relationship with Christ. However, a few of my friends don’t really KNOW the meaning of Christmas and why it means so much to us as Christians. So, I’m starting to tell them.

It’s amazing the media that’s out there to help tell the story. I just ran across a cool video from Ron Hutchcraft. So, I posted that on my wall. Do a search for Ron Hutchcraft on Facebook if you’d like to post the video on your Facebook wall.

Without the most important story — the story of God becoming man — a perfect man to be with us on earth — he wouldn’t have become our sacrifice on the cross.  That’s truly Amazing Grace.


Knee Surgery 2 – Learning more

It’s been four days since my latest surgery to remove a rather large piece of cartilage from my left knee. You may have read that I had knee surgery on my right knee in March. So, this has been a few months of painful knees. I hurt my knee February 26. So, I’ve been dealing with some kind of knee pain for three months. Pain is good, however. If you think about it, when were some of the greatest moments of spiritual growth in your life?

For me, spiritual growth came during incredible times of pain. They may not have been physical pains, but they could be spiritual pains.  Mental pains that are brought on by situations in our lives. Perhaps they’re circumstances brought on through our family situations. All of these things have helped form the person I am spiritually.

This latest knee issue has actually been kinda interesting. Many friends have asked, “How can you do this again? What next?  Aren’t you frustrated? Are you depressed? Are you asking God why?

The interesting thing is, I feel incredibly blessed. If you believe God is sovereign (which I do), He allows these trials in our lives. It’s in His plan. If He thinks it’s important enough for me to go through these ‘trials’, shouldn’t I look for Him through them?  It’s interesting, though. I don’t look at this as a trial. I seems more a like a time out. You know, something you do in the middle of a big basketball game. Things are going great, you’re winning, time is running out — but the coach wants to make sure everyone’s on the same page. So, he calls a time out and talks it over. That’s how I view this. God wants me to take a moment, listen to Him and get ready to finish the task ahead.

I have a funny feeling that there could be a lot of ‘time outs’ because I have so much to learn.

The verses that keeps coming to mind are 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 which says:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

It’s strange talking about my knee being ‘trouble’ because it isn’t something that was caused in persecution or attacks, but something God has been allowing me to go through.

So, what the ‘take away’ value from this?  I turn to James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials fo various kinds.”

Here is a recent video I made on Saturday. If you don’t like blood or swelling, don’t watch it.

Knee Surgery update – May 26, 2010

What a great day! This morning I went to my physical therapy for my right knee. I bent my knee to 131 degrees. Not much progress on the bending, but great progress on the strength. I was able to bike 2.2 miles in 10 minutes on the bike, I did 30 squats with no pain. I actually saw my quad flex and bulge (bulge is a relative term).

Then, I went to the hospital for my second knee surgery. This one was on my LEFT knee. I injured it in 1992 (yes, playing basketball). But, back in April I noticed, what appeared to me, a second (but much small) knee cap.  The doctor had thought it was a bone chip, which he thought had broken lose from a bone spur.

Well, that’s not what it was. Through an arthroscope, the doctor was able to go in and identify a very large piece of cartilage. He told my wife it was about the size of a golf ball. So, he removed it and we’re good to go.

In terms of recovery?  He said it’ll be about a month until my knee is ‘happy’ again. But, I’m supposed to bend it and do straight leg lifts and keep it iced for the short term.

When I arrived home I started icing it, propping in up on pillows and walking a little. It felt (feels) pretty good. But, I noticed some blood soaking through the ace wrap. So, I call the doctor and he told me to stop doing any bending and walking on it and just allow it to heal a little. Tomorrow should be better.

Here’s a video of my day.

At around 7:30 pm tonight I noticed a rather large blood spot on the ace bandage outside my knee. This really surprised me because with my open knee surgery, I didn’t have hardly ANY bleeding. So, I called the doctor’s after hours service. He called back and told me to put more packing around the knee to help stop the bleeding and keep ice on it. I’m doing that. We’ll see what happens.

I’ve taken a little video about my day today, but nothing graphic this time….unless you don’t like the sight of blood.

Keep praying for my recovery.

Knee Update – More surgery to come

It’s May 23, 2010 and it’s been more than two months since my right knee surgery. I’m coming right alone. I’m not limping much any more. I’m still in physical therapy. I’m bending my knee to about 130 degrees. I haven’t had to ice it in weeks. However, it does swell up a bit when I’m standing still. Not sure why. It doesn’t seem to bother me too much when I’m walking.

In mid April, I had another doctor appointment. At that time he told me I was progressing well. He gave me three or four more weeks of physical therapy to get it back to normal. However, we did discover something ELSE. But, this time in the other knee.

In the early 90’s I had a similar surgery on my left knee. It has served me well for almost 20 years. However, when I was playing football last fall my doctor thinks a bone spur broke loose (after being tackled) and with the extra stress I’ve put on my left leg because of my surgery, it’s making its way out of the knee joint and into the side of my knee. It hasn’t really bothered me until a couple weeks ago when I was mowing the lawn. That caused me to make another appointment, at which time the doctor said it was time to take it out.

So, this Wednesday, I’ll be heading into surgery for another knee surgery. However, this time it will be arthroscopic. The bone chip is about the size of a nickle, so it’s not really small. But, the doctor thinks there will be little recovery time. He thinks I’ll be pain free in about five weeks.  But, I’ll be putting weight and bending it right after surgery. So, it should be A LOT easier than the previous surgery.

As for the other knee, I’m doing great. I’ve been mowing the lawn, riding my motorcycle, jogging a little (very little), and it’s getting better every day.

So, I’ve got a little bit of an adventure ahead of me again. Pray that all will go well, and once again God will be glorified through it.

Disappointment, but progress made

April 1st is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s kind of MY official beginning of Spring. It’s also a day that’s full of practical jokes, which is quite fun. This year I wasn’t able to do any practice jokes because of my knee surgery. However, I was able to accomplish a couple of things today.

Today also marked my second post-op doctor appointment. Today I was hoping to get word that I could start physical therapy on my reconstructed knee. However, the appointment didn’t go completely as planned.

Since I still can’t drive, my wife took me to my appointment. We were on time.  But, the doctor office WASN’T on time. That’s a great way to get me irritated. We sat for nearly 30 minutes waiting to get in to see the doctor. With no where to put my leg up, it was very uncomfortable.

However, I finally made it back to see the doctor. First, they removed my brace. Then, the staples that have been in my knee since March 17. Then the doctor came in and gave me the news. He told me the healing is looking pretty good, “But, let’s go another 10 days. You can start putting a little bit of weight on your leg. Don’t throw away the crutches yet, but start putting weight on it. And, by the time I see you in 10 days, hopefully you’ll be able to put all your weight on it.”

I asked, “Can I start doing leg lifts?”  Doctor Dean said, “No, not yet. That’ll put too much pressure on the repair. Just start putting a little weight on it. Don’t bend it yet. And, we’ll get you into physical therapy after that.”

That’s NOT what I was hoping for. I was really hoping I would be able to start therapy. I actually teared up a bit. I was so ready to start working hard a my recovery. Now, I just have to do more waiting.

Then, I thought to myself — “Self, why don’t you just start working hard to putting weight on your leg. Work hard at that and NOT over do it.” That was all I needed to get me motivated and out of the dumps.

I’ve found this whole process has been a roller coaster of emotions. When I first started out, I was bound and determined that I was NOT going to feel sorry for myself. When I did, I was going to focus on others who were worse off than me. I was going begin reading the Bible and try to make it all the way through the Bible in a month. I was also going to be encouraging to as many believers I met on Facebook or other social media websites. You would think those would be easy goals, right?  Well, I haven’t been very successful.

In the first three or four days of my recovery,  I read all the way through Numbers. But, for whatever reason, I just STOPPED. Every time I started feeling pain, or emotionally uneasy, I would start praying for friends who were worse off than me, or Christians who were facing incredible amounts of abuse because of their faith in Christ. But, when I started thinking about WORK and politics — I just stopped. I feel like such a failure.

Then someone pointed out to me, “Greg, God gave you a great gift. He gave you the desire to seek after Him. You had four successful days. Four days you hadn’t sought after Him before. Now, you just need to start over.”  He’s right. I never thought of it that way.

So, what does all this mean? It means I’m two weeks into my recovery. It sounds like the doctor believes it’s going to be at least another six weeks until I’m not feeling much discomfort. I have four days of searching after Christ, under my belt.  So, that mean I’m WAY ahead of where I was.

If you want to see what went on at the doctor’s office, watch this YouTube video below.

Knee Surgery Recovery – March 24, 2010

It’s nearing the end of the day today and I thought I would post. Not much new has happened. I do have a little more pain today. But, I’m trying to keep in under control with meds. Yesterday, I was trying to ween myself off of them, but the reality is — I still need them. I shouldn’t have tried to do that. That’s probably why I had such a difficult day.

I took my first shower today. THAT was an event. Because I can’t keep my leg straight without a brace and the fact that I’m not supposed to put weight on it — getting into the shower is a difficult task. You should try it. Try getting ready for a shower without bending your leg. Try stepping into a shower stall without bending your leg, or putting weight on one of your leg. The only way to do it is with crutches. When the bottoms get wet, on a laminate floor can be catastrophic. Once I got in, I was okay. But, when I tried getting out I was scared. I thought, “one wrong move and I”m back in the hospital.” I got more nervous and more nervous — then the knee/foot pain started getting worse. I was in trouble. Then I took the hop over the shower stall edge. Good foot on dry floor — bad foot in the shower stall. Since I can’t do a straight leg lift, can’t bend my knee and can’t put weight on it — I was stuck. What did I do? I eased my bad foot to the edge of the shower stall, ever so slowly easing my heel the 8 inches to the floor of the bathroom — whew — I was safe.

I’m not taking another shower any time soon. That was frightening. I think next time, a bath is for me. I can do that sitting down with my foot up. I just have to get upstairs to do that.

The shower was the most eventful event today. I did get  a couple of visitors. Steve Raemisch and Brian Felten brought me lunch. After that — nothing.

My day consists of waking up on the couch. Getting up and get ready for the day. Go back to the couch. Make coffee on the way to the couch. Fire up the laptop computer. Get up, get coffee — which is hard with crutches. Then back to the couch. Then lunch — on the couch. Then, more couch. Couch, couch, couch and more couch.

But, the great news is I HAVE A COUCH that I can be comfortable in. In Haiti, those who are injured are living on the streets. Those who have more serious injuries than me are struggling just to find shelter. I have a house. I’m truly blessed to have what I have. Pain or no pain, I’m truly blessed beyond anything I can imagine.

Keep praying for me. I wish I was stronger. I wish I was more of an example. I’m just doing what God allows me to do — were it not for grace.

Greg’s Knee Recovery – Part 1

While I have been home for about four days now, the recovery is just now getting under way. The first doctor’s appointment following the surgery always seems to kick that off. In my mind, it’s now in full swing, even though I can’t do anything to start rehabilitating my knee. The first step is always letting it heal.  So, that’s what I’m doing.

Today, was my first appointment following surgery. The doctor says my knee looks good. There is a little swelling, which should be expected following surgery. However, I’m being told not to put any weight on my right leg. The doctor also told me NOT to do any straight leg lifts. This will be very difficult. My leg is already atrophied. The quadriceps muscle and specifically the vastus medialis is really bad. It’s amazing how fast the muscle has atrophied. It’s hard not to want to start working on it.

During this short time, however, I’ve been amazed at the encouragement I’ve received from friends and just acquaintances. Some have shared the soul with me — telling me about their pains. Others have provided encouragement to me personally. This has been amazing.

When I first got hurt I was feeling sorry for myself. I was coming up with all kinds of  “if I only” to lament the injury. I was constantly thinking about all the things I would miss out on — basketball, motorcycle riding, running, walking, etc. However, now I’m looking at it more as an adventure and opportunity, rather than a hindrance.

While I’m not enjoying the pain and frustration of having to sit still, I am trying to look inward and see what God has in store for me. As he reveals Himself in my life, I promise I will share those details with you as they happen.

In the meantime, here’s the most recent video I made of my last few days of recovery.

Knee Surgery – Post Op

Day two brought me home. It’s what I wanted. However, I wanted that to be a pain free experience. It wasn’t. The pain block gave me incredible relief. However, I had now idea how much pain it was blocking. The nurses told me the pain block typically lasted 12 hours. By 2:00pm Thursday, March 18 I was WELL past the 12 hours and my knee didn’t hurt that much. My mind was telling me, “This isn’t so bad.”  While at the same time it was saying, “If it hurt so bad just out of surgery, why doesn’t it hurt that bad now?”

In just a few hours my mind lost the battle with pain. I started home at about 6pm. By the time I got home the block was just about done doing its work because when I arrived home I couldn’t find a comfortable sitting position and the pain was POUNDING. I couldn’t situate my knee into any position that would give me relief. The enemy — the thing I had been fearing — was now alive and well.

I kept remembering, “Are you feeling sorry for yourself? Are you allowing God to work in your pain?” Then, I knew Satan had won and I had lost. So, at 1:45 in the morning, March 19 I wrote the following email to everybody I could think of to write to:

“Dear Friends:

A few of you may know that I injured myself playing basketball on February 26th. I love the game, actually. I’ve been playing three times a week for years. Yes, even at my age. It’s something that’s help me keep the weight under control and help keeps me healthy. On Wednesday, I went in for surgery to have my knee repaired. The last 36 hours have been interesting.

My knee surgery went well. My doctor did a patellofemoral ligament repair. Basically, he repaired the ligament that kept making my knee cap go out of place, and performed a technique called a lateral release. Immediately after surgery I had incredible pain. It was off the chart painful. So, the doctor gave me a ‘block’ which basically numbed my whole knee. It was amazing how comfortable it made me.

The doctor kept me in the hospital to help manage my pain that was supposed to hit as the block wore off. For 26 hours I couldn’t feel my knee, which was a blessing. On the way home from the hospital, however, the pain block gradually stopped working. Now, I’m home. Flat on my back and the pain is really intense. I am on pain medication. But, it’s not doing much to help give me relief.

However, as I write this I know there are many of you who are going through something so much worse. You’d gladly trade places with me. Perhaps you’re struggling with cancer, or you’re facing another health issue where time is your enemy. When I think about that, my request for prayer seems so selfish. So, while I’d love for you to pray that the pain would go away, could you do something else? Please pray that God would use this time of pain in my life to teach me something and that He would position me in such a way that I can’t help but understand Him a little better so I can serve Him even more. Yes, my knee hurts — but as we all know good things come from our hurts.

I Love you all and thanks for your prayers and support.”

The response I received from that email was almost immediate. First, as I turned off my computer hoping to sleep, my knee pain almost immediately eased to where my body could sleep. Then as I checked my email that morning it was amazing. Here are some excerpts.:

“I’m Yvon, a 41 yrs old french pastor based in the North-Eastern France.  I 10 yrs ago I broke my hip. (I fell down from a 4 meters high ceiling). They screwed my hips, but my dislocated right leg needed an extension and to be stretched during 45 days. I was flat on my back for 2 months… asking God : Why ? It eventually shew me the Love in each christian coming to visit me. How I consider now the grâce of God, showing me how it was important to stop my activity and find the essential : GOD INSIDE PEOPLE, and GOD INSIDE ME. It was really an opportunity for me to find the relief of God and hear his voice thru his word. After 2 months, my surgeon told me, he was not sure about my ability to walk and to carry things. My pastor often praid for me, as my wife and my kids. 1 Months later I had physiotherapy, difficult thing but God was with me. In 1 month I could walk, run, carry my 3 kids. The Lord is our uphold. Let me share these verses that empowered me during the period of my recovery : 2 Cor. 4 : 17-18”

“The Lord has already heard your humble prayer and I’m sure the prayers of many who have received this email.  Perhaps this special teaching from the Lord is already complete; you now have just a touch of the extreme pain the people of this world are experiencing.  May the pain be completely lifted so your mind remains clear to continue sharing His truth through your writing.  May your passion be even greater and may the Lord be given glory through all of our trials.  May His mercy be upon you even this morning.”

There are many others I may share later, but what a blessing it was to see the dozens of people who prayed and even responded to this request. I can only imagine how many people respond to the needs of our broadcast.

Day three at home was a bit easier. I woke up after a few hours of sleep and felt refreshed. I had to go to the doctor for blood work. Then, I came home and managed pain the rest of the day. However, it wasn’t too bad.

There was another bright spot, too. Our little neighbor girl, Ema, came by the house. She’s six and just learning to read. She decided to come over and  read to me, to keep me company. What a joy it was to see her little heart just giving and giving. What six year old would be courageous enough to knock on an old dude’s door and ask if she could read to me to keep me company. I sense God’s going to use this girl for something really cool.


Knee Surgery – Day One

It’s amazing how God uses people in your life to reveal the reality of your spiritual walk with Him and the need to tackled the ‘issues’ head-on. That’s exactly what happen Sunday. Went to morning worship and then to Bible study hour and that’s where it hit me.

Our Bible study hour teacher in Steve Raemisch. We were talking about the troubles we go through in living for Christ. We went through many verses, including verses in Job. However, this is what hit me between the eyes. Steve was telling us a story about a well known Bible teacher going to visit a young girl who had cancer. He asked how he could pray for her and she said, “Pray that I won’t waste my suffering.”

That scored a direct hit on my walk. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want the surgery. Why did I have to play basketball that night?  Why couldn’t the knee just heal on its own? Why do I have to give up all my Spring and Summer in rehab? What’s the plan?  Will I have ‘issues’?  Will I make it through the pain?

All those questions went away when I heard those words repeated by that young lady. Now, it’s my prayer. Did it take the fear away? Did it ease the stress?  NO!  But, it’s made it better.

I got to the hospital at about 11:30am. I was greeted by our associate pastor and dear friend, Steve Raemisch. I hooped into registration. Steve followed my wife Ann and me. He came into the surgical prep room. He read Psalm 16 to us and it really hit home.  Psalm 16:11 is great. “you make know to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

That where we need to be!

My Dad came all the way over to the hospital from the east side of the state (three hour drive) to be with me. My mom wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t be here.

While I was praying for healing BEFORE the surgery, God has made the provision of a good surgeon. Dr. Dean did a couple of procedures. He ‘tighten up’ the muscle that attaches to the patella and performed a lateral release, which will free up the tension on the right side of my right knee and keep the patella (knee cap) in place.

Greg in Hospital

Greg in Hospital

The 45 minute surgery went well. There were no surprises. But, the surprise was the pain when I woke up.  I have never had so much pain. They gave me my first does of pain killer. That didn’t do anything. Then, they had to put in a block. From that point to the time of this writing, I haven’t felt pain even close to that.

I had several visitors. Dear friends Brian and Sharon Felten and Joel Hill. We spent some great time together. My wife, Ann, has been by my side and I love her for that.

I got caught up on my email and facebook page.

My nurses have been great. Joyce and Lisa were the first to serve me. They have been wonderful. They’re both believers and it’s been fun to have that kindred spirits.

I tried going to bed around midnight, but I couldn’t sleep. I think I only got a total of three hours of sleep. So, it’s going to be a tough day to stay focused and happy.

I’ll be getting out of bed for the first time today when Physical Therapy gets here. And, I’m hoping to hear the words, “You may go home” when the doctor arrives. Not sure when that will be. I’m guessing it’ll be around noon or shortly after.

Knee Injury, It’s all in the plan

On February 26, 2010 I was injured playing basketball. I know what you’re going to say, “Aren’t you a little old to be playing basketball?” I’ve heard it. Actually, I’m sick of hearing it. But, I’m sure I’ll hear it again.

The fact is, I’ve been playing basketball three times a week for the last three or four years. I played at least once a week during the school year with friends at a local middle school. I enjoyed playing. No, I’m not really that good. I did it for a couple of reasons — stress relief, cardio and competition. It’s been good for me.

Well, February 26 my basketball days took a blow. I was playing ball with men at my church during men’s retreat. I turned to go one direction, but my knee didn’t follow. My knee cap slipped to the outside of my leg. I fell in pain. I tried straightening out my leg to get my knee cap back in, but I had to push it back in. It was so painful.

I iced it down that night and the next morning I went to the hospital to make sure it was back in place. At the hospital they told me my knee cap was fracture and told me to find an orthopedic surgeon.

Monday, March 1 I went to Doctor Michael Dean at Shoreline Orthopaedics. Dr. Dean didn’t think I did any major damage to my ACL or MCL, but scheduled me for an MRI on Tuesday evening anyway and rescheduled for an appointment for Thrusday, March 4.

At that appointment, Dr. Dean told me that there wasn’t any major damage, but my knee cap wasn’t tracking right. He says I have a genetically deficient knee joint which will require surgery to keep my knee cap in place.

So, I’m scheduled for surgery on Wednesday, March 17. I will be blogging about my surgery and recovery. I hope I’ll do more than talk about the pain and recovery. I hope I’ll be able to also post some things that God is doing in my life.

While I know God is doing this for a reason, I’m still frustrated. It’s getting close to motorcycle season, soccer season (I coach that) and just fun outdoor stuff.

The doctor says I’ll be in a knee immobilizer for two weeks, six to eight weeks before I’m pain free and about a year until my knee is somewhat back to normal.

Lots of stuff to think about.