Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Final Post

James Michael Bond
December 17, 1962 - November 25, 2008
...absent from the body, and present with the Lord
(2 Corinthians 5:8)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Random Acts of a Family's Love

This is a blog entry to share a testimony of what I have observed in our home this past month.  I have watched an incredible love shared by a couple who are traveling  through life together and aiming to glorify God during their journey.  I have witnessed tenderness, compassion and an unconditional love from a wife caring for her husband in his final days.  I have also seen great concern from a husband for his wife when she is left behind.  He knows that God will take care of her and his children but he has been thorough in trying to help them with future decisions.  He has even helped with Christmas plans for his family.   I am sure he has spent many hours praying for each of them.  

There is much care to be done for a person who is confined to bed.   His wife  is a self sacrificing servant and helpmate.  She is an incredible inspiration to me.  I know there are many people praying for her because she has had a supernatural energy to care for her husband at this time.  She hasn't slept through the night in weeks (maybe months).  She is diligent in giving medications (even shots - I call her Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy) around the clock to help alleviate Jim's pain and caring for his physical needs.  She holds his hands often and prays aloud for him.  She has taken her wedding vows seriously for twenty-one years,  "...to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others till death do us part."   They have been at our house for 25 days, and she has not left our house to go anywhere (except the front porch and back porch).  She is the most diligent caregiver I have ever watched.  She has been at his bedside caring for him and loving him every moment of every day.  She often crawls into his hospital bed and lays beside him just to feel his closeness.  She treasures each day.  "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."  Genesis 2:24 

My friend and her 18 year old son have been an incredible team and work very well together.   Their son put his dream at West Point on hold to come home to serve and help care for his dad.  This is something he didn't even question doing.  I picked him up at West Point November 1st and he has been here since.  His dad has been an exemplary role model, and they share an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ. There is no greater legacy to leave behind!  It has been a blessing to hear him and his dad play songs together on their guitars. They share a passion for singing songs to their Savior.  It sounded like heaven on earth as they strummed together.  They play well together.  Another blessing for our family to witness!  He has an incredible respect and love for his dad.  When I had an opportunity to tell Jim that he did a fine job raising this young man, he just smiled and said "James".  It was a very sweet moment.  He is very proud of him.

I have been grateful for their sons computer skills on more than one occasion.  He has beenextremely helpful and willing to explain things to me.  He has been staying in shape for the rigorous exercise at West Point by working out at a local gym, chopping and hauling firewood for us, helping out at basketball practice, running errands (we always need a gallon of milk) and running after a 3 year old and 5 year old.  Our 11 year old son shared with his physician that he was so happy to have an 18 year old  (like a big brother) in the house that played and joked around with him.  It is a joy to have him in our house. I even enjoyed our trip to the eye doctor today.  His favorite quote is "What's today?  Today's Monday and that means absolutely nothing!"  I'm sure our days are not as structured as life at West Point.

Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.  I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.  For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.  Then he taught me, and he said to me, Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.  Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.  Proverbs 4: 1-5 (NIV)

I have watched a very tenderhearted 14 year old daughter hold her dad's hands and her eyes sparkle when her dad was able to acknowledge her in some way.  She is very helpful in our home and always offering to do dishes, do homework with the younger ones in our home, set the table, make lunches for six school children, etc.  We have shared tears, concerns, questions, and wonderful memories about her dad.  She is a pleasure to be around, and her Christian testimony is strong.  She starts the day and ends the day with, "I Love You Daddy".  I am sure that is music to Jim's ears.

Jim has a special place in his heart for his young daughter.  When he found out that his cancer was terminal, he felt the urgency to get to the jewelry store to get her a purity ring.  It is beautiful (two hearts that are connected and have rubies inside the hearts).  This was a priority since he would be unable to be here for her 16th  birthday.  He is very thoughtful!!  It will be a special gift from her dad forever.  He adores his "Little girl" who is becoming a beautiful young lady!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Psalm 127:3
And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Our family has enjoyed listening to the prayers of their 5 year old son.  At each meal he prays for his dad's leg to be healed.  He has a childlike faith and is very excited his dad is going to be with Jesus soon.  I'm not sure he understands fully what that means, but I do know his faith is a trusting faith.  He will know, hear, and read of his father's love for and relationship with Jesus Christ.  His prayers will soon be answered with his dad receiving a glorified body.  Jesus said,"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."  Matthew 18:3  

Excerpts from my journal from life at our house this month:

Fri.  10-31-08   Jim is very grateful for welcoming his family into our home.  It is uncomfortable to be thanked.  This is serving our Lord and Savior in the most intimate of ways. What a privilege and honor! 
Sat. 11-6-08  3:11am  Jim is in an incredible amount of pain.   Please help his wife and son to be strong and not weary.  Jim has said he wants to see Jesus yet he will miss his family terribly.  He is a man of incredible virtue, love and compassion. Lord,  I understand your timing is perfect and I will trust in that.
Sun. 11-6-08   Jim's wife and I talked about God's amazing and perfect plan. God knows they are planners.  Jim and his family have been able to plan Jim's departure from earth and entrance into the glories of heaven!  That has been a gift!  
Sat.  11-22-08  Jim is funny today.  He kept winking at his wife and smiling at her.  He is at ease in her presence.  Their love is particularly tender and sweet.  It is a treasure to watch!

There have been many tears shed, hugs shared, and much laughter during this time.   All have been treasured moments that can't be described in words.  We have had some wonderful memories together (all 12 of us).  Some of them are:  exercising, roasting marshmallows, watching movies, singing praise songs, praying aloud, folding laundry (for the 100th time), building forts, trying to figure out algebraic equations, stamping cards, a trip to the Barber's shop for all the boys, cutting and stacking wood, organizing cabinets, target practice, mud fights, a grapefruit toss, eating, eating and more eating!  These are just a few that come to mind.   

Jim's wife and I were able to sing "This Is The Day" at Jim's bedside today.  The song included the lyrics...This is the day that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it, and be glad in it and we will enter his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, we will enter his courts with praise, ...   I have observed a family truly rejoicing at the celebration of a father and husband's life.  

Jim recently told a couple, when they came to visit him, to cherish each other and to love their family with all their hearts.  Time is short for all of us...  Forgive one another and love one another!  Today two more people received a blog card with Jim's website!  He is unable to communicate verbally right now, yet his life is still impacting other's for God's Glory!  AMEN!!!

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope."  Romans 5:3-5

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Wife's Perspective

Many people have been asking how my husband is doing and some are keeping up with our daughter's blog to find out that information. What she writes concerning her father is the information that I tell her she may share. I will not go into any details, but my husband's earthly body decays more each day. I did ask my husband yesterday if he was able to pray when he lies in the bed mostly unresponsive and he nodded his head. It is a comfort to me that he is still in communion with his heavenly Father even when My husband is unable to converse with us."Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day," (II Corinthians 4:16 NKJV).

I am grateful to our older son who helps me care for my husband every day. He had been wondering when the time would be for him to come home from West Point and would constantly say to me, "Mom, I NEED to know when to come home to be with Dad." He wanted me to ask the doctor when the time would be, and I would "quiz" the hospice nurse each visit to know if THIS would be the weekend our son should not return to the Academy on Sunday. No one could tell the appropriate time and it would have been hard to ask him to leave the Academy not knowing how long he would have to be home. We were not glad about the turn of events with my husband breaking his femur on October 26th, however, it was then that we knew that it was time for our son to return home. God is sovereign in ALL things. (The Academy has been great in continuing to show their support for our son during this time.)

As our daughter said, he has been on oxygen. It has been over a week for that measure and it is just to make him comfortable. As of yesterday, he is restless and often takes it off, but accepts me putting it back in place. He doesn't always respond to a question, but is always listening. He ALWAYS acknowledges me with a smile, a wink, or an eyebrow-raise when I tell him that I love him. He is still able to communitcate how much he loves me! He reaches often for a hand to hold if a person is close by his bed and waves most times when someone new enters the room.

This morning, he did ask if we were packed and said he needed clothes and was ready to go home. I am assuming he meant his heavenly home that awaits him. I read to him from a Billy Graham devotional book given to me by a friend earlier this fall. Actually, today was the last entry in the book. It was titled, "With God Forever!" The scriptures mentioned in the devotion were: II Corinthians 5:1; Luke 10:20; II Corinthians 5:8; I Thessaloninas 4:17; and Revelation 21: 3-4. How comforting to both of us to know that when we die we will be with God forever!

He is restless and his breathing is much different that ever before. Although he drinks between two to six ounces of liquid a day, he has not eaten now in 12 days. Actually, he has displayed all of the signs that have been spelled out for me in the handout from hospice entitled, "Signs and Symptoms of Approaching Death".

I am not a writer, other than my own personal journal, but I felt this morning that I should post an entry on the blog. Many have been saying that they miss my husband's writing. I too miss it and the way his teaching challenges me personally. He has not only been my best friend and husband for 21 years, he has been the spritual leader of our family for over 15 years, and my pastor for over seven years. Our older son asks me what will I do with my time once my husband is gone. I will be grateful for the time to compile his sermons that I have access to; the emails sent by colleagues, friends, students, and former students; and to create a scrapbook of photos. All these will be part of my process of grieving and of healing. They will also be wonderful gifts for our three children to have to remember their Dad, and to know who he was and the impact the Lord allowed him to make. These will be instrumental in helping our five-year-old son to really KNOW who his Dad was. I remarked to my friend we're living with that my husband used to pray for at least 50 people at the church that we helped plant. (God is continuing to bless that church under a new pastor.) God had such other plans for my husband and gave him a pulpit on line with WAY more than 50 lives to reach for the gospel of Christ. (As of November 19th, there have been 27,911 people who visited the blog!) MAY GOD BE GLORIFIED!

We are overwhelmed by the provision of meals, transportation, boxed food and supplies, baked goods, monetary support for our two families during this time while we are here with our good friends. The phone calls, emails, cards, and other correspondence continue to encourage us. I do read to my husband, although at this point he has a very short attention span and memory. I was speaking with a friend from Georgia today about having difficulty being able to focus in prayer at this particular time of my life and she referred to all those that are lifting me and our family(ies) up to the throne for us. For that I am most grateful. That is a precious gift, to pray for God to uphold someone undergoing a trial when that particular person is in the "trenches".

Thank you all for your continued prayers! God has been and continues to be so faithful to us! Throughout each day He reveal so much to us, whether it is revolving around the strength necessary for caregiving, guidance in becoming a single parent (since my husband is unable to help me in decision-making, disciplining, etc...), or the promise of the eternal life that awaits my husband in the near future. This will be my only post, however, my husband has prepared a final post to be displayed at the appropriate time. Please pray for my husband to slip peacefully into eternity with his Savior.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Blog from Winston

Hi, Friends!
This is another message from Winston.
Until another post is up, to learn about how jmichael is doing, you can look at his daughter's blog, which is www.sunshineforhim.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Message from Winston

My name is Winston. Occasionally, I paw (step) in for j michael on the blog when he is unable to do so.

Lately, he has been unable to compose any blog entries, and I am hoping to get my fifteen minutes of fame.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Challenge

This entry is pointed to a very select group of people (actually two groups), but has been on my heart for some time now.

First, to those of you in our local churches that have an opportunity to influence the twenty-somethings, the college-age people:

1. What are you doing to encourage these young adults that are our future church leaders: Sunday School teachers, deacons, Bible study teachers, small group leaders, asssistant pastors, missionaries, etc. ?

2. Is there a particular ministry in which you are presently involved where you can bring a young person alongside you and train them? Perhaps as a teaching assistant in a Sunday School class. Or can you encourage a young person to get involved in the homeless ministry? Or a missions project? Or a music ministry? Or can you identify and encourage a young man to pursue a pastoral ministry? THERE IS NO REASON FOR OUR CHURCH NOT TO IDENTIFY, ENCOURAGE, AND SUPPORT A YOUNG MAN IN PURSUING MINISTRY.

3. Is there a particular young person in the church for which God has given you a burden? Ae you willing to take on this young person in a mentoring relationship?

And now for the twenty-somethings:

1. What gifts, talents, resources, etc. has God given you t0 be used in ministry in the local church?

2. In what areas of ministry is God leading you to pursue? Do you have a particular passion for a certain ministry?

3. Is there a particular adult involved in a ministry that you would like to follow?

You are the future of our local church ministry. I want to encourage you to pray about your involvement in how God is leading you.

Fraternity Friends Finally Released from Photographic Captivity

More captured photographs were released this past week after intense negotiations with Canon rebels. On a Saturday afternoon in early October we had a surprise visit from two of my fraternity brothers from Dickinson College - Larry and Scott. They also brought along Scott's son Seth. In the photo below, Scott is kneeling so that Larry's height (or lack thereof) is not highlighted.

As we gather for dinner, Larry must be saying something worth listening to, judging by the expression on my face.

Again, although not seen in the picture, Larry must be saying something important enough to hold my attention as well as Scott's.

Larry appears in the photo, our attention still riveted on his every word.

It was a great visit. I had not seen Larry in about twelve years -we used to see him almost every year when we lived in Atlanta and he traveled there on business. We saw Scott at least once in Atlanta , when he visited for a wedding.

Anyway, it was nice to "catch up" with old friends. And I enjoyed getting to know Scott's son Seth a little bit. A fine young man can only be the result of fine, loving parents.

Woodall Visit

These photographs were taken when the Woodall Family visited us in early October. The images, since that time, have been trapped inside a rebel camera. Recently, they have been released from captivity and have been made available to the public.

Below, is one of the Woodall girls, smiling mischieviously, as she plays in our living room.

Here, Kristie Woodall holds their younger son, Wyatt. It was such a joy to have a toddler in our home for a week. Can you feel the love between this mother and her son?

Jamie and Kristie demonstrate their youthful playfulness. Their vitality filled our house for a week. As did their love for the Lord and their desire to share it with others. They were an incredible encouragement to us. We pray for God's blessing upon them as they serve Him as church planters in the upper regions of Michigan.

Our younger son and the Woodall's younger daughter stop playing for a moment to pose for a photograph.
God has blessed our family with many good friends. Friends who encourage us to live for Him. Friends who are not afraid to exhort us. Friends who are not afraid to tell us the truth in love. Friends who are truly friends because our friendship is grounded in our relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.

Pilgrim Day

Our daughter and younger son pose for Pilgrim Day. Our son is dressed as an American Indian, complete with face paint.

Here, my son is joined by the two younger McLaughlin girls. While our son's smile is still tentative, the girls' smiles show that they are eager to enjoy the day!

It is such a joy for me to to be able to experience each day through the eyes of my own children as well as those of the McL children. From morning good-byes, to afternoon hellos, to evening good-nights (and occasional family devotionals with the families combined), I have been blessed to be able to be part of two wonderful families.

Relating to Paul's Tension

It is about 9a as I open my Bible this morning and begin to allow the Spirit of God use the Word of God to direct my thinking for the day.

I have been thinking about what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-26.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit for my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Though I am no Paul, and my circumstances are somewhat different, I feel some of the tension that he must have felt - he longed to die and to see His Savior face-to-face. This is the "gain" he speaks of in dying. I know that if I die, I have the confidence that comes from being "in Christ" - having a genuine personal relationship with Him . . . Paul expresses this confidence in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8:

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith., not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Paul often refers to his life, the life of being a follower of Christ, as being "in Christ." He is in Christ and Christ in Him. As MacArthur says: "For Paul, life is summed up in Jesus Christ; Christ was his reason for being . . . Death would relieve him of earthly burdens and let him focus totally on glorifying God . . . Paul knew that if he died he would have complete, conscious, intimate, unhindered fellowship with his Lord."

Paul's tension was between his desire to be with the Lord and his desire to remain and help build the church. While I cannot even pretend to equate my ministry to Paul, I have a desire to remain and do all I can to encourage my good friends and brothers in Christ - couples such as the Woodalls and Wolfes (and others) - who are laboring daily to build up the saints and answering God's call to build His church. More so, I have a desire to be here for my family - to do more to help strengthen their faith, to teach them the things that I am learning, to encourage them to live whole-heartedly for Christ.

At the same time, I am confident that, when I am gone, all will go well without me. God's work will continue. My family will have the care and encouragement they need.

Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthian 5:9,

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

This is our motivation for making a prior determination to please the Lord. Each day that I wake up, I pray that the way I use my time, the way that I interact with those that God places into my life - family, friends, even strangers - is well pleasing to the Lord. And I pray that I leave behind a legacy that is well pleasing to the Lord as well. That, as Steve Green sings, all who come behind [me] find [me] faithful.

It is now a little after 1 p. My wife, older son and I have just experienced a very emotional time as my body is showing signs of weakening. The two of them have ministered to my needs lovingly and patiently, but I know that it is difficult for them to see me in such pain and discomfort. These times are also a reminder that they will soon have to deal with the reality of my passing - and that I will not be able to provide them with encouragement through it - but I remind them that the Lord Himself will be with them. He will walk with them through the process. And He has already provided friends and family for that support.

Chinese Food and Fellowship

Rod and Pastor Matt prepare to serve up our Chinese take-out food.

I am the recipient of the first plate of food,which includes General Tsao's chicken, shrimp lo mein, crab rangoon, shrimp fried rice, and an egg roll.

Rod and Pastor Matt are all smiles after dinner. Could it be the the great food, the Boston Cream Pie, the strong coffee, or the MSG? Or the great fellowship?

The ladies are also full of smiles. But a little more relaxed. Carol is happy that she is finally going to find a place on our bookcase.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Is a Good Day to Pursue Love

I am starting to limit my postings somewhat. We will see. This blog thing can be addicting, But time with my family is far more important - and far more addicting!

I had a visit from a hospice nurse and an aide the day before yesterday. I was cleaned up, bathed, shampooed, and pampered. It was almost like a morning at the spa. It is probably good that I have never experienced a day at a spa, so I have nothing really to compare it to - except my own imagination of what it would be like! I do imagine that a spa experience is not quite as painful! [Of course, I would not be going to a spa having a fractured femur!)

Mid-day, my wife insisted that I take a nap. I took her advice and it was great! I slept for almost two hours and woke up feeling very refreshed - and, as a result, I was able to be more alert last evening.

Yesterday afternoon, Pastor Matt and I were able to to have a nice visit with few interruptions. Lord willing, I was able to be an encouragement to Him. I know that He was and is a huge encouragement to me!

He is a man of the Word. He studies God's Word and seeks to present it in a way that is accurate, comprehensible, and challenging to all who listen with open hearts and minds. He uses the right amount of humor and personal illustrations to demonstrate that he has sufficiently wrestled with the truth in his own life.

We were able to discuss how God brought us together, to work together, but how our plans turned out to be significantly different from God's plan for the year that we worked together.

He listened to me patiently and graciuosly as I gave him my unsolicited advice (Truthfully, the advice that I gave him originally came from his own mouth to me, and I simply took the opportunity to put it back in his court!) - to seek God's vision for Canaan - not to be limited by what we know we can do, by what we know we can afford. Let's ask: God, what do you want us to be and do? We know you have the resources. We know You will provide. Your resources are limitless! (Think about how God sent the Israelites away from Egypt with all of the treasure amassed by this pagan nation,) What can we do to fulfill your plan for our church? Yes, God, You are sovereign and You will have Your way - but we have a responsibility to do our part to see that Your will be done. His sovereignty. Our responsibility. Both are important.

If I had time, I would write a book about my weekly discussions with Pastor Matt. A Tuesdays with Morrie kind of thing. He encourages me to live each moment I have here on earth for the glory of God, yet reassures me that all will be well when I am gone.

Pastor Matt is a man after God's own heart. He is not perfect. But he loves God. He loves the Word of God and seeks to follow it. He loves his family. And he loves the people that God has placed under his care.

Pastor Matt is everything I had hoped to be as a pastor. It was a great blessing for me to serve alongside him for a year. And I know that we will, one day soon, be worshiping our Great God and Savior together - with all the other saints - for eternity! Come, Lord Jesus!

Later in the afternoon, I had a nice visit from Phil and Debbie Thompson. They dropped by a wonderful meal prepared by Phil's mother, Martha. Debbie has been such a great help and encourager during this time. From fresh-baked rolls, to encouraging e-mails, to acts of kindness of which I am not even aware - but God knows! - she has humbly served our family in so many ways.

Phil is a quiet, humble man of God. He seeks to please God, but never in a way that draws attention to himself. Yesterday, as he prayed for me and for my family, his love for us was genuine, his compassion was evident. Thank you, Phil.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, please know that I am not intentionally singling out certain persons for the purpose of puffing them up or setting them above others who God has used to encourage us. Many, many people have been used by God in this way. At the same time, I do not want to downplay the importance of these dear friends I mention. I simply want others to know, that in these times of uncertainty, God provides fellow believers to encourage and refresh us. All of us should be ready to serve our Great God in this way.

Yesterday evening, after dinner and a healthy second bowl of MCCIC - I shared a bowl with Pastor Matt earlier in the afternoon (just another example of the kind of sacrifices my friends make for me) - I reviewed science notes and Bible notes with my daughter, and I reviewed K-5 and AWANA work with my younger son.

I had a short telephone conversation with Jamie Woodall, but we were both too tired to go very deep.

I am not sure what time I fell asleep, but I slept well.

When I first looked at the clock this morning, it was 5:45 a. I took my first dose of pain medication at 6a.

It is now 8:30 a. All of the children came in to see me before leaving for school - the younger ones were all dressed for Pilgrim Day. The children saying good-bye in the morning and watching them cross the (septic) mound on their way to board the bus is one of the highlights of my day.

Reading 1 Corinthians 13 this morning, I got caught on the final verse, verse 13 . . .

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Love is the key virtue of God. Love is the key virtue of all who claim to know and follow Christ.

John MacArthur says:

Heaven will be the place for the expression of nothing but perfect love toward God and each other.

1 Corinthians 14:1 begins with the command to pursue love.

A good goal for this day: pursue love.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'll Be Right Back!

More photographs from life in the woodland retreat . . .

The Brady Bunch has nothing on us! Here, seven of our combined eight children (our older son is missing) pose around my bed. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by such youthful vitality.

My wife demonstrates her strength as she lifts our 175-pound son off the floor. The oldest McL daughter serves as a spotter.

One of the younger McL ladies demonstrates her gymnastic flexibility. I apologize for the picture being sideways - you will have to tilt your head!

Our older son is doing something here - I am not sure if he is dancing or working out! Ditto on the apology for the sideways picture.

Our daughter and her friend are lifting our son off the ground at the Army-Air Force football game.

And last, but certainly not least . . .

Our older son, with paper products and reading

material in hand, says: "I'll be right back!"

Independence Day

This morning brought a new day. Another glorious day to live for Him and for others.

Last night, I was exhausted. I seems like I am losing steam earlier each day. Another limitation that I must learn to accept. I must learn to let go of more of my "independence." I must let my wife check my blogs before I post them. I must learn to trust her when she tells me that it is time to put the laptop away. I must trust that she has my best interest and the glory of our Father in mind.

Taking her advice, I accepted a "morphine cocktail" to help alleviate the pain and help me sleep better. Overall, it was quite effective.

Earlier in the evening, Diane, one of the hospice nurses, and Linda, another hospice aide, came by to bathe me. They were very gentle with me; I appreciated the care that they provided for me. Diane gave me permission to increase my Dilaudid dosage from 10 mg to 12 mg every two hours.

It is a relatively quiet day here today. The two youngest boys from the two families are playing together nicely. My older son is sitting here with me, waiting to help his mom take care of my morning needs. He and Mrs. McL also have plans to help me get some paperwork accomplished.

We are anticipating a visit from Pastor Matt and Carol - always a welcome treat as they lift us up and help us to focus on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Before leaving this morning post, I want to share some thoughts about what God is teaching me through His Word and through the encoragement of others.

As for God, His way is perfect, the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all trust in Him. Psalm 18:30.

In Psalm 18, the writer describes the character of those who may may dwell with the LORD: integrity, justice, reliability, personal accountability, and respectfulness of others.

In Psalm 23, a very familiar psalm, and a comfort to all who are hurting, the psalmist reminds us that we are like sheep -we have wandered away from the care of the Shepherd. Jesus Christ is my Shepherd who protects us and provides for us. Because of Him, I shall have no want - He goes before me and meets my every need. He has demonstrated this time and time again over this past year. Because of this, I will fear no evil. Jesus Christ will protect me. This is particularly true as I consider my thought life. As my mind plays tricks on me. I am pleased to be able to concur with David. My cup runneth over. [I'm not talking about spilling my coffee, but that does happen!] God has so filled my days with joy that it canot be contained. The joy I have in the midst of these times of uncertainty spill out, Lord , into the lives of those who are observing our lives.

In Psalm 63, David expresses his intense love for God, his longing to be in the presence of God. To see Him . To remember His power. To anticipate His judgments. He is committed to following His Lord.

May I have this same commitment to our Lord today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Boys and the Big Rig

On Tuesday, our boys were treated to a visit by a "big rig" thanks to a friend working for Keri's family next door at Strawberry Hill. Below, our son poses between two trees.

Here, our son and his friend perch on a heavy branch. By their expressions, it seems like they are not too sure about how safe the whole deal is.

Our son is all smiles as he steps down from the "big rig." We are not sure if he enjoyed the experience or if he is glad that it is completed. The man with the rig is Mike. Thanks, Mike.

Here, the boys pose inside the "big rig." Did you figure out that I have no idea what type of machinery it is? Mike's son is on the right.

Here, the three boys pose in front of the rig's big tire.

Thanks to Mike and the "big rig" for providing the boys with a memorable experience.

Election Results and God's Sovereignty

It is 6a Wednesday morning. The morning after the November elections. The world is buzzing about the polling results and what this means for the world, for our nation, and for each citizen, personally. People want to know - how will this affect me?

This morning, my first thoughts were: Thank you, Lord! Thank you for another day. While I sincerely long to see Jesus, to be in His glorious presence, I am not ready to leave my family. I know that they are and will be in good hands, but I - at least in my finite thinking - think that they need more re-assurance from me. They need me to show them and convince them that they will be able to make it without me.

A friend, in the past few days, called my attention back to a psalm I have read and reflected upon a number of times in the past, Psalm 73. Here, the psalmist compares what he sees as the prosperity of the wicked with the difficulties that he sees among those who are righteous. As a result, he begins to wallow in self pity. Until, of course, his focus turns back on to the sovereignty of God.

In verse 17, he realizes, Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. He began to understand things from God's perspective.

In verses 23-26, he writes: Nevertheless I am continually with You. You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with your counsel; and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The psalmist understands, after reflecting on God's sovereignty, that God is His desire and that God is His strength in every circumstance.

The psalmist ends with these words: But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the LORD GOD, that I may declare all Your works.

After reflecting on the sovereignty of God he finds the bottom line: he puts His trust in God and declares all His works.

In light of the election, I also read and reflected on Romans 13:1-8, a strong reminder of God's sovereignty in the political affairs of men.

Paul reminds believers, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Bottom line: Every elected leader in office has been appointed by God. God has allowed our government to be shaped in the way that it is. Whether we agree with His choices or not, we have the responsibility to pray for and to support our elected leaders. We do not have to agree with every decision they make, and should not do anything that violates God's commands, but we should seek to love, respect, and pray for our leaders. We should not subject them to our ridicule. When we get the urge to complain, we should turn that into an opportunity to pray for them. For the most part, if we are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, we need not fear. We need to know, that unless we are violating God's commands, disobedience to government authorities is rebellion against God. God has appointed leaders who will help restrain evil and preserve peace.
As a tangible demonstration of our support for our leaders, we should not neglect to pay our taxes. In all ways, we should demonstrate our respect for all elected officials.

This morning, followers of Jesus Christ, more than anyone, should set the tone for the next four years - a tone that rings out with confidence in God and His ability to use the elected officials He has appointed and that we have elected (both are true in God's economy) for the good of our nation and the glory of His name.

President Obama, my prayers are with you this morning. As long as the Lord allows, I will pray for you, your family, and your administration. I will pray that you will know that you have been appointed by God Himself - the One, True, Living God. That you are in His hands. I promise, to the best of my abilty, to support you in all things at are in accordance with the ways of God. That I will not seek to ridicule you, or to listen to people ridicule you in any way.

The children just boarded the bus for school. They waved to me from the crest of the septic mound, then disappeared down over the other side. Soon, I heard the wheels of the bus go round and round as they headed off for a day of instruction.

A few minutes later, I heard my wife yelling down the basement stairs: "Get on my wall right now, Cadet Bond!" Our son was reminded of Cadet Basic Training and the early morning wake-ups. It sent chills down his spine. The funny thing is, he says, she sounded a lot like CDT SGT O'Leary.

After breakfast and our daily routine of hygienic maintenance, I hope to spend some quality alone-time with my wife. Time which we both need and long to have. E-mails, blog entries, phone calls, and miscellaneous paperwork can wait - they will have to sit on the back burner.
Our time together is precious and must be protected. And I have been neglectful in protecting this time. Today, by God's grace, that will change. For the most part, I will limit my laptop time to early am and evening. Some e-mails may not get answered, but I would rather that than my wife and children not have the attention they need and deserve from me.

It is 8:04 a. My son is awake and is wrestling with my wife in the bed next to me. They are ready to begin the morning routine of torture/personal hygienic maintenance. Actually, they make a good team - they are very patient and gentle with me. And I am very thankful for that.

Until later. May God be with you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tomorrow Brings Such Uncertainty

It is 9:40 p. The early election results are starting to be posted on the nightly news. Wins in PA and OH are predicted for Obama. Wins in other states are predicted for McCain. But I will wait until morning to see the final results. Ultimately, I will still cling to the the truth of Romans 13 and the sovereignty of God.

We had a wonderful dinner this evening. Keri prepared a stir fry of chicken and vegetables over rice. Of course, the meal was followed with a bowl of MCCIC!

Our two families enjoyed a devotional time together. I opened in prayer. Rod read and shared some reflections on Job 1, followed by some reflections on the armor of God from Ephesians 6. His daughter played two selections on the violin , including "As the Deer." Our son played "Wonderful Cross" on the guitar, and closed in prayer.

It is wonderful having our whole family together here. Tonight, I hugged them each tightly and told them how much I love them. I cannot be certain which night will be my last. I long to see Jesus face to face to face, but cannot imagine what it will be like to be away from them.

Tomorrow brings such uncertainty.
This morning, my younger son and I spent some time drawing pictures, rehearsing school work, singing hymns, and reviewing Bible verses.

My older son and my wife took care of washing me and changing my clothing. Following that, my son went to work out at a local gym and run some errands for Mrs. McL, his mom, and for himself. He also spent some time splitting wood for Mr. McL.

Our dear friend Betsy Black visited us for lunch. My wife made us sandwiches. Betsy brought large, home-made chocolate chip cookies. We had a nice visit, catching up on our families and catching up on what is going on at Canaan.

Here is a photo of Betsy with me . . .

A few minutes after Betsy departed, Pastor Matt arrived for a visit. We talked about our families, the ministry at Canaan, and the state of the union. Let's ignore the election results, for the most part, and cling to the truth of Romans 13:1-8! God is sovereign. Amen.

A Sun and Shield on An Autumn Day

For the LORD God is a sun and shield, the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will he uphold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11

The writer of this psalm longs to be in the presence of His LORD and to be with Him in worship. He fully trusts in the LORD for His provision and His protection. Similar to God's promises in Romans 8, God is for us! He promises to lavish upon us His grace and goodness - He will not withhold any good thing from us.

Sun and shield. God is the source of all good and our defense from all evil. He gives grace here on earth and glory in the hereafter. He witholds all that is not good - even health or wealth - if it is not good for us at that particular time. We must, therefore, trust in Him even when we do not understand His particular ways and His timing.

Whatever I need, that is what the Lord is, according to Ray Stedman. What a wonderful truth!

Stedman uses this acronym: Jesus Exactly Suits Us Sinners.

Warren Weirsbe writes that the Christian life begins with grace and ends with glory. In between, life can be rather difficult. In between, we have the promise of His provision and protection. We must walk uprightly by obeying God's Word and trusting in its promises.

It is 7:44 a. I woke up this morning, about 5:20, with a very dry mouth. And I had some difficulty breathing. It was a bit scary. I drank some water and took my pain medication. It helped some.

My wife opened my curtains a few minutes later to reveal the early morning colors of an Autumn day. The school-bound children all stepped in my room to say good-bye, then all waved from the septic mound as they made their way to the bus. "The mound is alive, with the sound of music . . ."

God has gifted me with another day! Another day to know Him better, to glorify Him, to encourage others. To share life with my wife, children, friends, and family.

There are disability papers to complete, and a few other details to take care of - but mostly, this day is all about responding to the opportunities that God brings my way.

Breakfast has arrived. So it is time to break my fast and enjoy the meal that has been prepared for me. And my older son has joined me. Until later.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Walking in Love

It is Monday, almost 10 p. The household has settled down. Each of our families spent time doing family devotions.

Our family time was focused on Ephesians 5:16-17. Paul begins the chapter (in verse 1) reminding the believers to imitate God by walking in love. In verses 16-17, he writes:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the times are evil.

I reminded the family, that because our days are numbered, we need to be wise in how we use them. We need to demonstrate God's love to others. As our lives are being lived out in the spotlight these days, we want people to be drawn to God's love. We want them to know the love and grace that we have found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

More Pictures

Our gracious hosts, Rod and Keri McLaughlin . . . still smiling after the first few days!

Keri poses with me. The teary eyes reflect my overwhelming gratitude for what God has given us, by His grace, through Keri and her family.

In every situation, you must have a sense of humor. My daughter let me borrow her knit scarf. Emily found a hat. So, I guess I would call this my French look. I am certain that the person on the other end of the phone line was impressed!

My older son arrived home from West Point Saturday evening, in uniform. The uniform was impressive, but his hug was more important!

My younger son and I enjoy reading together in bed. Oh, The Places You Will Go! by Dr. Seuss.

Here is the whole family, except for our younger son, with Ruth DiPalma and Winston, our stuffed pet dog.

My daughter is my sunshine, the light of my life. She is delightful in every way.

I am so blessed to have a great family and friends. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. To me, these photographs speak volumes.

Assorted Picture for Posting

Rod McLaughlin poses with my younger son. I appreciate the love that my friends have for my children - treating my children as they were their own. One of the many blessings of being part of th Body of Christ.

Even in the "coldness" of a hospital room, my wife and I find joy in being together. In sickness and in health . . .

Joan Morris has continually encouraged us through her prayers, e-mails, and sharing daily devotionals. She has also provided me with much of the reading material that, in addition to God's Word itself, has helped shaped my thinking in these "last days."

There will be more pictures to come . . .

Massaging Feet and Sorting Socks

It is mid-morning on Monday. I awoke this morning, in pain, but I awoke!

My beautiful wife - my beautiful, smiling, smoking-hot, Titus 2, Proverbs 31, woman-after-God's-own-heart wife woke up beside me, gave me some pain medication, and massaged my aching feet and legs. After caring for me, she climbed back in bed to do her devotions, and then went to the basement to do her morning exercises. This is the first morning in a while that she has been able to get back into some kind of personal care routine.

I took some time to pray with my daughter before she left for school this morning. She has an exam and several quizzes today. There is a lot on her mind even without the exams. I encouraged her to do her best, and reminded her that we and God both know the pressures she is facing.

After seeing all of the children off to school this morning - what a treat! - my wife and son took care of my hygienic needs and propped me up in bed. I am now sitting up the straightest I have been in a week - and it makes me feel so much better!

My wife prepared a great breakfast for me and for my son - eggs, grits, and toast.

After breakfast, I spent some time answering e-mails. When people do not know what to say, they offer the Word of God. What better words of encouragement! Among the passages I read this morning was John 8:34-36. So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. In Christ, we are set free from bondage to sin to be free to be slaves for Christ. Free to live for Him. Free to serve Him wholeheartedly.

My wife and I are now spending some time catching up on paperwork. Life or death. There is always paperwork!

My son is sorting socks for Mrs. McL. A discouraging task.

I am listening to a CD of Rebecca Rowe playing and singing some of my favorite hymns and songs. Beautiful piano music. Beautiful vocals. Beautiful words. As I mentioned before, she has created the soundtrack of my life. How Great Thou Art. Above All. All in All. Change My Heart, O God. In Christ Alone. The Eye is on The Sparrow. I'll Fly Away. Give Thanks. Victory in Jesus.

Keri and Braden just showed us three tics that they removed from Samson, their dog. But the Long Island "girl" -turned - country- girl has no qualms about burning those things to a crisp after all of the health problems they have caused in their family. It's tic-burning time in Berlin Township!

It is almost noon. Enough blogging for now. Until later.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Wing (or Two) and a Prayer - And a Bottle of Antacid

It is 4p. My friend Rachel left a little while ago. We had a nice visit - catching up after 25 years.

After she left, I finished eating a piece of pizza and some wings. Of course, that was chased with a handful of antacids.

My son and daughter left to drive over to our home to pick up a few items.

Did I mention the new van? Keri's aunt and uncle gave us a "new" (1998) Town and Country van. It will be very useful now that our son is home and will need to get around.

It is a relatively quiet evening. My wife is sitting here beside me, writing thank you notes to the many people who have given so much. I have been trying to retrieve some pictures from the digital camera, but have had little success.

My younger son just climbed up on the bed, with his mom's help, to snuggle with me. So, I am going to put down this piece of electronic-fortified plastic and spend some time with him . . .

It is now almost 8:30. My younger son is sleeping. My older son and daughter have returned with "stuff" from home. Rod has returned from evening church. My wife and son have tortured/cleaned me up. I have read several more encouraging e-mails. We enjoyed cheesecake from Junior's (in NYC) courtesy of Rachel. Thank you, Rachel, for the wonderful treat!

Now, I am stopping again to quiz my beautiful daughter to review for her science exam . . .

It is now about 10 p. I am exhausted. My wife is still working on thank-you notes. I am praying that I will have more energy tomorrow. There is still much that I would like to do.

Nights like this, I wonder if I will wake up the next morning. I am not being pessimistic, simply realistic. I know that my time - each minute, each hour, each day, is in His hands. I will open my eyes either in the presence of my Savior or to see the smiling face of my wife.

For Lack of a Better Name. The First Sunday in November.

This morning, I woke up after after a good night's rest, to a beautiful, sun-filled morning. One by one, I was greeted my family members - each smiling and reminding me how blessed I am.

My wife and older son patiently and gently attended to my hygienic needs this morning. I appreciate that my son is able to help out in this way, even though it must be very difficult for him to see his dad in such a position. He is being a true servant.

The McL's went to worship together at Honesdale Gospel Tabernacle together this morning.

Our family chose to stay here together for a time of family worship.

After opening in prayer, we sang a few songs - my son played guitar (and I played where I was able), leading us in Wondrous Cross, Enough, and Your Love is Amazing. We read Psalm 121 and I reflected, for a few minutes, on its meaning and its application in our lives. We followed with a time of personal testimony - sharing how God is working in each one of our lives. We ended with my daughter praying for our family, the McL family, and our testimony in the midst of these circumstances.

Psalm 121 . . .

I will lift up my eyes to the hills - from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made the heaven and earth.

He will not allow you foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not srike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.

This psalm, although it has direct application to Israel, gives all believers the assurance of God's help and protection from harm. It reminds us that God is our Helper, Keeper, Protector, and Preserver. The writer looks past the circumstances, past what God has created, to the Creator Himself, for His help. The writer knows and reminds us of the true source of our help in every circumstance of life - it is God Himself.

I enjoyed spending this time with my family. I hope that they will always remember these times and cherish the lessons that we have learned together.

My parents and my sister Ann both called today. It was nice to talk to them. I told my sister Ann that I loved her. And I do. In fact, I am making a point to be more open with my feelings toward others.

My wife has taken this opportunity now to take care of her herself, while my daughter spends some time alone, and the three of us "men" relax together, while doing our own thing.

My two sons have now decided to play a game together. Uno.

It is now almost 1 p. In a few moments, we are expecting a visit from one of my friends from high school. I have not seen Rachel in over 25 years.

As I look out my window, I can see that it is a beautiful Autumn day. The leaves are brown and yellow, ready to fall off the trees. Winter waits in the wings for its cue - although it made an early debut this past week!

I thank God for this day. For this day that He has made. For all that He is going to teach us this day. For all that He is and He does. For all that we are in Him.

Until later.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Woodland Retreat

It is Saturday morning. The beginning of our first full day at our woodland retreat. It was nice to wake up and hear the sounds of our two families preparing for the day ahead.

Keri prepared a wonderful breakfast – scrambled eggs and strips of bacon, toast with jelly, coffee with French vanilla creamer, and the sweetest canteloupe I may have ever eaten (I do apologize to all the canteloupes that have come before. But this was, by far, the sweetest and tastiest melon that I have ever "eated.")

Rod and many of the children are at a gymnastics meet and soccer game. Keri has taken the two older girls to the Army-Air Force Football Game. After the game, they will be bringing our older son home with them.

Our good friend, Ruth DiPalma, arrived around ten this morning to sit with us, talk with us, and help Merrily with my care. It has been a great blessing to be able to spend time with her. She helped with moving me and bathing me. She also massaged my legs. Here she is, posing with me.
It is now 5:44 p. Rod and the children are home now. They are making some last-minute preparations in the basement for our older son. We are anticipating his arrival within a few hours.
Some words of wisdom for this day . . .

Seek godly counsel or advice from those who live godly lives and have a track record of experience and wise decision making. Avoid the counsel of those whose Christian life is questionable or who have experience of failure in making sound decisions. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly...” (Psalm 1:1).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Operation Determination Completed

It is Friday evening. 9:57. We are all settled in at the "sanctuary." Operation Determination has been completed.

This morning, Cousin Sue brought our emergency ballots, which we filled out and returned to her by noon. Our civic duty/responsibility/privilege has been completed.

Also, this morning, I had a bath. It felt good to have my hair and beard shampooed and to have my body washed. I was able to put a on a t-shirt, pantalones (aka, adult diaper) and even a pair of boxer shorts. With the addition of soft leather slippers, I was ready for the ambulance ride home.

My last hospital meal was quite good - baked chicken w/gravy and stuffing. For dessert, I chose something from the plastic pumpkin!

Soon after I finished lunch, Kyle and Steve from the Honesdale EMS were ready to carry out the mobilization phase of Operation Determination. After a few tearful goodbyes, I was off 3rd Floor, on to the elevator, and on my way to the ambulance. The ride to the the woodland retreat was relatively uneventful - Steve did a good job avoiding the potholes. When we arrived, our friend Keri was ready to capture the moment in pictures. Here, Keri is waiting on the porch for us to arrive. This is our woodland refuge . . .

Steve opens the back door of the ambulance and begins to move me out.

Now, out of the ambulance, I am greeted by Diane, one of the fine hospice nurses who cares for me and my family.

Kyle and Steve guide the stretcher up the narrow stone walkway leading to the front porch. Diane looks on to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Once inside, they take me back the hall to the room that has been prepared for me. Unable to guide the stretcher into the room, they decide that they must lift me off the stretcher and carry me. Kyle and Steve eventually "drop" me into bed and get me positioned correctly. Oh, how comfortable it was/is!

I thank Keri for her sacrificial gift of hospitality. She and her family, with help from many other friends, have rearranged their lives and home to accomodate our stay with them. The room where we are staying, for example, has been filled with personal photographs and mementos from our bedroom at home. Keri poses with me. You can observe that I have been shedding tears of joy over the sacrificial gift that we have been given.

Our good friend Debbie has baked, has helped spruce up the room, and has run numerous errands to help Keri prepare the home for this day.

There are many others who have contributed in ways that we do not even know. For all of this, we thank God.

This evening has been somewhat of a blur, as medications have been adjusted for the ride home and I have adjusted to new surroundings. Our two families are quickly adjusting to living together in the same household.

Rod McLaughlin, the godly head of this household, has prepared his family well for what they may face in the days and weeks to come.

It has been a busy, productive, exciting day. Another gift from God above. I talked to our son from WP tonight. He is excited to come home, although he is sad to leave the place where God has him. I know that I will cherish our moments together, appreciate each conversation, enjoy each song we sing . . .

Tomorrow brings the promise of another new day. Until then.