Thursday, September 11, 2008

What a Day!

Karlene and I flew from LA to Houston Sunday night, rented a crossover vehicle that I had never even seen before, (a Kia Rondo – should’ve upgraded), drove into the city and checked in to the Houston Renaissance Hotel next to Lakewood Church at around 11:00pm after a long day of ministry and travel. We wanted to get some good rest before our big Monday meeting with Joel and Victoria Osteen at Lakewood Church.

Lakewood Church is the largest church in the United States with four services that bring in more than 40,000 people each and every weekend. Miraculously, they were able to purchase the Compaq Center (former arena home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets) and transform it into a beautiful church.

We got up Monday morning and made our way over to Lakewood Church and were warmly greeted by some staff members as we entered into the massive arena-turned-church. They escorted us up the elevator to a reception area on the upper level where they had provided a continental breakfast. There we met the meeting coordinator, my friend, Pastor Phil Munsey from Life Church in San Juan Capistrano. There were about a dozen or so pastor’s from all around the country – most of whom we knew, a few that we were able to get to know.

Joel came over and we chatted for a few minutes as he made his way around to each of the Pastors in attendance. From there we were guided into the 16,000-seat Sanctuary and down to the platform by Joel and several members of his staff (Lakewood Church employs nearly 300 full and part-time workers). Victoria came in and greeted each of us warmly and spent some time getting to know all of the pastors and wives that had come in for this special session. Karlene talked with Victoria for a while and took some pictures. Pastors Joel and Phil then shared their vision to help small churches (under 75 attendance) across America.

We had a great time getting to know Joel and Victoria better, touring the incredible Lakewood Church ministry facilities and doing a special video shoot with the Osteen’s. It truly was a wonderfully exceptional day -- one that we will not soon forget. It was a day that encouraged our spirits, increased our vision, and strengthened our commitment to the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Joel and Victoria, we love and appreciate you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Big Catch

This past Sunday at Cornerstone, I talked about fishing in my Labor Day Weekend message aptly titled, “Go Fish.” The message was about the importance of Christians fulfilling the great commission – by being fishers of men (and women, of course, since I am not sexist. At least I don’t think I am. Well, let me ask my wife just to be sure.).

Matthew 4:19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

Anyway, the three points that I made about being fishers of men were the things that are necessary to be a good fisherman. I have fished since I was a boy and have landed a few trophy fish in lifetime. In fact, truth be told, fishing used to consume my life – it wasn’t a hobby, but a habit. I still enjoy fishing, but those days are now few and far between.

1) You Need the Right Enthusiasm.
Quoting the late Allan Oggs, “You gotta have the Want-to!” People usually end up doing what they want to do. Desire is the driving force behind success.

2) You Need the Right Equipment.
You don’t take a Cane pole to fish for Marlin! You need to be properly equipped for the job at hand. You can be in the right place at the right time – with the fish bitin’ – but if you have the wrong equipment, you’ll get skunked.

3) You Need the Right Education.
Having the right equipment is not all there is to fishing. I have seen this principle played out time and again. People spend big bucks on expensive tackle, but do not know how to use the tackle that they have. You also need to know what works and what doesn’t work for specific places and seasons.

All of this brings me to the subject at hand -- the big catch.

My son, Zac, and myself, take a fishing trip just before he goes back to school. Last year we went out on the Redondo Special out of Redondo Sportfishing and had fun catching fish on the Ocean. This year, however, Zac wanted to go out on a lake.

So Tuesday we loaded up the truck with our fishing gear with our sights set on fishing. We headed north toward Castaic Lake, which is about an hour away (my first mistake). Friends, Castaic is not the easiest lake to fish – especially for a kid – doubly so for an Autistic kid. I knew this but, for some inexplicable reason, went on ahead anyway. Maybe it was its close proximity and easy accessibility. Maybe it was the thought of catching the big Bass lurking there that clouded my judgment. Maybe it was my sleep-deprived brain not functioning as well as it should. Whatever it was, Point #3 from my own Sunday Sermon of two days earlier had just gone out the window.

We had the desire to go fishing and catch fish. We had the right equipment to get the job done – four poles, full tackle box, bait, net, cooler, snacks, lunch, sunscreen – we had all the bases covered, or so I thought. Everything was in place, with the exception of Point #3 – Education!

I had failed to properly educate Zachary about the type of fishing that we were going to do. Oops. He has gone fishing with me only a few times and most of those were short, small excursions that were easily managed. In fact, it dawned on me that this was the first time that it was just he and I in a small boat on a big lake together. What was I thinking – or rather, not thinking? I had made a critical error and it cost me.

Trying to teach and educate an autistic youth with a short attention span can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Trying to teach him all the nuances and concepts of lake fishing on the fly – in a boat – on the lake – under the Sun – is virtually impossible (especially if you actually want to fish).

The fishing trip ended early with Zachary’s Catch-of-the-Day. I was teaching him how to cast a lure with one of my open-faced Spinning Reels (he generally uses his own closed-face, Spincast Reel). He was doing quite well. He had gotten the hang of it and was casting his lure around the cove we had ventured into.

I sat down in the boat, picked up one of my poles and began to change the hook. Simultaneously, Zac dropped his arm down and fired-off a side-arm cast. Unfortunately, his lure caught the tip of my pole. Fortunately, my pole didn’t get jerked into the water. Unfortunately, I was still holding onto the end of the line to change the hook. I let out some sort of pain-filled yell as the hook I was holding bore deftly and deeply into my right thumb -- the result of the split-second casting accident. Upon seeing the hook fully embedded in my thumb and realizing that he had hooked me, he freaked.

Trying to tend to my wound out on the backside of the lake and calm my Son down at the same time was quite the challenge. I pulled out my trusty all-in-one "survivalist" tool (insert joke here), opened the pliers and began my attempt to operate on myself and remove the hook. After the first tug, however, I quickly realized that it might be quite a bit painful and anyway it could be potentially hazardous for me to continue to play "survivalist surgeon" out in the middle of nowhere. I guess the pain caused my brain to start functioning again.

We fired up the motor and headed back to the marina. I docked the boat, got all of our gear out of it and headed to the First Aid Station – with the hook still embedded in my thumb. The Lifeguard on duty looked at it and said, “You need to go to the ER!” He poured Peroxide over it and wrapped a bandage around the hook to hold it in place.

Zac and I loaded up the truck and began the trip back home. Upon arriving at the house, Karlene loaded me into the car and took me on another adventure – a trip to the Emergency Room. Of course, as luck would have it, it had to be the day after a holiday, which means one of the busiest days of the year for hospital emergency rooms. Four hours after checking me in and my sitting, standing, sleeping throughout the waiting areas, they took me in to “surgically” remove the hook from my thumb.

I guess I was quite the novelty as the news traveled around the ER and different nurses came over to “check-on” the guy with a fishhook in his thumb. The older doctor apprised me that he had removed fishhooks before to which I replied, “Me too, only generally from fish.” He almost smiled. I guess it had been a long day for him too.

"Doctor Pain" proceeded to shoot me up with painkiller in my thumb that, ironically, was very painful. In fact, I have had more pain from his needles, than I had from my hook! For whatever reason, he seemed to make it his mission to attempt to stick or shove an 18 gauge syringe filled with anesthetic all the way through the base of my first metacarpal! You talk about pain! Yeouch! So once my thumb was deadened, (or perhaps just dead), he took a scalpel and made a somewhat deep incision from where the hook had penetrated up to its point – using the hook as his guide. He then opened the incision (that was interesting to watch) and pulled out the hook with his own pliers (well they looked kind of like pliers, anyway) proudly showing me the extricated hook as if I really wanted to see it.

The doctor poured about a gallon of some sort of solution on my wound and started scrubbing it intensely – I mean intensely! Then came the stitches (actually “stitch” -- at least they made it seem more impressive by using an entire roll of bandages on it). Once bandaged, they wanted my credit card and that was that.
My apologies for not taking pictures to document my misadventure, but it’s probably just as well.

I am on the road to recovery. I saw the nurse today (Friday). She took the bandages off (enough to stuff a small pillow) and said it’s looking good. It doesn’t look very good to me, but what do I know – it’s only my thumb.

What a catch.