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September 2001 we met for the first time.  It was supposed to be a couple’s Bible study but it turned out we needed fellowship and prayer support more than Bible study.  Nearly every week since then (16 years at this writing) we have met in each other’s homes, eaten a whole lot of truly great dinners, enjoyed some fellowship, shared prayer requests, and prayed over each other.  We have raised each other’s children and now we’re raising grandchildren.  We have been to weddings, graduations, funerals, and retirement receptions.  We have laughed and cried together, enjoyed the best of times, and dealt with the worst of  times.  But, we have always been there for each other…always.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the other 11 people in my “Monday Night Group.”

Today all of us sat on two pews at St. John the Baptist Catholic church in Edmond and struggled through the funeral mass of Diane’s father.  We are at the age that we have begun to bury our parents and other family members all too often.  Today  all of us sat and prayed for Diane.  We were right where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing.

Everyone should have a “Monday Night Group.”  I realize, however, that most people don’t.  The average life of a small group in most churches is 13 weeks.  When whatever curriculum they are studying that quarter ends the group typically breaks up.  Sixteen years ago none of us had any idea we would still be meeting together every week.  But we are and there does not seem to be any reason for us to stop anytime real soon.  So, we’ll keep on meeting, praying, and being there for each other until God has a different idea.  I’m glad, because this group of people is what God meant for the church to be and it is the best church experience I have ever had.  Go make yourself a small group that makes a difference in your life.  Do it now!

There may not be a better time in the life of a grandparent than right after your toddler wakes from a nap. All rested, peaceful, and anxious to cuddle with her grandfather, 21 month old Harper climbed up in my lap to say hi, rest her head on my shoulder, hold her blankie close, and stay…for a minute.

I left Harper’s house a little later thinking about how precious those moments are and how they just don’t happen often enough. So many grandparents I know don’t live near their grandchildren and those moments are nearly nonexistent to them. Ugh!

I realize the day will come when my grandchildren may not have time for Pops. I don’t look forward to that day. I’d rather just sit on the sofa with a lap full of little girl. I find myself reflecting on the moments I have with my three granddaughters, thanking God for the privilege of being their Pops. I hope I’m up to the challenge!

As I drove away the other day I remembered to pray 1 Timothy 4:12 over Harper, Olivia, and Caroline: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

I remember standing on the bridge with the barrel of grass clippings in my hands and the next thing I know I’m laying on my back in the dry creek struggling to get my breath, moaning, and wondering what happened. Fortunately, my neighbors heard my moans and cries for help and saved the day. It was almost dark and would have been a long cold night in the creek. Sherri was out of town for the weekend. Now, over four months later, I am back to work, doing relatively well healing from five fractured vertebrae and two broken ribs. My back hurts most of the time but not nearly as bad as the weeks immediately following the accident.

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Granddaughter Harper making all things better!

What have I learned?

I’ve learned that I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams with hundreds of friends who have faithfully prayed for me. My gracious neighbor Rusty has mowed my yard several times. Lots of folks brought food, chocolate shakes, and sent hundreds of words of encouragement and love. The five other couples in our prayer group have led the way praying for me constantly. The incredible Edmond Police Department has “had my six” from the start. First on the scene was officer Nate Fountain who not only escorted the ambulance to the hospital but also stuck by my family for the rest of the night. Other officers have checked on me several times everyday. It is a great honor to serve these amazing men and women as their chaplain.

I have learned that patience is required to heal properly. I want things to move along so much faster than they actually do. God has a purpose in moving me through the healing process day after day, seeing gradual improvement and finding encouragement each day.

I have realized God’s protection sometimes involves tragedy at some level. He uses physical pain and suffering to teach us his ways and how to truly trust him for the outcome. I know I could just have easily been paralyzed, had a horrible traumatic brain injury, or I could have died.

I have amazing clients who have faithfully continued to support me and take part in my recuperation. As I returned to work, their interest, patience, and continued compensation, all provided constant encouragement and blessed me beyond words.

Thank you…

  • The many who prayed for my healing.
  • Sherri, who has been so totally faithful and helpful these past months.
  • Those who supported Sherri in those first few weeks after my fall.   I’m not a good patient.
  • The incredible hospital nurses who took care of me for ten days.
  • My favorite people who brought me food to eat!
  • The cops who dropped by to help, talk, and brought chocolate shakes.
  • My family who showed so much concern during my recuperation.
  • My clients who continued to pay me as I healed.
  • The employees I chaplain who called, wrote, visited, and prayed for me.
  • My Panera Church buddies who prayed.
  • Mike, Sherman, Matthew, Michael, and Larry who stayed with me at the hospital and helped me move!
  • My orthopedic physician who watched me carefully and provided great care.
  • Krista, who aggressively led the way in my recovery turnaround.
  • My chiropractor, who just in recent weeks has had a hand in relieving so much pain.

 

Now, a little over four months from the Friday evening I fell off that bridge, I am much better. I am working everyday, working out three times weekly, am 26 pounds lighter, gradually taking on more physical tasks at home and in the yard, and finally getting peaceful sleep.

My advice to you is never fall off a bridge and fracture five vertebrae and break two ribs! Seriously, always take care of those you see are in need. Your provision and help may be exactly what they need at the time. Above all else, pray for those you know who are in need. Never be hesitant to ask God to heal. And finally, expect God to use you when you make yourself available to Him. People have made a difference in my life in the last four months no matter what they did for me!

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” Psalm 138:3 NLT

 

I have enjoyed success most of my life. Failure never seems to set me back very much and quickly turns positive for a variety of reasons. Hardship consists of things not going as planned, which does not mean things do not go well. I live a blessed life, full of close friends, great relationships, a wonderful wife, kids who love me and now, granddaughters who are just perfect. My health never holds me back and I enjoy a variety of activities that keep me moving. I exercise by working in my garden and yard. I walk with my wife and have a job that keeps me on my feet most of the day. A lot of people would choose my life over their own.

Life became more challenging the first week of October 2014, when I noticed a slight tremor in a muscle on top of my left hand.  It became more pronounced over the next couple of months to the point that I went to a neurologist in February 2015.  She diagnosed it as something called Essential Tremor.  That struck me as odd because I did not see much about it that was essential!  Over the next year I watched the tremor become more and more pronounced.  Last February, my doctor finally diagnosed my condition as Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. Thinking and behavioral problems may also occur. Dementia becomes common in the advanced stages of the disease. Depression and anxiety are also common, along with sensory, sleep, and emotional problems. (Wikipedia)

I have a tremor in my left hand.  I have a slight tremor in my left foot that I can feel but cannot see.  I have some slight balance issues and shuffle my feet a little more than I used to.  My vision is presenting some bothersome challenges and my handwriting is getting smaller.

Having said that, I am doing really well.  I am on medication to deal with the tremors.  I have adjusted my diet and try to exercise and stay active.  Nothing has changed really.  I’m still doing everything I want to do.  However, I stay off ladders and am more careful than I used to be.  I am still working full-time and at the age of 63 I have no plans to slow down as retirement age nears.  My doctor has said she sees no reason why I cannot plan on working many more years.

Professor and theologian Wayne Grudem also has Parkinson’s disease. He says, “Parkinson’s usually does not shorten a person’s life expectancy very much, but in any case, I’m happy to live as long as the Lord wills that I live, and to keep on being productive for as long as he enables me to do so.”

Dr. Grudem quotes Psalm 139:16, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

I truly believe that God doesn’t waste anything in our lives and has a purpose in allowing the challenging issues with which we have to deal.  The apostle Paul had to deal with something in his life he referred to as a thorn in his flesh.

2 Corinthians 2:7b-10 NLT says, “7b …So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Dr. Grudem shares his thoughts regarding Paul’s thorn in his flesh. “After some study of 2 Corinthians 12:7, my own conclusion at this point is that there is not enough information in the text to decide what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. There are reasons that can be given in support of all three main possibilities: (1) a physical ailment of some kind; (2) a demon that was harassing him; or, (3) Jewish persecutors. The fact that we are unable to decide conclusively has some benefits, however: it means that we can apply this text to all of these kinds of situations in our own lives, when the Lord in his sovereign wisdom decides not to remove them from us.”

Dr. Grudem continues, “Whatever Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was (and centuries of work by Bible-believing interpreters have failed to turn up a definitive answer), Paul realized that God allowed it to remain with him “to keep me from exalting myself.” (2 Corinthians 12:7), that is, to keep Paul humble before the Lord. So the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

I am choosing to look at my Parkinson’s disease as my thorn. It will serve as a constant reminder to keep my mind and life focused on the things of God. It will remind me how blessed a life I have had so far. It will remind me that God’s grace is indeed sufficient and, in God’s power, I am made perfect in my weakness.

For some reason God wants to use Parkinson’s disease to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.  I have already used the condition of my health in conversations with employees I chaplain who are struggling with other health issues.  Parkinson’s disease is something in my life that I have accepted and intend to use as a blessing.

Pray for me.  Don’t hesitate to ask God to heal me.  But also pray that God uses this disease in my life in a mighty way.  Thank you in advance for your prayers.

The “One Anothers” of Scripture

Love one another (John 13:14)

Accept one another (Romans 15:7)

Be gentle to one another (Ephesians 4:2)

Be patient to one another (Ephesians 4:2)

Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Be compassionate toward one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)

Weep with one another (Romans 12:15)

Rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15)

Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)

Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)

Honor one another (Romans 12:10)

Prefer one another (Romans 12:10)

Do not judge one another (Romans 14:13)

Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)

Comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Do not be arrogant against one another (1 Corinthians 4:6)

Carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)

Serve one another (Galatians 6:2)

Make allowances for one another (Colossians 3:13)

Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Pray for one another (James 5:16)

Do not slander one another (James 4:11)

Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)

Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Be clothed in humility to one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

Minister gifts to one another (1 Peter 4:10)

Stimulate love in one another (Hebrews 10:24)

Fellowship with one another (l John 1:7)

Just so you’ll know, there is nothing better than time with your granddaughter!  It really doesn’t matter if she is asleep or awake, happy or cranky, clean or, well, you know.  I am a blessed man with three wonderful granddaughters and grown children who have turned out to be pretty special parents.  Their mom taught them well.  We were so fortunate to have the whole crowd at our home on Memorial Day.  I sat at the end of the dinner table out on the deck and looked over my family.  It made my heart happy!!!

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Pops getting some quality time with Harper Steele Beaty.

June 2, 2016 I sat beside my wife during the funeral service thinking about the many old friends who sat near us. We were there to remember Bernice who had been one of those old friends. 34 years earlier I had joined the staff of the Putnam City Baptist Church where Sherri and I found some of the best friends we have ever had. Bernice and her husband, Charlie, were among those friends.

We are part of a group of six couples from Putnam City who have celebrated New Years Eve nearly every year since we all got together so long ago. Sherri and me, Charlie and Bernice, and the Coys, Staffords, Harris’, and Browns had my ministry in common. They each volunteered in the church in some phase of ministry I was responsible for. Some of the group had known each other since childhood. Terry Coy and I met in college. We shared life, kids, and ministry. Those days were very special to me.

I suppose the group will continue to celebrate New Years Eve but it will be very different without Bernice. We have scattered over the years. That is one reason we continue to get together at least that one time each year. I left Putnam City after nine years on staff to run a counseling ministry. Terry and Sandy Coy moved to Fort Worth. Two other couples left Putnam City for other churches. But through the years we have remained friends. Why? Because all of life boils down to relationships and friends are worth keeping. It does take some effort to maintain relationships. Proverbs 27:10 urges us to “never abandon a friend.” Charlie needed his friends around him today, and we were there. We were there for him, and we were there for each other.

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17

Our work grows out of our meaningful relationships. Our business grows as a result of our attention to and care of these relationships.

Our work reflects the character of God and attracts others with the aroma of Christ in all that we do.

Our business focuses on equipping others, giving them what they need to find their place.

Our financial success blesses others and honors God and his Word.

Ten years ago Boe and I wrote the above statements to help us define our work.  It has been an amazing time working with my friend building Corporate Care and helping hundreds of employees in the businesses we chaplain.  It has been fun, exciting, meaningful, and gratifying.  Most importantly, I believe we have honored God in what we have done.  More to come!

http://www.corporatecareok.com

 

 

 

IMG_1740February 3, 2016. I was standing in my den when it occurred to me that I had held all three of my granddaughters in one day…for the first time! My middle granddaughter Harper was in my arms. At six and a half weeks, she came just before Caroline, who was born yesterday! Caroline’s big sister, Olivia, had played with me at the hospital this morning.

In 21 months our family has changed dramatically as Matthew and Ali had Olivia and Caroline and Emily and Steele had Harper. And they say there are more to come! Sherri and I are thinking this grandparent gig is a pretty good deal. These girls bring such joy when we get to spend time with them. Whether I’m playing with Olivia or just holding the two little ones, their lives add meaning and fulfillment to our hectic and demanding existence.

Today, as I held each of my granddaughters, God confronted me with the opportunity He has given me to make a difference in the lives of these little girls. I worry about the challenges they will face living their lives for Christ in a world that is more and more evil each day. God is faithful and I must also be faithful to him and to three precious little girls. I must pray, and teach, and guide, and listen. I must love and treasure. After all, I am Pops!

IMG_0962Christmas is a great time filled with traditions in the Cookhouse.  Sherri decorates a big nine foot tree we put in the living room.  It is mostly red and white and stunningly beautiful.  I put up lights on the outside of the house.  They have to be red.  Every year.  Everybody gets a stocking that hangs over the fireplace.  That includes son-in-law Steele, daughter-in-law Ali, and granddaughter Olivia.  Sherri is in charge with seeing the stockings filled with goodies on Christmas morning.  Emily makes sure her mom’s stocking is filled.  Sleigh Ride  by Amy Grant gets played on Christmas morning to wake the kids.  When they were little it would start and they would gallop around the house!  The Bible story of Jesus’ birth is read on Christmas morning before any gifts are exchanged.  First things first.  Traditions of all kinds provide some degree of stability in our lives.  They represent what has continued to be important to us through the years.  There is great value in traditions that have past the test of time.