"Tychicus will tell you everything." Ephesians 6:21

September 7th, 2017 by Dennis Fuqua

A blow by blow of “The Incident”

My life was significantly altered by an “incident” between March and July of 2017.  Here is a record of what happened.  (You have no obligation to read it all!)  🙂

February 8 – I felt very tired in the evening, like I was getting sick.

February 9 – I was very exhausted and in bed nearly all day.  I only got up for 2 hours.

February 10 – As I got into bed, I felt a very sharp pain about 8 inches under my left arm pit.  About the size of a silver dollar.  I simply found a comfortable position to sleep in.

February 18 – This pain continued but only at night, and is spread across the front of my rib cage.  So, I went to “Zoom Care” for tests.  They did several tests and said they saw nothing unusual.

February 19 – At their suggestion, I had x-rays of my rib cage done at another Zoom Care.  These also showed nothing unusual.

February 20 – March 12 – The pain continued and worsened, but still only at night.  I took over-the-counter pain meds at night, but still facilitated 2 Prayer Summits.

March 12 – I preached my last scheduled sermon as Interim Pastor at Hockinson Community Church.

March 13 – The pain increased and was now no longer limited to nighttime.    I began to feel incapacitated.

March 14 – I saw my primary Dr.  He did blood tests, gave me pain meds and called for a C T Scan.  Scheduled the scan and had it done within a few days.  Pain grew.

Because of the results of the scan, the Dr scheduled a “CT guided liver biopsy.”

I also went to a chiropractor a couple times, but received no relief.  Much pain during these days.  Every day, all day.

March 24 – Did the biopsy.  Results were delayed because they wanted a second opinion from U of W.  I never have heard the results of this biopsy.  They only told me it did not reveal anything significant.

Still incapacitated.  Could do very little work-related things.  During this time, my right foot also began to swell and hurt.  I thought it was another bout of gout.  It became very painful as well.   A total of 5 ministry trips were cancelled during this time.

April 3 – Because I was down to my last pain pill, I called the Dr to ask what we should do.  He told me to come in for more blood tests.  Did so.  He prescribed more pain meds.  At 4:30 that afternoon he called and was very direct.  “Go to the emergency room right now…  Your white blood cell count is out of control.  Your body has major infection in it.”    By 5:30 Marilyn and I were at the emergency room.  Another CT scan.  By 7:30 a very young Dr told me “I know what is wrong with you.”  I said “Great!”  It had been 6 weeks of wondering by now.  He said, “It’s not so great…  You have an infection in your T 4&5 vertebrae.  You also have staph infection in your blood.”  They wanted to do another MRI, but it was too painful for me and I refused.  They moved me upstairs to a room by about 10:30.

April 4 – They did the MRI and another CT scan as well as an EKG and other tests.  They also began an IV line with serious antibiotics.  Typical hospital stay with pills and needles, visitors and food, doctors and nurses, etc.  Marilyn, my son, Josh, and my sister, Darlene were especially helpful during this stay.  This is when my addiction to opioids began during this time.

April 5 – Birthday at the hospital.

Soon the IV became quite painful.  They moved it often.  Within a few days, I developed blood clots in my left arm from the IV.  So, they began giving me blood thinner.  This continued for three months.

April 10 – They inserted a PIC line in my upper right arm.  This remained for 2 months.  The foot pain lasted until after I came home from the hospital.  Drs were looking at this and treating it as well.

April 16 – My blood work showed I was good enough to go home.  There’s a full story here, but I was whisked out of the hospital so quickly that I went home in my hospital gown!  By now the pain, which was very intense at times, turned more to exhaustion.

April 16 – May 20 – Convalescing at home.  My brother brought down a “sleep number” bed with adjustable back and feet.  I was in this bed most of the time.  I needed to have the antibiotic bag changed every 3 to 4 days.  Seventeen trips in all (Till June 9th).   This was nearly all the activity I did.  Josh was with me a lot.  He was a great help to me during these days.  I did go to a few other Dr appointments.

May 20-25 – This was my most difficult time.  The pain had turned to complete exhaustion.  During these days, I was more tired/exhausted then I have ever been.  In bed, doing nothing, all day long.

May 24 – Bag change.  Later that afternoon the infection Dr’s assistant called me saying they were looking at my charts and felt I should be feeling better than I had been.  He mentioned he thought my liver was reacting to the antibiotics.  So, they wanted to change the formula.

May 25th – They changed the formula.  I remember being so exhausted that I could not even talk on the phone for 30 seconds.

May 26 – I felt the difference overnight.  I could feel myself regaining a bit of energy.  Friends from Gig Harbor stopped by for a visit on their way home from California.  I was feeling better, but they left feeling very concerned for me.

June 8 – The infection Dr said the infection was gone.

June 9 – PIC line removed.

Middle of June –I began to cut back on pain meds.  I began to reduce the amount from 120 mil per day.  Began coming back to the office a few hours per week.

Middle of July – Blood thinner stopped and free from all drugs.  But I was clearly addicted.  I had hot flashes for a few weeks.  I also had some (mild) withdrawal symptoms when tried to reduce too quickly.  As I got off the pain meds, I began to feel the pain in my back.  Two drs said my T 4&5 vertebrae are fusing together.  This could take up to a year or two.  I need to sit in a supportive chair or my back will give me a dull pain.

End of July – We did cousins camp!  We did modify the schedule a bit because of me.  And Marilyn earned more gold stars for the extra work she did!

Middle of July till end of August – Worked to regain energy.  Began walking a mile per day and doing some other mild exercises.

September 1 – I have declared that I “officially” have all my energy back.  (Well, okay, I may not have had all that much energy before all of this, but I do have all that energy back!)  But I still do have to favor my back.  I am praying and believing it will be fully restored soon.

I am so very grateful for the care I received from many people!  People volunteered to help in many ways.  It was amazing and a bit overwhelming.  People gave money to IRM and to us, personally, to help with lost income and medical expenses.  I felt God’s love expressed to me in so many ways!  Many stories about this.  I am both very humbled and grateful!

June 7th, 2017 by Dennis Fuqua

Needed or Wanted?

I began feeling some unusual pain in early February.  It morphed and moved around my rib cage.  It was pretty manageable and only bothered me at night, so I didn’t give it a lot of concern.  I pushed it back with some over-the-counter pain medication.  I had some blood tests and Xrays, but they turned out normal.  Then by March 13 it was obvious that something more serious was going on.  The pain was more intense and was no longer only at night.

Because of a blood test on April 3rd my Doctor called me saying, “Go to the emergency room right now!”  That resulted in a 12 day stay at Peace Health.  They discovered I had a bone infection in my T4&5 vertebrae and also staph infection in my blood.

Since then I have spent most of my time (sometimes 20-22 hours per day) in the hospital bed at our house.   Some progress but oh it is slow.

Frankly, it has not been a time of spiritual growth.  Very little time in God’s Word and not much more in prayer.  Everything has been an extra effort.

Then around May 25th (because of a change in my antibiotic formula) I began to have a little more energy.  Listening to large chunks of Scripture from my phone was not only possible but pleasant.

As some thoughts became more clear, I understood something God was teaching me.  It came to me from Mark 4:26-28.

And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.

Like that farmer, I had sown some seed, but then I went to bed – for a long time in bed!  But the kingdom still grew.  In short, I realized in a very clear way just how dispensable I am to God’s work!  The Kingdom was doing quite well, even though I wasn’t.

So, when God uses me to advance His kingdom, it is not because He needs me….  It is because He wants me.  He invites me into His work not because no one else could do it, but because He wants me to experience the joy of His life flowing through me to impact others.

As I have pondered it, I would much rather be wanted than needed.  Wouldn’t you?

Thank you, Tychicus

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January 16th, 2017 by Dennis Fuqua

More valuable than metal

It was the first weekend of February, 1958.  My family was driving near Everett, WA on our way to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.  I still have the image in my mind.

Growing up, all my friends and I could identify the make and year of nearly every car on the road.  Metal mattered to us.   Many conversations were simply, “55 Chevy.”  “1957 Dodge.”  “62 Vette!”

As we drove up Hi Way 99 that day, I remember seeing a “brand new” 1958 Ford in a junk yard.  The crash must have occurred from the front end, because what I saw were the distinct twin tail lights.  Even at my  young age, I somehow caught the irony.  A “brand new” car in a junk yard.  Someone saved, dreamed, studied, and thought about that car.  Then they went to the dealer and bought it!  They were delighted.  And a few weeks after it came off the production line, it was no more than stacked junk metal.

This was part of what God used in my life to teach me the truth of a verse I would later read in Matthew 6.  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Things that are brand new don’t stay brand new.  Things that can be broken will be broken.  Don’t count on them being new forever.  Material things matter.  Sometimes metal matters.  But there are other things that are far more valuable than metal.

Thank you, Tychicus

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August 8th, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

…and…

So, on July 12th I got a phone call.  A friend had been walking with a pastor in our area (also a friend) who had developed a “retirement plan.”  After 24 years of pastoring this congregation, he was going to step down “sometime in 2017.”  He gave the congregation plenty of time to process and get things moving toward their next Lead Pastor.

But then, things changed.  The pastor discovered he had some additional health issues happening and he and his wife made the decision to step down right away.

My friend asked if I would consider being the part-time interim pastor for a few months.  I have preached several times at this congregation so we know each other a bit.  I would still maintain my responsibilities with IRM and also CCPC, but also preach there, do some leadership development, and care for the sheep.

Within the next couple days, I had spoken with all the key players including my wife, their elders, the IRM board, and a couple trusted friends.  As we prayed, it seemed all indications were that this was God’s assignment for me.  So, the following Sunday, July 17th, the announcements were made at this congregation that their pastor was wrapping it up and that I would be serving them for a few months.

Having never served as an interim pastor, I began to ask God and read a bit about it.  As I did, the word, “and” seemed to describe the responsibilities quite well.

So, the following Sunday, as I began to preach, I shared that the word “and” is a conjunction that connects a series of facts.  That is what I wanted to do.  They have a very good past… AND… I believe they have a very good future.  One pastor has served them well… AND… another pastor will also serve them well.  They have developed ways of doing things… AND… they will discover new ways of doing things.  They have been blessed… AND. they will be blessed.

I don’t want to be an “or” or a “but.”   I want to be a good “and” to connect these saints to their future.

So, I would appreciate your prayers as I walk with these saints as “Pastor Dennis” again.

Thank you, Tychicus

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July 27th, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

Cousins’ Camp 2016

Here it is again!

This will be the 8th July in which the most important ministry opportunity Marilyn and I have is with our grandkids.

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Our Cousins’ Camp takes place this July 29-August 1.  Two grandparents, 4 days, 9 grandkids, 110 paper plates, countless laughs, and (hopefully) eternal impact.

I have other local ministry opportunities – such as meeting with pastors and prayer leaders, communicating via email and phone with folks around the county, scheming and praying about expanding the kingdom of God, getting away and doing some reflecting and writing, preaching and leading meetings – but nothing more important than ministering to these lives.

This year’s theme is “God the Father Made Us.”  We get to talk about God making everything out of nothing, how He made BIG stuff – like the planets! And how He made little stuff – like DNA and cells.  Then we get to talk about how we and others have dignity because we are made in His image.  And also how He created us either boys or girls.  All this and hand picked blackberry cobbler with home made ice cream!  Ya wanna come?  Sorry!

Thank you, Tychicus

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June 12th, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

His Wish and Mine

The Old Columbia Riv20160610_192646er Highway is 100 years old.  It is a beautiful stretch of road through the Columbia Gorge about 25 miles east of Portland.   When it opened, in June of 1916, there were celebrations at both Crown Point (Vista House) and Multnomah Falls.  Earlier this month they celebrated with some classic cars and some Ladies and Gentlemen dressed in proper attire.

Since I became the director of IRM in 2000 I have enjoyed stopping at several places along this drive to ponder, pray and enjoy God’s handiwork.  So, as our own private celebration, Marilyn and I drove this route again the other night.

On one of my first drives through this part of the Gorge, I noticed a quote from Samuel C. Lancaster, the engineer who designed and build the road.  The picture on the right may not be readable, but it says… “Standing here I realized the Landcaster 1915magnitude of my task and the splendid opportunity presented.  Instinctively there came a prayer for strong men and that we might have sense enough to do the thing in the right way… so as not to mar what God had put there. ”

As soon as I read this, I saw the similarities between Lancaster’s situation and mine.  He realized the magnitude of his task, so did I.  He  did not want to mar what God had done, neither did I.  He instinctively prayed, so did I.  His prayer was for for strong men, I have prayed for strong men and women.  I am grateful for the ways God has answered this prayer for me.

I suggest this is a good prayer for all of us.  That we recognize God at work around us; that we see the significance of that work; that we not mar that work; that we look for and to others around us that God is bringing around us to help us accomplish what He has called us to do.

Thank you, Tychicus

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May 27th, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

Counting on Technology

So, on a recent Sunday morning, I was ready to preach.  This time, my notes were on my computer in a PowerPoint  format.  Shortly before I was to begin preaching, I opened my laptop with the thought of gettiLaptopng things all set.  But…  but… but… the screen didn’t look the same.  In fact it gave me a message I wasn’t familiar with and didn’t like.  It was something about it couldn’t load the operating system.  I am not a IT guy, but I knew this was not good news.  Within a few days, my son-in-law (an IT guy) had replaced the hard drive even though none of the files on it were retrievable.

The hearing aids worked great…  when they worked.  They connected to my phone while driving, they “Blue toothed” to my phone so I could hear videos, music, etc.  And they even allowed me to hear my grandchildren better!  My “Huh? factor” diminished.  But… but.. but.. they did not work all the time.  They were very inconsistent.  One phone call would work great, the next would not.  Sometime one ear would work, sometimes I could hear in both ears.  And for everything to work properly, all the batteries needed to be charged.

These are two recent times when technology has failed me.  And the fail has cost me time, money, energy and convenience.

I am not opposed to technology.  But, here’s the deal.  I am grateful that God is not a “techno-God!”  I’m grateful that He does not have a hard drive, does not need to be “synced,” and does not need charging.  Wires, components, batteries, and circuits are not needed.

With Him, it is still about relationship and conversation.  It’s about knowing Him and being known by Him.  It’s about walking with Him and enjoying Him.  It’s about face to Face time rather than Face Time.

I am not opposed to technology, but I sure appreciate the personal nature of our God.

Thank you, Tychicus

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April 1st, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

He who has ears…

Hearing is a good thing…

For several years I Earshave known this day would come.  I have been saying, “What?” or “Say that again.” or “Huh?” or “Could you repeat that?” quite a bit in recent months.  So, yesterday, I got these little guys and I hope they help me cut down on my vocabulary a bit.

They are a bit inconvenient and rather intrucive.  I end up hearing my voice and extraneous sounds much louder.  (Do you knjow how loud a key in the door can be?  Or the sound your coat makes when you take if off the hanger?)  But, they say I will get used to them soon.  So, I am hoping that the pay-off will be worth what I paid.

Wearing these hearing aids has caused me to wish there were some devices I could purchase to increase my spiritual hearing.  How cool would that be!  I could pay some money, insert a device into the ears of my heart and wallah(!) I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit much better.  Pretty cool!

So, it is not instanteous, you can’t purchase it, and it is not a device, but there is a process we can all be involved in to increase or (“aid”) our spiritual hearing.  In fact, I think we could say there is such a thing as a “spiritual hearing aid.”  That process is meditation.

Meditation is the process of the Holy Spirit writing His Word on our hearts.  It is the process of hearing and agreeing with what He is speaking to ears of our hearts.  The more we do it, the better we get at hearing.

Isn’t God good to not have a list price on this?  Anyone wh ois willing to “pay the price” can afford it.  There is some inconvenience and even some intrusion that goes along with it.  You may hear some extraneous sounds along the way.  And it takes a bit of getting used to, as well,  but if you stick with it, your hearing will increase.  The pay-off will be worth far more than what you pay.

Now, here is a plug if you want more information about this process.  Check it out here!  (PS There is a list price to this one…)

Thank you, Tychicus

(See Eph 6:21)

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March 2nd, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

I love my job!

In the last 5 weeks I have ministered in 5 different states, from the warmth of Florida to the snow in Idaho.  But the physical environment is 20160223_205506not the part that excites me the most.  The best part is the spiritual environment.  Being with pastors, missionaries, “regular folks” who love Jesus and want to press in to a deeper relationship with Him never gets old to me.

Here is a shot of pastors from The Dalles, OR caring for their pastor friends from Grays Harbor, WA, by praying for them.

Along the way, I get to hear lots of great stories.  Here is one from a recent Prayer Summit.  One of the first thing I did with the 30 or so people sitting in a circle was to ask them “What do you want from Jesus?”  I referenced the place in Matthew where A leper came to Jesus and said, “If you are willing, You can heal me!”  Jesus said, “I am willing” and He did heal the man.  Then I asked them, “What would you like to ask Jesus to do during these 3 days away?  He just might want to do that!”

When we got around to Don, he said, “When you were here 4 years ago, you asked a similar question.  Because I had recently been in a very serious accident, and my body was in constant pain, I said I wanted Jesus to heal me, to remove the pain.  You asked 5 guys to gather around me and pray for me.  They did, and ten minutes later the pain left and it has not returned!  When I told this to the people of my congregation, they rejoiced with me, but kept asking me if the pain had come back.  Finally, I told them, no…  when you are healed, you are healed!”

We laughed and rejoiced!

Thank you, Tychicus

(See Eph 6:21)

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February 12th, 2016 by Dennis Fuqua

Two very different lives

I wrote this post last year on this day.  It deserves another run…

February 12.  Happy Birthday to two very well-known historical figures.  February 12, 1809 two little boys were born.  One was born in The Mount, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, United Kingdom.  The other in Hodgenville, Kentucky, U.S.A.  There is no evidence that they ever met, but they would both go on to change the world.

One became a scientist, the other pursued law, and went on to become a president of his country.

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on exactly the same day.  This is an amazing “coincidence” of history.

Charles_Darwin_seated_crop

About 12 years ago, Marilyn and I attended the National Day of Prayer meetings in Washington D.C.  We took a couple extra days to take in some sights in the area.  We did not have a firm plan, we were pretty spontaneous.  We knew of a couple things we wanted to make sure we took in, but did not have a schedule.  One of the things we wanted to make sure we saw was the Holocaust Museum.  We were struck like everyone is as we moved through the historical halls and saw the documentation of destruction.  I wept.  As we exited the building, we wandered and reflected.  We talked about the hatred we saw.  We talked about the senseless loss of life.   I knew how Darwin had influenced Hitler’s life and thinking.  Darwin’s thoughts were not the only influence, but they were an influence that allowed Hitler to justify his mass killing of those he deemed to be inferior.

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863Without planing, we soon found ourselves at the Lincoln Memorial.  We walked up the steps.  We looked out over the mall from where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech.  We read quotes from Lincoln that have been forever written in stone.  Then it hit me!  As I read the words of Abraham Lincoln, I realized the power and the contrast of one man’s ideas.  I will never forget the impact.

One man’s ideas allowed one of the world’s worst people to justify his evil.  They allowed him to leave God out and “dehumanize” people.  The result was the senseless death of millions of people.

Another man’s ideas allowed him to become one of the world’s best and most respected men of history.  Because they included God, he saw everyone as equally created.  The result was the freedom of millions of people.

Darwin and Lincoln – two very different men, two very different outcomes.

What we think matters.  The logical consequences of our thoughts are actions.  The result of our actions affect others.  Sometimes many others.

Thank you, Tychicus

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For much more about this contrast, see this link.