Thursday, September 6, 2018

Be Still

Somehow, I wrote this in February and failed to publish it.  Perhaps, it wasn't meant to be published until now...

“Be Still”
Tommy Deal, February 28, 2018

I do not know if I can be identified as a “Type A” personality, or one who is driven.  What I do know is for me to sit still is odd.  If I were a child today I may be diagnosed with something that explains my constant moving.

Over the past weekend I found myself in need of doing “nothing.”  Susan, my wife and life-partner, will tell you that even when we do find ourselves with a slow, quiet evening at home and we relax in front of the television catching up on our favorite DVR’d shows that fast-forwarding through the commercials robs me of the time I have come to desire to get up and “do” something or “get” something.

Sometimes, however, the body seems to say, “Hey you! Sit!” I found myself like so many others dealing with “the CRUD.”  I first went to our Convenient Care Center with stuffy head syndrome.  I received a shot where the sun doesn’t shine and some medicine.  Two days later I literally could not breathe through the sinuses and got in to see the ENT.  After thorough examination I was diagnosed with acute sinusitis.  I sarcastically told the doctor there was nothing “cute” about it. 

Working among some highly qualified medical personnel on Friday I asked one to listen to my lungs to see if she heard anything unusual.  That morning she said other than one slight crackle in the lower lobe of one side my breathing was “text-book.”  GREAT! I thought.  I am “text book” and beginning to feel lousy.

I agreed to go on home for the afternoon and take it easy.  What really bothered me were the plans I had made now needed to be put on hold.  I was looking forward to riding-along with Dalton PD, an opportunity which I look forward to as one of their Chaplains.  And then the next day with promising beautiful weather I was going to hike the trail at Lula Lake with other associates of our health system.  Instead “be still” was in my forecast.  My energy was waning and I could feel tightness in the chest.

“Be Still.”  I know what it means; I just don’t know how to accomplish it very well.  So, with the help of my lap companion Chihuahua “Lucy” I proceeded to let the body rest.  Through the afternoon and evening the chest became more congested, coughing became quite intense and I settled in.  Susan was spared the brutal moaning, groaning and violent coughing thanks to our church’s Women’s retreat. 

I could write and say that this was a “spiritual” event in which I prayed and fasted, etc.  (I never lost my appetite, which is not a good thing!) My first step was to decide how much TV I was going to interject.  The second was to consider three books I needed to finish. (Oh, did I say I am NOT an avid reader?  Reading to me can be a chore!)  Two of the books are part of my current involvement in CPE, or Clinical Pastoral Education.  The other is a book my father had sent to me about a family from our hometown.

With the weekend ahead of me I made a conscious decision to hunker down Saturday and Sunday.  This was convenient as it would not cost me leave time from work.  When I got to Monday, however, I had to decide the cost versus the payoff – 8 hours of paid annual leave and perhaps be on the road to recovery, or work through it and continue in this funk.  And, in healthcare nobody really wants you coughing all over them.  Three and a half days I spent at home reading, listening to one book on Audible, watching a movie and napping.  The most exercise I got was taking Lucy for a short walk outside.

I must say that I kind of enjoyed it – other than the congested, violent coughing spells.  I never stopped to inventory the minutes I wasted and should have been doing something constructive.  I only calculated the investment in time to ward off the problems the ol’ body was facing.  A chest x-ray confirmed no pneumonia; I had no temperature and the medicines with rest were working.  I was back up to 100% -- or should I say, MY 100% which is probably about 80%.

It seems to me that when God said “Sabbath” he knew what He was talking about. BE STILL. . .

Monday, February 19, 2018

Speed Limits


Tommy Deal

What is it about posted speed limits that bother people?  Or, better yet, why do folks feel they do not apply to them, that they are merely a suggestion?  And, why are they so apologetic when they get caught and get a “Blue Light Special?”

Now, I must confess that I may sometimes find that I have worn my heavy shoes some days.  Particularly when I get out on the interstate and mere survival requires that I keep up with the flow.

But regularly neighbors in my neighborhood could care less the posted speed limit is 35 mph. (Disclaimer: I do not live within the city limits of our great city of Dalton!)  I pull out of my driveway with no cars within a quarter of a mile from my driveway; I accelerate to the posted speed and from out of nowhere a neighbor is running late to drop the kids off at school or get to the office and suddenly I become the bad guy.  At least I must be the bad guy as evidenced by the friendly gestures and mouthed words sent my way.

I applaud all the efforts our officers give to make us safe, including stopping some who apparently received their driver’s training from NASCAR.  It seems that when they are presented their “certificate of recognition” they are not so much repentant for their breaking the laws as they are that they got caught.

Speed Limits are posted for our safety and good.  Laws are written to give guidance to an order with which we should live.  Those who enforce the laws are instruments of maintaining a safe society for everyone. 

There are laws of science and nature.  For the most part these are givens within our world which provide the order with which we live.  Breaking any of these laws, too, have consequences.  Fall off a ladder and one will soon find that two laws of nature were broken, and now perhaps they are, too.

God, too, has given us laws.  These were not given to limit us or to break us.  They were given in hopes that those who follow them will find God’s original plan of love and grace.  Unfortunately, we each think that “a little over the limit” won’t really matter…unless we get caught.

The prophet Micah wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Jesus, the Christ when quizzed about the greatest commandment (or law) said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yes, there is other guidance Holy Scripture gives us and we should live as it instructs.  But I would surmise that if more of us would just follow these two, this world we live in would be a much better place. (And, perhaps we wouldn’t be speeding through life and missing the best parts!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pastoral Care -- A New Perspective
Tommy Deal, Chaplain, Hamilton Health Care System Hospice, Dalton Georgia

For over thirty-five years I have attempted to offer pastoral care to those whom God placed before me through church, community, compassion ministry, disaster response and now hospice.  I have learned and am continuing to learn that the strongest message spoken in times of care are not words, but presence.

Recently I had just finished a week offering pastoral presence to nineteen hospice patients and their caregivers.  The first half of the following week I saw nine more.  Through this ministry of end of life care I am honored to be present with people who truly are “walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.”  I find each one of these are Holy moments.  When it comes to the door this side of eternity most everyone contemplates where he or she is headed.  God is ever-present and in most all of these times there is a sincere seeking His divine love and grace.

Then, I found myself on a table in the Cardiac Cath Lab of our hospital.  Apparently what I had surmised as “out of shape old guy syndrome” was just a little more serious.  Over the next fifty-six or more hours I became the recipient of pastoral care.  Susan, who lovingly and patiently waited on me, soon found she was needing answers.  The hospital Chaplain and caring fellow hospital associates brokered the securing of information to calm her concerns.

Many, many friends from our church, First Baptist Church of Dalton, Georgia, showed up to check on us, pray with us, offer their presence and love.  Some sat with me while others went with Susan to the Cafeteria for something to eat. Many came by and shared their deep concern and love for me.  My co-workers wonderfully expressed their love, appreciation and prayers.  The pastoral staff at our church (minus the Minister of Music, of course!) were present offering prayers, presence and encouragement. 

The end result of my time in the hospital resulted in two now unblocked arteries thanks to three stents and a balloon, a heart attack or worse averted and a “New Lease on Life!”  The new insight I have gained is how powerful and wonderful pastoral care is.  Most everyone of these dear friends near and far are not “professional clergy.”  Yet, they earnestly live their lives with an understanding that they ARE the presence of Christ; that they are called to be a blessing; that “because they have been given much, they, too, must give.”

“Thank you!” seems to be inadequate to express how blessed I am to have experienced each of their (and your) expressions of love and concern for me.  The ol’ ticker is much better now.  However, I am still an “out of shape old guy.”  I guess I need to work on that!

Monday, February 13, 2017

“I’m down…in a Good way!”

For several years I would write a Blog every so often.  Nothing ground-shaking; just my thoughts and ramblings about life as I was experiencing it.  I never knew when the “spirit would hit me.” But when it did, I would sit down and the thoughts would brew, the words would percolate up and the fingers smoked as I tried to put it down before I forgot something.

I checked and my last “DEALingwithmyworld” Blog was over a year ago.  And it was full of the pride and joy of becoming a grandfather.  There has been a lot to write about this last year with their (twin girls!) bubbling into this joyous life.  I just have not taken the time or have listened to my inner self; oh, and I have been busy—well, who hasn’t?

So, here I sit with something to write.  Again, nothing earth-shattering nor profound.  Just my musings for my life right now.

I do not make New Year’s resolutions.  Not because I do not want to improve in some area of my life.  It is more about the fear of not succeeding.  We all are amused at those who pronounce far-reaching resolutions, only to be disheartened by falling short.

With that being said, I did come into this New Year (or more accurately I left the holiday season) uncomfortable, stuffed and not feeling up-to-par.  I wasn’t obese, but I knew I was not healthy.  My pants were tight and I could barely suck it in enough to fasten them.  I seriously had reached the last hole on my belts!  My shirt collars would not button.  I literally would get winded walking down the drive way walking the dog or taking the stairs to my bedroom.

While our little nuclear family was gathered for Christmas I insisted we take a family photo.  A tradition, a documentation for years to come.  It became Susan’s and my Christmas Card.  It was great!  Susan and I each holding one of our precious granddaughters, William and Mary Kate, Ragan and Jessica.  And it dawned on me:  I don’t have one good reason to get healthy; I have SEVEN!  (Eight if you count me!)

I want to be energetic to be “Tom-Tom,” I want to be fit to enjoy our family get-togethers, I want to be able to help my sons and their families with home projects, baby-sitting, etc.  Basically, I want to be around!

I’ve said it before, “Getting healthy is a state of mind, and the state of mine is pretty darn good,” now.  Seriously, I challenged myself and began to get healthy by following a healthy diet, receiving encouragement and support from a health coach and enjoying the successes.  (It helps that Susan wanted to as well!)

Dec. '16
Feb. 12, 2017

Here I am at Christmas.  Notice there is no chin, no jaw.  Heck if it wasn’t for the facial hair one would think I was all neck!

On the right is me today, four weeks after starting this journey.  I am down fifteen pounds (five away from my Goal #1 weight), my pants fit, and I’m using the correct belt holes and the dress shirts button!  Best thing is I can walk my driveway and skip up the steps!  It is amazing what fifteen extra pounds does to one’s body!  I am feeling good, I am feeling good about myself, I have a healthier outlook on life and my kids and grandkids are going to have to put up with me for a very long time!

Many of you have kept me going!  You’ve seen my Facebook posts.  Thank you for every “Hoorah” and encouragement you have given.  It has meant a lot!  I could not have done this without my life’s partner, my best friend and my bride by my side. 

The one vital element in all of this that I would like to point out:  my health coach!  This is a friend who has encouraged me, advised me, and is on the journey with me (he’s lost over 30 pounds!).  He is the key “free” element in what I am doing.  I believe in it so much that I have decided I, too, want to help others who want to get healthy.  If you would be interested in learning more, or having me as your Health Coach, send me a message,  “Let’s talk.”

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"There's Nothing Like it"

When our son, William and his wife, Mary Kate announced to us their pregnancy we were thrilled to say the least!  Our first grandchild!  No, wait, there’s two?!? Twins!

For months we have been anticipating their arrival and entering into that holy fraternity of GRANDPARENTHOOD.  Dozens of already established members of this wonderful society told us repeatedly, “There’s nothing like it!” or “If I had known it would be this much fun I’d have had my grands first.”

I can now say, “THERE’S NOTHING LIKE IT!”  If you follow me, Susan, William, Mary Kate, Ragan or any other relative or friend of ours you have encountered numerous pictures posted to the wonderful world of Facebook.  Gone are the days of photographs with film and having to wait a week for development.  Praise be to God!  Today there is instant gratification and sharing.

Some have heard the account of January 3, 2016 from our perspective.  It began like any other Sunday just like yours.  You know; you wake up, stretch, drink your coffee, have some devotional time, walk and feed the dog, shower, dress for church and find a flat tire on your car!  So, Susan and I take my loyal Toyota truck to church.  Having just returned from some extensive time with families in Virginia and Alabama, and an extension of our time in Alabama to help with Susan’s mother who fell and broke her hip, we were greeting folks at church as we entered.

William had made for me and gifted me at Christmas a “two peas in a pod” lapel pin which I chose to wear on my suit coat for the first time.  Susan and I met our pastor, Bill Ireland in the hall and he inquired into Susan’s mother’s condition.  He then asked about William, Mary Kate and the babies.  We told him the news we received at Christmas that a date had been set for the C-section: February 2nd…and my phone rang.

On the other end was William.  The timbre of his voice was higher than normal and syllables were flying by.  What we understood him to say was he had just preached the 8:30 service at his church, had an urgent text from Mary Kate, another minister copied his sermon and told him she would cover the 11:00 service.  He would keep us informed but would be going to the doctor or the hospital to check to see why Mary Kate was so sick.  (Keep in mind the scheduled date was a month away and that was even early.)

Our pastor assured Susan, the Minister of Music, that she needed to do whatever she needed to or wanted to do for her family.  Susan, the wife and expectant grandmother told me, “Go get the flat tire fixed!”  So, off I went, back home, change clothes, put air in a tire and see what it needed.  Ragan, our oldest son was finishing up his Christmas vacation with us and was still at the house getting ready to come to church.  He drove behind me to find a tire repair shop.

Before we could get to a tire shop, I received a text from William, “You’re going to be a ‘Tom Tom’ (hopeful name they will call me!) today!”  Susan received a different text, “Holy Smokes!  Fully Dialated!”

This all transpired while Susan was preparing the choir to lead in worship.  She kept her phone with her and advised the pastor of the progressive nature of the news.  Everyone encouraged her to go ahead and leave, but remember, she had no vehicle.  We had communicated that she would leave whenever Ragan could arrive at church.

I found no place open to repair a tire on Sunday and made the decision to drive my truck to Richmond and not take a chance on the tire, which was holding air.  I turned on the radio knowing that our church service was being broadcasted.  Here’s where it gets good!  At 11:25 a.m., the choir begins singing the anthem, “Benedictus (Blessed is the LORD).”  I am driving up the highway back to the house and those words open up the dam of emotions…at 11:25 – 11:30 a.m.

The pastor begins his sermon from Matthew 2, the account of the Magi’s journey to see the promised one.  He states, “What a joyous day today has already proven to be.  Susan, Tommy and Ragan are now beginning their journey to go see those promised precious babies.”  Again, the emotions well up inside and then out!

Sweet Adeline Charlotte Deal and Dorothy Hope Deal were born at 11:28 a.m. and 11:29 a.m. respectively.  The
exact moments that God Himself appointed for their earthly journey to begin, for the choir to sing “Benedictus” and our pastor to verbally pull it all together.  “Blessed is the LORD!”

Having now begun my journey as a grandfather, I agree:  “There’s nothing like it!”  (Rest assured:  more will come!)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

“I bring you good tidings…”

These words are familiar to most of us, particularly at this time of year.  These are the words of the angel announcing the birth of the Messiah.  I’ve never actually heard angelic voices, but I know good sounds when I hear them.  Some have even said someone “sings like an angel.”

I think we all know what that means; don’t we?  Hopefully, it is a compliment, basically applauding one’s rendition of lyrics and melodies that convey a message.  I love to sing.  I love good singing.  I loathe bad singing.  The Psalmist reminds us to “Make a joyful noise to the LORD,” and honestly that is all some of us can do.

But, what about those shepherds that night?  Out of nowhere shows up something (the angel of the Lord) they had never seen before blasting an announcement with the force of what we could imagine as a rock band-type sound system volume.  And the first words were:  “Fear not!”  If I was a shepherd back then, I probably would have said, “Yea, right!” as I high-tailed it away from there.

After this grand introduction the voice said to them, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  In today’s vernacular, I imagine the angel saying, “Hey Dudes!  Listen up!  Have I got something to tell ya!”

And…they listened.  Shocked and in awe the shepherds were the first to know that the Savior of the world had come.  They heard; they believed; they did something (they went to see); and they spread the news.

As we are in the Advent season, all the world is eagerly waiting the celebration of the coming of the Christ.  ‘Tis the Season for hustle and bustle, for shopping and feasting, for music and laughter, for giving and receiving of gifts.  So many things to do, see and experience, that when it is all said and done, I wonder if we might miss the whole purpose?  Perhaps, there is too much noise and we do not hear what we really need to hear.

Are we so busy that we miss the voice calling out, “Hey!  Listen up!  There’s something more to this.  Don’t miss it!  It is for everyone!”

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer
October 31, 2015

As I drive around the beautiful and spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains I am reminded of the work of God’s hand.  The vibrant and lush colors of Autumn are popping out; the clear and cool air allows for some awesome views from overlooks.

However, as we have gone into the autumn season, I am reminded of a final summer experience Susan and I had.  On Labor Day, we drove to Blue Ridge, Georgia and up the Toccoa River where we stepped into the cold (yes, cold!) flowing waters and tubed the Toccoa.  What began as an overcast morning, turned into one of the most beautiful, sunny mornings that afforded exactly what our bodies, minds and souls needed—nothing.

Not exactly “nothing,” but for two and a half hours we did “nothing.”  This “nothing” of an experience, however, reminded me of a few lessons. 

One, we all need respite.  We live in such a fast-paced, winner-takes-all society that if we do not stop, rest and retool, we will quickly burn out.  Once I plopped down into the inflated pink (yes, real men do wear pink!) inner tube, I didn’t have to decide much of anything.  I rested in physics to take me where I should go.

Second, as song writer Jack Johnson put it, it is better together.  As we checked in we were given an additional strap to tether our tubes so that we could stay connected.  We realized that we were on this journey together, and together it would be fun.  Drifting apart would have meant more energy to attempt to reconnect or catch up.

Third, goes along with “second,” the momentum of one helped when another got stuck.  Invariably an obstacle, usually a large rock, protruded out of the swift moving water and would catch the one in the front. While this manned inner tube sat there paralyzed against the fighting forces of rock and rushing water, the tethered inner tube would gently float around and find the current’s flow around the rock.  Being tethered the “free” tube would persuade the other to follow.  And this happened time and again.  It didn’t matter which one got stuck, the other was there to urge forward movement.

Fourth, life vests are for a purpose.  For the most part, I didn’t need this designer orange floatation device for its purpose, so I used it as a pillow.  Which by the new definition fulfilled its purpose!

Last, relying on others, particularly strangers, is important.  While we did not actually hear “Dueling Banjos” playing, several times I did wander if the tubing company would actually pick us up at the end and return us to our car.

Respite is not only a good thing, it is God-ordained.  Take it when you can; make it happen for your spiritual, emotional and physical health. 

Life is a journey that cannot and should not be done solo.  Find those whose life resonates with yours and tether together.  You won’t drift apart and when you get stuck, their momentum will help you along. 

If you cannot fully utilize something for its designed purpose, maybe there is a secondary function you can use it for. 

Relying on others requires trust.  Trust others around you and those whose paths you cross today to help you achieve today’s goals.

Mostly, go enjoy this adventure called life.