The Best Route To Carpe Diem

It hit me. Nor sure if softly or a mighty punch. Any manner very clear. Went like this: Know the difference between the times in which we live and the moments we experience.

Times in which we live…just coursed through MSN.COM and YAHOO.COM. Horrible imbalance, no matter how you are in beliefs. The downers, sags in the balance, are so much stronger with unparalleled frequency. Doesn’t matter to name names, simply the times in which we live truth: life has had better times. Forgive the indulging spin. You can name your own menacing and denigrating times.

A confession: I get caught up waaaay too often with the times and I’m sure, stronger than certainty, they impact me and fuel me and shape the words I at least think if not blatantly speak. Times in which we live.

Then. The moments we experience. Maybe not a good image, but I’d call them the strobe lights, the blinking verities that happen. What I hope? I hope they’re not absent in your day. Sure they blink. But, no less. They inspire.

Last week walking Caleb our Cavalier and Copper our Yellow Lab, I was so caught up in the times Jason and Diane and honestly, so many of us are living in prayers hoping for Jason’s recovery. Three houses away a white car backed out of the driveway. I didn’t know these neighbors. It then hit me. I waved and asked the lady to stop. She said her name was Jennifer. I introduced myself and Caleb and Copper. And I asked her for prayers for Jason. She thanked me.

Then. She wrote an e-mail saying she and her husband, Greg, and their two dogs would pray for Jason and asked to be kept current on Jason’s condition. Which, a moment to cherish, the neurosurgeon removed the drainage tube in his brain yesterday and said the CT Scan was encouraging. A good step along the recovery road. Still, it was a cherished moment that Jennifer and Greg will pray for Jason.

Then, at the post office, the bank, the dental office, the vet shop, the grocery store, I’m asked about Jason. Those friends, most of whom I don’t know their last name, are so precious. THOSE are the moments that become stronger than the times. To have people care. To have people pray. To have people inquire for the good of Jason…and for us…and for themselves!

Because in a powerful way having the moments we experience make more impacting than the times in which we live…ah, maybe the best definition of carpe diem.

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Tricia Gleason Has Arrived!!!

Today was a special day…UPS made it so. The doorbell got the attention of my dogs. The UPS driver said, “The package is heavy.” I hunched right: my first supply of the new novel, Truth Uncovered. Am pleased. A buddy said this may be a book that is sold by its cover. Maybe? Who knows. Another friend, who does much editing, appreciated the synopsis, offering the helpful teases. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Tricia Gleason’s latest adventure. It’s her sixth time to see how fishing and homicide tracking and preaching can each have a place. Do let me know if you’d like a signed copy—the paperback is $20 and the hardback is $25. Happy sleuthing! Am actually delighted another friend just wrote, having finished her read and said the ending surprised her—that is, who did the homicides. Maybe you can figure it out before the last chapter? Maybe? Maybe not! The synopsis:

TRUTH UNCOVERED
A TRICIA GLEASON NOVEL
By
Mark Henry Miller

Tricia Gleason rarely finds a situation where her hats remain in the closet. Yes, she could choose. Always her choice. She balks when anyone pushes her with a should-upon list. She gives new meaning to “staying in the closet.” Has nothing to do with sexual orientation; everything to do with function.
A preacher? Yes. A fishing guide? Yes. A detective solving homicides initially considered suicides? Unfortunately, yes.

But a new hat to wear? Not on her head, but in her heart. A hat for falling in love. No, nothing about falling and everything about jumping.

Complications, she knew, are never avoided. She starts a new church ministry in Tillamook. Faces ministers whose words are unrelated to their deeds. The previous minister committed suicide. She doesn’t think so. The church secretary disappears the week before Tricia gives her first sermon. A librarian defends against a self-pleasing minister before he grabs her. Not fake news. #METOO very real.

The romance/love hat is worn, but the closet empties of hats for preaching and fishing and detective sleuthing. She laughs about being a 3-hat person.

The laughter stops when the revolver is pressed to her forehead. She isn’t ready to not preach her second sermon, not take her lover fishing—and other activities. But then she believes she doesn’t have a choice…her tears won’t stop a bullet…

Available on http://www.authorhouse.com; http://www.amazon.com; http://www.amazon/kindle.com; Personal signed copy contact Mark directly, 512-585-1132 or markhmiller@att.net

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It Started With A Blueberry Muffin

An update and a commentary:

As you can appreciate Jason’s road to recovery has good days and days difficult with heavy challenges. One of the nurses, Suzanne, whom I’ve mentioned previously, shared with me, after more than fifteen years a nurse in ICU, “Mark, you and Diane bring the best medicine…you are here, you care…not only medicine for Jason, but for all of us. It means everything to be appreciated.”

What Diane and I appreciate, beyond words, is how many of you pray for Jason [and us!] and send notes or make calls. It means the most, and we have shared with Jason all the prayer warriors…who help us with the fight for healing. We thank you…every day…every day.

Ah, there it is again, the importance of gratitude.

As I head to the 52nd anniversary of my ordination, this June, and have concluded my preaching and pastoral care for the wonderful folk at First Christian Church in Lexington, it has become clearer what the most significant reality in being a pastor is [not that it’s exclusive, but certainly prominent to and for me] is to be what I have called these years a “pastoral presence” or “caring presence.” To say something, to do something, to be present to needs, often times they arrive unexpectedly.

A silly example, and yet it’s not. I shopped yesterday and got some pumpernickel muffins. The clerk said it was a 2 for 1 sale. He added on a blueberry package of muffins. Not that I needed them. Ah, truth beckons that more muffins is a dear friend of my diabetes. But, politeness took over.

Went to my car, asking myself, “I have to gift these.” Just as I opened my car, a gentleman parked next to me. “Sir, may I ask you a personal question?” Having some trust, he nodded no he didn’t mind. I asked him if he liked blueberry muffins. Wow. Couldn’t have guessed more accurately. Felt good to pass on some of the calories. I know…why did I get the first package in the first place? Will deal with that later.

One other note. I learned earlier this week that my first order of the new novel, “Truth Uncovered” has been shipped. Once they are in hand I’ll post a full notice about my hero’s latest adventure. For Tricia Gleason the venue is Tillamook and as in her previous five novels, she’s fully challenged to balance life, ministry, fishing and murder. As I’m fond of saying, more on the late news.

Finally. A difficult postscript. Pastoral care is the prime essence of effective ministry, as this column began. What dismays is when someone talks a good game of caring…but the deed never happens. What I call deedless words. My dis-ease with that from others is strong, but it is what it is.

Oh, a better postscript, one that prompted this blog…I read this morning about Pope Francis officiating a wedding on a flight. Read the link. What he did is realize in the situation how he could be caring. Loved the dynamic and hope that after you look through the window of what he did, turn the window to a mirror and see today how you can be a caring presence to someone else. Deal?

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pope-marries-flight-attendant-couple-mid-flight/ar-AAuQOUc?ocid=spartandhp

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Encouragement Walks with Us and Jason–Keep Casting

Life is always multiple-choice. This or that. Up or down. Verities or fake news. Triage…all the time.

Today Diane and I and Jason are walking with encouraging news. They’ve taken off the breathing tube, his first non-garbled words to Diane, “Mom, I love you.” And then. Ah, so Jason. He asked for Pepsi. When told, “Not now,” he was not happy…Yep, so Jason.

The woods still envelop us. However, we have been so encouraged and partnered by incredible medical staff and so many of you who have sent notes, offered prayers. Wow, such comfort and strength. Thank you…so very, very much.

Am shifting my game plan, although not my “other focus.” Now that I’ve concluded my wonderful-experience preaching/pastoral care ministry in Lexington, I will re-arrange my fishing schedule. Want to make sure Jason’s much better—when that happens, they’ll transfer him to a therapy center. Yesterday it was so wonderful, the therapists helped him sit on the side of the bed. Ah, one step at a time…in the woods, yes, but not controlled by the woods. During Advent when Jason was in the hospital for 3 weeks our Advent sign, “Believe” was on our front door. We’ve taken down the manger scene, but the sign remains. For we do BELIEVE God’s promise to never leave us will always be kept. And. Your friendship is one of God’s greatest blessings.

In all that, even though it was two years ago, I came upon two pictures posted on Facebook by my Forks fishing guide, Bob Ball. Zorba, my Oregon guide and I will hopefully have our 5th Forks adventure in March, in hopes Jason is much better. The two pictures bring me so much joy…for part of me…my DNA for sure, is fishing. Not surprised? The first picture is my playing a steelhead in the dawn of a foggy day. The second, look closely, you can see the bobber and under it a 14-pound wild steelhead. It was kept alive and was taken to a brood pond so it could help create more steelhead in the future.

So, in thought and prayer and presence, we love on Jason.

Still, I look at these pictures and know…in my heart of hearts, my casting’s not done. Nope, not done at all. My love and gratitude to you who care…means the world to me and Diane and Jason.

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Update on Jason’s Condition

Wasn’t until I stood on my former 8th grade teacher’s porch, a week before ordination in June of 1966 that “gratitude” became common and necessary. I went to Miss Agnes Carter’s home, she retired a number of years before I believe, to thank her for preparing me for ministry. Yes, somehow being able to diagram sentences, know it is “he’s better than I” and not “he’s better than me” is proper. Knowing the prepositions and being and linking verbs…helped in this world demanding communication. She didn’t know who I was and didn’t understand what I had said in affirmation of her teaching. I stood on the porch and wept…I was too late in gratitude to her…but promised God I would NEVER be tardy again. Try my best to keep that promise.

Yesterday I shared our gratitude to the doctors and nurses in Jason’s ICU room, for their continued skill, wisdom and knowledge and tremendous caring spirit. Some took me aside to comment in this manner, “Thank you for your gratitude, it helps more than you’ll ever know.” I even affirmed Suzanne, the primary ICU nurse for Jason, “You come to us as an angel impersonating a human being.” And. Meant it fully!

So, this morning, Saturday, January 13, 2018 I am grateful. As I throw pitch after pitch to strike down the foe, Jason’s illness, and hope there are more strikes unhittable than wide of the plate.

Of course the road ahead is not guaranteed, but we are encouraged, knowing that the illness hitting the pitch can always occur. Not for details, but Jason’s blinking his eyes upon requests, wiggling his toes, squeezing his hand, all signs that the road to recovery is being taken.

We don’t hold our breath. Rather, we breathe and offer prayers of gratitude to God that we are not alone. So many of you have shared your support and prayerful spirits. It makes only for the good, for comfort and inner peace.

We continue throwing the ball and look with hope that someday the illness will throw down the bat and walk away. Nothing wrong with hope. And absolutely nothing wrong with gratitude.

Miss Carter smiles from heaven and says, “Mark, do good and do it well.”

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Let Me Share My Pitch

Epiphany was on January 6, 2018, the Breaking Forth of Light—

Today, even though three days later, I had a personal epiphany.

Went like this in a telephone conversation with a trusted friend. The response was to the latest blog sharing about Jason’s brain surgery to remove the hematoma and his current very perilous condition in ICU.

The friend and I visited…the sharing was the dearest…support and concern for Diane, Jason and me. I then lapsed, or maybe plunged ahead without thinking, traipsing through the dreaded “What If?” game. Had to do with what will happen in our world of scary medical conditions, what will happen to our grandsons, what will…what will…what will.

The friend’s middle name is hyphenated PATIENCE-WISDOM. The inquiry came: “Mark, think about when you were a baseball pitcher. What was important?”

I didn’t hesitate, “The batter…get him out.”

The question followed, “What about the next batter?”

“I only pitch to one batter at a time.”

BAM!

BULLS-EYE.

The rest of this day, Tuesday, January 9, I relived my baseball life…at the age of 7 getting my first glove, the 4 years at Jefferson High School pitching, the 4 years at Stanford with a baseball scholarship, the 5 summers of playing semi-professional baseball in Portland. I had forgotten [truth!] that as a high school senior, much to my surprise [honestly] I ended up with the highest Portland High School League batting average. Didn’t forget my last game, circa 1962, pitching in Battle Creek, Michigan for the Archer Blower [Portland] semi-professional team, the semi-final game of the Amateur Baseball World Series. Wow, we won and then the next night Cecil Ira [God rest his soul] pitched us to a Championship Victory.

I thought of my pitches…only had 4. The fast ball, the curve ball, the change-up and the slider. My slider was my go-to-pitch. Certainly wasn’t the best pitcher in Portland high school…Mickey Lolich was from another high school…won 3 games in the World Series for the Detroit Tigers. Nor was the best in college…Jim Lonborg was—pitched the Red Sox to a World Series triumph.

But, I knew in my heart of hearts and left arm, that I was my best. I knew that.

So.

So what?

The So What is today and tomorrow and the 3rd dawning day and beyond that I’m a pitcher. And there’s only one batter. No other. Now that batter is Jason’s Illness. I’ll join Diane and the medical staff and all our family and friends in beating the illness. That’s my pitch now.

The next batter? I don’t have a clue. But I do know. I’ll be ready. I will.

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Jason’s Emergency Brain Surgery

Sunday night, January 7, 2018

Today went as not planned. Early this morning Jason felt dizzy and imbalanced. At the hospital a CT Scan showed serious problems, bleeding in the brain. The neurosurgeon went over the scan with us, pointing out a hematoma a little larger than a golfball in the lower back of the brain. Surgery was risky but necessary. Jason was not able to respond so Diane made the decision to proceed with surgery.

The neurosurgeon removed the hematoma, helped to increase the blood circulation in the brain. Jason has been sedated with many doctors monitoring his condition. The next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Jason’s initial recovery from this major surgery.

As you know Jason was hospitalized over 3 weeks recently to battle C3GN, an anti-immune system failure that attacks the kidneys. It’s unclear where all this stems. Still, Diane and I pray fervently for strength and ask God to be a healing presence with and for Jason.

I had hoped to preach my concluding sermon today at the preaching/pastoral care ministry at the First Christian Church in Lexington. Obviously that didn’t happen. They continue to be very special people, sending notes of support and love. Yes!

We do not know where all this leads. I ask for special prayers for Diane. Jason’s her only child. He’s 38 and has had many medical challenges, starting at birth. She’s incredible, but energy isn’t always full, as we all can appreciate.

In any case, I wanted to update you, asking for prayers.

Blessings and Healing,

Mark.

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