Hayden Palm Is a Miracle

Hayden Palm Is a Miracle

I don’t know what it is about this girl, but I can hardly talk about her without crying. I told her mother today that I cry at personal suffering easily, but what the good Lord is doing in my heart about this young lady is different.

Maybe it’s because we have followed her blog for over a year now. Maybe it’s because her parents gave us an InstaPot for Christmas. Maybe it’s because my son’s name is Haydn. Haydn reads her blog posts to us. He practices his reading by reading her updates. In that way, Hayden has helped Haydn to become a better reader.

We watched her hope and fight, as the cancer seemed to go away. Then it came back. After a while we noticed her heart turn toward heaven. She began to realize that there may be another narrative. We’ve been way up with her as we laughed at her spunky humor, and we’ve been way down with her as she wrote about those nasty tumors, the awful treatments, and the persistent cancer.

We prayed.

We cried.

We cheered from a distance.

We “met” Hayden through our ministry. Somehow our content made it to Oregon. Her parents, later, became students in our Mastermind course. Then they had to stop as Hayden’s cancer began to consume all of them.

We stayed in touch.

By mid-summer, we planned a conference for their church at the end of October. Then the pain in my back kicked me in the rear, and I went down for the count.


  • Surgery on July 11
  • Herniated disc in early September

My number one reason for taking this conference was to see Hayden. I wanted to hug her on this side of heaven. I wanted to pray with her. I wanted to cry with her and the family. Today, this pic came across my computer screen, so I sat in my zero-gravity chair and cried here instead.

My heart is breaking, which is a minuscule fracture compared to what is happening to her and with her family. Her mom said to pray for Hayden’s sister. It’s hard for Chandler to cope. (Read “understatement” at this point.)

Hayden (Crebbin) Palm is one of the most miraculous people that I know. Her blog is called the Merkel Miracle, a prophetic title that connotes hope for a cure of the Merkel cancer. The irony is that Hayden is the miracle, just not the way we all anticipated. God is doing miracle work in hundreds (maybe thousands) of lives. I love this girl.

She is a miracle. And I will be forever changed by her life.

Ricky and Lucy Went to Church Today

Now, what’s the big deal about attending your church meeting? Glad you asked. First of all, you have to get out of bed. That’s a good start. We’ve spent the last month in bed, which is not a bad thing (unless you have an injury).

Mobility Is Coming Back

Lucia can use her left arm to do most things, though she can’t “put off, put on” the lid to her Tervis, for example. There are a few other things she can’t do, but her arm usage is much better now.

My mobility is good as well. My issue is standing and sitting too long. My restrictions are the three “P’s.” I can’t Pick up anything, Push anything, or Pull anything. Thankfully, I can do my job.

Last Friday night I tried the zero-gravity chair. It worked okay, so now I can work away from my bed.

On Friday, I also made my first “Panera run” in three weeks. I didn’t do any of the work but was a “tag-a-long” rider. We got there forty-five minutes early, which gave us time to play a few card games.

(For the past five or so years, we have been going to Panera Bread each Friday night to pick up their leftovers. They typically have five to eight bins of bread that we bring home, sort, and giveaway to folks who are unemployed or underemployed. We giveaway just over $30K (retail) of food each year.)

The Church Meeting

The children have been attending our church meeting by themselves for the past three weeks. Today, we went as a family.

The chairs weren’t comfortable, but they have a few “old people seats” in the back that are cushiony. I sat in one of those during the teaching time. I sat in the regular chairs during the singing time.

I didn’t attempt to stand up. It was too painful and too much of a risk. Lucia’s endurance was not that great either. She sat during half the singing time.

We need to get our “church reps” in. If you miss a few, you get out of church shape. We’re out of shape, for sure. But it’s good to get back into the swing of things.

Long-Term Plan

We’ve decided we are not going to do much of anything for the next six months. With winter coming, it won’t be hard. We’ll do the “minimalistic thing,” by not adding much to our schedule that could jeopardize our health.

We’re both encouraged, but realistic.

IABC Was Fun

The International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) conference was fun. Attending these meetings was one of the reasons we went to Colorado. Of course, doing the Hillrose Church conference was the other.

  • I spoke six times at Hillrose Church.
  • And I taught four times at the IABC Conference.

IABC asked me to open the conference by speaking at the leader’s luncheon on Thursday afternoon before the “official” conference began that night. I taught the ministry leaders on how to have an online ministry in an ever-changing culture. The responses from the folks were good.

I spent the next three days talking to different individuals about aspects of what I shared during the luncheon. One pastor asked me to review his personal ministry blog, which I did. It was a pleasure to walk through his website, making suggestions about how he could make it more efficient and usable to his audience.

He was grateful.

I’m glad they asked me to do that specific training. Though Christians are doing better at the “redemptive use of technology,” we’re still a decade (or so) behind our culture in making the most of this “means of (common) grace.” We can do better than that, especially in light of our message. There is not a more important one out there.

IABC also asked me to lead an interview for The Mission House team during the main general session on Thursday night. That was a great experience. I got to meet Oliver Haywood, Matt Perkins, and Jim Tracy, all leaders of that ministry.

We had been emailing back and forth prior to the interview so they would not be surprised by my questions. Typically, when I interview someone, I give them the questions ahead of time so they will know what’s coming and not be surprised during the interview.

The next day I interviewed Oliver for our Life Over Coffee podcast. He’s a cool dude. I also interviewed Julie Ganschow, who leads a counseling ministry in Kansas City. I wish I had more time so I could have interviewed more folks. Perhaps next year.

The two workshops that I did were on “How to Make a Decision About Anything” and “How Do You Preach the Gospel to Yourself Practically.” Both of those were well-attended.

And we laughed a lot.

The children were great at managing our ministry booth. We had the green screen up and running so the people could stand in front of it to have their picture made. We dropped different backgrounds behind them, i.e., Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Pikes Peak, New River Gorge bridge, and New York City. We took some of our best travel photos to use as backdrops.

We also had a “spin the wheel” game where folks could spin to win one of our 20+ books. Most folks enjoyed that, though some of the “spinners” were a bit tentative about what it all meant. The kids were great at walking a few of the older folks through this newfangled technology thing.

Can’t wait until next year. I hope that some of our students–grads and current–will be able to attend. That would make it even more special.

Glen Eyrie

Contiguous to the Garden of the Gods public park is Glen Eyrie, which is part of the Navigators organization. The Navigators headquarters is on the other end of the property. There is so much property that you have to drive to see the offices, which we did.

I wanted to see where Jerry Bridges hung out and pay my respects to a wonderful human being. He is on my list of top ten favorite writers. Jerry went to see Jesus a few years back. I’m glad to have met him over lunch with a few friends. It was memorable, and one of my life highlights.

We spent nearly all our time on the Glen Eyrie side of things. The name comes from the idea of eagles in a glen. There is an old eagle’s nest near the front, though I was not clear if it’s inhabited currently. But there are eagles, elk, bobcats, bears, and other wildlife that roam the property. A bobcat walks through the compound on most afternoons, typically right down the main drive. He’s all full of himself, apparently.


They found a bear in the kitchen a while back. He was lifting a large salad bowl up to his hungry head.

Got to respect that too.

The Navigators

Years ago, the owners of the property asked Billy Graham if he wanted it. He declined. Then Dawson Trotman–who led the Navigators–stepped in, and they sold it to him dirt cheap. The Navigators worked with Billy, which is how Dawson found out about it. It’s a gorgeous property, though not anywhere as popular as the Garden of the Gods.

The original owner did a lot of good work in Colorado Springs and built the property for his family. The centerpiece is a small castle. (Small when compared to the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.) It is wonderful to see, though.

You can also rent a room, even the honeymoon suite on the top floor. All glass. Score! During the winter months, the rooms run about $100 per night. Not bad.

Glen Eyrie is also an exceptional place for group retreats, conferences, getaways, and personal retreats. If I were closer, I would be there often. It’s a great place to walk, pray, refresh, (or do training).

Providential Tour Guide

To get a tour, you need to call ahead. We did not do that, so we were at the mercy of whatever would happen after we drove on the site.

We did walk around, and while sitting in a video room, a fellow walked in asking us questions. I told him where we were from, and he asked me to read his name tag. Underneath his name, it said he was from Landrum, SC, which is next door to our town.

One thing led to another, and he said, “I’m not doing anything right now, so what if I give you all a tour?” (He was a tour guide, FYI, not some random stranger like us.)

And thus he did.

That guy was quite talkative (informative). He took us to the castle, gave a lot of backstories, and let us go wherever we wanted to go.

He lived in SC all his life, but while visiting his daughter in Colorado Springs, he went to Glen Eyrie. They said he could work there if he wanted to, and through a series of providential circumstances, he and his wife quit their jobs in SC, moved to Colorado Springs in an RV, with no promise of work.

The Navigators did hire him eventually, and that’s that. He is a wonderful man, generous, kind, happy with Jesus, and glad to be doing what he’s doing. And he did it well.

Glen Eyrie is a must see if you’re in Colorado Springs.

Back Update, Post Doc Visit

I have been putting off a “back update” until after I saw the doctor, which did happen this morning. I met today with the surgeon who did my back surgery on July 11.

This last week has been a combo of bed and steroids, and more bed (with my computer). Either the steroids are working or “time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure which one is bringing the magic.

My disc herniated on Wednesday, August 30. It hit critical mass on Sunday, September 03. I was in bed from Sunday to this past Saturday, September 09.

The children rearranged my office so that our nifty zero-gravity chair could replace my standard upright desk chair. Several have asked what a zero-gravity chair is. We have two from Walmart, which I bought a year or so ago so I’d have one up and downstairs. See here http://bit.ly/2wSVBHy These are also perfect for the beach; easy to carry and store.

The new chair arrangement permitted me to sit at the office all day on Saturday. It was not bad. Sunday was similar as far as the level of difficulty. The positive is that it was nice to get out of bed. Today, I’m back in bed because it’s most comfortable.

As For the Back

I’m able to walk, sit some, stand, and move around the house. The pain has dropped from a 25 to a 6, on the 1 to 10 scale. Less pain is great news. And I’m used to “six pain,” so I can take this.

We’ll see if it’s steroids or natural healing because I finished the steroids today, and will monitor the pain for the rest of the week.

I will visit the doctor in a week to ten days to follow up. For now, I’m going to hang out in my bed, spend a few hours a day at the office–at least when I do my podcasting–and keep everything nice and easy for an indefinite period.

The good news is that winter is coming. We tend to hibernate during the cold months. I disdain the winter. With shorter and colder days, it won’t be so bad. I can work, rest, enjoy the family, and come out next spring swinging (or shuffling).

I hope.

How Did It Happen?

The first question folks have asked is, “What happened?” The most accurate answer is that I do not know. And neither does the doctor. His best guess is that part of the scar tissue broke off and herniated the disc.

I was taking a nap!


Napping does not seem like a dangerous activity.

Be warned.

He said at this morning’s appointment that herniation happens to 5 to 10% of the folks who have a discectomy. (I wished I read the fine print.) He also said there is nothing you can do about it to prevent it. It’s one of those things. I’m good with that, though I feel like a walking time bomb.

It has been a week, but I see the end.


The last time I saw the end, it was only looping around to a more intensified repetition of the past twelve years. Maybe this time it won’t circle back for another dose of pain.

Unless something happens, I won’t update anymore on this issue.

To the Other Body

I do appreciate all who have asked how things are going. I appreciate the random drop-ins (Heidi F.), the food drop offs, the child transportation to school. And Tom and Missy having dinner with us last night. Tropical Chicken is the best. It was still good for lunch today.

Matt C., Nikki, Ruth, and Julie, thanks for the meals.

Oh, Alan, thanks for coming without an invitation and pushing yourself into my life. You stood in your own back pain for twenty minutes in my bedroom. I enjoyed the chat and your sacrifice. Let me know when you want to blow up our Christmas trees.

If I missed someone in this list, it’s because I was on drugs (or wished I was on drugs). But God knows who you are, and the kindness you gave.

Back Again

Just when you thought things were going well. Then, boom: things are not so good again. I took a nap last Wednesday, August 30. After waking, I felt my sciatica pain in my left butt cheek. It was the old pain, though it was not nearly as bad.

Just alarming.

As the days wore on, the pain worsened until by Sunday I could not walk, stand, or sit. The only thing that relieved the pain was to lay down while writhing to the “lucky position.” It takes about seven minutes to find the sweet spot between torture and agony.

I went to the doc yesterday. It was an ordeal to walk from house to van, from van to office, from office to patient room, from patient room to X-ray, etc. You get the idea. I’m back to counting seconds, measuring distances, and strategizing shortest routes. I cannot stand for more than 20 seconds, and the aftermath for standing, walking, or sitting is excruciating.

It was funny in the X-ray room when the guy went behind the wall to set-up, and after he returned, I was on the floor. He asked, “Dude, what are you doing?”

I laughed.

He was flummoxed.

Laying down was the only way I could get relief, and I was not about to stand there and wait on him to get setup. The floor was amazingly cold, which was also nice. He took the X-ray, and I shuffled back to my room.

After the visit, I made it to the van, found my spot in the back, and lay there for the ride home. I’m not sure if you’ve ever laid in the back of a van, but there is a lot of tossing and turning that you don’t feel when you’re driving. It’s a thorough jostle. The other negative is that I had a seat lifted up so I could have more room to stretch my legs. I couldn’t tie it off because it was too much effort, which was not a problem since I was holding it with my hand to keep it from falling on me.

I forgot about holding it on the way back home, and at one of the sudden stops, it came crashing down on my head. For about ten seconds I forgot about my back pain. My throbbing head brought sweet relief. I can’t say here what I said when it hit me, but it was instructive. I have some things to work on for sure.

Later in the day, we made the trek to get an MRI. While waiting on the tech, I found a spot on the floor beside a plant. (They don’t vacuum behind that plant.) An old lady was watching with sadness. She was commiserating. Which was better than the “cop on guard” at the doctor’s office earlier in the day. He was nice but also doing his job, which I do appreciate. He did let me lay there. (It reminds me of being pregnant (from what I’ve observed): sometimes you really don’t care what folks think.)

MRI Update

I just received the report from the doctor (Wednesday morning). She said the bulge was greater than the bulge before my surgery. It’s a herniated disc. Shazam. That makes sense because when the nurse checked me in yesterday, she asked the “1 to 10” pain question, to which I said 25. It was only a 17 on the “1 to 10 scale” prior to the surgery. Subjective assessment, of course.

I have three options:

  1. Prednisone pills to mitigate the pain.
  2. Epidural steroid injection to relieve the pain.
  3. Surgery. Again.

I’m going with the pills first. Then we’ll see how it goes. I have my bed set-up nicely so I can work. Haydn brought one of my podcasting mics up last night so that I could do a pod from the bed. That’s a first. I listened to it, and it doesn’t sound like I was laying down. We’re good.

I would appreciate your prayers. It was painful before, but this is unexplainable. I’ve struggled with discouragement and some fear. God is my comfort. And I do mean that. It would be horrible without faith, though mine is a bit wobbly at this juncture.

An Aside – Lucia is doing better. She will go tomorrow to get her second (and last) tube removed. Fortunately, this “back thing” waited until she could be somewhat mobile. It is kinda funny; we’re both laid up in bed. Sorta romantic, in an old people kind of way.

Dear God, “Is this our future?”

Dear Son, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” – Ecclesiastes 12:1

But Let Me Add – The children are inspiring. They are amazing really. They serve so well, don’t succumb to fear, and the laughter continues in our home.

You’re either laugh or cry. I’ve done both this week.

The Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs too. I did not realize how popular this place is until tooling around the city a bit. We went a couple of times to the Academy.

The main thing we wanted to see was the chapel. It is a large pointy structure that had a ton of character. The first time we went, it was too late to go inside.

The second time, we went inside the tourist building and the chapel. They were close to each other so that we could walk from the tourist center to the chapel.

In the tourist center, we watched a short video about the life of a first-year cadet. The presentation was interesting and well done. I was hoping it would appeal to my children, and it did, right up to the part where the upperclassmen were banging on the newbie’s doors at 5 AM. That pretty much sealed the deal for my children; they will look at other colleges.

The chapel was well worth the visit. It’s too much to talk about in this post, but you can Google it to read all about it. I did a Facebook Live detailing some of the architecture. Really cool.

I also had a nice long chat with the tourist guide who was hanging out at the front door. He was a nice man who liked to talk. That was easy. He gave me some inside intel about the chapel and the grounds.

I left the Academy appreciating our military, all over again. I have much respect for them, as well as our law enforcement officers. Anybody willing to put their lives on the line for our safety is worth the highest respect.

Something that I found ironic was the requirements for getting into the Air Force. In the video that we watched, the narrator said the requirements were different for males and females. Ladies did not have to do as many push-ups, pull-ups, or throwing a ball as far as the guys. There were other differences too.

And I thought we were all the same. It seems discriminatory to have one set of standards for the guys and another set for the gals. I left thinking that our country practices selective discrimination. Or, maybe, there are actual distinctions between male and female. Shazam, Gomer! I’m sure after our lefty liberals find out about this anomaly, they will jump right on it to tighten this thing up a bit.

Focus on the Family

We were in Colorado Springs, so we had to visit the Focus on the Family campus. In the broader expanse of Christianity, Focus has done a lot of good work for the cause of Christ, mostly with social and political inroads. They are still carrying some weight in those areas.

As a courtesy nod to their good work and curiosity about how a large ministry functions, I wanted to visit their campus. I also have a sentimental affection for James Dobson. Before my theology became more precise and while I was scrambling for truth in a barren Christian culture (fundamentalism), God used Dobson to help me.

The Focus ministry is much smaller than it used to be. One of the four buildings on campus is no longer in use due to downsizing. The ministry has lost a lot of strength. I have not kept up with them, so I’m not aware why they have not been able to sustain the ministry.

The one building we could visit was the visitor’s center, which was a fabulous facility. The workers were great. Personable, happy, courteous, welcoming, helpful, and passionate. They are the kind of folks you want on the front line of a ministry. And the building was fantastic, especially the kid area, which was on the bottom floor.

A few years ago, a couple visited Focus, and while there, they asked a tour guide if all the visitors got in the way of Focus doing their day-to-day work. The guide said it was a problem. The couple donated 4,000,000.00 to build a visitor’s center. Boom!

And that is how I pray. Some day, somebody will love what we do so much, ask what we need, and they will make a game-changing donation. Some day.

Adventure in Odyssey

We also got to do an Adventures in Odyssey show. We were not too familiar with that program, so the most embarrassing moment was when the producer asked us about one of the cardboard cut out characters on the show. It was a prop in the studio. None of us knew the character’s name. Embarrassing.

We wanted to do the show, which presumes we know something about the show. Oh, well. The producer was a bit surprised, as in, why are you here if you don’t know anything about us?

Anyhow, the show we did was great. It was also good to see how the team produced a program, the sound effects, the set-up, etc. It was all good.

Speaking of not being familiar with their ministry, I was putting pics of Whit’s End on Instagram. I hashtagged it “whits-inn.” I thought it was “inn” instead of “end.” Fortunately, you can edit Instagram.

The Takeaway

My top three takeaways from being there were,

  1. Gratitude for how the Lord has used this ministry.
  2. Seeing the facility, which is a solid representation of how Christianity should look to the world, i.e., professional, happy, clean, and not weird.
  3. Wondering what we need to do to redefine ourselves, so our ministry does not lose traction.

The last takeaway about “redefinition” is something I think about all the time. K-Mart, Blockbuster, and Radio Shack have disappeared from the corporate landscape. Our ministry will go that way too if we are not evolving (or redefining ourselves).

I have been praying for my replacement since the first day of this ministry. I believe in what the Lord is doing with our work and would like to see it advance into the future, long after I go to heaven. Being aware of how to connect with an ever-changing culture without compromising the gospel is vital for redefinition.