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.

Respect.

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.

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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!

Geez!!

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.

Again.

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.

At Home Update, Post Surgery

Thank you for your texts, emails, phone calls, and visits. I’m grateful and encouraged on several levels, and particularly stoked about my children getting to see what the gospel looks like practically. Pictures of the gospel are a beautiful thing.

I did a blog post and podcast on our ministry site about part of what happened at the hospital yesterday. The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night with some words. When He illuminates, I try to listen. You can read or listen to that here if you want to.

The surgery went well. Lucia and I arrived before 1 PM; I was in my bed by 1:03. A nurse came in and began the questions, which was a pattern with everyone working with me. I appreciated their thoroughness. I liked being “over-cared” for especially during surgery.

  • What is your name?
  • When were you born?
  • Why are you here?
  • Add ten more, and you get the idea.

They gave me a special “blow up gown,” which was nice. It was hooked up to a plastic tube that blew in hot or cold air. The gown puffed up like the blow-up guy in “Big Hero 6” (movie). I looked quite chesty until the nurses deflated me, both ego and suit. Birthday suit that is.

The “happy gas” man rolled me in around 3 PM. I like him. Too much. I was going to ask him what that cold feeling was crawling up the inside of my arm, but before I could ask, I went to Utopia. My final thought was that this must be what it feels like to get a lethal injection at the prison. Nice.

I awoke around 4:30 and waited until 10 PM before they could get me a room. There were a lot of surgeries, and many late discharges. They wanted all the spine and neck patients on the same floor, so I had to wait for a bed. Three nurse turnovers later, they secured one for me.

The upside is that my A-game was coming back to me because I accomplished nearly all my recovery in the recovery room, so by the time I got to my room, I was back fully.

Will was my nurse. He was a good one. He said I was peppy. Nobody says I’m peppy. I was probably high, the best I can tell.

Lucia stayed with me all night; that was a good thing. I think Will appreciated someone less peppy.

My Two Pains

I have surgery pain in my lower back currently. The pain is not bad. I’m taking Oxy to stay ahead of it, which is what they suggested. I’m not sure if the pill is working because medication rarely affects me the way it should.

Historically, pills have proven to be little help. But the Oxy may be keeping the surgery pain bearable, or it may just be bearable. Nevertheless, I’m taking it, plus a muscle relaxer/spasm pill.

A Side Note: My first nurse was shocked (literally) when she found out I don’t take any medications. I asked her if 75% of the folks she checks in take medication. She said, “No, it’s more like 95%.” We had a good discussion about this.

As for the sciatica pain, I just finished a podcast, which kept me standing up for 30+ minutes while doing it. It was painful, but nothing like the most recent pain. It was more like “five years ago” pain. So I’m curious to see how things go tomorrow.

I hope it’s less than my most recent history. I could not make it to the hospital from the parking lot yesterday. Twenty seconds is all I could do at a time without the pain doing that thing it does.

To stand up and walk around today was encouraging. I’ve missed the last two church meetings, and have been a shut-in for the past few weeks.

I’m sleeping off and on, working from the bed. Can’t lift anything more than my coffee cup, which is perfect, since I “may” have issues with coffee. You decide: I did change the lyrics to “in the morning when I rise give me Jesus,” to “in the morning when I rise give me coffee and then Jesus.”

I can lift my laptop too.

Confession of a Former Legalist

I’m obeying all the rules. Can’t mess this up. I have no intention of doing anything that will hurt me. Being a former legalist helps: I can follow a list of rules well. That’s my wheelhouse. A good thing.

It’s day to day.

  • No lifting.
  • No bending.
  • No driving.
  • No washing clothes.
  • No vacuuming floors.
  • No doing the dishes.

I specifically asked about these last three.

Rick’s praising God right now.

I do want to walk more tomorrow and the next day. They encouraged all the walking that I can take. It also reduces the scar tissue if I move around. They gave me a lumbar belt, which I wear when I’m not laying down in the bed. That helps, and I guard against becoming overconfident with the support.

They say a month of not doing normal tasks should get me out of the woods. I think that’s about it. If I can serve you or if you have any questions, please ask.

I think I can do about 75% speed on ministry things, but no more. I must rest, so I sleep as often as my body tells me to.

The Surgery Date Is Set

The surgery date is July 11. Hopefully. Things do shift around when it comes to hospital scheduling. But that is the plan for now. Nothing has changed on my end (rear end). It still hurts. And God is still in control, so we press on with life, helping folks.

Lucia is amazing. No surprise there. The kids are stepping up, which is something they have been doing for eight months now since we told them about Lucia’s cancer and the subsequent surgery.

On that surgery? She is doing well. She is functioning at pre-cancer norms. There will be a reconstruction surgery at some point this year, but it’s not a high priority. (Her decision.) We may do it around the holidays.

Historically, the Christmas season is slow for us on the counseling front. People “sin less” during the holidays because they are shopping and partying more than usual. I’m for real, yes I am.

Okay, perhaps they are not sinning less, but they are busier during the holidays than their “normal busy,” so sanctification takes a back seat. They will come roaring back during January and February when the bills are due and they are staring at each other more often.

Our family loves the holidays because it’s the slowest time of the year for us, which may be a good time for a surgery. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for your prayers. I’m asking the Father to make the surgery go well. I’m trying to guard my heart against “over hoping” what it might be like to be pain-free. It has been twelve years. I don’t know what it is like not to grimace while I roll over in bed. Or not prognosticate how many steps I can make inside Walmart before I have to sit. Or not having my first thought at doing anything be, “How much is that going to hurt?”

It reminds me of what Paul told the Corinthians in 1:8 that they would be guiltless in the day of the Lord Jesus. Just wow! I know I’m guiltless in Christ. I get it. But to truly feel it all the time is an experience that is not mine. And to think I can be pain-free is similar.

I admire people who stand and talk at the church meeting. I praise God for folks who walk around because they can. I hope I can be one of those people. I want to take a walk with Lucia without a time limit.

Anyhow. I guess I’m not guarding my heart too well. 😉 Please pray for a pain-free outcome.

I have a three-day conference at the end of July. There is another three-day conference at the beginning of August. And I have a third one at the end of October. It would be nice if those gatherings were without pain. I can sit and teach, but walking upright is a perk. I know folks who do that, and I’d like to be one.

It’s My Time Now

In 2005, I felt this pain in my left buttock. It was sharp, but I could “calm it down” by making adjustments like leaning on a wall while propping my foot on it. The pain happened as I walked or stood. Often, I would do different things to bring relief like lay on the floor in Walmart so Lucia could stretch my leg back to bring relief. It was an odd rigamarole in Walmart, but necessary.

When the pain happens, it’s acute. When it’s not, I can function normally. I have learned a few things that I can’t do like carry my children (back then when they were tiny) or walk extended periods. I got a few walking sticks, which I used more to lean on to relieve the pressure on my back. I bought a trifold camping chair from REI, which was a godsend. I never leave home without it. (Unless I leave home without it: I do forget stuff.)

I began various “cure” approaches like the chiropractor, wearing a “tens unit,” physical therapy, lotions of all sorts, traction, dry needling, yoga, acupuncture, exercise, dieting, X-rays, MRI’s, and tons of ibuprofen. None of these things worked ultimately. The pain level has always been the same, but the length of the pain has grown and the amount of “painless time” has decreased.

In the beginning, I could stand or walk for 10 to 15 minutes. Today, I cannot stand or walk for more than 60 seconds before the pain comes and stays. I can’t sit, stand, walk, or lay down without pain. When I do stand, I contort my body in different ways to move the pain around. Nobody would know what I’m doing because it does not look abnormal. Only recently has it become more evident to people.

Historically, there would always be a counter or chair or rail that I could sit or prop on while talking to someone. If anything, I looked lazy but not debilitated.

During our conference in Alaska, I told the folks about my problem because I could not hide it during eight straight hours of teaching. I sat on stools or propped up by using the backs of chairs. At our Peru conference, I could prop in a similar way (or just sit). While traversing Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, I got to speed around with all the “blue hair” (elderly) people in one of those motorized scooters. That was both embarrassing and exhilarating.

I don’t like to talk about it because, quite frankly, people are compassionate: they give you endless cure ideas. I also don’t talk about it because it becomes your identity; I’d rather talk about Christ and His work on earth.

I’ve never hidden my problem for any other reason, with the exception that talking about it so much is tiring. Plus, when people ask, it’s hard to reduce my answer to the thirty-second sound bite they want. Truthfully, I need ten minutes with you to tell you how I’m doing. Rarely does the person asking me how I’m doing expect me to talk ten minutes about my problems and it’s nearly impossible to tell them how I’m doing in thirty-second sound bites. It’s a relational dilemma. So I don’t talk about it a lot.

After the last MRI, it showed a bulging disc that is pushing against my spine. The sciatica has no other place to go and is being squeezed. The symptoms are excruciating pain in my left buttock, pain down my hamstring on my left leg, pain in the calf muscle, numbness, tingling, and my middle toe involuntarily twitches. My hips are also aching. Those are the main things.

The surgeon recommended, (a) do nothing, (b) injection to relieve the pain, (c) surgery. We’re looking at surgery. Soon.

I have speaking engagements in August and October; two in Colorado and one in Oregon, so we’re waiting, at this point, to see how soon I can get the surgery and recover, or wait until the fall.

Currently, my days consist of getting out of bed, writhing on the floor for 15 minutes until the pain subsides, crawling into my zero-gravity chair to work all day, and then go back to bed at night. I do sit up to do my podcasts, walk around the house a few minutes at a time, sit at the dinner table on occasion, and go random places around town. A few weeks ago, I got my handicap placard, which I do use as it saves me a few steps since my walk/stand time is down to seconds. I can go mostly anywhere anyone else can go; it just takes me longer.

I’m not discouraged or struggling spiritually. I don’t live in an illusion that my health should be perfect or that God has failed in some way because my health is spiraling. Though it takes longer to do everything, I still get to help people daily, and that is my reason for living–to bring fame to God by teaching others about Him. The kind of vessel I have to accomplish this good work is a lesser concern.

No, I’m not flippant about it, but I’m a sovereigntist: I do what I know to do and trust God with the results. Right now the physical “results” are painful, but our redemptive work is flourishing. The point is that I have nothing to complain about because of the goodness and mercy of God on my life. I would love your prayers. If Sovereign Father wants to change this thing, I’m open for the possibility.

 

Hey, I Didn’t Know

Last Wednesday night a friend asked how we were doing. I gave him the lowdown for which he was grateful, and then he prayed for me. In his prayer, he said something like, “LORD, it seems Rick doesn’t like talking about this…”

I appreciated him saying that because it allowed me to hear his thoughts about our problems. I texted him a response to our Wednesday conversation, which you can read an unedited copy below.

Part of what he did not know and many of you probably don’t know is that I have a sciatica problem. Those closest to me are aware of this issue, but it is not something that I share regularly; I explain why I don’t talk about this in my note to my friend.

To bring you up to speed, I have had this problem for over a decade. I can’t walk more than 10 minutes without excruciating pain. As a lady told me in our Alaska conference last year, it’s worse than giving birth. (I’ll not comment on that, but only say it hurts like the dickens.)

I almost always carry a camping stool with me when we go places. Sciatica is just part of my life. The past two weeks, the pain has accelerated to where it’s constant. The only time I’m not in pain is when I’m laying down at night sleeping. During the day I work in a zero-gravity chair so I can do my job. I sit up to do podcasts, but most of the time I’m in my chair; it does bring some relief.IMG_8322

And, yes, I’ve done almost everything to get rid of it including yoga (though I was scolded for doing that by a few Christians, so I call it “stretching exercises” to calm their troubled souls), which brought the most relief of all.

Here is my note to my friend:

Hey [Friend],
Thanks for praying for me Wednesday night. That is the most encouraged I’ve been in a while regarding our physical problems. I appreciate your leadership; it was satisfying, for real.

In your prayer, you mentioned that I don’t say much about our physical issues, which made sense to me as to why you thought that. I did want you to know that we are quite public about what’s going on with us, though. We just do it a different way, I suppose.

I have 15 (or so) blog articles on our personal/family site that you can read, plus a podcast interview I did with Lucia about the latest cancer update. You can find all that here: rickandlucia.com

We do not mind at all talking about it or sharing what’s going on with us. Any question is welcome and valid. We do appreciate “intrusiveness” into our lives, which is why I enjoyed your questions about what’s going on and your prayer.

Part of why you may not hear updates could be that you didn’t know about the blog or maybe you missed the times in small group where we did give an update. We don’t share at every group because,

1. Our lives are an open book (or blog), so folks have complete access to the latest, as we know it.

2. We live a public life due to my work, so I talk about the problems all the time (at least it seems that way to me), but not so much in every context (hundreds of folks are following our updates around the states/the world).

3. We don’t want to talk about our problems all the time because we don’t want to be “cancer-centered” or “sciatica-centered.” We’d rather be Christ-centered, as far as our conversation and identity are concerned.

4. If we tell every person what’s up with us, we would be worn out from talking about it so much.

5. Personally, I have had the sciatica problem for so long (10 years running), that I don’t think about it as far as talking about it to others. It’s kinda like my shadow, so I suffer silently, and see it as my thorn in the flesh, so talking about it does not resonate with me or come to mind. However, with that said, I welcome any question or concern about this problem (or Lucia’s); it’s just not “top of mind” with me when I’m talking to a person. I do believe if it were a recent development, I would probably say, “Hey, this is new, and it hurts.”

With all that said, please ask anything you want to ask. We have nothing to hide, nothing to protect. We welcome questions and care, which is why I was so encouraged that you would take the time to ask how I was doing.

Peace,
Your brother

Podcast Update

I have been tardy in keeping folks updated. I’m sorry. I do appreciate you asking how things are going with us. Please continue to ask. Things have been a bit busy lately, so I thought rather than writing a weblog, I asked Lucia if I could “interview” her for our Life Over Coffee podcast. She was cool with that, so I did. If you’d like to listen, go here http://rickthomas.net/podcast/life-over-coffee/ep-71-lucia-thomas-interview-breast-cancer/.

Thanks, again, for your patience and your care.

You will hear that Lucia sounds tired. She is. She’s tired most of the time. Family, work, and life never stops. We did not talk about her tiredness in the podcast, but I wanted to let you know so you can pray about that. We are intentional about getting her naps, and the children are doing fabulous in pitching in to carry some of the load.

There isn’t anything you can do other than prayer; it’s life stuff. You know, like what’s going on with you too. We’re all busy people. Mercifully, the LORD has made a way for us to “walk slow” in a busy world. It is possible.

Take care,

Rick