Bowling for Jesus: The Point of Pain

While we were still homeschooling, I was driving my kids to Park Day when my left arm and hand went completely numb. Thinking part of my body had fallen asleep, I tried to vigorously shake it awake while holding firmly onto the steering wheel with my right hand so the car wouldn’t swerve out of the carpool lane. The endeavor made it look like I was having a seizure.

“What are you doing, mom? Are you trying to kill us?” Lauren asked, while Brianna and Kaitlin giggled at the wild ride.

“Calm down, girls,” I answered. “I just can’t feel the left side of my body.”

When I realized that the numbness had spread all the way to the middle of my left ear, I tried to hide my panic because the girls were young at the time. I changed course and drove straight to the nearest urgent care, where the triage nurse said I was likely experiencing a TIA. She ushered me straight to the doctor, who examined me and said that he didn’t think I was having a mini stroke. Instead, he thought I was stressed. Call me crazy. But I think he was paying more attention to the three kids I had in tow than to my symptoms.

“I’d skip the park today,” he continued. “But you should be just fine.”

I didn’t skip the park because I needed time with my homeschooling friends, all of whom had stressful kid-filled lives and numerous nonspecific symptoms. Since we were all amateur armchair physicians, we felt qualified to discuss my course of treatment, which included lots of naps and massages. I left the park encouraged but still numb.

Unfortunately, however, even as I tried to shake them, the symptoms refused to subside. In fact, as the weeks wore on, they increased in severity until I could think of nothing except the fact that I was in pain and that I was unable to muster the strength to squeeze a tube of toothpaste. I won’t bore you with the details of my medical odyssey. Suffice to say it all came to a head when I begged a neurologist to order an MRI before I would agree to fill a prescription for medication he was sure could correct my “chemical imbalance.”

As soon as the MRI results arrived, the neurologist’s assistant called and asked me to come to the office immediately so they could schedule my surgery. It turned out that I had Spinal Stenosis and Disc Degeneration, which were crushing my spine from C-5 through C-7. Apparently, the condition is uncommon for someone in her 30s who wasn’t in an accident. Thankfully, surgery did the trick. Almost immediately following my discectomy and spinal fusion, the strength and feeling returned to the left side of my body.

People often ask me why I agreed to let a neurosurgeon slice into the front of my neck and remove some pretty important pieces—and then replace them with titanium mesh. My answer is simple: pain.

Consider your thoughts immediately after slamming your hand in a door, stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. If you’re like me, you probably don’t ignore the stabbing pain and focus on the original task at hand. I tend to yell, “Crap” (which, by the way, is something I am working to correct, since I am not a fan of the term).

I think the Lord uses pain to get our attention because we are so easily distracted. We’re human. So our immediate response is to cry about the throbbing and then do whatever it takes to stop the pain—at all costs. A prime example of this is the Apostle Paul, who was given what he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh as a messenger from Satan to buffet me.” Paul says he asked God three times that it might depart from him. But the Lord’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Indeed, God’s grace is sufficient. But it doesn’t always feel like that’s the case. After all, pain hurts. And if I’m being honest, I have to admit I’d rather avoid the whole messy business and live a carefree, easy life. But then I wouldn’t be learning how to glorify God for eternity if my life on earth was a walk in the park. And that’s why we’re here in the first place—to glorify God. Did you catch that? The entire reason we are here is to glorify God. I don’t know about you. But, for me, that’s a startling revelation.

Perhaps the Westminster Catechism summarizes the concept best: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

But that’s not all. The hypothesis appears repeatedly through the Bible:

Isaiah 60:21

“Also, your people shall all be righteous. They shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”

Psalm 50:15

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.”

Romans 1:20-21

“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

I Cor. 6:20

“For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I Cor. 10:31

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

I Peter 4:11

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability with God supplies, which in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 14:7

“Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

So what should you do if your pain becomes a distraction? I’m not just talking about physical tenderness, which we can attempt to tackle with the aid of physical therapy and medication. I’m talking about gut-wrenching emotional distress, which has the potential to knock our feet out from under us.

  • Has someone you love hurt you so deeply that it rocked you to your very core?
  • Did someone you love die?
  • Is your son or daughter in rebellion against God?
  • Have you lost a treasured friend?
  • Are you lonely…lost… hurt…helpless?

If you’re in pain, I’ve got great news. God cares. Even though He fully expects us to follow the example of His Son’s journey on earth by glorifying the Father while we’re here, He also knows how difficult it is for us to maintain laser focus. And He offers to help us along the way:

Matthew 14:14

“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Psalm 103:13-14

“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

If you’re in pain, turn to God. There is no one more equipped to help than Jesus, the Great Physician.


~Bowling for Jesus


Bowling for Jesus: Don’t Miss Heaven for the World

As I struggled to sleep following my hospital-induced acid trip through the K-Hole (Please see last week’s post if you want details), I was tormented by the visions that I had seen while I believed I was dead. Although the anesthesiologist who administered it said Ketamine only stays in the human body for 30-40 minutes, the dose I was given remained in my system for at least 10 days. I know this not only because I was unable to sleep but because my dog wouldn’t come near me. He literally turned his nose up at me each time our paths crossed and slept facing away from me to avoid my scent.

In order to pass one sleepless night, I logged into Facebook and was stunned when I realized that one of my good friends had died. She was just 45. I stared at the computer screen wondering aloud how I could have missed the announcement about her death even though someone had been regularly posting about it since it happened on July 22. Cathy and her husband, Lee, had been in the Sunday school class that Brent taught while we were still newlyweds in the early 1990s.

As the years passed, Cathy and I grew close as we struggled in very human shells to try to honor the Lord by home schooling our very human children. She was an awesome writer with a wonderful sense of humor. And, on many occasions, we laughed until we cried about our home school travails. And although Cathy and her family moved from Glendora to Riverside and we relocated from Glendora to Lake Arrowhead, we stayed in touch. Although I was well aware that she had been suffering from the devastating effects of cancer for seven years, when last I heard, she was in remission. So I was shocked by her death.

Two days later, I was wide awake at 3 a.m. when our telephone rang. One of Brent’s cousins, who was also a close personal friend and one of my favorite clients, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in his home after suffering cardiac arrest. Only 56 years of age and training for a bike marathon, Bob was in great shape. He watched what he ate, exercised and never missed his comprehensive annual physical exam. So his death came as an overwhelming blow.

After we prayed together for Bob’s family and talked for hours about the surreal nature of it all, Brent tried to catch a couple of hours of sleep while I sat in the early morning light and cried out to God. After all; none of the events of the week had surprised Him. He had to have allowed each and every one. All I could muster was a mono-syllabic question to my Creator: “Why?”

Anne Graham Lotz asked a similar question as she watched the events of 9/11 unfold on her television screen. She recorded her reactions in what has recently become one of my favorite books—Expecting to See Jesus.

“Tears streamed down my cheeks, my heart broke, and I heard my own voice crying out. ‘Oh no, God, no! So many people dying! Right now! God, help them!’ As I sat transfixed, with my eyes glued to the television screen, I knew people at that moment were stepping into eternity, and I wondered how many people went to work that morning, parked their cars, rode up the elevators, unlocked their office doors, booted up their computers, poured a cup of coffee, and reached for the telephone…then, in the blink of an eye, found themselves in eternity, standing before God?! My next thought was, ‘How many of those people stepping into eternity right now are not ready to meet God?’”

I’m extremely grateful that Cathy and Bob knew Jesus. They were devoted followers whose faith has undoubtedly become sight. And that makes the grief process incredibly more bearable than it is when we grieve for those who die outside of a relationship with Christ. But Cathy left a loving husband and five children. And Bob’s first wife died of an aneurysm when his children were just one and three years of age. From a human standpoint, neither event makes sense.

Although I didn’t see a white light during my own near-death experience, I was made painfully aware of the distinct difference between what happens in the natural world and the spiritual realm. I believe that the Lord acquaints us with death while we’re here to keep our eyes pointed heavenward. After all; it’s easy to get distracted and forget that this earth is not our home.

This is how Anne Graham Lotz puts it: “We are teetering on the edge of a giant abyss where time stops and eternity begins, yet we seem to be living our lives as though this life is all there is or ever will be.”

While Jesus was on earth, He repeatedly instructed His disciples not to be deceived and to keep watch. His coming is eminent. And if we are not the generation that will witness His second coming (and I truly believe that we are), we have this in common…we will die. It’s undeniable. Like the people who died on 9/11, like Cathy and like Bob. Like the victims of the Columbine High School masacre in 1999. Like theater-goers in Aurora, Colorado last month. One day, our time here on earth will be finished and we will meet our Maker.

Are you ready?

Romans 10:13

“Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Bowling for Jesus on a Bad Trip to a Good Place

To say this past week has been rough would be a gross understatement. It ranks up there with the worst…and best…of my 48 years of life on Planet Earth. It started with an acid-induced near death experience, followed by the actual very real and sad deaths of two people I love and culminated in the realization that the Lord delights to use even the ugliest things in life to speak to His people. And I am thankful for His voice in the storm.

I guess I should clarify that the acid trip was not something I sought. Let me explain. My father died of colon cancer when he was 63. So I was cautiously following medical recommendations to have a screening colonoscopy. My first experience six years earlier had resulted in numerous allergic reactions and revealed the menacing presence of several suspicious polyps. So, this time out, the gastroenterologist suggested the procedure be performed in a hospital as a means of avoiding a repeat performance of anesthesia-allergy induced projectile vomiting. I concurred.

On the appointed day, at 4:30 in the afternoon, I reported to the hospital after dutifully following the protocol which included a colonic, 24 hours on a liquid diet and then 12 hours without water or liquid of any kind. To put it mildly, I was dehydrated. A flock of overeager nurses, phlebotomists and doctors descended and tried in vain to find a vein. Every attempt produced a brief, “I got it,” followed by a gasp and then a call for gauze to soak up the blood that spilled out when the vein collapsed. This went on until I looked like a pin cushion.

All the while, the doctor was growing increasingly impatient because his previous case had been a no-show. (I wish I knew that had been an option!) So he instructed the anesthesiologist something that sounded innocent enough, “Try Ketamine.”

Since we had never heard of the drug, my husband, Brent, asked the team not to inject Ketamine into my system but to continue to try to get a vein. “After all,” he said, “My wife has numerous allergies, as you know. So I would hate to have her try something new because we don’t know what the effects would be.”

The anesthesiologist’s reply was, “It is safe. We use it with kids, who sometimes get nightmares. But it only stays in your system for 30-40 minutes.”

We should have checked out of the hospital that very second and driven immediately to a 7-11 to buy a Big Gulp. But we didn’t because we didn’t want to put out the medical team. After all, they had already been waiting so long. What could happen? I could take it.

After saying our goodbyes, Brent left to wait for me in Recovery while I was placed on a gurney and wheeled to a surgical suite. The nurse held my hand while the doctor injected a sickly sweet substance into my left thigh, which burned as it entered my unsuspecting system. I won’t go into detail about the horrors that I saw that day. But suffice to say they left me screaming at the top of my lungs, writhing; crying and calling out for God, who I was convinced had abandoned me to hell. For two hours, I was on a mind-altering psychedelic hallucinogenic trip.

The colonoscopy itself went swimmingly. No polyps were found. But Brent and a nurse had to witness my emergence from a bad trip caused by a drug sold on the streets as Special K. We later discovered it is on a par with LSD, PCP and Angel Dust. Since I had no idea the drug could produce visions and hallucinations, I attributed the things I was seeing to death.

“I’ll never see Brianna & Edward, Avery, Lauren & Kyle and Kaitlin again. I’m in hell. God, why did you abandon me?” I shouted. “I placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believe He died and rose again. Why would you allow me to die and send me to hell? Please help me, Jesus!”

In my altered state, the line between fantasy and reality merged into a house of horrors. I finally surrendered to what I believed to be the inescapable fact that I had died. Brent was there. But his image was taken from a photograph circa 1992. So I thought he was a prototype produced by Satan to taunt me. When I reached awkwardly to feel my hubby’s hands, they were not soft and warm but cold and plastic.

I told him I knew I was dead. There was no use trying to convince me otherwise. He pleaded with me to accept the truth that I was still in the hospital and that everything would be fine. “After all,” my godly husband asked, “Would I be in hell?”

I tried as hard as I could to look him square in the eye (although he says my eyes were wild and open far too wide) and told him, “But you’re not the real Brent. You’re a puppet. You look like Sponge Bob.”

Tearfully, I instructed him to tell our daughters that the only thing that matters in life is to seek after Jesus Christ and to follow Him. “Please make sure you tell them that. It will be worth it for me to be in hell if they come to know Jesus,” I explained. I later asked him to do me a favor and “marry a pretty girl.” He told me, “I already did.”

The more the drugs wore off, the sicker I grew. My body instinctively convulsed to eliminate the poison. But all that was in my system was Ketamine and bile. So I threw up air for two hours. When the anesthesiologist came to check on me, he laughed aloud. “That was brave of me to use straight Ketamine since she was allergic to the drugs I usually mix with it.”

His “bravery” left me confused, nauseated, terrified and convinced that the recovery room was a movie set and the nurse and Brent were holograms. I grew even more confused by the unreal quality of everything when I was finally discharged and, due to hospital construction, the nurse wheeled me out past screaming kids and bloody people in the emergency room, finally arriving outside, where she pushed the chair over rocks and cords in the parking lot. Too nauseated to sit upright, I climbed into the backseat where I could lie down and asked Brent to play worship music. As he drove up the curved roads that lead to our home on the hill, lights streamed into the windows, taking on frightening forms. Clearly, the poison was still in my system, where it stayed for several painful days and scary sleepless nights.

As soon as I could form logical thoughts, one hit me like a ton of bricks: “What if it isn’t true?” And by “it,” I knew exactly who was at the object of the question. After all, I had just witnessed the natural realm fall aside and understood at a guttural level that my own world is temporary instead of eternal. Without skipping a beat, I said aloud what I knew in my heart to be true, “Not a chance! I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to take that which I’ve committed unto Him until that day.”

I didn’t immediately understand why my Father would allow His daughter to undergo the pain of that experience. But now I see that He was planning to use it to bring revival to my heart. Christian author Eric Gondwe put it like this: “We are spiritual beings having a human experience instead of human beings having a spiritual one.” So even though I would ardently recommend against believers ever taking a psychedelic trip, for me, the destination was well worth the journey.

While recovering, I started to see the world through new eyes. Watching the Olympics, I was struck by the blood, sweat and tears athletes endure for the sake of a medal that will decay. It won’t matter in eternity. I sat in my office staring blankly at my laptop and wondered how I could have invested so much effort promoting marketing principles. It won’t matter in eternity. Leafing through magazines on my desk, I was shocked by the shallow content of reality television star romances and diet plans. It won’t matter in eternity.

Measuring how I have been spending my time as a sojourner on earth was a sobering experience. It was obvious I needed to make a change. Unless it will matter in eternity, I no longer want to waste another minute on it. So, after contributing columns for and the Press Enterprise for three years, going forward, I have decided to write for God’s glory instead of my own business development. If you were a fan of Bowling for Business, please consider reading my new weekly blog, Bowling for Jesus. My goal will be to encourage you as we journey together to glorify God.

I hope you’ll check back next week, when I endeavor to share the way the Lord followed up my trip through the K-Hole with spiritual lessons too obvious and insistent to ignore.

~Bowling for Jesus