In November, I went into the hospital for what I thought would be two days of tests. When I was released two and a half weeks later, my chest had been sawn in two, my mitral valve replaced, and my coronary artery bypassed. Afterwards, I was really hurting, but I was thankful to be alive. I had good care from the doctors and nurses, but it was a humbling experience. I hate it when my blood is drawn, and every day they took so much of my blood that I felt like vampires were descending on me. The doctors were trying to isolate the bacteria that had destroyed my heart valve. In my weakness I was carried by the prayers of friends and saved by the mercy of God.

I’m going to skip the details of my recovery, because the pain is subsiding and I’m healing more each day. It takes two months from the surgery before you can drive a car or lift more than ten pounds. Yet, I haven’t missed driving, golf, or working out. I did miss worshiping the Lord with the family of God. Recently, I’ve been visiting other churches led by my friends until I’m healthy enough to return to ministry at Living Streams with the people I love. The main exercise I get is taking long walks on desert trails. At times Kristina or a friend joins me. On other walks I pray, think and listen to sermons from Timothy Keller, Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, and others on my IPod. Their messages are challenging and insightful.

As a young believer, I assumed that God would use me in great ways if I just stayed faithful. Now, it is obvious that our ministry is not well known. I’m not leading huge crusades, and my picture is not on magazine covers. At times I’ve struggled with this, yet I know it does not matter. Short term honors are not the point of ministry, because Jesus allows us to share in eternal life. As I walked through the desert recently, I thought about the widow who Jesus saw put two mites into the temple treasury. This was all the money she had to live on, yet Jesus said that she had given more than those who gave larger sums out of the abundance of their wealth. She was commended by the Lord for her faith, and her example has inspired people for two thousand years.

When this widow died, her name was not on the front page of the local paper, nor did she have a foundation to perpetuate her giving into the next generation. Yet she did something that set her apart for special recognition. Because of her faith, she not only has eternal life, she has the reward of inspiring many generations of believers.

Our responsibility is to be faithful with what God gives us. It is better to be faithful than famous. If we love the Lord and serve his people, there is no limit to how God can use us. Everyone who abides in Christ bears fruit that will remain and reproduce for eternity.

I want to thank you who helped carry me in my trials. May you rest in the revelation that you too have eternal life in Christ. May you have the joy of knowing that there is a reward in heaven for you.

A Head Cold

January 16, 2011

Not to worry. It isn’t Mark with the sniffles. He is as healthy as a bull in a china shop. He went to a fellow pastor’s church for a visit today and then hiked up the mountain behind our house. I slept in for nearly 12 hours. It must have been catch-up time for me.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to do nothing. To sit on the sofa with a cat on my lap and the football game on is just what the doctor ordered. The problem is that I don’t always take my own advice and so here I am.
Mark has gotten hundreds of wonderful emails from all over the world. I am encouraging him not to worry about replying to each and every one. Your prayers and supportive notes have meant a great deal to both of us and we have appreciated them very much.
~ Kristina

An Update from Mark!

January 13, 2011

I wanted to give you a quick update on my condition and plans. By the grace of God and thanks to the prayers of many of you, I continue to heal every day. I have needed to delay my return to Living Streams this month because I literally get so excited being around a large group of people I love, that my newly repaired heart starts racing beyond what is healthy for me at this time.

On Monday I received the go-ahead from my cardiologist to start driving for the first time since early November. It has been very different for me to be a stay-at-home guy for the last two months. In many ways it has been good for my soul and our marriage for me to slow down and spend more time reading and washing dishes.

I plan to return to Living Streams the first weekend of February to lead communion and then I’ll begin preaching again the following weekend. I really have appreciated our elders giving me permission and encouragement to stay home so I can heal from the inside out. I’ve heard many good reports about what has been happening at Living Streams over the past couple of months. There is no more encouraging report that a pastor can hear than that the church is growing and prospering when he is absent. This is a tribute to the gifted men and women on our staff, as well as the maturity of our church.

I have really benefited from many messages of encouragement, as well as the prayer support that has given me grace since my weeks in the hospital. I want to thank you all for your love. There is nothing better in life than to be a part of a spiritual family that loves one another.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all in February so we can continue to fulfill the ministry God has given us.

May the Lord bless you richly with grace and peace,

Mark

I wanted to give you a quick update on my condition and plans. By the grace of God and thanks to the prayers of many of you, I continue to heal every day. I have needed to delay my return to Living Streams this month because I literally get so excited being around a large group of people I love, that my newly repaired heart starts racing beyond what is healthy for me at this time.

On Monday I received the go-ahead from my cardiologist to start driving for the first time since early November. It has been very different for me to be a stay-at-home guy for the last two months. In many ways it has been good for my soul and our marriage for me to slow down and spend more time reading and washing dishes.

I plan to return to Living Streams the first weekend of February to lead communion and then I’ll begin preaching again the following weekend. I really have appreciated our elders giving me permission and encouragement to stay home so I can heal from the inside out. I’ve heard many good reports about what has been happening at Living Streams over the past couple of months. There is no more encouraging report that a pastor can hear than that the church is growing and prospering when he is absent. This is a tribute to the gifted men and women on our staff, as well as the maturity of our church.

I have really benefited from many messages of encouragement, as well as the prayer support that has given me grace since my weeks in the hospital. I want to thank you all for your love. There is nothing better in life than to be a part of a spiritual family that loves one another.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all in February so we can continue to fulfill the ministry God has given us.

No news is good news.

January 10, 2011

Today is the National Football Championship. The Oregon Ducks will face off the Auburn somebodies. Yes, we are Duck fans. It is a high holy day of football. However, the morning began with Mark and I meeting with his cardiologist. It is the last time I have to drive Mark anywhere as he has been given permission to sit in the front seat again and do the driving himself. Freedom for both of us!

Mark can also start playing real golf in 4 weeks but no real weight-lifting for 6 months.  Mark was aghast when his doctor said six months. The doctor later offered to play golf with him and that certainly made him feel better. Mark has been able to putt but no real swinging yet. Since he can lift light loads

The other great news of the day is Mark has made it to another birthday. He is a very young 61 and looking forward to the turkey roasting in the oven and the chocolate cake that is waiting on the counter-top. I think he is hoping I will make gravy for the mashed potatoes too. He has no food limitations or changes in his diet. He is very blessed and taking advantage of all the years of healthy eating.

Since I last posted we have lost a dear and precious friend, Ed Reed. He and his family have been with Living Streams for a long time. It was very difficult to not be able to attend his funeral.  We love him and his family very much.

We also said good-bye to Philip, Moriah and our grandsons, taken Christmas down and are trying to get our house back together after their very fun visit. We have a little box containing a single tiny shoe, Lego pieces, a few stray socks, and a few other items left behind nearly ready for mailing.

Over all of this, our hearts are heavy with the recent murders in Tucson. Since the media has reported on this extensively, I will only mention that little Christina Green’s death weighs heavily on our hearts for her parents and senseless loss. We continue to pray for Gabby Gifford recovery and the family of Judge John Rolls as well as the others involved. It is just too terrible for words.

Thank you for your prayers too!   ~ Kristina