What to Do On a Day Off

Here I sit with my laptop balanced carefully on my book bag that is resting on my knees. My iPad is to my left on the arm of this over-sized chair and my iPhone is on the other arm. The combination nurse call button/TV remote lies on my lap for when my IV pump malfunctions and I need to alert the staff for help. The Chemo Clinic has become a comfortable place for me, although everyone sitting in similar over-sized chairs is a cancer patient. I’m on a first name basis with the staff. Each visit gives me an opportunity to catch up on the latest family news from nurses who have poked my hands, arms, and shoulders with needles for years to give me the drugs that have extended my life.

Every four weeks I come here to receive Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy (IVIg). This therapy is necessary because I have a weakened immune system. The body’s immune system normally makes enough antibodies to fight germs that cause infections. But since I have an immune deficiency because of the treatment I received for lymphoma, my body can’t make enough of them. This puts me at greater risk for infections that could make me very sick. IVIg gives me antibodies that my body is not making on its own so I can fight infections.

The treatment for most people takes about an hour. However, I discovered with the first IVIg treatment that I have a bad reaction to this medication when I became extremely cold, and shook uncontrollably. To avoid complications, my IVIg is slowly administered, so I spend at least five hours in this chair with my “electronic toys” gathered around me. With an hour drive to and from the clinic, much of the day is over before I get home.

But that’s not the end of the story. The day after treatment I feel like I ate a plate of leftovers that spoiled three days earlier. I’ve learned that it is best to work from home if possible or if I need to be in the office, rest often and do not make any big decisions.

Once a month this is how I spend a day off. It may not be ideal, but it is certainly better than the alternative. I’ll keep visiting with my friends here in the Chemo Clinic and I’ll see you church next weekend.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

See you in Church,
Pastor Tom

Related posts:
September 2015 Health Update
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Another Cancer Patient: May 2015 Health Update
Health Update March 2015
Days of Anxiety, Then Sweet News – January 2015
Only Ten Months
Boring and Grateful: A Lymphoma Update – September 2014
A Year of Remission – July 2014
Lymphoma Update: “Let’s Just Wait and See” – June 2014
From Lymphoma to San Joaquin Valley Fever May 2014
A Heart-Stopping Moment – April 2014
Lymphoma Update – February 2014: Back to the New Normal…Remission
Lymphoma Update – January 2014: When Routine Becomes Exciting
Lymphoma Update – November 2013
Lymphoma Update – September 2013
Lymphoma Update – July 2013
Lymphoma Update: A New Normal – June 2013
Lymphoma Update – May 2013
Lymphoma Update – April 2013
Lymphoma Update – March 2013
Lymphoma Update – February 2013
Lymphoma – January 2013

Blame It On Our DNA

A Yearbook (1969) Tribute 100 Years of Immanuel. One thing that hasn't changed? Immanuel – we walk together, we encourage one another, we grow together, we eat together, we worship together, and we live together as a ‘Family’.
A 1969 Yearbook  Tribute ~ 100 Years of Immanuel. One thing that hasn’t changed? Immanuel – we walk together, we encourage one another, we grow together, we eat together, we worship together, and we live together as a ‘Family.’


DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main part of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information, that is the fundamental characteristics or qualities of someone or something, particularly when viewed as unchangeable. DNA is also described less scientifically, as in “It’s in my DNA to…,” or “it’s just not in my DNA to…” sometimes spoken sarcastically, or even politely. When I say, “It’s in Immanuel’s DNA” I mean it as a compliment.

So, what is in Immanuel’s DNA? This living organism we call Immanuel Lutheran Church and School can trace its DNA back to the day in 1869 when eleven families gathered on the railroad platform in Palatine, Illinois to plan a Lutheran church in the area. [1] One week later, the congregation was formed. One year later, Immanuel’s people bought four acres of land for a church and cemetery. However, running short of funds (also in our DNA), some of the land was sold and a used church building on North Plum Grove road was bought. In the fall of 1870, just a year and a half after the church was formed, a schoolhouse was constructed, classes began and just a year later, five students graduated from eighth grade. By 1873 Immanuel had a full-time teacher on staff.

Within four years of that small group of families meeting on the train platform, a church is formed, a cemetery is opened and an elementary school begins. Each of these make up a distinct and yet unbreakable aspect of Immanuel’s DNA, our genetic code. Think of the way letters in the alphabet can be used to form a word. Similarly, the order in a DNA sequence forms (words) genes, which tells cells how to make proteins. DNA has information about our heritage.

For example, I have a rare kind of lymphoma because two of my gene sequences cause the B-cells of my immune system, a type of white blood cell, to occasionally grow and multiply uncontrollably. To be healthy, the DNA needs to be just right!

Immanuel’s DNA is strong.  Pastor Warren wrote about it a few years ago, though he didn’t actually use the term”DNA” – see Immanuel, Then and Now: Changes and Constants.

It stands to reason that if Immanuel’s DNA isn’t “right,” if somehow the basic building blocks that formed this church back in 1869 are out of sequence, Immanuel will not be healthy. We can liken those basic building blocks to the legs of a three-legged stool: one leg is the church, another is the school and the final leg is the cemetery. If one leg is loose, cracked, or missing, the stool is broken.

Therefore, I am convinced that our school, church and yes, even our cemetery must still be healthy. We need to have the best teachers in each classroom filled with the best number of students, our church community must continually grow spiritually and numerically, and our cemetery (the third leg on the stool) must support the needs of families during their most difficult times while maintaining a pristine presence in the village of Palatine. It’s in our DNA!

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy 1 Corinthians 12:26

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

1. Ironically, also in 1869, German biochemist Frederich Miescher first saw DNA, (as any graduate of Immanuel School can verify).

Shrove Tuesday ~ Burning of the Palm Branches

shrovetuesdayMaking of the Ashes

Come take part in this brief and poignant service of reflection and preparation for Lent as we burn last year’s Palm Sunday fronds to use for this year’s Ash Wednesday ashes.

If you still have the palm fronds you received last year, bring them! We’ll gather in the courtyard on Tuesday, February 28 at 2:30. This service only lasts for about 20 minutes.

As these palm branches are changed to ash,
change us, Lord; make us new.

A little background…Shrove is the past tense of the word shrive, which means to hear a confession, and absolve from sin. In the Middle Ages, especially in Northern Europe and England, it became the custom to confess one’s sins on the day before Lent began to enter the penitential season in the right spirit.  Lent, the penitential period before Easter, has been a time of fasting and abstinence for many Christians. Some choose to abstain from all meat and items that came from animals, including butter, eggs, cheese, and fat. That is why Shrove Tuesday became known as Mardi Gras, the French term for Fat Tuesday. Over time, Mardi Gras extended from a single day to the entire period of Shrovetide, the days from the last Sunday before Lent through Shrove Tuesday.  More info: Pancakes, Ashes, and Lent.

See you in the courtyard,
Pastor Tom

Time to Bury the Alleluia!

alleluiaA custom dating back to at least the fifth century will continue at Immanuel this weekend.  We’ll conclude our worship by lifting a banner with the word “Alleluia” and then lowering it into a box where it will remain until Easter sunrise. The practice, often referred to as “burying the alleluia,” stems from the ancient practice when a scroll containing the word was removed from the church. A written record from the 15th century describes French choirboys carrying a small coffin containing the word “Alleluia” out the church in procession, and then burying it in the churchyard.

Tradition holds that we won’t sing or say the word “alleluia” again until Easter Day. There is no scriptural command for this practice, nor is there for the season of Lent. However, we simply choose to restrain our praise during the 40-day season of Lent ending with Easter. You’ll notice that we won’t select a hymn or song with the word “alleluia” during this time. Lent is designed to be a time of being remorseful as we acknowledge our sins and look with great anticipation to the message of forgiveness and eternal life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter.

The hymn “Alleluia, Song of Gladness,” contains a translation of an 11th century Latin text that compares an alleluia-less Lent to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon. The text then anticipates the joy of Easter when glad alleluias will return in their heavenly splendor. We will include this ancient hymn in our worship this weekend. Enjoy these powerful words of the early Christian Church that are rich with meaning for us today:

Alleluia cannot always
Be our song while here below;
Alleluia, our transgressions
Make us for a while forego;
For the solemn time is coming
When our tears for sin must flow.

Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee,
Grant us, blessed Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter
With Thy faithful saints on high;
There to Thee for ever singing
Alleluia joyfully.

Source: Lutheran Service Book #417 Text and music: Public domain

I hope that you are able to join us for worship this weekend as we “bury the alleluia…”

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Presidents’ Day 2017

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. He served two terms from 1789 to 1797. (Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)
George Washington, the first president of the United States, served two terms from 1789 to 1797 and is probably the best known American politician ever. (Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)

Things are different this year, but in honor of Presidents’ Day, I’m sharing my Presidents’ Day post again. 

So how will you celebrate President’s Day? Actually, I am told that the holiday is legally designated as “Washington’s Birthday.” It’s a federal holiday so many schools are closed, along with banks, the financial markets, courthouses and most government agencies.  However most commercial businesses and retail outlets will be open. In fact there are many special “Presidents’ Day” sales. So you may celebrate by shopping.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, served as President from 1861 until his assisination in 1865. (Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, served as President from 1861 until his assassination in 1865.  He is best-known for his role in guiding our nation through the Civil War.
(Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)

Whatever we call it, today we are officially to honor the life and work of George Washington, the first president of the United States. And by law, the day still commemorates all past presidents of the USA. Here in Illinois we understandably pay more attention to our own Abraham Lincoln, as his birthday was also in mid-February.

I can remember my grade school organizing events, plays, art projects and lessons about the presidents of the United States, especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I enjoyed memorizing the order of the president’s terms much more than drawing their likeness on construction paper. I don’t know if either is done so much anymore.

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. He served two terms from 1789 to 1797. Before he became president, he played an extremely important role as a general in the American Revolution, leading the American Continental Army to victory over the British in 1783. Washington is often seen as the father of the United States and is probably the best known American politician ever.

There is the portrait of Washington and three other American presidents carved into Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. His image is also used on the one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin. The capital of the United States, Washington D.C., Washington State and at least three universities are named after him.

But Monday is a popular day for stores to start their sales. And that is alright. Our economy is a mess, far too many of my friends in church are without work and have few prospects.

And if you can find a few minutes, go on-line and read something about the life our first president. From the French and Indian War, to the American Revolution with the victory at Yorktown and the writing of the United States Constitution you will be fascinated by the struggles, the determination and the humility of this man. Read about his actual presidency and how the very young nation developed. And don’t forget to check on that story about a cherry tree! It is good to know why our nation pauses to remember George Washington.

(Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)
Barack Obama, our most-recent former president.  His legacy is still unfolding.  (Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)

Finally, before the day ends, no matter what your political persuasion, please pray for both former President Obama and President Trump. God asks that we pray for our leaders. President Obama and his wife Michelle are now “private citizens,” but are still in the public eye and will greatly affect the lives of others.

President Donald Trump, our new president. History alone will tell us for what he will be best-known. (Photo Source: Whitehouse.gov)

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania (who, by the way, recited the Lord’s Prayer at a public rally on Saturday) are now the ones in “the hot seat,” 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Please pray that God grant them wisdom.  Pray that God guides President Trump to use his office and authority to provide leadership for this country that reflects the principles envisioned by our nation’s founders.

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3

See you in Church!
Pastor Tom

Infections! Who Needs Them?

Earlier this month I underwent a minor surgical procedure to help me battle sinus infections.  No open wound, no cuts to my belly which I know are painful recoveries, no long stay in the hospital, just a little adjustment on my sinuses, and then some rest at home. In fact, I found myself looking forward to some time off, as my schedule had been full following Christmas.

A marvelous surgical instrument called an endoscope was used to remove some infected sinus tissue so additional infected material will easily drain from my sinus cavities. I’ll spare you the details but anytime you remove something that is infected, things are messy. For the next few weeks, it is important that I follow doctor’s instructions to avoid any additional infection or complications.

If only I could remove other infections from my life as easily.

I’m talking about those infections that pop up when you least expect them and can’t be treated with any antibiotics. These infections encourage me to say the wrong words or make selfish, inappropriate decisions that end up hurting people. It is as though my entire body is infected with a most unwelcome guest.

This guest has many names including, Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Devil, Evil One, Father of lies and in Revelation 9:11 he is called “destruction.” There is nothing flattering about his names or the nasty work he does. Every sinus infection I’ve had in my life time has come without warning and given me nothing but trouble for a week or two. On the other hand, Satan’s infections often come to me with my conscience warning me, “Don’t go there” and all too often I do go there. And then I’ve got real trouble!

There is a remedy for Satan’s infections. There is an antibiotic that will work every time without question. It called Jesus Christ who has already conquered Satan’s worst infections. Jesus is available 24/7 without appointment and he has no deductible to meet. In fact, now that I think about it, Jesus does drain Satan’s infections from my life. It is just that I have a nasty habit of inviting his infection back in.

I’ll see you in church – infection free!
Pastor Tom
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Mission Trips – What Are They?


pastor-donald-mission-trip-with-8th-gradersIf you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see Pastor Donald in the last row – second from the right. The photo was taken on the 8th grade mission trip to Kentucky last year. It was one of many hundreds of photos from the trip, but rarely was the entire group gathered and posed. They were far too busy for that…they were working on projects, interacting with local people, and having fun.  Pastor Donald joins us today to discuss mission trips, in general and one specifically.  He is organizing a mission trip this summer for Immanuel. Anyone – high school age and older – is welcome to join him.  But I’ll let him talk about that…

Pastor Donald joins us today to talk about mission trips.

Over the years I have been on a handful of mission trips and they always have been a blessing, not just to those we have been serving, but even to those on the team. Reflecting back on the mission trips I’ve been on, I want to share some of my thoughts.

First, it’s amazing to be out in the world serving those that God sends to us. There have been countless times where it has been humbling serving people on mission trips. Seeing people smile when you do the simplest of things to help them. It warms the heart. And we don’t do these things for the smiles or for our own self promotion. We do this because of our love of God and our desire to reflect that to others, without the expectations of hearing, “Thank you.”

Second, the community that it builds among team members never ceases to amaze me. You truly do become family with those on the team. You share in the highs of their lives during that week, while you also lift them up if they are struggling. We truly are stronger together when working together on a service project, whether here in the Palatine area or in a completely other state or country.

The third thing that stands out to me is the mentorship of the adult members with the youth on mission trips. Mission trips are a great learning experience. I, myself, have learned some handyman skills over the years, to the credit of some people patient enough to teach me. Not only that I have seen the way adults take leadership to teach the youth skills they have learned over the years, I’ve seen the connection it builds between the youth and that adult. Plus, they learn a life skill for later on that they might never have learned about.

The final thing I would like the share is that you never know what will happen on a mission trip. Despite all the preparation, there has always been something come up that I didn’t prepare for, such as a tire going flat on the bus late on a Sunday afternoon. Even though something unplanned always take place on mission trips, the team always comes together to overcome. They truly are stronger together.

Mission trips are truly a valuable part of a church’s ministry and I am blessed that God gives me the opportunity to plan mission trips. I’m excited about our upcoming trip to Lutheran Island Camp in Henning, Minnesota. There will be all sorts of things going on:

Christ Serve Ranch is the home of the first Creation-Science Environmental Learning Center in the nation! There’s a lot that needs to be done and in which we could be involved: building trails, observation decks and shelters, developing scientific experiments, removing brush and trees, and building corrals and docks.

Christ Serve Ranch says that mission trip participants, “will have a greater understanding of our Creator God and how we can use Genesis to better grasp the significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.”

This trip is geared for high school youth and older. Even though it’s geared for youth, I highly encourage everybody to consider coming. This is a great opportunity for families to come together and serve others. I also want to encourage adults without children.  This can be a chance to mentor youth and teach them skills you have.

Ultimately, consider going on this trip, or become involved in local service projects that might come up, because it is a way to reach into communities and share the love of God. Trust me, you won’t come back the same person.

It is a blessing and honor that God has given us that we can reflect His love out into the world. Please, consider coming to Lutheran Island Camp with us the week of July 16, 2017. If you have any questions please talk with me!

In Christ,
Pastor Donald

Volleyball and More

nlsw-vball-game-collageIt’s a National Lutheran School Week tradition. The 8th grade students challenge the faculty and staff to a game of volleyball. I choose not to play simply because the game is so hilarious, I need to watch it from the bleachers. Listening to the students shout and cheer as a classmate makes a good play (the ball goes over the net) or a teacher misses a serve is one of those priceless moments that I so enjoy in my work at Immanuel.

There is an unmistakable bond between the teachers and their students. Middle school students cheer on the teacher that taught them in first or second grade. Younger students are excited to watch their teacher in a new role as she tries to spike the ball over the net to her former students. It is nothing less than good-natured Christian fun that flows naturally from the love and commitment teachers have for their students. It is reinforced by parents who choose Immanuel for its spiritual, moral, and high academic standards.

Indeed, it is more than a volleyball game. It’s more than an hour of fun on a Friday afternoon after a busy week. It is much more than working off unspent energy before students gather up their computer notebooks and weekend assignments. It’s Immanuel, a Lutheran school preparing children for a world that needs to play a lot more volleyball.

See you in church, school, and maybe even the gym,
Pastor Tom

Inauguration January 2017

Image Source: Foxnews.com

Our country has peacefully changed governments. This is a remarkable blessing, especially when you consider the divisive political campaigns that we all witnessed for nearly two years. In my opinion I feel our nation is divided much like during the days of the Viet Nam war. Today, as during those difficult days, most people align themselves with one political view or another. Either you are disappointed to see President Obama leave office or you are pleased that he is no longer president. You are either welcoming Donald Trump as president or you are having trouble accepting his victory.

What is the proper Christian response to the division in our country? As a Christian, does God require me to support a president I did not vote for? Is it sinful to disagree with policies and laws enacted by government?

The Bible speaks very clearly about the relationship between a Christian and the government. We are to obey authorities, including those in government. Those in authority are to treat us justly and fairly. There are times with the government does not fulfill its obligations to the people but we are still to live up to ours. However, when the government asks us to do something that defies God’s Word, we are to disobey the government in faithful confidence of the Lord’s power to protect us.

St. Paul wrote Timothy a few words that remind us to not only pray for authorities, but also to be thankful for those in government, including the president.

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3

He also reminds us that God gives authority. In fact, he places those with such authority over us.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1

As President Trump quoted in his Inauguration Speech

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133:1

2017-nlsw-graphic-1And even as we celebrate a peaceful change in government, we’re also celebrating National Lutheran Schools Week!

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Prayer As Our Nation Remembers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Prayer on the day our nation remembers Martin Luther KingEach year I offer a prayer as our nation remembers Martin Luther King Jr. and observes a national holiday in his honor.  I’d like to do that again this year…

Gracious Heavenly Father —

On this day when our nation remembers Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may we reflect on his life and witness that so often was drawn from the teachings of your Son, our Savior. May each of us seek to eliminate any bigotry and hatred from our lives.  Following the example of Jesus, may we also seek out the lonely, the lost, the downtrodden and outcast, providing for their physical as well as spiritual needs.

Give us the strength and wisdom necessary when we find ourselves in those places of danger, division, discord, and sorrow where love is so desperately needed but so painfully absent. May we have the commitment to live by the teachings of Christ that his words are codes of conduct rather than mere words of inspiration.

As we remember the courage of Dr. King, as he sought to make your word known among all people, may we refuse the temptation to take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth but instead replace evil with good. May we be known as examples of your love that when those who are blinded by hate confront us, we will strive to remain nonviolent and love those who chose to be our enemies. May we work for justice, freedom and human dignity for all your children who so often are victims of injustice and oppression. May we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even as we see the whole world as our neighborhood.

O God, fashion and mold our memories into a guiding vision for active discipleship, so that we may not only long and yearn for thy coming kingdom but may also recognize its arrival and presence in the risen Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, in whose blessed name we pray. Amen.

See you in church,
Pastor Tom