Sunday, May 2, 2021

Stuck in the System

When I received my spinal cord injury in 1985, most of my medical expenses were covered by private insurance through my dad's employer. In 2014, due to the Affordable Care Act, I nearly lost that coverage. After a long trial, I ended up with private insurance covering nights and a program through Iowa Medicaid covering my day hours. This is what I have been using since that time, and it appears with no alternative.

In the last few months, my parents have celebrated their birthdays; with both either at or near retirement age. When most people reach this milestone, they look forward to decreasing their hours at work and doing other activities they enjoy. However, that apparently isn't something my parents are allowed to do.

Mom discovered that if my parents go off of private insurance and start taking retirement funds, it would disqualify me for the Medicaid program I use, as well as other consequences. Iowa uses what's called MCOs, or Managed Care Organizations, for all but a few recipients in the state. I'm one of the few that doesn't use an MCO, and it's a good thing. Many stories of problems with Iowa's system have been documented, including receiving less coverage. We can't find anyone to tell us for certain what I could get covered if I switched, and it very likely would be much less than I use. Also, since my private insurance is through dad's employer, he needs to continue working full-time to receive medical benefits.

This has been an upcoming issue my family has known was coming for about a year. We have looked for solutions, but it appears the only guaranteed answer would require an act of congress. I don't have any plans on running for an elected position, so it's very unlikely that anything would change in the next decade, or three.

Seeing all my parents have done for me, it has been hard not feeling responsible for keeping them from enjoying what they have worked decades to achieve. While attempting to sleep, thoughts of going to a care facility to ease their work load have filled many nights. However, I know that moving to a facility would also end everything I do outside of home.

The only comfort in this, and all, situation is diving deeply into God's Word. Just as He cares for the birds of the air, He knows our needs as well. I have had many times in life that looked uncertain, but God has carried me through. The time before a solution comes is hardest, but it does come in God's time. I have no idea what that could be in this situation, but I will continue to pray, wait, and do His will until change comes.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Names in Chronicles

It has been a few weeks since I posted on Bible reading, but I continue with it every morning. The two books of Kings finished Thursday and Chronicles started Friday morning. Some parts of the Bible are easier to read than others, but this is the area I find most challenging.

First and Second Chronicles primarily repeat the information given in First and Second Kings. Chronicles was written about the time Israel returned from captivity in Babylon to their home land. One difference between the books is that 1 Chronicles starts off with names, a lot of names.

The first chapter begins with genealogies from Adam, through Israel, and the kings of Israel. After several chapters of reading who had what sons, the book lists various positions held in the kingdom and who had them. Reading lists of names that sound very unfamiliar for several days gets challenging to stay awake, but they have a purpose.

God saw it as important to record each of these individuals, who lived in history, in a way that they would be remembered for thousands of years after they died. Very few people in the last 1,000 years get to have that recognition, let alone a large number of people as recorded in Chronicles. The genealogies also serve to record the ancestry from Adam, the first man, to Jesus. While I read each name recorded in this book of the Bible, it reminds me of more books that God has told us about.

In Revelation, and elsewhere, we read about judgement at the end of time. Books will be opened that have recorded our activities while we lived. Anyone whose name is not found listed in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, where there will be everlasting torment, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

While it may be difficult to sit and read through so many names, it should remind us that our name has been written down as well. Just as the people recorded in Chronicles have been written for all generations, so have our names been recorded for all of history. Every person needs to repent of sin and trust in Jesus alone for salvation and be written in the book of life. It is one record that will have eternal benefit, and always be remembered.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

School Visits 2021

In 2004, I rebuilt the website for my local Christian grade school and saw that the second-grade class did a course on disability awareness. Talking with the guidance counselor, I learned the course was watching a 30-minute video by Joni Erickson Tada. I volunteered to be a live version of the video and my school visits have continued every year since.

I currently have six grade schools I normally visit, with two of them having two grades combined. Therefore, I go to them alternating years and end up seeing five schools every year. For the last three weeks, I have spoken at four schools to seven different classrooms. One class was a third grade with the others all second grade.

With some of the COVID restrictions still in place, I wasn't sure how this year would work. When I scheduled visit dates in January, the teachers weren't certain about restrictions either, but school administers allowed me to come. My first visit was in a regular size classroom, but two classes of students all crowded into the room to hear me speak. I estimated about 40 kids were present with most of them sitting on the floor. I was frequently looking down toward my feet to make sure I didn't get too close to anyone as I moved around. A week later, I met with a class of 13 students in the school's gymnasium to allow further distancing.

Every school I have visited, I demonstrate writing with my mouth and then have the kids try the same. Hearing about mask requirements, I planned an alternate demonstration this year. One of the videos I have the teachers play is about a boy, and his mom, who was born without arms. He therefore does everything with his feet, including writing in school. I thought I could have the students try this instead of mouth writing, but it wasn't needed. I saw over 100 kids the last few weeks and maybe 5-6 of them were wearing masks. I was thankful I didn't need to learn to adapt and could see the children's faces to get feedback as I spoke.

Most of the questions asked were the same as other years, but not entirely. Two students at different schools both wondered how I deal with challenging times or if anything scares me. I might be speaking to seven- and eight-year-olds, but it seems apparent this era of lockdowns is scary to them as well. Presenting at Christian schools, I'm thankful I could point them to looking to God's Word for assurance and trusting Him in whatever may come.

After these school talks, I've felt a new sense of energy again. One school remains, but I don't visit until late May. I'm thankful God has allowed me to share the quad life I've been given and teach the next generation to use any abilities we have, even if a little different from others, to serve Him.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Crossroads

Most days, my home phone gets junk phone calls. The caller ID will come up as spam, name unavailable, or various other oddities. While biking Tuesday morning, a call came with an odd name on the ID. I expected a robot voice or someone that could barely speak English and had some scheme to get my personal information. To my surprise, it was an actual local person that wanted to speak to me.

It was someone from one of the golf courses in town offering an advertising spot for the year. He said it would be in front of business owners for a full year, many who don't know how to do websites, and potential customers. The rate I was offered wasn't as bad as I expected, but still nearly four months' worth of regular expenses. I thought briefly about taking the offer, but declined it.

This isn't the first year I have let the same advertising opportunity pass. Marketing my web development work sounds good, but it hasn't ever helped before. For the last several months, I have only had between 2.5-4 hours of paying work per month. More work would be great, but it's a catch-22.

My funding for nurses and medical care is partly through government assistance. I can only have very little income and my caregivers can't show helping me with anything job related. Therefore, I would like to earn more of my own income instead of just getting government assistance, but I can't without jeopardizing what I do receive.

Friday was my second school visit out of four this month, two more are later this week. It feels like I'm at a crossroads of staying with web development and trying to keep up with the industry, or going more into speaking and writing. I'm much more inclined to try the latter and see if I can stay busy with it. If this summer stays open to meetings, it may give the opportunity to test the waters.

Whatever comes, I can always strive to keep busy in the quad life and do what God allows. I have been asked some interesting questions at schools so far this month. Next week, I will see if I can decide which was the most unique.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Banging my Head to Beat my Chest

Not having the ability to breathe independently presents a few challenges in life. Thankfully, God has provided tools to help take care of problems living in a fallen world. The item I talk about the most is my diaphragm pacemaker (DPS), but that's not the only item I use to keep my lungs in good shape.

Since I can't control my diaphragm, I can't cough on my own. I have learned how to manipulate my breathing to somewhat mimic a cough, but I still need help moving junk around in my lungs. Since the time of my injury, I have used a chest percussion treatment (CPT) twice, or more, every night. I have nicknamed the procedure my nightly thumping, or beating, and my nurses are happy to say it's time to beat Joel.

The CPT is simply a hand-held wand that vibrates and gets moved up and down my chest and back. Combined with turning from side-to-side, it helps keep any junk in my lungs lose and easier to suction out if needed. I can't feel it, but I'm told it feels good and I have woken up to nurses using it on sore shoulder or back muscles during the night.

For many years, the machine I used was called a Flimm Fighter. It worked well, but the cord between the machine's base and wand would break after years of getting wrapped up. After I gave my machine to be fixed once, it was replaced with a newer version that has all the mechanism in one piece, with a long power outlet to the wall.

The new version is smaller, but it's heavier for my nurses to hold and the wire between the wall and unit often resembles a pile of spaghetti. This is very prone to connections becoming lose and the machine not working. This has been the case for about the last six months with trading out my CPT with a loaner to get fixed. Mine gets returned, only for the problem to occur again a few weeks later. If it doesn't work, then the only option is to pound on my chest, and back, by hand. The cycle has become annoying and feels like I'm banging my head on a wall.

I started searching for an alternate solution, but few people use a CPT anymore and instead utilize a vest that does a similar treatment with air. However, it's not an option for me due to my DPS wires. In working with my new pulmonologist, he also doesn't know of any alternatives. Therefore, it looks like the cycle of equipment problems will continue. When I received my CPT back a few days ago after another round of maintenance, the solution offered was to hit the device on something and that should help it. When you're told to hit your medical equipment with a hammer to make it work, you know it has design flaws.

Such is the quad life sometimes. I'm thankful God has provided equipment that has helped more for 36 years. However, I think more frequently I should have pursued a career in engineering to help with medical devices. I will see if everything functions this week, but won't hold my breath (I can't anyway).

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A Tale of Two Easters

Today is Easter Sunday, the day when Christians celebrate our risen Savior. All who repent of their sins and trust in Him alone can be free from eternal punishment in hell. It is a significant day in the church and one not to miss.

A year ago, many churches held virtual Easter service with many pastors preaching to a camera and worshipers watching from home. The world was about a month into the global pandemic, waiting for the two weeks to flatten the curve. This year, most churches are meeting in person again, but still with many restrictions.

I just started going to worship in person a few weeks ago, but again didn't attend this weekend. One of dad's coworkers came to work after he was exposed to the Covid virus from his son. Dad doesn't work with the person directly, but still wants to be cautious. Therefore, we are trying as little interaction between he and I as possible. However, he still needs to help me a lot on weekends when I don't have day assistance. Part of the minimal contact also means not getting in my chair and being around people.

Jesus warned that those who are Christians and follow Him will receive persecution, just as He did. Many early Christians were martyred for their faith by Jews, Romans, and other rulers. The emperor Nero would have Christians covered in flammable liquid, tied to stakes, and burned alive to provide light at night. Some countries in the world today still have extreme persecution. I'm thankful that for this year, many believers were still allowed to gather and worship.

Later this week, I'm scheduled to visit my first grade school in over a year. I'm eager to work with kids again, but I am also wondering if I'll be allowed to go. As long as everyone remains free of symptoms though, all should be fine. I also mailed the two instructors a reminder early last week and I didn't hear back. Showing up at a school without an appointment wouldn't work very well.

Whatever happens the next few days, I'll go with whatever God has planned. Just as He plans were done 2000 years ago, they are today in the quad life.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Wait too Long or Do too Much?

It was a busy week in the quad life, but not quite as busy as it could have been. However, what did happen continued to linger on for a time.

On Thursday and Friday, I had doctor's appointments scheduled in Des Moines. My primary day nurse, Sara, generally takes me to all my outings, whether for pleasure or health. Unfortunately, Sara called Wednesday night that she was ill and would not be able to come the next day. Dad has also been very busy at work and couldn't take the day off. Therefore, I called my doctor as soon as the office opened and rescheduled in a month.

Friday started out the same with Sara still unable to come due to illness. Dad was still busy, but was able to get the day off. Thankfully he, and mom, both went with me to the city to get my visit complete. While dad and I waited nearly an hour for my five-minute visit, I felt some junk start to come up in my lungs. It isn't anything too unusual, and I was able to do version of coughing to clear my airway.

Next on our excursion was to find, and eat, lunch. While we dined on our fast food, I kept feeling more stuff accumulate in my chest. As always, I had my portable suction machine with me, but it's hard to use in the tight spaces of the van. I continued to try to cough and move the junk around so I could breathe and hopefully wait until we got home to suction. After lunch, the three of us headed to our favorite fish store to restock my aquarium after most of the tank died.

Driving through the city streets, my lungs started to get more sore and I was having a harder time breathing. At this point on doctor days, Sara and I would have been heading home, but we weren't yet. Getting to the parking lot, I considered how dad could clear my lungs in the confines of the vehicle, but it didn't seem likely. I continued to try my breathing techniques to do what I could to wait.

Fish selection took some time, but the three of us eventually headed to our last stop, groceries. As dad navigated the streets, I had a few times I could hardly get any air. When he parked in the lot, I had him try to suction so I could get relief. It took some trial, but he figured out how to do the procedure. However, by this time, I had waited so long the junk was hard to get out of my airway and my lungs were very sore. Dad cleared out what he could, but it only provided a little relief.

Upon entering, the store had signs stating face masks required. I can't breathe with the covering on anyway, and the sore lungs made it even harder. I was very glad when our list was finished and I could exit the building to breathe easier. Finally, six hours after leaving home, we were home again.

With hardly going out for over a year, I'm not used to being gone for extended periods. Friday night into Saturday, my lungs remained sore and needed more suctioning than usual. By late Saturday, they were finally feeling back to normal, but I felt hot and tired after the experience.

As the world opens up, I need to be more careful in not overdoing. Also, I'll need to do better at not trying to hold off on needed assistance. I'm thankful for God's care through my parents and hope to continue heading out, but not too much.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Samson, Braun and no Brain?

For the last few days, my morning daily reading has been in Judges. The entire book recounts a repeating cycle for the nation of Israel. After the death of Joshua, and his generation, the people abandon God and follow the pagan practices of the surrounding nations. As a result, God follows through on His promises and gives Israel over to oppression and enslavement.

When this happens, Israel cries out to God for forgiveness and deliverance from their enemies. God responds by bringing up a leader, or judge, and restores the nation's freedom through that person. Israel then serves God during the lifetime of the judge, but then quickly falls away again after the leader's death. Then, the entire cycle starts over again with the people forgetting lessons from history.

One of the more well-known judges during this time period was Samson. The account of his service was all of yesterday's reading and part of today's. Before his birth, Samson was to be a Nazirite, set apart by God for a unique service. As a Nazirite, he needed to follow strict laws for behavior and how he lived his life. These rules included not cutting hair, going near a dead body, and much more as given by God through Moses.

While Samson was set apart as a Nazirite, he broke most of the rules during his life. Through strength God gave him, this judge killed many of the Philistines that were ruling over Israel. He also ate honey from the corpse of a lion and lusted after women. As part of the last one, Samson had more opportunity to confront the Philistines, until he met his final wife, Delilah.

Delilah was given over to greed for money and agreed to learn the secret of Samson's strength. He gave her several false answers, all of which Delilah did to him. Samson didn't learn from any of these lessons though and finally gave the answer of his long hair. After a barber cut off the judge's hair, his strength left him and he was captured by the Philistines, blinded, and put in forced labor. However, the Philistines also didn't pay attention and allowed Samson's hair to grow back. At his last act, Samson was strengthened by God one more time to take down idol worship and many of the Philistine followers.

One of the main points of this book is to teach the Bible, God's law, to younger generations. Remembering what God has done, and will do, is a key to fearing Him (which is the beginning of wisdom) and living as God requires. It also demonstrates that God uses people He chooses, no matter how flawed, to serve His purposes.

Therefore, be sure to study God's Word daily and teach others as well. Learn from history, and if you keep giving into temptation, do anything to get away from it before it blinds you and costs your life.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Spring Fling

Today marks the first official day of spring in the northern hemisphere. It is when I stop hibernating at home and venture out into the world again. Last year, winter hibernation never really ended, but I'm ready to roll.

After more than a year off from going to church in person, my parents and I made the adventure today. We are out of the Sunday morning routine, but will get back in the habit easily enough.

My typical first visits after winter are also scheduled for this week, doctor's appointments. I often hear people comment they know it's spring when road construction starts. For me, it's medical visits that were missed in the winter. My very first appointment will be with my dermatologist to check on my pressure sores.

Depending on which nurse I ask, and what day, the holes in my skin have either improved, stayed the same, or become slightly worse. My doctor doesn't take measurements, but relies on what the supervisor from my nursing agency says. Her last visit didn't show much progress, but that is typical for my years of dealing with sores.

While I'm looking forward to getting out, not everything is opening up. In early March, applications went out for CHAMP Camp counselors, and campers. It had many restrictions and I wasn't planning to go again this year. A week later, the campgrounds CHAMP Camp uses decided to cancel all camps this summer. Therefore, applications were no longer needed and 2021 will be another virtual year. Without traveling or long days in my chair required, I did apply to be a virtual counselor. I'm not sure their will be much I can assist with, but I'll see if I'm accepted.

In a few weeks, I'm scheduled to visit with my first grade schools in over a year. I'm looking forward to it and once again being Mr. Joel for short periods. Teaching children how to use God's gifts in any form is a fun part of the quad life I have missed.

I will see what the outside world is like again and report back next week!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Took a Year Off

The first few days last week felt like spring with highs in the 70's. With the temporary warming trend I took the opportunity to do something I haven't in over a year, run my own errands.

Living the quad life, I'm dependent on others to help me with pretty well everything. I can blink without assistance as well as chew and swallow, but only if someone gives something to eat. Therefore, what I can do that resembles anything of independence, I try to do as much as possible. One of those items is being responsible for the supplies my nurses and I use.

Usually a couple times a month, I would get a list together and go to Walmart, or elsewhere, and get whatever I needed. Purchasing vitamins, protein bars, toilet paper, and other items isn't anything too extraordinary. However, it's a little part of independence I could do without relying on anyone other than my caregiver and I. It wasn't uncommon to get home from the store and immediately find something that was almost out and I would have my parents get it if they were heading out.

Then, like everyone else, March of 2020 hit with a pandemic and everything changed. With all the regulations and trying to avoid people, I gave my list to my parents. That has now been the case for at least a year, until this week.

Getting out and doing my normal routine felt good again. It was different seeing people at check out behind shields and marks all over the floor indicating six feet separation. I didn't see many other people in the store anyway, so it was a simple task to complete.

Hopefully, this won't be the only outing for this year. With so many uncertainties and rapid changes, we can never be sure what's coming. No matter what, I'll continue to trust God in all ways and do as He allows.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Take Your Pick

It has been a few weeks since I posted about daily Bible reading. The previous entry was commenting on Leviticus and how it still pertains today. Since then, I have read through Numbers and most of Deuteronomy. Today's reading was Deuteronomy 28-29, warning Israel to follow God's laws and ordinances.

The first 14 verses of chapter 28 cover the blessings the nation will receive for obeying God's commands. One of them was financial freedom, lending to nations and borrowing from none. Other blessings were abundance of crops, livestock, and children. However, the curses for not following God are many.

Going from verse 15 all the way to 68, God details what will happen for disobedience. First, the opposite of the blessings will happen, financial problems with going into debt to other countries, lack of crops, and decreased birth rate. If Israel didn't listen to initial warnings, the situation would continue to get worse with starvation, wars, and eventually being taken captive by foreign governments.

When an individual sins against God and does not repent, they receive a sentence of eternal punishment and torment in hell. Everyone needs to repent of sin, turn away from them, and trust in Christ alone for salvation. A nation sinning against God receives an earthly reprimand. Many of the curses listed in Deuteronomy 28 sound familiar to today.

According to the US debt clock, the country is in debt $82 trillion in debt. In less than a year, three bills passed with well over one trillion in expenditures, much of which was to superfluous items. I also recently saw an article that the birth rate in the United States was down from previous years. The echoes of Deuteronomy ring loud.

What can a nation do? It needs to return to following God and His laws. I pray the nations of the world will heed the warning, before more dire consequences come.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Watching and Waiting

It's March 7 and even though the calendar still says winter, it's starting to feel like spring in Iowa. In a few days, we are projected to have a high temperature near 70 with thunderstorms. Like many people, I am looking forward to getting outside again, but it isn't possible for some.

A year ago tomorrow was the last day I was physically in church, except for preaching. At the end of the evening service, a doctor and county health official told about a virus that was especially hard for older people to withstand. It was advised elderly stay home for a few weeks. Not long after, the entire world shutdown due to the virus, but it would only be for two weeks.

Now that it has nearly been 52 weeks, most areas still have restrictions on how many people can be together, how close, and other regulations. Churches in particular have been hit hard with regulations and told not to have full capacity, don't sing, or not meet together at all. Some congregations have looked to God's Word for their foundation in all situations, even pandemics. They have seen government going beyond what God has given for the government's responsibility and continued worshiping. I follow one of these congregations.

In Canada, Pastor James Coates leads a congregation that has seen how the church was singled out for restrictions. As a result, he preached to a full sanctuary on February 14 and preached an excellent sermon on Romans 13. Two days later, he was arrested and taken with handcuffs and leg irons to a maximum security prison where he is in isolation 23 hours a day. He can be released at any time as long as he agrees not to preach.

Two days ago, a hearing was held to get the release conditions dropped, but they were upheld. Pastor Coates will remain in jail until his trial in May. Jesus said that just as He was persecuted, Christians need to expect the same.

We often think of situations like these happening in Asia or the Middle East, not North America. Unfortunately, with a current bill being debated in the Senate, I and others think it will be happening in America as well. I'm thankful this past week went well for the videos I produced and I pray God uses them for His glory. For another week, I will watch and wait to see what happens while living the quad life.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Video Week

A few years ago, I started making videos about how I do every day activities as a quadriplegic. My goal was to have more material to use for when I speak at schools and help mentor others with high-level spinal cord injuries. I haven't done anything for promoting the channel, but some people have found it and have become familiar names in the comments.

The majority of the content is about the life I've been given, but I also do some Bible commentary and talk about being a Christian. My latest video was a brief talk about the life of Joseph and how God used him through wicked actions of others. After the video went live, two viewers asked me to do more Bible content. I enjoy teaching God's Word, and gladly accepted the request.

Over the weekend, I thought about what to do, how to present information, and when. It almost ignited a fire in me and I planned to release a video a day, for five days. Early this year, I encouraged viewers to start an annual reading plan at biblegateway.com and read through Scripture. The plan I'm doing will be in early Deuteronomy the first week of March. Therefore, I would start in Genesis and stop with the current reading progress.

This last week, I recorded all five videos in three recording sessions. I touched briefly on major points and tried to keep each recording around 15-20 minutes. I wanted to cover much more and could have spent a few hours in several areas, but disciplined myself not to. As I finished recording, I did editing with removing pauses, adding verse references, and stock photos to help keep anyone awake. In order to get my self-imposed deadline of March 1 met, I did a lot of work while flat. My mouth wasn't happy with me, but I know have everything uploaded (taking about 15 hours to so) and scheduled except Friday.

Tomorrow's video will cover Genesis 1-3, and I'm wondering if my channel will still exist afterword. One Christian YouTube channel I watch was removed from YouTube and several others have made it clear they could be next. I wouldn't like everything I've done to disappear, but I have more desire to follow Christ's command to spread the gospel.

I do know I won't do this ambitious of a series again. I neglected other projects, like my book, and likely did more than I should while flat. I will see what happens the next five days and pray God will use the words He gave me.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Warming Trend

It's Saturday afternoon as I write this week's entry in the quad life. The sun is shining outside making the snow covered ground extra bright. I have been sitting here all day thinking about what to write this week, and still haven't come up with a topic, even as my stick is putting out words on my keyboard.

As usual, it has been another week of staying inside. Last weekend and early in the work week, outdoor temps were well below zero. I woke up Tuesday morning to my thermostat reading -14° just outside my window. With a difference of more than 80° from outside to in, I wasn't surprised to see my room below where it usually sits. Thankfully, the weather has improved and that same thermostat now reads nearly 37°.

In the corner of my room, a five-sided, 45-gallon aquarium sits where I can easily see it. After a shift in fish population, due to the death of some and others becoming snacks for larger fish, I have been down to two fish for quite a while. One of the two was a large algae cleaning fish that frequently hid behind rocks. Therefore, I only saw one laxidasical angel fish most of the time. On January 29, my parents finally got to Des Moines and came home with a surprise of five new fish.

I enjoyed the new buzz of activity and watched the active new arrivals chase each other and explore their new home. However, our reliable fish store may have had a disease problem. As of Thursday, the large plecostomus was the latest burial in the snow. My original two fish died as well as three of the new ones. After having seven healthy pets, I'm back down to two survivors. Dad has been changing the water, filters, and adding medicine to help keep these two around. Hopefully they'll stay alive, but we may be more hesitant to repopulate the tank.

Finally, on Friday, I watched a conference about the current virus news, discussing mask wearing and the treatment. Many have been banned by social media for simply showing facts, and I therefore won't discuss specifics. However, I am more confirmed that I will not be getting the vaccine and continue to breath easily with my face uncovered.

February 20 also marks 36 years since becoming a quadriplegic. I'm thankful for the extreme number of blessings God has given me throughout the years. Even with just a regular week with little to come to mind, He has provided all I need. With the last full week of February ahead, I look forward to the coming of spring again.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Day of Love

February 14 is Valentine's Day, named after St. Valentine. It's a day when couples get each other cards, chocolate, flowers, and other gifts. Some claim this day was invented by greeting card companies so they could sell more product. Whatever the cause, it's a good day to be reminded of love.

The past several months have had riots, protests, finger pointing, and accusations of all sorts from different sources. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is patient and kind. It can be challenging at times, but we need to love those we disagree with and be patient with them. However, we can go too far in that direction as well.

If we see a child playing and having fun, it would not be kind, or loving, to stop them. However, if the location of the play is on a street, or railroad track, and danger is approaching, it is loving to stop the child's enjoyment and move them. In the same way, when someone is living in sin, it is loving to warn them about the danger ahead.

Yes, God is love, but He is also a just and righteous judge that must see sin punished. If you do not repent of sin and do everything possible to keep from it, then justice will be served. Unfortunately, many churches just preach the first part and forget the second.

As sinful men and women, God showed His love for us by Jesus' death on the cross and paying our debt. All who repent and put their faith in Him alone will be saved. We demonstrate our love for God by following His commands, reading His word, and telling others about the gospel. It can seem unloving to show sin in someone's life, and needs to be done thoughtfully, but we cannot give a solution unless the problem is known.

Throughout this day, and week, remember how God demonstrated His love for us, and extend it to all around us.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Leviticus, why bother?

Other than snow and cold, it has been a pretty calm week. I spoke virtually to a class of RT students, but that was about all. Every morning, I continue reading through the Bible. I am now in Leviticus, and some may wonder why this is needed in modern Bible study.

The main point of the Old Testament is to point toward the coming Messiah and His payment for our sins. This book, while sometimes hard to read, is a major illustration of what is needed to cover sins against God. While it is aimed at the Levites in their service in the tabernacle, it also has application for Christians.

First, the animal had to be perfect to be accepted as a sacrifice. It couldn't have any blemish, and then it had to be offered on the alter in a prescribed manner with only certain pieces of the animal. Every part had a function, and even the ashes had a required method for disposal. Sacrifices were also required regularly, some at prescribed festivals, but others every morning and evening. They were to be a continual reminder of the need for forgiveness.

In the New Testament, Jesus was called the lamb of God. Just as the lamb had to be perfect for sacrifice, so did Jesus. He was the only one who had not sinned, and was holy, blameless, and acceptable to cover our sins. The blood of sheep and goats could not cover our sins for all time, but Jesus' one act on the cross paid for the sins of all who truly come to Him for forgiveness.

Other sections of Leviticus tell the Israelites how to live as a distinct nation, apart from the people around them. Just as they were not to follow many of the practices of other nations, so Christians are to be distinct as well. In 1 John 2:15, Christians are told not to love the world or the things in it. While the world moves further away from God's Word, we need to hold to it and live as His people, no matter the cost.

Just reading through some of the Old Testament can be a challenge. However, when we pay attention and apply it, the difficult passages make sense. If medical personnel in the Civil War, or Black Plague, had followed Leviticus and separated sick people from the well, and cleaned instruments with running water, it would have saved many lives. This is why it is still useful to read books such as Leviticus and see how it can point to today.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Umm...What's the word?

Around the time of high school, I started doing more writing. I worked with the school newspaper for two years and helped a small local newspaper during my senior year. I also got into forensics and giving speeches at competitions. I felt like I had a firm grasp on the written and spoken word and could present my ideas confidently. Now, I'm starting to wonder and find it more challenging.

Watching videos online, I frequently see advertising for a service called Grammerly. It is marketed as free and helps to write with confidence. The majority of what the commercials show are simple errors that are caught in Microsoft Word or other editors. With my computer, I also get alerted to spelling errors anywhere I write and can generally catch most of hem.

However, reviewing my book, I an often second-guessing myself on wording and clarity of what I'm trying to say. Composing emails to clients, I am spending more time editing and wondering if what I wrote is as clear as it could be. My confidence in what I once found easy is starting to decrease, and not only in writing.

For the past few months, I have also started having trouble finding the right words to say. In casual conversation with my caregivers, I know what I want to communicate, but come up with the wrong word. It's more frequent in the morning, but I notice it at any time of the day. It's frustrating, but also makes me wonder why.

I haven't had any formal writing or English classes since starting college in late 2000. In the two decades since then, I have only done my own writing without critique. I can easily spot errors in books or whatever I'm reading, so it may not be as bad as I think. As everyone can say, I have not been as old as I am now. It may just be age I'm noticing combined with a full year of very little interaction with the general public.

In two days, I'm scheduled to help instruct RT students virtually. Hopefully, I will have clarity of thought and speech to convey the experiences I've been given in the quad life. Whatever happens, I'll use the gifts God has given me as well as I can, including communication.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Forgetful Israel

For about the last ten days, I've been reading the book of Exodus in my daily Bible plan. After the Israelites left Egypt, they camped at Mount Sinai. God set boundaries around Mount Sinai and told Moses to prepare the people for God to speak with them. At the appointed day, the mountain was ablaze with fire, smoke, and a trumpet that continued to get louder.

Terrified, the Israelites decided to have Moses tell them what God said, and they would obey. Through much of Exodus 19-32, Moses is then given the rules the people are to live by as God's holy people. We are told this time period was 40 days and nights.

While Moses was gone, his brother Aaron, the priest, was the temporary leader of the people. In Exodus 32, they requested a god to be made for them to worship, as they didn't know what had happened to Moses. In not much more than a month's time, they had gone from being terrified to even have the Lord speak to them, to breaking His first two commands to have no other god, or idol, in place of Him.

Today, we can look back at Israel and wonder how they could so quickly abandon what they had been told. It was also very likely that the mountain they were camping by was still covered by fire as Moses met with God. However, we are not any better than this nation.

Christians in the U.S., and I'm sure everywhere, often neglect the ten commandments and just make Christianity into something for self improvement. We forget, or ignore, God's judgement and only want to get our own desires. However, that is not the reason to come to God with a humble heart. We deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but Jesus came to be our substitution. He also said we will have trouble in this world.

When trouble or uncertainty comes, let us remember the true God of the Bible and not go seeking our own desires and. make up a god in our image.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Venturing Out

It has been a year when getting out of the house for anything seems to be a momentous event. This week, I had appointments for a haircut and regular dentist appointment, back to back. Thankfully, it was a decent day and relatively warm for January in Iowa, the upper 30's.

Since my last visit, my barber remodeled her shop. Now, when getting hair done, you sit in front of a floor to ceiling mirror. I commented that such an addition would be nice in my room. However, now I can easily sit and make faces at myself while getting hair shortened. Yes, I'm nearing the start of my fourth decade in life, but I'm very easily amused. My beautician thankfully doesn't require me to wear a mask, but that's not the case for dental work.

After getting screened at the door, my assistant Sara and I sat in the waiting area to be called back. In the five or so minutes I sat wearing my face covering, my nose kept getting more irritated and congested. It quickly became a struggle to breathe and I tried tilting my chair to see if different seating angles would help.

Thankfully, I was ushered back toward a chair and Sara removed my covering as soon as I stopped. I had the dental hygienist give me some time to get air again before he started cleaning my teeth. No cavities were found and I was given a clean bill of mouth health. I dreaded exiting the building with breathing issues again, but with nobody else around on the path out, I could stay free of restriction.

In a hope of optimism, I started mailing grade schools to get scheduled for spring. Within a few days, I already have two on my calendar. It looks like I may need to to adjust my regular routine a little, but I will see what is going on by then.

Now, I don't have any outings scheduled again until late February. It's not unusual for the quad life in winter, but hopefully it doesn't last into the next season. Whatever happens, I'm thankful I can get out and be at least partially active!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Preparing for Possibilities

It has been a busy week in the quad life, and I have enjoyed it, at least somewhat. However, wondering of changes to come has also required a bit of learning new things.

For the last few years, web development work has primarily only been declining and I have had little opportunity to flex my programming muscles. I had the opportunity to build a site from scratch this week and enjoyed getting into it again. The designer did a very good job in preparing it and made my job easy.

Within just a few hours, spread over two days, it went from start to finish for design. Now, it's down to approval and a group of people adding content to the pages. While it was a short-lived project compared to some sites I've made, it was still a good feeling getting back into it again.

Some of my friends, and conservative news resources, have been getting either temporarily suspended or completely banned by social media platforms and tech companies. Therefore, alternative options have been suggested and utilized in hopes that free speech will be allowed on them.

I made accounts on a couple platforms, but am learning how they operate and finding friends, and channels, to follow. With all the time I spend laying flat, I frequently use these sources for keeping up with friends, including other quadriplegic families, as well as education and entertainment. Adjusting to new sources without a list of areas I follow takes time to learn.

One of the companies having issues with Christian related content is the provider of this blogging platform. I have a small enough following that I don't think it will get removed too quickly, but is still possible. Therefore, I'm trying to download backups more frequently and consider alternate locations.

My own website, joelvm.com, is capable of having a blog like this. I'm not sure if I can transfer earlier posts from here if needed, but I will look into it further if needed. Until then, have a great week ahead and I will continue to remember God is in control of everything.

Friday, January 15, 2021

How old was Benjamin?

For the last few days, my morning reading has been about Joseph in Egypt. Yesterday, and today, he tested his brothers when they came to Egypt to buy food (Genesis 42-45). Part of the evaluation was to bring Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt. However, Jacob, Joseph's father, initially refuses to let his youngest son go for fear of something happening to him.

Jacob refers to Benjamin as a boy, or lad, multiple times in this passage. In the times I have read it, I pictured him being anywhere from the age of around 5-12 years old. A child that was no longer a toddler, but had yet to reach puberty. When I carefully read the text though, I realized this wasn't the case at all.

When Joseph's brothers sold him to Egypt, he was 17 years old (Genesis 37:2). After testing and trials, he became the second highest ruler in the country at age 30 (Genesis 41:36). Seven years of plenty then passed and Joseph made himself known to his brothers in the second year of the famine (Genesis 45:6). Looking at these numbers, we can see Joseph had been in Israel 22 years before being reunited with his brothers.

Since Joseph knew, and recognized, Benjamin when he first saw him, he had to have been at least a few years old before Joseph was sold to Egypt. We aren't told exactly what year Benjamin was born, but I would guess he had to be in his upper 20's to early 30's at this point. Therefore, my original thought of a boy he wasn't even a teenager was very incorrect. This is further confirmed when Jacob's family is listed to say who traveled to Egypt, Genesis 46:21 lists Benjamin as having ten sons.

Just casually reading the Bible is a good habit and has many benefits. However, taking time to thoroughly study the text and understand it will open it further and correct possible wrong ideas. This passage shows that no matter what age, we never outgrow being our parents children. It also reminds Christians that as children of God, we always need to look to our Father in heaven for guidance, protection, and forgiveness.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Writing Week

The first week of the year is now complete, and it was a busy one for writing. It feels good to make progress on projects, but it also makes for more work ahead.

As the last two entries show, I did write comments on current Bible reading. It is something I have considered doing for a while, but didn't take time for it. With just two posts though, I can already see it will take more commitment than I considered. I read every morning when I get on my computer.

Going through the passage, thoughts come to mind that I want to elaborate on. However, working in time to get them recorded can take longer than I like. Friday's entry was in my head all morning, but I couldn't write until early evening. By that time, I had forgotten part of what I wanted to say and just mainly pushed myself to get it done. These Sunday entries aren't as time sensitive and easier to write. Future Bible commentary will need to be done differently if they continue.

After several years of working, I finally completed the initial draft of my book. I concluded with 2020 and plan not to go further in time. Now, I'm going back to the beginning and starting my first round of serious editing. In just the first chapter, talking about life before my accident, I already added half a page of writing. The book is currently 261 pages long, but I'm afraid to guess a page count after getting edits complete. I'm trying to set a goal on when to have it finished, but I don't know how well it would go with other upcoming projects.

Looking back on my writing changes will likely prove to be the biggest challenge. When life is presenting difficulties, I know it is reflected in the way I write. Making a coherent flow for anyone to understand may require a lot of work. No matter what, I'm thankful I got this far with it. I will see what this week brings in the quad life and what, if anything, I can get done.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Two Nations Together

Reading this morning, Friday, was continuing in Genesis, chapter 25. In verse 22, Rebekah is talking to God about problems with her pregnancy, the babies were fighting in her womb. God responded that two nations were within her and the older would serve the younger.

The first book of the Bible is the foundation for the rest of the book. Within a week,  I have already covered nearly 2000 years of history and the foundation of the world. In this passage, I noticed something a lot of people want to deny, God says Rebekah has people, live humans, in her womb.

As abortion continues to be part of many countries, and increasing in allowances, proponents try saying what is in the woman's body is just a clump of cells. However, medical science let's us see a developing embryo and different stages. Through these images, we can clearly see a human, with all correct features.

Any time the Bible talks about a pregnancy, it says a child is in the womb. It's clear in this passage as well as Jeremiah 1, Psalm 39, Luke 1, and elsewhere. When the Bible is used as our foundation in every part of life, it gives the correct way to gauge our thinking.

Sadly, as the world compromises on the Bible, everything else becomes unclear. America will rapidly show this in upcoming weeks, but I pray a return to biblical truth will eventually return.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Isaac Thoughts

In my morning reading this year, I'm going straight through from Genesis to Revelation. Part of today's reading was Genesis 22:1-19, where God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Every year when I read this passage, I wonder what Isaac thought about it or what kind of conversation took place between him and Abraham. The Bible doesn't give us this information, only that Isaac asked where the sheep was (verse 7). First, my question is how old was Isaac at this time?

He is referred to as a "lad" or boy depending on the translation. I have seen these terms used for anyone around age six to late 20's, but I'm guessing Isaac was likely in his pre teens if not younger. He was old enough to be familiar with regular sacrifices, know what was needed, and why they were done.

Abraham traveled for three days, on foot, knowing what God had asked him to do, but he and Isaac didn't discuss the journey until the end. Today, with kids buried in cell phones, I could see this happening easily, but it must have been hard for Abraham not to say anything.

When we finally get to the mountain, we're only told that Abraham told Isaac a lamb would be provided. Next, the alter is arranged and Isaac is bound and placed on it. God then stops Abraham and shows him a sheep caught in a thicket.

Either in this instant or on the way home, father and son would have talked about faith in God and serving Him in all times. Abraham's faith is referenced multiple times in the Bible as a testimony to him and an example.

A few months ago, I watched a documentary on people who were persecuted for their faith. One man from Russia recalled when he was a boy, his father was arrested for being a Christian. The boy and his mother were later allowed to visit his father in jail, and see how much he had been tortured.

When the mom tried to quickly slip a New Testament to the dad, a guard noticed and threatened torture, or execution, for such an action. Mom stood up to the guard and said she, her husband, and son could be killed and they would not deny Christ. Now as an elderly adult, and his own prison story, the man said that instance solidified his faith and made him respect his parents.

Thousands of years earlier, I imagine this must have been similar for Isaac. He too was a faithful man of God as an adult. This entire passage is a foreshadowing of what was to come. Jesus, God's only Son, was sacrificed for our sins. All who repent of sin and trust in Him alone will be saved.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Thankful Nights

We are three days into 2021 and, so far, all seems well. I haven't watched the news, and don't plan to start, but I still haven't heard anything major. Today, I am thankful to have a month with all nights covered.

In mid-December, my main night nurse, Jackson, let us know he would be having surgery at the end of the month. Recovery time would be 6-12 weeks and he would not be back until after that time. I only have two night nurses and Jackson normally covers five nights a week. My agency rearranged my other caregiver to work five nights a week, but that still leaves two without coverage, every week.

My parents and I were preparing for a long winter with little sleep, but received an early Christmas present. Jackson researched further, and decided that surgery was worse than the problem he was having. Therefore, he wasn't having the procedure and could work. Instead of having months of late nights, everything is now covered.

He was gone two nights this past week for something else. Tuesday night was after snow and ice all day in my area. Dad had little sleep Wednesday morning when he cleared the driveway and sidewalk, but he got it finished very well. It is always a relief to see a full schedule, and I'm thankful that God has blessed my family with funding and caregivers to help.

I know several other people living the quad life and most only have a few hours a week covered by nursing. The rest is up to family, sometimes a single family member, or volunteers. As we continue through this year, changes will likely come, but I can give thanks for the current times.

This year, I may also blog more often about comments on Bible reading. I'm still considering how it would work and when to write, but it is at least a thought. Looking back at last year, most posts ended up with 20-30 views. It isn't very many to help educate, but anyone is welcome. Until next time, have a good week!