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The Blessings of Surgeries “in Vein,” “Drudgery,” and Uncertainty

A Busy Month in the “Work Zone”

25 September 2019

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.1
— George Herbert —

Image of a construction sign that says, 'Work Zone.'“‘Work zone’? Didn't we use to call that
a dining-room table?”2

What does a missionary teacher do when he’s not traveling abroad? (As you know, I’ve been sidelined a bit for medical reasons.) Well, it’s been a busy, productive month doing work that other people can’t see… just yet. The Lord can see it, and if He’s pleased, we’re happy. There’ve been “housekeeping” issues that have been left undone for a long time. This hiatus from travel has afforded the opportunity to catch up, starting with some long-overdue vascular “plumbing.”

Surgeries “in Vein”

Diagram of the veins of the legI didn’t even know I had great saphenous veins
—and now I don’t!
I guess they weren’t so “great” after all…3Image of a red laser beam248° F. — Those poor veins must’ve thought they’d come up against a vascular-surgeon jedi with a light saber…4

I should get on top of this, lest my bad pun set you thinking in the wrong direction. The two vascular surgeries I had this month weren’t “in vain,” but in vein. Well, veins, really. A major vein in each leg apparently took “early retirement” twenty or more years ago, and I didn’t even know it. Those “deadbeat” veins have finally been ablated (“closed”).

When we started this process in June, my sense was that we were doing this for the Lord and to enhance healthy longevity for the sake of the Bible-teaching ministry (the same motivation that’s helped me to lose 46 pounds over the last 14 months). Through the pre-surgery process, I’ve received the happy news that I have clear carotid (and related) arteries feeding my brain. (Apparently the blood flow is constricted only to the brain cells responsible for remembering the location of my cell phone!) Oh, and I have enviable blood-pressure readings.

The first surgical procedure (right leg) was on September 3rd, and the second (left leg) on Friday the 13th. The in-office procedure amounts to sticking an ultrasonic probe up through the “lazy” vein, then “cooking” the inside of the vein (therefore killing it) at 120° C. with pinpoint-precision ultrasonic radiation. (120° C. works out to 248° Fahrenheit!) The report came back this past Friday — complete success! No pain, no swelling, no infection, no blood clots. I’ve been walking every day with ease. I’m cleared for international air travel after October 18, a week earlier than anticipated. For all of it, praise the Lord! I thank you for your prayers.

“‘Drudgery’ Divine”

Screenshot of a Bible-teaching article on the FinestOfTheWheat.org website.What it looks like to you on the web.
(Click to see it live and in person.)

Screenshot of a page full of HTML and CSS code.What it looks like to me in the code.
(Click image or link to see a larger version.)

Photo of a concept sketch for a book cover.An ongoing project (not mentioned in the text):
An initial concept sketch for the cover
of Percy Gutteridge's Emblems of the Holy Spirit.
(Click to see a larger version.)

Pity the poor graphic artist
who has to interpret this mess!
Artwork for a chapter in the book 'New Testament Holiness' by Thomas CookArt-wise, I'm a little more confident
with a graphics program. Here's the chapter art for one of the free online books
we've been polishing…

Artwork for a chapter in the book 'Soul-Help Papers' by Isaiah Reid…and another from a different free, online book.
Photo of a page marked up by an editorCaptain America had it easy;
his nemesis was only the Red Skull,
who was merely a super-villain.
I, on the other hand, must contend daily
with the notorious femme fatale, THE RED PEN,
assassin of dangling participles
and scourge of sloppy writing.
Hey, at least this page didn't get the dreaded
Full-Page Red-X of Deletion!

Other than the time spent at the surgeon’s office for each procedure and follow-up, no work time has been lost. And a lot of the work we do is unseen — website coding and maintenance (including the ever-required security patches); revising and creating teaching materials; researching, outlining, and writing new articles; and prepping new e-books and paperbacks for publication. (Soul-Help Papers is almost ready and should be out by month’s end.) Oh, and lately there are Spanish translations of Bible-teaching articles to review (thank you, Jorge, Rut, and Inés!) that will eventually be posted on our reserved-name Spanish-language website, Lo Mejor del Trigo (Spanish for The Finest of the Wheat). We hope to have enough material to launch by next year.

You may ask, “Why spend time on writing and publishing?” You’re asking a teacher?! It’s because it makes the Bible-teaching materials available to a much wider audience. Our websites get “hits” from as far away as Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. We see e-book sales in the oddest places — India and France, for example. And paperbacks have a surprisingly long lifespan. We are constrained by the Lord to get out the message He has given us. It all takes time to produce, but once it’s posted or published, it’s “evergreen” content there for the finding.

For my wife, Denise, as our developmental editor and proofreader, this non-travel, focus-on-written-material period has meant reviewing and proofreading over 200 pages of material (Isaiah Reid’s Soul-Help Papers and Thomas Cook’s New Testament Holiness, as well as numerous hymns) which we have started to re-release via links from our Facebook page; and she has at least 100 more pages to go. That doesn’t count her red-pen-heavy first-draft of a Percy Gutteridge audio transcript that will become a new article; add another 40+ pages for that. (Thank you, Donna H. for your transcript work on this and other audios!)

Deni, who’s a demanding editor, has been giving me critical, helpful, lovingly merciless feedback (she killed a whole new chapter the day after it was written!) and thoughtful input on the new book I’m writing in the pre-dawn hours of each morning (working title: The John the Baptist Experience). During car rides, on our daily 2.2-mile walks, and over meals she’s my sounding board on ideas, outlines, chapter transitions, and the clarifying of content.

And so the behind-the-scenes ministry goes on. Do you ever think to yourself, “Why do I bother? Who needs what I do?” Believe me, I get it. Sometimes the temptation comes to feel overwhelmed by all the unsung, hidden work. (For instance, try spending a fruitless hour searching for a page-corrupting coding error in the HTML and CSS of one of our web pages. Don’t know what HTML and CSS are? Blessèd art thou!) Those are the times to remember Herbert’s poem (the one with which I opened this newsletter). Herbert goes on to say (I’m paraphrasing here) that whatever task we do, even the stuff that seems like “drudgery” — however lowly, insignificant, repetitive, unnoticed — whatever is done “for Jesus’ sake” becomes “drudgery divine”; in other words, it’s blessed by God and received by Him as a service of loving sacrifice.

It’s easy to feel that way about “exciting” stuff, like missions trips, teaching at Bible schools, and the like — the activities people can see, appreciate, and feel should be supported in prayer and by their giving. But it requires us to exercise the eye and heart of faith in order to walk in the assurance that unseen, “thankless” work, like editing, coding, writing, and corresponding, done for Jesus, are acts of worship, too. Be encouraged with me, and remember what Jesus says: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4,6,18).

Uncertainty: An Opportunity to Trust

Simple map of Honduras with the words 'Definite Maybe' superimposed on it.Honduras in October/November?
As of a phone call I received just this morning,
the ministry trip is still what my dad
would have called a “definite maybe.”5
Image of a smiling girl wearing a t-shirt that says, 'Promoted to Big Sister 2019Granddaughter Riley's t-shirt announces
Promoted to Big Sister 2019.
She's looking forward to her brother's arrival!6

A big question mark of uncertainty hangs over the rescheduling of the Honduras/El Salvador trip. Will it be next month? Don’t know. Haven’t heard back from the folks involved. And the Holy Spirit specifically “checked” me recently from trying to follow up on some email communication. When He says, “Wait,” we wait; it’s never good to “force” God’s timing! Over the years, I’ve found that knowing God’s will isn’t nearly as challenging as knowing God’s timing.

The “window of opportunity” for the trip is rapidly shrinking, because there’s a Florida grandson rapidly growing in the womb, and I’m told he wants his Grandpa near at hand when he arrives towards the latter half of November.

So perhaps the Honduras/El Salvador trip will kick off the 2020 ministry year after the Christmas holidays. I’ll let you know next newsletter. Whenever it happens — in three weeks or three months — it would be a blessing to have the airfare funds and travel-expense money in hand. We’re praying for God’s supply (about $1000 for airfare into San Pedro Sula and back from Tegucigalpa) and invite you to pray with us.

We appreciate your prayer and support for regular needs as well, as they are always there. We praise God — for the successful surgeries “in vein,” for such a productive two-month stint in our invisible “drudgery’ divine,” and, yes, even for the scheduling uncertainty. And we thank Him for you, our prayer partners and supporters!

Much love in Jesus,

Jim

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.Seek we no more; content with these,
Let present rapture, comfort, ease—
As heaven shall bid them, come and go:
The secret this of rest below.7
—John Keble—

Tax-Deductible Donations Gratefully Received

  1. The full lyrics to Herbert’s poem can be found at this link: Teach Me, My God and King. This hymn has the special distinction of using the allegory of alchemy throughout.
  2. Image of the Work Zone sign is courtesy of Wikipedia.org.
  3. Diagram of the Legs of the Veins is also courtesy of Wikipedia.org.
  4. Laser-beam image is copyright by and used under license from 123RF.com (https://www.123rf.com/profile_donatas1205).
  5. “Definite Maybe” Honduras graphic customized by Jim Kerwin using a map provided by OperationWorld.org.
  6. Photo of unbelievably cute granddaughter courtesy of the earthly love of my life / my redactionary nemesis, THE RED PEN.
  7. These verses are taken from the famous hymn of John Keble, New Every Morning Is the Love.
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