Please Help A Chattanooga Ironman

While serving on the Hamilton County Grand Jury throughout the Summer, I had the privilege of hearing from a large number of our law enforcement officials regarding what they have to deal with on a daily basis as they are charged with protecting and serving our community.  I walked into that jury room for the very first time with great respect for our police officers.  I walked out for the last time with that respect and admiration having grown exponentially.

There was one officer who stood out in particular to me because, after completing his testimony to us, he mentioned that he was training for the Chattanooga Ironman competition this year on September 27.  What was really remarkable about Hamilton County Deputy Robert Starnes was that he told us he had previously weighed in at 425lbs!  Now, he’s getting ready to run the Ironman, a race I can’t imagine even considering.

EmilysCureIn 2008, Deputy Starnes lost his daughter to a brain aneurysm.  Shortly before her death, she expressed her concern about his health and asked him to begin taking better care of himself.  Soon after her passing, he began his journey to keep the promise he had made to her that he would lose weight and get healthy and now, seven years and a few hundred pounds later, Deputy Starnes is going, as he puts it, “from fat man to iron man,” raise money to fight childhood cancer, to highlight organ donations, and to honor fallen law enforcement officials.

A week or so ago, I bumped into Deputy Starnes at a local coffee shop and introduced myself formally to him.  I had the chance to chat with him a bit more in-depth about this monumental feat he is about to take on in just a couple of weeks.  I was impressed by his determination to fulfill his promise to his daughter, who he clearly loved deeply and by his obvious commitment to successfully complete this leg of his journey and finish the entire iron man course.  Though almost embarrassed to ask for financial support, Officer Starnes resolves to do so anyway because he makes clear that it’s not about him, “it’s for the kids.”

I hope you will consider supporting Deputy Starnes in his quest for “iron”.  Click the “Emily’s Power” icon to the right and you will be taken to his support page where you can help take him over his goal of $3000.

Thank you to Deputy Starnes and all the Law Enforcement Officers who lay it on the line every day.  We appreciate you!

Have You Met My Friend? His Name is Todd.

todd_field2 Did you get to meet my friend? Some of you did. Others never had the pleasure.  His name is Todd.

Todd is a dear friend of mine with some of the most amazing talent I’ve ever personally experienced.  A singer-songwriter with a gift for identifying the most important things in life and putting them to music, Todd can have you laughing one second and crying the next.

On May 14th of last year, Todd MacDonald moved to his permanent residence to be at home with Jesus.  He had fought a long, hard battle with cancer and finally got to go home.  I’ve never experienced any more grace in one person under trying difficulties than I did in Todd.  He demonstrated for me what happens when God’s kids are called to suffer.

When Todd first called me to tell me about his cancer, I marveled at how he was dealing with it with such strength and courage. When I mentioned to him how I was struggling with the news though he seemed so strong, his words were, “David, it’s all the grace of God and right now and I’m the one who needs it”.  I began to truly understand the nature of God’s provision.

Todd was in the middle of a recording project when he first got sick.  Several of us encouraged him to finish that since the future was so uncertain and his diagnosis seemed so bleak.  He did and it’s an incredible work called Pilgrims Here.

toddmacdonald3What many of us didn’t know was that he had written an additional twelve songs that he completed shortly before his death.  That album was only recently finished and released called World Full of Wonder.

Soon after Todd’s death, his dad sent out a message letting us know of the surprise album. In part, it read:

In May of 2012, before Todd became too sick to continue working on his CD, he was able to complete 12 original vocals with acoustic. In our long stay with him in Nashville, Donna and I continually witnessed a few things about Todd. He was totally aware of what his future held and his faith never wavered. He knew he was just a “Pilgrim Here” and rejoiced in that. He was more concerned about the suffering family and friends would go through after his passing. Typical Todd! He was obsessed with the completion of his CD. So much so, that he would not leave Nashville for his mother’s home until forced to do so. His earthly works were not yet complete; the CD had to be finished!

Recalling my last phone conversation with him, his voice being so weak and frail, I’m amazed at the strength of his voice in these recordings and the depth of his faith and thinking while walking through such a painful and challenging time.  I can only think that it’s an even greater revelation of the grace of God at work in his life.  Especially poignant to me is the amazing message he left for his family and friends, “Don’t Cry For Me.”

I would love for you to share in this incredible work.  If you would, take a few minutes and at least sample some of the songs he has left us.  I know you’ll be encouraged by them.  If you decide to purchase some of the songs or all of the album, the proceeds will be put into a trust to benefit Christian ministries.  As his friend, I will be honored for you both to listen and to take part in sharing his music with your friends.

I believe that God is not done with the music of Todd MacDonald, but instead, has orchestrated this in a way that the ministry He gave Todd will long outlast the years Todd was given on this earth.  I find it a little more than ironic that Todd’s favorite Christian artist is Keith Green, an amazing singer-songwriter whose music continues to reach millions after his own death at an early age (and who I often thought about when facing the prospects of Todd’s death).

So, check it out and if you do, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Also, if you decide to purchase any of the music, I’d love to know which ones you got. Thanks!

P.S. I miss you, my friend.

A Letter From Todd

I just received this from my friend, Todd MacDonald, who many of you know (and have been praying for) has been undergoing treatment for incurable mesothelioma in his abdomen.  Did I mention it’s incurable?

Todd MacDonaldHello everyone,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come
to an end” (Lamentations 3:22).

I received some very good news this morning! My second surgery has
been postponed indefinitely. While this morning’s CT scan did reveal
the smallest bit of residual cancer in my lower pelvis, it is of such
little concern to my doctors that at this point surgery no longer
seems necessary. In fact, the abnormality observed is so small that
it’s hard to know for sure whether or not it’s even cancer.

In three months I will return to Bethesda for another CT scan. It will
be determined at that time what additional treatment, if any, is
needed. For now, we are done.

So join me in praising God for healing. Join me in praising him for
his mercy. But join me too in praising him for turning an ugly thing
like cancer into a beautiful means of grace. For truthfully, as I
stand in faith now – on the other side of this valley – dying seems to
me a little less scary. And the comforts of this life seem a little
less important. My cancer may well return. I am content with this.
Health, wealth, prosperity – these come and go. I have Jesus. He is
ENOUGH.

And thank you once again for your faithful prayers and your steady
words of encouragement over these last nine months or so. Your faith lifted me when my own was weak!

Love in Christ,

Todd

Man, don’t tell me there is no God and He isn’t in control.  He doesn’t always choose to heal (and, like Todd said, it could come back someday), but sometimes He does to bring glory to Himself through a life He’s not done with here…and sometimes He does it just because He can.


For more on Todd, visit Todd MacDonald Music

Grace Really Is Amazing

I had a conversation the other day with a very dear friend of mine who has recently begun a steep, uphill battle with cancer.  Though the prognosis is not great, his outlook is.  I was amazed as I listened to him describe the ordeal that lies in front of him and to hear him tell me of the grace of God that was instantly manifested in his life.

It’s one thing to read about it, study about and to even claim to have faith in the grace of God.  It’s apparently a whole “nother” thing to experience it.  As we spoke, I admitted to him that, in spite of the strength he was exhibiting, I was struggling a bit with it, fearing the worst while hoping and praying for the best.  His response to me was that he was so strong during this because, walking through the shadow,  he needed the grace…and it was there for him.  I guess it seems odd for me to even say this because I preach about it so often, but what Scripture says is really true. How many times do we actually stop and consider the pragmatic nature of faith in the real world?  In 1 Corinthian 10:13, Paul said the following:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

As I look at my friend’s battle, I see the temptation to doubt, to fear, to rage…yet he doesn’t.  Sure, he has his moments of weakness, but not beyond what he is able to bear.  Why is he so strong?  Because he needs to be and God has made it so.

He expressed to me how his pastor preached last week on Romans 5 and glorying in our suffering.  Do we ever think about that?  Glorying and rejoicing in suffering?  Yet because of the grace of God, my friend is rejoicing in the fact that, in his words, God hand-picked him to endure a disease that affects, literally, only 1 in a million people.  He rejoices in knowing that God is going to be glorified through his suffering because God has given Him the grace to trust and to rely on Him.  My friend doesn’t really know that he will survive beyond two years, yet He is praising God for His faithfulness and thanking Him for drawing him closer to Himself, now more than ever before!

I think that is true discipleship:  getting to the point that not only do we not blame God for bad things that happen, but we actually thank Him when they do, knowing that He is working through it for our good and His glory.  True discipleship is when we stop looking at people who have extreme faith during adversity and saying, “Man, I could never respond that well,” and trust that if God allows or causes such adversity to come our way, we would respond just as well because in that same hour, the grace would show up, too.

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