It’s been a number of days since I’ve provided an update on Mary’s recovery from aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1.
In general she is making good headway but we’re learning that there’s a lot more to this experience than a one-time two-hour operation on the heart itself. Along with the primary incision to access her heart the surgeon made a number of other incisions for various other related purposes. One incision was used for post-op chest drainage and to channel a set of wires running directly to her heart. Mary said that pulling out those wires, which were still attached to her heart, on the day of discharge (five days after surgery) was probably the most painful moment of her entire stay in the hospital. That wound has still not healed and, because she is on Coumadin, it has continued to bleed. In fact, yesterday she needed to report in person to the doctor’s office for it to be examined. There is no infection or totally out-of-control bleeding as of this morning, but the surgeon’s office and Mary’s PCP are actively monitoring developments (a number of phone calls again today) and we will certainly appreciate your prayers that this situation will soon resolve.
Otherwise Mary is gaining strength, walking regularly (inside because of all the snow and ice), showering daily, and even entertaining a few friends who have stopped by for a brief visit. We’ve been blessed with plenty of food and grateful for all of the many gracious expressions (cards, comments on blog, phone calls) of concern and support. God has blessed us through the kindness of family and friends like you.
Vin Upham, AIIA board member and retired minister from New York who had made himself available as our caregiver, continues to work hard every single day — laundering, chauffeuring, cleaning, snow blowing, cooking, picking up the mail, baking pies and homemade bread, running the wood stove, grocery shopping, and so much more. He is always promptly available when we need him and he does all that he does with a cheerful spirit.
Without going into a great deal of detail (that might take a book) I will say that our normal space, privacy (I’ve always been rather intensely private), and my personal male dignity have all taken a hit during this time. Most of that is just unavoidable and perhaps even serves some greater purpose. But it’s been hard at times. If you’ve ever been physically vulnerable or dependent you know that it isn’t easy. I’ve been in the hospital many times but somehow what isn’t such a big issue there is more so here in my own home. Why is that? Our schedules and lives have been — and still are — significantly altered. But we’re all buoyed by the fact that this is time-limited, and mindful that for so many others that is not the case.
Because Vin Upham is on AIIA’s board and has spent a lifetime in Christian ministry, he shares my interest in theology and apologetics. That has made for some interesting conversations over the breakfast and dinner table. Yesterday his cereal was getting soggy and my coffee was getting cold as we conversed with much animation about everything from the doctrine of election to exactly what we Christians mean when we say that Jesus is “real” in our lives. Mary had long since excused herself to get on with the day.
Well, if you’re still reading at this point you must be more than casually interested in our lives — and very patient. That is also an encouragement. Thanks for being “with” us in this journey.
Daryl E. Witmer
Suppose someone says to you, “Everyone has their own worldview — which makes true objectivity impossible. If true objectivity is impossible then no worldview can be considered universally valid. Therefore Christianity is not universally valid. Christian belief may be fine for you but please don’t claim that it’s true for everyone.”
How would you respond?
Does the logic in that syllogism break down somewhere? If so, where?
Can you offer an intelligent reply (an apologetic) to such an argument — before reading on?
Well . . . if someone asserts that no worldview can be considered universally valid, you might ask them if that assertion itself is universally valid. If not, who decides when it is valid at all, or even if it is ever valid? If so, then wouldn’t that make the assertion self-defeating and meaningless?
HERE’S A LINK to a free 28-page e-book from Southern Evangelical Seminary — one of the leading educational institutions in the United States that specialize in Christian apologetics. In Chapter 6 this great little e-book makes a convincing case for Christian truth and provides a sound response to the questions outlined above. It’s readable and understandable. Take time to download and check it out a copy today.
Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director
Mary continues to steadily recuperate from aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1. Thanks for tracking along with her progress here and on previous blogs.
Each day seems to be another step in the right direction. Yesterday she had an appointment with our family physician. Dr. Perlman confirmed that she is now back in sinus rhythm. That, and the fact that her heart rate has also now slowed to near normal levels, is very good news. Perhaps she will soon be able to come off the anticoagulant, Coumadin. Her primary wound is healing well but the site of another related incision had recently become red. However the doctor was not overly concerned and recommended some localized precautionary measures rather than prescribing antibiotics at this point, which was just fine with us. Enough pills the way it is.
Vin & Charlene Upham have been AIIA board members for many years. Vin is a retired minister who lives near Utica NY. Upon learning that Mary and I were unable to arrange for our home care needs less than two weeks before Mary’s surgery, on Saturday morning, October 20, at our AIIA Board of Directors meeting in Portland, Maine, Vin informed us that he was willing to serve us in that way. So with his wife Charlene’s blessing, on October 30 he drove 500 miles from his home to ours, arriving just before our seven day stint in Bangor, allowing me to be with Mary during her time in the hospital. Since arriving back in Monson on November 6 Vin has been cooking (some great meals, e.g. spaghetti and meat balls from scratch, stir-fry last night, blueberry pancakes this morning), cleaning, hauling trash, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, helping me with personal needs (Mary can take care of herself in that way with the help of a visiting nurse), and even making a few home improvements. He does all this with a smile, a positive spirit, and a lot of energy. We know that he’s first and foremost serving Christ, but we happen to be the chief blessed beneficiaries.
In spite of our best attempts to allay such feelings, Mary says that she sometimes experiences guilt about just sitting on a chair while meals are being prepared and the house is being cleaned. She knows that those feelings are not based on objective facts, but they’re there anyway, undoubtably driven by years of a strong work ethic and a naturally active industrious nature.
She is now walking short distances numerous times a day, sometimes in our daylight basement, while I sit and worry about her doing steps in her weakened condition and without holding the handrails. She is not to use her arms for any pulling or pushing for a few weeks yet. Try getting out of a prone position in bed with your arms crossed in front of you sometime.
I have finally been able to get back to the office the past two days, catching up on phone calls, emails, mail, and other back-logged administrative matters. But today we woke to about four inches of fresh snow which has not yet been plowed, so getting out and about in my wheelchair may be more challenging than normal.
Mary and I are keenly aware that so many others (perhaps you) are facing trials far greater than our own. We pray that God might use this blog — and the rest of this website — to make known the sufficiency of His grace in every such instance of need, and convincing evidence for His existence that works in even the more challenging of life’s passages.
Until next time.
Daryl E. Witmer
Today has been a day of nurses visiting, calling, and checking in as a follow up to Mary’s heart valve replacement surgery last Thursday, November 1.
I’ve been “picking up the pieces” here at home after nearly a whole week away — responding to phone calls, answering days-old emails, and sorting through a large bag of mail, bills, and now-outdated campaign flyers.
Mary slept well last night and has been up and awake all day today — engaging in some activity but resting at other times as her body continues to heal. We believe the afib is continuing, at least intermittantly.
Mary has been told not to pull or push with her arms, or to lift more than eight pounds, for at least 4-6 weeks in spite of how well she feels. It’s a trick to get out of bed or up from a low chair without using her arms, but she’s trying to find ways to do such things. She often impulsively begins to do more than is probably appropriate, so my role has become one of cautioning her when she crosses the line.
We’ve been told that there will be good days and trying days in this process over the coming weeks, but at least for now, in general, it’s been a good first day at home.
Tomorrow, God willing, it will be back to the office and a more normal routine for me.
Thanks for reading along once again.
Daryl E. Witmer
Good evening from Homer Hill in Monson, Maine!
That’s right — we’re home — and so far, so good.
Our friends Wayne & Jane Armstrong came to Eastern Maine Medical Center this afternoon to transport Mary home in the back seat of their car. The back seat of a car is airbag-free, making it a much safer place for a post-op heart surgery patient. I followed in the van on the long trek home. Vin Upham had arrived home a few hours earlier and had the laundry started, a warm fire started in the wood stove, and a loaf of fresh break baking as we came in the door.
The most difficult part of the day for Mary was having four wires that were attached to her heart extracted (removed) out of the same opening in her chest through which the chest tubes had also run — and that was painful! The last IVs were removed. Atrial fibrillation (Afib) has been intermittent throughout the day, so she will continue taking Coumadin at least until her first follow-up appointment. With all the meds that have been prescribed for her as she came home, it looks somewhat like a pharmacy around here. But no narcotics — because Mary’s pain level has been almost negligible. For that we have been very grateful.
Tonight , in just a few minutes, I get my first shower in a week! For that and many other reasons, it’s so good to be home where our surroundings are familiar, safe, and quiet.
I hope to issue several more follow-up blogs over the next week or so, but not necessarily every day from now on.
Thank you all once again very much for your interest in our lives and for your prayers and support in so many ways. It’s all been a tremendous encouragement, although we have been unable to acknowledge that personally.
We give God the glory for all the positive that has transpired over the past week, and it is our desire to trust Him in all that follows, even though we know that may involve additional challenges and trials, and is often easier said than done.
Daryl E. Witmer
It’s been a long day of ups and downs, but one that on net seems to have ended well.
At about 8:30 AM Mary’s heart slipped back into afib. So disappointing. But then this evening at about 7:00 PM it once again converted back to sinus. Mary had just been praying and immediately credited God’s power as the explanation for this latest turn.
Her appetite is back, she is now independently ambulatory, and she was especially encouraged by a hot shower and shampoo late this afternoon.
But the most significant development of the day occurred when her surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, walked into the room and said, “I don’t see why you can’t plan to go home tomorrow, even with afib. I think that it’ll clear up in time.”
So the plan to depart EMMC for Monson is now in motion. Exciting and scary. Scary because Monson is a long way from this hospital.
Earlier this morning I drove across town to have studded tires put back on the van. What should have taken two hours turned into four and a half hours due to a number of factors. I so wanted to get back to Mary’s bedside, so it became a great test of patience. I probably got a C- on that test.
All three of our sons and their families continue to be in touch regularly. We also continue to note the comments and expressions of support from so many others — including you, perhaps. Thanks so much. It’s brought us tremendous encouragement.
Until next time — hopefully from Monson.
Daryl E. Witmer
The good news of the day is that, within minutes of Mary’s two chest tubes being removed, her heart rhythm suddenly converted from atrial fibrillation (afib). However, it converted to another form of arrhythmia — possibly atrial flutter, according to her nurse, although sinus tachycardia was also mentioned as a possibility at one point. But we’re generally pleased that, for now at least, the afib is gone. And with the help of medication (amiodarone) there is greater reason to believe that she’s going to end up back in good old sinus rhythm before long.
She continues to sit up and walk (with assistance), evidence more strength and better color, and her appetite is slowly returning (a half sandwich for lunch). She even asked for a book to read (one that she had brought along).
Mary’s surgeon today actually voiced the possibility of a discharge on Tuesday, although that’s still not certain, there’s criteria to meet, and any discharge would be contingent on no significant setbacks between now and then. Besides, we don’t wish to rush things. Going home will involve a host of other challenges. Mary will probably need daily help in some very practical ways (we’re not sure from whom yet), and if a major issue was to to develop, Monson is a long way from Bangor, especially this time of the year with snow and ice soon coming our way.
There have been some low moments. We are both more conscious than ever of our physical limitations and vulnerability to forces beyond our control. That usually also presents an opportunity for greater faith in the One who controls all things. So please pray with us for faith to pass such tests.
This is Sunday, so we had our own special devotional time together this morning, and later Vin Upham (the retired minister from NY who is my caregiver) briefly stopped by to pray with us and for us.
Thanks once again to you for your love and interest in our lives. I’m not able to personally reply to most comments or emails at this point, but I read them all and try to pass most all of them along to Mary.
Until next time.
Daryl E. Witmer
As of 2:00 PM Saturday afternoon, Mary’s heart continues in afib. This leaves her feeling very washed out. (I understand that feeling from years of experience with afib myself.) She speaks in a quiet voice, moves very slowly, and has almost no appetite. I’m used to her cheery smile and steady sunny disposition, but that has (understandably) been missing for three days now.
She was given a diuretic and insulin today to stabilize fluid retention and blood sugar levels. Her pain has been managed but continues to be a factor at times. She doesn’t like to ask for pain med in spite of my reassuring her that it’s okay to do so when she’s hurting here in the hospital.
In spite of all this and on a more positive note, her surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, was in about two hours ago and voiced optimism that medication and time will eventually eliminate the afib, although she will need to continue with afib meds for some time now.
Otherwise there has also been some good progress today, e.g. sitting up and even going for a short stroll in the hospital corridor, accompanied by two medical staff persons. Her oxygen line has been discontinued, her neck port bandages are off, and the chest tubes will probably be out by tomorrow. There is reason to believe that she may yet be discharged by next Tuesday afternoon, but we’ll see.
The days and nights are long for both of us right now, much like we had long anticipated would be the case.
We know that so many others in the world suffer far greater pain, heartache, loneliness, tears, discouragement, and indignity. And we’re exceedingly grateful for the sustaining grace of God and the love of family and friends like you.
More tomorrow, probably.
Daryl E. Witmer
Within minutes of my posting the previous blog from my hotel room at about 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon, while enroute back to Mary’s bedside at the hospital, Stephen phoned to say that Mary had slipped into an arrhythmic heartbeat pattern known as atrial fibrillation (afib). While not totally uncommon for patients who’ve just had their aortic valve replaced, this is still a concerning development.
Medication to control her heartbeat, which had more than doubled to about 150 beats per minute, was immediately administered by IV. As of this posting at 10:30 PM, her heart rate has slowed to some extent, but the afib continues. This turn of events also compromised other recovery plans for the rest of the day, such as walking and sitting up.
We are asking God to cause the medication to have its full effect so that this situation will not turn into a more significant complication or delay in her recuperation process — all according to His will, of course. Would you join us in also praying to that end — and that we, in any and every event, might trust Him instead of giving in to fear and/or discouragement.
Daryl E. Witmer
Over twenty-seven (27) hours following the conclusion of aortic valve replacement surgery, Mary continues to make good progress. She has had many IVs, catheter, and other tubes and wires removed. The chest drainage tubes remain and they, plus the incision, are still causing considerable discomfort and pain. But she has been much more alert and conversant today. She is sucking ice chips and sipping small amounts of homemade soup and beverages, although her appetite is still quite limited.
At about 10:00 AM this morning Mary was transferred from CCU to a private room in a beautiful new 6th floor wing at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where we are told she will probably remain until her discharge next week. This move is a great improvement for all of us.
The plan is for her to walk for the first time following her surgery sometime later this afternoon. Her vitals are all good and her spirits are positive and steady, which is all normal for Mary.
Stephen, with the blessing of his wife and family, is able to stay another day, which is great. Andrew and his family in Virginia, and Tim and his family (currently in Florida), have been in regular touch.
We have been very blessed by the continued concern and prayer support of so many of you as family members, friends, and acquaintances far and near. Thank you.
I’m not easily able to respond to emails at this point, but I do hope to continue posting about Mary’s status at least once every day or two over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, when no new posts appear, you should be able to assume that no news is good news.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary has continued to recover from aortic valve surgery throughout the afternoon and evening hours. She is still sleepy as the result of anesthesia administered during her surgery, but was actually sitting in a chair for an hour at one point. She will probably be walking tomorrow. Pain has been managed well. The CCU staff have been quite positive about her early progress. She has been in a good steady sinus rhythm with reasonable pressures and levels.
Stephen arrived from MA early in the afternoon. AIIA Board member Vin Upham, a retired minister from NY, has been here with us since Tuesday to help me with personal care now and in the coming weeks. Talk about real service in Jesus’ Name.
Thanks for your continued concern and prayers.
I’m not able to respond to most emails at this point, but will try to continue to post about Mary’s progress in the coming days and weeks.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary’s surgery ended just before Noon today, November 1. Her preparation time lasted somewhat longer that initially projected, so the operation itself didn’t begin until after 9:00 AM, although we were up at 3:30 AM and had arrived to register on Surgical Level 3 at 5:00 AM sharp. It’s already been a long day.
I just spoke with Mary’s surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, who told me that the procedure was quite straightforward. No complications or surprises. She remained stable throughout. And she now has a new aortic valve — evidently none too soon, based on what he told me.
She will soon be transferred from Recovery to the Coronary Care Unit where I will see her for the first time since her surgery ended.
The first hours and days post-surgery are critical, so thanks for your continued concern and prayers.
I’ll probably not be able to respond to individual emails until next week, but I will try to post once more late today and at least a few more times in the coming days.
Daryl E. Witmer
As of 8:00 PM this evening, October 31, Mary Witmer remains scheduled for aortic valve replacement surgery first thing tomorrow morning, November 1, at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.
We are to arrive on the surgical floor at 5:00 AM.
If all goes as planned, she will be out of surgery by Noon.
We hope to be able to post her progress in the early afternoon, and again at some point in the evening.
We’ll probably not be able to respond to individual emails for a few days.
Thanks for your concern and prayers on our behalf.
On June 6, 2013, The Atlantic magazine published an article by Larry Alex Taunton entitled Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity. Here is a brief excerpt:
“Sincerity does not trump truth. After all, one can be sincerely wrong. But sincerity is indispensable to any truth we wish others to believe. There is something winsome, even irresistible, about a life lived with conviction. I am reminded of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, David Hume, who was recognized among a crowd of those listening to the preaching of George Whitefield, the famed evangelist of the First Great Awakening. “I thought you didn’t believe in the Gospel,” someone asked. “I do not,” Hume replied. Then, with a nod toward Whitefield, he added, “But he does.”
My hope is in the Lord. My hope is in Jesus Christ. My hope is in the gospel of His salvation, available to all who trust in Him. My hope is in the reality of a relationship (by faith) with Him, beginning in this life.
I hope that my hope shows up as 100% sincere and authentic. I hope that it shines brightly, clearly, and consistently. I hope that it shines brightest against the dark backdrop of personal adversity when adversity comes my way — that my convictions will hold in the day of trouble. I hope that I will never lose grip on the powerful apologetics for Christian faith. I hope that the many powerful evidences for faith in Christ will aways remain in focus, and that my hope will even prompt others to ask me about it. Then I intend to be prepared and strong in explaining that my hope is reason-based, not just wishful thinking (1 Peter 3:15)
I suppose that we’re about to find out if all of that will be the case as God moves Mary and me from the (relatively) comfortable routine of life into the challenges facing us over the coming weeks.
If you’re a fellow believer, your willingness to pray on our behalf would be very welcome.
If you’re not yet a believer — you’re welcome to follow this blog, follow our lives, and let us know what you think.
— Daryl E. Witmer
Mary Witmer is now scheduled for aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1 at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.
We hope to be able to post regular progress reports here on this blog beginning on that date and following.
Thanks for your concern and prayers on our behalf.
Late last week an invitation to attend the 12th Annual Natural Living Expo in Marlborough MA arrived in the morning mail. This large-scale event is scheduled to take place on November 10-11, 2018. Three keynote speakers will be featured along with 275 exhibits, 90 workshops, seven healthy food vendors, and much more. It is being billed as New England’s Largest Holistic Health Event.
Expo Exhibitors will include: Science of Spirituality Jyoti Meditation, Spirit Guided Portraits, Eckankar: Path of Spiritual Freedom, We All Have Souls, Brahma Kumaris Inner Space Meditation Café, and Shamanic Spirit Song.
Keynote addresses will focus on themes such as: Awakening Your Soul Purpose — Through the Twelve Chakra Gateways, and Bridging Two Realms: Learning to Communicate with the Other Side.
Workshops will focus on the following subjects, among others: Drawing in Spirit: A Demonstration of Mediumship and Spirit Art, Far Infrared Energy: Chi Gong and Spiritual Purification, The Divinity Within — Understanding Your Own Divinity.
Ads throughout the invitation-flyer include: Be In Divine Oneness, Allow In Divine Love, Flow in Your Spirit, Illuminate Your Light; Flying Phoenix Heavenly Healing Qigong; Angel Alignment; Akashic Soul Mastery; Tarot Reading; Psychic Medium; Reboot Your Brain; Usui-Tibetan Enhanced Karuna & Shamballa Reiki; and Mental and Emotional Cleansing.
Astounding. So much interest in spirituality — mostly based on Indian-Eastern, monistic, pantheistic, Buddhist, Hindu, occult, and New Age thought.
Yet as I explored the 44-page brochure I realized that there was not one mention of Jesus or historic Christian faith in the entire publication. Not even one.
So many people searching so very intently for physical and mental and spiritual health while so conspicuously avoiding Jesus in their search.
Why is this? Why has Jesus been effectively banned from New England’s largest gathering on whole-person health and happiness?
Jesus, sometimes known as the Great Physician, once said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Jesus offers love and genuine well-being to all who turn to Him (John 3:16-21).
A fascinating story in Matthew’s Gospel says: “When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to [Jesus] all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.” (Matthew 1:32-34, NAS Bible)
If circumstances permitted, I would travel to Marlborough MA next month. I’d love to wade right into the middle of this marketplace of ideas and wellness-based alternatives — in a spirit of goodwill of, course — listening to seekers, exchanging with presenters, better understanding the thinking of promoters, and pointing people to the infinite-personal One who made us all. I’m convinced that it’s Jesus who alone can heal in the most profound sense of the word. How can any conference on well-being be ultimately regarded as legitimate without including Him — for without Him no one can or will ever truly experience “holistic” health.
We’ve been waiting to post this month’s family update until we got word about the results of Mary’s latest echocardiogram on October 1. Yesterday it came. The phone rang just before Noon. Mary’s cardiologist was on the line. Her aortic value stenosis has worsened considerably since July and, in spite of the fact that she is still experiencing no symptoms, is now at a critical stage. Pre-surgical tests will begin next week. Her aortic valve is to be replaced (open heart surgery) within the next six weeks. The moment is finally upon us. We will both require home care during her recovery, so this will be a period of challenge. We appreciate your interest, concern, and prayers as all of this unfolds in real time. You can check this blog for updates as the weeks go by.
Andrew and his family were in Monson for approximately ten days in early August. Mary and I had a great time with Maureen and the grandchildren while Andrew researched and conducted interviews for a book on the history of Monson which he’s hoping to publish in time for the town’s 200th anniversary in 2022.
Stephen and his family are now back in Pepperell MA from Europe where they were based during his two-month sabbatical. During that time he was able to get away for two weeks of quiet and work on his own, completing a draft of his book on ministry in small places, while Emma and the children spent time with her family in Northern Ireland. We’ll hopefully see them all in November when Stephen leads a Small Town Summit event in nearby Dexter, Maine.
Tim and his family were able to visit the Witmer grandparents and other Witmer and Lehman relatives in Pennsylvania over Labor Day weekend. Earlier in the Summer you would have often found them hiking and canoeing in the Maine woods, as well as gardening and working their regular jobs at Louisiana Pacific Company and in area nursing homes where Amy works as an Occupational Therapist.
I had a rough patch in early September when kidney stones, the beginning stages of pneumonia, and atrial fibrillation all converged into a perfect (or perfectly nasty) storm, requiring two separate ambulance rides to area hospitals. Thankfully, that crisis seems mostly resolved at this point.
Meanwhile Mary continues to cruise along without any remarkable symptoms of her aortic valve stenosis condition. Her next echocardiogram is scheduled for October 1, so we plan to update this blog after the results from that test are in and we know more about what might come next. Meanwhile we are grateful to God for what seems to at least be a miraculous delay in the normal deterioration of this condition, eventually leading to heart surgery.
Thanks for reading along, as well as for your prayers and interest in our lives over the years.
You do know why birds fly south in the Fall, don’t you?
Right. Much too far to walk.
Daryl E. Witmer
What’s the big deal about Christian Apologetics? Is it relevant? Is it necessary?
You’ll have your answer in less than 10 minutes if you’re willing to invest that amount of time in reading this timely new article by J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity.
This year, with an exciting multi-million-dollar rejuvenation project currently underway in our little village, and hundreds of Appalachian Trail hikers on their usual annual migration through town, there has been a marked increase in the number of people coming by AIIA’s Study Center. It’s clear that we are increasingly strategically located here in the northwoods as the world literally walks past our doorstep.
Hardly two days go by when I don’t see someone taking a picture of the grand old former Swedish Lutheran Church building that houses our offices, library, and classroom (see photo). The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, attracts a lot of attention and is the basis for many gospel conversations.
In fact, just this week I had a brief exchange with a man standing in front of the Study Center with a camera. He said that he lived in another state. Then he asked what happens inside the Study Center. I often tell people who ask that question that we offer guidance to those trying to make sense of life and faith. But this time I told him that we specialize in Christian apologetics and then asked him whether he’d ever heard that term. He said “No.” So I said, “Well, apologetics is the branch of theology that defends Christian faith.” Then I asked, “Are you a Christian?” He gave me a tight nervous grin and said, “Not any more.” I asked why he had renounced his faith. He murmured something about all the wars and conflicts stirred up by religion. But his answer seemed evasive.
When I asked him what he thought about Jesus, he notably pulled back and said, “I don’t really want to have that conversation at this point.” So I said, “I can accept that.” We chatted for just a moment more, and then he walked away.
I had previously asked him if he’d like to come inside and look around. He said, “No” — but continued taking pictures of the building’s exterior the entire time that we were talking. It occurred to me that this was a sort of metaphor of his relationship to Christ — or lack thereof. He was interested in the outer form of this place of Christian worship and study, but clearly uncomfortable with getting too close to the Christ whom we worship.
Just three days before this encounter I had initiated another conversation with a hiker sitting by the side of Lake Hebron, a literal stone’s throw from the front door of Study Center. We talked about Monson, the weather, and his work. Then the conversation turned to matters of faith and, specifically, to the deity of Christ. I said, “If Jesus was not God as He claimed to be, what do you make of Him?” Instead of pulling back, this man actually turned toward me and showed great interest. Later in our conversation he agreed to come into the Study Center where I gave him a free copy of Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) and More Than a Carpenter (Josh McDowell). He said, “Thanks for this discussion. Maybe these books will change my life. Maybe this is why I got off the trail and ended up here in Monson today.” I invited him to keep in touch. He indicated that he’d like to do just that.
Another day on the front lines here in northern New England — right where God has us stationed these days — and right where we want to be.
Daryl E. Witmer, Executive Director • AIIA Institute
Never before in my life has four months seemed to fly by so quickly.
Our sabbatical was wonderful. Except for the threat of Mary’s impending surgery and the considerable time spent in trying to arrange for home care when that happens, it was an almost totally positive experience.
I was able to relax in the sun on beautiful quiet Homer Hill, read more widely than I have for years, and together with Mary enjoy numerous day trips or overnight trips to some of our favorite spots along the Maine coast. Doing that also freed Mary up from cooking and cleaning and other routine responsibilities at home and here at the AIIA office.
Perhaps most importantly we were able to pray together and think about how we would like to focus our efforts in ministry with AIIA over the next few years, as God allows. More details on that coming in future months.
As regards the status of Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis, not a great deal has changed since her echocardiogram in early July (see previous blog entry). She continues to experience almost zero concerning symptoms, e.g. lightheaded, short of breath, weakness.
We are convinced that this is God’s power at work because earlier this year we were all — including the cardiologist — convinced that she would probably be due for surgery late this Summer or early Fall. But she really wanted to be feeling well for a visit from Andrew and his family in August — and that is happening now, as I write!
We have no guarantee of what next month or even tomorrow may bring (who does?), but it seems clear that for now God in His mercy has moved to grant us some additional time before the next step in this journey.
The photo at top was taken with my parents (Gene & Ann Witmer), my brother Randy and his wife Glenda, my sister Gina and her husband Jack, and Mary and me on July 16 in Lititz PA when we gathered to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. Dad is now approaching 91, so we were very blessed to have spent this time together with them all again, another benefit of God’s provision in holding off any further worsening of Mary’s condition for now, thus allowing us to travel to Pennsylvania.
Thank you for your prayers, concern, and interest in reading along.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary had her most recent echocardiogram on Monday, July 2. The very next day we received a call from her cardiologist’s office with some surprising news — her numbers had actually improved since April. This is evidently not routinely the case with aortic valve stenosis, which typically progressively worsens. So we’re very much thanking God that — at the very least — we now seem to have been granted some additional time and normalcy. Her next echocardiogram is scheduled for early October — unless she begins to experience symptoms before then.
Many of you have been praying. God’s power is released through the effective prayers of His people (James 5:16b). He is also merciful. And He is always sovereign over all of the “whens” and the “whethers” and the “hows” concerning this matter and every other circumstance in your life and ours. Those are the truths that we intend to hold onto as this story plays out.
Our four-month sabbatical ends on July 31. Four days later AIIA’s next Faith Matters event is scheduled at 2:00 PM on August 4. A volunteer work team from Grace Point Church in Paradise PA rolls in later that same afternoon. And our son Andrew and his family are also planning to be with us during that first full week in August as Andrew works on a book about Monson’s past.
Between now and then we’re planning a quick trip to Pennsylvania to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.
So the pace quickens. See AIIA’s listing for more details about all of what’s happening this Summer and Fall.
Thanks so much for your interest in reading along once again.
One deeply memorable impression of my visit to L’Abri in Huemoz Switzerland in 1972 was of the water troughs in that picturesque little Swiss village. Water flowed freely and continually into those troughs from some higher alpine meadow or snow pack. Then the overflow would run down to a trough on a street below, then on down the steep slopes to another trough below, and so on.
In his book The God Who Is There, L’Abri’s founder, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, describes how lakes in the Swiss Alps only ever form from water running down from higher lakes or sources. In other words, water never flows uphill. Then Schaeffer writes this: “Personality is like that; no one has ever thought of a way of deriving personality from nonpersonal sources.”
No scientist, naturalistic evolutionist, or non-Christian religious leader has ever offered a credible postulate for how human personality might have developed, or even could ever develop, from mere chemicals and inanimate matter, plus time and chance.
In contrast, the Christian worldview does just that. It includes the fundamental claim that an infinite yet personal God created men and women in His own image as distinct conscious reasoning beings.
How is it plausible for human personality to be sourced in an impersonal “Cosmic Force,” “ultimate underlying reality,” “pervasive principle” — e.g. Brahman — as is proposed by Hinduism and other Eastern or New Age belief systems?
The existence of human personality therefore becomes a powerful apologetic for the existence of the God of the Bible — the God who became incarnate in a real human, Jesus Christ, who invites us all to know Him personally and truly — though not exhaustively — by faith today, right now, in this life.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV)
NOTE: The July-August 2018 issue of AIIA’s bimonthly printed publication, the Proclamation, has just been released. If you are among the 10,000+ addresses to which this thoughtletter is mailed, it should soon be in your mailbox. If not and if you would like to be included in this free postpaid mailing, we’ll send it to you for the asking. Contact us at: http://aiiainstitute.org/contact-us/ to receive this one-page paper — or with any other questions and/or response to the article above.
Mary and I were in the midst of our AIIA board-appointed sabbatical recently, quietly checking out a Native American Spring festival in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine, totally minding our own business, when I was suddenly ambushed by this Navajo Indian brave asking if he could have his picture taken with me!
Well, that’s technically true. But in the interest of full disclosure, there is the minor detail that I first asked him if I could have Mary snap a photo of the two of us. He agreed but then, when I mentioned that I might be tempted to tell people that it happened the other way around, he quickly obliged and actually did ask me for permission to pose with me. He said that way I would be telling the truth when I reported the story that way. Great idea. So I agreed, he handed me his gun, Mary snapped the photo above, and we all parted company with our scalps and integrity intact.
For a few moments that day, Christian apologetics was a thousand miles from my mind — and that, after all, is an important part of what sabbaticals are supposed to be all about, right? Breaking with routine. Gaining fresh perspectives. Clearing out cobwebs. Thinking new thoughts. Spending more time with God. Developing larger vision. Meeting Navajo Indian braves.
So thanks to all of you who have gotten behind us with gifts, prayers, and notes — encouraging us to make the most of this four-month hiatus. The time has been flying by and is now, alas, over half complete. How can I slow the clock down and lock this in?!
By mid-April we had reluctantly given up the idea of taking our long-anticipated trip West. But we have enjoyed a number of extended weekend trips right here in Maine. It’s been good, refreshing, and almost 100% positive EXCEPT for one black cloud — Mary’s impending open heart surgery (see previous blogs), which seems always to be hovering on the horizon, and edging ever closer.
With only one significant exception she has remained symptom-free. But as we await the results of her next echocardiogram in early July, we remain keenly aware that the cardiologist has projected late Summer or Fall as the time when symptoms will most likely begin to manifest. We’ll see. Meanwhile, the most pressing concern for me is arranging for reliable home care (for both of us) during the time that Mary is in the hospital and recovering for six weeks or so here in Monson. The majority of home care agencies are frustratingly short-staffed statewide here in Maine these days and, although we’ve had a few thoughtful volunteers step forward, we’ve thus far not been able to put a really certain plan in place. We’re determined to trust God in this, but I also believe that it is up to me to do what I can to make necessary arrangements. How difficult it has been to know how to balance the two.
Anyway — thanks once again for your continued interest in following along as the drama of this next chapter in our lives unfolds — and for your ongoing faithful support in prayer and otherwise.
Stay tuned by checking — or better yet subscribing to — this blog for updates on at least a monthly basis, or even sooner if or when there are any significant developments.
Mary and I met with her cardiologist in Bangor earlier today — May 3, 2018. Based on her most recent echocardiogram in April, and unless she begins experiencing symptoms, Dr. Crespo continues to advise that we await the results of her next echocardiogram in July before proceeding to set a date for open heart aortic valve replacement. Dr. Crespo’s best guess is that she will need surgery by late Summer or Fall at the latest. Meanwhile she is clear to continue maintaining her normal activities and routine while avoiding heavy lifting and especially strenuous activity.
So it seems that we have been granted one more window of time to make necessary arrangements in anticipation of this event. That is especially appreciated because we have yet to put a viable plan for my own personal care in place. Few home care agencies service our more remote part of Maine and two other tentative plans that we had been considering now seem even more tentative. We invite your prayers as we continue to consider the rather limited realistic options.
Thank you for your interest and support during this next challenging chapter of our lives. If circumstances change, we plan to keep you informed right here in this blog, on this website.
I once heard about a birthday card that on the outside read: “I was in a card store the other day looking for a card with a message that would fit you when suddenly this born again Christian guy came up to me and started quoting Scripture.” On the inside of the card it read: “So I shot him. Happy Birthday!”
Well, if you don’t like Christian truth, I suppose that’s one way of dealing with it.
In God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis describes another approach. “The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately ‘forgets’ to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor might tell him.”
Lewis continues: “The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity.”
Lewis concludes by saying that to evade Jesus and His claims, “to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter [than having honest objections]. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.”
Scott Sauls is the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Nashville TN. He wrote this in his blog on April 4, 2018:
“Recently, I spoke with a man who had heard the story of Jesus and the ‘many convincing proofs’ of the resurrection several times in his life. Yet, this man seemed deeply defensive, even overtly hostile, to the idea of becoming a Christian himself. I pointed out to my friend that he seemed not merely to disagree with the Gospel message, but that he seemed prone to also attack it. I asked him why this was so.
After a quiet pause, he answered, ‘Okay, Scott, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you the real reason why I dislike Christianity. It’s not because the evidence is unconvincing to me. In fact, the opposite is true. But I still don’t ever want to become a Christian because if I do, Jesus will ask me to forgive my father for the ways that he hurt me.’
Then Pastor Sauls wrote this: “I have had many similar conversations in which the person in front of me, when push came to shove, had no issues with the rational aspect of faith—but used the rational arguments as a smokescreen. For each of these friends and family members, beneath the surface was something about Christian discipleship—something about the narrow path of Jesus—that bothered them on a visceral level about the call to agree with and follow Jesus in every area of life. For my friend with the difficult father story, it was a painful memory of his deceased father that he didn’t want to release to God.” Sauls adds: “For others, it is difficult to envision surrendering to Jesus their approach to money, their sexuality, their prejudice, their addictions, their divisive and partisan attitudes, or their self-righteousness. And yet, the call to consider Christ remains the same. Embracing the resurrection and absolute lordship of Jesus Christ come as a package deal.”
Today’s culture regularly attacks Christian truth by marginalizing its message and openly ridiculing Christians, often with sharp sarcasm. Christian truth claims are seldom given the benefit of the doubt. They are viewed skeptically. They are not politically correct. Christian values are routinely assaulted, directly and subtly.
The Bible says that God becomes angry when people suppress and crack down on the truth that He exists in order to go on living and promoting immorality (Romans 1:18). But He will deal in mercy with those who accept the truth about Him in Jesus and turn to Him. He will welcome them as children (John 1:12).
Have you been shirking truth, ignoring truth, avoiding truth, attacking truth, or suppressing truth? Let me invite you to turn to the One who is truth. The meaning and peace in life that will result from knowing Jesus personally will surpass whatever cost there may be for you in turning to Christ. And God will grant you grace and strength to pay those costs.
If you are already a follower of Jesus and want to persuade others to Christ, keep in mind that some of those with whom you share the gospel, who cite intellectual objections as their reason for not believing, are actually throwing up a smokescreen. This is especially key for every Christian who strives to be an effective apologist for the faith (which should be every Christian) At some point we may have to realize that a particular person’s real reason for rejecting Christ is not intellectual at all. It’s stubbornness and selfishness. We may have to call them out on that score.
I remember once answering question after question that a man brought to me about Christian belief. I would answer one question and he would raise another. Finally I said to him, “Dennis, what would you accept as sufficient evidence? If I was to answer 101 more questions to your satisfaction, what then? Even at that point would you be prepared to turn to Jesus?” He looked at me and grinned. He knew the game was up.
Thanks to so many of you who have written, called, and/or been praying about Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis since January. It means a great deal.
Mary’s latest echocardiogram on April 3 showed that her condition has now worsened and is considered severe, making her a candidate for surgery. Nevertheless, her cardiologist believes that at this point the actual decision to proceed with open heart surgery should be symptom-driven, and to date Mary remains totally asymptomatic. No shortness of breath, chest pains, or dizziness.
So unless or until she begins experiencing such symptoms, we will remain in a sort of holding pattern for at least another month. We are scheduled to meet with Dr. Crespo on May 3 for further consultation. Her next echocardiogram is set for early June.
Meanwhile, we are grateful for each good today together and are thankful to God for a little extra time to arrange for this major event. The home care system is complex and it has been frustratingly difficult to get a comprehensive plan in place for my own care when this event unfolds.
On a positive note, John Wyatt Witmer (our youngest grandson, now nearly four years of age, who was born with HLHS, a serious congenital heart condition) just had his most recent examination at the UVA hospital in Charlottesville VA this past week — and the decision was made to postpone his next heart surgery until 2019!
Mary and I are now two weeks into our four-month sabbatical and are already appreciating what changes in the routine have been possible. Thanks for your prayers about that, as well — especially that the sabbatical not be compromised by distractions.
We’re much anticipating a visit with our son Andrew and his family when they arrive in early August from Harrisonburg VA.
Our son Stephen has recently contracted with InterVarsity to author a book on the importance of serving in small-town churches, part of a larger movement which he is now spearheading and that includes Small Town Summit seminars throughout New England. See more at: https://www.smalltownsummits.com
And our youngest son Tim will be putting his Maine Guide license to good use when he co-leads a major wilderness trip on the Gaspé Peninsula later this Spring.
For now, thanks again for your ongoing interest and support of our lives and work.
NOTE: See the entire Witmer family by clicking on the thumbnail photo at:
On this Good Friday 2018 the words of the late Anglican minister, John W. Stott, come to mind: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross.” “In a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Is there any other religion or worldview whose leader and founder offers what Jesus offers — to come alongside us humans in our struggles and adversity — as a fellow sufferer?!
“No one understands like Jesus, When the days are dark and grim. No one is so near, so dear as Jesus; Cast Your every care on Him.” (John W. Peterson)
In spite of maintaining a normal rigorous routine (which includes walking on her treadmill most every day, carrying wash baskets up the basement steps, and much more) — all of which the doctors have encouraged her to do — Mary continues to experience absolutely no symptoms whatsoever of her aortic valve stenosis. Until or unless this changes, the next step will be another echocardiogram on April 3. We’ll plan to provide an update here shortly after we learn the results of that test. Meanwhile, thanks so much for your prayers on our behalf, and for your comments and encouragement. We always read and appreciate all of what you write, even if we don’t reply. At the very least, it seems that God has afforded us some additional time to adjust to the idea of what’s probably coming, and to make necessary arrangements.
Generally speaking, mainstream science today endorses a version of Darwinian evolution which proposes that humans are the unanticipated result of wholly natural random forces at work over long ages. But because the Bible makes it clear that a sovereign infinite personal God fully intended from before time that humans would exist, Christians who align with modern science have to somehow involve God in their explanation of human origins. That gets tricky. So theistic evolutionists and evolutionary creationists often avoid taking any explicit position of just how God was involved. Dr. Francis Collins and BioLogos claim that, while certain evolutionary mechanisms “could be” directed, once God created matter and evolution took over, no further divine intervention “was required.” Well then, which is it — directed or not directed?
In an introduction to a formidable exhaustive new critique of theistic evolution, Dr. Stephen Meyer points out that attempts to accommodate both possibilities can lead to a logical contradiction:
“ . . . if the theistic evolutionist means to affirm the standard neo-Darwinian view of the natural selection/mutation mechanism as an undirected process while simultaneously affirming that God is still causally responsible for the origin of new forms of life, then the theistic evolutionist implies that God somehow guided or directed an unguided and undirected process. Logically, no intelligent being—not even God—can direct an undirected process. As soon as he directs it, the ‘undirected’ process would no longer be undirected.”
This brief commentary is part of the result of my March 2018 review of THEISTIC EVOLUTION: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, © 2017 Crossway. This reference incorporates articles by over 20 contributors, including Stephen Meyer, Wayne Grudem, Paul Nelson, and J. P. Moreland. It’s a real tome — over 1,000 pages — and can be rather academic at times. But it’s a work that will hopefully serve the worthwhile purpose of demonstrating that Christians do not need to, and should not, “yield to contemporary evolutionary theory.” — Daryl E. Witmer, Executive Director, AIIA Institute.
Welcome to our new blog! I really hope that you’ll “follow” along by subscribing with your email address at right. Or bookmark this page and check in often.
The pace of life slows during the winter months here in north central Maine. So I try to catch up on my backlog of unread books.
I just finished reading Humble Apologetics by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Here’s a notable excerpt: “The heart of the Christian religion is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and it is this to which [Christian] apologists hope to point their neighbors.”
That’s certainly a major purpose in my life. So it will be a major purpose of this blog.
I also intend to keep you up-to-date between bimonthly issues of our thoughtletter. A lot can happen in two months.
Some blogs will be brief and others longer. The blogs will be posted on no regular basis. I’ll write when I have something to say, not just because of some arbitrary deadline.
As long as it works, we’ll allow response (below). So drop us a comment if you choose.
God’s best to you until next time.
Daryl E Witmer