Background: The company I work for, Quest Diagnostics, offers a diabetes management system from Onduo. I like the service, and earlier this year I was in a video that Onduo produced as an explainer. That is me, not my house, not my food. Last week, my company asked me to tell my story in a leadership meeting. Here’s what I said to over 1700 managers. Normal disclaimers – all thoughts and ideas are mine, not necessarily those of Quest nor Onduo, nor any employees or contractors thereunto, nor my doctors, nor anybody else. I wrote this, and it’s completely mine.


It was just a normal “boy meets diabetes” story.

I started working at Quest about ten years ago. I love the Blueprint For Wellness program – being able to track values across time is wonderful. [Steve note: this is an annual benefit from Quest to all employees and families – a large selection of tests offered free, and they have your results for as long as you’ve taken the tests]

But I ignored it. I wasn’t paying attention to my glucose numbers. The first I knew about it was when my cardiologist asked me how long I’d been a diabetic. I thought he had somebody else’s papers. [Steve note: my actual results, not included in the original talk]

But I took it a little serious, saw my regular doctor and started taking Metformin. In diabetes terms, that’s kind of like “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”. I was getting by.

A couple years went by. The diabetes started showing up in my life. My feet were getting numb on the soles. Sounded like neuropathy, which if left untreated could lead to infection and amputation. I like my feet. I’m attached to them, and I wanted to keep it that way.

Right about that time, Quest offered Onduo as a diabetes management resource. I signed up. 

I got a free phone – they will call it a “device”, but it’s a specialized Android phone. For the geeks out there, it uses the cellular network – avoids them having to help customers with Wi-Fi. They provide consumables, the lancets to prick your finger to get blood, the test strips that do the measuring – all free. 

They have resources on-line, information about what foods to eat, what foods to avoid. And they have a great personal contact for me, encouraging me and answering questions. Friendly and supportive. 

After a while, months or maybe a year, I got moved to a different phase of the program. Still had a support person, but more of a monthly check-in. And recently I graduated from that, and I am working with a Care Team. I miss having a specific person – there’s some loss of accountability, don’t have anyone to share pictures of healthy meals with. 

And I get that. They are running a business, and can’t provide individualized service forever. But still… 

Two other things. Last week, Onduo offered me a chance to get a Continuous Glucose Monitor, almost a patch but with a sensor that goes inside the skin and tests the blood every five minutes or so, reporting results to your phone. They said with my insurance, the device and the supplies would be paid for. I’m still looking into that, haven’t made a decision yet.

The other thing is that Onduo isn’t a fly-by-night company. They are owned by Verily, which in turn is owned by Google. The past few weeks have been rough on tech companies, but I don’t think Google is disappearing any time soon. 

Thanks, and if you have any questions, email me or ping me. 

[Steve follow-up: I have decided against the CGM]

Missing milk, only cooked on one side. I’m calling it a frittata.

“frittata”

I worked all night Thursday, after working all day Thursday – not planned, but couldn’t walk away with systems down. I took Friday off. Saturday is still a recovery day.

So I cooked. Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green onions, a hot dog, all sautéed in butter. Four eggs, salsa from Mexican carry-out a week ago, and too much sharp cheddar. Cook on the stovetop on medium until the middle firms up, and then enjoy.

Which I am doing.

Here at Connections, we believe in the Bible.  We affirm what it says.  So when Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”, that’s what we believe, that’s what we live by.  We cannot earn our way into Heaven.

And that’s what Martha believed, too. But let me tell you, she had such a servant’s heart that you might think she was leaning towards getting to Heaven by her works.

She participated in the Walk for Life, one of the ways our church supports the local Pregnancy Care center.

We have pictures of her when the church went to pack food for hungry kids in Africa, about ten years ago.

She helped prepare communion, back pre-covid when we had trays instead of individual servings.  I have a voicemail from her, letting my wife and I know how that week’s preparations went.

She had her own coupon ministry, where she would get coupons out of the Sunday paper and give them to people.  Not just randomly – she knew what people liked and targeted the coupons to them.

She had a deviled egg ministry.  Whenever we had a carry-in dinner at the church, everybody knew not to take deviled eggs, because sure as anything Martha was going to!

She could receive as well as give.  One time the youth of the church were distributing pumpkin pies.  It would have been around this time of year, though I don’t remember which year, but she was appreciative.  And after she had moved into assisted living, the church swung by and sang her some Christmas carols – and again, even though she was starting to lose her faculties, she was very grateful and thankful.

It wasn’t just the physical things.  After one of our ladies was in a bad car accident, the women’s group was praying.  Martha replied “Thank you for the update.  I have been praying for her almost hourly.  I have her name on my kitchen table and when I pass it I pray for her.”

I don’t know Martha’s Bible reading habits.  I’m sure she had read the passage I opened with, and I’m sure she read the very next verse, Ephesians 2:10.  “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

And that is the Martha Downing I remember, trusting in Jesus through faith, and always walking in the good works that God had prepared for her.

Communion meditation for 10/16/2022

I’m going to tell you a joke.

A couple got married, settled down, and things were going well. A couple months later, though, she asked her husband if he loved her. “When we got married, did I tell you I loved you?” “Yes.” “Well, if it changes, I’ll let you know.”

Now that’s a joke, and we see the humor in it, because he obviously doesn’t love her. If he did, he would be telling her, and showing her, much more often. She wouldn’t have to ask. 

Turning to scripture, we see Jesus asking a similar question of Peter – not just once, but three times.  In John 21:15-17, scripture says

When they had finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “You know I love You.” Jesus replied, “Feed My lambs.” Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “You know I love You.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd My sheep.” Jesus asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was deeply hurt that Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” “Lord, You know all things,” he replied. “You know I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Now Jesus wasn’t hard of hearing, He wasn’t forgetful. He actually asked two different questions, if we go back to the original language. Twice, He asked “Do you love me in the God-like way I love you?” Peter answered each one “Yes, I love You like a brother”, which is another way of saying “no”. And then the last time Jesus asked “Do you love me like a brother?” And that one was the one that Peter said “yes” to. 

Going back to the joke, the problem wasn’t on the wife’s side. And the problem in life isn’t on God’s side. Lamentations 3:22 and 23 tells us that His mercies are new every morning. We have the fact of Jesus’s death on the cross, dying for sins He didn’t commit, dying for sins I did commit. That’s showing love, demonstrating love, proving love.

So we’re at the time of communion, when Jesus said “do this in remembrance of Me”. In some ways, He is asking “Do you love Me?”.  We have the choice of saying to Him “I told You that I loved You when I got saved.  If it changes, I’ll let you know”.  And Jesus would feel the love that the wife felt.  Or we can show it in our life, in our adoration of Him, in our love of others, in our prayer and Bible reading and our evangelism.  Matthew 25:40 says “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me”.  Let’s pray.

Father God, you showed Your love for us when you came up with the plan to give us free will, and to have Jesus come and die for us when we inevitably sin.  Thank you for that, and for the invitation to partake in His death through the wafer and juice representing His body and blood. We are reminded that “God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Thank you for the opportunity to share in that love, and to share it to others, and to show it all the time.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Brian recommended a book to me. I got it and started reading. It is science fiction, full of good guys and bad guys, and rocket ships and space aliens. A week later he asked me how it was. “I haven’t finished it yet.” “Oh, where are you in it?” 

Surprisingly, this was a hard question. The book was really good, and every other page there was a major event that made everything before pale to insignificance. Where I was at that point wouldn’t be as significant as where I’d be two pages down the road. So I told him “about fifty pages in” and left it at that. 

The next time I saw him, it was a quarter through, then a half, and right now I’m about three quarters done. 

Then I started thinking about the best book I ever read, one I’m part of. I have no idea if I’m sixty percent through my own story, or 95%,or 99.99%. And the bigger story I’m a part of, human history as recorded in the Bible, I have no idea how far along that is. No man knows the day. 

The Bible’s story doesn’t have rockets or aliens. It does have good guys and bad guys, and angels and miracles. It has parts that seem boring – genealogy lists, census reports, and real estate boundary documents. Those parts are important, even if they don’t seem exciting.  It has exciting parts – Daniel and the lion’s den, Samson, Noah’s ark. But the biggest, most important thing happens just over half-way through. There are clues before, and explanations after. 

Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.”

Luke 2, from 10 and 11: “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David”

From Hebrews 12, 1 and 2: “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

There is one exciting part still in the future. From Revelation 5, verses 5 and 9 and 12: “The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.  And they sang a new song. You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.  They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” 

And the best thing is that this story is true, and each one of us has a part in the story. Let’s pray. 

Father God, thank You for giving Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Thank You that He didn’t live His life for excitement, but for obedience. As we take the bread and drink the juice, symbolizing His body and blood, remind us that we are called first to be Christ followers. We are offered joy and peace, not necessarily excitement. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Maybe you have heard this in your house: “whatever you want”. And you probably know that simple words like that can have multiple meanings, depending on what’s behind them. 

In the book of Isaiah, God is speaking to King Ahaz through the mouth of Isaiah the prophet. Chapter 7,verses 11 and 12. “Ask the LORD your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”  But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the LORD like that.”

God replied, in verse 14, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”  You might have heard that before. 

This sounds wonderful – the king acknowledging God like that, and God prophesying the birth of Jesus. But if we look into the backstory a little, King Ahaz wasn’t honoring God. Ahaz was a bad king, making metal idols, setting up altars to himself, stealing the utensils of the temple to hire an army, even sacrificing his sons to other gods. So when Ahaz said “whatever you want”, he was really telling God to take a hike. 

Now let’s take a look at another “whatever you want”, with a different meaning behind the words. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion. He’s talking to the same God that Ahaz spoke to. But it’s different. Matthew 26,verses 39 and 42.

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

That isn’t someone telling God “Go away, don’t bother me”. That’s someone saying “Father God – Dad – I know what’s coming up, and I know it’s going to hurt bad. I’m going to be physically murdered, painfully, and then I’m going to be separated from you for the first time in literally forever. I would really prefer not to do that, to be scourged and then crucified, and go to Hell for somebody else’s sins. But I know You love Me, and You absolutely know what’s best, so Your will be done.”

And Jesus meant it when He said “whatever you want”. He went to the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and your sins. That is what we are remembering right now, with the wafer and the juice representing His body and His blood. Let’s pray. 

Father God, You hear the words and You know the heart. King Ahaz died and was buried, end of story except to be a bad example. Jesus died and was buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended to Heaven where He sits at Your right hand, reigning in glory. Thank You for Your everlasting love. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

I’m an Android guy, and I like customizing my phone. The stock launcher doesn’t give me enough options, so I have been using Nova Launcher. And that’s since at least 2013, and across multiple phones.

Until now.

TeslaCoil software, the manufacturer, just sold out to an analytics company. There are a lot of words in press releases about independence and not siphoning data. I also know that Branch bought them for a reason, so I assume that the data will be flowing to the analytics company, and will be sold to the highesr bidder, somewhere down the road. Unhappy about that.

So I dropped Nova Launcher and picked up Hyperion. Different product, of course, but the end result is very similar. One minor tweak is absent, and I can live without that. My data will presumably be safer going forward.

I don’t blame TeslaCoil for selling out. Doesn’t mean I have to keep on using them – that’s the price of freedom.

And then I bought the Plus version of Hyperion using Google money, which I got from answering Google Rewards surveys. So I sold information to Google to protect information from going to Branch.

There are three or four big consolidators of data. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, maybe Facebook. Lots of others (Oracle bought Cerner!), but those are the biggies. They are all sucking data from you daily. I chose to align with Google as my primary. Still use Microsoft (though not Windows 11) and Amazon (Prime has many benefits, which encourage more purchases and data gathering). I stay away from Facebook.

I also use AdGuard and multiple ad-blockers. I may be selling my information, but I’m selling it dearly.

The harmonies, the enthusiasm, the participation, the whole thing.

Did you ever stop to think about stones? God did – He made them, so He must have thought about them.  And I think He likes stones, because He made a lot of them. 

Stones in the Bible have lots of uses – walls, altars, seats, even pillows.  I want to look at four stones or sets of stones – two around King David, and two around Jesus.

1 Samuel 17, verse 40.  Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.  And then verse 49: Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.   

Good for David, good for the Israelites, good for God.

Then in Second Samuel 16, King David’s son Absolom has gotten friendly with the population, and is having a revolution to take over the throne.  David is running away before he gets killed.   Verses 5 and 6: As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the family of the house of Saul was just coming out. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and as he approached, he kept yelling out curses. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of the king, though the troops and all the mighty men were on David’s right and left.   

Unsurprisingly, his military commanders wanted to kill Shimei.  David says “no”.  Verse 10: But the king replied, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses me because the LORD told him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ ”

With Jesus, the most famous stone is the one that covered His tomb after He died, that an angel rolled away when He was resurrected.

There’s some advice I’ve heard about reading the Bible, and that’s “Always look for Jesus”.  For the last stone, we’re going to go back to the Old Testament, and it will be easy to find Him.  Ezekiel 11, verses 19 and 20: I will give them integrity of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, so that they will follow my statutes, keep my ordinances, and practice them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.   

Now that was written about the Israelites.  That heart of flesh wouldn’t last – they had to keep going back to the Temple, to offer annual sacrifices for their sin.  It took Jesus, the perfect sinless sacrifice, to make that sacrifice once and for all, to make it permanent. 

And that’s what we are celebrating now, with the wafer and the juice, that all Christians are invited to partake of.  The emblems represent the body and the blood of the One who could take away a heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh.  Let’s pray.

Father God, I thank you for the gift of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  I am sorry for my sin that caused Him to have to go to the cross.  And I am so thankful that I have a heart of flesh because of His sacrifice.  The whole plan – giving us choices, having a payment for our sin from One who never sinned, and the Holy Spirit living within us after baptism – it’s inconceivable from a human perspective, and it’s perfect.  Because You are perfect, and You love us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

(This is not medical advice)

They say there’s a sure, permanent cure for poison ivy: eat some. And if you survive, you will never get it again. A little bit of logic informs me that if I don’t survive, I wouldn’t get it again, but perhaps that’s gauche to point out the obvious.

Anyway, I’m in day 10 or 11 of fighting the latest round of poison ivy. For the record, I don’t like it. Haven’t reached the point of ultimate frustration, but I can understand people who want to get rid of it permanently.

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