Category Archives: Personal

Friday night I came home from a middle school event at College Avenue Baptist Church called Dye Wars (200 kids in a colored-water fight) to find that my face felt funny. I know my face looks funny a good deal of the time, but on this night it felt funny too. The left side of my face felt numb and my mouth felt like I had just come from the dentist after having received a shot of Novocaine.  My eyes also felt strange. My right eye seemed heavy lidded and even droopier than normal.  Earlier that week I had  experienced headaches and soreness  in my left ear which continued to persist but a few doses of Ibuprofen usually kept the pain under control. I expected those symptoms to go away soon.

But when Marci heard me complain about these new symptoms in my face, she was alarmed and while I didn’t want to admit it at the time, so was I. The numbing sensations and droopy eye were symptoms commonly associated with a stroke. Strokes are serious. They can lead to paralysis, permanent brain damage, even death.  Marci insisted that we go immediately to Urgent Care or to the Emergency Room at the hospital.  I really didn’t want to do that, knowing how busy an ER can be on a weeknight, let alone a Friday night.  But I knew she was right. This really should be evaluated by a doctor. Self-diagnosis only goes so far.

Urgent Care was closed that time of night so we headed for the ER at Grossmont Hospital. When I told the person at the admissions counter that I had symptoms of a stroke, I was immediately ushered in, even though there was a waiting room full of people with other ailments. They quickly snapped a hospital identifying bracelet on my wrist, drew blood, took my blood pressure, did a couple of quick tests to see whether I could talk and walk, checked all my other vitals and took me in for CT scan of my brain. I spoke with a neurologist who agreed that my symptoms required immediate attention. They could be very serious. He told me that I was going to be admitted to the hospital that night so that further tests could be made and my symptoms monitored by their staff. I would need to wait for a room to become available, however.

Around 3:00 in the morning I was rolled into a room on the fifth floor of the hospital, their “stoke unit,” where all the patients were being treated for strokes of one kind or another. I shared a room with a man who was sound asleep at the time, snoring like a freight train. After they hooked me up to an IV drip and attached all kinds of monitoring devices to my body, they put me through a few drills to test my mental condition. For a moment I felt like that Jack Nicholson character in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The nurse was asking me obviously simple questions like “what’s your name.” I answered, “Wayne.” She looked at me like I was an idiot because her chart clearly had “John” on it. My legal name is John Wayne Rice. “Well, I go by Wayne,” I told her. She asked me what I did and when I told her I was a pastor, an author, a musician and a DJ on a country music radio station, I’m certain she thought I really was crazy.

By the time they left me alone in bed, it was 4 a.m.  and I couldn’t sleep at all. Between the snoring of my roommate and all the other hospital noises (unbelievable), I was suffering more from sleep deprivation than anything else. Every four hours they put me through the same drills, asking me simple questions and testing my motor skills. Everything seemed to be normal. I was hoping they would be able to tell me what I had and let me go home on Saturday but they told me I needed to stay until they had time to run more tests and rule out the possibility of a stroke.

I was getting real depressed. It was becoming clear that my weekend plans were now going to have to be cancelled. I was going to a barbecue at the home of one of our church board members early Saturday afternoon. That evening I had set up an interview with country star Dierks Bentley who was in Temecula for a concert appearance. I’ve been playing his new bluegrass-tinged CD on my radio show and wanted to get some recorded sound-bites from him that I could use on my radio program. Then Sunday morning I had my church responsibilities. And what about my radio show? I realized I didn’t have a backup plan for that at all.

I called Mark Goeglein, one of the pastors at CABC and informed him of the situation. He graciously came to the hospital to pray with Marci and me. I really didn’t want to tell too many other people what was going on because I didn’t know what was going on myself. Mark assured me not to worry about Sunday at church. My class would be covered for me.

It seemed a lot longer, but I was only in the hospital for about 36 hours. I came home on Sunday afternoon. The attending neurologists looked at all the tests they had done on me, the MRI, the MRA, CT Scans, ultra-sounds on my heart and arteries, etc. and concluded that I didn’t have a stroke, nor did I seem to be a likely candidate for a stroke.

So what caused the numbness in my face?

What I have, they said, is a mild case of “Bell’s Palsy.” It is caused by an inflammation or irritation of the 7th facial nerve which controls the muscles of the face. Some cases of Bell’s Palsy result in complete paralysis of one side of the face. My symptoms were not that severe. All I had was a little bit of numbness and a crooked smile.

Bells Palsy, they said, is often the result of ear pain and headaches (bingo), a change in pressure in the ear canal (bingo again, since I had been making weekly speaking trips to Forest Home, elevation 5280 feet), and can often be caused by an unusual amount of anxiety or stress (double bingo.)

The good news in all this is that the condition is usually temporary. The doctor told me that all these symptoms should go away in about two weeks. Meanwhile, with the numbness in my mouth, I’ll just have be careful not to drool on myself.

I was discharged from the hospital about 2:30 Sunday afternoon. On the way home we picked up some rolled tacos at Sombrero’s in Lakeside (hospital food is absolutely horrible) and after taking a shower, I also took a nap before heading off to do my radio show. I can still talk, although I have a hard time with my F’s and P’s.  My lips on the left side of my face don’t hold as much pressure as needed to get those sounds right. But I think my program went OK anyway. You can listen to it here.

At the end of the day, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, not just for the good outcome of my diagnosis but for the entire experience itself. Being in that hospital bed for a couple days gave me a chance to stop, think, pray and put my trust in God to the test. It has been a long time since I’ve done that and it was good for me.

boxesWell, we finally moved out of the hotel we’ve been staying in for the past three months and spent our first night back home. Even though the house is in disarray, with most of our stuff still in boxes or missing, we are so happy to sleep in our own bed. In case you didn’t know, we had to vacate our home on April 9 because of a small kitchen fire. We hired a restoration company to rid the house of the smoke damage and repair the kitchen. We never realized that we were signing up for 104 days away from home.

I won’t share all the details of this unhappy story now as there is still much to be resolved and settled. But it’s good to be home despite the frustration of not being able to locate all our stuff. One thing we did learn from living in a hotel for three months is that you can get by on a lot less stuff than we thought. The question for us now is: how much of all this stuff still in boxes do we want to just get rid of?

Category: Personal

foho_camp2010Last week I accompanied the middle-school group from our church to summer camp at Forest Home. I really can’t remember the last time I spent a week with a group of junior high boys as a cabin counselor, but the sounds, the smells (especially the smells), the cabin discussions … they all felt strangely familiar to me.

It was a good week. The kids really had a blast and I enjoyed very much watching my son Nate (who directs the junior high camps at Forest Home) at work. Later this year, he and I are going to do a seminar on camping at the YS National Youth Workers Convention, so it was helpful for me to observe and be part of an actual summer camp program at least once this year. I used to do quite a few camps, either leading them or speaking at them … but that was a long time ago.

I was very proud of Nate … he was the camp speaker and did a great job. I know my presence there made him a bit uncomfortable but he persevered and from all I heard, the kids responded well to his messages. I was also impressed with the team of leaders Nate assembled to run all the activities and programs. By my count there were more than a dozen staff. It amazes me that we used to run those camps with a staff of four. Times have definitely changed.

Meanwhile … back at home … we are still living in a hotel room, now into our fourth month. The restoration company has held our stuff hostage waiting for insurance money. This has been the most difficult experience I’ve gone through since my wife’s brain tumor almost ten years ago. We are praying that maybe this week we will be able to return home.

Let me introduce you to our fourth grandchild, second granddaughter and first child of our son Corey and his wife Janna … Layla OraBelle Rice, born Saturday night June 5. She’s beautiful of course, weighing in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces. Can’t wait to spend some quality time with her! Click on the picture to enlarge.

Layla and proud grandpa!

Layla and proud grandpa!

For more pictures of Layla, go here.

fire2010It’s hard to believe that such a small fire can cause so much damage.

A week after Easter, an accidental fire in our kitchen destroyed our microwave oven above the stove as well as one small section of our kitchen cabinets. Smoke and soot was everywhere. We didn’t need the fire department because the fire went out pretty much on its own for which we are grateful. What we needed was someone to help us clean up the mess and figure out what to do next.

I called my insurance agent who encouraged me to call a contractor who could help us restore our kitchen to its pre-fire condition. Our insurance would cover it, he said, less the deductible of course.

We found a company near us that specializes in fire and flood damage. They came to our house right away and began telling us what to do. They would take care of everything, they said. To our surprise they recommended that we not stay in the house because the smoke from the fire was toxic and carried carcinogens to every room of the house. They would begin cleanup work the next day and work with the insurance company (which they do all the time) and get our lives back to normal as soon as possible. So we moved into a hotel about 20 miles away from our home. It was the only one we could find that had rooms with a kitchen so we could cook our own food. We are calling it our “homeless shelter.”

That was almost a month ago. I’m not going to mention any names or say anything negative here about restoration companies … but so far this has been one of the most discouraging and frustrating experiences of my life. It appears that Marci and I will be staying in this hotel for another … month … maybe longer? We don’t know. Our lives have been turned upside down, all our earthly possessions (furniture, clothes, other personal property) are in a storage warehouse somewhere (presumably being cleaned), our kitchen has been torn apart and must be remodeled, the walls throughout the house are dirty and must be repainted, and we have no assurance at this point that the astronomical costs of all this will be covered by our insurance.

Obviously, this is a story that is unfolding and we’re expecting a happy outcome. While we are feeling very inconvenienced and faced with decisions and difficulties we never imagined, we are trying to remember that we are all OK, our house is still standing and with the help of God, we’ll get through this. When I think about all the folks we know who lost their homes in the fires here a few years ago (or have had to endure all kinds of natural disasters), I realize that we don’t have that much to complain about.

Yesterday was a good day. Our church (College Avenue Baptist in San Diego) held its first “unified” service, a bold attempt to bring all the generations together in worship and by all accounts it was a wonderful success. God’s presence was obvious in the service and our pastor Carlton Harris preached a very encouraging message on trusting God in trying times.

Category: Personal


Well, actually it was another bluegrass Easter at our house this year, but a major earthquake in Baja California (Mexico) had things “all shook up” for a few seconds. It happened while our band was playing the Cherokee Shuffle. Everyone looked a bit startled by the whole thing but we just kept on playing and everyone enjoyed the ride.

We were blessed with another beautiful day for our annual celebration of Easter. We are so grateful that Sunday was warm and sunny (75 degrees). The next day (Monday), a cold front came through and it rained all day.

This year marks the 30th year we have hosted our Easter party. Actually, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to do it this year as we had some serious damage around our house from winter storms.  But we finally decided to give it a shot about three weeks before Easter and it turned out to be one of the best ever with the earthquake adding an exclamation point to the festivities. He is risen indeed!

For more pictures, go here:

Category: Personal

generation-to-generationMy new book Generation to Generation was  released a couple of weeks ago by Standard Publishing. I just got my copies and I’ve been handing them out to family and friends like a new father handing out cigars. Writing a book and childbirth have a lot in common I think. The process is painful but when it finally comes out, it’s beautiful and there are smiles all around. I thought the cover design on this one was especially nice … thanks to everyone who contributed input on that a few months ago.

This book is for parents who want ideas and help for passing their faith on to their children. It expands on the content of a parent seminar which I created for HomeWord a few years ago. I’m grateful for the very nice endorsements printed on the first page of the book from Jim Burns and Dr. David Jeremiah.

If you would like to buy a copy, it’s available on most book websites like, Barnes and Noble and I’m not selling it here on my website yet.

Category: Ministry, Personal

henri-nouwenWhen I was editor of Youthworker Journal many years ago I conducted a phone interview with the late priest Henri Nouwen for an issue we were doing on personal spirituality (spring 1993). I recently found the mini-cassette of that interview tucked away in a desk drawer and thought I’d make a digital copy of it since old cassettes tend to deteriorate over time.

You can listen to our conversation below. It took place about a year after Marci and I (and six other friends) spent a week with Henri at his residence in L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Ontario, Canada in December 1991. We talked a little bit about that time together at the end of the interview.

The topic of this particular interview is prayer and in the magazine we titled the article “Gazing at Jesus: A Conversation with Henri Nouwen.”

While this interview was edited for the magazine article, no editing was done on these audio recordings. I did however break it into four segments. They vary in length, from about seven minutes to more than thirteen. Only the first question is indicated below.

After listening to this 15-year-old conversation again, I am re-challenged to shift some priorities in my life and spend more time with God in prayer. How about you?

If the mp3 audio player is not displaying or functioning properly below, just click on the links and you will hear the interview in your Quicktime or Windows Media Player.

Segment One: “Why is prayer so important?”

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Segment Two: “How do you ‘listen’ to God when you are praying?”

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Segment Three: “What is contemplative prayer?”

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Segment Four: “What is a spiritual director?”

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Category: Ministry, Personal

haiti-banner150x263I received a letter today from Compassion International which is posted below because God may be leading you (as he is Marci and I) to reach out to help the thousands of people who have been impacted by yesterday’s earthquake in Haiti. I have great confidence in Compassion and the good work they do. Anything you or I do to help will be put to good use by the good folks at Compassion.

Years ago I made a trip to Haiti with Tony Campolo and my understanding of poverty was deepened considerably. Never before had I seen such widespread suffering. I can only imagine now what this disaster has done to the people of Haiti and the mission organizations who have been working over the years to serve them. Let’s keep them all in our prayers and if possible, give to help bring some relief.

The text of the letter:

The catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday has resulted in unfathomable chaos and devastation for hundreds of thousands of children and families.

Compassion sponsors and donors serve more than 65,000 children in Haiti. At least a third of them live in the areas that were hardest hit.

I am asking you to please send a generous gift today to help these precious children and their families.

We are working rapidly to assess the situation and determine the full extent of damage:

* Sadly, we anticipate there will be many deaths.
* We anticipate thousands of children and families will have lost everything.
* We anticipate many of our church-based child development centers will have been destroyed.

Without a doubt, the children we serve in Haiti are in shock and face immediate needs for food, water, medical care, shelter and counseling. We have teams prepared to respond, and we are deeply committed to helping each child.

We need your donation today. Please reach out in the name of Jesus to bring relief, comfort, love and restoration to precious children and families whose lives have been devastated by this crisis.

Thank you for caring,
Mark Hanlon
Dr. Wess Stafford
President, USA

P.S. If you would like to give by phone, please call us at (800) 336-7676. Check donations can be mailed to: Compassion International, Colorado Springs, CO 80997.

Category: Ministry, Personal

I wish I could say that I spent the first full day of the new year doing something constructive or creative but I watched football all day. Three games. Actually I think I watched six or seven football games this week. How many bowl games are there now? I can remember when all of them (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange) all happened on one day, bringing the college football season to a merciful end. But now it goes on and on … which I guess is OK with me since I love the game and enjoy watching if I have the time.

ephesians-tim-tebow-bible-eye-blackLast night in the Sugar Bowl, the University of Florida’s well-known quarterback Tim Tebow played in his last college football game as he led his Gators team to an easy victory over the Cincinnatti Bearcats.

I’ve not followed Tebow’s career closely, but by all accounts, he’s not only a tremendous quarterback but a dedicated Christ-follower who seems almost too good to be true. Nobody has a bad thing to say about him and he’s unabashedly outspoken about his faith.

It’s not surprising to me that Tebow grew up in a Christian home (his parents were missionaries) and was home schooled even while he played high school football. While not all home-school kids turn out like Tim Tebow, I’ve become increasingly persuaded that parents who home-school their kids are not as over-protective or paranoid as we thought they were. They may instead just be taking more seriously than the rest of us the Biblical imperative to train up their children in the way they should go. Sadly, too many Christian parents are content these days to outsource the upbringing of their children to the government, the popular media, even the church.

As I listened to the young quarterback (who will be headed for the NFL this year) give glory to Christ for his win last night, I couldn’t help but wonder if he will continue to do so as a pro. The TV commentators last night described how his Florida teammates protected him from people and activities that might compromise his reputation. I hope he continues to have those kind of people around him. At least I know he has those kind of parents.

Category: Ministry, Personal