14) The Last Bit: Lessons from 5 Days of Pneumonia

I (Doug) had had plenty of sore throats. But never like this one. In fact, on Monday night, when my throat felt like daggers and my chest felt like knives, I knew something was going on. I dreaded just to swallow. The lady at the immediate care center on Tuesday had that worried look in her eyes. She sent me directly to the E.R. The E.R. people took one glance at a chest X-ray and confirmed what some had already postulated. I had contracted pneumonia. From the start of the first sore throat pain to full-blown chest X-ray confirmation, it had probably taken less than 48 hours. But the steps that could have prevented it might have taken place throughout the previous 10 days — and just *maybe* I could have saved two nights in the hospital. (I was just released last night.) How might I have saved that hospital stay and avoided contracting pneumonia?


a) Determine your MOL — your Maximum Output Level. (I’m not sure that’s really a thing, but let’s just pretend it is.) What’s the maximum amount of stuff you can do to serve the Lord without “breaking something?” I get this rule from Coloss. 3:23, ” Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” By “breaking something,” I mean — getting an ulcer, picking up high blood pressure or some other heart problem, and with some, just recurring headaches or becoming crabby with those around us. For me, for some reason, over the past few decades, I was just able to keep functioning. Basically, it seemed like my body didn’t care. Of course, I’m not overweight, I exercise three times per week (two hours minimum each instance), and I love my work. (If you’re curious about the exercise, just find an aerobic game you love. For me, it’s soccer. I play with a pool of 40 internationals. We play 10 v 10 on two fields. It’s a ton of fun. And wow — it’s great heart-work, in more ways than one.) For my own purposes, that worked. Your mileage may vary. Sooner or later though, my theory is, some little thing is going to give us a clue of our headroom. We’ll experience a tiny crack in a “head gasket,” figuratively speaking. Once we find that crack, we’ll know our limit. By God’s grace, for some reason, I didn’t see a crack until this week — pneumonia. The important thing is — once we experience that crack, we’ll know our max. Now go to step b.


b) Ask God to help you operate at 80-90% of your MOL. Take into consideration your age. (I’m 62.) So I have to realize… I probably shouldn’t have done quite so many flights and nightly trips to the train station at 2am in the morning in a foreign country last week while leading a global gathering, which left me with an average of 4 hours sleep while leading meetings and training sessions during the day. I confess: It probably lowered my resistance, making it harder for my system to fend off what otherwise might have been a bad cold germ — but this past Tuesday became pneumonia. Confession.) So now that I know my MOL, I want to stay just *under* it — without exceeding it. How will I do that? For me, I’ll start by adjusting sleep patterns. Instead of 4 hours’ sleep on multiple nights during push times, I’ll try to keep those nights to a maximum of 1 at a time, if at all possible. The other nights, I’m committing to you that I’m going to try for *7* hours per night average sleep now (I was getting an average of 5 or 6 hours for the past 40 years). So I’ll have to delegate a *bunch* more work. (Get ready guys. I’ll be asking for help. : ) )


c) Find regular throttle downs to cool your jets. No airline operates its planes at 100% thrust (or more) during 100% of every day. There are throttle-downs (if for nothing else, to do required maintenance). (People who know me: Can you believe you’re hearing me say this?) How much your engine needs for throttle down is a very personal thing. Some need more than others. Know thyself and listen for the changes along the way. Starting now, I’m going to try for at least a one- to two-hour throttle down at some point during every day of my life. No matter where I am. And a one-day-a-week throttle down even if I’m traveling. Throttle down (otherwise known as Sabbath) can mean different things to different people. Rest from stress combined with reconnecting closely with Christ seems to make the most sense, wouldn’t we all agree?


d) Listen to those around you — but not too much. : ) In other words, listen to your physician. Hear your pastor and supervisor. But remember that many well-meaning people are probably offering your advice gained through their own lenses on their own life experience with their own jet, not yours. Models vary. There were people telling me at age 16 that I was going to kill myself by the time I was 20. For whatever reason, one thing we know: that didn’t happen. That was over 40 years ago. I think we have to know our systems. Listen to our health and our heart. If we could just keep weight off, stay active, and love life, many of us could probably do a lot more during the three decades I’ve just lived. The trouble is, we either have a metabolism issue (for which, maybe we could go to the doctor?), or … I’m not sure. But whatever it is that causes so many of us to gain unhealthy weight… shew… Father please help us avert/avoid it. Again, let’s all find a game (or a gym) we love and work it. Sure it takes discipline. But you’ve got this. Eat to live instead of live to eat. Choose food that makes your life possible instead of living so you can choose food. We could all enjoy a tiny slice of a lot of life if we just did those slices in moderation instead of “slabs.” So … meeting with our doctors, trimming our portions, and exercising. Wow – what if that could give you 30 more years of 100% MOL?


The cool part is — It’s Friday … just three days after I was diagnosed in the hospital with pneumonia. I was just released from the hospital last night. Just prior to release, I asked my doctor for his opinion — and based on the recovery God has given me, he sanctioned my return to soccer — in tomorrow morning’s game (Saturday). I can’t wait. Again, there will be people who will tell me that’s crazy. But I won’t try to tell them what their system is like. And they might not be able to understand mine. I was lucky enough to hear a tiny crack (ok; Monday night it didn’t seem so tiny; I thought I was dying.) Now I have to follow it. But today, after just 3 days, my doctor says I’m already well enough to get back in the game? There’s a message (and a doctor) I love. (Truth is, he says restoring deep breathing is the most important thing to do anyway. : ) )


So — know your MOL, stay at 80-90% max, throttle down for a couple of hours/day and a Sabbath day per week, and listen to those around you but not too much. Pray a lot. Love life and all the people you meet. What could be better than that? Oh — and consider soccer.


Boy. Monday night, I thought I was dying. : )


Hopefully, I’ll write an update in 10 years to let you know how it’s going. Please comment. : )


7 Responses to 14) The Last Bit: Lessons from 5 Days of Pneumonia
  1. Margaret DeHart Reply

    What you say resonates loud and clear. My husband and I are similar to your age, and we have had some incidents that make us realize we are limited. He too plays soccer when there is that option in our location. I like the MOL idea, and the need for regular ‘throttle downs’ – even daily.
    We are grateful for Brigada as a great resource and networking tool for the Kingdom. May God bless you and your tribe.

  2. Editor Reply

    Margaret of Heart, thank you for the encouragement!

  3. Jenny Reply

    Although not written for you, it certainly applies. Re-charge your battery more often!


  4. Priscilla Reply

    Thank you for this reflective piece and the many insights it includes. We will pray for your complete recovery and follow-through too! The missionary community needs to hear this and they hear it best from someone who understands, and has lived, the demands of their life. Could I suggest your submitting this to someone like Jonathan Trotter, a PageAdmin over at ? Thank you again. “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” Proverbs 25:11 NLT

  5. Neal Pirolo Reply

    Doug! What a wild experience life is! Yvonne and I are 81. We have “throttled-down” a bit. But she still does her two teams to Asia; I do Myanmar, Nepal or South America. This Fall we plan on Spain, Slovakia and Italy. She has her February/2020 Asia trip already scheduled. She’ll only be 82! Life is good! doing the Lord’s work! And for His glory!
    THANKS for the good advise!

  6. Faithe Thomas Reply

    Hi Doug! So sorry you had to experience this!

    Last week I was on a trip where I got a couple hours less sleep each night than normal and ended up fighting a cold. But here’s the interesting thing….I starting using an app called Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock (https://itunes.apple.com/app/sleep-cycle-alarm-clock/id320606217). Super simple to use, and the free version is great. The paid version shows you your sleep quality as a percentage.

    So while I was getting a “decent” number of hours of sleep last week, my sleep quality went from 85%-95% at home to 55%-65% on the trip. That was enough to challenge my immune system. I’ll certainly be keeping a better eye on this index as it seems pretty accurate to how I feel the next day – and lets me know what I need to fix. Thanks for the post.

  7. David Welsh Reply

    Sorry to hear you were down. It’s hard for me to imagine that with you Doug. I had a case of “walking pneumonia earlier this year and it kicked my butt for about two weeks and it was about 6 before I felt fully recovered. Glad you’re on the mend.

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