January 26, 2021

Counting Blessings in the Middle of Difficulty

Today’s post is from IM First Officer Michael Bell.

This past year has been a difficult one for me medically. In March I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, which for the uninformed means that I stop breathing while sleeping, for up to 90 seconds at a time, up to 60 times an hour. So now I have to sleep with a mask, which I absolutely hate. Then just before Christmas I got a flu bug. While things are not confirmed yet, it appears as if the virus attacked my pancreas. As a result I have become diabetic, and as of this writing the medicines have not been working, I am off work, and I may have to be started on insulin injections. One of the earlier symptoms that I was experiencing was a foggy brain, and making uncharacteristic mistakes at work.

So you might be wondering how I am feeling about this. Well, to be honest, not too bad. I think that recent events in Haiti, along with Michael Spencer’s current health difficulties help me to realize that I don’t really have much to complain about. I have a lovely, loving wife, three great kids, a house, a job, and a church I love.

The diabetes will eventually get under control. I have been losing weight and that should start to help with the sleep apnea. My life continues not that much different from the way it was a year ago.

Michael Spencer faces a much more difficult future. His income has ended, his health insurance is ending, and he faces some very trying times ahead with his cancer. Michael has given so much of himself to this blog over the last number of years.

As a community of Internet Monk readers, I would urge each of us to be a blessing to Michael Spencer. Please consider using the Pay Pal button to make a gift to Michael. Let us see what we can do to meet the needs of one of our own.


  1. I am European, and you all know that things are different here with regards to socialized medicine and compulsory insurance etc. In my country you would not be fired/laid off because you were diagnosed with a disease like Michael’s; you would not loose your health insurance, and you could not be evicted from company housing in this situation. But the merits or demerits of the European vs the American system are not what I want to discuss or comment on.

    What is utterly incomprehensible to me is how a Christian institution (and I will follow Michael’s practice of not naming the institution on this blog) can reconcile such policies with the teaching of the Scriptures it professes to follow. To cut loose an employee and brother in Christ when he gets ill, potentially terminally ill, with the consequent loss of insurance and potentially housing, seems to me to fly in the face of all that following Christ could possibly mean.

    How can those who have made these policies and these decisions regarding Michael’s employment look at themselves every morning in the mirror without shame; how can they face our Lord in their devotions and in church; how can they face their colleagues who are still healthy but could be in the same situation as Michael at some point in the future?

    That is neither Evangelical nor post-Evangelical, neither Christian nor post-Christian, it is simply non-Evangelical and UN-Christian.

    • Wolf Paul, only Michael and/or his employer can address the specifics of the situation, policies, etc. I do not know any details, and it may be unwise to speak or place blame from a position of ignorance. I do, however, appreciate the European perspective. IMHO, it would be wise for us on this side of the pond to consider many of the things you say.

    • I’ve been asking myself the same questions. My heart aches for Denise and Michael.

  2. And please don’t talk to me of stewardship.

    Stewardship has to do with handling the resources we have been entrusted with wisely and faithfully; it does not mean acting in a cheap and callous manner.

  3. Wolf Paul, I would have to say as an American that I am also puzzled by the little I know of the situation. I have worked for several employers who had employees who became ill, sometimes for months or years. They did not lose their jobs or their insurance. If they couldn’t work at all during the entire length of illness, there were short-term and then long-term disability policies that ensured a continued income. Some people were able to return to work after a year or so, with little to no loss of income, and certainly no loss of insurance, in the meantime. That has been the norm as I have seen it. really, if everyone lost their job and income when they became ill, you’d see a lot of general outcry, whereas most (employed) people seem pretty happy with their insurance situation.

    Whatever the situation is for Michael, it’s not American per se. I don’t know what this is. I do know that Michael needs our prayers and our monetary support, but the job details are certainly very puzzling.

  4. My sympathies, Michael Bell, re: your sleep apnea. I was diagnosed last year with a mild case of such, but I, too, have to wear a mask at night. It stopped my wife’s-sleep-interrupting snoring. Per the sleep study, I wasn’t getting into REM sleep, so I guess it’s good for me. Also, I have a friend who is largely incapacitated with Congestive Heart Disease, which is the end result of untreated sleep apnea.

    Maybe try a different mask, perhaps?

  5. Tom Huguenot says

    Wolf Paul,

    I live in Europe too, and I am shocked to hear what’s happening to Michael Spencer regarding his health insurance.
    This being said, the only thing we can do is help him in a practical way. Neither you nor I will fix a system that most Americans seem to approve (if not, the USA would have adopted a Social Security system comparable to ours years ago). As long as it does not get to us, I’m fine with it. The Americans are a great people and I think we should let them deal with their own business.

    We can only count our blessings and thank God for what we have (until when???). I can just say that, as an under-paid pastor and a diabetic, I could never make it with a private health insurance like the ones they have in the States.

  6. I think the school that Michael Spencer worked for runs on a “shoe string” so to speak, and maybe they figure that they cannot afford to pay someone who is too sick to work. But, I, too, find that very sad and very sad that they could not continue his insurance. I work for the State of Maine and if someone runs out of sick time due to an illness, other State employees can donate 1 or 2 days of vacation time for the person. I just recently did that for someone and have done it in the past. I can live without those two days, but if a lot of us donate those two days for him, the man can hopefully take the time he needs to get well and return to work.

    I would hope that Denise could pick him up as a dependent on HER insurance, but it could be that the price is too high for her to afford that. I cover my husband’s insurance but if I was to retire, the monthly amount I would have to pay for him would make it so that we could not afford to pay our bills and eat.

    The American insurance/health system definitely needs work. People should not be losing their homes because the get sick. (I am not saying this is happening to Michael. I am just saying.)

    Michael Bell: I wish you well dealing with the sleep apnea and diabetes.

  7. Michael has not lost his job. After two months of not working, he is no longer getting paid. If he were able to come back to work tomorrow or in six months he will be welcomed. It’s unfortunate that his insurance will run out, and I have to admit that I don’t understand it myself. I would think if he’s unable to work, he should qualify for some type of disability income, but I have no idea how that works. He is no danger of loosing his home, it belongs to the school. They did not “get rid of” him, and are not going to. And for the benefit of our European friends, nothing about the ministry he is involved in respresents the American way of life nor our nation’s health care system. It is a totally unique thing unto itself.

    • Thank you, Clark. Is there some central Southern Baptist group or person we could write to, petitioning them to somehow pay for any medical bills that Michael is now accruing or for them to find some insurance that can cover Michael and pay for that? I do not know who to address this to, but wondered if maybe you know. I may send the same question to a few other people. If people from all over the world from all kinds of denominations asked this of Michael’s Southern Baptist…authorities?…maybe that would help. BUT…I would not do this before checking with Denise first.

      • I have contacted Joanie D. by e-mail and addressed some of the concerns she raises in the above comment. I think Denise will say that same thing to iMonk readers that I am saying now: Please do not start sending petition letters/e-mails/phone calls to Michael’s employer, nor to any agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Michael works for good people who are well aware of his situation. Use the Pay Pal Donation button, and spread the word. Pre-order Michael’s book from Amazon; many people have already done so. Please do not form an angry mob and start mailing angry letters. No good can come of that, and Michael will not be pleased.

        • Thank you, Clark, and thank you for your personal email. I am glad to know that Michael will be taken care of. Some of us were definitely beginning to wonder and worry about that!

    • Thanks for the update and clarifications Clark.

    • Please ignore this question if it seems in any way inappropriate or overly intrusive into things that aren’t my business, but I have been wondering something … Maybe Clark can clarify.

      What does it mean that Michael’s “health insurance through his employer ends?” I can think of a spectrum of meanings.

      One end of the spectrum is that Michael’s employer’s contribution to paying his health insurance is ending, but Michael will still have access (as employee on disability, COBRA, through Denise, something) to being a part of that group plan if he will pay for it himself. That can be very expensive, but I can comprehend his friends and admirers managing that for him.

      The other end of the spectrum is that Michael is losing access to his employer’s group plan, can’t get it through Denise, can’t get it through COBRA (are church employers exempt from COBRA … separation of church & state and all that?), Kentucky has no last-resort public group plan (some states do; some states don’t), individual health insurance is impossible to obtain with a serious pre-existing condition … and Michael and Denise are left looking at paying for cancer treatment out of pocket (or accepting whatever charity care various parts of the health system will provide.) That’s a lot bigger GULP than thinking about “ok, we need to fund health insurance premiums. Expensive, but I think we can do this.”

      I really feel awful asking details like that, but … but … knowing would help me plan.

  8. Concerning CPAP masks: I originally tried the mask, but it was hot and cumbersome. There are also “nasal pillows” which are lighter weight and much cooler to wear. The link is just a random search of what I’ve been using for the past two years.



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