Monday, May 28, 2012

Daddy's Closed Foot Locker

Throughout my life, I received little biographical information about my father. Part of this silence, I strongly suspect, should be attributed to my self-absorption. I never really asked many questions about Daddy.

He served as a sergeant in the Army during World War II. A couple times, I saw glossy black and white photos of him and his platoon, squadron, or whatever it was. I vaguely recollect a picture of them in white tee shirts and dog tags, smoking cigarettes as they stood, sat or squatted to pose for the camera.

Mom stored his foot locker in my sister's closet. At times, I wanted to sort through it, wondering what treasures it held. Now I can't figure out my reticence to ask permission to do so. Actually, I'm surprised my sister and I didn't sneak into it without permission, since we rarely bothered to observe protocol in other situations. Something tells me, however, that Mom might have welcomed the opportunity to go through that foot locker with us.

Daddy died when I was 10, so many things about him lie veiled behind 48 years of life going on without him. I don't know what part he played in The War (as Mom calls it, with a hint of nostalgia in her voice), but this Memorial Day, I want to honor his service to our country. Even without photos, without stories, and without rummaging through his mysterious foot locker, I know my dad did his part to keep our country free. And that knowledge makes me proud.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Learning Curve

John's doing exceptionally well--I just returned from visiting him. Now I'm getting impatient for him to come home.

Two weeks ago, we wondered if he'd even survive surgery, and now we're talking about his return home! Amazing! Have I learned through this miracle to trust God's goodness? Have I seen the folly of shaking my metaphorical fist at Him, fully expecting Him to do the opposite of whatever I ask? Oh, I pray that I've learned how great and wonderful His mercy is. That His kindness will lead me to repentance.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Unafraid To Wrestle

Reading Facebook comments does offer exposure to thoughts and attitudes of non-Christians and liberal Christians (I'm not sure, however, how liberal a person's theology can be and still allow the person to claim the title "Christian"). If nothing else, the comments provide fodder for my blog! Well, actually they serve a greater purpose of helping me contend for the faith responsibly.

Today, in reply to a link I'd posted that gave Scriptural evidence for the doctrine in question (I'll be deliberately vague to protect the identities of the people involved), someone posted that "Fundamentalists" paint everything in black and white out of fear of gray areas. Apparently, those of us who tailor our theology to the Bible fear having to think "outside the box." In fact, conservative theology indicates, if I understand the person correctly, an obvious aversion to independent thought. We just mindlessly parrot Bible verses, checking our thinking caps at the door.

Never mind that one could just as easily argue that theological liberals do a similar thing, using politically correct ideology (rather than Scripture) as their anchor. But that broad brush would be unfair, since some liberals (like some conservatives) do think deeply before reaching conclusions. Biblically, their conclusions are wrong, but I respect the fact that they may have thought very carefully about the topics.

I can't, however, respect the assumption that adherence to conservative theology and the Bible means that Christians don't wrestle with "grey areas," or that we refuse to think for ourselves. Just this afternoon, as a matter of fact, our Bible Study group examined Psalm 37:1-9, and we wrestled over how to apply the idea of trusting Him to guide us to our every day lives. I assure you, our brains seriously engaged themselves in understanding how that passage plays out.

Yes,  the Bible sets the standard, and my goal is to conform my thoughts to its teachings. Since I believe it to be the Word of God, it necessarily follows that I accept its authority as final, But my acceptance doesn't mean I haven't wrestled with it. Only God knows how much, how deeply, I've struggled with various doctrines and passages, especially those that flew in the face of my personal experience. Believing the Bible can often cause intellectual discomfort, and occasionally even pain. It takes courage to confront it. And even greater courage to yield to it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homosexuality, Mutiny And Pharisees

My plan since sometime this past fall had been to compose a blog post, or perhaps a series of blog posts on the topic of homosexuality. A situation which I'm not yet at liberty to disclose prompted this plan, and I want to address the person involved privately before I write about the matter here. Since October, I've been praying and carefully studying the Bible, making sure I understand both this person's perspective and the Bible's teaching, but John's cancer, heart attack, hospitalization and surgery necessitated that I put the issue on the back burner. Doing so was, very obviously, appropriate.

Then President Obama admitted what we already knew "evolved." I'm not sure why his predictable announcement that he favors same sex marriage has thrust the debate over homosexuality into the limelight these past two weeks, but the Internet is practically swimming in various posts examining the topic. Admittedly, all the attention focused on homosexuality (and especially on what the Word of God says about it) has added clarity to how I will approach the conversation with my friend, but I didn't expect to bring it up publicly until I read "Answering Basic Questions About Homosexuality; Or, Why I Will Never Be A Big Conference Headliner, I Guess" in today's Pyromaniacs blog.

Dan Philips, who authored the blog post, addresses the question of whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful. (50 years ago, such a question would be ludicrous.) Yes, Philips answers. One cannot pursue a homosexual identity/lifestyle and expect to escape God's wrath. But he immediately follows that statement with this pivotal paragraph:

Having said that, let me take a step back and say that "sin" is any want of conformity to the will and nature of God. Sin is rebellion against God's Lordship. It is refusal to do what God commands, or insisting on doing what God forbids, or rejecting what God enjoins. It had its birth in Adam and Eve's insane desire to "be as God." Every sin is an attempt to be God instead of God.
 
Before I dare to write about homosexuality, I must allow the Lord to deal with the numerous logs in my own eye. I, along with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, must regain the perspective that all sin, including homosexual behavior, is overt mutiny against God. Dan Philips makes that point, and it can't be over-emphasized. You see, Jesus did not fault the Pharisees for taking stands against sin...at least when they derived those stands from Scripture. Rather, He faulted them for not first acknowledging their own rebellion against the God they claimed to represent.

Jesus is Lord, and requires obedience from all of us. Heterosexual sin is just as heinous as homosexual sin, as is gossip, worry, complaining, anger...and a whole litany of other thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Homosexuality certainly is one manifestation of defiance against His Word, and it's important to maintain that stance even amid increasing pressure to condone it by legalizing same sex marriage. So yes, I will maintain a Biblical opposition to homosexual behavior. But in doing so, may I first allow the Holy Spirit to continually examine my heart, that my own mutiny against Him may be crushed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mini-Boston Adventure

The Old State House
The RIDE, as a para-transit service for disabled and elderly people who can't always access more standard forms of public transportation, operates as a shared service. While having to sit on the van waiting for the driver to pick up or drop off other passengers often tests my patience (especially if I know someone's waiting for me), there are actually some rare occasions when such meandering turns out to delight me.

Yesterday afforded me one of those occasions, even though it resulted is a slightly shorter visit with John. We picked up a couple who needed to go to Downtown Crossing, and would be let off first. The joy of it all was that we drove by many of the places in Boston that I cherish.

Just glimpsing Boston Common, Old South Meeting House, the Old Corner Bookstore, the Old State House and Old West Church (where Louisa May Alcott attended Sunday School as a child) reassured me. The places, holding so many familiar stories of colonists who dared to say no to tyranny and writers who dared to say yes to the birth of American Literature, are patiently awaiting John's recovery, when we will once again visit them.

Moving Day And John's 95%

I'm pleased and amazed to announce that John's going back to New England Sinai Rehab even as I type this announcement. He met his oncologist today, who said the cancer had only reached level 2A. They got it just as it was about to penetrate the colon wall, and they did get all of it. There's only a 5% chance of recurrence. In coming weeks, we'll use a book on making informed decisions about cancer treatments that Nanci (my good friend from college) sent to us as part of our process in deciding about chemo. The oncologist sees extra risks to chemo due to John's disability, which he'll explain more fully when John and I meet with him. Pray that we'll make a very wise decision. And rejoice with us that the Lord has been so merciful!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mere Opinion

In recent years, I've noticed that younger adults tend to defend their ideology with the phrase, "I think." While that tendency is somewhat more understandable in respect to non-Christians (because they lack the absolute standard of Scripture), the implication that personal opinion as opposed to something objective and external troubles me.

Speaking generally, there's a certain arrogance in using the words, "I think" to argue one's point. What validates a person's opinion? A few days ago, a non-Christian tried to "correct" my Biblical but politically incorrect views by repeating the phrase, "I think" as if those words lent authority to her position. What she thought, apparently, should persuade me that she knew better than the Bible how to approach the matter in question. The Bible bore no relevance compared to her own thoughts. Therefore, it seemed, my argument (dare I say, my thoughts) were categorically invalidated by her thoughts.

Granted, non-Christians do not, and will not, submit to the wisdom of God, nor should Christians expect them to do so. Yet it is appropriate to point out that opinion, even if it is shared by other, is not a sufficient basis for rejecting Scripture's principles. Truth, contrary to the mantra that has permeated culture since the 1960s, is not relative. Individual thinkers cannot determine personal truths.

For example, suppose I think that one plus one equaled 78. I might be completely sincere in my opinion, despite repeated demonstrations that one plus one can only equal two. But my sincerity, as deeply cherished as it is, has no power to change objective reality. I can think one plus one equals 78 as much as I wish, but my opinion simply doesn't change the fact.

God reveals Himself, as well as His thoughts, in the Bible, often refuting human reason. We may dislike His teachings, and in fact, most people very much do dislike them, but that dislike can't negate His truth any more than my desire for one plus one to equal 78 can negate the laws of mathematics. He is the Creator, as well as the Lord, giving Him the authority to determine truth from falsehood. What we think has no bearing on what He says, but what He says certainly determines what I think.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

You Tell Me

How seriously do you, my dear readers, take the Bible? You know, if you read my blog with any degree of regularity, how I view it, but I wonder what your views are. So I'm setting up a couple of polls, hoping the anonymity will make it comfortable for you to be honest.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Improvements

Just letting people know that John was transferred from ICU to the pulmonary care floor last night, which for him is like being put in a regular room. He's tired, since the transfer kept him up till midnight, and he's a bit anxious about his bloating (which actually is fairly typical after colon surgery), but he's generally doing well. Best of all, he has a phone by his bed, so I can call him!!! We praise the Lord for all the ways He's answering prayers for John, and we're beginning to feel hopeful that he'll come home soon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Of First Importance

Is John's crisis over? Yes and no. Certainly, surgery presented the biggest hurdle, but recovery has its own risks and challenges. I'll be visiting him at least twice next week...hopefully more. And when I visit, I never want to leave him. Even at his weakest, he gives me strength, though I surely have no idea how he manages to do so.

Making those trips into Boston, especially on The RIDE, will be both time-consuming and tiring, of course. So much of my life is altered by his hospitalization, it seems, that I find myself struggling with how I should channel my time and energy. I have matters--important spiritual matters, really--that I'd like to address, but right now John draws all my attention and much of my time. So those matters remain on hold, waiting until things with John's health stabilize.

And part of me thinks I should resume tackling these matters. Doing so requires, first of all, writing a difficult email to a valued friend who has embraced serious doctrinal error, which he now propagates very publicly. He requested, way back before Thanksgiving, that I confront him privately, and I spent the next few months studying his blog, checking it against Scripture, and praying. Just when I felt prepared to write to him, the cancer diagnosis turned life inside out.

So, what to do? Although I strongly believe I should deal with my friend, now doesn't seem to be the time. My husband needs me. And, frankly, that settles it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Steps

I made it in to see John today. He's making better progress than he thinks he is, and is slowly starting with the wise-cracks. There are a few small concerns, but he's overall quite stable. At present, he has no access to a phone, so we can only communicate  when I visit. His color is good, and his blood pressure is getting stabilized. His pain is greatly diminished. I'm guardedly optimistic.

He really wants me to visit as often as I can, but I need people to go on The RIDE with me. I need help buzzing in to ICU on that end, and help getting into my apartment on this end. The time-frame would be roughly 10:30 am till 3:00 pm. I'm willing to pay and/or buy lunch.

Please keep praying for a smooth recovery and that I can see him

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Very Good News On John's Surgery

John didn't get to the operating room until 1:30 (his surgery was scheduled for 10:00) because the surgery before his was complicated. Despite the predicted time of 4 to 5 hours, however, he was done by 4:00. Dr. Shelito said he believes he removed all of the affected area--I'm hoping that means chemo will be unnecessary.

I got up to ICU a bit before 6:00, and saw him briefly. He was in tremendous pain, and fussed like a baby. They asked me to leave until they could get him reasonably comfortable, but a little after 6:30 they let me go back in for a moment. His pain was still unmanageable and his blood pressure wasn't where they wanted it, but he could talk a little. He kicked me out!

When I called today, his pain was much more under control, and he was talking. They're still working on his blood pressure, but overall he's doing quite well! Praise God! Please pray for his blood pressure, his breathing and for protection against infection.

I don't believe prayer "works," so much as I believe the Lord answers the prayers of those who are made righteous by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. A subtle difference, perhaps, but I knew I could come before the Lord only on His merits, and I confessed that fact repeatedly as I prayed. So as we rejoice, let's be careful to remember that all glory belongs to Jesus.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Changes Marriage Makes

Afternoon nap three months into marriage
Even on the night before our wedding, the thought of sharing a bed, even with John (maybe especially with John, since I'd never slept with a man), filled me with apprehension. On occasion, traveling had necessitated sharing beds with traveling companions/ Personal Care Attendants, making me think that singleness might actually have at least one advantage. Besides being a light sleeper, I liked the privacy with the Lord, and sharing a bed intruded on my intimate prayer times with Him. So, while I eagerly anticipated certain aspects of the wedding night, I also experienced a considerable degree of nervousness.

For the past six weeks, of course, I've been sleeping alone in our bed, hating it! John's side is uncomfortably empty, and I constantly feel as if he should be there. Adjusting to sleeping without my husband has been surprisingly much more difficult than adjusting to sleeping with him, as if sleeping by myself simply isn't natural. As a result, when I think back to my reticence as I approached marriage, I laugh a bit.

Being married has changed more than just my attitude about sharing a bed, however. During the early months of marriage, I proudly displayed my "spirituality" in our Adult Sunday School class by stating my conviction that, since the Lord had merely loaned John to me for our brief time on earth, I'd willing surrender him when Jesus called him home.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. ~~Job 1:21b (ESV)


Now, there's a certain merit to my willingness back then to offer John back to the Lord, but I've since learned that the Lord meant it when He said:


Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. ~~Genesis 2:24 (ESV)


John, as my husband, has become such a part of me that losing him would be losing my very heart. Yes, I'd survive, and I'd still be complete in Christ, but I'd also be missing a big part of who I've become in the last ten years. I'd repeat Job's words until I eventually meant them, but my praise would be a sacrifice. Being married has made me less cavalier about John, And maybe that's God's intent.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ignoring Job's Wife

Tuesday is John's surgery. Yes, I'm fearful, struggling with God as I never have. Oh, I don't doubt His existence, nor do I doubt that He will take care of me. I just question whether His will for us coincides with my hopes and desires. In discouragement, I've screamed angry words at Him with such vehemence that my throat felt lacerated and raw.

But I can't surrender to my emotions that, very much like Job's wife, tempt me to "curse God and die." I've walked with Him so long that, despite saying "I hate You" much like I told my mother I hated her when I was a teenager, I can't stop loving Him. I pray He'll be merciful to me...a sinner.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fun With Rain

My Paint Shop Pro group's challenge this month was to do something involving rain, leading me to concoct this:


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fighting Breast Cancer When The Government Won't

Having a friend who has been successfully treated for breast cancer as a participant in clinical trials of TDM-1, I have long been puzzled and disturbed by the FDA's reluctance to approve the drug. This friend and her husband have, for several months, been requesting a meeting with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to present a petition asking for an investigation into this matter. Today, Ms. Sebelius' office has rejected the meeting (and therefore the petition), saying "We do not wish to escalate this matter further."

How many thousands of women across this country there are that could be saved if the FDA would approve TDM-1! So many Americans donate to organizations and participate in walks to fund breast cancer research, yet when a drug is developed which shows great potential in clinical trials, the FDA resists its approval and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "wishes not to escalate the matter." I, on the other hand, believe that, in the interest of saving lives, escalating the matter is a moral imperative!

I ask that you email seth.h.wainer@hhs.gov and christie.hager@hhs.gov to encourage their office reconsider meeting with Phillip and Lorriane McCartin, accepting their petition, and investigating the FDA's reluctance to approve TDM-1. Thank you. And join the Facebook group, Our Her2 Cancer Struggle (https://www.facebook.com/groups/196769673687618/410676115630305/?notif_t=group_comment_reply) for updates on this battle.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sides Of Our Mountain

John's surgery will happen a week from tomorrow. Interestingly, both of us feel more confident lately. Oh sure, there's always that uncomfortable possibility that he might not make it, but the probability is that he will. That probability is where I need to rest.

Yesterday, I watched The Other Side of the Mountain, Part II, about Olympic hopeful Jill Kinmont. While competing in a downhill skiing event in 1955, Kinmont fell off a cliff, incurring a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic (the story is told in the first movie--both can be streamed using Netflix Instant Play). As she adjusted to her disability, two men she'd wanted to marry died tragic deaths.

Part II focuses on her romance with John Boothe, a truck driver from her beloved town of Bishop, California. Slowly, he convinces her (and her overly protective mother) that he is prepared to take on the challenge of being both her husband and her Personal Care Attendant. Just as she's ready to accept his proposal of marriage, however, a radio report of a truck driver's fatal accident fills her with fear that she'll once again lose the man she loves.

Watching it, her fears seemed so obviously silly and irrational. But then, I knew what happened in real life. Still, the Lord used the movie to remind me that I can't judge what He's going to do with me and John based on experience. So far, His answers to our prayers have been opposite to our desires: cancer instead of a hemorrhoid, a heart attack when we requested a colonoscopy free of complications, the rehab hospital most difficult for me to get to, no time at home before surgery, and no possibility of the less invasive surgery. But all these disappointments don't mean that John won't make it next Tuesday, We'll have to see what the Lord has in mind.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Well-Considered Vows

As John recovers from his heart attack and prepares for colon cancer surgery, the vows I made to him almost ten years ago flood my memory.

For better, for worse.
For richer, for poorer.
In sickness and in health.
Till death us do part.

A few weeks after our wedding, one of my wedding guests emailed me, complaining that I'd giggled on the words: "worse," "poorer," "sickness" and "death." He interpreted my giggles as indications of mockery, and admonished me to realize how serious those promises actually were. The gentleman didn't know, however, that those giggles arose, not from a failure to understand the full weight of my vows, but rather from an intense awareness that I was making extremely sober promises to both John and the Lord who judges my heart. I was not engaging in mere tradition just so I could have a nice church wedding. I was trembling before a holy God, knowing John's health was fragile.


Months before the wedding, I mentioned to a friend that spouses who take these vows can never legitimately claim, "I never signed up for this!" Some marriages have a lot more worse, poorer and sickness than ours has had up until now, and I don't mean to be insensitive to people who are genuinely suffering. At the same time, as I encounter frustration, fear and anger towards God over John's illness, I want to defiantly scream, "I never signed up for this!"

Then, even as I lie in that huge bed night after night, staring at the side that John should fill, I remember that this heartache is precisely what I signed up for. My job is to love John through his ordeal, encouraging him, supporting him and praying for him. Yeah, it's hard! I'm very unhappy. But I meant the vows I took, despite my nervous giggles, and now is the time to translate those vows into action.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meeting With John's Surgeon

Today John and I had the consultation with his surgeon. It wasn't very pleasant, as he explained that John's scoliosis has rearranged the position of his intestines to such a degree that the less invasive surgery really can't be done. But he's fairly confident that John will survive the operation.

The main concern he has is that John's recovery will be prolonged due to his breathing issues. I'm not sure that being more ventilator-dependent will be that much of a change for John, but we'll see. In some respects, the meeting disappointed us; in other respects it encouraged us. We seek continued prayers. The Lord has a plan, even though we've been disappointed in several steps. Please pray that I'll trust His wisdom.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Disloyal Friendship

Friendship. What a precious gift! As I think over various friendships the Lord has placed in my life, I see how beautiful those moments are when minds and hearts touch, joining in purpose and resolution. Although friends never quite achieve the unity of man and wife, they do enjoy unexplainable bonds that often strengthen through hardships. Friends are the ones we depend on. And God created us to function in those havens of mutual interdependence.

Yet there is one friendship that repulses God's heart to such an extent that He calls it spiritual adultery. When Christians cozy up to the values, habits and practices of the world (meaning the social system that neglects, ignores or outright rejects the authority of Christ as He reveals Himself in Scripture), we essentially choose a friendship that automatically results in implicit disloyalty to Him. Try as we might to maintain both relationships, the Lord firmly declares that He refuses to validate this friendship that opposes Him.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. ~~James 4:4 (ESV)

And yet, the evangelical church, once known for its conservative theology, increasingly embraces worldly attitudes, bending the Word of God to rationalize its rebellion against the clear teaching of Scripture. We ordain women, we sanction divorce for reasons other than adultery or desertion by an unbelieving spouse, we dabble in astrology, and now we've begun to deny that homosexual behavior is sinful. (Those, of course, are only a few examples of our capitulation to the world.)



Holiness, on the other hand, calls Christians to hold values and behaviors that distinguish us from the world. Sometimes, these distinctions will cause people to admire us. More often, however, they will arouse animosity because we reflect a God who loves with such purity that He cannot tolerate anything impure. His grace in covering our sin with the blood of Jesus Christ is intended to draw us to imitate His holiness and to separate us to Him. In that holiness, we enjoy friendship with Him.

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