Just a quick update to let all my blogging friends know the best news EVER. I’m going to be a grandmother. Nathan and Janae’ are about 10 weeks pregnant. The baby will arrive about April 27th. As you might guess, we are thrilled. God is so good! Do you have any suggestions on names to call a grandma? I am old-fashioned, so grandma is just fine. But as you’ve come to realize, I love to play with words. What names do you use for grandma?
September 21, 2009
Dog Day Afternoon
Do dogs have emotions? That seemed like a harmless conversation for Christian friends to enjoy over lunch. While ordering salad Gretchen (names have been changed to protect the innocent) extolled the incredible smarts and heart of her pooch. “I just know that Fido (again a pseudonym) senses when I’m sad and cuddles up to comfort me. He’s so sweet.”
With deadpan delivery, I replied, “You think your dog sympathizes? You’re projecting human emotions onto an animal.”
Heads spinning like Regan in The Exorcists they intoned, “You don’t think dogs have feelings?
Awkward. “Animals don’t have a soul,” I defended, “which the Bible describes as the seat of emotions. And only humans have emotions.” I protested that this conversation put us on a theological slippery slope. We were headed to dangerous Creation vs. Evolution territory.
“Well, my dogs gets sad and happy,” said Tiffany (not her real name), “and no one can tell me otherwise.”
I countered, “Have you ever seen a cow cry over an amazing sunset?”
“Everything you attribute to emotion can be explained by instinct, trained response, or reflexes like Pavlov’s dogs,” I continued. Little did I know that I’d started something close to the Middle East Crisis at our table. To save the friendship and our appetites we agreed to change the subject. But knowing my friends like I do, I knew we would each run home to google and gather evidence for our side of the argument.
Dog lovers (and I consider myself one) don’t hate me for the following facts. But in Bible times dogs get a very bad rap. They were half-wild creatures that roamed in packs often feeding on refuse, including dead bodies. The term “dog” referred to impure people since they are considered unclean. False prophets were called dogs as well as those shut out of the kingdom of heaven.
The nicest thing mentioned about dogs in the New Testament was a conversation between Jesus and a Gentile woman who defended her need for Jesus’ healing touch as much as the Jewish people. “Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28 NKJV). Note that she did not elevate a dog to the level of a human, but demoted herself to the low estate of a dog.
So, where am I going with this? I don’t think there’s time on a blog about a bald woman with cancer to debate this issue. Truthfully, I’d love to change up the conversation for a bit. Talking about oneself continuously just feels self indulgent. (See, I just referred to myself in the third person.) I’m not going into denial or anything. I just don’t want to become the poster-child for peritoneal cancer. I’ll continue to update you. However, would it be okay if we talked about other stuff, too?
All my friends know that I adore my dog, Winston. He’s the most brilliant and precocious canine in the universe. Every night he indulges me when he comes to bed and allows me to pet him for as long as he can endure. Then with a harrumph he moves to the end of the bed…as far out of my reach as possible. I’ve heard that a pet (specifically petting them) lowers the blood pressure. So there’s my proof. I get emotional gratification from my dog and since he’s a pack animal my grooming him proves that he’s the Alpha. But my affection for my dog doesn’t warp my Biblical basics.
September 20, 2009
Hooray for Half-Time!
Cheerleaders spring into action when the whistle blows half-time. While teams hit the locker room, the squad flips into formation. The funky music and their fancy moves infuse the audience with fresh hope for the game’s final outcome. Will my team get the win? When does coach call the game-changing strategy? Who runs the eye-dropping upset? Half-time—full of potential! Just as many minutes lay ahead as those that have fallen behind. It’s the shining moment when anything seems possible.
On the other hand, half-way just doesn’t sound as thrilling as half-time. “Hey, I’m half-way through War and Peace; just 700 pages to go.” When working toward a PhD, hearing “I’m Mid-way with only 5 more years of study and a dissertation to write,” sounds daunting. And no NASA astronaut wants to make it half-way to the moon. Am I right? One term leaves you wanting more, but the other overwhelms you with so much more to come.
Last week I hit my half-way chemotherapy mark. I should be optimistic. “Woo hoo, I’m half done!” But I’m having a hard time looking at three more installments with excitement. The first series have caused a level of fatigue indescribable to those who have not undergone this type of treatment. I play possum like a pro… Awake enough to hear the news on the television, but lacking the energy to open my eyes and see it, too. For a few days, things just don’t taste the same. Even drinking water leaves an after taste, something akin to morning mouth. My digestive system functions like a preview of “Alien vs. Predator.” Who’s living in my intestines and what does it want? And today my hands twinge slightly with a tingling neuropathy. That could end my beading career.
So I’m asking how to change my half-way mentality into half-time momentum. You know the glass half-full or half-empty scenario. The answer is knowing that Christianity is not a solo sport, but a team effort. My previous blog likened perseverance to running a marathon. But running alone leads to isolation and defeat. So today, I recognize my teammates. First, the strategy from my Head Coach Jesus ensures ultimate victory over sickness and sin. The course He’s marked doesn’t end in a ribbon decorated park, but at heaven’s pearly gates where there is no pain or hurt. He’s, also, enlisted fellow competitors to show me success by running ahead with endurance. I can almost hear my half-time cheerleaders rallying in the grand stands, Give me an “L!” “L!” “Give me an E!” “E” Give me a….
This is my half-time prayer, to, “take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong” (Heb. 12:12-13). I’m pretty sure I got another half-a-game in me.
Driving along Rio Grande, on the way to church this morning, I witnessed the final stragglers push through the last mile of the New Mexico Marathon. Some still ran, others managed to race walk, and a few drew fresh energy from road-side encouragers. But others looked like they’d barely limp across the finish line. The scene jogged this thought, “The race of faith isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon!” After nearly 70 days battling this illness, I feel tired. I’ve been a trooper muscling my way through surgery, CT scans, and gruesome procedures. I’ve hurdled past chemo, hair loss, and nausea. But about now, with four more treatments to go, I’d like to be done. I don’t want all the attention or the slow speed of recoup and recovery. I know that others have suffered longer and deeper. I’m fully aware that God knows my dusty frame and exactly how much it can take. But sometimes trials seem to linger just a little too long. After you round one corner, another curve takes its place. “Hey, who keeps moving the finish line?”
Perhaps living “life at the speed of Internet” breeds impatience. If something doesn’t happen instantly, then it’s a nanosecond too long. Think of it, in just one decade we abandoned snail mail for email. And now that’s too slow. Today, we text and twitter in real time with a lexicon of abbreviated phrases instead of grammatical sentences. There’s no need to drive to the local library to research on the micro-fiche scanning endless films to find your data. Now, from the convenience of your own home, just tip tap your way to Google to retrieve exhaustive and instant results.
FYI, the Bible doesn’t offer short-cuts, abbreviations, or a face-track to faith. The writer of Hebrews coaches us to, “run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Emphasis lies upon the word “endurance.” It describes both the mileage as well as the mind-set the runner must achieve. The Greek translation means patience, continuance, or waiting; implying a great distance. However, endurance can also be interpreted as cheerful or hopeful; describing a godly attitude. For Christians our journey should be long and light-hearted.
I’ve drawn inspiration from Bill Broadhurst who entered the Pepsi Challenge 10K race in Omaha, Nebraska. Ten years prior his left side became paralyzed after an aneurysm damaged his brain. One July morning he joined 1,200 lithe-looking runners at the starting line. The crowd lurched at the gun shot start. Bill threws his stiff left leg forward, pivoted on it as his right foot hit the ground. His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seemed to mock him as the pack faded into the distance. Sweat rolled down his face, pain pierced his ankle, but he kept going. Six miles and two hours and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reached the finish line. A man approached him from a small group of bystanders. It was Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner and winner of this particular race. “Here,” says Rodgers, putting his medal around Bill’s neck, “You’ve worked harder for this than I have.”
So know I must learn how to plod when all my life I’ve plowed. It’s not about the dash but the distance. You might say that I’m in training for the big one. Sure I may have a couple of 5Ks or 10Ks under my belt. But life is a marathon. I’m assured that once “I have finished the race…there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
September 1, 2009
Mathematicians instruct us that a common denominator is a quantity into which all the denominators of a set of fractions may be divided without a remainder. Put more simply, a “Common” Denominator just means that the denominators (the lower part of a fraction) in two or more fractions are the same. But the term has sociological meaning, too. It describes an attribute common to all characters in a category or a shared trait; as in “Unbelievably, everyone in their family shared the common denominator of being left- handed.”
For human beings, pain is the common denominator. None of us escape its grasp. Eventually, everyone you know will walk through a season of suffering. It comes, uninvited, to the infant born with special needs and in equal measure to the senior citizen whose genetic predisposition blossoms into disease late in life. You’ll find it on the streets of Harlem as well as the mansion in Hollywood. No race, religious affiliation, or gender is exempt from its grasp. Whether you possess diplomas, trophies, stocks and funds, or great social standing; pain serves as the great equalizer. In a world full of diversity, it’s the one thing we all share.
So why do we act so surprised when we encounter pain? What makes us think that we are the one exception to the rule? Do we really expect this unwelcomed visitor to pass us by? James taught that we should expect trials not avoid them. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). That sentence is packed full of punch. First, the word “count” is an accounting term that implies that you can take this statement to the bank. The second key term, “when” indicates time. James doesn’t suggest “if” one day you might suffer, but “when” you get hit, it’ll hurt. Thirdly, pain comes in a variety of forms. “Various” means multi-colored or diverse. In other words, suffering comes in many shapes and sizes; there’s one form that perfectly suits you.
By now, you’re thinking this is the most downer blog you’ve ever read. Well here’s the good news. Jesus was more emphatic in his prediction of pain, but He also had a common denominator remedy. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). With Jesus pain will still hurt, but it also brings the prescription for peace. Also, it won’t be permanent. We can overcome any situation this world throws our way with God on our side. Jesus promises to transform pain into peace both here and in the hereafter, if we’ll just let Him.