Tuesday, April 6, 2010
One of the sanest Christian voices in America, he will be sorely missed. If you've ever read any of Michael's writings, then you know what I mean. If not, then make the effort to do so from the archives at InternetMonk.com.
Please pray for Michael's family & friends, as they deal with the tragedy and unfairness of his illness and death. Michael now knows that it was all more than worth it. Pray that those close to him may receive a measure of that same assurance.
If you'd like to pre-order a copy of Michael's book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, there is a link on the sidebar. Or, if you'd like to make a donation to help with the family's medical expenses, then click on the Donate button at InternetMonk.com.
Meanwhile, Fred Phelps (of the God Hates Fags Church of Demonic Theology) is alive-and-kicking, at....what?....150 years old??....and is still drawing enough breath to spew his sulfurous bile of Christ dishonoring blasphemies at a nation that's already so dead it thinks he represents what the average Christian believes. God help us.
The good news is that Michael Spencer will do more good, even in death (via InternetMonk.com archives, The Boar's Head Tavern, his upcoming book, and those whose lives he's had such a positive impact on), than Fred Phelps could do if he lived to be a thousand. Grace will always win out over vitriol, as surely as it has defeated sin, death, and Satan. Michael knew that the gospel is all about Grace. "For by grace you have been saved through faith -- and that not of yourself -- it is the gift of God." It is what he strove to show others in his daily life. Through struggle and failure, God's loving grace is the one constant that should never be in doubt to even the weakest Christian. It's all about what Jesus has done to save us, not what we have to do to earn salvation.
We need all the Christians like him we can get. He wasn't perfect, but he strove to be honest -- about his own struggles, and especially about the transforming grace that sustained him in all things. He will be missed. God bless and comfort his family & friends at this most difficult of times.
[Addendum: Michael Spencer's book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, is now available for purchase. Christianity Today printed an excerpt online, which can be read here. Amazon.com also lets you read some of the book here.]
Sunday, April 4, 2010
A brief word from Michael:
The ultimate apologetic is to a dying man.
That is what all those “Where is God?” statements in the Psalms are all about. They are, at least partially, invitations to Christians to speak up for the dying.
All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give.
We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.
The are a lot of different kinds of Good News, but there is little good news in “My argument scored more points than you argument.” But the news that “Christ is risen!” really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.
If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.
What is your apologetic? Make it the full and complete announcement of the Life Giving news about Jesus.
Jesus isn't our boyfriend. He's not our drinking buddy. He's not the poster boy for a Love-Is-Blind theology that thinks that every sin we commit is just the harmless whoopsie daisy of a precocious child's innocent first steps. No, Jesus is the love that sees into the darkest corners of our souls without flinching, and then has the nerve to die for the things in us that are so ugly that even we can't bear to face them. And then he had the audacity to not stay dead! And to top it all off, he promises eternal life to anyone who simply gives their self to him in faith (and even that faith is a gift from him).
For those who think they don't need him, he has nothing to offer. For those who know that they need him, then Happy Easter. He Is Risen. He is the light on the horizon that the hopeless think is the final sunset, but that the faithful know is the first glow of that coming Easter morn when the Son will break forth like the dawning of the perfect day that will never end.
The word, I think, is "Hallelujah!"
Monday, March 29, 2010
[Ahem...It's even better in HD at YouTube. Click HERE.]
As we've gone through the trials and tribulations of the last two years, one of the most amazing things has been how – just when we think we might lose the van (yeah, they've threatened that), or that we've fallen too far behind on bills to ever catch up – a family member or friend will unexpectedly help us in some way that is too perfectly timed to be coincidence (especially when it's happened more than once). Heck, one time the help was even delayed (according to the benefactor), but the delay caused the timing to be perfect! Providence? I daresay.
Needless to say, if it weren't for the various and sundry kinds of support from family and friends, we would not have been able to get though the hardships we've endured. So we're ever grateful to God (my grumpiness and funks notwithstanding), and we're ever grateful to those who heeded the Spirit's nudging when it came. We are humbled and blessed to have people in our lives who love us so much (which was never in doubt, but it still amazes). As a line from the Van Gogh song, “And We Are”, says:
And we are.
Yes, we are.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Such mercy and grace was so overwhelming that it killed me – but Jesus wouldn't let me stay dead. I am still shaken by the touch of such undeserved love. I stagger and babble like a drunken fool who thinks he's dancing and praising God – and the Holy Spirit keeps encouraging the foolishness, and telling God that I am.
The sheer devastatingly Divine JOY of it all can make me weep with delight. He is alive, and I tremble at the prospect of meeting him face-to-face. Some things are so good they're scary. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a loving God – a terrible good. I am humbled and hushed, and hopeful that he'll have me ready when the time comes. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
And, unfortunately, most of the “advice” people offer is either useless or infuriating. I suppose most mean well (at least I hope they do), but good grief! Platitudes, cliches, and band-aid scriptures just don't cut it. Most people are plenty old enough to know better, but what can you do? I mean, even if I were the kind of idiot that grabs a sniper rifle and heads to the nearest clock tower, what are the odds of finding a clock tower that is wheelchair accessible? And then there's the whole issue of not being able to lift the rifle (assuming I did find such a clock tower)... See? I can't even do the things I wouldn't! It's maddening!!
But I digress...
So I've been listening to a lot of music, lately. Obscure music. Out-of-print-for-decades-and-never-to-even-come-close-to-being-in-print-again music. Most of it old folkish Jesus Music. Music that has been like a healing balm to my soul. Music that moves me deeply. And, as is so often the case, music that I can't really share with anyone, because I can't think of anyone I know who'd dig this stuff. And as I thought about that, it really bummed me. And then it dawned on me that that is pretty much how it's always been. I've often been into stuff that no one I knew was really that into. And while it would be cool to have somebody to talk about this stuff with, it's just not likely to happen. (See? Yet another frustration.)
The cool thing, however, is that it's reconnected me with my inner retard – the oddball that's never felt like he's quite fit in anywhere. And, for better or worse, that seems to be the me that I'm most comfortable as. I'm not cool. I'm not especially bright. My lack of self-confidence would kill any motivational expert unfortunate enough to get caught in the gravitational pull of the black hole that is my lack of self-confidence. But I'm okay with my retardation, because that's when I'm most aware of just how absurd most of what too often passes for a meaningful existence in this world is. It's also the place where it's most obvious how much I need what Jesus offers. Jesus said he came for the sick and the broken, and didn't seem to spend a lot of time trying to win over those who thought they already had it all.
Anyway, I found comfort in the songs of these obscure albums. God using music I'd never heard of (that was often recorded halfway around the world, by people who will never have a clue about how powerfully their music was used), to touch and bring healing to someone 30 to 40+ years after the albums were released. Such is the coolness of the Internet. And such is the glorious mercy of the Lord.
Sometimes I think I know a little of how Job might have felt: I didn't get any real answers, but the questions don't seem quite as important now. I don't understand, and yet I am comforted. It is (as the title one of the aforementioned albums suggests), So Confusing, and So Very Clear. Sometimes we don't seem to get answers because we're not asking the right questions. Other times, it's because we've so convinced ourselves there's only one possible answer that we don't hear the truth if it's not the answer we want. And sometimes,...God is just silent (or, at least, he seems silent). But just when you're ready to give up on hearing him in the thunder-clap, burning bush, scripture – or wherever you think he might jump out from to surprise you with an epiphany – he speaks to you through the obscure songs of unknown artists who were humbly trying to express the hopes, doubts, JOYS, and fears that come to anyone who is attempting to follow Jesus through the crowded, noisy, marketplace-of-a-world we live in. It's sometimes like a whisper in a hurricane, and yet the whisper is heard. I don't understand, and yet I'm blessed. I still hurt, and yet I'm comforted. I don't really get it, but I'm thankful nonetheless.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I applied to be a Ninja4Christ – and the comments I left, describing my more than ample qualifications, got mentioned at the site host's blog (my description is the first one listed – and is, of course, the longest winded of the three).
And check out the rest of his blog (it's better than mine). Also, check out his other site CryingWife.com (very funny stuff).
I'm flattered that he even noticed my resume. Now how do I break it to him that I wasn't joking?
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Maybe I'm just getting weak and shallow in my old age, but I've come to realize that the more attention I pay to politics, the less I seem to behave like a disciple of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit, which is supposed to be evident in the life of a Christian, just seems to shrivel up and die. I'm less patient, less compassionate, less loving, less likely to turn the other cheek (which isn't easy to begin with).
I've also noticed that such seems to be true of a lot of other people as well. And I hear all sorts of arguments for why the neglect of such things is excusable (if not acceptable) in light of the current direction and climate of American politics and culture (e.g., the situation we face is too grave and perilous, and the issues too important, to bother with such niceties). Yep,...when Jesus said to love your enemies, he didn't mean your political enemies. Those idiots on the other side are trying to destroy
More and more, I am appalled at how often political involvement seems to consume and corrode peoples' souls. I think a lot of people get involved intending to make some kind of positive difference. Unfortunately, by the time they go through the seemingly unavoidable gauntlet of partisan abuse, that must be endured to rise to any level of influence, they're so warped by the ordeal that they've forgotten whatever high-minded ideals they may have started out with.
Such corruption is troubling enough, in and of itself. But it troubles me even more when professed Christians succumb to such corrupting influences. And one doesn't have to be a mover & shaker to be affected.
I believe that any political system devised by humans will inevitably become corrupt and fail. And, looking at history, humanity's track record doesn't exactly inspire optimism about our chances of finding a political solution to the ills that beset our country and the world. That doesn't mean that some systems aren't better than others, or that it's wrong for Christians to get involved in trying to make things better. But when allegiance to a political party or ideology creates the kinds of angry divisions between believers that have become so commonplace that most don't even notice, then something is seriously messed up.
So I've finally stumbled upon a solution that's so simple I think even I can manage it.
I think your politics are stoopid.
Republican? Stoopid. Democrat? Stoopid. Independent? Stoopid. Socialist? Libertarian? Anarchist?
Stoopid. Stoopid. Stoopid. ___________? Stoopid.
You may sincerely believe that if Jesus were here today he'd be a Conservative Republican – with all the rugged individualism and pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps ethos that goes along with that – but you'd be hard pressed to square such thinking with Jesus' call for living sacrificially, and in humble dependance on him and each other.
You may sincerely believe that if Jesus were here today he'd be a Liberal Democrat – with all the take from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots”, and the-ends-justify-the-means ethos that goes along with that – but you'd be hard pressed to square forcibly taking from some to give to others with Jesus' call for loving your neighbor as yourself, and in humble dependance on him and each other.
The truth is that every political/economic ideology that attempts to appropriate Jesus for the cause ends up with some Frankenstein's monster of a Jesus. The Jesus of the New Testament is offensive to everyone at some point, so bits of him have to be lopped off. It's easy to claim affection for an amputated Jesus. But, in reality, he eventually managed to alienate just about everyone that claimed to believe in him. He taught a message that was so radical – and such a threat to those in power (both political and religious) – that it got him nailed to a cross. And the fact that he wouldn't stay dead put the powers of this world on notice that the rules of the game had changed completely. He said that following him would not endear us to the movers & shakers of this world, but would (more likely than not) do just the opposite. He never promised his followers a nice, safe, comfortable life (in fact, he seemed to promise just the opposite). But that Jesus doesn't always make us feel good about our ambitions, so we build ourselves a new Jesus (one created more in our own image).
Jesus said that if anyone wanted to be his disciple they should deny their self, take up their cross daily and follow him. But when was the last time you heard of any seriously involved politico actually doing anything remotely like that? It usually comes down to the old, “Well, sure I'm a Christian – but we have to fight fire with fire, if we're going to get this country headed in the right direction. The other side must be defeated by whatever means necessary. The stakes are too high to blah blah blah....our children's future...blah blah...vast blah blah conspiracy...blah...war on blah...blah.....bleh....” zzzzzzzzz...
Another troubling thing is how cynical Christians become who get really committed to some political ideology. I think cynicism is a coward's refuge, so it was very disturbing to feel it taking root in my own mind. Of course, cynics rarely admit there's anything wrong with such a mindset. Or they attempt to excuse it with the old, “You're damn right I'm a cynic – I've seen too much!” But the truth is, they really haven't seen enough. Cynicism seems, too often, to be the result of a constricted view of the world – it's what happens when the soul doesn't get enough fresh air and exercise.
Christians aren't to be myopic about the world. The bible claims that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – and even encourages a healthy skepticism – so we have no excuse for being surprised by how bad people can be. But, unlike most cynics, neither can we sit looking down our noses at how stupid other people are. We are those other people. I don't know about you, but I am often astounded by the stupidity of the dude living in my mirror.
Jesus said that anyone who wants to lead should serve sacrificially. He said that following him would bring his followers into conflict with the way the rest of the world operates (even in America). But what most politicians call service doesn't look like anything I could picture Jesus or the early Christians doing. When politicians talk about the sacrifices they make while in office, it often sounds about as convincing as when celebrities complain about how rough it is being rich & famous. And far too many politicians seem to leave office much wealthier than they went in (funny how that works).
Again, I'm more concerned about the corruption of professed Christians – we're supposed to be living by a different set of priorities (as citizen's of another kingdom). Political power, financial gain, and all the perks and prestige that go along with being a mover & shaker are things that followers of Christ are to be wary of. Power really does corrupt, but it seems like too many Christians think themselves immune.
The Old Testament offers some powerful lessons in just how easily power corrupts. Every system of governance that Israel tried eventually failed, and no amount of prosperity ever seemed to be enough. But in the New Testament, Jesus came to set the world on its head and give it a spin. He was a big disappointment to those looking for a political/military Messiah. Instead, he initiated the most subversive revolution this world has ever seen. He called the powerless to follow him (the outcasts, downtrodden, drunks, whores, crooks, tax collectors, children), while seeming almost indifferent to the powerful and elite. He said it's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. So why, then, do so many Christians today seem to think of their wealth and power as Gifts of the Holy Spirit? Is our hubris that delusional – or is it, perhaps, just a pathetic excuse to sample forbidden fruits, thinking feigned ignorance or false magnanimity will fool God into thinking our intentions are good?
Jesus said the world would know his followers by their love for each other. But sometimes that love seems to be disguised as political porno (we've gotta screw them before they screw us). Theological and doctrinal disagreements can get ugly enough – but nothing can compare to a good, old-fashioned, politically partisan free-for-all. Grace, Mercy, and Love-for-one's-enemies are usually the first casualties of such conflicts (and are even looked upon by many as weaknesses). Good humor is rarely to be found (unless it is a “Kick Me” sign, stuck to an opponent's back with a knife). Turning the other cheek is only done when speaking out of the other side of one's mouth. We let the concerns of the world overwhelm our faith in the One who has overcome the world. We've decided that Jesus' way just doesn't get things done fast enough (and with nearly the degree of punishment our “enemies” deserve).
When more attention is paid to the words of pundits than the words of prophets; when Christians are more interested in political elections than God's elect; when Ron Paul gets Christians more excited than the Apostle Paul; when military casualties are confused with Christian martyrdom; when revolution is preferred to revival; when American patriotism becomes synonymous with Christian discipleship; when we can't tell the difference between the sin and the sinner; when a Christian can say, with a straight face, “Give me liberty, or give me death”; when the least-of-these are reduced to some-of-those; when protest replaces prayer; when canvassing replaces witnessing, then something has gone terribly wrong. And I think it's evidence that we no longer believe God is really on the job.
Jesus said we can't serve God and the things of this world. Maybe some people think they can pull it off (and maybe they can), but I'm not one of them. I found it necessary to give one or the other priority in my heart and mind, and it seems to have made a big difference in how I relate to those with whom I disagree strongly on various issues – not to mention improving my attitude in general. And (much to my surprise) it's been easier than I expected. So...
I think your politics are stoopid. I just can't take them that seriously.
Oh,...and in case anyone's wondering:
I think my politics are stoopid, too!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Hmmm... The Crucifixion offensive? Goodness, we can't have that! What a scandal! How dare th.... Oh, wait. It's kind of assumed to be offensive, isn't it? I mean, you don't want to use it just to be offensive -- but isn't it kind of guaranteed to be so? Doesn't the Apostle Paul call it an offense, and "foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God"? Maybe the problem isn't the crucifix outside the church, but, rather, a lack of understanding (or proper perspective) of the cross by those inside.
The church's Reverend Souter says, "As a key exterior symbol for us it was putting people off rather than having a sense of hope and life and the power of the resurrection."
Which is fair enough, I suppose. Passersby not knowing the context of the man on the cross could easily be confused or offended by it. But if it's a problem as a "key exterior symbol", then just move it inside. Right? Wrong. They've apparently given it to a museum (where, one would think, it would be even more potentially confusing or offensive, since it's even further removed from the proximity of a Christian church). But, besides all that, doesn't one kind of have to come to grips with the awfulness of the crucifixion to even get to a sense of hope and life and the power of the resurrection? And what better place than a church?
I find it hard to believe that early Christians were suprised that crucifixion was offensive. In Jesus' time, the simple fact that one was crucified at all was considered a disgrace. And since the horrible spectacle of public crucifixion was kind of a daily fact of life for them, then isn't it possible that Paul keeps reminding them of it because he knew they'd immediately and vividly understand the reference? Aren't we supposed to be shaken-up by the grim reality that Jesus endured such a tortured death for a world that pretty much despises him? And isn't there a danger of minimizing the seriousness of the sins he died for, when we sanitize horrors he suffered procuring the forgiveness of those sins?
Maybe that's why Christianity in Europe has been in such decline for so long. Maybe they just got too civilized and sophisticated for a story with such a crude and violent component to it. Maybe. But then, they seem to tolerate other (more modern) types of violence.
It makes you wonder, don't it?
Obviously, a message that focuses only on our sin-guilt, and the gruesomeness of the price paid for our forgiveness, shouldn't be where the story leaves off. And it's unfortunately true that some people seem to be so obsessed with the physical horrors of the crucifixion that it borders on morbidity. But a message that wants to skip lightly over that part of the story, in order to get on to more pleasant things, seems equally wrong. Western society seems to be either excessively preoccupied with death, or excessively afraid of it -- and neither extreme is healthy (either emotionally or spiritually). Balance seems to be a rarer and rarer thing in the modern church (and society in general), but isn't balance just the kind of thing Christians are called to model in this unbalanced world?
The Reverend also said they want to portray "an accurate biblical picture of the crucifixion as a moment of hopefulness for the world, and not one of despair." But the Apostle Paul spoke of the world viewing the cross as an offense and foolishness. And the writer of Hebrews encouraged Christians to: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
And maybe therein lies the problem. We are to focus on Jesus, but too many want to focus on just the parts of Jesus that don't upset them too much. People (believers and non-believers alike) prefer an amputated Jesus. The Liberation theology Jesus; the prosperity gospel Jesus; the positive thinking Jesus; the fire & brimstone Jesus; the New Age guru Jesus; the ethno-centric Jesus; and I expect to soon start hearing about the 'Liberty-Minded' Jesus (who is a Libertarian/Anarcho-Capitalist). But the Jesus of the Bible transcends and defies such neat and easy catagorizations. The fact that he had a zealot and a tax collector as two of his disciples should be proof enough of the radically life changing nature of the gospel (a zealot would have likely killed a tax collector, if ever their paths crossed in a dark alley -- but not after they encountered Jesus).
Then there are those who confuse the offensiveness of the cross with the offensiveness of their preaching style. But just because people are offended, that doesn't mean they're offended in the way the bible describes. Some people seem to confuse the offensiveness of the message with the obnoxiousness of the messenger. (Which is kind of how cultists think: "Ooooh, we're being persecuted because we're God's true chosen." No, you're being investigated because you're stockpiling an arsenal of military weapons, you're involved in financial illegalities, and you're practicing mind control on your members. Get a clue.)
Christianity is a faith that is full of paradoxes that, if not properly understood, may seem overly negative to some (e.g., you've got to die to get life; the last shall be first; he who saves his life shall lose it; etc). But one doesn't have to have a degree in theology to grasp such paradoxes (I mean, have you looked at the kinds of people Jesus called -- and still calls -- to follow him? You should meet the one writing this post). On the other hand, you can't approach the Christian faith and scriptures with an anti-intellectual "Oh, I just trust the Holy Spirit to explain it all to me, if it's really that important" mentality. Which brings us back to the concept of balance.
The church's curator said, "That today isn't an image which a lot of churches want to follow. They'd much rather see an empty cross where Christ has risen."
I can understand not wanting people to think that Christ on the cross is the whole story. Without the resurrection, he's just another deluded false messiah that got himself executed. But it just seems to be symbolic of modern Churchianity's obsession with never offending anyone -- i.e., the suffering Christ is more welcome in a museum than a church (providing he stays on the cross), while the church attempts to offer a "hopeful" resurrection message of a Christ that never suffered.
Still, the curator may have inadvertantly said more than he knew, when he stated, "They'd much rather see an empty cross where Christ has risen." Because an empty cross only indicates that Christ was taken down and buried. The empty tomb tells us Christ has risen. And, unfortunately, an empty church is usually the evidence of an amputated Jesus. God help us.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Well, to their credit, MySpace actually replied promptly to my e-mail complaint about the link to this Blogger page being blocked. And, unlike the last time it happened, the response actually addressed the problem specifically. So I applaud MySpace for such improvements. Maybe they aren't the problem after all.
The MySpace explanation for the blocked link is:
We've recently discovered that BlogSpot pages are being used by spammers to send spam, so all links to that site have been disabled. Although you or your blog may not be associated with or linked to spam or spammers, to protect all MySpace Profiles from spam, phishing, and online scams, all links to Blogspot are blocked.
Which now begs the question: If BlogSpot pages are being used by spammers to send spam, what (if anything) are the Blogger folks doing to fix the problem? And, if they're not doing anything about it, why shouldn't I take my millions of readers and move to a different blog site
[Addendum: Since this was originally posted, I've received two "comments" that were spam links to Asian porn sites. So, apparently, the spam problem is a real concern. What losers. I hope Blogger gets a handle on the problem soon. DEATH TO SPAMMERS!!!]
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Well, they're at it again! The MySpace Nazis have once again blocked the link to this here blog. Their reasons? Well, let's look at those. Shall we?
Anyone clicking on the link to here from my MySpace page sees the following (just click on the picture, if it's too small to read):
Now if that's not about a load of mierda del toro, I don't know what is.
MySpace seems determined to chase me off. It's not bad enough that they're interfering with my link, and lying about the reasons why. I had an Imeem account, but MySpace bought Imeem. So there went most of my playlists – including my Van Gogh playlist, which was comprised of songs I wrote the lyrics to and sang on! They had no business deleting those!!!
I can imagine what some might be wondering: If MySpace is so bad, why not just go to Facebook? Which might be an option, if not for one small point: I HATE Facebook! But that's a whole other post.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Taking a break from his Golf Channel reality show, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley takes a dip in a hotel swimming pool. And although he looks none too pleased about having his photo taken, he should have known it would take more than a Wilford Brimley mustache to hide that legendary physique.
Friday, February 5, 2010
While checking my e-mail, I saw the following news headline:
Mel Gibson Takes on Obama in a War of the Words
Well, I'm ashamed to admit that I was morbidly curious. So I clicked on the link, where I found a short article that quoted Gibson as saying:
"[Obama] is a man with an impossible task on his hands... He got left a mess and I wish him all the best but I don't think he's going to fix it in five minutes and probably not in his entire tenure."
Really? This is a “War of the Words”? Seriously?!?! THEN...WE...ARE...DOOOOOOMED!!!! Shout it from the rooftops. If that is what passes for a “war of the words” in this country, then America can officially be pronounced brain-dead.
(But I guess that's what I get for taking the bait.)
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I was sure something would happen to keep us bent over, and,...darn it!....I wasn't disappointed. The prison rape continues. Seriously, though – if this is some kind of test, I'm not getting it. Are we supposed to be learning some great spiritual lesson from all the crap of the last couple of years? And if so, shouldn't we have at least some small clue by now as to what that lesson is? I don't think God causes every crappy thing in life to happen, but I know he can redeem every crappy thing for his glory. Sometimes God takes life's shit and uses it for fertilizer to bring forth something good. Still,...I'm kind of clueless as to just what's going on. Maybe I'm like a field of really bad soil; or maybe the crop he's cultivating takes longer than most to come to fruition; or maybe I'm even denser than I think I am; or maybe (probably) it's a combination of all three, and some others I'm not even aware of.
If I were a Calvinist, I think I'd be telling God where to stick it. But I'm not,....so it never really occurs to me. It's the old "though he slay me, I will hope in him" thing. I think the fact that he exists is more important than whether or not he saves my soul or listens to my prayers. Still, I'm glad he did do the dirty work of saving my soul, and has the patience (not to mention the fortitude) to listen to what passes for my prayers. I'm certainly not worth the price he paid – but, ironically, the price he paid gives me worth. (Man, I do love it that God seems to delight in paradoxes!)
[More than likely to be continued...]
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
By beating the Bengals (24-14), the Jets survive to lose another day.
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez seems to be a pretty nice guy. And one has to appreciate the gee whiz quality of the following quote (from a post play-off game interview, after beating the Bengals):
Amazingly, Sanchez admitted during timeouts that he actually managed to step back and soak in the atmosphere at various points, realizing the grandiose nature of the NFL’s postseason.
“You just take a look at the stadium and you hear the Bengal thing roaring,” Sanchez said. “You can hear the fans screaming at you. You can see the guys on the sideline getting animated. You think, ‘Wow, the entire country is watching this. And I get to say go? I get to say ‘hut’? They don’t do anything until I say ‘hut’?’ That’s crazy. It blows your mind. It’s unbelievable.”
Considering the awe most rookies go through in their first playoff game, it was a statement that reflected a remarkable grasp and appreciation. Maybe even poise.
[Read full article here.]
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Because we were having such an incredible run of good luck going – obviously, something had to happen to extend the streak. So...
About 2½ weeks after the flood, we were trying to get settled in at my sister & brother-in-laws (and still trying to catch our breaths), when the universe tracked us down and decided to give us a little something extra to go with our recent misfortune.
One day (a Thursday, it was) – while Patty was at work – I had a problem that required that I be lifted. Since Patty is the only person who is able to lift me (solo) without it hurting like a blankety-blank, I turned to my sister and nephew for help (they'd lifted me before, so it didn't seem like a big deal). Well...
As they were lifting me – one on either side of me; my arms around their necks; each with one arm under a leg, and one behind my back – I slipped. And, as I slipped, my left arm was forced up over my head....at which point there was a noticeable pop, followed by a sound like several celery stalks being broken at once. Needless to say, it was painful. On a pain scale of 1 to 10: this one goes to 11! It hurt so bad, I thought I was going to stand up.
My sister and nephew did everything they could to keep me from slipping. Unfortunately, sometimes gravity just wins. Period. And this was one of those times.
Judging by the sound, I thought I must have torn my rotator cuff, or something equally enjoyable. But I decided that (in spite of the pain) I'd give it till Monday to show some signs of improvement, and only go to the doctor if there was none, or it got worse.
Well,...I made it to the next morning (Friday). The pain had gotten much worse, and there was a good deal of swelling and stiffness. So we called to see if we could get in to see our doctor. We could. So off we went.
X-rays were taken, and I was told I had fractured my left humerus (the upper arm bone), right where it turns into the ball that fits into the shoulder socket. YIPPEEEE! But, he wanted to send me to an orthopaedist, just to be safe. Unfortunately, the orthopaedist couldn't see me until Monday. So I was prescribed darvocet, and told to keep the arm as immobile as possible.
Monday, the orthopaedist (a fellow Jets fan, no less) said it didn't require any serious treatment to immobilize the arm, since I can't move my arms alot anyway. (Hey, sometimes, crippled has its perks!) He said to just keep it as still as possible, and come back in six weeks.
Sleeping...was...a...BITCH!!! The darvocet didn't do anything to relieve the pain. It took forever to get me in a position that wasn't excruciating – and then I'd wake up, after an hour or so, and have to be repositioned. It was maddening in the extreme. I felt awful, continuously interrupting Patty's sleep (she was beyond exhausted, yet she never got ill-tempered with me). It is nothing short of amazing, how patient she is through all the crap I (unintentionally) put her through.
You know,...you can go through your whole life without experiencing certain things and not feel gypped. This was one of those things. I was introduced to a level of pain that had, hitherto, remained unexperienced by me in my 48+ years of life on this delightful little planet of ours. But now,...I can confidently add another item to my list of Things-I-Never-Want-To-Go-Through-Again-In-My-Life. Seriously,...the whole being-in-a-wheelchair thing is enough for me.
And however bad I thought the breaking-celery-stalks sound was – it's a whole lot creepier when you realize it was your upper arm bone trying to snap in two. (I always thought it a bit of Hollywood overkill-for-effect, when I'd see sound effects guys using celery stalks for breaking bone sounds. Now I know they were just being accurate.)
There are some less than helpful x-rays here. (They're not the glamour shots I requested – and I don't even have a good side – so prepare to be underwhelmed).*
*My CAT scan images (here) are, at least, a little more interesting (if not downright disturbing).**
**And if you find all this internal exhibitionism distasteful, then just be glad they didn't record my Cystoscopy last year.
We didn't expect the floodwaters to reach the house, because they never had before (even in the serious floods of 1994 & 2005).
At 8:00 PM, Patty and I decided to watch Lark Rise To Candleford (on PBS), only to have the cable go out around 8:30. Not long after that, the telephone went out. And when the water started rising high enough to begin putting out the porch lights of our neighbors houses, we new that this wasn't going to be like other floods.
When the waters reached the downstairs rooms, we knew (albeit too late) that we were in serious trouble. So we grabbed what little we could (photographs, back-up disks of computer files, my lyrics, and a few other irreplaceable things) and threw it all in the van.
Since our van is a wheelchair accessible mini-van – which means it sits lower than other mini-vans by about 9 inches – traversing flooded streets could be suicidally foolish. So, at 1:00 AM (with only one open road out of the area remaining), we left in search of a hotel on higher ground (thank Heavens, for the Country Inn & Suites on South Cobb Drive).
It's a helpless feeling: being forced to evacuate by floodwaters that seem intent on taking away everything you own. And it's a guilty feeling: knowing you're leaving your mother and step-father behind in the process (Mama and Buddy chose to stay as long as absolutely possible). Patty and I don't have a lot – but much of what we do have is irreplaceable – so it was pretty upsetting, having to leave, not knowing if there would be anything salvageable when we returned.
I alternated between anger and near despair, mainly because of my feelings of being so helpless. I couldn't help pack up and move things, and it was maddening. I was also angry that some of our neighbor's we're losing everything they had. (I know that “life isn't fair” – but that doesn't mean I don't get pissed about some of the unfairer aspects of it. Sue me!)
It was kind of like being on the Titanic: steadily rising water, various utilities going out one-by-one, watching your neighbor's lights get swallowed up by the water, safe routes away from the danger flooding and becoming impassable, feeling utterly helpless to do anything really useful or constructive.
Thankfully, the floodwaters stopped just a couple of feet short of the main level of the house. Nearly everything downstairs was lost – including two cars, two central AC units (the house is kind of like a duplex), the water heater, the furnace, everything in my stepfather's office and shop. It was an awful stinking mess. Fortunately, some stuff got moved upstairs just in time. All-in-all, we felt blessed – especially considering the damage and loss suffered by so many people around us.
Patty and I spent the week after the flood at the aforementioned hotel (we couldn't have stayed at the house, because the air quality was toxic and there were no utilities). We went to the house everyday to pack up stuff to move into storage. Bob and Mary (Patty's parents) came and helped some. And at the end of the week, we moved in with my sister and brother-in-law, and their family, in Woodstock (we'll be staying there until we can figure out our next move – or until a waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance opens up).
The stress has been incredible (we still don't feel fully recovered, mentally or physically) – but, through it all, Patty has been her usual amazing self.
As I recently told a friend: I've never understood the "times are tough, let's turn on each other" reaction to tragedy or adversity. It seems like emotional cannibalism. Aren't those the times a couple should be turning to each other for support? Maybe we're just screwy, but, Patty and I lean on each other during all this craziness. Our love for each other is the one thing that can't be taken away from us – and it's the most precious thing we have.
Not having flood insurance (nothing like the worst flooding in 100 years to make you realize you needed it) has only added to the hardship. Mama, Buddy, and Beth (and Beth's two year old son) are still at the house, slowly trying to get it back into some kind of decent shape, before deciding their next move. My brother Jamey and his friend Steve have been a great help getting the downstairs torn out and replaced. Steve's wife and daughter helped out, too. There have been others that have helped, but I'm blanking at the moment. Church groups of volunteers helped clear out some stuff, and another church group went around delivering meals to those who were still in their damaged homes (good meals, too).
There are photos here.
But the fun ride still wasn't over...