Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Surgery 'Metaphors in the Christian Life" Part 3

After coming home from the hospital after surgery, I felt good. I did things I never thought I’d be able to do after major surgery. When the stitches were removed, I felt great! However, the next morning I woke in a bloody pool of ooze from the wound, which had not healed. This emanation put me back in the hospital and diagnosed with a MRSA infection. A PICC line was inserted to get IV antibiotics while the wound continued to weep for six more weeks. Plus I had excruciating pain in my right leg!

Complications. My picture should be in the dictionary next to this word. Everyone who has any surgical procedure has signed the page that lists all the possible complications that may arise as a result of surgery, including death. Dwelling on all the complications is ridiculous at this point because you still need the surgery, otherwise you wouldn’t be there! Weeping wound and PICC line followed by over-sewing the wound were the highlights of this trip to the hospital.

I was sent home with IV antibiotics to be administered at home – the strongest available on the planet. Another MRI was required to see if the wound needed to be re-opened to cauterize something in the surgical area.

My third hospitalization took place over the 4th of July weekend. Diagnosis: Acute kidney failure. This trip included an EEG to see if I’d had a brain emergency. I went home barely able to stand, get out of bed, walk, take care of basic functions. Not what I signed up for.

Then there was the day we called 911 twice: once because I was in and out of consciousness, later because my blood pressure was 220/110. The ambulance ride to the ER was a new experience!

So it’s two plus months from surgery. The problems I had prior to surgery appear to have been resolved. The wound has finally healed. I can be left alone during the day, so Ken can go to work. Tyler, our Jack Russell terrier, works hard at guarding me and inspecting the home health care workers and my friends who come to help. We even survived the appliance repairman’s visit and the plumber’s arrival last week.

So what biblical truth can apply to all this mayhem? Ken feels like Job, but we have good friends who have brought food, took me to doctor’s appointments, sat with me, and encouraged us. All have prayed for us, including online friends as well.

God knows where this journey will lead. First, I canceled my registration for ACFW conference. No way I could do the walking required in August. Second, I released my three classes I was to teach this fall for the community college of which I am an adjunct professor. Both these are of high importance, but practically I was not going to be physically able to do them, and that grieves me. However, my fall calendar has opened up. I wonder what God might have in store.

So I’ll claim Jeremiah:29:11,  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [NIV]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Back Surgery Metaphors for the Christian Life, Part 2

My neurosurgeon, Dr Seyed. Emadian, is one of the best in the nation, but he practices medicine in my small rural town. He also prays with his patients. My Holy Physician is also dependable and reliable and can guide my surgeon’s hands and mind.

This surgery, 2 PLIFs to fuse the L3/4 and the L4/5, is pretty gruesome, but after seeing the MRI results (Yea!), it was obvious something needed to happen. It looked like the L-4 had been bombed. leaving an inky blot behind. The vertebrae were shifting on top of the extruding disc into the spinal cord area, creating the look of a bone spur,

Wait is a 4-letter word. Wait, wait, wait! I had 2 surgery dates: May 25 or May 31. Once again I was waiting for insurance approval. That approval came in time to do surgery on May 25. Praise the Lord.

However, time slowed as the pain marked the minutes. Yet as the time grew near to surgery, part of my brain began to scream NO! Three months in a back brace?  Rescheduling all the summer appointments? No trip to Maryland to care for two grandsons? Summer disappeared into a black hole. Everything done to diagnose the problem … led to three months reconnecting the fibers, nerves, muscles, and bones. Only God could heal my back.

On the morning of surgery, fear invaded. What if something went wrong? I trusted God and Dr. Emadian implicitly. What if the pain after surgery was worse than before? My spine could not stay the way it was. So I walked to the registration desk (all that pre-surgery testing done yesterday) and said, “I’m here to volunteer for back surgery.” The nurse looked at me as though I’d lost my mind and said, “Good. We don’t get enough volunteers for that.”

Did I mention I live in Tennessee? I truly volunteered because it was time to surrender all my fears and pain to the miraculous work only He could do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Back Surgery Metaphors of the Christian Life

My journey toward reconstructive back surgery began years before 2016. Cortisone shots in my lower back reduced the pain and inflammation, but they were temporary measures, never fixing the big picture. After air travel alone in January and again in February, after slinging computer bags into the overhead bins and pulling bags from the baggage carousel, it was clear that something was wrong.
As a fibromyalgia sufferer, it’s sometimes hard to know if pain is more than just a spike in ‘regular’ pain.  For a while I dismissed the pain in my hips, lower back, buttocks. My right quad would go numb when standing for too long. Tingles would cascade down my legs. When I woke on March 9 with a massive muscle spasm from my lower back to behind my knee, my husband said, “Now will you go to the doctor?”

So I did, finally. After yet another cortisone shot in my left lower back and an x-ray showing a ‘bone spur’ on the L4 vertebra in the lumbar region, the physician’s assistant requested an MRI from the insurance company. If you follow me on Blasting News, you’ve read that story.

How is all of this a metaphor for the Christian Life?

First, you can’t go about changing a problem until you realize you have a problem. As non-Christians, we all must come to the conclusion that something is wrong in our lives. All the Tylenol Extra Strength doses would never fix the cause of my pain. Once I knew that the pain had a specific cause, I knew I had to fix it. Sin in our lives, yes even Christians sin, can never be repaired without the Holy Physician’s help. Only He can remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. Until He excises my sin problem, my constant missteps without Him, I continue to stumble and fail to live a life focused on Him instead of dwelling on myself.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Guest Author Ken Tatum!

Who Is My Enemy?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.    Matthew 5:43-45a (NIV).

In what we usually call the Sermon on the Mount Jesus frequently upended traditional thoughts on moral actions, thoughts and perspectives.  In the passage just quoted He went to an extreme of which I doubt anyone in His audience would have even dreamed.  Many, if not most, in His Jewish audience would have known of the Old Testament command found in Leviticus (19:18) to “love your neighbor”.  And I suspect many would have just assumed that the “hate your enemy” part of this “traditional” statement was also Biblical.  We now know, of course, that it is not a quote from Scripture, but rather simply the natural human extrapolation to what we might want the Old Testament command to be.  So we modern Christians breathe a sigh of relief and say “Of course we are to love our neighbors and of course we should love our enemies.”  But do we ever go the next step in our thought processes and ask the hard question: who does Jesus really mean by these categories of neighbor and enemy?

One expert in the Mosaic Law did ask the first half of this question.  In Luke 10 we read about an encounter with Jesus where he asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  In addition to the command to love the Lord your God with all your being Jesus also quoted the Leviticus passage of loving your neighbor.  The man then asked Jesus the obvious question, “Who is my neighbor?”  In response Jesus shared the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, presumably to show the man who his neighbor was.

As He finished His story Jesus asked the law expert a reverse question.  Obviously Jesus wanted to find out if the man had truly understood and ‘gotten’ the point!  So He asked the man if he now knew who his neighbor was.  Correct?  No, Jesus’ question was not worded in the expected form.  Instead He asked who “acted as” a neighbor, and not “who is” your neighbor.  Why would Jesus not answer the man in a simple and straightforward manner?

I believe He was trying to change the man’s thought process from defining everyone else as a specific type of person to determining what type of person he himself was.  Which matters more?  Who some individual is to me, or who I am to that individual?  What category I place a person in, or how I treat the person?  I cannot change that other individual, but I can change my attitudes and actions toward that person.  So, for me, the important point is how I live and act.  Am I a neighbor?

But that is only half of the pertinent question.  Just as Jesus said to love your neighbor, He also said to love your enemy.  So is it not also important to ask who is my enemy?  How might Jesus answer that question?  I won’t presume to guess what parable He might tell to illustrate His meaning, but I can guess how He might word His question back to us at the end of the story.  Would He ask “Who then was the enemy of the main character?”  Or would He ask “Who acted as an enemy to others?”
The first question would fit within our natural human impulses to put people into nice, neat categories.  But if Jesus discouraged us from placing people into a neighbor category, would He not do the same regarding enemies?  I believe, more likely, that He would want us to ask ourselves “Toward whom are we acting as an enemy?”  “Who are we an enemy to?”

As with the neighbor question the important detail is not the status of someone else, but rather the status of our own thoughts and actions.  How am I treating another individual?  Am I loving them, being compassionate for their hurts, and caring for their deep concerns?  Or am I actively hating them?  Disparaging them?  Saying all manner of evil against them?  Pushing them into ghettos and slums of their native lands?

These days we hear a lot of talk from people who claim the name of Christ about the United States having many enemies.  They name specific nations, people groups, or individuals.  I will not speculate on whether any of these really are enemies.  But Jesus said that if we really are children of God the Father, we are to love them anyway.   And if love is actually a verb rather than a noun, then our love needs to be active.  Calling them derogatory names and telling them to stay away is the opposite of love.  In fact, Jesus directly addressed such things earlier in the Sermon, relating the command to not murder to anger and name-calling (Matt. 5:21-22).

In short, the question to ask ourselves is “Do we truly want to be children of the Father?”  If so, we must love.  Actively.  Everyone.  Is there a risk to doing this?  Absolutely!  But I believe Jesus himself took the ultimate risk when He died for us.  Dare we, His children, not imitate our Lord?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Terri Wangard's Friends and Enemies

Terri Wangard’s Friends and Enemies is about how ‘real’ people experienced WWII, including civilians in Germany. Her characters experience their own ‘teacup tragedies’ and triumphs in a world full of rationing, fear, love, and loss. A book in two parts, Wangard introduces a cast in Part 1, then follows them through their journey during the war in Part 2. The reader has no difficulty caring about these ordinary characters affected by a world on fire.

Friends and Enemies is an enjoyable read. As a member of Wangard’s ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writer) Scribes group, I have had the privilege to read and comment on her work. She never disappoints. Her stories are intriguing woven tapestries drawn together with historic detail and the ordinary within. Each of her characters and his/her situations add the pattern and color to the sweeping drama of history. In addition, the characters share their faith with those who struggle without it.

I was provided a final copy of this copy in exchange for a review; however, I had already experienced this story as a critiquer. It is my pleasure to recommend Friends and Enemies to both those who have an interest in WWII stories, but also to those who enjoy curling up with a good book.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Deanna Nowadnick's Signs in Life: Finding Direction in Our Travels with God

Deanna Nowadnick’s second book Signs in Life: Finding Direction in Our Travels with God is an introspective look at the ways God makes himself known in her life. Using traffic signs as chapter titles, the reader can relate to the experiences Nowadnick has had. Each chapter also has five questions at the end to lead the reader to apply the lessons learned in his/her life.

As with her previous work Fruit of My Spirit, Signs in Life is Nowadnick's testimony of her day by day walk with Christ. While experiencing God, life gets messy sometimes, especially when we blow right through the traffic signs. Anyone who has tried to walk with Christ can relate to the unfortunate consequences of speeding, missing a sign, or choosing to ignore a sign.

Two particular passages struck me.

“Chapter 5, No U-Turn” was one such passage. In discussing her difficulty in relying on God in some situations, particularly one that seemed hazardous, she realizes that ‘letting go and letting God’ is more than bumper sticker theology. She states, “[I]f we want to experience God’s glory, be it thunder, a beautiful vista, or a new opportunity in life, we have to let go of the past and let God show us the future. In life there are no U-turns.” In this same vein, she quotes a plaque she purchased during the experience in this chapter. It says: ‘You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep reading the last one’ (49).

“Chapter 8, Road Narrows” was another such passage. Nowadnick had rebellious relationship with her dad with her mom running interference. When her mom died, Nowadnick claimed Anne Lamott’s advice of either being right or being kind. She chose to spend her father’s two-year good-bye a time being kind. “With God’s help, I was able to practice being kind. …[K]indness became tolerance, and tolerance became understanding. Understanding became acceptance, and acceptance became love, a messy, imperfect love encased in my own messier version of grace. …that narrow lane of life’s six-lane interstate, that lane in which we travel at the speed of love” (80).

Nowadnick’s transparency throughout is fresh and encouraging. Her application of lessons learned is natural, humorous, and not forced. Signs in Life is a challenge to how you see God and His lessons for your life. Take the challenge and read Signs in Life. Find it in Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
I was provided a free copy for an honest review.