ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the Road with Bob & PJ

By popular demand from my readers, all three of them, I'm delving into dangerous territory...that of my memory. You do realize these RV stories are from...oh about the time of the American Civil War?

In a time long ago and a land far away, a small family of four started on an adventure. In order to get to the land where they desired to be, Ecuador, they first had to pass a series of tests set by the O.G.RE in the tower. (OrGanizational REview otherwise know as the Missions Board). Their world required that they be able to prove their ability to adapt to a new culture and climate in which m.o.n.e.y was of little import, by demonstrating their ability to collect large sums of this m.o.n.e.y. in the American culture, specifically in their Denominational (De.m.on) churches.

Our friends were young and clueless. They approached this great adventure as ... a Great Adventure. There were some wonderful days in which the people in the De.m.on were marvelously friendly and helpful. In other place, on other days the people in the de.m.on seemed, well, De.m.on.ic.

It was a friendly day when our family found themselves in a beautiful bright sunny Southern state. The normal routine for our family was: Monday was travel day, with the evening for family time or simple chores like laundry and cleaning the RV. Tuesday thru Friday,there were services every evening in which they presented the program and tried not to beg for funds. Following these evening presentations the pastor usually invited the little family for food, either at his home or at a restaurant. These meals lasted well into the night. The family would return to their little abode about midnight and spend an hour or so reading stories to the children before everyone fell asleep. Saturday was usually the same. Occasionally Saturday was also an evening off, but not often. On Sunday there was a morning presentation usually at 10 AM in one local and an evening one, maybe a hundred or two hundred miles away. On Sunday evening our little family felt fortunate if everyone was in bed by two a.m.

This particular evening, the meal had been substantial AND there had been older children to play with the little boys. Everyone was wide awake on return to the RV. The RV Park was located right next to the runway of a U.S. Air Force Base. When they returned to the RV at 1 AM, planes continued to land and take off with regularity. The bright lights from the runway made it seem like mid-day, so the children played in a sandbox beside the RV while the parents washed and cleaned the RV.

Yep. There we were at 3:00 A.M., hose in hand washing the RV. The boys were giggling happily in the sandbox. At one point I looked around and began laughing aloud.

"If anyone from child services saw us now, they'd arrest us for sure with a charge of insanity." I chortled. "Who in their right mind has their kids up at 3 AM cleaning the house?"

We laughed...and continued cleaning. Somehow we felt safe and happy there in the shadow of fighter jets taking off and landing. And then the boys decided to join us at the hose -- so it was a 3:30 A.M. bath, disguised as a water fight for all.

Just another day in the life of a nomadic family!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

(In honor of Post #500)

December 2005. I had decided to become a living liver donor. Thus, I was entering a new phase in my life. I wanted an outlet for my thoughts and a place to post news and progress to friends and family. So, I began a blog. I imagined that it would be a triumphant first few months of blogging. I could encourage more donations of organs (upon one's death) so that the kind of sacrifice I was making would not be necessary. I was to become a living liver donor.

My friend Victor Gomez had been diagnosed with liver cancer. He was so far down on the recipient list that a transplant was not going to become available for him before his time ran out. I had volunteered that Spring to be a living donor for him since our blood types matched. But his half-sister from Peru had agreed to go through the testing. However, after the painful liver biopsy in March, she opted not to donate. It delayed their even looking at me as a possible donor since a family member would be a closer match. After 6 weeks of testing, 22 vials of blood drawn, a liver biopsy and every test known to man (EXCEPT a Pap Smear and Mammogram, I might add), I was accepted as a donor. At age 55 I was healthy, but certainly older than the recommended age for living donors. I didn't even tell my primary care physician. I didn't think he'd like the idea. The University promised the best of care. And in the event that my liver ever failed, I would be put at the top of the donor list.

December 29th Victor and I both checked into the Transplant ICU at a hospital in Chicago. He was ill and could barely walk. I was hale and hearty. A tad nervous, but hale and hearty nonetheless.

The next morning in adjoining operating rooms, the two of us underwent separate 14-hour surgical procedures. Two teams of surgeons; two ORs. It was expected to be 8 hours, but when they opened him up, the remaining liver was again riddled with carcenoma. They had to keep a vein and the bile duct from his liver, because a living donor can donate 2/3 of the organ, but only one of three veins and no bile duct. With a cadaver donor, all of those items are also available for transplanting.

The bile duct was a problem from the beginning. At first it was leaking. They did another surgery and repaired it. Then it infected. It never did heal. The news was both good and bad from the beginning. The transplanted liver in him pinked up and began to work. But the wretched bile duct continued problematic.

I left the hospital after a week. I believed I'd be back at work in a month. It took almost two, and then I only returned because I was out of sick days and couldn't afford not to return. Mostly I was tired and weary. I returned to work February 21st.

For Victor, infection continued. His body became weaker and weaker. The last two week, they didn't bother closing the surgical incision. Daily procedures were done to try to combat the infection and entice his declining system to fight for health.

He was valiant to the end. The last week, each time I saw him tears ran down his face, and he'd whisper, "I'm sorry." I didn't understand at first. I kept reassuring him that I was fine, that he could make it.

But eventually I got it. He realized that his time was at an end and he was apologizing for the sacrifice that I had made. The pain he had endured was unbelievable with daily surgery and swelling of his body to the point that he could no longer speak. He was conscious, but just barely. I reassured him that it was okay to let go. The last thing I told him was to relax into the arms of God. That it would be alright. Two tear rolled down his cheek and he tried to smile. Two hours later he was gone.

That was February 22, 2006. I blogged rarely for several months. My strength did not return. I blamed it on depression. I struggled, emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Then before school started in August 2006, I decided that a mole on my left breast which had been there for years HAD to be removed. Immediately. Later my daughter-in-law said she really wondered about be because it was not characteristic of me at all.

My primary care physician said I had to have a mammogram and Pap Smear. Those were the only two test not done during December before liver surgery.

I knew right away at the mammogram that things weren't right. The technician became brighter and cheerier as the tests continued. She used every attachment there was on that wretched machine, leaving after each time to go see the radiologist. She'd come back even cheerier. And use another attachment. Finally, I had to have an ultrasound. That technician may as well have been made of stone. Absolutely no emotion of any kind marred her visage or impeded her movements.

When I got home, I sat down and tried to think. I was stunned. It was 4 pm on Friday. "I'd better make a note to call my doctor on Monday," I reminded myself. "This feel sinister."

The ringing phone interrupted my desperate attempts at reassuring myself. It was my primary care doctor. He gave me the name of a surgeon to see for a surgical biopsy and recommended that I call "Today" for the appointment.

And the whirlwind of breast cancer, mastectomy, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction began. From August 21, 2006, the day of the mastectomy, until May 23, 2007 when the last of reconstruction was finished it was a wild run from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment. And all of it had nothing at all to do with the mole. That was only my fixation for the feeling that something was wrong.

I blogged regularly. Blogging kept me sane. Most of the time I would simply write how I felt, what God was teaching me, or things that were happening. During the school year of 2006-2007, blogging was my regular contact with the world. I did not get out regularly except for church. Blogging was my window to the world.

So while I started blogging in order to tell a story, that story has made so many turns and twists, I barely recognize it. And that's in only three years (minus 2 months!). I keep blogging because I've made friends I want to keep in touch with; because blogging helps me keep my thoughts straight; because it reminds me where I have been and just occasionally, it points the direction in which I should go.

Here's to the next 500 blogs!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Power of Naming

Gen 2:19
18-20 God said, "It's not good for the Man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion." So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn't find a suitable companion. The Message
I'm in an introspective mood. I've been reading notes from my journal...a mishmash of my thoughts, responses to sermons or lessons and occasionally a few notes from a sermon. I came across notes I had taken during a message preached by Timothy Vowell a few months ago. At this point I'm not sure how much is my thoughts and ideas and how much I'm lifting from his sermon. So I'll just give general credit now.

Native Americans had a custom of waiting to name a infant until the child distinguished itself in some way to merit a name. Thus names like "Runs-Swiftly", "Straight Arrow", and "Sitting Bull" were given.

Today most of us are given names by parents. Sometimes parents search diligently for just the right name; sometimes the name is whatever is in vogue at the time. However, for us to say names don't matter to us as Americans is easily refuted by any child who has been adopted or has had a stepfather. Last names imply belonging and association. Sometimes it implies social status or rank, as in Clayton Langston, III. (That name is totally fake, I hope. My memory sometimes drags things out that are inappropriate. No implication is intended other than "the third.")

Life sometimes unjustly name us, "Failure." People unjustly name us with teases, taunts and nicknames that hurt.

In Genesis 35:16, Rachel is in labor. She had wanted more from God. In her bitterness she named the child "Beoai" which means "Son of my sorrow." Jacob (the child's father) immediately said, "No. His name is "Benjamin" which means "Son of my Blessing."

Jacob knew what it meant to have an unjust name. His name meant "deceiver or supplanter." He didn't want that experience for his son. He had a choice and he changed the baby's name. God later changed Jacob's name to "Israel."

We have choices in naming things too. We were given the power of naming. We can speak things into existence. For example, is what you are facing now a "trial" or a "challenge?" Tomorrow I may have "problems" or "opportunities." You may be walking in a "valley" or it can be a "place of rest." And from the mountaintop, we have an excellent view of the world if we can get our sight and attention off of self for just a bit.

As I looked up this scripture, I realized that the part about naming is bracketed on either side by references to Adam finding a spouse. He named her "Eve" mother of all life. What have you named your spouse today? "Honey Bun" or "Doofus?" "Love" or Irritation? Hmmmm. I'm just sayin....

You have the power of naming. What will you call into existence? "Conflicts" or relationship opportunities??

Pastor Phylis