Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Don't Know How Job Felt (Part Two)

I HATE having to cross this street!

(Part ONE is here)

I have put off writing the second installment for this, but really have little excuse to not start typing right now. At this very moment on Christmas evening, while Amy and the kids are laughing it up and playing cards at the table with her mom and dad (he cheats at them, by the way), I am currently banished to our bedroom by a marvel of modern medicine.

Yesterday, I spent part of Christmas Eve in the ER. This was not my first choice, which was actually meant to be going to the mall and finally buying some Christmas presents while there was still time.

And yet events unfolded and I was sent into the ER by my doctor and suddenly they started getting me prepped for an unexpected day surgery. But then they decided at the last second that I was just barely outside the time window of responding well to it. So they instead put me on nitroglycerin to break up a thrombosis (blood clot) and have me come back for the surgery in either a few hours, days or weeks, depending on how it responds.

If you have never had nitroglycerin before (outside of making your own TNT) and wondered what it feels like, it is easy to recreate the experience. Simply ask a friend or family member - preferably an adult - to stand behind you and carefully but lovingly kick you in the head. You won't get the added benefit of the massive hour long head rush and a couple other cool symptoms, but don't get greedy. The main thing is that within 5 to 20 seconds of taking it, you have a full gown migraine. Enjoy.

My nitro-migraine is barely subsiding right now, but it fortunately has not affected my sarcasm.

The blood clot in question is painful, but no more so than having a lit cigarette pressed against you, so I can't complain. Pain is somewhat relative for me, as I have had chronic nerve pain for over 10 years now. That does not mean it does not wear me down. There are times that it has tested and still tests my patience and faith incredibly.

Pain has long been a great, if not the biggest stumbling block for people on the topics of faith and God.

One of the great apologists of the last century, C. S. Lewis penned his classic "The Problem of Pain" in an attempt to wrestle with some of the questions pain and injustice continually raise in light of a supposedly loving and just God.

In it Lewis suggests that, "In a sense, it (Christianity) creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving."

In his book, "Where Is God When It Hurts?", Phillip Yancey shares the true story of a friend named Claudia who was going through the agony of chemotherapy for a particularly aggressive cancer and the various church people who visited her in the hospital to see if there was anything at all they could do to make her feel worse.

One church goer told her that she had cancer because she did not have enough faith to pray it away. Another said she was supposed to have cancer, so as to be a shining example of love and patience to the lost. Another said that these suggestions were ridiculous and it was obvious that she only had the disease because of some terrible sin in her life. One just showed up and sang.

I'm assuming that Claudia used the last bit of strength she could muster to sneak off one night to another floor of the hospital to get away from her friends. (She fortunately did recover.)

When we Christians are asked how in the world could an all-loving, all-powerful God allow such pain, suffering and injustice in this world, we usually and sadly have responses that make Claudia's comforters look less than rare.

We honestly do not have too many great or satisfying answers for ourselves, let alone others. When we say that "God moves in mysterious ways", we are using a cliche that is not even in the Bible, but most listeners are fortunately far too courteous to respond by slapping us silly.

If you are unsure how to approach, encourage or generally not kick someone when they are down, here are a couple useful things to know about many who suffer from pain:

1) "Why can't the doctors just fix it?" - We have a very unique mentality toward health issues in the Western world that is very closely mirrored to how our doctors treat us. We expect them to be able to figure out exactly what it is with a microscope, x-ray or MRI, and then fix it by either cutting us or doping us (surgery or medication).

With chronic pain, this is most often unfeasible. Different from acute pain, which is short lived, usually traceable to a specific cause and usually will heal, chronic pain can last years, even lifetimes and can only be managed, not cured.

With my own particular type of chronic pain condition, neuropathic (nerve) pain, by definition "the nerve fibers themselves might be damaged, dysfunctional, or injured. These damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to other pain centers."

The pain is just as real as an acute injury, but the pain signals keep getting delivered, long after they should be sent.

Imagine a UPS driver dropping off a package to your house every single day that is addressed to "The Easter Bunny". And no matter how much you swear or throw things at the driver, he keeps bringing the boxes. Now imagine a good friend encouraging you with the practical advice, "why can't you just stop getting the boxes?".

2) "Is the pain just in your head?" - When friends ask me this, I am honest with them and I say "yes". Then I punch them in the stomach and tell them THAT pain is just in THEIR head. Afterward we laugh, but many times they will not call me back.

But the fact is that in both cases, it is true. All pain is nothing more than a perception we have, thanks to our brains. When someone puts their hand on a hot stove, the nerves send signals to the brain, like loyal little UPS drivers, saying that "something is not right here". The brain then takes that info and carefully sends back a message that you might wish to "freak out, flail your arms and scream at this time".

In his aforementioned book, Yancey actually talks a very interesting angle about what he calls the "God given gift of pain" by describing a terrible side effect of those who still in modern time suffer with the disease leprosy.

Many who suffer with leprosy will inflict horrible damage on their own bodies, sometimes deliberately (kids), but most often unintentionally and unknowingly. This is because many are unable to feel pain anymore. So for some, they would not realize the stove's coils were dangerously hot until they smelled something burning.

Chronic pain is somewhat opposite in effect. I have nerve damage in my right arm that almost perpetually makes it feel like I have burned my hand on a stove. Most days, I will have to continually switch fingers used for clicking my computer mouse, as even softly pressing the button feels similar to having a needle jammed into my finger. I wear gloves for almost every month aside from August, because within seconds of stepping outside in the cold, it feels like my hands are being crushed in a vise or stood on by a 250 pound man who does not like me.

Is the pain in my head? Yes. Does that word mean what you think it means? No.

3) "Do you want to pray about it?" - Absolutely. In fact I have been doing so every single day for over 10 years. I sometimes think God is sick of me bringing it up, but I still believe He cares for me immensely.

Oh wait, you meant do I "want to pray about it" with YOU? Um, sure. Wait, who are you? And how did you get in my house?

Actually encouraging or ministering to those who deal with pain is never easy. I feel like my experiences have afforded me a lot more sympathy or empathy (I plan to look up the difference between the two of those words some day) for others who suffer with pain. And I know that the absurdities, pain and injustices of life that people suffer every day and in a million ways often is difficult for me to grasp or wrap my head around.

I have learned that feeling sorry for myself might not necessarily be helpful, but at least it is really unhelpful. I make a point to laugh at myself and others every day, sometimes many times a day. I believe that despite the pain, that I have learned there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy is much more lasting and is a gift that we can hold onto or squander.

I try to make others laugh because it makes me happier to do so and because trying to cheer people up instead with my amazing singing voice can be awkward at the office or supermarket. But mostly because I'm an incurable smartass.

But there also is a time to laugh and a time to cry. And sometimes there is a time to just ask people how they are doing and let them vent. It says in Romans 12:15 to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep".

I believe in prayer. I have been prayed for hundreds of times. Does that mean I will never be healed? No, it just means those hundreds who prayed for me to be healed must have some terrible sin in their lives. Kidding!

The next time you see a friend or loved one suffering, instead of being quick to try to fix them or bring them a message from the Lord they must assuredly not be hearing and yet He just told you on the drive over... rather try just spending time with them, listen to them and care. It will mean a lot.

OK, the migraine is mostly gone. I'm gonna go watch Despicable Me with the family now.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thou shalt call His name Jesus...

A few years after I became a Christian, my great-aunt in New York shipped me some of her late husband's Bible study reference books. I had never met my late great-uncle, as he had passed away before I was even born.

The first to arrive and my still favorite books were a four volume set of every New Testament scripture based sermon preached by C.H. Spurgeon, published and printed decades before my time.

I opened it up and just started from the very beginning and will never forget that first time reading the words he preached more than a hundred years earlier.

As the four volumes have his sermons listed not chronologically, but rather in order of the New Testament verses he used, the first one was titled simply, "Jesus" and was based upon the first chapter of the book of Matthew's announcement of the pending birth of our Savior and the name He was to be given.

The following are a couple selected passages from that sermon:



Delivered on Lord’s-Day morning, September 15th, 1878, by C.H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England.

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:21.

“Savior” is the meaning of the name of Jesus, but it has a fuller sense hidden within, for in its Hebrew form it means “the salvation of the Lord,” or “the Lord of salvation,” or “the Savior.”

Do you want saving, brethren? Has the Holy Ghost taught you that you need salvation? Let your hearts be encouraged. This is the character of all His people; He never had a chosen one who could do without washing in the Savior’s blood.

If you are righteous in yourself, you are not one of His people. If you were never sick in soul, you are none of the folk that the Great Physician has come to heal. If you were never guilty of sin, you are none of those whom He has come to deliver from sin.

Jesus comes on no needless errand, and undertakes no unnecessary work. If you feel yourselves to need saving then cast yourselves upon Him, for such as you are those He came to save.

Notice, yet again, the very gracious but startling fact of our Lord’s connection with His people lies in the direction of their sins. This is amazing condescension. He is called Savior in connection with His people, but it is in reference to their sins, because it is from their sins that they need to be saved. If they had never sinned they would never have required a Savior, and there would have been no name of Jesus known on earth.

The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins.

I pray you rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed name, for Jesus has come to save you, even you. Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and cry, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, for I need your salvation.” Doubt not that He will fulfill His own name and exhibit His power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Tips

This Christmas, why not get together
with your loved ones and shoot stuff?

A lot of people get stressed out this time of year, when it can easily be avoided by keeping a couple simple things in perspective and these handy tips in mind...

1) The Presents

Carefully planning the right gift for each loved one and allowing plenty of time to get them is paramount.

With 6 days left til Christmas, I actually have not bought any presents yet myself, but I am obviously going to run out of time here eventually.

Yes, I now have the benefit of way less people in the stores, since everyone is probably done. And sure, those few who remain in the stores are more laid back and pleasant to shop around. Oh, and now there's likely much greater selection, since they are restocking for January, but I still recommend buying stuff sooner.

This allows for way more stuff under your tree, which makes you feel better when you see the piles of loot for weeks on end. And that brings me to...

2) The Tree

We have not bought our tree yet, but that's OK. We might get one today and it will only take a couple hours of work in the rain and the cold to find the right one (maybe even one still semi-alive and with needles), drag it home and try to dry it off on the back porch enough that we don't get electrocuted while stringing lights around it. No wonder they call it the "most wonderful time of the year"!

So, maybe 6 hours of work total, but we get to enjoy the beauty of it for at least 6 more days before we drag it to the curb and throw it away, so we can recycle or whatever and give back to the community and stuff. (YOU'RE WELCOME PLANET EARTH.)

But we'll take a couple pictures of the tree to put on Facebook, so we can show it to one of the real reasons for celebrating the holidays, which is...

3) The People

Joking aside, friends and family are really what it is all about, along with having to get together with them on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of them could very well be less annoying than last year and several will be the source of some of those presents we discussed earlier, so try to be nice or you will have to answer to....

4) The God

Holidays is a word that actually once meant "holy days" and people who try to take "Christ" out of "Christmas" make me mad enough to hit them. Hit them with some truth, I mean. And love and stuff.

The fact is that Christmas is about the baby Jesus. The baby Jesus was born in a nativity scene, complete with manger, donkey, etc. This is where the cute, "close the door, were you born in a barn" saying got started.

And His being born in a stable, which was practically being born outside is why we cut down and drag a tree into the house. The three wise men brought him really expensive gifts when they came to worship him and this is why we now spend money we don't have on maxed out credit cards. Tradition.

Actually, now that I think about it, Christmas isn't so much about the presents we get each other or even the gold, murr (sp?) and frankenstei... phranckinsse... other stuff baby Jesus got. The greatest gift ever has already been given and a thousand years from now, the only present that will still matter is this one.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Computer Guy

A fellow Network Administrator emailed me today to let off some steam about how he felt set up to fail because his office has him doing Marketing research online.

Did I mention he is a Network Administrator?

If that went in one eye and out the other, then this blog might just be for you.

Of course my friend should not have complained, because:

A) he has a job (so be grateful, you jerk)


B) he is a "computer guy". If electronics can be associated in any way with any thing at any time, he should be able to do it.

Here is something you may or may not know in this wild and wacky world we live in:

IT specialists are usually just that… specialists who… wait for it… specialize in particular IT sectors and/or technologies.

And yet no matter what their title is, they still call them the “computer guy” or the “IT guy” and expect them to be able to do anything and everything computer related.

He needs to be able to do everything from recovering a dead Windows server... to unsticking a key on a keyboard they dumped coffee and fingernail clippings into... to explaining why a non-existent email that someone sent is not here yet... to solving why piece of crap program ‘A’ crashes when you run piece of crap program ‘B’.

Yeah... why can't you do all that, computer guy?

You don’t hear about people scheduling a colonoscopy with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and then complaining, “but I thought you were a ‘Doctor Guy’…? Can't you just take a look around?”