TO RECONCILE

a couple of light thoughts that came my way while doing research for this sermon. “Even duck tape can’t fix stupid, but it can muffle the sound”

This one hit real close to home. “I may get up early and go jogging; I may also win the lottery. The odds are about the same for both.”

And no neither of those two things have anything to do with what we are going to be talking about.

Several years ago I tackled reading what is considered by many as one of the top 10 novels of the 19th century, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. It was a massive undertaking. The protagonist of the novel is Jean Valjean, a poor man, who steals a loaf of bread to feed his family. He’s caught, convicted, and sentenced to four years hard labor. He attempts escape several times and as a result he ends up serving 19 years before he is paroled. Those 19 years turned Jean into a very hardened criminal, one that none in the prison would confront. With his release came papers that declared him a paroled criminal and none would hire him and no landlord would allow him a place for shelter. He was a resident of the streets, and this made him even more hardened and bitter. Then he met bishop Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel and his daughter, who offered Jean a meal and shelter in their home.

After their meal the bishop and daughter retired for the night and while they slept, Jean rose from his bed, searched, found the bishop’s silver, stole it, and fled into the night. He was captured with the silver and returned to the bishop’s home by his capturers. As the police officers listened the bishop reproved Jean. He asked why hadn’t he also taken the silver candlesticks that he had given as well as the silver? Jean was dumb founded by the bishop’s behavior toward him, this was something totally foreign to his life experiences. The police accepted the bishop’s story that the silver was a gift and released Jean. Bishop Myriel’s only request in giving Jean the silver candlesticks was that Jean would use the money from their sale to work toward becoming a good man.

The rest of the book deals with Jean’s attempts, his setbacks, his influence in the lives of others, and ultimately his contentment with his life as he lay dying.

The books of Philemon and Colossians seem to embrace Victor’s novel or maybe better his novel seems to embrace these two books especially Philemon. In Philemon we are introduced to Onesimus (one who is profitable), a servant (slave) of Philemon, who has fled Colosse after a falling out with his master and probably theft of Philemon’s property. Onesimus finds his way to Rome where he meets Paul, who introduces to the teachings of Jesus and Onesimus becomes a believer and disciple of Paul.

We have little to flesh out Philemon and Onesimus lives together, just what little is written here. We don’t know how Philemon treated Onesimus before he fled, we don’t know how Onesimus rationalized his theft and fleeing, but we can easily surmise they’re some hard feelings and some unfinished business between the two men.

In our Christian jargon we use several different terms that are paramount in the Christian’s life: rejection, intercession, forgiveness, reconciliation, restitution, redemption. We rejected God’s claim over us and live our lives on our on terms causing enmity between God and self. This enmity remained until one interceded on our behalf. We find forgiveness through the intercessory work of Christ, and we find reconciliation (which means to become friends again) when see our lives as God sees them and accept His offered forgiveness. Our redemption (to buy back) and restitution is paid by the one who intercedes for us. We are not only bought back, but we are adopted children of the most High God. Ephesian 1:5, “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will…” “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.” Romans 8:14,15

One can’t help but to see parallels of the salvation experience with all that Paul wrote to Philemon. In verses 4 through 7 Paul writes of the character of Philemon, of his prayers for him, his love toward Jesus and all the saints, the fact that all that Philemon has that is good in him is from Christ Jesus. Paul intercedes on behalf of Onesimus, one who was begotten while Paul was in prison. The willingness of Paul to make restitution to Philemon for anything owed him by Onesimus. Paul’s desire that Philemon not only receive Onesimus back, but that he receive him as Philemon would receive Paul, himself. Not as a servant, but a brother. The entire letter is reminding Philemon of the one who had interceded for him, and the desire for a reconciliation to take place between Philemon and Onesimus.

This book shows us the things that reconcile us to God, but it is also a primer for how we are to be reconciled with each other. None of us escape without some of relationships being strained or broken. When it’s someone that is truly important to you how can you be reconciled?

They’re four types of reconciliation that can take place in our day to day lives; and we have been given the obligation of the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18. In the ministry of reconciliation we must be ever mindful that first and foremost is the need to reconcile with God through Christ, but we also need to remember that Paul admonish us to live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:8.


Everyone’s reconciliation story is different, but everyone can reconcile in one of four ways:

1 Deep, mutual healing. The first is the one we long for the most in which both people grow and change, and there is a deep healing in the relationship. When this happens, amazing transformations can occur. When this kind of reconciliation occurs, it’s a gift to be cherished.

2 Shifting your expectations. In this type of reconciliation, one person changes his or her expectations of the other person, and the relationship opens up, whether or not the other person makes significant changes.

3 Agreeing to disagree. In this instance, two people have dramatically different versions of past history–like whether or not abuse occurred–and rather than each trying to convince the other that he or she is right, they agree to disagree. They try to find common ground that isn’t connected to the dispute as a way to forge a new relationship.

4 Inner resolution. The final kind of reconciliation is the inner path we travel when direct reconciliation with the other person is impossible. The other person may be dead or may be too drunk, too damaged, or too hostile to make reconciliation possible. The other person may have slammed the door in your face and isn’t about to open it anytime soon. Or you attempt reconciliation, and your efforts fail. In these instances, our task is to grieve for the relationship…” Laura Davis, Coming Together After Falling Apart

The first three are bi-lateral, meaning at least two are coming together, the last is unilateral, meaning only one is involved in the process. One has given up on becoming friends again and one is grieving and reconciling self to the loss.

Feelings may be so strong, that like Onesimus and Philemon, an intercessor, a go between, a Paul will be necessary to get the process of reconciliation to begin. But life is too short, friends too few, and family too precious, to allow a breech to rob us our relationships with each other. Our ego, our pride builds the walls that keep us separated, for reconciliation to take place humility is required. “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Mt. 5:5.

Being a Child of God is a glorious thing, but it is also a demanding thing. God ask us to look upon each other as brothers, family. And He expects us to mend fences when we offend or we are offended…that’s action, not just words. He doesn’t just look upon Jesus as the only one who intercedes, but he expects us to be peacemakers too. Mt 5:9. I wish I could say I always do this, am always trying to reconcile with those that I have offended, but in all honesty I can’t. When I refuse to at least try to reconcile with those I’ve offended or I refuse to attempt to help others reconcile I lose God’s blessings on my life. And yes, if I do these things there may be a cost, but like Jean Valjean at the end of my life what price is contentment?

Oh, in case you’re wondering how things turned out between Philemon and Onesimus, rumor has it that things turned out just fine. Onesimus, the slave, became the bishop of the church at Ephesus.

A WALK IN THE WOODS

Certainly hope Bill Bryson doesn’t mind if I borrow the title.  Went back to the farm and walked the trails.  This time I took Deet,(spray to keep ticks at bay), and a pack of foodstuff with a two liter pouch of water.  I had planned to walk the same trails as those I did earlier this year, but that’s not how it turned out.

I got to the park area around 10:30AM and started getting ready for my hike.  There was only one other vehicle and its owner came up while I was packing up to go.  He was smart he was carrying a water pack instead of a backpack like mine.  We spoke and I was on my way.  First stop was the grape arbor at the old farm house, scuppernongs are ripe this time of year and they are really sweet.  I planned on an easy pace and still hoping to be back in a couple of hours.

Reached the creek in about 5 minutes, crossed the foot bridge and started up the trail.  It was a cool morning with the sun shining brightly.  I walked for about 10 minutes and realized I had not turned on my heart monitor, pedometer.  I figure I lost a 1,000 steps by my mistake.  The trail was at an upgrade and  even at a easy pace I was breathing hard.  The only sound I was hearing was me sucking in air.  Checked my heart rate, it was at 80% of the maximum of 163 beats per minute.  I’ve discovered that whenever I’m at 70% or greater I start breathing heavily through my mouth.

I decide I need a walking stick.  I picked up a likely candidate, broke it off to the proper length and it helps.  It is a great aid in knocking down spider webs that are across the trail.  The only problem was the roughness of the bark.  I pulled out my knife and scrapped off the bark and knobs that lined the stick.  I finally got it were it was comfortable to hold.

I reached the first fork in the trail.  I could go right on the Robbin’s Branch Trail or go left to reach the Birkhead Mountain Trail.  I went right.  I figured I was about two miles from the Hannah Creek Trailhead.  I stopped at campsite and ate an apple and rested.  Got back on the trail and nothing exciting took place and I reached another fork in the trail, right to continue on to the trailhead or left to follow the Hannah Creek Trail.  It has been 30 years since I walked the Hannah Creek.  I didn’t feel tired, so I went left.  The trail post said 1.5 miles to Hannah Creek.  That was a long 1.5 miles.

I ran into another fork in the trail, right to the go to the creek or left to travel on Birkhead Mt. Trail.  I had to make a decision of whether to turn around and go back the way I had come or take the Birkhead trail back to where it intersected with Robbin Branch.  The Birkhead trailhead was about 6 miles from where I was and by the map it looked as if the intersection was about 3 miles.  I chose to walk the Birkhead.  The trail seemed to go straight up.  After reaching campsite 5 I checked the pedometer and it showed a little over 10,000steps had been recorded.  When I reached the trail intersection it was recording a little over 13,000steps.  I met three people on Birkhead.  The first was a man around 40 who was walking with no supplies or water.  I thought about him for a while, wondering what would possess a person to walk for miles in the woods without carrying water.  I met a couple as I reached the intersection.  A teenager and I assume his mother.  They were carrying a water bottle and knapsack.  They had hiked in from the Tot Hill trailhead.  They wanted to know what lay ahead on the trail and if they were close to the top.  I laughed and told them that another two hundred yards and it would be down hill all the way to Hannah Creek, but it would be tough climb back up to were they where.  They decided to turn around and head back to Tot Hill.  I took a left onto Robbin Branch.  This was the prettiest part of my hike.

I walked down to the branch around another 2,000 steps and reached a fern covered flat that just looked so cool.  I would like to go back and camp there sometime.  The bad thing about this trail it was backtracking in its direction and I was heading southeast instead of northwest toward the trailhead where I was parked.  I was tired by this time.  I finally reached the fork in the trail that going left would lead to Hannah Creek Trailhead or right to Thornburgh Farm Trailhead.  Guess which way I went.  My pedometer was reading about 15,500steps.

I guessed that it would take another 3,000 steps to get back.  I checked the pedometer again after walking for about what I thought was a mile and none of the steps had been recorded, I must have turned off  the pedometer function of my monitor.  Frustration!  Turned it back on and recorded the rest of hike.  I ended up recording 18,000 steps or ten miles, but I figure two miles of the hike weren’t recorded.  I, according to the heart monitor had burned 1,200 calories.

Both feet and knees were in pain.  Once again the old man had over done it.  I don’t care, for about 6 hours I was young once more, and the feeling was worth the price.

must give a disclaimer, this walk took place seven years ago. I now have a new knee and should do the walk again.

SEPARATION

It is my personal opinion that there is an innate danger when religious authority embraces secular politics to give legitimacy to reprehensible policies…to bend the knee to demagoguery. I seriously doubt many of my Christian brethren would disagree with the gist of that opinion, but I also doubt if many will agree that is what has and is being done. They are only so many plays in the playbook of politics and for that matter…religion. If one looks through the prism of history one will see the usage of the same politics, secular and religious is being done, just different players on the field.

I find this to be a very unsettling quote: “Though it had many Catholic leaders (including Hitler), the Nazi Party relied heavily on Protestant support. Protestants had given the Party its principal backing during the years leading up to 1933 at a level disproportionate to their national majority.[25] Evangelical youth was especially pro-Nazi. It has been estimated that as many as 90 percent of Protestant university theologians supported the Party. Indeed, the participation of so many respected Protestants gave an early, comforting air of legitimacy to the often-thuggish Party. So did the frequent sight of Sturmabteilung (S.A.) units marching in uniform to church.” from The Great Scandal: Christianitys-role-in-the-rise-of-the-Nazi/

The Concordat was a classic political kickback scheme. The church supported the new dictatorship by endorsing the end of democracy and free speech (the fourth estate, free press was attacked and destroyed). In addition it bound its bishops to Hitler’s Reich by means of a loyalty oath. In exchange the church received enormous tax income and protection for church privileges. Religious instruction and prayer in school were reinstated. Criticism of the church was forbidden. Of course, nothing in the Concordat protected the rights of non-Catholics.

Most extraordinary and telling is the Rosenstrasse incident.[43] Some 30,000 Jews lived openly in Germany as the spouses of Christians. Nine in ten such marriages remained intact despite ceaseless harassment. Oriented toward family values as they were, the Nazis could not decide how to handle these Jews without violating the sanctity of marriage. Early in 1943, Goebbels, then in charge of Berlin, decided it was time to cleanse the capital by rounding up these last Jews. Hitler agreed. Some 2,000 Jewish men from mixed marriages were seized and taken to a large downtown building on the Rosenstrasse, from which they would be deported to the camps.

For a week their Gentile wives stood in the winter cold, chanting “We want our husbands back!” Ordinary Germans sometimes joined them. All told, the protests involved about 6,000 people. They continued in the face of S.S. and Gestapo threats, even threats to use machine guns. They continued though British bombers pounded the city by night. But the Nazis dared not fire upon these defenseless, unorganized Aryan women. Berliners saw the protests directly. Foreign diplomats spread word of it to the world press. The British Broadcasting Company broadcast the story back into Germany.

What was the outcome of Nazi Germany’s only mass demonstration to save Jews? The 2,000 Jewish husbands were released with Hitler’s approval (even in a dictatorship when the people hold the leadership accountable morality can win). Two dozen who had already been sent to Auschwitz were returned. Jewish-Christian couples continued to live openly and survived the war. They would comprise the great majority of German Jewish survivors.

Goebbels later commented to an associate that the regime relented “in order to eliminate the protest from the world, so that others didn’t begin to do the same.” Sadly, this strategy was successful: during the rest of the war, no similar action would ever be taken in defense of Jews in general.

When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, with the slogan ‘Wipe out the shame of Versailles’, Niemoller was wholly in agreement. (this slogan sounds a lot like “Make America Great again” my comment.) Niemoller is best known for this quote:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

One can only surmise he came to understand the foolishness of accepting at face value everything that was promised.

Bonhoeffer was one of the first Christians in the Confessing Church to recognize clearly the significance of the ‘Jewish question’ in Nazi Germany. As early as spring 1933 he pointed out that the Jews were becoming victims of the state’s policies – but his was a lone voice. He saw that the age-old policy of confrontation, which Christians had practised towards the Jews from the Church Fathers through to Luther and later, had made Christians in Germany passive, blind and indifferent to the fate of the Jews. (is there a parallel to Moslem issues today)

Bonhoeffer wanted to awaken the church to the fact that a monstrous injustice was being done to the Jews, and that the place of Christians was alongside their persecuted Jewish brothers. He challenged Christians to regard the Jews as the ‘neighbour fallen among thieves’, as in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. He saw that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is part of the Christian Bible too; that Christians and Jews believe in the same God; that the Bible concept of’the people of God’ refers to both. But he could not persuade the Confessing Church to make a public statement on behalf of the Jews. As the Second World War progressed, the growing persecution of the Confessing Church by the Nazi authorities crippled the church’s ability to help others. http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-9/christians-against-nazis-german-confessing-church.html Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz

Our present day evangelical community seems willing to get in bed with any politician that publicly oppose abortion, regardless of any other moral failures. I question if my Lord wouldn’t use the analogy of “whited sepulchers” in speaking of our present day evangelical leaders? I believe what seems pure to them today will weigh down the balance scales of justice and honesty when future historians look back on our time; just as we now see the foolishness of most German religious leaders of the 1930’s and 40’s. For the Church (universal) to meet her Lord’s Great Commission she must keep herself separate from worldly blemish, and she must realize that a true theocracy will only come about when her Lord returns. To try to impose any other form as a theocracy is only forcing a form of tyranny on society.

I’M SORRY

The basis of all relationships is how we communicate.

If we use balloons in big bag it will illustrate how we are all bumping into each other in relationships and that it is impossible to avoid having contact.

In living it is impossible to get by without offense being made. We either give or receive offenses everyday of our lives. NCIS inspector Gibbs has a motto that he doesn’t give apologies because “they show weakness” I would beg to differ. They are a sign of strength. Perhaps they’re those who would abuse the situation when an apology is being offered and attempt to take advantage, but that doesn’t diminish the strength or wisdom of the one offering the apology. It takes great integrity and courage to expose oneself to another as being anything other than strong and absolutely correct in our behavior toward one another.

In the Christian lexicon there are many words that we use with casual regard, an assuming stance that those who hear these words understand what we are trying to communicate. We use words like “love”, “faith”, “save”, “confess”, or “forgive”, with a confidence that everyone has a clear understanding of what these words mean and their import to us. The truth is; language is an art, open to interpretation of the recipient as well as the one sending the message. But it is an art that we must all use to build relationships with each other. There is a book out titled, “ The Five Languages of Love” it’s author has written another called, ”The Five Languages of Apology”. The premise of both books is what I’m talking about in this introduction. Communication is the basis of all relationships.

With God Himself and with each other

. And

until we are all using the same language and the words with the same meanings our relationship with each other can be damaged or destroyed.

In the following scriptures I’m using the word confess as meaning to apologize. An apology should have an element of confession to a wrong committed, and an attempt to see the offense from the offended’s viewpoint. In other words you come to agree that their position is valid.

Scripture: 1Jn 1:9; “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Romans 12:18; “ If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” James 5:16; “ confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Forgiveness is an obligation of any believer. It is an expectation of God for all of his children to forgive any offense, and if the scales of justice are to be balanced it is for God to level and not us. When I facilitated DC (DivorceCare) I implored those in the group to forgive those who have hurt them. I was often faced with claims that forgiveness can’t be given until those who have hurt them acknowledge their wrong, ask for forgiveness, and make restitution for their wrongs. The problem with this type of thinking is you get bottled up and any form of a healthy relationship is impossible. My answer to this claim is simple by letting go of the hurt, forgoing your bitterness, and yes, even your right to be angry you are releasing a heavy burden on your heart and you are making your journey lighter. It in no way makes their offense less or cheapens your hurt, but it allows you to move on with your life regardless of what they do. You have put yourself in a position to rebuild a relationship – to make a reconciliation. The ball is now in their court. God in His righteousness could have easily condemned us all, but in His love he gave us His Son. 1Jn. 2:2 states that …he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

In other words Jesus is the satisfaction for all the sins of the world, His forgiveness is sufficient for the whole world,

but we know that not everyone is going to accept this gift, and that those who refuse they will not ever be reconciled to God, nor have a relationship with him. Paul tells us for there to be a relationship we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths – come to a place of agreeing with God about ourselves – to be saved. All of Christianity is building relationships, first with God and secondly with each other. Remember what James said…

we are to confess our faults one to another, that you might be healed (reconciled).

The next sentence tells us that the

effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

This implies that the reconciliation brings righteousness to those seeking reconciliation and that their prayers will be heard. My opening sentence stated that it is impossible to live without offenses being given or received., and if true, therefore it is important that we be a forgiving people, but also a people who recognizes our own failings. who are willing to offer an apology when warranted. For an apology to have any weight the one to whom the apology is being given must believe that there is sincerity in the apology. how many times have we heard the words “I’m sorry”? How many times did we discount those words as cheap, without depth or meaning? A child quickly learns that adults leave them alone quicker if they say those magic words, even if they don’t mean them. Alterative or secret motives can not be a part of an apology. an Apology is an acknowledgement of committed wrong. It should possess empathy toward to the person wronged, an understanding of how this act or failure to act has offended the other party. Usually this is enough to allow the other person to forgive, but not always. Some times an effort must be made toward restitution. And for an apology to be effective it must also be accompanied by a simple thing called commitment. In our relationship with each other- husbands & wives, fathers & sons, mothers & daughters, friends & neighbors we are going to find use for the blocks of forgiveness & apology. The purpose of an apology is never to put oneself down or belittle anyone, but to come to a better understanding of yourself and each other. We use the blocks of forgiveness and apologies to build relationships. The mortar for these building block is love. God did not act toward us in feeling like he loved us when he allowed Jesus to come, but he decided he loved us. Feelings and emotions are part of our nature, but what and who we love is a matter of will and intellect as much as our feelings. Relationships are built upon trust – trust that we each will seek the best for each other. and if that means we have to swallow a little pride so be it. Our Lord wants what’s best for you, the question you have to answer is Do you want what’s best for you, and are you willing to do what it takes to gain the best?

HYPERBOLE

While sitting with  a loved one in the cubical of an emergency room several years ago, waiting to find out what was causing their problem I had an interaction with one of the staff that I found to be amusing and a little troubling.  This professional was drawing blood to examine for bacterial infection and some how the flu vaccine for that year got brought up.  The professional then went on to claim that year’s vaccine was totally worthless…that it didn’t affect that year’s strain.

He believed that 60% of the people who took the vaccine would still get the flu and then claimed 20% of those that contracted the flu it would prove fatal was his next declaration.  In his own words, “the vaccine was totally worthless; a waste of time”.  I pointed out to him that by his numbers it was 40% effective, which was a lot better than the odds of winning the lottery.  By his numbers if 100 people took the vaccine it would prevent 40 from getting the flu and that 20% of those 40 (8 people) wouldn’t die.  He finally agreed that maybe it wasn’t totally worthless. 

It was obvious to me that the numbers he was spouting off were, while possibly factual, his interpretation of the facts led him to make hyperbole statements, and what he was really trying to say was the vaccine for the flu was not as effective as hoped.  But what I came away with was that too often folks in their effort to make a point using “facts” make misleading statements…hyperbole…to try to score points in their discussions, and that professional people are just as prone to do it as anyone else.  I really prefer folks to give true facts when talking about life and death matters.  And if you think about it…it would be nice if people would do the same while discussing politics.

DOCTOR DOCTOR GIVE ME THE NEWS

I’ve been reading for continuing education for Hospice. They require twelve hours of educational instruction from volunteers each year, actually the government requires them to have her volunteers to meet that requirement. It’s not that difficult, one can receive credit for reading certain books or even watching specific movies and give feedback on what you gleaned from them. One of the books I read is, “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande, MD. It is an exceptional read. One that got me in a reflective mood. I’ve also read “Grieving Mindfully” by Sameet Kumar, Ph.D. who makes the obvious observation that we all suffer loss, it is important how we respond to those losses.

Being in a reflective mood I revisited some of my own watershed moments that were created by my own losses. My first major loss in life was the death of my son, a sixteen month old who died by a tragic accident. He aspirated a small wood screw and suffocated forty-six years ago. This event is still fresh in my memory. But in my current reading a new perspective crossed my mind, “how did his death and their handling of me and my wife affect the medical professionals who responded during this event?” At the time of the event I was suffering from what Kumar calls “acute grief” and my vision of the event was self-centered. I have captured pictures in my brain of what took place…of seeing my son on the gurney, of being led to a room, of my wife sitting on my right, of the nurse and hospital chaplain standing, of the doctor entering the room, he not speaking just shaking his head, of receiving instructions on calling the family, making the call, of choosing a funeral home, of grabbing my daughter from the volunteer who had held her in the hallway while we were given the news, of the funeral director who met us as we went to our car for the drive home–these thing live in my brain.

Twenty odd years ago I wrote a story of these events called, “The Blanket“, I wrote it during another loss, my divorce from my children’s mother and penned it on what would have been my son’s twenty-first birthday. In that story I mentioned the doctor…”the doctor who failed me”. During that actual day the doctor said very little, but a couple of weeks after the funeral I met with him and he shared something that infuriated me. He told me that he had made the decision not to try to resuscitate my son, although he thought he could have brought him back. He went on to tell me that he reasoned my son would have been severely handicapped or in a vegetative state if he had. It was his decision, and in all probability it was the right one. Ryan, my son, had been hypoxic and in distress for a minimum of thirty minutes by the time the doctor first saw him. But in my mind it wasn’t his decision to make. I carried anger toward this doctor, this man for quite a while.

What would make this doctor, this man think this was his decision? Did he think he was a god, who decides who lives or dies? To be honest up to this point in my life I put doctors on a pedestal and viewed them as something more than mere man. But they are just that, men and women who before they are doctors are in the same emotional battles as the rest of us. I discovered that this doctor had a daughter who was mentally handicapped. Perhaps he was trying to spare my wife and I a life he himself had to live. Perhaps his knowledge of human nature wanted to relieve us of guilt in making a decision that would be froth with doubts and “what ifs” regardless of which way we went. Perhaps he was just doing the best he could with what he knew. I know that he’s just a man, a man like me, a man that has to live with what is, and not what could have been. If I had my druthers I would have preferred not to have been told after the funeral there was a possibility my son could have been resuscitated, the doctor made the decision he should have carried its weight without including me when all I could do was acknowledge the receipt of the information. But I was told and I have had to respond. Originally I responded with anger, then bitterness, then acceptance, and finally forgiveness with more than a twinge of gratitude that I didn’t have to make that decision.

The next big personal loss which included doctors and death took place five years ago. My mother had several medical issues for the previous five years. Most of these issues dealt with the abdomen and a couple of major surgeries, but for several months she had been exhibiting some signs of suffering from TIA’s (transient ischemic attack) or mini strokes. The doctors were busy trying to treat her symptoms without knowledge of what was really causing the symptoms. Dad finally convinced a doctor to order an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging), which revealed a large tumor in the right hemisphere of mom’s brain. The tentative diagnosis was Gliobastoma, a fatal cancer of the brain. They sent mom from the MRI room to the ER of the hospital were an emergency room doctor gave her the news.

My dad was so angry at this doctor. The doctor knew what the prognosis for “glio” was and made a remark that it would probably be best if he and mom just went home and lived like they had never had the test. I think his humanity had kicked in and he wanted to spare mom and dad some suffering. But dad was in shock and took it to mean this doctor was not going to try and help mom beat this thing. The doctor did set up an appointment with another hospital and a surgeon for later that same evening. We thought we were going to get a second opinion and a plan of attack to combat this cancer.

We found the surgeon thought we were coming for emergency surgery and was scheduling mom for brain surgery the next day. All of us were in shock at this point and we were in no position to make informed decisions on the best course of action. At this point a young resident came out to talk with my brother and me about mom’s condition. He started out talking facts, procedures, expectations from surgery, he was hiding behind his knowledge. My sister-in-law asked him, “if this was you and with what the mri shows, what would you do?” He finally became human and said, ” if this was me I’d sell everything I own, and live on the beach for the next three months.” In that simple sentence he gave us a tremendous amount of information. He told us mom condition was terminal, her life expectancy was now in months not years, and that quality of life was important. My brother and I decided to listen to the resident and influenced dad and mom to wait on surgery until they had talked with a neurosurgeon from home and mom’s family doctor.

The neurosurgeon explained what we could expect from the surgery, but even with the surgery mom’s condition was terminal. Again we put the doctor on the spot asking what he would do. He said this was mom’s decision, but he wouldn’t recommend surgery and suggested hospice. These few sentences don’t convey fully my image of this time with the neurosurgeon, he gave mom and dad over an hour of his time trying to be sure they knew what to expect in whatever decision they made. He saw persons sitting with him, not cases.

The next doctor was mom’s family doctor. She had scheduled mom a four o’clock appointment so that she could give mom all the attention she needed without interruption. She gave the same prognosis that everyone else had been giving and she seconded the neurosurgeon’s idea of calling in hospice. Her selling point was that mom would be able to make a more informed decision about what she wanted to do. We were in the process of leaving her office at five thirty and while walking out with us I noticed the doctor’s tears. In her compassion she was grieving with us. She is still dad’s family doctor.

Mom did decide to forego medical intervention and called in Hospice, the resident was right, quality of life is better than just fighting futility, but instead of three months mom only got one, but what a good one that was.

I question what motivates someone to become a doctor. Especially knowing that in the end death will win. Perhaps its the desire that they are trying to alleviate human suffering, and in their human compassion their willingness to walk beside us in our grief. Whatever is their motivation I’m glad that they are those willing to wear the mantle of Medical Doctor.

ABSOLUTE


Today I read a letter to the editor in our local newspaper were the writer was questioning the scholarship of Michael Woods who recently proposed the word “arsenokoites” has been mis-interpreted through the years.  The word is normally interpreted as referring to all homosexuality.  Wood believes the word refers to “pederasty” in Paul’s writings and not to all homosexual acts.  

The writer of the letter made a point of expressing that most credible lexicons and Bible translations do not agree with Mr. Wood’s translation, and he went on to express his lack of being impressed by what he referred to as Mr. Wood’s pseudo scholarship in changing the Word of God.  He also claimed he was not addressing homosexuality, “but the intellectually dishonesty so prevalent today designed to excuse or approve certain lifestyles and deceive the unsuspecting.”   He went on to say, “As for me, I will keep understanding the Word of God as historically translated from the languages into English and believing ‘the faith once delivered”.

When first reading his letter I said “Amen”, then I started thinking about what he was really saying in his letter.  What I gleaned was the idea that traditional interpretation was absolute and that anyone who challenged traditional thought or understanding was automatically wrong and guilty of pseudo scholarship and implied they would be dishonest in their motivation.  The thought hit me, “how many believed Copernicus when he proposed his model of the heliocentric universe?” , or “how many were absolutely convinced Galileo was wrong and the church correct in making him recant his theories?”.  Today we perceive that those who were absolutely convinced these two were wrong were actually foolish in their opposition.

Our nation was divided in  the nineteenth century due to a disagreement over slavery.  Yes, I know that revisionist now want to make the division to be over state rights and not slavery, but the so called state right that was at the fore front was the right to sanction slavery.  Many used the Bible, the infallible Word of God, to justify their stance of absolute authority from God to own another human being.  The denomination of which I’m a member was founded over this conflict, and has now apologized for its historic stance and admitted it was in error.  I am convinced that those of that era believed they were rightly understanding the Bible’s words and meanings.  But they weren’t and the result was a divided nation that went to war against itself and too many of our nation’s sons died.

Do I believe the Word of God is infallible and absolute?  Yes I do.  Do I believe that my or anyone else’s understanding and interpretation is infallible and absolute?  Absolutely not.  The Word (the Bible) is a living instrument and I’m thankful it is not absolutely dependent on traditional methods of interpretation, but on the Spirit of God’s enlightenment.

Some who read these thoughts will come to false conclusions about my beliefs and decide that I flow with every wind of doctrine, that would be an error on their part. I do believe one must come to some decision about what the Word is truly saying, and with that decision accept the responsibility and consequences that flow from having made it.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/apostle-pauls-writings-defend-homosexuals-says-world-famous-cryptographer-and-biblical-researcher-213115471.html

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

Story told to me by Audrey.

Audrey was in the fifth grade living in Charlotte, NC with her brother Curtis and Mom Grace. The year was probably 1937 or 38. She and her two year older brother decided they want to go to Rockingham (Cordova) to visit their grandmother and uncle Horace and aunt Nora. They had a couple of slight problems: they didn’t have any money and they didn’t have permission to go. Being creative and great problem solvers they decided that they would hitchhike their way to Cordova, to save money (which they had none), and Curtis had come up with a plan to obtain some.

Aunt Grace had been recently ill and Curtis reasoned that if he took the empty prescription bottle to the local neighbor store that Grace had an account with he could tell a yarn about his mom needing her medicine and they were broke. The store owner bought the story and advanced them 72 cents to purchase the medicine at the drug store. Flush with some spending money and their wide eyed innocence they headed off on their adventure.

They traveled all evening and made it to a small town just before getting to Wadesboro and found a family that offered to share supper with them. During the meal they dodged answering the natural questions that flowed from the adults as to what these youngsters were up to and how come they were on the road. Finally they were given some blankets to make a pallet to sleep on for the night. The next morning Audrey and Curtis awoke to a couple of police officers who weren’t buying their answers. Audrey ultimately gave it up and told them who their mother was and where they were from.

The officers were able to contact Aunt Grace and advised her to come pick them up. Grace had her own slight problem-she didn’t own a car. She got a neighbor to drive her down. Audrey said that was one beautiful sight to see when she spied the car. She knew it was her momma coming to get her. She said Curtis wasn’t near as happy. She was so happy to be riding home in the rumble seat she didn’t worry about the consequences of her and Curtis’ adventure. Children will always be children, I’m thankful nothing bad happened to my cousins and the knowledge that some of the stuff I got into as a child had a precedent.

WEIRD

weird

I don’t usually remember dreams, at least I don’t think I remember dreams.  Those that I don’t remember I have to take on faith that I’ve had.  Occasionally one stays with me as I awake, maybe due to the fact I’m in the process of waking.

I’m closing in on the early seventies-not the era, but the age. I dreamed that at my age I had to take my Piedmont transcript to an unknown university to continue my studies.  I couldn’t find a name for it anywhere.  I was in a dormitory with youth running around stripping the place of items as they seemed to  be leaving campus.  I took an ice tray or the Ice bin from an ice maker-why I don’t know.  I end up in an office building looking for the registrar and run into one of my old high school students, who was still the same age as when I taught her.  She wanted to know what I was doing there.  while explaining to her that I was going to finish my studies I noticed another of my old students sitting on the floor and called her by name.  The first student informed me she had to have helped the second student do everything because the second student didn’t know how to do even the simplest of task.

The first student told me she would take me to the registrar so that I could go to class and she led me to an elevator.  She punched the button (I don’t remember if it was the up or down), but as I awoke we were standing in front of the elevator for 30 minutes, and I think as I gained full conscientiousness the door began to open.

No, I hadn’t taken any drugs or drank alcohol. It was just a weird dream.

So for those of you who believe that dreams have meanings I’m dying to hear your interpretation of my dream and its meaning.

During the dream I had the students’ names, but I have now forgotten them.

LET THEM EAT CAKE


I made the mistake of purchasing a Kindle Book called “American Hunger” by Eli Saslow. I’m reading it very slowly, I don’t want to misconstrue anything that this gentleman is saying. Up to this point he is just relaying information and his observations of people in the U.S. and their battle against hunger. He seems to be purposely avoiding making judgments or offering solutions…I think he just wants us to think about the issue of hunger in America.

If that was his purpose he has succeeded with me. Questions that have been floating around in my mind for years are popping up after reading just a little of this book…that’s why it was a mistake to purchase it. Questions like, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”; “What do I owe others?”; “What is the proper involvement of government in feeding the hunger?”; “How much can the government afford in meeting basic needs of her citizens?”; “How do you get people off welfare?”; “Is another’s bad life choices my responsibility?”; “When are good intentions, bad policy?”; “When is bad policy good?”; “Is there a such thing as punishing foolishness without hurting the innocent or can you help the innocent without opening yourself to abuse?”; “Can any local agency, local government, local church, meet the needs of the hungry in this country?” Perhaps the biggest question of all, “Why is there hunger in America?”

I have read in the past that there is enough food produced on this planet to offer a diet of 2700 calories to every person on her. The problem isn’t production, but distribution. In America it would seem to be economics and ideology. And people go hungry. People get locked into welfare, living off the largess of others-and I don’t accept this as being right. But it is reality. How do we change this reality. We reward those who need our help by increasing their aid when they continue to make bad life choices and cripple those who make decisions and choices to better themselves by taking away helps that could support them until those choices bear fruit. It isn’t just our nation’s citizens that are supported by welfare, but much of our economy, and not just food service, but housing and medical industries are propped up by our country’s welfare programs. If we do away completely with welfare I strongly believe the recession of 2008 will look like a cake walk.

No one wants to hear it, but education is the first line in the battle to decrease welfare and just importantly the need to have jobs available that give a living wage to those who strive to improve their lives. My father tells of the time he had to knock snow off the wood stove in his house for his grandmother to cook breakfast for the family. At the time he didn’t think anything of it, it was all he knew and that was what everyone in his circle contented with. It was education that taught him their was a better way to live. But it was industry paying a living wage that allowed him and his family to live better. Pride is a learned thing, so is acceptance.

Marie Antointte is reported to have told her subjects let them eat cake. I pray that we Americans can move past that and offer real helps to meet each others needs.