Wednesday, February 27, 2008

*** .....We interrupt this Lent BlogFast for some breaking news.....***

Back in November I found a lump in my breast. I made an appointment with a nurse practitioner at an OB/GYN. She was very nice, examined my breasts, and sent me for some tests; a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The results came back clear/normal. The radiologist personally spoke with me and said he didn't see anything on any of the films in any of the places that we were concerned about. Happy to hear the news, I went on my merry way.

A couple of weeks later, the results were sent to the OB's office and to me. The nurse practitioner called and said she wanted me to see a breast surgeon for a consultation, just to make doubly sure that everything was OK. I was surprised to say the least. Surely, if there were reason to worry, the extensive testing I had would have shown something, wouldn't it?

Of course, this sort of thing makes one paranoid and suspicious. Did the report really say everything was clean? Did the nurse-practitioner know something I didn't? Was she concerned or was this her normal routine with patients?

The medical community feeds this paranoia. When you are tested for things, the diagnosticians can't tell you anything. They send the results on to your doctor to be explained to you. If you get results into your doctor's office, they won't tell you anything over the phone. They will practice cheer and force smiles to convince you that everything is OK, because they are trying to cover their behinds until they have irrefutable evidence one way or the other about your condition. I understand that, but it makes me second-guess everything they say and wonder what's really going on....which then makes me second-guess myself and my intuitive power to ferret out the truth or the implications of a particular situation: "Maybe, I'm just being paranoid." "I must be a hypochondriac." "I must subconsciously want something to be wrong with me."

Anyway, I made the appointment with the breast surgeon. The night before my appointment, I realized that no matter what I would probably have to have a biopsy. Even though everything came back normal on my earlier tests, the pea-sized lump was quite obviously there. Doing more image testing would just give the same results. Testing the tissue would be the only way to really know what the lump was. I went to the appointment with a good idea about what I would be told.

The doctor examined me, felt the lump, and confirmed that she would have to do a biopsy. The lump was close to the surface and would be easier for her to remove rather than trying to do a needle biopsy. When she was done, the entire lump would be sent for testing.

I spent Valentine's Day morning with DH at the local surgery center under the influence of some good drugs that gave me a nice little 40 minute nap while my doctor went to work. I was still out when she came by to talk to us afterward, so she told my husband that things went well and everything looked fine. We should have the results in 5-6 days. A follow-up appointment was scheduled for February28th, just to check the incision and go over everything.

I should have know something was up when I got a call on Tuesday, February 19th, that the doctor was going to be out of town on the 28th and could I please come in tomorrow instead? I directly asked if my results were back, suspecting that the sudden appointment change was an indicator of bad news and the sudden need to talk to me. "Oh no, we just had to reschedule some things," was the nurse's reply. um...yeah....check your pants I think they are on fire.

I couldn't make it the next day so I had them give me an appointment for yesterday, a couple of days earlier than my original time.

So....all that to say.....the nurse was lying. The report was back on 2/18/08. It revealed a small tumor was in the lump that was removed. It tested positive for breast cancer.

I haven't had time to really think about it all. I haven't cried or gotten hysterical.....not yet anyway. The truth is that we simply don't know what this means.

Was that the only spot in my breast? Are there others that didn't show up on the mammogram and ultrasound? Is it in my lymph system? The answers to those types of questions need to be found, and found quickly. They have a huge impact on what the diagnosis means. The outcome could range from needing to be carefully monitored during my life just to be safe, to having full-blown cancer....exciting huh?!

The next steps for me involve getting an MRI to try and see if there is anything else they can find visually, having a lumpectomy in the same area where they removed the original lump to make sure that no cancer tissue was left behind, followed by direct, local radiation treatment in that area of my breast. They will also have to remove and test some of my lymph nodes to discover if there is anything cancerous in them. It would be bad if there was.

It's hard to think about all of this in real terms. Typing the words tumor and cancer with "I have" in front of them seems like a huge hoax. It couldn't really be true, could it? I am young and healthy, so they have said at every turn. It's probably nothing, they and I said. Everything looks fine, I was told. But, let's just be sure and do some more tests.

I am thankful that my doctors had decided to be sure. It means that perhaps we have caught this at an early treatable stage. The flip side is that whenever I reassure myself that everything is probably not a big deal I have example after example of how wrong appearances and reassurances can be.

So..if you are out there reading my blog...I would just ask that you pray for me and my family. Pray that the tests will reveal there is nothing more in me. Pray that I will be strong. Pray that when I explain to my kids why I have to go to the hospital so much in the next month or so that I can do it in a way that is not frightening to them. The Rationalist knows what cancer is and was worried when he knew I was having a biopsy. I told him everything was going to be fine. It will be hard to explain to him that everything wasn't...at least not as fine as we had hoped. Pray for my husband. Pray that I can figure out a way to tell my family, something I don't really want to do. It's hard to consider calling them up out of the blue just to say, "Oh...yeah...I had a cancerous tumor removed." I can just imagine their panic, and having to tell the same story 20 times, and having to reassure everyone that I'm not dying.

more to come later......

P.S. it really sucks to now have a breast cancer tag for my blog posts

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lent Sunday 3

I have struggled over the past year or two as I have been reshaping my paradigm--or having my paradigm reshaped--of what I believe as a Christian and how I view myself, God and the relationship between the two of us.

It has been unsettling and uncomfortable at times. Trying to figure out what I really believe at the core of my being and what I have accepted over the many years of my faith walk has been difficult. The essentials are all the same. God, Jesus, Sin, Salvation. I don't think my views have radically changed in those areas. What has changed is my perspective of those things as seen through the eyes of someone who has walked the planet for seventeen more years than when I took my initial steps in faith. Things I previously knew intellectually have more meaning than they did 5, 10, or 15 years ago. Things I thought I knew but which have been revealed as utter silliness have started to fall away.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled --Matthew 5:6

I hunger and thirst. More than anything I hunger for righteousness for myself and others....not the righteousness of fulfilled commands and shiny garments, but the righteousness of the pure heart, the righteousness moved by love, the righteousness that is unselfish and caring, the righteousness of faith. It's a long time coming.

Thirsting for such a rare thing has its disappointments; in myself, in others, and in the church. Scratching the surface of any of them tends to reveal unpleasant interiors sorely in need of care and renovation. And yet I persist in this relentless longing for it.

The disappointment I feel in others and the church is felt chiefly in myself. How can I expect better of others in light of my own deficiencies? How can I expect unselfishness, purity, love, patience, when my lack of them can be so obvious? It is a crushing thing to want more of oneself and others than seems attainable, no matter how noble the desire.

And, in tandem with this desire for righteousness, I at the same time am filled with a desire for reassurance that I am enough...that my failures will not overtake me at the last second...that "doing my best" will somehow be good enough. To believe such a thing is itself difficult to grasp in the face of a constant stream of messages, books, and well-meaning teachers sure to remind one of the imminent spiritual catastrophes behind every bush and tree.

Once I settle myself upon the peace that Christ has bought for me in all my imperfection, there appear leagues of people dedicated to making sure that believers always feel inadequate, unworthy, and guilty...things most of us need no help to feel.

"Don't just sit there..do something!" is the message that permeates each sermon and teaching. Do more, work harder, pray more passionately; over and over the mantra rings out. But the doing is never enough. There must be some vision we're moving toward, some destiny meant for us, some great purpose we must fulfill.

It tires me out. I have enough unattainable goals without adding to them, thank you very much.

In my rethinking I came to a place where I just stopped worrying about such things. I stopped feeling guilty. I stopped chasing after some ideal picture of what it meant to be a "good" Christian.

The funny thing is I still haven't decided if this new attitude is apathy or faith. In my giving up the hunt I have had to rely on the hope that Jesus is enough. He's enough to cover over my flaws. He's enough to help me in my unbelief. He's enough to show me mercy when I haven't deserved it. He's enough to love me when I have not loved Him as much as I should or could.

How do we cope with failure?
Grace tells us that we are accepted just as we are. We may not be the kind of people we want to be, we may be a long way from our goals, we may have more failures than achievements, we may not be wealthy or powerful or spiritual, we may not even be happy, but we are nonetheless accepted by God, held in his hands. Such is his promise to us in Jesus Christ, a promise we can trust.

For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it
requires enormous trust, and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of
Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, "Come to
me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened," He assumed we would grow weary,
discouraged, and disheartened along the way.

(--The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning 114-115)


The end of myself is the beginning of Christ. The cessation of doing is the commencement of trust. Once again I realize that I am not enough, I will never be enough, I will never know enough, I will never have faith enough...but He is enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lent Sunday 2--Incarnation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.


There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.


He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.



--John 1:1-14



This is my God; the one I strive to know.

He leaves his vast dimensions and enters the lowly flesh of a human. He distills the oceans of His being into a concentrated drop of humanity carried about inside a woman, a two-year-old, a twelve year-old boy, a man of thirty years, a martyr at thirty-three.....and back again....losing nothing.


God as a human being, God as the ultimate communication of truth, God as the life-giving essence of mankind, God as the maker and the made, God as known and unknown, received by some, rejected by others; the concepts flash through my heart in a searing moment of longing and peace as I search for the God of the Universe and the finite person of Jesus living and breathing on a spinning blue rock called Earth.

Flesh and Spirit become one, much like the description given to Adam and Eve about their children. And we, those who have received him, he makes into God's children--God's Spirit bound to our human matter and molecules; remade by His will and recreation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lent Sunday 1

Certain insights come only in hindsight as one glances back at moments in the past. At the time the insights were unavailable to the mind of the individual. Perhaps they were too young, hadn't mastered a particular concept, or simply were too close to observe the point of a particular event. That happens to me frequently; not the missing of the point, but the gleaning of a particular memory's meaning that I didn't grasp in childhood.

I must have seemed strange to those who observed me--an eight year old child walking three blocks to church by herself, bedecked in a black and white sundress with tie straps around my shoulders, black, shiny sandals on my feet. Yet, there I was, passing the grocery store, the hospital, two-story gingerbread, Victorian houses all the way to a brick church with stained glass windows and a balcony. Usually, I just went to Sunday School. Once I remember going to the service afterwards by myself. I went up to the altar when the children's story/sermon was presented and sat down again when it was over. I don't remember important things like....Did I actually sit still through the whole sermon? Did I sing the hymns at the right places? Did any neighboring adults ask why I was there by myself? These are all things I find curious now as I look back from my perspective as an adult, mother, and church-goer.

Once, my mother told me to go with my older brother. I think I was a little older at that time. Somehow we walked all the way to that little church and, before turning down the road, he convinced me we should walk two more miles to a particular drugstore where he could buy his favorite comic books. "Get thee behind me Satan"....I should have shouted. Instead I followed him, stood around the drugstore for 45 minutes and then had to walk back home with him making me promise not to tell our mother.

I don't really know what my attraction was to going to church. My parents didn't go. Even I didn't attend regularly. I suppose I must have enjoyed it on some level, though I don't think I had any particular understanding of what it all meant. It wouldn't be until I was almost seventeen that I really understood the Gospel and had a conversion experience that radically changed my perspective on life. I was just a kid, unencumbered by self-consciousness, enjoying what I could at the small, brick church with the stained glass windows and scarlet red carpeting.

I'm a lot older now. I don't wear patent leather shoes and strappy sundresses. I also don't get hoodwinked by my older brother anymore. Though, to be fair, he's outgrown most of his hoodwinking tendencies.

Still, when I think about that little girl who didn't really care, or even have the awareness to know, what others thought about her, I see a part of myself that has always been. At times, it is extremely frustrating as I try to grapple with that trait of independence in the larger context of Church and community. How can I understand and appreciate certain communities and still feel so distinct and separate from them?

Maybe I knew something more then....something I can't quite remember but lived and breathed at eight.

Jesus calls us to come to him as little children. Sometimes that is portrayed as having a simple faith and trust in Him--not questioning things we don't understand. I wonder if it's more an act of coming to Him as we are without the burden of who we think we are or should be. We simply squeal at the sight of Him and rush over to pester Him with a million questions about why frogs' tongues are so sticky, and where does the moon hide when we can't see it and hey...did he see how fast we ran across the field, much faster than yesterday...oh ....and did he bring any of that magic bread and fish with him today...and if we jump can he give us that extra push we need to reach the sky so we can grab that cloud up there?...you know the big one that looks like a camel?

sigh.

Lord, help me to be thankful for who I am in your eyes. Help me to know that you have not come to erase who I am, but to embrace it and use it in a way that glorifies You. Help me to release the expectations I have of myself and others; expectations that serve no purpose but to derail me from the path before me.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lent

I'm a little late to this, but this past week has been crazy busy for me, and I haven't had a lot of time to thoughtfully think about what I would give up for Lent. Amanda is daring enough to give up TV for six weeks....may God give her strength! :-)

I have thought about it and decided that I will be giving up blogging for Lent with the exception of Sundays, during which I will post a single devotional/meditative post. Blogging chews up a lot of my time and can drag me into cynicism or irritation after reading especially groan-worthy opinions from people I don't even know. It is probably the most spiritually important sacrifice, that would be enormously beneficial, I could make.

My fingers will be going through typing withdrawl.

See you on Sundays!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Holy Cow

I don't know who this guy is, but he has sent an enormous amount of traffic my way.

He even said my blog was fun.

I may have to pay him large sums of money for being so kind and building my confidence!

i am a hypocrite....

I really am.

I whine and complain about community and relationship. I say that I long for meaningful fellowship. I criticize the failings I see around me.

What a big, fat liar I am.

Not intentionally, of course.

I have realized over the past few weeks that I am my own worst saboteur. I am not in community because I fiercely defend my autonomous-ity(yeah...i know that's not a word). Having grown up in the house I did, I learned that giving power to people who do not have your best interest at heart was a very dangerous thing to do. Yielding to emotion and dependence in the face of situations which were personally harmful to an individual was not a wise or healthy course.

Lessons learned?

You can't trust people. People lie. People use other people. People use emotion to manipulate others to do their will. Believing the words of a liar is always a bad idea.

Learning those lessons has actually been very helpful in my life, in general. I learned how to think for myself, how to take care of myself, how to trust my instincts and not the flattery of other people. Yet....That same independence--that you could not pry out of my grip even if my life depended on it--also keeps me from relying on other people. I always view myself as the helper, not the helpee. So assured by own high opinion of myself, I unwittingly keep others at bay by setting up a dynamic where I don't need them. They might need me, but I don't need them.

I don't say that in so many words. I doubt that most people would even say that about me. But, it's true. That's what I subconsciously think...or maybe consciously...now that I am aware of it.

Even with my husband there is a reserve of myself that is never quite penetrated. I love him. He loves me. We know each other's thoughts and feelings. He knows my insecurities and has seen me cry and yell and be irrational...more than he'd probably like to. But I am always still keenly aware of my seperateness.

In loving words he will say,"I don't know what I would do without you." It's meant to express love and the bond we share.

I have never uttered that statement to him....or anyone else for that matter. I don't know that I ever could, because my problem-solver mind woud know exactly what to do without someone--even someone I cared about deeply and profoundly. I am strong. I am independent. I do not look to others for my own self-worth, d*** it.

So, when I feel rejected or unappreciated by a particular individual, or group, I shake my head, count it as their loss and move on. Except that I don't. I may feel initial frustration and anguish, though that usually fades pretty quickly. Mostly, I just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks, but inwardly I mourn the lost opportunity for connection.

I have no friends from childhood. There are perfectly good reasons for this; we moved several times, I converted to Christianity, I graduated from a high school that I had only attended for over a year, I went to college out-of-state and then moved away from there to get married. Line by line my life has been formed by my own choices and the lack of need I felt to consult with anyone other than myself and God. It makes for a life with few regrets, but it also places you in the position of not having much to turn to when yourself is not enough.

When friends have drifted away, not because of a disagreement, but by distance or circumstance I have let them go. Why? It seems so stupid. A few less phone calls each year. The losing of an e-mail address. The keeping track of the fact that I have called them for the last 3 times. The feeling of having no desire to force someone to continue a relationship with me just for old times' sake.

Big. Stupid. Idiot. that would be me.

The truth is I need people. Too much time to myself makes me cynical. I need to call people even if I don't feel like it. I should do some things out of obligation even if I don't want to. I should contact friends I haven't kept track of. I should make an effort to be more open with my emotional needs.

So...now you know....my name is Terri...and I'm a hypocrite.

Alma Mater

My alma mater was smashed by a tornado last night. It was strange to see Lester Holt, from The Today Show, standing outside of a demolished dorm that looked very much like the one I used to live in. Maybe when they're cleaning it all up they'll find that set of car keys that I lost and could never find.

But seriously, it's good to hear no one was seriously hurt at the University.

Let's pray for the families in the surrounding areas who weren't so fortunate and have lost loved ones.

May God comfort them and meet their needs.

Update--Wow. I just saw the news and more footage of Union. It is far worse than I realized when I made my dumb joke about my missing car keys. I am just floored by how extensive the damage is.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

God of the Possible--maybe

I just finished reading God of the Possible, by Gregory Boyd; termed on the cover as a biblical introduction to the open view of God.

So what is Open Theology? In a nutshell, it's the theory that God does not exhaustively ordain the future in limitless detail. Instead, certain events related to God are viewed as"pre-destined" while others are open to the possibilities of people with free will asserting their choices. This is in contrast with a more traditional view that everything that happens, happens for some God-appointed reason--the whole mysterious ways explanation for indiscernable situations.

I had read a few articles about open theology four or five years ago, but went no farther than that. It seemed like one of those debates about the nature of God that no one could actually know or settle with absolute certainty. I recall reading conservative theologians labeling it as heresy, a word that was too strong for the debate in my opinion.

After reading Gregory Boyd's book about the historic Jesus, I thought this one might be interesting. I must say that I was more than a little disappointed. It is written from a very simple perspective and seems quite repetitive at points. 169 pages could have been reduced to about 80 and still hit the high points. Also, Boyd frequently makes assertions that he does not back up with quotes. He puts in end notes, but those are pretty useless if you don't have access to the same books in your home or library. I do not believe that he's being dishonest so much as he has sacrificed thoroughness in an attempt to be accessible to general readers.

The open theology debate is really just a twist on the old dilemma of trying to reconcile an all-knowing, all-powerful God with the presence of evil in the world and the concept of free will. Do we have control over our own lives? If so, how much? If God knows everything that is going to happen, then why doesn't he stop suffering and evil? Why does he allow people to be born who will commit atrocities?

Openness proponents would say that God doesn't know that people will commit evil, but because they are free agents they have the ability to commit evil. God doesn't know ahead of time about these evil choices because until they are actually committed they don't exist and they don't have to exist. People might choose not to do evil.

That thought is a little unsettling...not the "not doing evil" part, but the God really not knowing part. If God really doesn't know everything, then how do we know that evil won't triumph in the end?

And yet, the other exteme--God knowing everything, in every way--isn't much better. A God who is ultimately responsible for evil in the world, even if it is only indirectly through the actions of people making bad choices is difficult to reconcile with the "God is Love" concept. Perhaps it's not so much the concept of an all-knowing God who does not intervene that is so troubling, but the all-powerful God who doesn't use His power to halt all the suffering with which we struggle.

Boyd tries to convey that God is all-knowing in regards to reality and pre-ordained events, but can't know about something that doesn't exist, such as a married bachelor(one of his examples).

After reading the book I was not convinced by Boyd's argument. He makes all sorts of very vague and shaky statements that fall short of his goal. While discussing the implications of open theology with regard to the uncertainty and fear that one might have in dealing with a God who does not foreknow the future, I cringed at one of his illogical conclusions:

First, how is the scariness of a view relevant to the question of whether or not the view is true? There is no reason to conclude that something is true to the extent that it conforms to our wishes. Indeed, the fact that the open view doesn't conform to what we might wish were true actually provides one more reason for thinking that it is true, for reality rarely confroms to our wishes. pg 154 [emphasis mine]


What? So scary implications don't affirm the truth of an argument, but not liking the argument somehow does? That is total, nonsensical tripe. This was by far one of the more egregious leaps of logic I came across, but Boyd tends to make dalliances with similar statements throughout his book. There is too much assumption and jumping to broad conclusions and not enough detailed examination of the issues for me to recommend the book as anything more than a simple intro to the open debate.

Having said all that, I would say that my disappointment in the book does not correlate with my feelings regarding free will and the openness of God. I don't believe in God's strict control over every aspect of His creation. While there are definitely a great deal of passages to assert God's sovereignty and ultimate power, there are also many passages in which we are shown a God who gives responsibility to humans. They must make choices and decide the path they will follow. They can be influenced, but are they ultimately responsible for their own actions and decisions.

any thoughts?
Sometimes you're so frustrating. You react with an irrationality that belies your name--The Rationalist. You have a battle that must be won, enemies that must be thwarted, arguments upon which hinge the destiny of all mankind.....and you are committed to your cause.

Fatigue can slowly overcome my affection for you.

And yet....

And yet....sometimes you need me. All you want is for me to rub your back, play a game or help you when you're sick......and I do.

I run my fingers through your disheveled hair, the weight of your head in my lap reminding me of that younger you perpetually climbing into bed with me in the middle of the night, scared by the shadowy monster drifting out of the air conditioning vent. I enjoy the quiet moment.

I carry you to your bed and prop up the pillows for you to lay on, telling you I'm sorry you can't breathe because of your cold. I kiss you and and comfort you. You welcome my loving help. I close the door and sigh, wishing it was always so easy to set your soul at peace, giving you respite from your imagined trials.

Friday, February 01, 2008

McChurch

Yes...this is exactly what I'm thinking about in response to the "multi-site" vision of our church.

McChurch.....I'm so not lovin' it.