Friday, August 9, 2019
In many ways. Would not want to go back to my childhood, which was “melodramatic, disorganized, and emotionally exhausting” (Brooks, 75). I certainly do not want to revisit Jr. High, or High School, where I was, in turn, bullied, bullied again, willfully humiliated by the first loves of my life, betrayed by bandmates and ridiculed by classmates and teachers. I flunked-out of two colleges—not really interested in going there. One let me back in and that was not too bad, and in fact, one of my professors there (Dr. Byrd) changed my life. I still talk to him now and then, and he recently had the same surgery I had, but that is as close as I want to get. Another professor (Dr. C____) was like Byrd’s antimatter.
I could go on, but won’t. Suffice it to say that through seminary, early work experiences, early church positions, trying to get published—not even to mention trying to date, get married, have kids, hold it all together—I was not very good at it and abidingly unhappy. I am sure I made most if not all the people around me miserable, as I myself was melodramatic, disorganized and emotionally exhausting.
GLAD to be where I am. Do not want to go back. And not even a week.
Last Friday about this time I got the good medicine, made by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in Kishanpura village, on the Baddi Nalagarth Road, in the Solan, Himachal Pradesh District, India. I have thanked God for those (presumably) Hindu saints for their good and merciful works for me, a sick Christian. I am so much better and I am so thankful for the healing, release and relief that those good people via the doctors gave me.
And perhaps that is where it started: this weeks’ deep prayers of thanks. The last two nights I have spent long, focused seasons in prayers of thanksgiving; this, after several nights just remembering before God those who made my medicine (“Bless, O Lord, this ointment and the hands that prepared it”). And the doctors and pharmacologists who researched, developed and manufactured the elixir! Surprisingly, I even thanked God for Glenmark’s investors and the medical regulators for getting the stuff to market.
Two nights ago, I began with the people in my church who had cooked for me this last month, offered to take me places, brought me groceries, offered to do laundry and take out my trash. Hawthorne Lane, as a congregation, is well-practiced in its compassion and kindness and I am but the latest sick/wounded pastor to have benefited from their care.
Soon, I was thinking about/praying for the nurses, techs, orderlies, janitors, food service workers and, of course, doctors and surgeons and PA’s who tended to me. And even—I am not kidding—the people who conceived, designed, manufactured, patented, sold all the machines, gauges, gizmos and monitors, the tubes, vacuums, hoses, bags, and needles (that one was hard!) that were part of the healing process.
It was one of those moment (and they come rarely for me) when I was overcome with overwhelming and very focused thanks for all of what secured me a successful surgery and recovery. And it did not stop there.
So, several nights (cumulative First Night): Thanks for my medicine-makers in India.
Second night: Thanks for my own congregation and their care, and all the other caregivers, seen and unseen, that blessed me these last weeks.
Third night, which was just last night: all my many “formal” teachers along the way. I called so many names: Barnett, Glenn, Morris, Greenwood, Rowell and Woods at Crieve Hall. Tatum, Doris, Johnson, Campbell, Mathis at MacMurray. No one at MBA (brrrr!). Williams, Stevens, Karnowsky at John Overton. Drs. Byrd, Tullock, Helton and Mr. Awalt at Belmont. Drs. Stagg, Polhill, Blevins, Halbrook, Calloway, Tupper, Mueller, Tuck, Leonard, Shurden and Hinson at Southern. Drs. Wood, Angell and Talbert at Wake Forest. Drs. Hackett and Gerkin at Emory.
But again, I did not stop there. I thanked God for their teachers, and for the many who have taught me informally, who were congregants, colleagues, supervisors and supervisees. I thanked God for the authors of books that have blessed and tried to educate me: Baillie, Buechner, Heschel, Dillard, Lewis, Norris, Taylor, Winner, Haidt, Peterson, Benson, Brooks, Ware, Abba Anthony and Abba Joseph, Bonhoeffer, Burghardt, Lamott, Dykstra, Barth (a little; as much as I could absorb and understand). I thanked God for columnists and other writers: Parker, Gerson, Grizzard, Amend, Watterson, Shultz, Jenkins. And so many more that I could not remember or name.
I offered intercessions for counselors, like Larry and Marc, and editors, like Rachelle and Liz and Anne and Jeannie, Bishops Jones, Kammerer, McLesky, Goodpastor, Leeland. For friends like Doris, and Doris; for Paul and Ruth, Mr. Lovett, and others whose hospitality I have never deserved but always enjoyed.
I thanked God for Mr. Sanford, my third grade SS teacher at Radnor Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, who for all else I don’t remember, taught me the books of the Bible. I DO remember that about him.
So many more I could name and did: my children, of course, my granddaughter and the child on the way, my wider family (including my two ex-wives) and others besides.
My prayer life is usually not nearly so focused. I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which I have on my phone, but those prayers are mostly scripture. These prayers were very different than that. And I wondered why I was prying them. Did I have a sense that my end is near and that I needed to be sure I had said thanks to God for each of these saints and the millions who were saints to them and here we go… to assure God (and myself) I was/am sufficiently aware and grateful? I don’t know.
But I would suggest it as an exercise for anyone: to take a full measure of your indebtedness, to name as many people as you can name, to be as specific as you can to thank God for everyone who has blessed and taught and helped you on your way.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
Have been thinking a LOT this last week and a half about Gulliver and the Lilliputians.
Like Gulliver, I made my voyage through deep and dangerous seas with great ease. What might have been a difficult passage from diagnosis to surgery was actually rather routine. And even the matters I was most scared about--the IV, my customary nausea, the cathether--passed quickly and uneventfully. Yes, the catheter was unkind, and I did have to drag it for two weeks, but I was able to negotiate even that inconvenience better than I might have anticipated. Good for me.
And when the doctor said, said again, and reiterated, "No cancer outside the prostate, no further treatments or protocols," I thought, truly (to use another metaphor), I had passed through the valley of the shadow of death and might make a recovery in record time. Only then... My little boat, the SS Recovery, ran aground on the archipelago called The Miseries.
Somehow, perhaps with some of my post-surgery medicine, I managed to contract some of sort of skin irritation... quite a benign description for the yeast or fungus or whatever it was and the unremitting, well, misery it caused me for 11 days. As effectively as the Lilliputions tied down old Gulliver, I too was held captive, vexed in body, mind and spirit.
Last night I had a long prayer meeting, thanking God for all the little things that contributed to my finally getting some relief. For my friend, who "happened" to be signed up that evening, and just before her own appointment. For the doctor, God bless him. And Jessica, his assistant--who was so kind and understanding. For the Walgreens that had the stuff (and mercy, I prayed, for those who one way or another broke their first promises). I prayed for the people in Kishanpura, India, who made the medicine: "Thank you, Lord, for the medicine and bless the hands that made it." I thanked God for the scientists and pharmacologists who developed the medicine in the first place. And if all that sounds silly, it goes to show how despairing I was and how thankful I am.
Challenges remain, of course; but now I am on to the expected, typical challenges that come on the downside of this kind of surgery. The Lilliputions, as it were, have untied me and I can start the next leg of the voyage.
Thanks be to God, and thank you for your continued prayers.
I am Churchilling this morning. My term. A new spiritual practice. For those of you who saw Darkest Hour , a scene you may have f...
Beloved— For the last several days, I have waked-up with a verse on my mind, and a prayer in my heart. The verse : from Psalm 118...
Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body…” Hard to admit that th...
I The fishing was terrible. In three days we caught almost nothing. The food, however, was wonderful. In 6 ½ days we a...