Five Minute Friday: Break

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Gentle Reader,

The Five Minute Friday ladies offered to take up a bail money collection for me tonight.

That’s friendship right there.

Kate and all of us. We: break.

Go.

Honestly? I just want a break. From the demands. From the worries. From the illness. From cataloging DVDs. (Yes, really). From laundry and the noise of the dishwasher and the dogs barking and the planning and the grocery lists and ALL THE THINGS.

I want to go into Super Introvert Mode. Able to morph into a blanket burrito in a single roll.

There are things that make me want to poke my eyes out. (That’s a bit graphic). If some people would just step up… If others would just calm down… If my hair would do the same thing two days in a row… If I just had this, could just do that, had the opportunity for…

I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.

God guards you from every evil,
    He guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    He guards you now, He guards you always. – Psalm 121 (MSG)

I lean my head back against the couch and close my eyes as the dishwasher drones on and Chris blows his nose. (Poor guy’s been hit with a nasty cold). And I wonder: Are there breaks to be found even in the chaos? Am I looking at this all wrong, thinking that rest is something that must be scheduled, must take up a whole day (or five) on the calendar?

God protects me. Uplifts me. Guides me. Shades me from sun and from moon. Never sleeps.

He is active in my chaos, smoothing the way when best, giving me strength to make it over the lumps when best. He knows. And I think, in the middle of it all, He invites me to take little breaks. Little pauses. To breathe deeply.

To be with Him.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Bonus Monday Post: Flirting with Nonsense, Part 2 (or, Call Me a Shill, Call Me a Sheeple)

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Gentle Reader,

Go here for the first part.

I have now reached my limit with the alternative health movement, and I’m not going to qualify anything in this post. You can read my initial thoughts in the above referenced link to know that I’m not some crazed, hypochondriac, pop-a-pill-for-everything, doctors-are-gods-among-men type person.

This here isn’t about qualifications, apologies or beating around the bush.

I read an article over the weekend that presented the hypothesis that breast cancer is really just a fungus. I won’t provide a link because you have fingers and can Google and I don’t want to drive up the hits on that particular piece of pseudo-scientific glory.

You can prevent breast cancer through “emotional healing,” “energy balancing” and baking soda concoctions, among other things.

Here’s the thought extended to its natural conclusion: Breast cancer (cancer of any kind, really) is no big deal.

The arrogance, the ignorance and the insensitivity…. I honestly can’t even make it compute.

I had a tumor. No, it wasn’t in my breast tissue and yes, it was benign, but trust me. IT WAS A BIG DEAL. AND IT WASN’T A FUNGUS. Here’s what tumors and cancer actually are:

Cancer cells differ from normal cells in many ways that allow them to grow out of control and become invasive. One important difference is that cancer cells are less specialized than normal cells. That is, whereas normal cells mature into very distinct cell types with specific functions, cancer cells do not. This is one reason that, unlike normal cells, cancer cells continue to divide without stopping.

In addition, cancer cells are able to ignore signals that normally tell cells to stop dividing or that begin a process known as programmed cell death, or apoptosis, which the body uses to get rid of unneeded cells.

Cancer cells may be able to influence the normal cells, molecules, and blood vessels that surround and feed a tumor—an area known as the microenvironment. For instance, cancer cells can induce nearby normal cells to form blood vessels that supply tumors with oxygen and nutrients, which they need to grow. These blood vessels also remove waste products from tumors.

Cancer cells are also often able to evade the immune system, a network of organs, tissues, and specialized cells that protects the body from infections and other conditions. Although the immune system normally removes damaged or abnormal cells from the body, some cancer cells are able to “hide” from the immune system.

Tumors can also use the immune system to stay alive and grow. For example, with the help of certain immune system cells that normally prevent a runaway immune response, cancer cells can actually keep the immune system from killing cancer cells. – What is Cancer?

But, you know, don’t trust that link because government equals lies, all lies. And the Lizard Lords of the Illuminati control the pharmaceutical shills who work for the National Cancer Institute. And cancer never existed before vaccines. And if we just ate paleo and brushed our teeth with clay we’d be great.

If only I had had my chakras feng shui’d.

I’m furious about this because the alternative health movement preys on my people, the chronically ill, much more aggressively than modern medicine ever has. That’s right, I said it. These bloggers with too much time on their hands, these “practitioners” with “degrees” from diploma mills, these “healing crystal” and bone-broth hawkers INSIST if you would just eat the left hoof of a three-year-old sheep ground into fine powder mixed with mung wort and drink dung beetle tea and give yourself a coffee (or even better, bleach) enema, you will be fine! If it doesn’t work, then you should try rubbing sixteen essential oils on your belly button while levitating above a bath heated to precisely 145.236 degrees. If that doesn’t work, then you’re just a moron who can’t do anything right and you should probably just die anyway because natural selection and that’s how it is.

Satire and sarcasm, people. Satire and sarcasm.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come across a site or article promising me healing for only three easy payments of $59.99. Just as bad as the “preachers” who ask, tears in their eyes, for your “financial seed of faith.” And oh, their cries against doctors! “They don’t care! They don’t know anything! They work for Big Pharma (whatever that means)! Buy my book! Call me for a consult and pay me an astronomical fee! Purchase this (food/water/rock/pillow)!”

Meanwhile, eight months passed between the time imaging showed I had a problem with my liver and the actual removal of the tumor. My doctors who didn’t care about me and wanted to make me sick and were getting paid big bucks to keep me “down” were incredibly cautious. They helped me come off of my medications – and didn’t give me new ones. They suggested dietary changes. Over and over I was told that they needed more information. More understanding of what was going on. When I finally did make it to the cancer surgeon, he was none-too keen on rushing into the operating room. He wanted to make sure that was absolutely the best option and even the last resort.

Hmmmmmm. Methinks something is off here.

What’s most especially awesome about these harbingers of health, these dispensers of wisdom to the poor deluded masses is that they often refuse to publish respectful dissenting comments. Or they go the other route and challenge someone to prove them wrong, and something like this happens:

A German biologist who offered €100,000 (£71,350; $106,300) to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus has been ordered by a court to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website.

The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings.

But the court in the town of Ravensburg ruled that the proof was sufficient.

Reacting to the verdict by the court in the southern town, Mr Lanka said he would appeal.

“It is a psychosomatic illness,” he told regional paper Suedkurier. “People become ill after traumatic separations.” – Germany Court Orders Measles Skeptic to Pay 100,000 Euros

Measles is a psychosomatic illness?

What.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I pay ZERO attention to the claims of alternative health from here on out. You’ll have to forgive me if I roll my eyes. Call me a shill, call me a sheeple. Tell me I’m willfully blind. I DON’T CARE. 

Finally, if you’d like to do some starter reading regarding alternative medicine and how it should be approached with extreme caution, please see:

Alternative Medicine in the Church by Janice Lyons at Watchman Fellowship

Alternative Medicine: a Christian Perspective by George Smith, taken from Triple Helix, a publication of the Christian Medical Fellowship

My journey to faith. (15)

Pray the Sick Away

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* Sorry to include an image of false teacher Benny Hinn. It serves a purpose *

Gentle Reader,

My last post generated some good discussion both here and elsewhere. I appreciate the respect with which these conversations have been conducted. Appreciated even more that a friend pointed out that I failed to touch on something important. Something that honestly deserves its own post.

Chronic illness and prayer.

I’m choosing to address this topic in the form of a letter.

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Dear you,

Thanks for telling me that I should pray and ask God to heal me. For telling me that I don’t need medical treatment. For telling me that I just need greater faith. For telling me that I need to repent of whatever. Maybe this advice comes from a place of genuine concern and love. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. But here’s what you need to understand: Your advice is hurtful and possibly dangerous, not to mention theologically unsound.

Do you honestly think that I don’t pray constantly for God to take this from me? Of course I do! I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, and I certainly don’t want it for myself. Do you think that I haven’t asked Him to reveal any sin that might be related to this? Do you think that I wouldn’t do whatever He asked of me if it meant getting rid of this suffering? Do you think that I haven’t spent hours crying, pleading, even shouting?

Don’t make assumptions about my faith. What you may not realize is that people with chronic illness and pain very often have a deep, fierce relationship with Christ. We have to. We are the embodiment of 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NKJV): “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” We can’t rely on our own bodies. We don’t take a single breath, a day outside of the house, a moment of fun for granted. We know that it is God who holds us up.

And this whole idea that sickness is always associated with sin? Well, you’re partly right. We live in a broken, fallen, sinful world. Things aren’t as they are supposed to be. So, in a general way, this connection is sound. But I direct you to John 9:1-3:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” (NKJV)

Did you catch that? Neither the blind man nor his parents had done anything to cause the problem. There was no personal sin at play. There was no repentance needed. His blindness just…was. It was just a result of living in a world where genetic mutations are basically never good. Furthermore, Jesus chose this man as an avenue for His glory. 

Now, of course, sometimes people make stupid decisions. Drug or alcohol abuse, eating poorly all the time. Sometimes illness flows out of the wrong choices we make. But did you catch that? Sometimes. People who are stricken with migraines, Autism, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Cystic Fibrosis…well, you tell me what whopper of thing they must’ve done. I doubt you can come up with one. If you can, then I want to come live in your world where things are so perfect and shiny and you never have any problems or issues.

Oh, wait…

So, if you’ve given this advice of “pray the sick away” to me and it really does come from love, here’s what you should know:

You are ignorant. We are never guaranteed perfect health in this life. Never. In fact, we’re guaranteed to have trouble (John 16:33). Happily that same verse also guarantees the peace of Christ as we walk through trouble. He never promises to take that trouble away, though. Look at the Apostle Paul. Let’s place the words from the 2 Corinthians passage I referenced above in context:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 12:7-10 (NKJV)

We don’t know if this affliction ever left Paul, or what the affliction was, but we do know that at the point this was written healing was denied. God said no.

God can do that. God can say no. It doesn’t matter how sincere the prayer or how righteous the person praying. God can say no.

I don’t have space in this letter to get into the full scope of God, faith and illness. Suffice it to say that you need to do some study.

If you’ve given this advice of “pray the sick away” to me and it comes from a place other than real concern, here’s what you should know:

You are arrogant, and possibly more theologically unsound than the ignorant person. Take a look at your own life, buddy. Are you going to honestly tell me that you have no problems? You may not be sick, but is your marriage perfect? Do you never have issues with your kids? Is your job just fantastic? Are all of your relationships in harmony?

Actually, I hope that your life is good. I hope that it is wonderful. But I’m scared for you if you think that smooth sailing is directly connected to your faith in God. I’m scared of what will happen to you when the day comes (and it will come) when something doesn’t go your way. Is your faith strong enough to stand testing? Do you have eyes to see the Lord in the midst of the storm?

To both the ignorant and the arrogant: Stop shaming the ill. We didn’t ask for this. God isn’t punishing us. More often than not we didn’t do anything to bring it on. And even if we did, do you really think you’ve got the right to comment on it? Do you really think that you’ve got the right to assume that we never repented? And do you realize that in heaping condemnation upon a person, you’re actually doing the work of Satan, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)?

Now, at this point you’re probably thinking that I don’t believe in divine healing. Oh, I do. God can do whatever He wants. Just recently He lifted breast cancer off of a woman I go to church with. But He would have been no less God, and she no less a true Christian, if she’d had to go through a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

All of us, the ignorant, the arrogant and the sick, we would do well to mediate on these words from James:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” – 1:2-4 (MSG)

The sick need your support. We need you to pray with and for us; for strength, for peace, for wisdom in making treatment decisions. We need you to check in on us. We need you to take us to appointments, hold our hands. We need you to bring over a silly movie. In short, we need you to be a friend.

If you can’t be a friend, if you absolutely must air your views on how horrible we are because we’re sick, do us this favor: Don’t talk to us. Find someone else who agrees with you and go hang out in an echo chamber so your awesomeness will surround you all the days of your life.

Sincerely,

Me

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Yes, yes. This piece contains a good deal of snark. I really don’t know any other way to say it, though. The health-and-wealth, God-as-vending-machine, put-positive-energy-out-there garbage that passes for the Gospel these days is absolutely revolting. It’s not the truth and it helps no one, especially those who suffer.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Detox Diaries: Stupid Dumbface

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Gentle Reader,

First things first.

It’s my 8th wedding anniversary today! Woot woot! Let me tell you, God gets all the glory here. Chris and I have gone through some tough times. It’s not all puppies and roses today, but we’ve come so far. Every bit of that is due to the fact that Jesus hasn’t given up on either of us. On the days when quitting seems like an option, He reminds both of us of our vows. He reminds both of us of our love. When that isn’t enough, He lets us throw a big temper tantrum or cry in frustration until we can see the good again.

We celebrated this past weekend with a fantastic home-cooked meal (prepared by Chris; I’m spoiled) and the movie “God’s Not Dead.” There were absolutely some cheese-tastic moments (like, every scene Cassidy Gifford was in), but I really enjoyed it. Tonight he’s at the shelter loving on some little ones and I’m dealing with doggy resentment because they stank to high Heaven and thus suffered the indignity of bath time.

I’m the worst dog mom ever.

I’m also in the throes of a nasty headache, thankfully in the waning moment currently. But that leads me to the title of this piece.

The alarm went off this morning and I was so mad that I had to go to work. Since I’m not supposed to take painkillers, I’m trying really hard to tough this headache out. Slept with a large bag of ice on my head, but that didn’t take away those awful sore, knobby spots across the top. So I couldn’t put my hair up, which is what I usually do when I don’t feel good, so I had to actually style my hair, which was dumb. And it’s raining, so the hair is frizzy. (See the above picture for a point of reference).

Then staring at a computer screen. For 8 hours. Under fluorescent lights.

I mean, come on.

Knowing that I was probably going to bite someone’s head off, I tried to keep speech to a minimum, but I’m guessing my utter lack of patience and caring screamed loudly through my body language. Don’t mess with me. In fact, don’t even talk to me. Just pretend that I’m not even here.

Every noise was like the sound of a burly man pounding on a timpani. Every question was stupid. I tried to listen to the Bible because Max McLean has an awesome voice and Scripture is always comforting, but Ezekiel is just to wild and freaky when you’ve got a migraine. Music was an equally bad idea. But I kept my earbuds in place, hoping that would deter any would-be chatterers.

Please don’t take that the wrong way. The vast majority of the time, I like my coworkers. Just not today. And that wasn’t their fault.

By the time I drove home, I was so tired and frustrated that I went into what my family calls “commute mode.” Not exactly road rage, but more than aggressive driving. Some guy in an annoying little blue car had the nerve to cut me off, so I tailgated him. Perfectly normal. I even came within a hairsbreadth of flipping him off, although I’m never entirely sure which finger is the “bad” one. Thankfully, the Spirit reminded me to breathe and I prayed for the guy in the annoying blue car. It went something like this:

“God, please bless him. Not because I want You to, because I think he’s a twerp. But bless him because You bless me when I’m being an idiot, like he’s being right now. Like I’m being right now. Okay, okay. Bless this guy in this annoying blue car because You’re good and holy and true. You are a good God. You give us what we don’t deserve.”

The guy in the annoying blue car sped away and took some of my anger with him.

I had to pause writing this a minute ago when the doorbell rang and someone from Scott’s Lawn Service informed me that I’ve got Japanese Clover in my front lawn. How annoying. Why are you bugging me? Then she commented that it’s quite wet out and she’s got to work until 8 p.m. The poor woman is stuck walking door-to-door in the rain for another hour. I took her flyer. She took some of my anger with her.

Today was a day of stupid dumbfaces, but maybe I was the worst offender of all. I could have simply told my coworkers that my head hurt. I could have taken my stress to the Lord immediately, instead of letting it build up all day. I certainly didn’t have to tailgate and the people who ring my doorbell are just trying to earn a paycheck so they can feed their families. Nobody actually did anything to me today. It’s not a crime to breathe.

This is the second low-serotonin headache I’ve had since beginning the withdrawal process. It’s different from any I’ve experienced before. I’ve had headaches that last for days, even weeks, behind my eyes for years. I can handle that. I’ve had a few migraines that knocked me out. But this? This is sharp, needle-like pain, poking into the deep recesses of my brain. It makes me restless and extremely short-tempered.

C’mon, body. Let’s be done with this now.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.