Archives For death

My ecclesial history began with Protestantism; to wit, as a lad I having Jewish friends, Catholic friends, having Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, asked my mom what religion are we?

Her reply? “We’re Protestants.” That apparently was to be the end of the matter, as no further explanation was forthcoming. I had no idea at all (at that age) what a Protestant was, or what were in fact protesting.

I guess we were protesting the whole thing, because the only church we ever darkened the doors of as a family was my grandma’s. And that only when we annually traveled to visit her. That, aside from maybe a VBS (“Vacation Bible School”) or two was the sum total of my church experience growing up.

Quite frankly what piqued my interest in church was the cute girl at the drugstore who invited me. We spent countless hours together talking about life, the universe, and everything. We visited:

Assemblies of God

Charismatic

Vineyard

& Nazarene

Churches

As I had no prior experience, or theological instruction, upon which to draw I had no preconceived notions about what church was. And darn if some of it didn’t stick! I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and promptly went to a party to get drunk.

I didn’t have a fat clue of what a Christian was, or how they comported themselves. I don’t know how much praying I did, but I did carry around a Bible given to me by my grandma; it was a large, white KJV (King James Version) affair. At the time, I didn’t know it was a family Bible, and was meant more for a coffee table than for constant, conspicuous carrying around.

As I awakened to the the message of the Gospel, it seemed the next step was to get baptized. I mean that’s what believers do, right? Get dunked/sprinkled/submersed/wet…

So I did on a warm September evening some four months after “accepting Christ.” I really didn’t grok at the time that it was some kind of big deal to be baptized, as my then-girlfriend’s family indicated that they wished they’d been there.

I didn’t know it was some kind of symbolic affair significant of anything other than basic obedience to one of Jesus’s commands. Afterwards, I didn’t feel anything other than wet.

Somehow, after being baptized at an Assemblies of God church, we ended up attending a Charismatic fellowship. It wasn’t until much later that I knew it was weird. And by weird I mean I had a fun experience being prayed over by a group white shirt wearing, yellow pit stained elders who wanted me to “recieve the initial evidence of the indwelling.”

Translation: they we’re praying for me to receive the gift of tongues, or in more formal parlance, glossolalia. They, being Charismatic, made it a doctrinal certainty that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; in other words, the practice tongues were to make me a living proof text of God’s work in my life…

The result? I mean I was willing, wanting whatever God has for me. So, sure. I was young, naive, and having no religious background thought why not?

When it didn’t happen, as these four grown men, sweaty-faced, their voices rising in ecstatic fervor, lapsing in and out of their Heavenly Languages, as they circled my seated form, finally (and flatly) stated: “Don’t worry, brother; it’ll happen. Just start muttering.”

Just. Start. Muttering.

I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote of the gift of tongues. Although I suppose I have been muttering to God ever since…

Through

Highs and lows

Successes and failures

Jobs lost and found

Health issues

Death, and new life.

And I’m thankful He’s never yet despised the bleating of this wayward sheep.

Cover art for The Day the Angels Fell

I want to tell you about a book. A beautiful, wonderful, terrible, moving, life-altering little book. What I mean by that is, upon finishing it, I (an avid reader) couldn’t find another volume in my library which I felt could even begin to come near to the experience I’d just lived through.

 
Picture if you will the following scene:
 
You are in a dusty tent in the near middle east. The air is close, scorching your throat as you try to breathe in great, gulping gasps. Your sweat-soaked clothes cling to your body like a wetsuit; you’re not sure you’ll even be able to peel them off. The tanned animal hides, sweaty bodies, the remains of a lunch hastily eaten add a piquant bouquet to the cloistered air.
 
Like Saul of old, you’re there on a mission; namely, to ask the favor of a witch. But it’s not the shade of Samuel you’re there to raise; no, it’s someone much more recently dead.
 
You ask the witch there, in Endor, to raise up the shade of Madeleine L’Engle, late author of A Wrinkle in Time (and many others). You have a request of her; something you feel only she can do. You want her to rewrite Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.
 
But not as a horror story; yes, it’s still a book about death, and the lengths which we’ll go to try to get around, behind, beyond it. Now, however, it’s thesis isn’t necessarily that “sometimes dead is better,” but rather that death is a gift to be embraced.
 
You have traveled halfway around the world, and are now presently standing in this stifling tent, because you believe that L’Engle is the only one who, as one of (if the the most) preeminent young adult authors of the 20th century, can turn a story of horrific death, loss, and pain into a tale of blazing light, probing the darkest reaches of the heart.
 
She agrees.
 
——————
 
The foregoing is fiction; Madeleine L’Engle is still, sadly, dead. That said, there is a voice working today, and I swear he channeled L’Engle (with just a dollop of Stephen King) in his book, The Day the Angels Fell. This is the volume I alluded to above. It’s the book that, upon finishing, left me reeling, unable to find anything suitable to read in its wake.
 
Who is this genius author? None other than Shawn Smucker. His book, The Day the Angels Fell, releases on September 5th. I would be very sad if you didn’t pick a up copy or three.
 
Find it on Amazon here:

Photo Credit: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Oh, the things you’ll see!”, © 2011 Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Relax. No, I don’t have cancer, but it runs in my family. I’ve lost both a grandmother, and an uncle, to it. Because of this, despite not yet being fifty, I’m supposed to get an annual colonoscopy.

I’ve yet to have one.

The reason for this is simple, stupid, but nevertheless true: I’ve had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. What’s that, you ask?

A sigmoidoscopy is colonoscopy’s younger sibling (or maybe its second cousin, twice removed). All of the prep work is the same; meaning no food beginning 12-24 hours prior, stool softeners, and that lovely Cascara, which is like drinking chalk-flavored Gatorade.

In case you missed that, one’s mission–whether one accepts it, or not–is to self-induce diarrhea in advanced of undergoing the procedure. On purpose.

People died of diarrhea during the Civil War!

In any case, while the preparations are similar, there is one crucial difference between the flex sig and a full colonoscopy; namely, that a colonoscopy is done under general anesthesia, whereas the sigmoidoscopy is done fully awake.

Yes, you read that right: it’s done entirely conscious. And while both are out patient procedures, the former is usually done in a hospital, while the latter can be done in one’s doctor’s office.

If my understanding is correct, the prevailing medical thought is that because the flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn’t go as far into the colon, it’s less a pain in the butt, and can consequently be done awake.

Let that sink in.

One reports to one’s doctor’s office, after having quite literally crapped one’s guts out, to lie prone upon a table, in a too-cold room, with nothing but a paper gown on to ward off the chill. The doctor enters, with a nurse, because like the boy and girl scouts this requires two-deep leadership (it wouldn’t do to have anything untoward occur). And then, without so much as a by-your-leave (or even dinner), lube is lugubriously applied to a region reserved as an exit only zone. After that, a long tube, at a snail’s pace, is inserted. All the while, the nurse is encouraging relaxation; “just breathe,” she says.

As if.

Photo Credit: “Colonoscopy?”, © 2009 Rollan Budi, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Relaxation is about the farthest thing from one’s mind at that point. It’s more like grin and bear it–or grimace and bear it. One of the two. The best that can happen is an uneasy peace; it’s not going to last forever, or one will die right there of embarrassment.

There is after all a long, dark tube right up there in the Hershey Highway.

But the worst is yet to come:

Air, like helium into party balloons, is pumped up in there so that the doctor may better appreciate the structures of the lower bowel. Only it’s no party; it’s quite literally a pain in the butt. And beyond.

As a patient, whether one can, or cannot, see the monitor upon which the Colon Cam is displayed, one’s doctor will typically begin a descriptive video service. (Nowhere did this item ever even begin to appear on my bucket list: have your sigmoid colon described in vivid detail by your doctor). “That’s a hemorrhoid! There’s another one! Good! Don’t see any polyps! Oh, look! A piece of poo!”

If one felt embarrassed before, that right there would be where the bottom fell out of the nadir of embarrassment. Oh, to melt through the table, into the floor, and be no more! Curse this too, too solid flesh!

Then at last it’s over, one is handed tissues to wipe off the thick, viscous jelly from one’s nethers; the doctor and nurse exuent omnes, and one is left to contemplate the series of events leading to this tube time and place.

Wiping, washing, and dressing complete, one is free to leave; breathing a sigh (or several) of relief, thinking the worst is behind you.

Oh, how wrong that is!

The air pumped up in there, no longer having a tube occluding its exit route, discovers the point of least resistance–namely, one’s anus. If the blow-by-blow of the colon highway was the bottom dropping out of the nadir of the experience this is somehow even lower.

It’s not just a little gas; it’s like the inevitable results of a weeklong refried bean binge, the Vesuvius of anal expulsions (think pyroclastic flow–all hot ash and gas, no lava), and the Manhattan Project all rolled into one. In other words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet other than death there is no escaping these noxious emissions.

Photo Credit: “Fart Bomb”, © 2006 basibanget, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I have yet to have a full colonoscopy. The defense rests. I place myself upon the mercy of the court.

Have you had a colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy? How did it go?

 

Old: A Poem

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Looking in the mirror and what do I see?
Whose is this face staring back at me?
Familiar in outline, but foreign in detail
Craggy, careworn features all over prevail

But who is he?

Is this me?

Inside, he feels the same small boy
Curious, quick, and ruddy of mind
Rich inside life bringing joy
But somewhere, having lost track of time

The visage reflected, as in a mirror darkly
Yet somehow still so very, very starkly

Shows one thing above all others:

The face is

Old

Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?