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May 3, 2010

2 Seconds Without Pain

by on May 3, 2010. Filed under Personal, health / disability / pain

 

I am in constant pain–but I need to qualify that a little. I sleep to escape pain and to “reset” when I am having a high level of pain. So usually there is only pain or sleep with one minor but notable exception.

It seems odd to me every time this happens. Sometimes once or twice a week I will experience about 2 wonderful seconds without pain. It reminds me what it is like to not have pain. It is otherwise difficult to remember what it feels like to be without pain.

On occasion I will wake up, usually after having a vivid dream, and feel no pain. Zero. For the last 10 years it is the only time I feel zero pain anymore. But it only lasts a couple of seconds. I barely have time to enjoy it before the pain returns.

When the pain returns the sensation that I have is as if pain itself is poured into my veins as it spreads down my legs and arms into my feet and hands. It is a very odd feeling being followed by the usual, constant pain that I feel.

I’m glad that it happens. Even if just for 2 seconds I delight in the pleasant feeling of having no pain. It is also a reminder to me and thus a hope for a solution. If I can be conscious yet without pain perhaps there is medical solution that hasn’t been discovered yet. It is also a reminder and thus a hope for that day when there will be no sorrow and no more pain.

“And I will rise when He calls my name; No more sorrow, no more pain…” (from the song “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin, one of my favorites)

Something that I’ve come to realize as a byproduct of these events is the “wall” or limitation of the pain I feel.

It is difficult to describe some things when there is no clear point of reference. So be patient with me and my words.

Can you imagine a system of hoses that are connected together with a funnel at the top? There is also a way for the air to escape so that one can pour water into the funnel and it will fill the hoses. When water is poured into the funnel it flows freely and quickly into the hoses. But when it reaches the end, when all the hoses are filled, the water no longer freely flows into the hoses.  It is restricted by the capacity of the hoses.

After my 2 seconds without pain when pain is poured back into my limbs it flows freely and quickly to all parts, in fact, to my entire body, not just my hands and feet. But as the pain finally reaches my hands and feet the flow stops, everything is filled. If it kept pouring in I fear the pain would be unbearable.

I suspect, as I am only able to do, that the medications that I take, Lyrica (like Neurotin) and Trileptal, which each are presumed to block different neural pathways, are the limiting “gatekeepers” which prevent the pain from entering any more than it does.

My explanation is poor, I think. What I feel is known to me but somehow I can’t explain it clearly. Please forgive me. My hope is that if someone else experiences something like this that they will know they aren’t the only one who feels it. They have a companion.

I take great comfort and refuge that Jesus knows exactly what I am feeling and He has compassion for me. He has given me faith and strength to endure. He is my Redeemer and Savior. I will praise Him forever.

January 22, 2009

Fleeting Body, Enduring Grace

by on January 22, 2009. Filed under Personal, Thoughts, health / disability / pain

 

fleet·ing, adj.
passing swiftly; vanishing quickly; transient; transitory:

I’m 55. I used to think that was really, really old, like back when I was a teenager. Now I look back and think, wow. Here I am-old. The people that I thought were old, like my mom, are now really, really, really old.

It’s all relative, isn’t it. I guess when you are 5 or 6 you might think that a teenager is old. I don’t know; I’m too old to remember.

I have a lot of favorite verses in God’s Word.  They are an enduring encouragement to me.

In Isaiah 40:8 and 1 Peter 1:24-25, we see this:

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

I think that is what I’d like this written on my tombstone. I will live forever based on the promises in God’s Word. But my body will wither and fall. I want anyone seeing my tombstone to know what is important and what is not.

I’m tired. My constant pain is very much like a thorn in the flesh to me.  I have to live life in spite of it. (I couldn’t begin to express how difficult it is to do so.) I really want to go home to Heaven. It is certainly better by far.

Even though I have constant pain I also have God’s enduring grace. It empowers me to take the next step even while in pain. Without God’s grace, there would be no power and no hope. Praise God for His moment by moment provision!

Maranatha! Lord Jesus, come!

September 28, 2008

The Kindness of Others

by on September 28, 2008. Filed under Christian life / church, health / disability / pain

 

I am often reminded of certain instances when we discovered I had cancer.

On the one hand Georgia and I were overwhelmed. Our world was turned upside down. Normal life came to a grinding stop as we were thrust into an entirely new dimension managing my health issues. Words are not enough for me to describe all that occurred during the first few years of our fighting cancer. My youngest son was five years old at the time. In a way he lost both his dad and his mom because we were both called into battle. He, too, was overwhelmed. The battle seemed more than any of us could handle.

But throughout the insanity of our battle with cancer there was another aspect to it which gave us stability, hope and strength. This other aspect wasn’t new to us except that its intensity, efficacy, and preciseness came at a level previously unknown to us. Our insane, overwhelming world of cancer was corrected and controlled by simple acts of kindness given us by unexpected and sometimes unusual sources.

Even at the time it was evident that these acts of kindness, although preformed by the hands of people, had their source and inspiration in the heart of God Himself. There were doctors, chemotherapy treatments, and other instruments of healing that were certainly all part of God’s plan. But in addition to the practical and “indicated” courses of action for my health care were numerous acts of kindness. They were not practical. They were without explanation. Their importance cannot be measured. They were a gift from God.

Medical science has come a long way. The processes for bone marrow transplants are well defined. The prognosis for a positive outcome was very good. However Georgia and I had experienced a roller coaster of hopes dashed. From the first time I became ill, six months and numerous doctors with wrong diagnoses, the eventual diagnosis of cancer, months of chemo only to find out it didn’t kill all my cancer, and now a bone marrow transplant, we have become leery if not cynical. Medical science had let us down too many times to trust it now.

Georgia was understandably discouraged. I was in a hospital bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital, extremely weak, in intense pain, and feeling like I wasn’t going to make it. She had been with me all morning and needed to take care of her own needs. She needed to connect with God in a meaningful way. As I slept with morphine pumped directly into my bloodstream she took the opportunity to find a “lonely place to pray.” She went to the hospital cafeteria, got some tea or soup or something, and found a quiet corner with empty tables where she could sit down by herself.

Another lady came all the way over to Georgia’s quiet corner and with other empty tables in the area this bold woman sat right down across from Georgia. Georgia wanted nothing more than to be alone and connect with God. And this lady disrupted everything. But wait!

I’m afraid I don’t remember the details of this account. But I do know is that this lady ended up to be a Messianic Jew who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and wanted to show kindness to Georgia. The woman talked with Georgia, encouraged Georgia, and, I think, prayed with Georgia. (I said that I don’t remember the details.) Her act of kindness guided Georgia into a meaningful connection with God. We don’t know her name. There is no possibility of my thanking her. But I can (and do) praise God for her involvement in our life during a time of great need.

This is just one example of numerous such instances that occurred not only during the heat of our battle but during my entire life. The older I get the more I understand the miracle of it all. Leo Tolstoy got it right in his most popular of stories. At the end of it he quotes, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25). Read the entire story here at http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Tolstoy.html .

I could never go back, find the woman who encouraged Georgia, and thank her for her kindness. There are thousands perhaps even millions of such instances of selfless love, simple acts of kindness, from the hand of God (not the goodness of man). It is impossible to thank even one of these people and how much more–I can’t even imagine that I could thank all of them. But I can praise God continually and acknowledge Him as the true source even if occasionally at the hands of unbelievers.

Please consider what you can do today to be kind, selflessly love those in your own home or even a stranger. Be a part of God’s miracle in someone else’s life today. I believe this is what it means to offer your body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Romans 12 tells us “love must be sincere”, “be devoted to one another in brotherly love”, “Practice hospitality.” and “Share with God’s people who are in need.”  Our love and worship of God includes such service, such acts of kindness. God is glorified.

September 14, 2008

Lightning Bolts of Pain

by on September 14, 2008. Filed under health / disability / pain

 

I’ve identified five types of “lightning bolt” pain that I experience. Except for the last one these “lightning bolts” only last for a split second which I feel in entire body. I’ve never been hit by lightning so I can’t really compare my pain with a true lightning bolt experience. But I have been shocked by the tens of thousands of volts from an ignition coil.

1. Unexpected sharp sounds cause pain like a lightning bolt throughout my body. I physically jump. I have absolutely no control over it. If I’m sitting in a quiet room and somebody drops a pan or even something smaller in the adjoining kitchen I will jump with pain.

2. Any kind of touch on my hands or feet will cause pain. The odd thing is that I can touch you and experience a small amount of pain but if you touch me I will feel a large amount of pain. And if that touch is unexpected then the pain is a whole body lightning bolt.

3. The memory of pain will usually cause a lightning bolt of pain. In other words if someone unexpectedly touched my hand or foot causing a lightning bolt of pain then if that memory comes to mind I will experience a similar lightning bolt of pain. This can be a day or even a week later. Odd, isn’t it?

4. Idiopathic lightning bolts of pain will sometimes occur. (I really just wanted to use the word idiopathic.) Seriously though I do get lightning bolts of pain for absolutely no reason at all. I’ll just be sitting there and then “kaboom!” I just got hit by lightning! I really don’t know this but sometimes I wonder if it’s something going on in my unconscious mind that brings about those random lightning bolts. Or maybe it’s something else.

5. This last one isn’t exactly a lightning bolt and doesn’t really affect my whole body like the other four times listed above. But it seemed important at included in this list because like a lightning bolt it lasts for only a fraction of a second. Well, usually. What will happen unexpectedly and idiopathicly (is that a word?) I feel like a sharp knife is jabbed straight into the top of my toe. I’ve never had that happen in real life so again this is only a perception. But it’s a very painful perception. Usually for only a fraction of a second a knife is thrust into the top of my toe and it really, really hurts. Only rarely does that pain linger for only a couple of seconds. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! When it lasts for a fraction of a second the offended foot will jump and by the time it jumps the pain is gone. But when it lingers, ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

I have several of these “lightning bolts” every day. Although they are painful they usually not a significant problem.

The more significant problem that I have is the constant pain which is accumulative. It adversely affects everything in my life. I am totally disabled because of it. Maybe I’ll describe that pain in another journal entry. But these lightning bolts have been on my mind and I wanted to document what I know about them.

August 7, 2008

Cope, Compensate, Conquer (Initially, Eventually, Ultimately)

by on August 7, 2008. Filed under health / disability / pain

 

I’ve been disabled for 7 1/2 years now, since the beginning of 2001. What a ride! I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life during these years. It’s very difficult to communicate what I’ve learned to someone who has not endured disability from chronic pain. I’d like to try to briefly explain something which I feel could help anyone even if they are not disabled. It might not be earth shattering to most of you but perhaps it may encourage someone.

Whenever I’m faced with a frustrating limitation arising from my disability I have three goals in mind.

Initially I want to cope with the limitation realizing that no amount of anger or complaining will change it. The reality is that I can’t walk more than a few feet before my pain demands that I get off my feet. I accept that through my trial God will work His perfect will. And because of that I can “consider it pure joy.” (James 1) But I also recognize that Jesus “endured the cross despising it’s shame” (Hebrews 12) and I won’t do anything differently. The pain is horrible but what I’ve gained, what I’ve learned is of great value.

Eventually I could learn to compensate for my limitations. It doesn’t remove them. No, I still experience pain when I walk. But using various techniques physical, mental, and technical I have learned to get where I’m going in spite of my pain. Of the places that I want to go it appears that there are few limitations. However my techniques to compensate require effort and there are still some limitations. Yet the extent of my excursions surprise me.

Ultimately I want to conquer the limitations of my disability. Even now I am using voice recognition software to write this journal entry. Typing is too difficult, really, too painful especially late at night when all the pain of the day is multiplied in my feet and hands. I wouldn’t want to type at all using my hands. I still have a lot to learn about dictation. It is a great mental effort to formulate a complete sentence of written quality and then try to speak at with sufficient articulation so that the software can get it right.

The difference between compensating and conquering my limitations is this: compensating extends my abilities beyond my limitations such that I can do the things which I need to do. Conquering removes my limitations. When my method (or methods) of compensating for my limitations essentially makes me equal to someone who’s not disabled then I consider it conquered.

To elaborate: I can get to almost any place I need to using one of my wheelchairs. But I still can’t go hiking to Rattlesnake Rock unless someone carries me on their back which I’m unwilling to allow. However using voice recognition software allows me to “type” as well as someone who types using their hands. There is little or no difference. Using this tool more than compensates, it conquers the disability.

I must add that there are other factors to coping, compensating, and conquering a disability. It involves the mind, will, and I believe even one’s emotions. I must also add that there is a spiritual aspect to all of this.

If my mind, will, and emotions were not fixed on coping, compensating, and conquering my limitations then I don’t think the results would be as good as they are. I also believe that if I did not have faith and depend on God for strength then there would be no success. I would go so far as to say this is the number one most important factor of all.

As I grow older I see more and more how it is God Who is the reason for all the things in my life which have been a success. People often comment on how well I raised my children. Oh my! Although I was never abusive I can’t say that I was such a great dad. God led me every step of the way. Although we’ve never gone bankrupt financially I’ve been a real idiot. I’m still amazed that we make it week to week and year to year.

I could recount every area of my life and how God was the architect of everything good.

Part of me is very, very tired and really wants to go home, that is, to Heaven. But there is another part of me that looks forward to seeing my two teens as they become men, watching my grandchild (and eventually grandchildren) grow up, and enjoying the wife of my youth. There is still a lot in this world that I appreciate and enjoy.

And while I’m in this world I will initially cope, eventually compensate, and ultimately conquer all that tries to stop me from appreciating and enjoying life. I sometimes say, “I’m not 6 feet under.” In other words, I’m going to live life-I’m going to enjoy life. And I’m going to do so in spite of my pain, in spite of my limitations, in spite of everything that is against me.

Alive in Christ, now and forever,
Ed

August 19, 2007

Life and Death

by on August 19, 2007. Filed under Christian life / church, Personal, health / disability / pain

 

There’s no way that I can address or expose much on such a lofty topic, but something came to my heart today that I must share with you.

It seems that it’s when we are confronted with death that we gain some perspective on life. I’ve been so confronted in several ways over the years. The death of a loved one and a personal “near death experience” causes one to reflect and hopefully gain a better understanding of life.

I just have a few short things to share here about life and death. I think that they could be useful to someone. I hope that they are.

As a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I know that I will live eternally with my Savior in Heaven. Until then I live out and hopefully enjoy and appreciate my life here in this world for the short time that I’m here. After all, I am called by God for a purpose-His purpose-while I live out this life. Pain isn’t really relevant (no matter how distracting) compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

In fact, most of the things that we pay attention to in this world are not as important as we make them out to be. It is simply life that is important now and I find it elusive to define it other than it is a gift from God: Life, and the lives that we share with one another: relationships. It is almost comic how we make such things as money so important even while we neglect the best part of life: The beautiful lives of those so close to us, our spouses and children. It would be funny if it wasn’t so terrible. Money, after all, won’t go with us to heaven. (Luke 12:16-40), however what we did with/for/to one another-relationships-our lives will “go with us” into eternity.

Even while we are still here, and, from our current perspective (as people who are still here) it is so very important to lay hold of life as God designed it to be, one of love for one another.

Let me pose a thought to consider: We grieve over the loss felt when a dear one dies and that is okay. But we must not neglect to accept the words of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Grieve, but not like the rest of men, who have no hope. This is one of the Truths about God’s will, plan, and Kingdom that we must take hold of. It isn’t the death of a loved one that we should overly concern ourselves with but the life of that loved one. To explain this I need to mention a dear friend the I miss, (but only for a short while!)

I miss many people that I will soon see again. My dad, my aunt Teti, a dear friend Leo Jett, and a brother who lived near me, Bob Pryor. Bob was so unique, at least I think so. He was a farmer who had done it all. He even worked on a steam boat, as I heard it, as a river boat captian. His life was colorful, fascinating, ..almost unbelievable. He passed on to Heaven, it seems, recently. I don’t really remember when.

There is a choice before me every time I think of Bob: Dwell on what I am missing or revel in the life that we shared, no matter how short of a time it was. And even more important, I must remember that I’ll see him again very soon when I, too, make that journey to Heaven. I don’t know what it will be like when I get there, but I know that it will be a time of rejoicing! Praise God!

We mustn’t dwell on our loss; we must remember and even revel in the life that we shared with one another and, (again), hold on to the hope that we have based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

This is my viewpoint on life and death: Death is only for a short time; it is life that is eternal. And I hope that I can “encourage each other with these words.” God has conquered sin and death. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)  Praise God and rejoice in the life and relationships that we have with one another no matter how short our time is with them. For believers, we will praise God and rejoice together again for eternity.

It is life, not death, that is important. Let’s make the most of it with one another! Love one another!

Love In Christ,
Ed

May 10, 2007

Update on my recovery from WBPDT or “Whole Bladder Photodynamic Therapy” using Photofrin photosensitive injection and laser light to “burn off” the transitional cancer cells inside my bladder

by on May 10, 2007. Filed under Personal, health / disability / pain

 

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:
See www.wbpdt.com and www.wbpdt.com/bbs  !!!

It’s now been about three weeks since I had my chemo treatment in Florida. Many people have been asking how I’m doing since the recovery period is estimated to be about four weeks. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what’s been happening.

On April 1st Georgia, David, and I flew to the Gainesville Florida VA Hospital so that I could participate in a clinical trial. There were two parts to this treatment. On Monday I was injected with a chemical agent that would make my whole body and extremely sensitive to light. According to warnings even a few minutes in direct sunlight could cause blistering and severe burns. This sensitivity could last 31 days or more. On Wednesday, April 4, a laser was put inside my bladder to burn off the inside surface.

We flew home on April 5th. By that evening the effects of the treatment had become quite severe. I would describe the first week after treatment as horrible miserable excruciating constant pain. Even though I took the strongest pain medications that I could tolerate I was very, very miserable. I didn’t eat a morsel of food that entire first week but I did drink several gallons of Gatorade. The second week was horrible miserable intermittent pain. I left off the word excruciating and stopped taking the strong pain medications which made me ill.

By the beginning of the third week I was just starting to feel like I was becoming normal again. Since I still need to use a bathroom about every 20 to 30 minutes I can only tolerate a short trip out if necessary.

Technical stuff that you can ignore if you don’t find it interesting:

While working as a software engineer, I often had to figure out how to quantify data in a new, completely unexplored way. That just means that I had to figure out what data meant in terms that could be consistently and accurately measured. It was one of the more enjoyable things that I did.

Well, I figured out a way to quantify my recovery from WBPDT. Normal for me is a number greater than 300. This is according to doctor’s notes that I obtained. An average range is, I think, between 200 and 300, maybe even narrowed to 250-300.

The first week I measured between 1-5. The second week, 15-30. The third week I didn’t measure as consistently but I think that my range averaged 50-75 during the week. This forth week I am currently at 100 and it doesn’t seem to be increasing as I would hope. (As I write this section I am at the end of my 4th week.) If it is my goal of achieving “low-normal” measurement of 200 then I’m half-way there after 4 weeks and the growth is painstakingly slow.

If you would like to know what the data is that I used to quantify my recovery then you can ask me personally via email, phone call, or in person.

But I am getting out these days but only for short periods of time.

Which pretty much brings us up to date. Tomorrow will begin my fourth week of recovery. I’m feeling all a lot better than I did a few weeks ago. But to be honest I’m still not feeling all that good. My appetite is better but I still only eat one small meal a day and a few snacks. I only go out when I have to and I need to be near a bathroom since I still need to go about every 20 or 30 minutes. And I’m still photosensitive.

The good news is that I’m beginning to get a few things done here. I help pay bills, I made a few phone calls, and I’ll probably tinker with the church website today. Throughout all of this time I kept up with my morning and evening devotions. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to maintain this discipline in one’s life. If my relationship with God was weak then I don’t think that I could have coped with all I’ve been through. I screamed at the top of my lungs as they tried to do a spinal nerve block during that first week. I was in the emergency room twice during that first week.

I’ve been disabled for seven years now. The first time that I noticed any muscle weakness was about a year ago. I work very hard at maintaining my health the very best that I can even with all that I have to deal with. But for the first time in this past year I’ve noticed that I can be come very weary of my constant pain. Pain causes fatigue. So I decided to do something to fight these new problems. I picked a particular verse of scripture to meditate on.

Now, on a regular basis, I will pick a portion of scripture to meditate on for a time. It may be for a few days or even a few weeks. But I have never picked out a scripture that I plan to meditate on for a year. So in addition to the other scriptures that I meditate on, I now have a 2007 Scripture meditation plan. I particularly liked Hebrews 12:3 which says, “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you do not grow weary and lose hope.” I do not want to grow weary and I deftly do not want to lose hope. So to try to keep this verse in context, my Scripture meditation for this year is Hebrews 12:1-3.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “run with perseverance the race marked out for you.” Since I acknowledge God in all things, I recognize that this new life of disability and pain is the race marked out for me. What I didn’t know was that the Greek word for “race” is “agon” which means “difficulty.” In fact, it is the word from which we get our word “agony.” Could the literal translation of this verse be “run with perseverance the agony marked out for you”? Boy oh boy. That says it all for me.

I find these verses extremely encouraging. I will run with perseverance this agony marked out for me. I will consider the Lord Jesus so that I don’t grow weary or lose hope. God is good and I will worship him. I will praise him in the assembly.

Please don’t think that I am anyone special. God has lovingly led me to this place. I am simply exercising faith I have in Him. I have my weaknesses and my sin. It is my desire to trust and obey God fully. It is a process of sanctification that occurs as I yield to God’s Holy Spirit within me. I have my will and my pride but these must die so that God’s life in me will yield fruit. I must decrease: He must increase.

Thank you for asking about me. Forgive me that I am writing essentially a form letter. I am simply not able to answer everyone directly.

UPDATE: See www.wbpdt.com and www.wbpdt.com/bbs  !!!

March 2, 2007

Rejoice and be overjoyed!

by on March 2, 2007. Filed under Christian life / church, Personal, health / disability / pain

 

Disabled due to chronic pain I’ve been particularly interested in Scripture regarding pain. There are many verses and even whole chapters relating to pain. Many may be familiar with the “consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials” verses in James chapter 1. But one can gain better understanding when in a painful situation as referenced in Scripture than just reading about it detached from the experience.

Take 1st Peter chapter 4 for instance, almost the entire chapter referencing pain: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Even though my pain level is higher most evenings than anything I’ve experienced before my disability I rejoice and have that “peace that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and the “life more abundant” (John 10:10) that God’s Word says a person can have in this life–all in spite of sin, suffering, loss, and pain.

As for my pain, I can “scorn its shame” and try to reduce or eliminate it, but I don’t know that I should ask God to take it away. I bear my soul to God regarding my pain-only He knows how much I’m suffering. (He suffered much more!) But if my pain is “the race marked out” for me, then who am I to ask God for a different plan?

At times feel myself growing weaker and so I chose the following as my meditation verse for this year. Note especially the “joy set before Him” part:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)

My eyes are on Jesus. Although I feel so weary at times I will not grow weary and I will not lose heart. Rather, I will rejoice and be overjoyed! Praise God!

January 29, 2007

All My Miserable Days

by on January 29, 2007. Filed under Christian life / church, Personal, health / disability / pain

 

It is no secret to those who know me well that the book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorites. To many people it may seem a depressing book. After all, it starts off, Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.” But I find the book to be encouraging, even uplifting.

It’s true that this wise writer honestly reveals the things in this world which appeare ultimately to be meaningless. Wealth, poverty, wisdom, and foolishness are all said to be meaningless-but there’s a catch. You have to read the entire book perhaps several times to really understand the intent of the author. Maybe this is a major spoiler, or perhaps it may help jumpstart an understanding of the book:

The bottom line is this: everything apart from God is meaningless. I believe that this is an Old Testament parallel verse to what Jesus said in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Apart from God you can do nothing; Apart from God life is meaningless.

When we see, in this world, how the righteous receive what the wicked deserve and the wicked receive what the righteous deserve we can only conclude that life is meaningless-apart from God.

Not to oversimplify the manner of writing, it does appear that this writer is at times speaking from the meaningless worldly point of view and then giving us an alternative or contrasted point of view. It’s as if you can always add the terminology, “apart from God” at the end of all the verses which speak about our meaningless life.

I believe we are seeing modern renditions of the theme of Ecclesiastes in such popular books as “The Purpose Driven Life” and “Search for Significance.” These books give meaning to our “meaningless” life by pointing out our purpose and significance in Christ. No doubt there are numerous other similar books but these two come to mind.

I think that if you were to read and even meditate upon Ecclesiastes 9 versus one through 10 and then go back and read the entire book beginning to end you would have a much greater understanding of life.

Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10 says this:

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

Toilsome labor, meaningless days, I think another translation actually calls it miserable days. In all this I will anoint my head with oil, go with gladness, eat food, drink wine, and enjoy life with my wife. Because once I’m in the grave I won’t do any of these things. Thus I tell people, “I’m not 6 feet under so I’ll enjoy life (inspite of pain, in spite of the meaninglessness of life).”

For you, your pain may be different than mine. It may be a meaningless 4 hour-per-day commute, a miserable boss that you don’t get along with, financial difficulties, difficulty communicating with your wife or your children, or perhaps you, too, have health difficulties, physical pain, emotional or psychological problems.

For me, to leave the comfort of my bed risking that my feet will get cold, my pain will spike, and sometimes even experience tightness in my chest due to the constant gritting of my teeth (due to pain), I throw all this aside in order that I might enjoy the fellowship of the Saints on Sunday, watch my son at his archery lesson, sit down at the dinner table to enjoy a meal with family and friends. For me these things aren’t just difficult, they are painful. But then life is meaningless-apart from God.

In person I do a pretty good job most of the time hiding my pain, I think. I don’t want the focus of conversation to be on me or my pain. But in fact I’ll tell you honestly here that my pain level can be a 6, 7, or occasionally an 8 out of 10 even while we are pleasantly talking with one another. (I’ve learned a lot about self-control in my learning to manage this pain.)

This is the race marked out for me. I will run it with perseverance. I will fix my eyes on Jesus who demonstrated the manner and way that I should go. I will look for the joy set before me; Jesus said that he goes to prepare a place for me. I will not grow weary or lose heart because in Christ, even when I’m weak-I am strong.

I am in Christ as opposed to apart from God! That makes all the difference in this world!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”   (Hebrews 12:1-3)

December 23, 2006

World of Hurt

by on December 23, 2006. Filed under Personal, health / disability / pain

 

I remember what it was like to wake up early in the morning, shower, dress, shave, and begin my long commute to work. I remember working hard at my job, giving it my best, and then the long commute home. Exhausted from my day I was again called upon to give my very best but this time for my family. By the time I crawled into bed I was very, very tired. You know the drill, five days of it.

That was normal, to be expected. But when cancer attacked we changed worlds. All of a sudden I lived in a world of hurt, the world of constant pain, a world with changing landscapes of other diseases and strange symptoms that go along with my illness. Like it or not my family followed me into this world.

There are occasionally a few moments in the early morning after a good night’s sleep when I almost feel “myself” again. For me, it is a rare feeling, but it gives some clarity to what’s happening in my life.

Those few minutes of clarity, sometimes only two or three minutes, it’s like I’m a young man again who can “dream dreams.” And then the pain starts to come back. And I realize this is my life, a world of pain. And I have to manage it, cope, and compensate. It consumes me.

Whatever life I have leftover from my pain I try to give to my family, church, and friends. But what is left over is not really me but “me in pain.” Even my “leftover life” is hardly life at times. I want to laugh, I want to hug, I want to run in the yard playing tag with my boys, I want to demonstrate love to my family. But everything hurts. Everything..

Is any of this making sense? Let me explain it in a weird way. It’s like my life is actually in another dimension, that dimension being pain. And what you see here is the residue, a shell, a hologram which is not controlled by the real me. “The real me” spends every second trying to ignore the pain. What’s left for you and the rest of the world is something that I’m not very proud of at times.

My pain gives me some perspective on the world around me, the so-called “normal” world.

I see the world of hurt around me and understand a little better the pain felt by those who are not born again. My disease is only of my body. But the disease of sin destroys body, soul, and spirit. Any cure of the body is only temporary-we will all die. (Well, it is possible to be raptured before death.) But the cure for the spirit is free to all who believe, but which cost God much.

Every believer has an obligation to be an evangelist in some degree, in some venue, to some people. There are some people, of course, who have the gift of evangelism. But for the rest of us, no matter how difficult it is, we must be ready to give an answer for the hope lies within us.

Let us not forget the “world of hurt” that people around us live in. Let us show compassion and stay alert for the opportunity to share in the truth in love. It will come up so let’s don’t miss it.

**********

Earlier I was thinking of the words to a song: “No more let sin or sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” I love the clarity of these words. I love the optimism, the hope, the life, or should I say the “Life” in these words. Immanuel. God with us. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found-even in a world of hurt. Hallelujah!

All journal entries are copyright by Ed Rodatus - all rights reserved.
(Except the entries in the "joni" category. All the "joni" posts are from the Joni and Friends daily email devotional.)

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