Memento Mori

March 6, 2019

I’ve never spent much time contemplating death until August 25. As days went on and the symptoms that had dissipated came back with the roar, I found myself thinking of what would’ve happened if this had occurred while we were on vacation in Egypt or if I was asleep. Luke Perry’s death brought all those feelings to light once again. We are human. We are mortal. It is important to consider that in light of the life we lead. Remembering our mortality helps reorder our priorities; a race toward a finish line has a different sense of urgency than a jog around the block.

Many early Christian communities encouraged believers to engage in the spiritual discipline of considering their own deaths—not to create morbid fear but to put this life in the proper perspective. “Memento mori,” medieval monks would say to each other in the hallways. “Remember your mortality,” or, more literally, “Remember that you will die.”

Today is Ash Wednesday. Because the church I work in and chose to attend prior has its roots in the conservative Baptist tradition, we celebrate the fact that we celebrate Ash Wednesday is a bit unusual. For those of you who are unaccustomed to the Christian liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a 40-day time of reflection and often, fasting. Today people around the world gathered together to commemorate this season of repentance and reflection in preparation for the celebration of Easter. The ashes represent the fact that our lives are like dust and to dust, we will return. It is a time to consider our mortality.

For the past few years, I have started my day with this online Lenten devotional that includes art, scripture, poetry, and reflection. I encourage you to take a look and consider taking time to prepare your heart and mind for the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection.

I am thankful that I have friends from many different persuasions and I know many of you do not fully understand the importance or need to follow Jesus. I have made in my life’s work to proclaim that good news. I encourage you, friend, take this time to consider Jesus and his teaching. I would love to listen to anyone that has questions or wants to talk. I love my wife, my colleagues, And my cure team but I’d like to get out, grab a coffee, and speak with any of you.

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that the ashes we receive in Lent may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Amen.
(From the Anglican Book of Common Prayer)

 

http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/2019/#day-mar-6

Idiosyncrasies

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March 2, 2019
 
Confession time. Being temporarily disabled has brought to light many of my idiosyncrasies. I’ve never thought of myself as OCD but when I look at that concept in light of someone else doing things for me (like my wife cutting up my food as I perceive, improperly, or my chair being placed offset at the table. Honestly, I realize I am a piece of work. Many of these I have been able to mask in the past by doing things on my own. I do not have that luxury right now.
 
I am a listing a few of my peculiarities and would love for you to share some of yours.
 
This first one comes to mind since we had spaghetti for dinner. I like to have my spaghetti cut up before putting the sauce on top. I never learned how to roll my spaghetti on a spoon. My mom always cut it up, and therefore I have always done the same. Many of my food distinctions come from my upbringing I am sure.
 
2. A dinner plate should consist of three items. Some type of meat, a vegetable, and generally a starch. Salad does not count as one of the three required elements. A salad is a bonus. BTW, as a child, I thought of salad as always unneeded. I have grown up a bit since then.
 
3. I am not good at letting go of issues with my appearance. Is it too much to say that I had my wife pluck out small white hairs out of ears yesterday because otherwise, I would be obsessing about them all day long?
 
4. My home or work office is allowed to be messy, but I cannot deal with the living room or family room being a disaster or stuff just out of place.
 
5. My right sock and left sock need to be put on in that particular order. Shoes must follow the same rule.
 
I called my wife back to my office to review this list. She added one more that we agreed was inappropriate for me to list here. You just get to wonder what it is!
 
Alright, fire away! This should be fun.

Taco Tuesday

February 26, 2019

I have been walking independently much more this week. Yesterday I Took 218 steps without the cane. I actually walked into Flamingos for Taco Tuesday and was able to walk out. I teased the hostess who always is very helpful and helps with the wheelchair (she had not seen us coming in.) I asked her to get the wheelchair, and she turned to do so. She looked at me perplexed, and I told her that I had walked in. She was excited and smiled broadly.

On the other hand, my pain level has been worse this week than I believe from the beginning. I credit that to the muscles all being rejuvenated and working hard. I have been powering through, but when I get home, it seems to strike me. I certainly could use prayer for some relief.

 

Six Months

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February 25, 2019

Six Months Ago Today

What has changed? Just about everything. Six months ago today I was in a hospital room in Downey, California. We so seldom travel to Los Angeles, so to find myself in a hospital, being told I had a stroke, and being so far away from home was in a word, devastating.

1. I have not driven or ridden in my convertible in six months. It’s weird to be chauffeured everywhere.

2. I cannot cut up my own food. It’s peculiar to be in restaurants and have my wife cut up my steak for me especially now that I’m not sitting in the wheelchair in restaurants, so as far as people can see, I look normal.

3. When I lift my one hand in worship, my balance gets thrown off. I know everyone around me gets worried. I really don’t care enough to stop.

4. I have only slept in our bed one night after the stroke. Our bed is too high and after sloshing around and hitting the nightstand and knocking everything other over that was on it, it seemed best to move to the lower bed in the guestroom. I really liked the mattress in the guest bedroom better. I refuse to call that room my bedroom. I’m trying to convince Judy that when I am entirely well, we need to buy a new one for our bedroom that is as comfortable as the one given to us.

5. After not being on any prescription meds in years I am now popping 30 pills a day. I do each interval by swallowing all of them at once. Bedtime time requires 11 pills to go down.

6. I have always had an aversion to visiting hospitals, calling people in who are sick, and praying with people who or in pain. After spending a month in the hospital, all of that is changed. I just spent an hour calling people on our prayer list in asking them how we best can continue to pray. It has actually energized me. I have had some great conversations.

7. You can buy just about anything on Amazon. I Googled a one-handed cutting board and now own one that I bought off Amazon.

8. Our nightly dinnertime conversations and time together in the car are spent in more meaningful discussion. We used to spend most of our time the singing along with the radio, but as of the last six months, we are discussing books, feelings, and going places in conversation that I would have rather ignored than discussed.

9. Never once before the stroke did I ever consider the possibility of falling into the back yard grill when barbecuing steaks. Now I look and those flames differently and make sure my balance is in check.

10. People are more friendly to others in wheelchairs. I have never been helped so much and smiled at then I have the past six months.

Do I hate this? You betcha!. There’s not a day that goes by then I am not frustrated, but know that God is using this time. I would just like Him to speed it up a bit. BTW, I know you really want a pair of those cool yellow nonslip, too big, hospital socks! I’m thinking about wearing them with my dress shoes and my suit for the next wedding or funeral. What do you think?

On these things that have changed: Space my wife has articulately observed that I am using the phrase “This is driving me crazy” on way too many things. It has now become a joke.

Soaking in Star Trek

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February 23, 2019

I had mentioned that before all of this happened, one of my guilty pleasures was sitting in the bathtub and watching Star Trek. Of course, for the past six months (on Monday,) I have been unable to do so.

Thanks to my good friend, Bob, we now have bars installed in our front bathroom. Tonight I relaxed for an hour, and it was beautiful. Getting out of was a bit of challenge, but it was totally worth it.

The Heart of Worship

February 17, 2019

 

The Heart of Worship

The last few weeks have been distressing. I had mentioned before that we were told my emotions could get out of sorts. Initially, I found that to be true about movies and television. I had thought that this would give way as I recovered, but the opposite is happening. I have sunk into what I assume is depression. It’s good to know that this is not uncommon, but it doesn’t make it feel any better.

Our small group meets every other Sunday night. I love it and the people who surround each other. Group settings, however, have become exhausting. I decided I needed some alone time tonight so I asked Judy to go by herself. As she was driving, she heard a song by Matt Redman that she thought it would be encouraging I listened, and it was. But that sent me looking for videos of Matt Redman, and I was reminded of the song that had significant influence in my life at the turn-of-the-century, the Heart of Worship.

As I watched Matt lead thousands of college-age students, my heart immediately swelled as they were saying the lyrics about the condition of their hearts, ”I’m sorry Lord for the thing I have made it.” I then I asked myself, have I done the same? Have I put myself above what should be the focus of my heart? It is undoubtedly challenging to wake up each day and face the fact that I’m not in charge, that I can’t make individual choices or to do certain things the way I would like them to be done. I keep finding myself grumpy and wanting to retreat. I know better. The fact that I am walking unassisted is a great sign that I am progressing. My heart and mind need to be directed back to what the heart of worship is, and that is Jesus.

In no way has the stroke wrecked my faith. In fact, it has strengthened it. In some ways, it has refocused it. Sometimes when you work in a church professionally, it is easy to get your eyes off of why you are doing what you are doing. I love my job. I love our church, but I would certainly not turn away an opportunity to be in worship service where nobody knows me, nobody notices me, and I could spend an hour uninhibited in God’s presence.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship… I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it it’s all about you Jesus.