TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE BACK

I know the saying is usually “One step forward, two steps back”. But this is a minor setback. Something I ate, drank, rubbed on my skin, or ingested as medicine has caused an allergic reaction. I woke up Sunday morning with my face and lips swollen, a rash all over my body, and sores in my mouth. I ended up going to the ER where they shot me up with steroids and Benadryl. Most of the symptoms were gone by bedtime, but came back Monday morning. So, now I’ve got to take prednisone and Benedryl for several days. I talked to the ER doc, my radiation doc, and my chemo doc. None of them can figure out what triggered it. It’s most likely not the chemo, since reactions to that usually happen immediately. It is now Wednesday, and it hasn’t gone away. Enough whining.

Unintended or unanticipated consequences can really set us back. We have a plan in place. Things are working as planned, then suddenly we get hit out of left field. Whether it’s financial plans, vocational plans, or even vacation plans – stuff happen. Unanticipated consequences are just that … unanticipated. Sometimes it is because we didn’t take enough time to examine all the possible consequences. At other times, no amount of preplanning will reveal the unexpected outcomes.

When things like this happen, you just have to stop and deal with them. Ignoring problems almost never makes them go away. It is frustrating – yes! In my case I am frustrated for having to make extra trips to medical facilities, and take yet more medications. To quote a terribly overused, meaningless statement: “It is what it is.”

The important thing is to not let these kinds of setbacks get our eyes off the prize. Stay in the present. Jesus said: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6.34

But I still reserve the right to whine a little when these things happen!


 

ANGELS OF MERCY

I’ve just got to hit pause from talking about me. I really hate to be that guy who always blogs about himself. Today I want to talk about a special group of people. When you get cancer, you start by seeing several doctors who set up the treatment plan. After that, all of the heavy lifting is done by nurses. Every morning in radiation I see three wonderful, sweet women who actually do all of the work. They run that crazy big machine. They never fail to ask me how I’m doing, or if I have plans for the weekend. They make a very impersonal experience personal. Once a week I see the doctor for a few minutes just to ask how things are going. The docs are great too.

On my two chemo days I am taken care of by Traci. Traci is awesome! She can joke with you when you want to joke around – which for me is really often. We keep this banter up for the three hours I am there on Wednesday and Thursdays. But if I need to get serious and talk medical stuff, she immediately switches into that mode. She doesn’t just care for me; she cares about me. Peggy and I just love her. We talk about our families and just share life. That is not in her job description.

I’ve got to say that all the nurses and other care givers I have dealt with in this whole process are just special people. They see people at their best and at their worst. In their world, they win some and they lose some. Their work matters. It really is life and death. It has got to be hard to process all of the emotions they take home with them every night.

I guess there is a lesson in this for all of us. We all come into contact with people every day. Do we treat everyone with dignity? Do we bother to ask them how their day is going? Do we show compassion? Do we act professionally when it is called for?


 

THERE ARE NO ATHEISTS IN A FOX HOLE

This saying circulated during World War Two, but may have gone back to World War One which was largely fought in fox holes. The idea is that when things get bad enough, everybody searches for a higher power. I thought about this saying the other day while overhearing conversations in the “Infusion Room”. I prefer calling the room the “Cocktail Lounge”. It is where you go to lounge around in Lazy Boys and receive potent cocktails of drugs. On Wednesdays I get a blend that includes five different items (chemo, anti-nausea, steroids, saline, Benadryl, and Zantac). Thursday’s mix is made of the first four ingredients (but different chemo meds) above. The hang-over is a real doozy!

Anyway, while sitting there, conversations are going on all around the room. Most of these conversations are sprinkled with “God language”. And, though I don’t want to sound judgmental they tend to fall into two categories. The first category includes those people who obviously have a deep and abiding faith. They entered the foxhole with it, and they will leave with it. Their language is one that us Christians are familiar with. It is our language. It is not based on the circumstances around us, but our experience of God in our lives.

The other category includes people who are grasping at religion in the bad times. They are vaguer about their language, using terms such as “the man upstairs”, and “a higher power” to refer to a God that is distant to them. I know this sounds judgmental. But I’m just observing. At least they are moving towards God in their time of need. And hopefully, God will reveal himself to them in big ways.

But I have to say, religion won’t get you through it. I make a big distinction between “spirituality” and “religion”. Religion is an effort to win God’s approval by doing and saying the right things. Religious folks will often try to make a deal with God. I’m sure a lot of deals have been attempted in foxholes! People say things like “God, if you will just get me through this I will _______.” This way of thinking is based on the idea that God needs a reason to care about you.

Spirituality is quite the opposite. It begins with an understanding that God cares deeply for you. You don’t have to prove yourself to him, earn his love, or bargain with him. You just need to receive what he offers. Spirituality is durable in good times and bad. Spiritual people have staying power. They don’t spend a lot of time asking “Why me?” They don’t think too highly of themselves. They believe in miracles, but don’t expect special favor. They humbly accept whatever God sends their way. This is what I aspire to.

Religion, on the other hand, has a tendency to fall apart if things don’t go your way – or if things do go your way. Let me explain. The religious person often bargains with God. If God doesn’t come through with what they want, they turn their back on God. Or, God does come through, they get better, and go back to their normal life – forgetting what God did for them.

I plan to carry my faith through this thing with me. I have been given a lot of reason for optimism by the doctors. But my faith isn’t based on the outcome. I know God will be glorified no matter what happens. My role is to point people to his glory.

I sincerely hope that the “religious” folks in the Infusion Room find a deep spirituality that is based in God’s unchanging love for them. It is so much better! It’s what keeps me kicking.