Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Questions

For those of us who are fond of creation; cows, goats, lambs, doves, the Old Testament writings teach that God created all of that but they also detail the preparation and execution of the offerings and this is particularly painful to read and the purpose is not entirely clear. In a number of areas in the Bible, several if not hundreds of animals are slaughtered for burnt offerings. How does slaughtering and burning animals pay homage to God?

I was listening to a podcast from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and this was a question posed to Dallas Willard during a question and answer session as he shared the podium with pastor John Ortberg. It is a haunting question. I like animals. I hate the thought of them being slaughtered. I am not a vegetarian and sometimes I feel a little guilty about that. But I believe I need to eat meat in moderation to stay healthy. I am ensconced in my suburban home, buy my meat neatly packaged at the supermarket and never have to think about my food as animals that are butchered. When I do think about it, I just hope that they were killed in a merciful quick way and didn’t have to suffer. But I don’t know and I have no control over that. Do we have the choice of buying meat from kind, compassionate farmers and butchers? This is an area I would like to explore.

I appreciate the passage from the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier when Inman, a wounded deserter from the confederate army stumbles upon the old goat woman. In addition to giving him medicine and advice, she prepares a life giving meal for him. She gently strokes a young goat, almost lulling it to sleep before silently and swiftly cutting its throat. She demonstrates that she needs the animal for sustenance but she also has reverence for it.

Anyway, back to the question above. I had always assumed that the reason behind animal sacrifices was because of the biblical dictum, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.” (Hebrews 9:22) Although it makes me shudder I have always accepted this as a part of my faith. Dallas Willard didn’t touch on this at all. Instead he talked about God’s willingness to meet us where we are and that is where the ancient people of God were during the time period of the Old Testament writings. He states that animal sacrifice was not part of God’s ultimate plan. Perhaps this is so and there is more to the story that I have yet to learn.

What about Jesus, the Lamb of God? It is painful to read about the torture and death that he endured. Sometimes I dread Easter because of this. I love the resurrection part of the story but it is painful to contemplate the horrors of the crucifixion. If he had to die for us why did God allow him to die in this way? Couldn’t Jesus have been born into another culture and hung on the gallows, shot, given lethal injection or some other less cruel way to die? I have heard someone say that the reason he could not accept Christianity was because he could not fathom that God the Father would allow such a death for his Son. I can understand this sentiment but as a Christian I accept the thread of sacrifice and redemption that runs through the history book of God’s salvation (otherwise known as the Bible) even if I fail to totally understand it.

The deeper question here is, “Is the God of the Bible a good being?” For the record I believe He is. He offers all people a relationship with Him and I wouldn’t trade the love and grace He so freely gives me for anything.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It’s funny…now that this incredible thing has happened, it is almost all I think about. How amazing, I think…certainly the most beautiful and wonderful thing that has happened to me. And yet it is not unique. It happens every day, hundreds of times, to so many different people. But if that is so, why isn’t the birth of every new and precious little one all anyone ever wants to talk about? Why isn’t everyone talking about this everywhere you go?     -Andrew after the birth of Henry

There is something about having a child--you are met head on with an amazing miracle. And it happens all over again when you have a grandchild. Each birth is a celebration of life but this is one more time God has graciously allowed you to have something to do with it. You are given the privilege to witness a little piece of you going on two generations later.

With your own children there is the opportunity and burden of great responsibility—not to mention sleepless nights and countless anxious moments. However, with grandchildren it is sheer enjoyment. Hopefully by now you have accumulated wisdom and experience and show more grace to your grandchildren than you did to your own children. And like we all do they need that kind of unconditional love.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Big Relapse

Last year at this time I was optimistic about my apparent recovery from fibromyalgia. I thought that a medication I had been taking was the source of my fibromyalgia symptoms because when I had to discontinue it, I felt much better. I explain this in my blogs: and

However, I ran into a roadblock last July (around the time of the hailstorm) when out of the blue came a major relapse. Something must have triggered it but it was so sudden and unexpected. Perhaps I pushed a little too hard with my lap swimming. Anyway, it sent me crashing over the edge and wham; I was hit hard with all the old symptoms; crushing overwhelming fatigue, malaise, pain and brain fog. I went from being fairly active everyday to feeling too ill to do anything. Although I still thought it was a good thing that I was forcibly weaned from Surmontil, I had to admit that I had a peculiar health problem. I lacked energy to do anything but the most fundamental activities. For the last part of July I spent two weeks doing as little as possible and with rest and careful pacing I gradually built myself back up to a tolerable level.

It was during this time that I discovered the term post-exertional malaise. All along this had been the symptom that baffled and plagued me most yet I didn’t have a name for it. It was very frustrating trying to explain this phenomenon to others. No one seemed to get it. Even my various doctors failed to understand. It is the symptom that is aligned with CFS rather than fibromyalgia.

It became clear to me that I had been misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are closely related but my symptoms definitely fall in line with CFS rather than Fibromyalgia. I felt frustrated that my doctor failed to recognize that. But from this point on I embarked on learning everything I could about CFS.

Activities for August were already planned and it was too late to change them. Blind optimism and a bit of denial persuaded me that I would be able to handle everything with ease. Sarah and Henry were to fly from Massachusetts to visit us for ten days and I had been looking forward to that very much. We invited Kim’s parents from Illinois as well so Sarah could visit with them and they could enjoy their great-grandson. The family time was great and it was especially precious to spend time with my grandson. But the effort to be a good hostess was excruciatingly difficult. On top of that I had a trip planned to Scandinavia for the latter part of August. I love travel and was very excited about that trip. On the outside everything went well but on the inside I really struggled. I was in pain the entire time.

When I returned from the trip I collapsed. It took three months to return to a reasonable level of function and three more months until I felt “normal.” During the hardest times I felt forced to step off the road of life and hide like a wounded animal.

What really helped me during this time are my ‘internet doctors’ who gave me hope and a means to cope. There are two that stand out. Nadine Sauber’s colorful blog gives me information about diet and other aspects of recovering from CFS.  Bruce Campbell’s blog and Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Self-Help program has taught me the supreme importance of pacing. Not only do they give me a lot of information and guidance but they also encourage me when they remind me that I’m not alone with this condition.

I have learned that I cannot rely on traditional medicine to help me. Maybe there are some medical doctors out there who understand and know what to do for patients such as myself but I despair of ever finding one. I have had too many bad experiences and it is simply too expensive to keep looking. Doctors either prescribe medication or do surgery. Obviously there is no need for surgery for CFS and drugs only seem to make the condition worse. Recovery for some chronic health problems such as CFS must be done by the patient—basically taking super good care of oneself. This is summarized in Nadine Sauber’s healing formula: Real whole food alkaline diet + restorative sleep + elimination of toxins and stressors + being positive and hopeful + regular graded exercise and pacing + consistency + time. I would add ‘relaxation techniques’ such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and breathing techniques.

With strict adherence to this formula one can recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Although my healing isn't complete, I have come a long way and I have read about others who have had substantial recovery.  Many people are lucky enough to be healthy by default. Others of us have to learn or relearn what good health is all about. Most doctors don’t do education and that is what CFS sufferers (provided they don't have another medical condition) need most.