Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'll Be Back

I'll be away from my computer til Oct. 8. So I will be unable to inflict additional posts til then :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

VIPs




Here are two Very Important People in my life. Don't worry, the rest of you are important too!
I was just so struck by how well this picture captured Barbara's joyful spirit.
I am sure Daniel is happy too, although this photo did not capture his excellent smile.

I am shamelessly purloining this photo from Julia and Viggo's public folders. To see more, go to their blog and to their photo albums.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Us and Them

As a young child, I knew that bad things happened. I had to get older and more experienced before I realized that bad things happen a lot. All of the time. To all people. I had experienced plenty of good things. I began to wonder. Why are bad things happening?It didn't take me long to come up with an answer. I decided that the bad things happen because of "them". There was a pool of decent people known as "us" who wanted the bad things to stop. We really did. But all it took was one or two of "them" to mess everything up for "us". Those of "us" who knew the truth about why bad things were happening did not believe ourselves to be perfect or even to be possessed of all the answers. Thinking things like that was believed to be characteristic of "them", not "us". We were humble and realistic. We did know pride and depravity. We saw it every time we took a close look at them. In fact the more we studied them, the more appalling the situation became.As years passed, I found it increasingly difficult to find those of "us" who did not show a resemblance to"them", at least once in a while. And yes, that includes me.

Language to Heal, Language to Wound

Fine.

Fine is a single word that I can use to encourage a friend or to wound them deeply. Context. Body language. Tone of voice. Timing. Facial expression. They can completely change the message.What I really mean comes from the heart. It is expressed in all those ways, word, tone, face, and more. May God cleanse my heart so that encouragement becomes more frequent, and wounding rare. I thank God that he forgives me for the carnage I have done. I thank him for the oopportunity to do better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breakfast During Our 8/07 Family Trip


I am experimenting with video in blogspot. How much of Kent's Life can be known via video. How much is better known via text? What will an illustrated biography be like when we figure this all out? Barbara is taping, so only her voice is in the video.
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Kent Saying Goodbye to Daniel A Few Weeks after His Birth


This is the first time I said goodbye to Daniel. I think it was early April.
Now it is only two weeks since his last visit here, but nonetheless, I miss him.
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video

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Longest Day in the Shortest Decade

This day seems to grind on forever. I'm continuing to taper down the narcotics. The latest drop in dose is kicking me hard w/ depression, lethargy, and a sense that I have always felt like this and always will, forever.

The crazy thing is that this has easily been the shortest decade in my life. I'm 57 and 60 will be here before I can blink. How can the days be long and the years short? I have wondered that many, many times.

I just watched a music video that I wish every teen and twenty something could stash away and watch a few decades later. Johnny Cash in Hurt
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmVAWKfJ4Go

Think About It

Hyundai has a new ad series with a recurring tag line: Think About It.
There is a http://www.thinkaboutit.com/ website. This is one of the few times I have seen commercials that actually do make me think about some important topics. I didn't even know they were Hyundai commercials at first because only their logo is shown.

Man, if all commercials were this good, TV would be a different place. There are plenty of entertaining commercials. Lots of boring commercials. And a ton of irritating commercials. This is the only one I can remember that really made me think.

Cool.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Withdrawal

It has been twenty five years since I was active in drug culture, street drugs, and the slang that is current. I never was involved much with opioids: heroin, morphine, oxycodone. There probably is a word in vogue for what it feels like to stop taking something you are addicted to. The only word I have available is withdrawal.

Withdrawal seems far to puny to describe what one's body decides to do when it is suddenly deprived of strong chemicals which worked so well to blot out pain.The body has quit making the endorphins that the brain normally creates to modulate our sensations of pain and pleasure.

A total knee replacement surgery was my ticket into the world of heavy opioid use. Oxycodone, at doses of up to 360 milligrams a day, was what I used to control the pain that followed having the end of my femur and tibia sawn clean off , the marrow reamed out, and adhesive, metal, and plastic substituted for the original equipment knee joint.

I took about two thirds of the drug in time release caplets. There is a thick coating on the powerful dose inside. The drug is released gradually over a twelve hour period. I have read that each of the 40 mg tablets that I took are sold illegally for about $40. (Even with a prescription they are something like $5 per pill). When they are chewed or ground up and snorted or injected, they provide a high that is generally thought to be identical to that of heroin. A common nickname is hillbilly heroin. Perhaps it is easier to get oxycodone in rural spots like Appalachia than it is to get the heroin that is common in major cities. I don't thing anyone really knows. I was also taking about 3 quick release 5 mg tablets of oxycodone every three hours. No chewing required.

Pain is personal and subjective. I can't compare the pain I experienced to that of others. I can't even remember it well,myself. I do know that I reached a point where I was writhing and unable to speak. My world shrank down to one very long, excruciating moment with very little room for rational thought, mostly a frenzied desire to escape. That was what resulted as I tried to cope with the pain and fear at lower doses.

For most humans in most of history, the drug has not been available when the pain came. They coped. I don't know how. A part of me was very afraid of finding out. So I asked for higher doses, and higher, and higher.

My brain stopped making endorphins. Why bother? My system was flooded with fake versions that not only stopped the pain, but for me, induced a powerful side effect: euphoria.

Of all the drug side effects I have seen listed, euphoria surely seems to be the most benign. It is not. It can become an idol just a quickly as the golden calf that the Jews cobbled together while Moses was away for 40 days talking to God about right and wrong. I do not believe I worshipped the idol, but I was very happy to make its acquaintance.

I had to stop. Most folks will fail to stabilize at a dose that brings both relief from pain and the euphoria. Somehow ones body become accustomed to the interloper and decides to shut down the euphoria. It may even find a way to fire up some pain that had been quelled. For those who are about to die, it is an option to continue taking every greater doses.
For anyone who plans on living for years to come, that option is out. Besides, my bones were mostly healed, as was the eight inch incision used to gain access to my knee's innards. The pain should be gone.

Thankfully, the pain in the knee is mostly gone. It aches a bit, especially after a walk or a flight of stairs. Completely healing takes a number of months for most folks. Pain may go on for years for a small minority.

About two months after the surgery, I was decided it was time to start reducing the dose. I must have made a clumsy attempt at dropping the dose. And I was afraid, very afraid. Then came my first intro to "withdrawal". The closest analog seems to be a very bad case of flu. Aches, vomiting, diarrhea, running nose, and a profound fatigue. Of course, all it takes to stop it is to return to the original dose.

After a couple of stabs at that sort of exit strategy, I was more fearful than ever. I have experienced plenty of anxiety in years gone by. This was the first time I experienced what might be termed a panic attack. It particularly tweaked my fear of suffocation. Something I have had since an older boy taught me to hold my breath by torturing me with immersion so that he might enjoy my torment.

Barbara held me as I gasped and wept. She heard me cry out. So did God. My bible lay near my head collecting dust during the weeks my head was so fuzzy that I felt unable to read it with any regularity. I felt a powerful urge to seize it and turn to Psalm 119. First I read silently but soon I felt compelled to read aloud. Every verse was a prayer gasped in desperation with an intensity and focus that I had never experienced before. There are 176 verses in Psalm 119. My breathing began to slow, my attention focused more and more on the psalm.

God answered that prayer (along with many prayers by family and friends).
It was sudden and dramatic. I became certain that God would get me through whatever horrible feeling came my way. In the weeks since then I have proved it by repeatedly dropping the dose enough to induce withdrawal and then staying at that lower dose until my body calms down.
Now I am taking 60 mg a day, only the slow release kind. I am sorry to say that there is no euphoria involved, although I am glad to be spared the temptation to bring it back. Within a couple of weeks I hope to be completely free of this bondage. God willing, and it would seem that he is certainly willing.

Dr. Byram has given me a clonidine patch which alleviates the worst of the nausea. Aching and lethargy and chills followed by sweats are mostly what I am left to deal with.

I had intended a much shorter post. The idea: what price comfort? What price did I pay to escape the pain for a while? Was it worth it? So many times I have tried to escape pain and paid a price that clearly was not worth the relief. Alcohol, benzodiazepine abuse, methamphetamine, marijuana,
cocaine, mushrooms, LSD, and probably a few others I can't remember right now. It has been twenty five years since I experimented with street drugs as a way out. For those drugs, the outcome of the experiment was very clear: find another way to feel good.

God has always been faithful to show me the price of chasing idols. He was faithful even when I did not believe in him. He has been faithful when I have known him, but failed him.

Jonah 2:7-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

7 "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Thing I Cannot Remember

I do not remember my father saying "I love you" to me. Not those words. Nor any words that are truly synonymous.

Maybe he did say it. Maybe I was just a baby. Maybe it was so rare that I have lost it. I don't know. I do not remember.
My Dad loved me very much. For whatever reasons he had to show it by his actions rather than his words. I would much rather have just actions than just words. Most of my life I wished that he had used both. It's over now. He has been dead for years. I was at peace with this matter when he died.

I am confident that I have often told my children that I love them. I made a point of doing so a lot. A whole lot.

What I wonder is this: Where is my blind spot? What have I failed to do or say? Was it with my children, or someone else that I care about deeply? Who will be missing an important memory because I could not provide something they needed?

Each day that passes I get more opportunities to do better. I cannot change the days already passed. May God grant me the wisdom to improve. My life is passing quickly.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Discernment

Was it a "God thing" or was it caffeine? When I wrote my post yesterday describing that which I believed to be a bit of divine intervention, I was flying on too much caffeine. I say too much only because I was too restless to read that evening and unable to go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. versus my usual 10:30 p.m. I used the three hours to study popular culture by watching television :-) I may have done better to lay in my easy chair and twitch for those hours!

Discernment is a fine word. It is widely used. It used perhaps more often in evangelical/fundamental Christian circles. I might hope to "discern" the difference between ordinary happenings and those that that are an answer to my requests fired off to God. I might want to discern the difference between feeling blue for a while and being attacked by spiritual forces from the wrong side of the heavens.

Does it matter if I discern correctly? Yes, it does if it then leads me take action I wouldn't otherwise take. Events led me to believe that God desires me to labor diligently toward finding better means to communicate who he is and what he means to me. If I would do better to put that energy towards some other pursuit, I would like to know. In this life I have limited time and energy. Even with an infinite God offering me assistance, I am a finite resource. When I misunderstand God's intent, I may squander that which he has given me: time and talent.

So was it God or was it caffeine? At this point I would say it was God speaking to me patiently despite the ups and downs of my mood. Yesterday was up. Today is down. This morning I was tempted to dismiss the idea that I am called to communicate.

There is great comfort in knowing that God will use even my misguided efforts to good purpose. If yesterday's essay was caffeine fueled balderdash, God may yet use it to amuse others and to humble me. Or he may use it in ways that are too wonderful for me to understand.

I still prefer to follow God's lead rather than be pushed along by drugs or extremes of blood sugar level. I will continue to discern as he enables me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A God Thing

Sometime I use the standard Christianese of long standing: "blessed", "saved", etc. Then there's the slightly newer stuff like "it's was a God thing". When I use that phrase, I mean something like a series of events occurred which were so clearly orchestrated and encouraging that I have to believe that God had a direct hand in them.

But difficulty in communicating such things is exactly the general area where I felt like a God thing happened.

I watched a very well done Atheist vs. Christian debate this morning. In fact, it was one of the best I have seen. Nonetheless, the "versus" part bothered me a lot. I don't mind if folks disagree. But I really hate it when they seem to become frustrated primarily because they are not communicating well. It seems that every such discussion is plagued by a lot of miscommunication. One tact I have taken in the past year was to very carefully work on defining terms up front: What do we mean by faith, God, sin, etc? However, I feel that I have generally either caused the other party in the discussion to feel like I am grilling them, insulting their intelligence, or being presumptuous about the value of defining terms. The other sad fact is that the discussion can become very dry very fast. So dry that it withers and dies.
It happens that I have read more books on language, linguistics, and communication in the past year or so than I probably have in all the other fifty five years of my life (don't get the wrong idea, I am talking about only four or five books ).
It also happens that my daughter and son-in-law have completed their education and certification as Bible Translators for Wycliffe and will soon embark on a decade or two of working to translate the bible into Mbugwe (one people group in Tanzania). This has given me the opportunity to learn a bit from them.

A string of "also happens" is where I start to see a "God thing". I get it that someone else might not, but I do at least sometimes.

I loved my day today, but it was the latest in a long string of very leisurely days. I am actively searching for more purposeful pursuits. As I wandered about a large bookstore, I wondered what on earth I would read next that would have value beyond simple entertainment. I also wondered what on earth I could possibly write about, teach about, or talk about, that would have value that even begins to approach so many other folks efforts.

I just happened upon book about one woman's struggles to deal with dozens of Christian terms that she had heard as a child, but largely rejected as an adult. Later she regained her faith, but only after deepening her understanding of many of the terms. I am eating it up.

I had a sort of epiphany. Which may be a fancy word for seeing a "God thing" for what it is.

Every time I write a profile or bio, I write that I love God and Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. I do that because I consider those to be the most essential information there could be about me.

But I suspect that many folks have little idea of what I actually mean when I write that. Perhaps I should write more about the most essential information about me and what I have learned. However, I may need to create a whole new way of communicating to do so effectively.

Now that feels like a goal worth tackling. In fact is seems completely overwhelming. Good. I am tired of being smug and self assured. Time to walk out into territory that scares the crap out of me. I will asked God for the strength and the wisdom to do so in a way that glorifies him. I believe he likes to say yes to those kinds of requests!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Proof Positive














Each one of these fine folks was a baby 1.5 to 2.5 decades ago.
Guess I better make this a short post.
I am afraid the tears welling in my eyes will spill out and corrode my keyboard.
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He Came, We Saw, He Conquered

















Daniel arrived on August 2 and stayed through September 2. His six month birthday was Aug. 26.

He had learned to smile, laugh, raise his head and chest off the floor, and roll over during the months he was in Norway. While he was with us he changed day by day. After a week a tooth poked out! He ate baby food. He got his first test ride in his jogging stroller. He grabs at anything nearby. When we eat food, he wants some. If he is in your lap, he will lunge for it. He can cross a room by rolling to get where he wants.

Now he is back in Norway. I am checking air fares to Africa. Lord willing we want to see a lot more of this young man. I remember how quickly our children grew up. I can only imagine how fast grandchildren must grow up!

May God bless Viggo, Julia, and Daniel.
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