Letters to God (No April Fool’s)

This has been unlike any week in my life. Much sadness in reflections of the past.

I find quiet comfort in the routine, ordinary things of life. But this week was far from that.

Monday was fairly uneventful. Nothing much happened. I thought. Hurrah! An ordinary week for a change. Mom called and said she started her cat on insulin. Dropped stuff in the mail that I had to return to amazon. Had to go to post office twice, because the folks there said that they could not give me any packing tape. Stopped off at UPS which was way way too expensive. Back home to tape up the packages, and then back to the post office.

Tuesday was not too bad. I went over to TMC and helped Daniel teach a class on General Class Amateur radio. He had brought in several antennas (we only had a class of 1 besides us), and he explained anyway. I learned more in 45 minutes, then I did in 5 years of study. I knew that my amateur radio rig at home, just needed a better antenna to work. Fortunately Daniel had found one I could buy that was in my budget range. He also showed us a home brew 2 metre antenna he had made from a cat food can, a pl-259 bulkhead, and coat hangers. Who knew? Stopped by Wally’s World and picked up some dish detergent.

Wednesday was semi-routine. I did not go the R.A.C.E.S. meeting downtown, as it was not being held at the EOC, but instead at a school on the south side of town. Instead I went out to see my Dad, who is in adult care. Mom came up from town, and we met at the facility. (side note: we put Dad into adult care and hospice, just a few days before Christmas.) We got there, and Dad — well I thought he had had a stroke, since he was pretty in-coherent. Mumbled, confused and came up with all the wrong words. Frightening to watch parents age and go onto fragility.

I went by the place Daniel had told me about on the east side of town, and ordered the indoor HF antenna.

From there, I went to the shelter where I do volunteer I.T. support. Moved a bunch of furniture around to plan for an expansion of the network. But this left the cable modem with a short ethernet cable, and ended up putting the cable modem in an inbox on the wall. Thanks Cox Communications, for a sub-standard install. Visited some of my favourite cats there. In the G.I. section. These cats have no bowel/bladder control because someone mangled their tails. It is stinky, to be honest. But that doesn’t stop the cats from wanting or needing love. I spend 10 minutes with them before I start, and 10 minutes before I leave. They are permanent residents, and nobody wants to deal with them. But they deserve to be loved, just the same. Got home late. Mom called and said that her cat had not eaten for several days and was going to the vet.

The cat is one they found while camp hosting several years back. He had heart worms and asthma. They brought him home, and he spent about 5 years with them. Quiet big kitty. Good personality.

Thursday is my “catch up day.” The day I do laundry, clean the apartment, etc. That went fairly well. Did some light shopping.

Friday was fairly routine. My antenna came in, but I am not on that part of town (about 30 plus miles round trip) so I will pick that up this Wednesday. Folks cat was still getting sicker. No food or water for 3 days now.

Saturday rolled around. I had a cat cpr class at the shelter at 1 pm, so I went there for that. Learned a lot. But I could sit through that a second time, if they will let me. Jackie is a great teacher. She is the Certified Vet Tech at the shelter where I volunteer. Classes are about an hour long, with power point presentation. I am glad that she is helping to educate the public. Went to a local computer store, got a 15 foot ethernet cable, returned to the shelter, took the network down, and installed a new cable. Moved the cable modem to it’s new spot: on top of a table. Tested everything, and was good to go.

Mom said the cat was breathing hard and so she took him into the vet again. Give him a shot of antibiotics. He pee’d all over himself. The end was near.

An acquaintance came over and we watched some TV. It is never easy to tell some one they have body odor, but I had to, to protect my new furniture. I tried to tell him in such a way as not to puncture. I think this is the first time he has been on his own, and he may not know how to use a washing machine. Seriously. That’s okay. He’s teachable. Maybe that’s why are paths crossed. Very bright person.

Saturday marked the 11th anniversary of when I moved, and the 14th anniversary of when I had to put one of my pets down.

Sunday. Mom met the vet @ 9 am, and put the cat down. Right thing to do. Discovered in the x-ray he had a collapsed lung. Explains why he was breathing so hard, not eating or drinking. That cat NEVER lacked for love.

Hosted a live chat for CBC. The online church I am a part of, before I left to see Dad.

When I arrived at Dad’s place around 11 am or so, I saw both Mom and Dad crying their eyes out. I said, “Why didn’t you wait for me, so we could both tell him?” My Mom and I are deaf as a post and both wear hearing aids. Dad however, was able to hear my Mom tell the care giver about the cat, even at a whisper.

It is hard to watch both parents grieve over the loss of a beloved pet. I have been here. The cat was the glue that sort of held things from the past together, with the present. The future for both of them is murky. They are both near end-of-life and it is hard to watch your parents deteriorate before your eyes.

Mom and I went to lunch at Carl’s Jr. near the Costco. Had their southwestern burger, drink and a salad. A better memory of the day.

Spent sometime tonight talking to my friends Cyndi and Jeff. Cyndi drove me to the vet, 14 years ago. Jeff. If I ever had a soul mate, it would be Jeff. One of but maybe 1/2 dozen people I can be totally honest with.

And now, I am writing this. I hope I never have another week like this one.

“The pain now, is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”
CS Lewis

and so it goes….


Where is God when it Hurts?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know full well.”
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

I had a recent hospitalization. Recent in fact: it was just last week.

If CS Lewis is right, that “pain is God’s megaphone.” then what is he trying to say to me?

I woke up as normal, petted the cats, and wandered off to breakfast. Hmm big choice: eggs and 1/2 bagel, oatmeal, polenta, or cheerios? Yeah not a huge selection, but when you’re on a budget, predictability in cost becomes a factor.

So, I decided on Cheerios and Milk. A good way to start the day. Or so I thought. About 15 minutes after eating them, my stomach became nauseous.

Things never settled. I got sicker as time progressed. Then the vomiting started. I couldn’t keep any water down. Uh oh, this is serious!

I called my doctor, who by now only knows that I call if something is seriously wrong said: “Get your butt on over to the Hospital.”

I timed things and drove the 2 miles. Despite my condition, I sat in the waiting room for 4 hours with a bucket. I’ll bet that had to be a site to see.

By then I was in so much pain from vomiting about 20 times, you can only imagine. “Okay God, you have my attention! What’s up?”

I wasn’t understanding what was happening to me or why. They ordered a Cat Scan. “Oh God, this is serious!”

What I didn’t realise, was HOW serious. I had a blockage in the small intestine from scar tissue from a previous stomach surgery. “Great! What do I do now?”

It turns out the Doctor said: “We are going to continue IV fluids, and you are NPO!” (nothing by mouth.) How is that going to fix anything?

As I lay there, and pondered all of this: fearing, wondering, hoping, crying, praying, alone. A lot of scripture came to mind. But Psalm 139:14 was the strongest. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” If I am so wonderfully made then you screwed up God! Why am I lying in a hospital bed, wincing in tremendous pain?

Then as I meditated on the scripture, it became clear. It wasn’t about being “wonderfully made at all.” It’s a control issue.

Even in times like this, God is still in control. You mean God knew about this? Why would He let me suffer so? Ahh the refining fire, is no place for fun.

I began to experience peace, even though I was in great pain, simply because I knew I wasn’t responsible for the outcome of this. God was. Nothing ever escapes God’s omniscience or omnipresence.

I had to realise, that despite all this: God was still in control. I am not! I AM wonderfully made, even though it hurts.

As Larry O. Richard said: This may be one of the most important values of suffering. If life on earth were a constant joy, why would we fix our hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at Jesus’ return? If life on earth were without difficulty, how would we remain sensitive to our need for God? If life on earth were without trials or persecution how would we be forced to choose between commitment to Christ, and comfort or ease?

As Peter said, suffering does have value. It reveals the genuineness of our faith, and brings praise to the Lord.” (“The 365 Day Devotional Commentary”, Larry O. Richards, Victor Publications, 1992, pg 1109)

And that’s what I learned. Good lesson, God!


Purposes in Life

Simple question really. Why are we here? Have you ever thought of that? What is my purpose in life? Why am I on this rotating ball of boredom? The answers may surprise you.

I had made acquaintance with Mike Williams eons ago. I never really knew him well, but he stood out in a crowd, with a long mop of red hair. I guess it must have been the Irish in him.

Mike was a singer in a Christian Band. And he was good at it. Kids from all walks of life, would gather to hear his story. He would tell them stories from the Bible, and of his friend Jesus.

One day, I found out Mike had AIDS. How he acquired it, is of no concern. That he had a deadly disease, is what mattered.

Some of the other members of his band were going to drive out to Tucson from San Diego to meet with him. Since I wrote for a Christian Heavy Metal Magazine at the time, (“Gospel Metal” aka Keith Day), I was invited to tag along.

I asked Judd flatly: “Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS?” “Well” I said, “I sure am. I am not sure this is a wise idea.” Judd said: “No, I’m not afraid.”

“Why aren’t you afraid Judd?” I queried. He said, “Because I know that God will protect me.” Ahh a 23 year old guy had just taught a 43 year old guy, a valuable lesson. But this would not be the last lesson learned on this sojourn to the Sonaran Desert.

As we approached Tucson, I said to Judd, “What do we do now? I don’t know how to treat Mike, I don’t know what to say.” And about one million other excuses seemed to exude from my tongue.

I watched Judd closely. I had a strange feeling God would use him again, to teach me. I just had to be open to God using anyone in my life, even if that person was younger and less “experienced.”

When we arrived, the door to the trailer flew open. There was Mike, with that long mop of Red Hair. Well, at least that didn’t change. But, what do I do? Do I shun this guy as a modern day leper, or do I welcome him as a brother in Christ?

Ahh the next move was Judd’s. Judd embraced him warmly, and nearly hugged the stuffings out of him. I had to make a split second decision? What was I going to do? Maintain a “safe” distance, or greet him as a brother?

I watched what the 23 year old kid did. He didn’t judge. He was just glad to be with his friend. Then I remembered what Judd had said earlier: “I’m not afraid, because God will protect me.” I turned to Mike, and warmly embraced him.

In that instant, God transformed me. From being a cowardly lion, to a person of compassion and mercy. It is one thing to see death, but to see Mike, whose body was literally wasting away, was quite a shock. This sure didn’t look like the normal healthy person I knew from a year ago. He looked emaciated. Ahh but do we “judge books by cover, or by
content?” as Martin Luther King so aptly said.

I decided to judge not by what I saw. It was revolting. In that instant, I saw Mike as a brother. One deserving of my love and compassion.

I was not finished with Mike. About 4 months later, I drove back out to Tucson. This time to say “goodbye” as he was suffering so. I asked him, “What can I do, to help you?” His answer surprised me. “You’ve got a car, right?” “Yes,” I said. “Let’s go see a movie.” “What? do youwant to go to a movie? Okay, but you’re buying the popcorn!” So we got in my car, and drove around Tucson, for awhile, and arrived at the theater.

“What movie do you want to see, Mike?” “Tom and Huck (1995)” was the reply. So we watched the movie. I spent more time watching Mike then the movie. He enjoyed just getting out, and doing “normal” things. I was glad I was able to distract him for a few moments, from all the suffering I knew he was experiencing.

When we returned, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” “Yes” he said. Please massage my feet with some of that olive oil over there. I was quite humbled, and crying inside, as I massaged his bony feet. That image has never left me.

The last night I was with Mike, I said, “Mike, I want to ask you a very hard question. It is hard for me to even ask this question. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

“I’ve seen you suffering with this affliction, and there is nothing I or medical science can do to alleviate your condition. You WILL die. Mike, what has stopped you from putting a gun to your head, and ending it all? The words just spilled out of my mouth. I gasped. I thought, “Oh my God, what did I just say to him?”

Without hesitation, Mike said, “Because I know that God will heal me. Either in this life, or the next.” Mike found the ultimate healing a few weeks later. I had learned yet another valuable life lesson.

I have faced many adversities in my life. I am facing one not unlike Mike’s. I don’t have AIDS, but I do have a life threatening condition. “Lord” I’ve prayed. “Mike never gave up on you. My faith is wavering. All I want from you is to emerge from all this with my faith intact, just like Mike showed me.”

God answered the question, of why I am here in these scriptures:

2 Cor 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. NIV

That’s why we’re here. To show God’s love and compassion, to any of those God brings into our life.

E. Paul Ryan —
August 29, 2007