Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Losing What You Love Really Hurts

There are days when I sit down to write and the words come and I can put some words and ideas out there. I'm blessed with a couple different outlets and enjoy my time communicating with you all. Then there are weeks like this one. I had surgery last Monday the 23rd. This was my second back surgery, a spine fusion. The Saturday before my fusion, my wife's best friend died, Elaine was hit hard, this was sudden, out of the blue. She was going to spend Monday in the hospital with Elaine while I was in surgery. She and Elaine had plans and ideas and stuff going on. Suddenly they were gone.

I had surgery Monday, still in recovery. Life has pretty much went on as normal, but it's not normal. You couldn't see a tangible change in my day to day life, but it's there. Life is a delicate ecosystem, and a disturbance in one part will effect the rest of the system. My wife talked to her friend multiple times a day. They knew everything about each other. She helped me wife process through things and they laughed together and talked about God together. It's gone now. I do many of those same things with my wife, but I can never be her best girlfriend. I'm her husband, it's a different role for a different purpose.

My wife's best friend leaves behind a son. His dad died a little over a year ago, and now his mom is gone. He's a college student, a little younger than I was when my parents died. I'm broken for him because I know what the next 20 years will look like for him. I am glad he has some family close by, because it gets old being the guy at everyone else's family gatherings.

Now I could write down the theology of suffering, why things like this happen. There are lots of good solid biblical reasons that life is like this. There are solid reasons why God allows things like orphans, cancer, heart disease and car accidents, but I'm not going to unpack that all right now. I will later, but for the most part, we need to recognize that although bad, terrible things happen, they are bad because they are contrasted with something great. My wife's best friend was great. Their friendship was great, what they shared and helped each other with was great. It's that greatness that makes it so bad now that she's gone. Lets be sure we enjoy the great while it's great and not gone

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Post Surgery Update

Well I survived. I had my spinal fusion yesterday. Things went well and good progress this morning. I was up and walking around and I have eaten pretty good. It's been good so far. I have a drain in my back, so I will be in the hospital until that is removed. I am in pain, but managing it pretty well. I still covet your prayers as I recover. Getting around is hard, can't bend or twist and pick things up. It's going to be a long recovery.

I want to thank you all so much for all your support, prayers and love. We have been blessed by all the generosity and support and love. This has been a hard road with the two back surgeries and trying to stay on my feet, figuratively and literally. I'm hoping to get back to work soon and things to get back to normal. Thank you all for your help and love and support. I so appreciate you all and pray that God blesses you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Love is....Selfish?

If you have spent any time around church, you have probably heard 1 Corinthians 13.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;2 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

So at this point you may be wondering where I got my blog title. After all, it doesn't say anything about love being selfish, just the opposite. Well, to understand where I am going, we have to understand a little Koine (or Biblical) Greek. Stay with me here. In Greek, there are several words we would translate "love" and the one in 1 Corinthians is common in the Bible, it's the word Agape. Agape could be translated "unconditional love" or "Holy love" because it's a love that is unconditional and unending. This is in contrast to the greek word, let's look at a few. First, there is Storgy which we could call family love, parent love or motherly love. Pretty self-explanatory. Phileo, the base of Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love, it means just that, the love of close friends. We could also call this Platonic love. In our current society, when we say love we are often talking about Eros, where is where the word erotic comes from. This is romantic, sexual love.
There are other words that are similar or synonym that mean things like attachment and lust, but we are going to stick with these four. Now what is interesting is the word that we use the most in our day and age isn't found in the New Testament (the Old Testament wasn't written in Greek, it was written in Hebrew). The word we would most often use for love if we spoke koine is not used in the most popular Bible passage about love, yet we often think about romantic or sexual love and use this passage.

I'm going out on a limb here and saying most people who get married do so because they feel eros for their partner. There is passion and attraction and desire. The problem, of course, is the title of my blog. To be specific, Eros is selfish. Eros is emotional love, it's feelings and those feelings are awesome. We get the euphoria, we get the excitement and we love it. We love to feel love. In contrast, Agape isn't much of a feeling. Even Storgy is less of a feeling and more of a commitment. Unconditional love does not have any conditions, which is why we call in unconditional. The love God has for us is never ending. When we are His in Christ, we are covered in unconditional, uncompromising and unbreakable love. Just like verse 7 says above, it bears and believes and hope and endures all things.

So, do your relationships sound like that? I hope so, but most of them don't. What if the person you say you love (romantic or friendship or brother or otherwise) betrays you? What if they turn their back on you, break a promise? What if they don't live up to your expectations? What if they hurt you? This is real stuff folks because you get hurt when people you love or say love you hurt you. If you lash out, get angry, break promises and get revenge, it wasn't love. In my life, I have been hurt and I got angry and I wanted to get even and it's because I didn't love. When I had was something else.

What we have too often is a feeling, and that feeling is selfish. Even if we want the other person to be happy, is that happiness so they will, in turn, make us happy? Relationships, and I mean all of them, need a dose of Agape. They need some unconditional love, I don't care if it's your spouse, your kids, your friends and family, your neighbor, your boss, and coworkers or the guy you bump into on the street. We need to begin to apply 1 Corinthians love, which means we will be patient and kind and seek the good. That means regardless of how they act or how they treat us.

Think this is hard? It's incredibly hard, because deep down in our flesh, we are all selfish and we want to be loved and happy and fulfilled. To love someone even when they hurt is is so hard. We desire to hurt them to soothe our pride. Remember, love is not prideful and it does not boast. I invite you to read 1 Corinthians with fresh eyes, let's change our love to include more Agape.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back Surgery Part 2

Well I have been scheduled for another back surgery. In case you haven't been caught up, here is the deal. In September I began to have pain in my left leg. The pain and pain grew so by the end of October, I could barely walk, couldn't sit and couldn't really drive, or function to be honest. My doctor did an MRI and said I had a massive bulge in my l5 disc. They did a micro discectomy to remove the bulge and the pressure it was putting on the nerve roots. It worked, the pain was gone for about a week.

Then it came back. The way my doctor explained it that removing the big bulge created a big cavity and the disc just bulged right back to where it was, path of least resistance and all. It's right back on the nerve root and the pain is right back in my hamstring. Had another MRI and looked at things with the doc. We have a surgery now scheduled to take care of the issue.

Since there isn't much disc material left, and there is pain beginning to develop in my back, the next step is a fusion. I am not excited about getting my vertebrae fused together, but it seems to be the best option with what I'm dealing with. They will separate the discs and put some bone in the space, but a steel mesh around it and close it up. The bone then all fuses together and instead of two vertebrae, there is only one bigger one.

The surgery is on Jan 23rd, so if you wouldn't mind saying a prayer for me and my family. I'll be in the hospital a few days with a drain in my back. It will be an interesting experience to say the least. Here we go with round two. Last time I had a repeat surgery it didn't turn out so well, so here is hoping for a better experience.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Time for 2017

I have shared on Facebook my theme for 2017, but for those of you who are not my friends on Facebook, I want to share it and unpack it a little. My theme for this year is "Make Much of Jesus". It's not original or cute. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song about it. You can hear it here. It may not be original, but it's meaningful. I want to share what it means to me and I hope you can join me in this year to make much of Jesus.

Much has been made of lots of things. Much was made of this election this past year, and it was a very tense political season. People went into deep mourning and depression when Hillary lost. Some of us would have been in a pretty deep depression if Hillary would have won. It has really divided the country, which was already divided. Pipelines and terrorists and debates about whose lives matter. Police shooting civilians, police getting shot and people were angry. Those who are not angry are offended and voicing their offense. Everyone is mad.

People are hateful. If you have been on social media for more than 30 seconds, someone has taken a shot at you. I have been forced to change my blog comments so they no longer allow anonymous comments. The only comments I get is people hiding behind anonymity to take a shot at me. At least tell me who you are when you tell me I'm awful. Don't be rude and a coward, that's just sad. It goes farther, people create fake facebook profiles just to bully and harass people. How sad is that, as a society we have begun to create false identities so we can hide while being cruel.

People are scared. We are scared of the future, scared of each other, scared of the unknown. The world is in bad shape with terror and economic instability the future looks uncertain. The cost of living is rising faster than the increase of wages and the government seems to be getting larger and making things worse. We are freaked out about what is happening in our world and we are feeling overwhelmed.

We have made much of the problems, much of the pain and suffering. We have made much of so many things that we are suffering. We need to change focus and make much of something better. It can't be another person, they will fail us. It can't be a thing, it will break and rust. Money gets devalued and is fleeting. We will be failed, abandoned or hurt by everything in our lives. Everything and everyone except Jesus.

I will have to have another back surgery most likely. I am struggling financially because I've been off work. I'm not looking for sympathy because many have it so much worse. I have problems, you have problems and life is hard. The only way life makes sense is to look through the lens of what Jesus is doing. Jesus is the answer to the deep, longing and nagging questions. Jesus is the hope, the proof, the answer and the goal. If we make much of Jesus, we can make less of the struggle and the pain and the deep ache. Make less of me, make less of you, let's make much of Jesus.