Monthly Archives: September 2016

The idol in the mirror

And so the Israelites decided to make a statue of a cow–because who doesn’t like a burger, and they’re so cute in the Chic-Fil-A ads. And they held up the golden cow and said, “Hey! Israel! You know how much it sucked in Egypt? This statue fixed all that for you, so you owe it your, mind, heart and soul.” Exodus 32:7-10 (NRCE–New Revised Chris Edition)

That's right. The Israelites worshiped a golden Lego calf. After they dressed up like Jedi.

That’s right. The Israelites worshiped a golden Lego calf. After they dressed up like Jedi.

Stupid Israelites.

As I’ve detailed here in agonizing detail, I was diagnosed last year with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I got my ass kicked every day for the better part of a year. And I worked on a project from hell at work. And my boss died. And all kinds of other stupid crap–except stronger–hit the fan.

Seriously, the weekend my daughter graduated from college, I had to work right up until the point the flight was supposed to leave–airport wifi and all. Then we got delayed because of rare May rain. Then we got in very late and all the luggage came off the carousel–except mine. And then the called me. Apparently, Southwest Airlines has a wood chipper at Tampa International and my suitcase fell into it.

Then we got to the hotel–which was fairly nice. Keep in mind, I was exhausted. And though I started work at 7, I got to bed around 1. The next day was nice until we went to bed. I got up in the night to go to the bathroom and stepped into about an inch of water. The toilet had overflowed and flooded our room.

I didn’t go to the actual graduation because my daughter wanted me to go to the party after. I watched  the graduation on the Internet. When I got to the party, apparently I looked like an extra from The Walking Dead. Monday morning, I worked from the airport. By the time I got home, the dog lost this mind in the office and destroyed almost everything in the closet.

And that wasn’t the worst set of days for the year.

I got through it. We went live with the project from hell. And the software was buggy as hell. The users weren’t thrilled. Ask me how I know.

And then I had to go on partial disability. And then the insurance denied my partial disability claim. So I couldn’t work, because the doctor said no. And I couldn’t get paid because the insurance company said no. And then I got a stress fracture in my foot. Then I got a nerve issue in my foot. It was frigging awesome.

Eventually, we won the insurance appeal. Eventually I recovered. I even ran quite a bit this spring, until I messed up my Achilles Tendon.

At the end of it, I stood in the mirror and beheld the guy who was just too stupid or too stubborn or too tough to give in. Here is your God, Chris, who got you through the crapstorm. You owe him everything.

The idol in the mirror.

Fact of the matter is, I’m not entirely sure what I had. And I have no idea why I recovered. If it’s ME, then every day is a bonus, because if I crash again, odds aren’t good for another recovery.

During my struggle, there were vast tracts when I thought I was alone. That’s an insult to my family, friends, and a very special co-worker.

Even more, given my beliefs, it’s an insult to God.

Dear Chris, Are you serious? Love, God

Dear Chris, You can’t be serious. Love, God

I won’t say he has a plan. I wouldn’t say it to you if the same happened to you and I won’t say it to me. Sometimes shit happens. God isn’t Santa. He won’t apply magic to everything just so I have it easy. But when the shit flies, he’ll stand next to me. He’ll never leave me alone.

And in this case, there was a recovery.

What arrogance to assume that was all me.

And how much harder did I make it because I assumed it was all me.

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Making it unnecessary to use words

At church this weekend, our pastor Matthew Hartsfield talked to us about the church’s mission statement: We connect people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

As an aside, our church is changing its name and we all have a say. His suggestion is St. Matthew’s. Given that we aren’t Catholics in this church, I think that might cause confusion, but…

Supporting the church in that goal really happens at the individual level–one-on-one, and not necessarily on the church grounds. I’m never gonna be the guy who asks people if they’ve made Jesus Christ theirpersonalLordandSavior (amen!). That’s just not me.

Though St. Matthew (cough) is on record as opposing this approach, I’ve also been a fan of the St. Francis of Assisi approach: Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.

In my mind, that means that people aren’t going to care about what you, I, or anyone else says about Jesus until they feel our love radiate on them like a cat feels the sun when it sprawls on the carpet in the afternoon.

I’m in a men’s group up the road with the Catholics–it’s complicated, my life–and we went over the parable of the prodigal son this weekend. Most people don’t remember that there are two other parables before that one. The first is about a shepherd who is guarding 100 sheep. One goes missing and he searches high and low for it and celebrates when he finds it–calling everyone because he’s excited that he has the one wayward sheep back.

I used to teach computer classes–Intro to Windows and the like. And there were classes where we had 30 people and 29 were getting it. Eventually, I had to more or less cut the 30th person loose so the other 29 could get value from the class. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

The sheep parable stands that Star Trek II axiom on its head. Sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. (James T. Kirk, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). In that movie, Kirk, McCoy, and the gang sacrifice everything–careers, their ship, and almost their lives–for one sheep. Imagine that. (Imagine Star Trek III as the embodiment of a Biblical parable.)

Our world doesn’t work that way. In our world, you have to cut that 30th guy free. Business requires it. But relationships don’t.

There’s a scene in the TV show In Plain Sight, in which the lead character, a US Marshal named Mary Shannon is complaining because she has to guard a kid. “I suck with kids,” she says. “So what?” her partner Marshall says. “You suck with adults, too.”

Marshall and Mary

Marshall and Mary

Too often we’re the ones who suck with kids and adults. We’re the ones who let that 30th person go. And that’s part of the reason why people don’t want to hear about our Jesus.

So I’ll try to do better, then, to be the guy who doesn’t need to use words. For whom sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. Maybe it’s better to just try to make the world a better place–to be Jesus without the words first. Maybe that would make a difference.

Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?


September 12 musings

September 11 has come and gone again, for the 15th time since that day.

It’s a communal version of The Worst Day Ever, a day when everything seemed to be wrong, and the world seemed to come unhooked.

 

For many people, the scars from that day still show. They still tingle and sometimes still hurt as if the gash were fresh. That’s probably why each year, there are so many people remembering and going back there–to make sure they don’t forget. Because the pain of that way was weighty and meaningful.

Yesterday, I treated like any other day. It didn’t mean I don’t care. September 11, 2001 as an awful day during an awful phase of life. I choose to keep my thoughts private. I just process things a little differently.

It made me think about the National Anthem “protests,” that are all the rage.

Kneeling or linking arms during the National Anthem isn’t necessarily disrespectful. After all, we kneel before God–as a sign of respect. And for the people who are reacting, they’re dealing with something pretty substantial. Their perception is of a society in which a man can be shot and killed solely because of the color of his skin and society won’t care. Whether this is a true reflection of society is another topic for another day.

But if you believe that narrative, you have something heavy to deal with. And while I might not agree with Colin Kaepernick’s stances, or Brandon Marshall’s, or <insert player name(s) here>, I don’t see kneeling or linking arms as disrespectful. I see it as an action by someone who cares and who is honoring the country, while disagreeing with aspects of its society.

We don’t force people to stand and worship the country as they did in, say Nazi Germany. It’s part of what freedom is about. No one is required to publicly pledge that allegiance. If it’s forced, it’s meaningless.

But as I thought about my reactions to September 11, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to this protest. If the players were openly disrespectful, that’s one thing. But kneeling is quite another.

The protest doesn’t necessarily mean that Colin Kaepernick or Brandon Marshall hate this country. It doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t help you if you were in need. It just means you view this one particularly thing differently (or not).

Time to disagree and move on. And allow that there are multiple ways of dealing with difficult situations.

This is something a friend of mine (thanks, Penny!) posted from the movie Love Actually. It’s far more important than anything else–not in spite of our growing divisions, but because of them:

General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.


It’s been a very good year…

A year ago Wednesday, I went on partial disability. When I asked the Rheumatologist how long it would take me to recover, he looked at me like I was insane and told me, “You don’t recover. It’s chronic.”

Truth be told, I knew this. But there’s a difference between knowing and knowing.

I was on partial disability for four and a half months. With the exception of the little (okay, it was big) side trip with the insurance company over whether I was really disabled–with the exception of the fact that I left people at work with more work than they should have had to do–with the exception of the fact that I was generally no fun to be around–except for those things, it seems to have worked out.

I write this because I’ve been back at work fulltime for long enough that the partial disability seems like another lifetime. I write this because we have a unique ability to forget.

And while wallowing in crap in the name of enlightenment is a worthless exercise, remembering certain things isn’t. And sometimes clarity comes only with distance.

So, one year out, here are the lessons I take forward:

  • I am incredibly, incredibly lucky. The people I work for were insistent that I take care of myself–even the person who is more or less my partner. This insistence came in spite of the fact that they were, and in particular, she was, taking on a lot more than she should’ve because of my own frailty. My benefits–side trip notwithstanding–are very good. My family bared with me as my head went so far up my butt that I could see out my mouth.
  • I am incredibly blessed. If I had CFS/ME and if I recovered, I already hit the lottery. People tend not to recover from that. They tend to live a colorless dusklike life that sometimes shrinks over time to something only slightly more than mere existence. And yet, here I am. God may have made it happen. He may have let it happen. He may not care. Whatever. I am still blessed to be upright and writing this.
  • I am incredibly stupid, tough, and/or stubborn. Probably equal parts of each. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through last year. I only know that I did. I had lots of help–see the first two bullets. But I’m the one who got through. Before last year, I doubted my substance. I don’t doubt any more. According to the great philosopher Bill Maxwell (The Greatest American Hero), pressure makes diamonds. I used to worry it would crush me. Now I know better.

  • I’m responsible for what happened to me and to use it to go forward. In this, maybe I could do a better job.
  • God never deserted me. And that gives me hope for whatever comes next.

One year ago, I feared what September 2016 would be like. I feared that I’d be out of a job. I feared that my son would qualify to go to a great school and be omitted because of my inability to provide. I feared I would be bedbound and forgotten.

All of those things were possible and they didn’t happen. Luck. Blessing. Fortune. Whatever.

It’s not the getting knocked down that matters in life. It’s not even the getting up. It’s what you do after you get up.