Saturday, August 31, 2013


Yesterday was brutal.  That is what days where I am out and about are like for me.

I went to my doctor's appointments.  The one with my GP was rather disconcerting.  She had the imaging report sent to her and was very ... somber.  Her nurse, with whom I have a great relationship, told me afterwards that no one in the office wanted to be the one to tell me about the report.  I kept thinking that I must really be a wilting lily to them.  But the doctor was strange ... even talked about "advances in treatment these days."  I thought that call-backs are mostly precautionary.  None of them talked blithe precautionary talk.  SIGH.

I had used my Capital One points for another gift card, this time for groceries.  Since it arrived Wednesday, getting groceries and the glass bead trim for the garage door window were my goals.  I also needed to talk with the pharmacist.

One thing about Medicare I already do not like is the fact that using both Medicare's website and the website for the insurance company, one of my main prescriptions, the one for fainting, showed as a Tier 2 covered drug.  However, only the tablets are covered, not the capsules.  Nowhere is such a restriction noted.  This is a $1,000 difference.  Seriously, $1,000.  Plus, the insurance company said that it is a pre-authorized requirement prescription.  Only that is not noted, either, on either website.  So, how was I supposed to know.  The worst part is that the prescription was run through without Medicare, even though the other seven prescriptions that day were run through properly, so all of these issues were not caught until I got a Medicare summary of my prescriptions for July and noted that the Theophylline was missing.

I would like at least the difference in the cash price and the Medicare price for the capsules refunded, because the pharmacy made the error.  But their stance is that I did not catch the error in time and that the insurance company will not honor the prescription because it was not pre-authorized.  The insurance company insists that I should be refunded the difference, $365.62, by the pharmacy and keeps telling me the website information is correct.  So, the website information is correct but the pharmacy computer kicks out a denial.  No one wants to refund the difference nor can I get a back-dated authorization.  So, going forward, I could conceivably get the medication–in table form—for a mere $8.

My point to all of this is that someone who is disabled, in part, cognitively, is supposed to be able to navigate this mess AND catch other people's errors, when she makes errors of her own every single day.  I have found that there is little assistance out there for those who are cognitively challenged, single, and alone.  And, as I have noted before, there are very, very few accommodations for folk who are physically disabled out and about in the real world.  Like the post office, for example.  No handicapped service window.  No place to sit as you wait.  Only one of the four windows even operated.  Primarily, there are not enough handicapped parking spaces, and rarely are they actually close.  Chiefly, few places have automatic doors.  Oh, how I need those automatic doors.  For one, to not have to figure out if the door is a push or pull door.  For the other, to actually get through the door.

My errands were completed, but it meant that I was up and about for five hours.  By the second hour, I was struggling to catch my breath the whole time.  Huffing and puffing, shaking, foggy brained, and exhausted.  That was me trying to finish up with the grocery shopping.

I did manage to remember to get fresh corn, so I tried a new recipe:  Southern Fried Corn.  I did have to message a friend about what corn milk was, but other than that little bit of confusion with the recipe, I ended up with tastiness sublime.  I will say that cutting corn off a cob is hard work ... very hard work.  The result, though, was worth the culinary labor.

At the GP's office, the staff were talking with me about electric wheelchairs/scooters.  One woman said that it is important that I not wait too late.  I am so conflicted about that.  For me, being single, I would have to have a lightweight version.  Period.  End of discussion.  For those, in either category, I have not found something for less than $2,500.  And neither of the two best options are covered by Medicare.  I could get some really heavy one, but then I would need a lift-gate and a van or something like that.  The scooter version is probably the best option, being just 35 lbs and most likely less if I can pull out the lithium ion batteries before putting it in the Highlander.  But it is ... rather dweeby.

I know ... dweebiness shouldn't matter.

I was short of breath right up until the time I crawled into bed.  My heart never settled back down.  I was trembling and exhausted and moved like a 94-year-old.  Yet I wonder if ... well ... sometimes I wonder if I am not trying hard enough, fighting hard enough.  Even as I scrapped more on the garage door, I wondered if getting an electric mobility device so that I could get out and about with less effort is needful now or merely a lazy desire.

From the parking lot to the actual exam room at the GP's office is the longest walk I make in my now limited existence.  Just getting to the check-in area on the first floor is an arduous effort, and I find it very difficult to lever myself up out of the chair and head to the elevator.  Once through the entrance door, I must navigate two long halls, neither of which have those running handrails.  Yesterday, I could hear my shuffle steps, each swoosh a condemnation of my own weakness.

Pick up your feel, Myrtle.  
I can't.  
You can if you want.

What is the truth, for me?  For several years, I have had people, on the outside looking in, tell me that I am not taking care of myself, not utilizing assistive devices to save my energy for later, when I will need it most.  One woman said that I was recklessly wasting the life I have left in my legs, in my body. Harsh words.

Then there are those who tell me that I am lazy, that I need to try harder.  Others who say that this is all in my mind, that I am willing myself to be ill.  I know the latter is just plain nuts, but doubt is an insidious tool of our foe ... insidious and effective.  

That's the rub with autoimmune and neurological diseases.  So much of their devastating effects are not measurable by testing employed today.  That is why, in particular, the tilt table test, against which I was heavily discouraged to take because of its dangers, was an absolutely blessing to me.  I had a quantifiable, definitive, rather immediate result.  After that, so much of the problems with my body fell into place.  A dark place, but a place nonetheless.  No more females don't handle stress well talk, no more it's all in your head talk. Although it is ... in my head, meaning my brain and nerves and axions and myelin sheathing!

The doubt and disbelief from medical personnel when you have very real symptoms which cause very real suffering is difficult to take.  I think that's why I wrote to the mother of the young boy diagnosed, finally, with Dysautonomia.  But even though I now know full well the whys and wherefores, most of the world—including the field of medicine—know little of them.  Life is an uphill battle, in both living with body/mind/spirit and the tending to body/mind/spirit.

What I do know is the struggling to catch my breath, racing heart, trembling, and heightened anxiety are new and are most unwelcome to me.  Yes, when I am writhing in agony from my innards malfunctioning, that moment seems the worst.  Yes, when in the throes of a migraine, with its pain from even light and sound, that moment seems the worst.  But, in the clear light of day, struggling to breathe is the absolute worst.  Hands down.  Unequivocally.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something else...

The door will tell you how the results from the testing went.

I have to go back to the imaging center on Tuesday.  It is discomforting that the nurse asked if I could come in tomorrow, but I already have two appointments scheduled.  I cannot fathom going back.

I just can't.

The door to the garage is/was in horrible condition paint wise.  Most of the door had huge cracks in the very thick layer of paint on it.  Bits were missing here and there.  I had been dreading scraping it, because unlike the back of the garage, I could not just paint over this again.

I find it interesting that the detail of the molding around the three panels in the door had become completely obscure by paint.  I also find it interesting that those pieces were not coped well, so there is a gap at each inside corner. Of course the old soul in me loves the hand craftsmanship, so I care not that there are gaps.  I have wondered if it would be possible to scrape all of the paint off and just seal the door, so I had a natural wood door.  But that might look odd on a white garage.

The three pieces of 1 x 4 on the inside of the frame (the one on the right was moved at some point so there is a gap up top) are in horrid shape.  I am wondering if I should just go ahead and purchase more wood.  I could have Lowe's cut the pieces to length for me, so all I would need to do is screw them back on.  I am not sure if the outer pieces are 1x3 or not.  They seem sort of small.  The bottom of the left piece is the worse part of all the framing, so those two pieces could be replaced.  But, if the size is such that the wood would need to be ripped on a planer to match back up with the header, I will have to leave them in place.

The window's glass beading is missing, so it is held in place only by rotting caulk.  I texted Firewood Man and asked him if he would miter cut four pieces for me after the next mowing if I bought a piece of glass bead wood.  He said he would.

The bare piece of wood on the bottom threshold is brand new.  The piece there was missing, so when the contractor was here, I asked that he put in that piece.  I have held off painting it until I could paint the door, too.  The raw wood was to be the impetus to scrape, but I have reached that point where laboring about the house needs to end because of its toll on my body.  However, today's truly upsetting news led me to pick up the paint scraper and see what I could do.

I wish I could scrape away the parts of me that have been compromised, apply a liberal coat of bonding primer, and then paint them beautiful again.


I did call my pastor and asked him to read to me.  Knowing me as he does, he chose Psalm 77 for the first of the psalms he read, which made me smile through my tears.  As he read, I thought about how appropriate it was not because it is a favorite of mine, but because of the words and the Word given to me to pray by my Creator, who knows His creation so intimately, so completely.  It is a psalm filled with insensibility and sense, with emotion and logic, with forgetting and remembering.  Truly a Myrtle psalm.

The labels for Psalm 77 on my Praying the Psalter blog are:  Anger, Be Gracious, Compassion, Creation, Cry Out, Deeds of the Lord, Forgotten,Lovingkindness, Promise, Reject, Remember, Thy Way, Trouble.  I know because I went there and then followed each of them, reading through the Psalter by subject.

To be sure, my neighbors must think it odd for me to be outside with my laptop, reading from the screen and muttering at the door as I applied the scraper with great vehemence.

How can I go back there?
And how can I not think about this until Tuesday?

Lord, I am Yours.  Save me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One kind of loneliness...

[Plot Note:  Hannah is a young woman whose mother was killed by Violet's son, whom she was dating.  Joe is DCI Vera Stanhope's sergeant.]

"Silent Voices" 

Early in the episode where Joe and Vera are drinking and looking at the case late at night...

Joe:  How old were you when your mom died?
Vera:  What? Where’s this coming from?
Joe:  Oh, nothing. I’m just interested. 
Vera:  Ten. Let me show you something. [Opens closet door and points to carved marks with a grin.]
Joe:  What’s that?
Vera:  [Pointing] Me! Ten. Tenth birthday. [Puts back against the marks excitedly.] Tall, wasn’t I? Tall girl.
Joe:   No, not really. Not for ten.

At the end of the episode...

Joe:   How’d she take it? Hannah?
Vera:  Well, she’s broken now, but she’‘ll mend. There’s a girl whose mother taught her how to live. Don’t see Veronica putting herself back together, though.
Joe:  You didn’t tell us about the conversation you had with her, about Simon’s brother at the reservoir.
Vera:  Oh, just a loose end, just tying it up for me own satisfaction.
Joe: You know, if you had told us that information, maybe I could have put two and two together quicker.
Vera:  Nobody died, Joe. And there’s a girl who’s still got her mom because of you.
Joe:  But it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like there’s a child drowning, and I can’t get there in time.
Vera:  Yeah, I know.
Joe:  Look, I teach my kids everything I know. Everything that’s in me is theirs. Because I want them bigger, better, and smarter than I am. And I can take the sly looks and the teacher’s pet teasing because I want to learn. I want to learn from you. But you gotta give us access.
Vera:  “Tall girl.” That’s what my mom used to call me. “My big tall girl.” Is that what they do then? Lie. Make you feel good. Make you feel special?
Joe:  Yeah.
Vera:  Well, I wasn’t tall then.
Joe:  Well, you aren’t tall now are you?
Vera:  No, but I ... I thought it stopped me growing. You know ... the shock of losing her.

Such exquisitely simple, plain writing on such a complicated existence we broken people live!

In the episode,  I see this middle-aged woman asking a question about parents because she doesn't get it, doesn't understand what parents do for their children.  Consequently, in the role of shepherding her staff, to help them grow and develop in their careers, she doesn't share freely, doesn't understand why that is important.  I see a middle-aged woman who's believed this thing about herself her whole life because, as a child, it was how she made sense of the dissonance between her mother's affectionate pet name for her and how her body turned out.  I see a child deprived of love and attention seek it from all the wrong places, choosing things that are known to be wrong as an adult because of an unwillingness to lose love finally found. I see grief over the loss of a loved one so great that things like eating, sleep, thinking are impossible.  I see a person in authority heap twisted truth upon others as a means to manipulate other, feed his ego, and entrench his own position.

I see whole generations of my family in this episode.  I see myself, my mother, my mother's mother, and my mother's mother's mother.  I see facets of one life carved upon another.  I blogged a bit the other day about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children. It is absolutely staggering the damage that parents can do to their children, the voices they leave in their children's heads … voices from words spoken and unspoken, even voices from absence.

Anyway, this moment is an prime example of how very lonely I am. I have this … text … that I discover that is so profound and so complex and so simple and want to delve into it with another because that is who I was and who I am still, somewhere deep inside. Only there is no one for me here, now, and no one for me later. No one to "read" with and delve with and wend way through words and thoughts. No one to share conjecture, revelation, wonder.

Just Amos.
Who is sleeping.
And doesn't understand anyway.

Doesn't understand the grief and loss, the longings, the sobering reflection, the absence ... all of it drowning me in this moment.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A bit of this and that...

I started a new British show: Vera. Set in Northumberlund, in North East England, Vera Stanhope, played by Brenda Blethyn, is the DCI of the local police.  A mix between Inspector Morse and Single-handed, this British detective show is curious in its story-telling, language, and cinematography.

I like that they all call each other love.  Man and woman alike.  Lads and lasses.  Bosses called Ma'am and Governor.  Even with the drinking and shouting, there is a civility I find missing in American culture these days.

Today, Vera helped me do the ironing, catch up on my filing, wash the bedding and get the guest suite back in order, set up an eBlast for my realtor, and work through a mini-clear out of the utility closet.  The bonus of the filing is that I came across the cardiology records I have to take with me to my appointment next month, and I actually read the letter from the Botanical Gardens about the membership my mother bought me.  I have one free adult pass!  So, that means I can take my friend there when she visits in two weeks.

I cannot remember when I saw Wynne last, our lives having taken different paths.  Aside from my family, she is the person in my life who has known me the longest ... some 32 years.  I am thankful that she is visiting.

There is a part of me that wants to ply her with questions about what I was like all those years, beg her to fill in the details of my life, even the larger stories, so that I can know something of it, something of all that I have lost.  However, the other part of me wants very much to have not a single conversation about me, since surely tears would fall.  Instead, I want four days of normal.  Four days of chatting and going out and cooking together.  Wynne is the maker of the wondrous Strawberry Bread.  I think I should introduce her to the Apple Praline Bread!  I would like to find a few new recipes to try while she is here, perhaps even some that are more complicated than I would tackle on my own.

The sad thing is that while I know we spent at least 22 years being close friends, what I remember of Wynne is little:  1) she is about six inches taller in my mind than in real life, so I am also surprised when I see her; 2) she shares my love of chocolate; 3) her favorite color is RED; and 4) she is way smarter than I am.  Close my eyes, and I cannot even picture her.  Concentrate, and not a single moment of those 22 years comes to mind.  The blankness blots out our entire friendship.

It is my hope her time here is marked by better days rather than ones filled with innards misery and wild swings of heart rate and blood pressure.  I pretend that I am ever so much better than I am when others are around. I wish not to be the burden and the bore ... for I want them to return.  I wonder, though, if some part of me will recognize that Wynne knew me then and, thus, no pretending is necessary.

It is a marvel, to me, that with God nothing is hidden, and yet He still sent (and sends) His Son to me, for me.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, August 26, 2013

My starry night...

I was thinking on having another clear out, as a way of escaping the thoughts about just how ill I was yesterday.  Just how slowly the hours passed.  Just how poor in spirit I was.  And scared. But today is the start of a mini-heat wave during what has otherwise been a most wonderfully cool summer—just like the first summer I moved here—much to my delight.  Where I wanted to tackle was the attic.  The now stinking hot attic.

I was thinking about how I mentioned the Christmas decorations.  I have reduced them down from two  of the largest Rubbermaid storage containers and one of the medium ones to just a large one.  However, even so, I still have not used the majority of the decorations in years.  Living alone and being alone at the holidays, I simply do not see the point.

I was also thinking about the lights, wondering if I could use them to light up the inside of the front porch roof.  It would tickle me to have them there ... my own sort of starry night.  A reminder of that beautiful episode of Doctor Who and the quote about good things and bad things.  Only the practical part of me thought that having them up and using them would result in a higher electricity bill.

Thinking about the starry night and Christmas led me to one of my favorite songs:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

                            ~John Jacob Niles

Do you ever look up at the heavens ... gobsmacked ... and wonder how in the world it could actually be that Jesus would want to come into this wretched vale of tears and live amongst us so that He could die a miserable, tortuous death?  For you?  For me?

On the Snippets blog, I have been posting from the Formula Solid Declaration of late, particularly about the natures of Christ.  The last post and the one that came from where I was reading today are particularly poignant for one who struggles so much with her own flesh:

In fulfilling Christ's office, the person does not act and work in, with, through, or according to only one nature. It works in, according to, with, and through both natures. As the Council of Chalcedon expresses it, one nature works in communion with the other what is a property of each. Therefore, Christ is our Mediator, Redeemer, King, High Priest, Head, Shepherd, and so on, not according to one nature only (whether it be the divine or the human), but according to both natures.
~BOC, FSD, VIII, 46-47

That, really, is more of a statement of fact, whereas this bit below is more of a promise.  By this I mean, words that sing within my weak and weary heart:

The divine and the human nature have this personal union with each other in the person of Christ and have the communion resulting from it (in deed and truth).  For this reason, there is attributed to Christ (according to the flesh) what His flesh, according to its nature and essence, cannot be by itself.  Apart from this union, His flesh cannot have these attributes:  His flesh is a truly live-giving food and His blood a truly life-giving drink.  The two hundred Fathers of the Council of Ephesus have testified that Christ's flesh is a life-giving flesh.  Therefore, this man only, and no man besides, either in heaven or on earth, can say with truth, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20).  Also, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

We do not understand these testimonies to mean that only Christ's divinity is present with us in the Christian Church and Congregation, and that such presence does not apply to Christ according to His humanity in no way whatever.  For in that way Peter, Paul, and all the saints in heaven—since divinity, which is everywhere present, dwells in them—would also be with us on earth.  However, the Holy Scriptures say this only about Christ, and no other man.  We hold that by these words the majesty of the man Christ is declared.  Christ as receive this majesty, according to His humanity, at the right hand of God's majesty and power.  So also, according to His receive human nature and with the same, He can be, and also is, present where He wants to be.  He is present especially in His Church and congregation on earth as Mediator, Head, King, and High Priest.  This presence is not a part, or only one half of Him.  Christ's entire person is present, to which both natures along, the divine and the human—not only according to His divinity, but also according to, and with, His received human nature.  He is our Brother, and we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.  He has instituted His Holy Supper for the certain assurance and confirmation of this, so that He will be with us, and dwell, work, and be effective in us also according to that nature from which He has flesh and blood.
~BOC, FSD, VIII, 76-79 (emphasis mine)

THAT is why Jesus did come for to die!

So very difficult to grasp.
So sweet.  Too sweet.
Hope and doubt mingled together as I stare at Christ's body and blood ... for me.

That is my starry night.  The things I wonder as I wander—in spirit if no longer in body.  I downloaded the song playing in the background at the end of the episode of "Vincent and the Doctor."  Not for the words, really—the lyrics are really lyrics of regret and loss—but for the tune.  The tune brings to mind the beauty the writers created in examining artistry and mental illness and all that there is to see in the world God created.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Having a clear out...

I had some distressing words spoken to me yesterday that have been plaguing me, so this afternoon I took myself to the basement for a clear out.  I LOVE that phrase, discovered on As Time Goes By.  [The Brits really do have way better words, at times, for speaking things.]

Anyway, I have primarily written about this on Facebook, but over the past three years, I have been systematically downsizing, organizing, and culling my stuff.  I honestly believe that I am down about 75% from where I started.  It is amazing what one can accumulate over four decades of life.

Downsizing is a process, one that is really accomplished over time.  I would guess that I went through all the spaces of my house at least six times, now, to get where I am.  Things having a place helps me with the memory loss challenges I have.  Giving away things that someone else can use helps me with the smallness of the life I now have.  Taking the time to sort anything that can be recycled helps with the guilt of moving stuff again and again and again.  And letting go of the past helps me face who I am now.  All of that, though, is hard.  Very hard.

The basement, the attic, the linen closet, and the servants' quarters closet (housing my too large, but expensive work clothing) are the areas that still have things left to reduce or organize further.  For one, I have too many towels.  Were the house to flood, I am covered.  At least if the bathroom flooded.  The different sets tell the story of my adult life.  So, each time I take them out to donate, I find myself re-folding them and putting them back on the shelf.  In the attic, where relatively little is left, I have been considering donating all of my Christmas decorations save for the stained glass crèche set.  I simply do not use them.  Putting them up is exhausting.  If not all, at least the lights and the lighted tree for the front yard.  The basement, well, I shall not admit just how many thousands of top-loading sheet protectors and dozens of binders that I still somehow have.  The closet is the hardest.  There is a fortune in there of clothing, as well as my professional career.  I cannot wear any of it, nor do I have some place to do so if they were not too large at this point.  A few things I think could be re-sized for me, but I do not sew, nor do I know someone who would want to do so for me.

In the basement, I tackled the shelves on the back wall, going through all the office supply boxes, my old teaching supplies (I had an idea of who I could finally pass them on to), a box of antique books that had not yet found a place in my home, and the shelves of professional work things.  I ended up with: 1) a bag of books to give to someone who always admire my antique books when he is here; 2) a box of teaching supplies to mail to a friend who is now homeschooling; 3) two professional development books, an 8-gig flash drive, and some art supplies to mail to my sister (the latter for my nephew); 4) a set of large print photos to mail to a friend for her new office walls; and 5) a 7-inch stack of papers and such to be recycled.

It was probably completely un-necessary that I actually sorted the three-inch high stack of top-loading sheet protectors by edge type and weight.

I did find some stray family history papers and put them with all the others.  I didn't even know I had this one packet from my father's side of the family.  His mother had a passel of sisters and his father a brother, but none of their descendants had anything to do with our line of the family ... or we them. I am not sure why.  With my uncle divorced, childless, and deceased, my father's line of the family has narrowed, really, to my sister's children.  But our last name ends with my generation, since my brother has had no children.  The history, the names and dates, are ones I have never found in my amateurish on-line searches.  I am hoping that one of my nephews or my niece might one day be interested in all that I have collected and the generations of photos that I have, but those hopes are slim.  What does family history mean when there is no personal connection? 

Those things fascinate me, but they also make me sorrow.  Ours is a family rife with divorce, alcoholism, drugs, and abuse.  The sins of the fathers are truly visited to the generations following, but more so because of the patterns of behavior and interaction born and bred into the children.  My whole life, nearly, I dreamed and then longed to be a parent. I wanted to raise children in such a way to break that cycle.  But that was not God's plan for me.

I confess that I doubt ... often ... that I could have done so, that I could have been a proper mother to children, that I could have taught them ... given them the gifts of ... love and honor and respect and faith.

I told my friend, who is in the difficult position of having to disappoint one child's hopes for birthday plans because of the impending birth of another child, that she and her husband were already giving her daughter the greatest gift they could ever give:  unconditional love.  They cherish and champion and forgive and love their children.  Those children will have the ineffable strength and safety that comes from knowing that no matter what you have done or not done, achieved or not achieved, learned or not learned, chosen or not chosen, they are loved and wanted.  And they have a home.  She and her husband are not perfect, not by far. But their first language is love, not criticism.  And, well, they are both generous givers of the sweet, sweet Gospel.  Yes, there might be bitter and even lingering disappointment over this one birthday, but over a lifetime will come a wonder from each of their children for what have been given.

How could they not?  After all, this world is becoming ever more selfish, ever more critical, ever more hostile.  My friend and her husband are creating a physical refuge that is a reflection of the refuge we have in Christ.  And, with our foe ever vigilant, refuges are becoming ever more precious.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Just one moment...

I awoke and fed Amos this morning after just three hours of sleep, but could not fall back to sleep because the writhing had started.  I ended up transitioning to the GREEN chair, where I could more easily curl up any yet have my body supported.  I also turned on the heating pad.

All day, from then on, I have been riding a carousel of misery.

My lower plumbing has not been working for 4 days, which is the first time the slowing of function has happened there.  My stomach slowed (gastroparesis is horrid), and so my abdomen began to swell.  But my blood sugar also began to plummet.  I ate and ate and ate and could not find anything to keep it up, to get it about 70 for hours on end.  That mean I was writhing and battling the shakes, anxiety, nausea, and headaches that comes with falling blood sugar.  Each time I tried to get up, tachycardia set in and its accompanying anxiety and dizziness.  And I have been battling sensitivity to light and sound, as well as constant blurriness in my eyes.  The, all in a rush, the lower plumbing decided to kick in, which means that my blood pressure dropped with movement past a pesky nerve, and so much fainting and nausea ensued.

Poor Amos, he has tried to comfort his wailing, miserable puppy momma, but his attentions usually involve the draping of his self about my person

Just one moment.
I long for just one moment of relief to get through the rest of this round of misery.
Just one.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cliffs and forests...

Apparently, middle-aged women crawling beneath a chair is upsetting to some.  SIGH.

Yesterday was worse for me, that I thought.  While I managed to sort of hold at bay the assaults of my mind, at least long enough get through the diagnostic part, I was felled by the moments waiting to hear if I had to do further testing, which I usually do.  I curled up into a ball on the floor, shaking and weeping silently, and then looked for the nearest tight space.

If I were at the surgeon's office, either of her nurses would have simply joined me.  No. Big. Deal. I would have heard about how brave I was and how proud they all were that I had come in and was making responsible decisions for my body despite the battle it is for me to be examined, poked, prodded, stuck, etc.  I would have been applauded for finding a way to help contain my emotions and thoughts.  Even through my tears, I would have felt better and would have managed to get dressed and leave somewhat together.

Apparently, an imaging center is not the place to show weakness.

There was this moment when I knew that if I did not get up, get dressed, and leave, I would no longer have the option of leaving.  I find it interesting, at times, how readily medical personnel are to take the course of action that is easiest for them rather that what is best for the patient.  My father spent his final months in a cycle of sedation to the point of a catatonic state to wild physical, verbal, and emotional outbursts that led to the profound sedation.  I am rather ... confused ... about that time in his life, but I think more folk than I and my brother believe that he was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's and, instead, was afflicted with frontotemporal dementia.  I do not believe he had the best care possible.  But I also know that it was an impossible situation.  I also know that when one is living with decline it is harder to see the overall fall than for those not there on a day-to-day basis.

I have a video on my phone of my father still coming out of sedation.  It is so upsetting to me that I honestly want to delete it, but I also do not want to lose it.  What I really, really, really want is to have someone sit with me, watch it, and let me talk about how he is and my fears for my future.

But as far as the path of ease, this was most certainly the case the night of the pit bull attack.  From the EMTs to the hospital staff.  I have learned so much, since then, about how trauma affects the brain.  How I was—my collapse, my tears, my tremors—were normal.  NORMAL!  What was happening in my brain and my body should have been expected.  That is what trauma does to a person. But everyone I encountered just ... well ... just kept making remarks about either causing trouble, making more of the matter than need be, needing to grow up, needing to pull myself together, or threatening to restrain and sedate me.

If someone had explained—had explained about the chemicals being released in my brain, had explained the ways we react to trauma and danger,  had told me that it was okay that my body and mind did not yet grasp that I was safe—I would have been better.  Better then and better now.   Instead, I was a bother.  I was someone who was making others' jobs harder for them.  From not being able to walk into the ambulance to not being able to stand in front of the x-ray machine.

All that is to say what happened yesterday was something that did not need a needle, but compassion and patience and words of encouragement.

The crowd of personnel, the whispers, and the suggestion for "consultation" and "something to calm her down" drove me to crawl from my place of safety, to get dressed, and to stumble to my car.  I drove out of the parking lot and felt myself falling off a cliff.  So, I dared call my friend Mary.  I asked her to just talk to me, to tell me about her day or about something tasty she had made.

Mary has told me that she does not do well with unexpected upsettedness, with being a comfort to someone in need.  I think she is nuts in that regard.  She is so utterly perfect at handling unexpected upsettedness.  She talked about her girls and her son growing within her. She talked about her presentation on the morrow.  And she let me drop little tidbits of my fear and shame into the conversation.  To speak them. To get them outside of me to a place where the Gospel could cover them. 

You see, we talked a lot about the presentation, which meant talking about the Word of God, Law and Gospel.  And the Word of God is a refuge for us all. It was for me.

Eventually, the panic subsided.  The lingering sensations tormenting me ended.  The tears dried up.  The shame eased.  All because of the Word of God.  The Word of God came to me because a friend was willing to step outside her comfort zone and talk with me about her life during a time of great distress.

She did not dismiss what was happening or try to fix me or tell me to try harder.
She let me be who I was in that moment.
She let the Holy Spirit do the calming, the sustaining, the healing.

She trusts the Word of God.

My friend Mary is deeply sensitive and keenly aware of the damage burdening consciouses can have.  So, she is oft slow to speak to me on the matters of heart and mind that I raise, but is quick to speak of the Gospel whenever I share something that is inevitably twisted Law.  When I do share my struggles, Mary listens and lets me know that sharing is okay, that thinking is okay, that feeling is okay.  She listens and thinks thinks herself and then shares, eventually, Jesus in some fashion.

And it isn't some sort of Life Application Jesus.

Yes, sometimes the Living Word has very practical guidance for life.  If nothing else, our triune God caused to be penned Proverbs.  But Jesus is the whole of the Living Word; Christ Crucified is the forest, not one particular set of trees or bushes or plants.  He is the water and the soil, the wind and the sun.  He is the mast beneath the trees, the moss and lichen on rocks and bark.  He is the insects and birds and animals.  He is the whole and every single individual aspect.

Thus, our lives in Christ are the whole of Him, of His divinity and His humanity, His eternal life and His early existence.  He is not something to be packaged up and sold or parsed and studied.  Jesus Christ is to be received.

That what are bodies are for ... even this body,  my body.

My body—in vary and sundry ways—is ill and thus the playground and easy fodder for our foe.  Yet Mary helped me thinking about the fact that even before the fall, our bodies were created for fellowship with God.  After the fall, our bodies were still created for such.  And it is through our bodies that we receive Jesus, receive forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

I hope she talks on the morrow about some of what we discussed, but no matter what Mary ends up saying on the topic, her audience will receive Jesus, not some outline for success on the topic.

Because my previous studies had not actually arrived, the doctor decided to wait to even read the ones from today.  Who knows how long it will be before I learn if I have to go back.  At this point, given how strongly I reacted yesterday, I am not sure I could bring myself to go back.  I am not that brave.  And, these days, I pick and choose my battles.  So, I am trying not to think about that, about the what if of the day.

Instead, I give thanks that when I was falling, Jesus caught me through ear and mouth and mind of my friend.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another hard day...

On the morrow (or rather later today), I will have another hard test for me to face. I laughed about it today, though, for a very small spate of time. You see, I was honest with the scheduler about how difficult it would be for me to do. She had to wait until my previous records came in before she could schedule me, and so today she called back to do so.

Scheduler: "How about we just rip that bandaid right off?" 
Myrtle: "Uhm, okay." 
Scheduler: "Good, we will see you tomorrow at 1:00" 
Me:  [Gasp] "Okay."

I did have what I hope to be a good moment, a fruitful moment.  After the third call from the cardiology practice, I decided I should gird my loins and try to make the appointment.  I asked for the woman who was calling for me, but she was at lunch.  I would proffer the loin girding came in my Good Shepherd's perfect timing, because the scheduler I ended up with spent 38 minutes talking with me about the referral, my symptoms, my conditions, and ... my anxieties.  At first, she was thinking to pair me with one doctor, but toward the end, she became very confident that who I needed to be with was a doctor who specializes in electrocardiology and who (it turns out) is rather sought after for his skill with difficult cases.  [Yes, you can snicker at the fact that I am a difficult case before I walk in the door.]  What gave me a wee bit of hope is that she very carefully explained that he very much prefers his patients come in with written notes and questions, so that he can be sure to address their needs in person, rather than afterwards with a nurse on the phone.  He LIKES long missives about this, that, and the other regarding heart feelings, sensations, performance ... and anxieties!  A match made in heaven, eh?

I am fully expecting that, after going through all the same tests I did in 2010 I will end up right back with the bottom line that there is no cure or real treatment for Dysautonomia ... just chasing after things that help the symptoms—in this case cardiac-related ones.  However, since I have a history of heart disease in the family and folk with orthostatic hypotension have a tendency to develop heart disease and the whole tachycardia and being short of breath so much of the time is new (as well as the chest pain that comes and goes I have been actively ignoring), I can see how it is prudent to do all the testing that will mostly likely show it is an autonomic function issue rather than a breakdown of my cardiovascular system on some level. Just in case.

Seeing a male doctor is going to be hard.  Very hard.  However, the scheduler was rather confident we could work things out since I was bold and bald with her about that concern.  It also appears the referral was worded a tad strongly because I only have to wait 3 weeks for an appointment instead of the usual 2-3 months for new patients.  And I am to call if this whole new level of bother with my blood pressure and heart rate and difficulty breathing escalates further so I could be squeezed in somehow.  I am all for waiting, not squeezing.  Waiting means more time for loin girding.

Other than scheduling all the referrals and testing from Friday's appointment in a mere three days, I also managed to remember to finally pick up the new medications that were called in then ... but only because Target's automated system called to remind me that I had forgotten.  I also made a small return—a final, final, final return on the kitchen project—and used that "credit" to buy milk.  I broke down and added some groceries to the cart, despite trying to make it to the end of the month.  I also went ahead and fetched Amos' food, since as near as I can tell I was not going to make it another 10 days with what was left in his bag.

I fainted in the parking lot at my last stop.  A long, hard day.

My sister has been talking about her favorite white chili mix for years and finally sent me several boxes.  I have only had white chili once, and I thought I found it rather tasty.  So, I tried to make it tonight, but I would most definitely grade my first effort a D-.  I think if I put the leftovers on rice, it might be helpful.  Idiot here thought using chicken broth instead of water would be a good idea.  No.  Not. At. All.

Even so, I do not think I can blame the failure on my fatigue, because I sat at the new bistro table for much of the time I was in the kitchen.  As much as I was absolutely certain that 1) I did not need a bistro table and 2) that one would not fit into the kitchen, my interior designer mother was right and I was utterly wrong.  I did need one.

I found this on for just $159 and added the glass table top to it.  It is solid metal since it is for outdoors, so even clumsy Myrtle cannot knock it over.  And, I am rather thankful to note, I have finally stopped tossing trash on the table top.  Moving the trash can from this space took but a few moments physically, but it took weeks and weeks and weeks mentally.  SIGH.

It is difficult not to dread the night before the day, the nights before the hard days.  I did not sleep much at all last Thursday night.  I cannot help but think I shall be awake this night, too.  I suppose, though, there is wisdom in bandaid-ripping scheduling.  Such a practice leaves little time for the devils that plague me to gear up and start a new attack.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No comparison...

I had my first doorbell ring today. I had hoped my first ring might be from a visitor, but it was the UPS man.  With Amos' objection to his presence on the porch, he needn't have bothered ringing the doorbell.  When I opened the door, the UPS man smiled and asked if I installed it myself.  I nodded and he replied, "Well done."  SIGH.  I really like hearing those words.

Mr. UPS man was delivering more ice packs.  Three freezer shelves are still not enough, but the four more Mueller ones will help.  Those are the larger ones that melt faster but help when I am also nauseous, as well as trying to numb the nerves on the back of my head, because they are larger and mold around the whole of the back of my head rather than just a strip.  To put it differently, I do not have to be careful to keep them in place when I am writhing in massive nausea.  [Sandra introduced me to the Mueller ones, for which I am ever grateful.]

The best ice packs are the Cold Pack from Walgreen's, the darker blue ones, for they stay colder the longest.  The lighter blue are 3M ones I get from  At night, I put down a dark blue, two light blues, and then the wider one on top.  I discovered that I sleep longer if I have more ice packs keeping each other colder longer.  I put the Cold Pack on the very bottom of the pile and sometimes can get away with pulling it out, moving it to the top of the pile, and laying the side of my head on it to sleep a little longer before having to go downstairs for more ice packs.  My dream bedroom accessory would be a grounded, heavy gauge outlet in one of my closets in which I could plug a chest freezer that would somehow fit through the door.

The three dark blue ones on the third shelf (the bin is full of ice packs, too) are in ziploc bags because they broke open.  I woke with blue gel in my hair.  Since they are approximately $6 each, I put them in a Ziploc bag.  I wish I knew what kind of tape I could use that would stay sticky in the freezer so I could cut the bag.  I wish this because using them means they slip and slide all over the place with the extra bag material.  Plus, if I forget to unroll them, the extra two layers of plastic (when rolled up) blunts the numbing effect.

To get through the days and nights now that I have to lie down more, I need more ice packs. Still.  SIGH.  In case you were wondering, ice packs melt quickly, but they do not re-freeze in any sort of speedy manner.  I hope to get 4 more next month and 4 more the month following, depending on how much the co-pays of all the consultations and inevitable testing turns out to be.

Something I have encountered over the past years came up today and has remained on my mind as I thought about the added relief those four new ice packs will bring is this notion of the comparison of suffering. In my opinion, it is an errant one.

To me, comparing suffering is moot. It is like sin. Sin is sin is sin. What is a "small" sin to you might be a "big" sin to me, but those adjectives are useless.  Sin is sin.  Yes, the earthly consequences of sin might different from one to another, but the effect of sin is the same.  From my early evangelical days, I learned a definition that I still prefer:  sin is a state of being—separation from God.

Suffering is suffering. It is a battle of mind, body, and spirit, even if you are not fully aware of how all three are affected by your suffering. Physical suffering is never without some sort of mental suffering. Nor is mental suffering ever without an impact on the body. And all suffering affect the spirit, affects faith … how you think and believe and respond.

I have had people say to me that they felt bad mentioning their own suffering to me, even feel guilty about it.  Hogwash!  Now, I am not meaning to discredit their feelings, but I do wish to correct the thinking behind those feelings.  And not just the thought that all suffering is suffering.

I want to hear about the suffering of my friends and neighbors.  I am an ex-evangelical, after all. I pray for them and long to know how to best pray for them, even knowing that our Triune God is never unaware of their needs.  I want to hear about the suffering of my friends and neighbors so that I can encourage and support them.  And, selfishly so, I want to hear about the suffering of my friends and neighbors so that: 1) I might feel less alone and 2) might learn from them how to be better gracious about my own suffering.

It is okay to speak of your suffering, to let others know of your struggles.  No suffering is too small to speak of, to share.  It is okay to feel weak and weary, to be tired of your own struggles.  It is okay to feel as if your faith is paltry when you struggle.  It is okay to want to be a better sufferer.  It is okay not not want to suffer at all.  It is okay ... no matter how you are.  We live in a fallen world that makes a wretched existence from birth to death.  We also live in a fallen world made beautiful and perfect in the joy, peace, and forgiveness that we have, despite our struggles and failures, in the faith given to us from Christ.

From the moment of our conception, we are on a journey to death, a journey God never intended for us.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits battle our foe ... battle the devil, his minions, the world, and our own flesh.  There is not a human ever born who has not suffered, who has not struggled with the weight of life in a fallen world.

Sometimes suffering is of the body.
Sometimes suffering is of the mind.
Sometimes suffering is of the spirit.

Usually, it is some facet of all three.

I rather like what Luther wrote to his father, February 15, 1530, upon hearing of his illness:

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all his angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should should sink and fall to the ground.  He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and he is so heartily true and kind that he cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we has his help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this.  He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.  "Ask," says he, "and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." And elsewhere:"Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I might become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for his holy Word, which he has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is his divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, he will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.  This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears.  The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickeness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels.  Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave.  Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until he come again to wake us with joy.  Amen.  (Letters of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 31-32)

Now, that whole "without doubt" bit does frighten me, but I am trying to hold onto the fact that God knows us, knows that it is not possible for us ever to be perfect in our trust.  And Christ's heart is always strong and at ease.  So, it is not that we have to always confidently and triumphantly thumb our noses at the devil with the truth of Christ crucified, for us.  No, even if all we do is moan and groan wordless pleas, the Holy Spirit will still take that ask to Christ who will carry it to the Father, all the while being the consummate obedient and trusting faithful servant of God for us.

Thus, if you are suffering and wish not to be alone with that burden, speak to your friends and family.  Do not diminish your own pain, your own anguish, your own confusion. If you are suffering, ask for someone to read the Word aloud to you, for it WILL ease you, even if only for a small spate of time, without anything else changing.  All the effects of sin in this world will remain ... illness, anger, violence, grief, loss, poverty ... all of it.  But the Word will lift you from that, will wrap you in Christ crucified for you, because it is more powerful than all the suffering of this world of all time melded together in a single moment.  The Living Word is the perfect bastion.

If you know someone who is suffering, bring the Living Word to them, for them.  Speak it, text it, email it, Skype it, mail it ... the Holy Spirit will do the rest.  Bring them great big chunks of it, if possible.  Read a gospel (like John) or an epistle (like Galatians) all at once.  Fill their ears overflowing with the prayers of the Psalter, so that they will know that they are known by God, known in their doubts and fears, in their illness and fear, in their faith and hope for salvation.  What are my picks for the Psalter?  Psalms 13, 27, 31, 42, 43, 51, 61, 69, 77, 91, 103, 104, 116, 121, 136, and 139.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I don't get it...

I don't get it.  Really, I don't get Lutherans.  Or, perhaps, I should say the general representation of Lutherans I encounter online.

Today I read this comment on a post about Lutheranism being the confessing church.  It is on a website I don't much read for the disparity of confession and the ... well ... proclivity toward legalism in many of the posts.  Plus, to put it bluntly, the comments are often filled with less than charitable words/behavior.

I also do not get Safari or many things MAC.  The reason I ended up at the website is that when I started to Google something, the website autofilled the search window.  How odd! was my first thought, given that I seriously am rarely there.  These days, given how easily distressed I can become, I have actually only taken a look-see at a post mentioned by someone whom I consider to be ... well ... a confessing Lutheran.

When the autofill happened, I decided to hit the "enter" button and scan the post titles.  Of course the one about the Confessions caught my eye.  Even knowing that the action would most likely be less than positive for me, I read the comments after finishing the post.  Here is the first one:

The creeds, catechisms and Augsburg Confession are interesting and accessible. The rest of the Book of Concord seems pretty boring and technical to average laypeople IMO. Why should we feel guilty if we prefer to spend limited spare time reading the Bible instead?

I respect those who have a specialized interest in studying the BoC.

Here, I shall be judgmental:  To me, I read the last sentence as a specious afterthought to soften the disregard for the Christian Book of Concord (BOC).  I had that thought before I read any of the other commenter's remarks further down.  What he wrote did not disabuse me of my reaction.  For example, he added later:

Point well taken. I do consult the confessions when I have a question. I just don’t curl up by the fireplace with a copy of The Solid Declaration. :)
His response was to this comment about his comment:

I don’t know that you should “feel guilty.” Do you? Another thought… we don’t pit spending time reading the Scriptures against reading our confessions. This isn’t an either/or. Instead, do both! Why not? As you read the Scriptures you might have a question such as “What does this mean?” and why not go through our confessions to see if our Lutheran fathers provided an answer?

The bottom line is as Lutherans we need to know what our confessions state. So read the Book of Concord to see what it means to be a Lutheran. In fact, if you have the time, find a BoC reading group and read it with others. That makes reading the BoC much less boring, for those who find it tedious, I think.

So, I am thinking, with great sadness and true perplexity, Why is it that people even use the word "boring" or "tedious" when referring to the pure exposition of the Word of God? To doctrine!

Yes, I wept.  
Yes, I am distressed.  
Yes, I totally, utterly, and completely don't get it.

If I set aside what it says about me that I actually would curl up beside a fire with the Formula Solid Declaration, I see the same notion of having to sell Jesus to others, to make Christ crucified entertaining and engaging that drove me to great distress in the mainline evangelical church.  I also had the completely uncharitable thought, in reading several of the comments, I wonder just how many of my Lutheran brothers and sisters are actually reading the Bible, since they are evidently not reading the BOC.

I mean, I get a lot of ... comments ... about my ... passion ... for the Living Word and my ... obsession ... with the Psalter.  I will hear people talk about not being interested in the Psalter or not understanding it or not thinking it of much importance.  Not a one of those stances do I find palatable.  

Now, if someone said he was afraid of the Psalter, well that I would understand.  I have, after all, limited the portions of the Bible in which I long linger because I am afraid that all I will read is Law instead of the Gospel I know lies within the Words.  And oft I read with fear because I encounter, on an ever increasing basis things that are completely new to me but are actually not.  I have forgotten the passages I once knew by heart and their context/connection with the whole.  Fear that turns to the sorrow of loss. But fear is never a reason I hear for not reading the Bible.  And, to my defense, I do read the Bible rather a lot.  As well as the Confessions.  

I do read the Bible because I am, at heart, a scholar.  I do read the Bible because, I am, at my core a reader.  But I also read the Bible because I am a Christian.  How else can I know God if I am not ever in His Word?  That is the should I learned when I became a Christian.  Back in those days, every good little evangelical was a Bible-toting evangelical.  Only, for me, the Bible went everywhere with me because it was my life.  And I didn't even know the half of that truth!

Jesus Freak.  Yep, that's what I heard others in my single's Sunday school class call me.  The Jesus Freak who reads the bible.  Yep, at a Bible Church.  SIGH.  I've always been on the outside looking in, not really getting those around me.

This comment, from a pastor, was one that gave me the most pause:

Lutherans have a curious idea, which is probably not shared in the same way by other faith-groups. It comes from Luther, namely, the idea of the “Word of God.”

“Word of God” is found, without error or confusion, in the Scriptures, since all the canonical books were authored by the Holy Spirit. But “Word of God” is also found elsewhere, first and foremost in the sacraments and confession/absolution (when they are properly administered), second in creeds and confessions (because they agree with Scripture), third in preaching (insofar as the preaching agrees with Scripture), fourth in the prayers and hymns of the church (insofar as such prayers and hymns agree with Scripture), etc., etc.

This means that, for Lutherans, the next best thing to attending divine worship is to read the Scriptures for themselves at home; and the next best thing after that is to study the creeds and confessions of the church. Luther said that he studied the “catechism” every day. In all cases, the “Word of God” is at work to enlighten the hearts and minds of the believer.

The difference between Scripture and confessions is a matter of how the Word is presented. The Word is presented in a variety of ways in Scripture: history, personal letters, visions, psalms, proverbs, prophetic discourse, etc. This makes for fascinating, even entertaining reading.

It is no accident that persons with the least amount of religious education are drawn to the most “entertaining” sections, e.g., the book of Revelation, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc–but what they obtain from such reading is often not very helpful to their personal faith or life. Sometimes it is even harmful and bizarre (check out all the apocalyptic titles in your bookstore).

The Word is presented in only one way in the creeds and confessions: didactic and logical. There is no history, proverbs, visions, prophecies, etc. But everything there is useful for faith and life. All of the confessions are useful for training your mind to resist the confusions that are so prominent in other faith-groups and traditions. Another way to say this is: the church has kept pace with heresy in two millenia of Christian history, by providing creeds, catechisms, and confessions that counteract the confusions of heretics and the heterodox. This is a logical result of Luther’s notion of the “Word of God.” So . . .

If you want to be confused by heresies and the heterodox, then go ahead and ignore the Confessions, or give them just a cursory reading. But . . .

If, on the other hand, you want to understand the Word of God in its truth and purity–i.e., what Jesus is saying to us today–then you should study the confessions as much as you study the Scriptures. And this is a necessary practice for pastors; a recommended practice for laymen.

I am too weary to write an in-depth response to this pastor's comments.   I would say that I take issue with the Confessions being merely a recommended practice for laymen.  I mean, seriously, this seems to contradict the Longer Preface to the Large Catechism, if nothing else.  And I would proffer that final paragraph makes moot part of his own comment and the blog post itself, by putting the Confessional on the optional reading pile for laymen.

I would note, too, that I find it a bit odd that, in tackling understanding what the Word of God means to Lutherans, the pastor does not actually discuss how the Lutherans believe, teach, and confess that the Word of God has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do (BOC, LC, IV, 18).  The Living Word is powerful, performative, and effective.  It is life given to us.

And I would note that I find the absence of the Holy Spirit as the One who does the working of the Word of God in our lives, through the means outlined and through our own reading, leaving the reader with an incomplete presentation of the main topic.

However, I savored the part here:

The difference between Scripture and confessions is a matter of how the Word is presented. The Word is presented in a variety of ways in Scripture: history, personal letters, visions, psalms, proverbs, prophetic discourse, etc. This makes for fascinating, even entertaining reading.

It is no accident that persons with the least amount of religious education are drawn to the most “entertaining” sections, e.g., the book of Revelation, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc–but what they obtain from such reading is often not very helpful to their personal faith or life. Sometimes it is even harmful and bizarre (check out all the apocalyptic titles in your bookstore).

The Word is presented in only one way in the creeds and confessions: didactic and logical. There is no history, proverbs, visions, prophecies, etc. But everything there is useful for faith and life. All of the confessions are useful for training your mind to resist the confusions that are so prominent in other faith-groups and traditions. Another way to say this is: the church has kept pace with heresy in two millenia of Christian history, by providing creeds, catechisms, and confessions that counteract the confusions of heretics and the heterodox. This is a logical result of Luther’s notion of the “Word of God.” So . . .

If you want to be confused by heresies and the heterodox, then go ahead and ignore the Confessions, or give them just a cursory reading. But . . .

If, on the other hand, you want to understand the Word of God in its truth and purity–i.e., what Jesus is saying to us today–then you should study the confessions as much as you study the Scriptures. 

A good argument, to me, save for the fact that the position that the Confessions are devoid of history.  There is history woven through out them.  References that are not fully clear without knowing history.  And, to me, I would not solely use the words didactic and practical to describe the Confessions.  They are personal, as well as practical.  They are engaging and full of colorful language.  They have wit as well as wisdom.  Yes, at times the authors' tone verges (trods heavily) upon the didactic, upon the manner of a teacher patronizing the student, but they are not about moral instruction as an ulterior motive.  They do not fit the definition of didacticism.  They are instructive and practical ... and personal and illuminating, full of Christ crucified for you and the Holy Spirit working for you. 

Were a researcher to come into a cross-section of churches in the LCMS and spend time observing the daily lives of those parishioners, creating categories for all the ways people spend their time, I would not be surprised to find reading the BOC as not statistically important, as grouped into an "other" category, and reading the Bible to be a category ranked far, far down the chart as a way folk spend their time.

Perhaps the best construction is that folk will say that life gets in the way.  I would answer that is as specious a reason for having a major focus time spent during the Christmas holidays being the stress of cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling, parties, and hosting guests, rather than studying, celebrating, and communing with Jesus.  The Word of God is life.  And it is what will sustain you throughout all the other things that come your way.

The number one reason I value my aging iPod Touch is the Kindle app. Through technology, I can easily carry about with me the NASB 1977 translation of the Bible and the Book of Concord.  Because the Lutheran Service Book is not an app or digital format, I have typed out all the liturgy for the offices of prayer so that I am, too, never without them.  

I was and remain utterly gobsmacked and giddy over my deluxe (translate that more durable) personal pocket edition of the Book of Concord.  I can take the tomb with me anywhere, fitting in pocket, person, or satchel. 

I can take with me ... from bathroom floor to hospital bed to the infernal line at the post office ... the Living Word and the sweet, sweet Gospel that is for me.  

People will ask you, "If your house was on fire and you could only grab what you could carry in your arms or you could only save 5 items or only had 5 minutes to save things, what would you take?"  Me? Well, Amos, of course!  Amos, my copies of my NASB 1997 bibles, my copies of the BOC, Walther's The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, my crucifixes, my wrinkled (and so proof that it was wet) baptismal napkin, my computer (so I could still write, read, watch, and listen to things), and the antique box in which I keep all the letters from my best friend.  I have a beautiful house filled with beautiful antiques. I would dearly and deeply miss the old things, the things of lives gone before me, that have been my lifelong companions.  But I would grab none of them.  Not the antiques.  Not the photos.  Not the GREEN clothing and GREEN chair.  Not even the glass hummingbirds or the silly and sweet ladybug doodads folk have given me.  Right up there with the devastating and inconsolable loss of Amos would be the devastating and inconsolable loss of my battered, chewed upon, stained, highlighted, and sticky-noted 1st edition copy of the Reader's Edition of the Christian Book of Concord (the one with Luther's "Exhortation to Confession and Absolution" snuck in after the Large Catechism.  

Yes, I absolutely don't get it.  Get the need for that post I read.  Get the sentiments behind the comments.  Get the excuses I hear from others about not knowing/reading/studying the Confessions.  Get the little time others spend actually reading the Bible.  Get the little interest and inexplicable appreciation of and lack of craving to pray the Psalter.

There are many good things in the LCMS world, chief among them many would say Issues, Etc. radio and other programs.  Many would say the studies and devotions and texts on the Bible.  All of those—and more—pale in comparison to the Bible and the BOC.  I read another post about family devotions and a large percentage of the comments were folk saying they struggled to find devotional material, struggled to have something to use for the family study of the Bible and doctrine.  The comments drove me nuts (yes, that was a short trip), for I do not get those chasing after devotional books and guides.  We have the Bible.  We have the pure doctrine.  Get them out.  Read.  You will learn.  

You. Will. Learn.

The Living Word is perfect for all.
The Holy Spirit is a perfect teacher for all.
The Word will not return void, will never fail to accomplish God's purpose for its going forth.

That's a promise.

Read aloud the Living Word.  Pray aloud the Living Word.  Doing so will change you, sustain you, enlighten you.  That's also a promise.  And, incidentally, it is also what we believe, teach, and confess.  Here are just a few places where we do so in the BOC.  Here is some of what we believe, teach, and confess about the comfort and consolation of the Gospel.  Here is what we teach about the fact that we cannot love or fear or trust God without the gift of faith.  Here is what we believe, teach, and confess about the work of Jesus Christ in forgiveness, salvation, righteousness, justification, redemption, mediation. Here is what we believe, teach, and confess about the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, forgiveness, sustenance, healing, instruction, and sanctification.

Hello, my name is Myrtle.  I am a confessing Lutheran.  The doctrine is my refuge because it is the Word of God for me.  Even when I am confused and ashamed and anxious.  Because that weak and weary, struggling believer is expected in the Church.  And because I am made better by the Living Word worked within me.  

Even when I am confused and ashamed and anxious.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The devils that plague me...

Sister Monica Joan: Forgive me, Lord, and protect us all from these devils that plague me.

Sister Julienne: There are no devils here. Your mind gets tired, Sister. That is all. And when it does we will protect you. We will be with you and make sure that when you forget we remember.

~Call the Midwife, Series 2, Episode 7

I understand Sister Monica Joan's prayer.  I long for Sister Julienne to be real.  To be here.  Or I there.

A few weeks ago, I stopped to get gas with someone in my car.  I hopped out and opened my tank.  My passenger shouted at me, and so I stuck my head back into the car.  She offered me her charge card, knowing of my financial situation.  Surprised and thankful, I swiped her card and proceeded to fill my  tank.  

About a week or so later, I was checking my credit card bill and saw a charge for gas.  Surely I did not get two tanks in a week??  Not with how little I drive.  At first, I wondered if my card had somehow been compromised, but the gas was the only charge on there since I had last logged onto my account.  After checking with my passenger, I learned that her card had no charge.  So, the truth was that in between hopping out of the car and answering my passenger's call out I had swiped my card and forgotten that I had done so.  In my mind, trying to remember what happened, is only blankness.

More and more those moments are happening.  I find that I have done things without remembering or do not know where I am or when it is.  At such times, I am felled both by what I know and what I don't know.  Or rather that I know I do not know.

The thoughts that follow are my devils.  The thoughts that linger after things that bring shame are my devils.  The feelings that overwhelm me, paralyze me, are my devils.  The 1,001 anxieties that fill me are my devils.

I am starting to forget what a life without anxiety is like.  That bothers me.  And then the part of me asks if it should.  I wonder if, perhaps, I should stop.  Stop trying to hold onto anything.  Just stop.

In any case, a part of me does feel as if others should be protected from them, from me.  I understand Sister Monica Joan's prayer.  In a moment of confusion, she answered the call line and kept a woman in labor from making contact.  In a moment of clarity that followed—though she still could not remember who called—Sister Monica Joan realized how her moments of confusion, her devils, could hurt others.  

Her life was a burden she felt keenly and wished not that burden on others.

As much as I long to not be the only one facing the failings in my body and my mind, in my moments of clarity I would not wish this burden on anyone.  Anxiety alone is too much, too cruel.  Never mind the writhing and the swelling and the fainting and the Raynaud's and the low blood sugar and the low blood pressure and the tachycardia and the weakness and the fatigue and the blurred vision and the confusion and the aphasia and the cold spells and the memory loss and the fear and the shame ... all of that ... any of that.

I like watching Call the Midwife as much for the main storyline as for seeing how Sister Julienne, as head of Nonnatus House, cares for Sister Monica Joan.  These were real women.  This is a real story, no matter how much is softened by time and television.  I savor listening to the nuns sing the offices of prayer, even though I do not agree with Catholic doctrine.  The call for mercy is meet, right, and salutary.  Faith in our triune God to care for and protect them all, to provide for each day, no matter what devils may come, is meet, right, and salutary.

At one point in time, I was planning for a life on the mission field.  To be a missionary, to live a life by faith, was my heart's desire.  A civil war intervened.  A chance for graduate school.  Then a condition that would preclude me from ever serving on the mission field again.  Twists and turns leading to a life in my lounge chair.  I stare, from that chair, rather hungrily at women whose lives are pledged to God and to faith and to nothing else.  I envy being surrounded by prayer.  Even the times of the greater silence, the fellowship of it.  Of it all

Singing the offices by myself, both parts, is not the same as praying them with others.  For a wall-flower hermit, who is most assuredly an introvert, my deep and abiding longing to pray with others is rather inexplicable to my own mind. 

Often, when the pain in my innards is too great to do anything, to think anything, to be anything, I put on this playlist I created.  It has a mix of songs that have bits and pieces of words that I get, that I understand.  They are of a hope that makes sense to me, in a way.  Trying to explain is very difficult.  Some songs are about letting go.  One is about changing the voices in your head.  Some are about trials and travails, but many are about loving or caring for another, using words I could imagine Jesus saying ... to me.  None of them are about faith.  They are simply about life ... either trying or hoping or letting someone else try or hope for you.  Yet, to me, they are words that echo the promise of Isaiah 43:1-3:

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior..."

Those are the Words I long to hear, to have spoken to me most, apart from John 1:1-5 and the Psalter.  So, I made them out of bits of songs that I can understand, that I can hear, without fear or thoughts of condemnation.

But ... sometimes ... I put "Evening and Morning: The Music of Lutheran Prayer" on repeat and let the voices of those who recorded the offices of prayer fill the bathroom or bedroom or kitchen ... wherever I am.  Over and over and over again.

I do not know the offices of prayer for the Catholic church.  I do not know what they were in the 50s.  But I wonder if the real life Sister Monica Joan savored the words of Psalm 141 sung in Evening Prayer:

Let my prayer rise before You as incense,
the lifting up of my hands 
as the evening sacrifice.
O Lord, I call to You;
Come to me quickly;
Hear my voice when I cry to You.
Let my prayer rise before You as incense
the lifting up of my hands 
as the evening sacrifice.
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord,
and guard the door of my lips.
Let not my heart incline to any evil thing;
let me not be occupied in wickedness with evil doers.
But my eyse are turned to You, O God;
in You I take refuge.
Strip me not of my life.
Glory be to the Father 
and to the Son 
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, 
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Let my prayer rise before You as incense,
the lifting up of my hands 
as the evening sacrifice.

When the darkness seems too great for the Light, when I have no words, two tunes run through my head and to them I struggle to cling, even as I fear the devils within me will win the battle of the day.  One is that written above.  The other is the tune for the verba, for the Words of Institution:

Our Lord Jesus Christ,
on the night He was betrayed took bread.
And when He had given thanks,
He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said:
"Take eat.  This is My body, which is given for you.
This do in remembrance of Me."

In the same way also,
He took the cup after supper
And when He had given thanks,
He gave it to them saying:
"Drink of it, all of you;
this cup is the new testament in My blood,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.

I wonder, when all else is gone from my mind—if, as I suspect, my body outlasts my mind—if something of those two tunes, of those bits of God's Word, will remain.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Passed on...

Robbie Lewis: He drew that in a mere 60 seconds. It was as if he didn’t even need to look at me, just one glance.

Laura Robson: I’m not a psychoanalyst.

Robbie Lewis: I wasn’t going to quote you in evidence. Just wanted a second opinion. Could the lad be ... I don’t know ... autistic?  Is that the word? I only know what I’ve seen on TV documentaries that I wasn’t watching.

Laura Robson: The trouble is that all these words are dangerous: autism, dyslexia, bipolarity, schizophrenia. We throw people into those boxes and we tell ourselves that we have explained everything and solved the problem. And we’ve done neither.

"And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea," Inspector Lewis (2008)

I have been watching a lot of television shows, to pass the time, to help endure.  And to encounter words.  I miss words.  I miss engaging with them. I miss delving into them.  I miss chewing them over with others. I miss thinking.

I have been watching old shows new to me and newer shows old to me.  Since I gave up cable in my new life of having little, I had to wait on the 7th season of Doctor Who.  When I saw that it was up on Amazon, I decided to re-watch seasons 1-6 to get ready for the new part.  Whilst doing so, I re-watched an episode I saw recently when introducing the show to visitors:  "Vincent and the Doctor."  That episode is one of my favorites.

I believe it is an exquisite exploration of mental illness and art and wonder and acceptance.  In it is one of my favorite quotes.  Amy is devastated when she learned that their time with Vincent Van Gogh and taking him forward to the future so he could see the impact of his work did not keep him from killing himself.  The Doctor tells Amy:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.  And we definitely added to his pile of good things.  

Two other scenes stand out.  The first is where the Doctor, Amy, and Vincent are all lying in a field looking up at the night sky.  Vincent describes what he sees and in so doing, the night sky is transformed into his painting Starry Night:

Van Gogh: Hold my hand, Doctor. Try to see what I see. We're so lucky we're still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It's not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lights are blue. And blue in through the blueness, and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air... and then shining. Burning, bursting through! The stars, can you see how they roll their light? Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.

The Doctor: I've seen many things, my friend. But you're right. Nothing's quite as wonderful as the things you see.

The second scene is where the Doctor and Amy have taken Vincent to one of his exhibits. The Doctor asks a curator his opinion of Van Gogh and his work, so that Vincent might hear the answer:

The Doctor: I just wondered, between you and me—in a hundred words—where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?

Dr. Black: Well. Um, big question, um, but to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular great painter of all time. The most beloved. His command of color, the most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world. No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange wild man who roamed the fields of Provence, was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

I love the episode because of what I learned about Van Gogh's work, appreciating it in way I had never fathomed I could or would.  I love the episode because of how his mental illness was not covered or lessened or even explained away.  It was a part of his life, his struggle.  Simple.  Matter of fact.  I liked how you were proffered the idea that his mental illness was not a hindrance to his art.  Quite the opposite.

And I loved, too, how hard the art director worked to incorporate Van Gogh's paintings into the sets, so that watching the episode was like walking through his art.  Good stuff.

I think quite a bit about that episode.  Were I still a literacy professor, I would use it in a class or two or three.  The text—visual, oral, expressive—is a great example to explore the transactional theory of reading and secondary worlds.  But I am not ... still a literacy professor.  I am alone with words and struggle to think the things I wish to think.

I think that the quote from Inspector Lewis has layers of meaning.  And the heart of it can be found everywhere.  Dr. Robson's words are, sadly, all too true.

I know someone whose child with special needs was turned down for a spot in her church school.  I know another parent whose child with special needs was turned down for a spot in her church daycare.  The easy response is to say, "We are not equipped to handle your child's needs."

Why not?  I mean, any daycare should expect a certain number of children with special needs.  Any school should as well.  But, as with the world, church run institutions/business reserve the right to refuse service.  No shirt.  No shoes.  No service.

Addiction.  Abuse.  Mental illness.  No service.  Oh, because those labels mean you are the problem of others.  Experts are better equipped to handle your label.

Read the Book of Concord.  All throughout it are references to the anguished soul, the anxious conscience, the burdened, the terrified.  All throughout it are declarations that it is for these the Gospel exists.  They are the ones expected.  Ones to be served, not passed off to experts.

Addicts, abuse survivors, the mentally ill are not merely their labels.  All are the created of our Creator, beloved, and some are the sheep of the Good Shepherd, in need of spiritual care and the service of their neighbors.  Service for which God has equipped them ... with His Word, with the sweet, sweet Gospel.  A Word more powerful than all the sins and ills of this world.  A Word performative, creative, healing, sustaining.

A Word that needs to be heard.  
Again and again and again.  
By all.

By me.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!