The Curse of Dementia…or is it?

For the past couple of years my family has been watching as my dad slowly slips away from us. He has dementia. This condition has reduced a once strong and independent man to a shadow; a wispy wraith trapped within a failing mind and body. I cannot think of a more insidious jailer than this. It has robbed him, and us, of life and liberty and locked him in a cell that is growing darker and smaller with each passing day.

A Bit about Dementia

For those unfamiliar with this condition, let me share a bit of what I’ve been able to learn. Dementia, according to one source, is not a true ‘disease,’ but rather the symptoms of various kinds of brain disorders. There are several underlying causes for dementia. The one that, I believe, effects dad is a type of Vascular Dementia. I had the opportunity to speak with a neurologist who had done an MRI on dad. He explained that the scans revealed evidence of many small strokes. This, coupled with his coronary disease and other risk factors, had ultimately led to his present condition. However, in our day when medical science can ‘fix’ many things, dementia is not one of them.

Back Story

Without going into a detailed, biographical sketch, I’d like to share a bit about events that have led us to this place. As I stated above, dad was predisposed to this condition. Eventually, it was destined to overtake him. But, I believe, there were life events that occurred which caused the disease to grow and flourish. This process has not been proven clinically. It is simply the fruit of my observations.

My parents were married a long time. 62 years. My mom was dad’s life. He adored her. He was the faithful vassal to his Queen. When she became ill, he doted on her. You could not find a more devoted care giver. Ultimately, though, she became too frail for him. We had to find a place where she could receive the skilled treatment and watchful attendance that she required. While this was a difficult adjustment for dad, he adapted. He spent every available moment with her. He sat at her bedside. When she was able, he would take her for rides in the car. His life and hers developed a kind of symbiosis. Maybe, that’s what the Scripture meant when the writer inscribed the words, “and they shall become one flesh.”

In 2010 mom passed. Her weak body, wracked by many infirmities, simply could not carry the life within her any longer. For dad…he lost his Beloved. Many prayers and hugs and tears were shared in those days. Dad slipped into a deep depression that lasted for months. We took him to counselors. His doctor prescribed anti-depressants. We spent more time with him, trying to console him. No, to distract him. But, the only thing that we witnessed was the dementia driving an ever increasing distance between him and reality.

End Game

Within one year the dementia became problematic. Dad’s memory was failing rapidly. He started to forget to take his meds. He would forget to eat. The fragments of memory that he could retrieve became more disjointed and confused. We were able to get the V.A. to provide some in-home care. My brother and I began to go over daily to see that he ate and took his medication. But, even these efforts could not impede the relentless progress of the dementia. Like a tsunami it pushed further and further, drowning and destroying the person that was our dad.

Ultimately, we had to acquiesce and make arrangements for him to live in a skilled nursing facility. As much as we would like, we simply cannot care for all of his needs. We enlisted a local hospice to oversee his medical needs. We had to face the realization that his sojourn would soon be over.

Blessing in Disguise?

A few days ago I was with dad. In the midst of his semi-coherent ramblings, I noticed he made several references to mom as if she was alive. She was just in another room somewhere. At first I was sad that he was becoming so confused. I was angry that he had been reduced to living in such a broken and fragmented world. One of the hospice nurses had explained to me that people with this condition try to access any pieces of memory, no matter how small or disconnected, in order to make sense of their world. Dad was finding the memories that made his world acceptable. Perhaps, in the small room that is his world, he built a place of solace. His sadness and depression have passed. In this world he has as many experiences available to him as a kaleidoscope has shapes and colors. His broken mind randomly juxtaposes the fragments of his memories to create a world, while unreal to us, is very real to him. In this world he has peace. In this world the pain and loss are whisked away. In this world, his Beloved is just in the next room.

Welcome to a new Blog Home

I’m a writer. I write about what I think is important at the time. I write about stuff that just needs to get out of my heart and head. (This stuff’ll drive you crazy if you don’t let it out!) I write about topics that interest me. I respond to bloggers in other universes. Mostly, I write cuz I gotta write.

For the past few years I’ve been living over at Blogger. It’s been a really great time! But, I think that it’s time to move to new digs. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, and a vast majority of them swear by WordPress. So, here I am. As time goes on I’ll add some fun stuff…widgets and images and stuff to make this a tad homey-er.

I’ve imported my posts from Blogger so that they may be readily available for you or me. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Feel free to scroll through them. They will give you a better idea of who I am.

Hopefully, on this leg of my journey I’ll get the chance to meet you.

Won’t you take a minute to introduce yourself. Join in the conversation and let’s write!

How the Holy Spirit can show up anywhere.

This past Sunday I went with my wife to the church that my son and his family have been attending. Before going, I went to the church’s website to get some information about them. I was not impressed. And, after attending the service, I was less impressed. It was the same church that I had left. Only it had a better grasp of technology. It was more polished. But, a rock that is polished is still a rock.
They are a typical evangelical church. They truly love Jesus. And, they truly think that they are following Jesus. However, they, like so many other fundagelical churches think that their way is the ONLY way to follow Jesus. I disagree alot.
Their service was very much a patriotic thing since it was Memorial Day. Now, I do not want to take away from that. I am all for the veterans who have given so much for this country. But, I absolutely think that the Church MUST stay somewhat aloof to political leanings and patriotism. Ours is a kingdom that is NOT of this world.
Their guest speaker was Vietnam veteran who had lost both legs to a landmine. Of course, the requisite sympathy was evoked. But, this guy spoke to me. He talked at length about following a call. To me, that is like pouring gasoline on a fire. I do not think that I am following the calling that God has given. I feel like I am prostituting myself in order to pay my bills and keep health insurance for my wife and me. His words haunt me. I am deeply troubled. Could this be Ruach Elohim, the Breath of God, speaking? Could this be the Spirit that Yeshua told Peter and the others would come and teach them all things saying that I had no faith? Maybe. I am not sure. All I know is that in the most unexpected place, God may have spoken.

Privileged, and Mostly Oblivious to It

I am a white male. That’s what I’ve always been. That’s what I always will be. I can’t help it. It’s how God made me. If everything was equal, there would be no problem with that. But, things are not equal. I am privileged in this culture. And, God did not make me that. The systems that have been built over centuries have ensured that I would have a privileged position in society. These systems are so deeply embedded in our culture that most of us who are privileged don’t even realize that we are. It’s just ‘the way it is.’
Recently, Tony Jones, a highly educated, white guy made a presentation that rubbed some people the wrong way. One of the people in attendance,Christena Cleveland, called Tony out for being exercising his privilege. Jones responded with obviously hurt feelings. Now, at first, I didn’t see all that much that was offensive in Jones’ remarks. Shoot! I’ve probably said similar things myself! As I reflected on it, though, I became more and more uncomfortable. Then, a few days later Jones, I think in an attempt to show how egalitarian he is, posted a request for women and feminists to join in his blog. Again, an understandable response from a privileged person who sincerely believes that he is above reproach in these matters.
This morning I visited the blog of Caryn Riswold. She pretty much dissed Jones’ offer. And, she challenged readers to go and read what people who are NOT privileged have to say. One of those links led me to Cleveland’s blog. I spent the next 30 minutes reading a 5 part series that she had posted. What great stuff! You see, we who enjoy privilege are blind to it. We simply can’t understand why ‘others’ don’t like us. We don’t get it when marginalized and oppressed people don’t ‘get’ us. In fact, many of us don’t realize that there are any oppressed people out there. After all, we live in a land of equal opportunity. But, as the old cliche goes, “some of us are more equal than others.”
I am adding a link to Cleveland’s series. I would encourage anyone who happens to stop by here to take the time to read it. It is of utmost importance if we are trying to be the Body of Christ to understand where the other members of that body live and breathe and have their being. It is important, no necessary, that we embrace kenosis, emptying, as Jesus did if we are to live as God’s people. 
 

Moods and the Necessity of Keeping On

Again, it’s been awhile since I posted anything here. Honestly, I just haven’t felt like sitting in front of my computer and creating something that I think someone…anyone…would want to read. Now, for someone who enjoys writing, that can present quite a dilemma. What happens when a writer just doesn’t feel like writing? I don’t know. What happens when a doctor doesn’t feeling like ‘doctoring’? Ok, that’s not the same. But, you get what I’m alluding to. I have plenty to write about. That’s not the problem. And, hopefully over the next week I’ll get some of that out here. No. My issue has been that I just haven’t been motivated to do this.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that as I have been praying over the last year and a half about vocation, I keep being impressed by one word. ‘Write.’ My response to this voice has been, ‘Ok! Great! Uh, write what?’ That’s a pretty big question. If God wants someone to write, you’d think that there would be some kind of follow-up. “Ok, now here is the inspiration. I have a project in mind and I want you to get ‘er done! Write this…..”
Well, that’s not how it works, apparently. Recently, however, I have been motivated to move forward. With what, I’m not sure. But, since it’s harder to hit a moving target, I thought I’d better get to locomoting. I’ve set a deadline of May 31st to have a project set. Not sure if it will be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or a ‘project to be named later.’
That’s where I am this morning. Fortunately, I am on vacation for the next 10 days. Who knows what the next week will bring? Already, this A.M. I had a memory return to the front of my brain. A memory of adolescent love. Hmmm…. For those who know me well, this could be a dangerous endeavor. But, one must follow where the muse leads, I guess.
I’ll try to update this blog from time-to-time about this leg of my journey. But, getting the brain and hands to communicate can sometimes prove problematic. We’ll see. After all, it is a journey…not a project.

Grace…the Real Power of God

A couple of days ago during my morning time with Yahweh, I read from Acts. In chapter  4, I read the following:
            v. 33b – And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them All
            34 – that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who     
                    owned land or houses sold them brought the money from the sales
            35 – and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
I found this interesting. The writer, presumably Luke, starts by writing that God’s power was evident among the community of Christ followers. When I think of God’s power I think of healing and deliverance and other acts of power. But, he described the activities of the people as evidence of God’s powerful actions. It seems as though God’s grace and power were revealed through the love and generosity of the people. Lives were changed, i.e., transformed, in such a way that it was visible through these gestures of love a care.
As I reflected on God’s work as we read in the entire Bible, I see most of it deals with this kind of caring for one another. We spend so much time in so-called ‘deep’ theology that the simple acts of devotion go by and are missed. Our church leaders spend so much time trying to build fences to keep the sheep penned up that they give us neither time nor opportunity to simply live and love. But, these couple of verses in Acts shows that the leaders were distributors of God’s grace. Grace that enables people, all people, to detach from the cares and worries and false security offered by this world’s systems. Grace that causes people to develop empathy for others. Grace that is reflected back to the Giver through acts of service and kindness.
Nothing deep. No creeds. No doctrine. No magic beams. Just simple love. Jesus did leave that to us as a command. He never said to go and believe orthodoxy. He said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’

Persecution of American Christians…or maybe Not


There’s been a lot of chatter out there in the blogosphere about the perceived persecution of Christians in the U.S. This is not a new thing. In fact, when I was in high school way back when they had film projectors and chalk boards, I wrote a term paper for U.S. History entitled, “Christian Persecution in America.” Of course, back in 1972 there were no real sources to draw from, so I got some interviews from friends, a couple magazine articles about the Jesus Movement, and I think the lyrics from a couple of Larry Norman songs, and got an ‘A’ on the paper. (More likely from my ability to B.S. than to any real substance.) But, if one was to listen to some of the conservative evangelical leaders today, persecution is real and rampant ‘from sea to shining sea.’
I’ve been in meetings and informal get-togethers with these folks and listened to them rant against the government and secular society for a number of years. They bemoan the loss of the 10 commandments displayed in public space as well as the ban on school prayer. Abortion, Gay rights, feminism, immigration, and probably acne, in some circles are not only blamed for every social ill in the culture, but the culture’s embrace of these issues is also cited as the main example of how Christians are being persecuted. They believe that the continued secularization of the culture is a plot by the godless to eliminate God from their lives. It has become personal.
My problem is that I’ve seen evidence and heard stories about real persecution. A quick look at TheVoice of the Martyrs website shows how Christ followers are suffering for their faith. Type ‘Christian martyrs’ into your favorite search engine and many links are available to peruse. Some of them may be helpful in finding places where our sisters and brothers are systematically subjected to suffering that we in this country simply would not be able to understand, or withstand. I think that it would be a good idea for these people to spend some time in places like Iran, Somalia, North Korea or Indonesia. Then, perhaps, they would have a better understanding of what persecution really is.
What people in the U.S. are experiencing is actually something called ‘marginalization.’ The White Euro-American worldview and culture has enjoyed two centuries of privilege. It’s hegemonic hold on most, if not all, influence on the culture is now being threatened by those that have been marginalized. As the culture shifts to a less sectarian model, those who had the reins of power and influence are feeling that slip away. They no longer can simply make statements and policy without some pushback from people who may be adversely affected by those statements and policies. This is something that the predominant culture has not experienced. So, to them, it looks and sounds like persecution. But, like I mentioned earlier, this is NOTpersecution, but marginalization.
Now, this could simply be the continuing march of cultural evolution. Humankind is growing up. As we grow and mature those who have been forced to live on the fringes of the culture and society are saying, “Enough!” In a way, we may be living through a kind of cultural coup staged by these people. They are not revolting against God or God’s anointed. They are revolting against the pain and suffering that comes from living on the fringe. And, I say to this, Good! It’s about time that the self-righteous protectors of virtue, Mom, apple pie and the flag have the opportunity to experience life outside of the mainstream of culture. It’s about time that the privileged share in the lackof privilege. It’s about time that those who claim to be Christ followers spend time living in the margins where Christ lived.
Let me take a moment to share what I think is our proper place in the culture. Ours is not to direct society; ours is to serve. Those who want to be disciples of Jesus must remember that it was our Lord and Master who said that his kingdom was not of this world. We have, however, forgotten that. From Constantine forward the Church has enjoyed the power and prestige of being kings among men. (At least in the West.) Popes and emperors and Metropolitans have lorded it over people and extended the so-called Magisterium to influence every area of life. This has served to foment conflict and the enforcement of boundaries that have defined who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out.’ This would be funny if not for the fact that those who have been deemed ‘out’ have had to bear the pain that these designations bring. Now, those who have grown accustomed to sitting on the ‘Seat of Moses’ are finding it difficult to step away. Power and riches are not so easily lost. So it is with White, patriarchal hegemony. We don’t like to share. Worse, we don’t want to serve those whom we consider ‘others.’
It is, however, OK if ‘they’ become like ‘us.’ This is even the focus of our so-called evangelism. We welcome others to come in and be transformed. The lives they have led need to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit so that they can enjoy the good things that God has for them. This is christianese for, ‘Come in and become like us.’ The problem is that there are those who will not become like us. These are the ones who Richard Twiss referred to when he spoke about White Christians saying that God loved the Native Americans, but hated their dance and their drums and their ceremonies. It is all well and good to accept our idea of Christ, but your ideas and culture must be left outside. These ‘others’ that we purport to welcome are African, Asian, LGBTQ, women, homeless, Arab, and a host of other human beings. They will bring their worldview and culture. And, it will NOT be our worldview and culture. These people, in all of their diversity, are the colors on God’s palette. They are the spice that God uses to flavor. They are beloved of God. They are not a threat to God. Why should they be a threat to us?

Arrogance of Medical Doctors Ticks Me Off

I’m sure that many folks in this country have experienced this. You ask a doctor a question and they, condescendingly, ask what your medical background is. Like whatever they may say is so far above your puny comprehension that they cannot be bothered with such things. Or, you tell a doctor that the course of treatment they are taking is not working. They say, ‘Trust me’. They think that they cannot possibly be mistaken. After all, they have gone to medical school and done their residency and now are gods that can pronounce truth and justice to the uneducated minions.
I’ve had this happen to me twice. The first time my mother had just had a very serious surgery. One of the pieces of equipment that was designed to safeguard her failed. Because of that, the doctors gave her too much fluid and almost killed her. During her recovery I went to the attending physician and asked about her condition. He looked at me and asked me what my medical experience was. I looked at him and said that I didn’t have any. I was the concerned family member that he was going to talk to…NOW! That got his attention and he took pains to explain what was happening. As a result, we moved my mother to a facility that was far better equipped to help her.
This past week another doctor tried to impress with her vast medical knowledge and experience. My father has been in a skilled nursing facility for rehab from surgery. During his stay he became restless and, as the staff reported, combative. I can see that. He has dementia and doesn’t understand much of what is going on around him. The staff physician prescribed a medication that was supposed to settle him down. After a couple days, we noticed that he was becoming agitated and unresponsive. We asked to review his meds and found one that could cause the symptoms we observed. When I questioned the doctor, she assured me that the meds were safe. There was nothing about them that could cause what we were observing. The problem was, we KNEW his behavior. We have been attending to him for the last year and are very aware of all of his issues. What we were seeing was something drastically new and dangerous. We continued to question the doctor. She continued to tell us to ‘trust’ her judgement. Finally, after more than a week, the doctor started to take us seriously. We had told her and the nursing staff that Dad’s behavior was abnormal and most likely caused by the meds he was getting. (Now, it helps that I’m married to a Nurse who deals with these meds. She was instrumental in helping us get our message across to the attending staff. But, what about everyone else who does NOT have someone to help?)
Anyway, the doc discontinued the medication that we suspected was causing problems. Gee, after one day Dad’s condition has improved. Whodathunkit?
My point in this rant is that medical professionals, particularly M.D.s, cop an attitude of omniscience that only Yahweh can claim. Family and friends, those who are with the patients day after day, can help when it comes to abrupt and drastic changes in behavior and condition. For these doctors to simply blow off our concerns and observations is simply arrogance. Arrogance that could very well cause harm. Perhaps they should read the Oath again…I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

Hate what God Hates…Whatever that is


Last week I visited a local church. It’s one that I’ve visited a few times over the past few years. I find meaning in the liturgy there. It’s not like the evangelical free church that I was a part of for many years. This church understands the importance of symbol and celebration in a way that actually embodies, at least how I understand it, the work of God in worship. However, the senior pastor made a statement during a prayer that puzzled me. He prayed that we would love what God loves, and hate what God hates. Now, to most evangelicals, this sounds like a good prayer. It is asking God to show us how and where to direct our affection and our disdain. It seems to be asking for wisdom and discernment. Good things, right? But, there is more to this, I think. First, what does God love and hate? The prayer left this wide open to every speculation and opinion. Although, in his sermon he alluded to some moral concerns, primarily directed to young people, there was no direction for any of us to take in order to discern these things. So, I decided to take a quick trip through the Scripture to see if I could find anything that could help me to love the things God loves, and to hate what God hates.
First, I want to say that this is in no way a comprehensive study. Most Christians would not understand it if it was. This is a quick view that any interested person could do in a short amount of time. It is, in its brevity, accessible to anyone.
In the New Testament I found very few references to God hating anyone or anything. There is a reference to Mal. 1:2 in Romans 9. It reads that God has loved Jacob, but has hated Esau. In the Romans context, Paul was trying to explain God’s sovereignty in the form of election. God will have mercy on who God chooses. It’s not up to human actions. In the Malachi reference, it appears that God was explaining that through divine choice, God considered Esau as an enemy. Again, no reason other than God’s choice. PLEASE NOTE that this is an example of God’s own divine choice. It is not something that we could ever possibly act out on our own. We cannot hate Esau because we do not have a reason to. God alone gets to make that call. Besides, for the pastor’s prayer above to have any meaning for us today, we would need to know who the heck Esau is. We cannot hate Esau.
In Hebrews 1:9 we find that Jesus apparently hated lawlessness, but loved righteousness. Again, no definitions here. What did the writer mean by lawlessness? Kittel, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, wrote that in this particular instance, lawlessness could be synonymous with sinfulness. So, the writer was basically making the statement that Jesus hated sin. But, the sin, or lawlessness here appears to be that which Jesus hated in his own life! Not in anyone else’s. Because of this, God set him above his companions. Ok, so we can learn to hate sin IN OUR OWN LIVES. This text does not give us privilege to hate it in anyone else’s life.
There is a statement in Revelation that is a tad confusing. Apparently, God hated the deeds of someone referred to as Nicolaitans. No one really knows for sure who these folks were, nor what deeds are being referred to. Can’t hate what we don’t know about.
So far, there isn’t much that I can find that would help us to hate what God hates. Mostly because, it doesn’t appear that God hates too much.
The Hebrew testament has some interesting things to say about what God hates. Without giving specific references, I found that God hates dishonest gain. Hmm… If we were to bring that statement forward a couple thousand years, perhaps God would not be happy with Western economic systems that reward those who get ‘gain’ using any means, including dishonest ones. Of course, when these people or institutions are found out, there is a great public outcry for a day or two. Then, back to business as usual. Maybe we could find an object of hatred there. But, as Jesus told those who brought the adulteress to him, let whoever is without sin toss the first rock.
The Scripture is clear in many places that God hates idolatry…all idolatry. What can we learn from that? Most people would define idol worship as anything that a person places importance on at the exclusion of other things, especially God. That could be money, house, job, spouse/kids, lover, prestige, RV, or cable TV. Here again, though, it is idolatry that we have in our life that is important here. It’s not up to us to point out the idolatry that we may sense in others. We are pretty much incapable of having accurate discernment.
In Proverbs chapter 6 the writer gave a list of things that God hates. Now, with this kind of list, the main point is usually the last item in the list. In this one that item is one who spreads strife among brothers. In fact, all of the items are interpersonal things. Lying, shedding innocent blood, etc. God apparently doesn’t like it when people treat other people badly. Ok, I can understand that. So, how does that play out as we relate to the LGBT community? What’s that look like as we objectify and marginalize women? Immigrants? The poor? Just something to think about.
There are other texts that I could reference, but, I’ll finish with this one. Amos 5:21-24,
21 “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
22   “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the  peace offerings of your fatlings.
                   23  “Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
                   24  “But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Perhaps, now I’m just speculating here, God isn’t all that happy when people use that authority of the pulpit to speak for God. At least, when making general statements that are loaded with emotion. Maybe our church leaders would do well to make sure that the words that come out of their mouths are accurate and precise. From what I’ve found out, these are the ones who may experience God’s displeasure.

Our Common Human Frailty

This is not the post that I have been planning to write. That one is going to take another couple of days to prepare. But, I’m really having a difficult and emotional moment right now. You see, my dad is getting up in years. He’s 84. That’s ok, I guess. But the real issue is the dementia that has robbed him of his life. I just came from the rehab center that is his current home. He had surgery to remove his gall bladder a couple weeks ago and has not been able to return to his ‘normal life.’ I understand that dementia redefines ‘normal.’ But, I was totally unprepared for what I saw today. I will not go into details, but suffice to say that the light…no, the fire in dad’s eyes has been extinguished. I remember playing tennis with him way back in the day. He never had mercy on me, even though I was some 26 years his junior. He wanted me to learn! Today I looked into his eyes and saw…well…nothing. They are pale blue and lifeless. He even told the nurse present that his wife was gone and I am gone. He knows. The time for exiting this life is ever so near. I am preparing a eulogy. I think that God the Holy Spirit know that Bill’s life is nearing its culmination. I pray that I can do justice to the life of this man. Formed in his mother’s womb, grown up in the sight of Yahweh, and passing in the grace of God through Yeshua Ha Mashiach.