Dry/Wet 4th & hittin’ the road

Spent the 2nd straight day with serious pool time (lots of sunscreen but a bit pink in the face anyway).

It’s been so dry in Indiana (and many other places in the States) that all private fireworks and public ones too were banned. So our 4th was calm. It wasn’t until the next day however that I realized that I had ‘missed’ fireworks.

Now we’re on the road in this beautiful Honda Pilot, courtesy of our friends. Thanks, Tom & Wendy!

Here we are at the first state boundry line. Unfortunately the rest of the state boarder lines have not been accessible for photo ops. 🙁

Think “The Long And Winding Road” by the Beatles…minus the ‘winding’ part! 😀

Chillin’ in Indy

We arrived safe and sound with easy flights and fairly smooth connections.

We’re blessed to be staying all together at a large, lovely and luxurious home of friends of my parents and sister from their church.

Here are some pics from our cushy digs.

Fête & Fahren

Yesterday we attended the end-of-year ‘fete’ (carnival) at Olivia’s  school. We’ve done this for 8 years now. The big difference this year was that we (Angela and I) did not have any (planned) responsibilities.

Not having to do any duty with the sound was a big deal for me! I still got pressed into a little duty when changing the stage before a concert was not going well. Other than that I had the surreal experience of watching others stress-out exactly as I had done for too many years in a row!

Olivia, however had 2 duties with her class:

1-do a sock puppet show on the life of St. Patrick

2-Perform a rendition of LEAN ON ME with the four French members her class, to whom were added two German girls who are here for a few months studying French and four Austrian ladies who are here for a week visiting Olivia’s class (they had visited their school in Vienna in May). So they were all singing it in English and Olivia was the only anglophone among them!

I took a video of the performance with my phone. A bit shaky video and the sound is really weak but you can see that they had fun, and live, it was really good! 😀

Lean On Me – 10th grade class at Lycee Daniel

All that activity before leaving made sleep difficult to come by last night, not to mention a stuffy hot room after several hot days.  But we got away smoothly this morning with a Lufthansa flight from Basel to  Frankfurt where we wait now for our Stateside flight.

Here are Olivia and Noah this morning when we were waiting in Basel.

And now we wait in Frankfurt:

Next report-from the States!

Free refills here we come!

image

This is a picture of our local McDonald’s taken from my phone at 6 o’clock in the evening today-a  Saturday night!

We’re about to take a trip to the States and I don’t expect  McDonalds there to be  looking like this on a Saturday night.

I think it must be the free refills (none in France!) that draws the crowd 🙂

Anyway I did this post with my phone (voice recognition and swipe typing) and the WordPress Android  app. I hope to do lots of little posts like this regularly during our trip…a  travelog made possible by free McDonalds wifi and free Android phone apps!

Language is a many splendored thing

If you’ve at all noticed how often I blog, you can see that I’ve lost a lot of my "mojo" for blogging.  One reason is that I have too much to say!  I just can’t sit down and get all my thoughts out easily.  It takes enough energy that even though I’m excited by something enough that I want to express it, the expression itself matters enough to me that I tend to see it as a mountain that I just don’t have time to climb at the moment.

Anyway, this morning, I was listening to a teaching, as usual, while washing the dishes and I figured, that if I just started typing, I could get some of my excitement out before I thought about how big a task it is! (I’m trying to trick myself! Smile with tongue out )

I was listening to a series of teachings/discussions by a guy named Skip Moen on the book of Matthew.  Skip is a theologian/Bible scholar who, while still teaching various theological courses at a university level, is also endeavoring to reach a broader circle of Christians with the message of what a Hebrew/Old Testament contextualization of the New Testament does to help us better understand Jesus, God, His Kingdom, etc.  I learned about Skip Moen because Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA mentioned him in a sermon about 6 months ago or so. 

The plug from Bill interested me because he made reference to some word/concept in scripture and then what the Hebrew behind all that really means and it really brought it to life.  I’ve experienced that before when I’ve discovered the original language meaning and cultural context of something in the Bible – typically something I thought I already knew/understood.  I’ve also experienced that in a more modern context by simply living in another country where another language is spoken – even though there is no disconnect in the temporal context. 

Language and cultural context are enormous!  I don’t know how I can stress that enough – other than to say that I understand as well that it really has to be experienced to be fully understood (which is, itself a concept taken from a Hebraic world view!) These recordings of this study of Matthew are interesting because you can hear the discussion and the questions of the people in the discussion on the recording.  When he presents something that creates a cognitive dissonance in them that I don’t personally feel, I realize just how far God has brought me these last dozen years or so outside of the American and English context – and how valuable that journey has been.

So, all that to say go have a listen yourself and expand your dimensions of understanding and knowing God and His plan for us and His Creation.

https://skipmoen.com/category/matthew/

The Power of the Backstory

My 18-year-old son is an avid gamer and at this point in his life, aspires to make some aspect of game design into a career.  Whether he does or not, who knows, but I’ve no doubt about his excellent chances for success.  One reason is his ability to bring the paradigms of epic gaming into epic reality and vice versa.  One of those paradigms is that of the "backstory".  My own history with gaming revolves almost solely around one racing game and I only got a charge out of the competition and sense of speed and skill that one can draw from it.  First person shooters or RPGs, etc. have never held my interest and I suppose one of the reasons is that I’ve not "had the time" to really engage with the "backstory."

What’s a "backstory?"

Most of you probably already  know, but I remember that the first context I heard that term mentioned in was in gaming (though wikipedia gives it a broader definition).  It refers to the over-arching narrative that has been crafted around the action of the game that can give the player more understanding of what’s going on strategy-wise (the "practical" value of the backstory), but it’s also a tool that facilitates a more immersive experience in the game.  Depending on how alive the imagination is of the gamer, they can really enter into what they are doing and what they are experiencing in the game. It enhances the experience.

The backstory to the Gospel of Luke

Imagine my surprise, having only a gaming context in mind for this word, to hear it come out of the mouth of "learned British theologian" NT Wright. In the this talk that he gave in 2010 as part of the British "The Big Read" project (various churches in Britain all reading through the same portions of scripture during the season of Lent), Wright gives the "backstory" to the Gospel of Luke.  It is vintage NT Wright – especially since he’s all about "narrative."  It brings together many of his best themes and lays a rich foundation for approaching the reading of the Gospels (and indeed the Bible) but with a focus especially on the Gospel of Luke.  When he used the term backstory it really made me think of what a backstory does in gaming and how that applies to how we engage with God and His Kingdom and this incredible vehicle of communication that He’s given us called the Bible.  My impression is that we are all too often stuck in the posture that I had with games.  I didn’t bother with the backstory or anything else that is really necessary to engage with a game and plumb its depths as an immersive experience…and so it wasn’t. 

Knowing and appreciating the backstory is a complete game-changer!

Living in a dream world

Hmmm…a bad place to be?

I think our definition of a "dream world" and "living there" needs some serious remedial aid…and I think I just got some!

My eldest, Rachel, just gave a talk recently that has inspired and challenged me to live in a dream world.

Read it and be drawn in!

This is what I shared with some awesome friends at Encounter Indy, Nov 14, 2011.

Contemplation
Tonight, I just want to talk about beauty. If you know me, I always want to talk about beauty. When I talk about beauty, I’m really talking about God.

We hear a lot of what feels to me like disqualifiers about God — when we say He is indescribable, incomparable… that isn’t very satisfying to me. It almost sounds like an excuse not to contemplate God. The other thing that can happen is using biblical words without the vivid experience of what we’re talking about. "Beauty" is a word like that. In my opinion, one of the reasons for that is that beauty has to be qualified. If you were reading a novel with a female character, and she is described as beautiful and nothing else, that is pretty unsatisfying. Because as we know, there are as many different kinds of beautiful as there are people. And God is all of them. His beauty is worth examining in detail. I don’t think He wants to maintain an unknowable glory. He made a world full of His character, His attributes, His great ideas.

Define "world"
"World" is another deceptively small word and we gloss over it. What was birthed out of God includes the idea to create each incredible person you know (think about them individually to get the full effect.) It includes every thought and idea needed to build a cathedral, or an airplane, or an iPhone. Out of God came the desire to tell stories as vividly as possible, and now we are making these immersive films. Fashion came out of God. Cooking came out of God. Vibrating waves came out of God. Some of them vibrate at the speed of light, and we can see them as light. Others vibrate more slowly, and we hear those ones. And when we put sound waves together in certain ways, they mysteriously provoke the most amazing heart responses. God is beautiful!

Co-creators
The Creation is a freaking God-sized playground that He adores, and made us perfectly to love and enjoy ourselves in it also. Don’t you love that God made sound waves, but He didn’t write the music and play it to us? He let us have that fun. He hid diamonds and sapphires in dark, dirty rocks and watched us go sweat to get them out and adorn people with them. This applies to everything, whatever you’re into. Our Dad’s Creation is still unfolding through us. We’re sons of God, inheriting His studio, His practice, His greenhouse, His workshop. It’s epic. If you wrap the entire record of human history, creativity, invention, travel, and experience, the joy and fascination contained therein is too much for us to experience in an 80-year lifespan. We who are reconciled to God don’t have to worry that enjoying life too much is somehow idolatrous. It’s our nature to see our Dad in everything, and our calling to partner with Him to run the family business, which is the universe… both the physical and spiritual realm. God is ready to be experienced in every thing that He made. Embracing God, for us, also means fully embracing His creation. We aren’t going to be separated from it; even when Jesus comes back, we are ruling and reigning with Him over the same systems that He set in place when He made the world.

No more separation
We can feel God’s presence so much more when there’s no more artificial line between what is spiritual and what’s not. That division is pretty huge in a world that’s afraid of God, and sometimes I still feel it brushing against my toe. Like when I say that I’m "high on life," I will wonder for a second if I need to be finding my satisfaction in God more. Not necessarily. I’m high on the good life that He gave to me for that purpose — to be good. That was the criteria for His whole Creation, right?

When I feel like life is distracting me from God, that is usually just because I haven’t been acknowledging Him in it. I’m overlooking the best part of whatever is capturing my gaze a little too exclusively — that this gift is yet another token tying me to the present-tense love of my Dad.

Seven Longings
IHOP KC has a great teaching on seven longings of the human heart. They are:

To be enjoyed • To be fascinated • To possess beauty • To be great • To be intimately known without shame • To be wholehearted and passionate • To make a deep and lasting impact

God gave you these. The blueprint for your life, your design sounds pretty much like the most awesome people you can think of in history. There’s safety and anchoring in dreaming big. It keeps us in touch with our identity and gives our hearts the momentum of hope. God gives desires so that He can meet them forever. You are absolutely free and strongly encouraged to desire things that cannot take place in the next 70 years, because you are immortal. Even if your body dies, you do not, and you’re getting a reboot — virus-free — of your body right away. You’ve conquered death along with Jesus, your new body can’t be touched by it.

Permanent fixture
This blew me away when I first realized it. I’m a permanent fixture in Creation. You’re a permanent fixture. When God designed you, He decided that your spirit, what you carry and reflect and express, needs to be ETERNAL. This is total legitimacy: the fact that you exist. If you didn’t come out of God and make Him amazingly happy, you wouldn’t exist.

Designed
God’s a designer. A designer is anyone who is driven to make things as appealing, beneficial, and high-performing as possible. You, along with every part of creation, are appealing, beneficial, and high-performing.

What does this mean? For one, it means your body is a product of the top designer. Who is so awesome that He even made your body come together perfectly in a process of lineage and genetics (which has its own massive value and beauty). This is like designing a Rube-Goldberg machine that paints the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and the Girl with a Pearl Earring in succession. So your body is the very best container for you that there could be. And we won’t always understand that until we see our bodies free from every last effect of sin, but you’re free and strongly encouraged to start thinking that way now.

More of what it means to be well-designed and back in union with God: what you do naturally is right on the money.

Philippians 2:13
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to act for His good pleasure.

This has been hugely changing me. Most of my life, I’ve been someone who’s really concerned about not making mistakes. I was afraid to do anything if I didn’t think I could do it well.

Once I learned about hearing the voice of God, I got a clue that the Holy Spirit was there to help me always make the right choice and say the right things. But I still had such an external perspective on Him. And I was frustrated a lot of time because it was really hard to get myself into that place where I was hearing the Holy Spirit clearly and was willing to be obedient. I would hear people talk about how often and how easily they heard and followed the promptings of the Lord, and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t seem that easy to me. I was really used to listening to the enemy second-guessing things I wanted to do. There was always an excuse, a reason I heard not to talk to that person, or say this or that thing… even if my intent was loving, I decided that it could possibly be taken the wrong way, and so I wouldn’t take the chance.

I tried to pray and work my out of this fear of initiating with people for years. It was not fun.

But as I’ve been starting to sit back and soak what the verse says, that God is inside me, active, not even fighting back a sin nature for me. The sin nature is dead and gone, and God has all the room. I can therefore have a lot more confidence in being who I am, following "my" instincts. Trusting that ideas I have are from God. Let me give some recent really simple examples.

I’ve noticed that I tend to remember random people’s names — first and last names of people in my classes at school that I don’t even really talk to. But if I said "hey" to them in the hallways, I would never use their name because I was afraid that I maybe didn’t have it right and would embarrass myself.

I know how awesome it feels when a casual acquaintance remembers your name. Now I’ve acknowledged that God gave me a good memory, and I can use that gift confidently to make people feel special by using their names. I try not to second-guess myself anymore with that.

I can rest in God’s total power and authority in me when it comes to time management. I know that I’m a responsible person who is not prone to laziness. That’s how God made me. I no longer worry about how I’m spending my time. Sometimes I’ll have the urge to go play piano for an hour. Or take a nap. Or go exploring in the woods. Or spend an hour deciding what to wear, because its fun. If we were robots, nothing like this would be allowed to come before the activities that have deadlines or put money in the bank. But we’re not robots, or slaves… we are children of God. Time serves us, and while it’s a resource we learn to manage, it’s also infinite and in God’s control. He has no problem adjusting time in our favor. We are also complex, multifaceted creatures. There are infinite areas in which we can grow and be blessed. The value systems of the world are too limited. They don’t always reflect who we are. Realize that God gives peace. God encourages real rest, real fun… if you look at the schedule of work, rest, and fun that he set in place for people in the law, it sounds awesome. The drive to get ahead no longer owns you when you realize you possess everything. Orphans have to earn everything they get. We are sons with favor who inherit. We step into the good works already prepared for us to do!

When it comes to "ministry," which for me has been a lot of playing on worship teams, I’ve noticed that God works through what He’s anointed me to do, whether I feel it or not, whether I do it "right" or not. The proof of this that I usually get more comments afterwards from people about how anointed the music was on the days when I feel like it sucks. My responsibility is to let out what’s inside, not to critique and control it – because God, the AWESOME God is working through me – being myself is honoring and giving glory to Him.

When I give prophetic words, I used to get nervous about giving a word unless someone gave something similar, and I could piggy-back off of it. It was faith-building to have that confirmation, but then I realized that I didn’t need to fear a word that sounds vastly different from what other people are delivering. Why? Because God gives us so much dignity. He has words for a person, and He gives each person who is ministering to that person a unique message to deliver. Speaking to each of us uniquely is one of the ways that God honors us. Even in preparing for tonight, I had to trust that what I wanted to talk about is the same thing that He wants me to talk about, and that it’s valid, even if I’ve never heard anyone else give a similar message.

Finally, I can find peace in whatever season of growth that I’m in with the Lord. There was a time several years ago when I used to get up early and walk out the vineyards to watch the sun rise. One thing about the early morning sky is that it changes continually, but you don’t notice that unless you look away for a moment. I’ll never forget the parallel Jesus showed me about spiritual growth: like a sunrise, every second is different, but every second is beautiful. Every season brings greater light. We go from glory to glory. Our journey into greater revelation and intimacy with Him is a gorgeous display from start to finish. Oh wait, except that there is no finish. This is the sunrise that just gets more and more mind-blowing every hour!

Dreams
Let me share with you some of my dreams. This is kind of vulnerable, because you might think I’m really out of touch with reality. But I really believe with all my heart that our reality has NO limits, thanks to Jesus. So this is my prophetic testimony of how good God is, how big He is, and how fully invited into this reality I am.

Let me give you some background first. Some of you maybe don’t know that my parents are missionaries in France. Our family started out living a really "normal" suburban, upper middle-class life in Denver, but then we moved to Europe when I was ten. I’ve lived in Scotland, France, and Germany, and visited Italy, Switzerland, England, Austria, and a few others. There are a lot of things that Europe really fostered in me. One is an love of history and old architecture. Jesus, who designed me, adores me, and knows more about who I am than I do, knew that I would start to feel really deeply about castles, cathedrals, and palaces by frequently visiting them. They’re all over the place in Europe. When I step into architecture that has real grandeur, I feel at home. These buildings concretely put me in touch with my dreams. They were built by people who were not afraid to be expansive. To me, they are tangible expressions of royalty (an intangible).

So my dreams include living in Europe and spending substantial amounts of time in the most beautiful buildings in the world. I would love to share these buildings with other artists of every kind and we’ll all disciple people in music, and design, and languages, and what it means to be married to God. I want to be part of a movement producing art and music that is irresistibly attractive because it’s full of the beauty of God. I want to see secular clubs blasting the most epic dance music the Holy Spirit will give me. I want to play my violin in cathedrals on a regular basis. I want to be in the cathedrals when the Presence of God manifests in them. When they decide to take out the pews and turn the whole thing into a dance floor. I want to see the people that make the news, make the news with the way they give their lives back to Jesus, one after another. I want to see how the European family of nations, each country with it’s own story and personality, grows together in love and gratefulness and awe of God, and their identities sparkle without tarnish of past sin.

Dreaming = Breathing
It’s like going to an oxygen bar when we let our souls expand like this and begin to be in awe of redemptive history, what’s happening now, and the unending adventure that has been stored up for us. We don’t even really have language for the epicness of what we’re living in. If you have lots of impossible dreams, you’re in really good shape, because God gives these dreams to us in order to one-up them. Toss your mind up as high as you can and you won’t be able to get it over God’s head. This is the best. Having someone so much greater than us. We can trust in His bigness. We need bigness. We don’t have to be afraid that life won’t be as cool as we hope it will be. It will most certainly be cooler. You can bet it all on our Beautiful Dad.

Harbinger Remix

In September, Sid Roth had Jonathan Cahn as his guest for a 2-part appearance on his “It’s Supernatural!” show.  If you know Sid Roth, you know that he has a certain, shall we say, “style”…and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he does have a good knack for getting some good guests on his show.  The bottom line being that regardless of how interesting or engaging the guest is, the “signal to noise ratio” is pretty low It’s Supernatural! (which also has a lot of peddling of offers to clutter up the time) So, I took it upon myself to edit these two shows and strip out as much of the “noise” as I could so that Cahn’s message, which is quite intriguing, might have a better chance of being heard.  There’s still some Sid in there, God bless him, but only as much as is necessary.

The original parts 1 and 2 can be found here for those who are interested:

https://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=10457

https://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=10494

Harbinger?

I called this “Harbinger Remix” because Cahn titles his message, drawn from Isaiah 9:10, “The Harbinger” and if you search for Jonathan Cahn or The Harbinger, you’ll find plenty of references, sites, videos, etc.  I think this particular 30-minute mix does pretty good justice to the message that he’s trying to get across, which is that America’s crises from 9/11 to the current economic woes parallel a series of increasingly severe judgments that a defiant ancient Israel faced.  The Harbingers are 9 warnings or omens that Israel faced that, according to Cahn, America is also facing.

I certainly find the parallels compelling and, I too, believe that there are things that the Lord is not pleased with regarding America.  In this particular instance, I would say that I’m in general agreement with Cahn, but do I have two concerns. 

First, this sort of prophetic perspective usually adds weight to the “gloom, doom and judgment” perspective of prophecy that flies in the face of the emphasis on the goodness of God, which I believe is probably more crucial in this hour (all hours?) than dire warnings.  Judgment has its proper place in the character of God and redemptive history, past, present and future.  However, focusing on it and/or not understanding God’s heart/motivation behind it (as Mike Bickle likes to say, “God judges to remove everything that hinders love.”) can, I think, end up twisting our image of who God is, for us, for others, for His Creation.  Unfortunately, while I’m sure Sid means well, his “style” does more, in my opinion, to stir up this unbalanced perspective of God and of prophecy.

Second, while I think what Cahn has received is from God and his conclusions about the need to repent, in general are correct, I still see the same glaringly myopic perspective of what to repent of that comes out of the mouths of most American Christians: abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc.  Granted these things need repentance, and, in my opinion they have received a notable quantity in the last 30 years or so.  Consequently, I find it curious that the two specific judgments that are mentioned in Cahn’s message, 9/11 and the financial crisis, don’t directly point the finger at this traditional triple whammy of sexual sins.  Rather, in my view, they point the finger at the two things that most (right-leaning Christian) Americans don’t notice as sin and yet they are the two things that the entire rest of the world sees as America’s most glaring offenses:

  • Unrelenting empire building/maintaining
  • Capitalism in its most predatory guises

The two are quite linked, of course, and the spirit of empire and the spirit of mammon and the predator/victim spirit all swirl together in evil glee to work with one another to steal, kill and destroy as much as possible.  Part of the reason that Americans don’t “get this” is that America is a land where individualism and independence is highly valued but these two sins are at their most destructive (and yet most elusive) in their institutional and corporate forms.  The sins become systemic and one can’t easily point the finger at an individual and say, “Repent!”  Americans don’t yet know how to see American governmental and corporate impact on the world stage and rightly point the finger at themselves and say, “Repent!”  Nowhere is this more evident than in the hyper-polarized political scene in America where pointing the finger elsewhere sinks to new amazing lows with every passing day.  I would wager that the one place where Americans are comfortable grouping people together and focusing on a “corporate entity” is when we label someone “Republican” or “Democrat”.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the Lord looks at both individuals and corporate entities and they both have roles and responsibilities in God’s Kingdom.

So, to me, 9/11 is a wake up call about our imperialistic/neo-colonial swagger in the world and the economic meltdown is about our predatory capitalistic appetite in the world…and in those two areas is perhaps where we need to focus most of our repentance energies at the moment.

So, with that rambling preamble, on with the show!

Read the Psalms in a month

I wanted to read through the Psalms in a month but read about the same amount of text each day.  I know I’m not the first to do this division of reading, but I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  I chose to make Psalm 119 for day 31 as I didn’t want to miss out on the last few Psalms for 5 months of the year.  For a list that goes literally in order, you can see this one: https://www.bibleplan.org/ps/nasb/

Here’s mine:

Day 1  Psalm 1-7
Day 2  Psalm 8-14
Day 3  Psalm 15-18
Day 4  Psalm 19-23
Day 5  Psalm 24-29
Day 6  Psalm 30-33
Day 7  Psalm 34-36
Day 8  Psalm 37-38
Day 9  Psalm 39-42
Day 10 Psalm 43-46
Day 11 Psalm 47-50
Day 12 Psalm 51-55
Day 13 Psalm 56-60
Day 14 Psalm 61-66
Day 15 Psalm 67-69
Day 16 Psalm 70-73
Day 17 Psalm 74-77
Day 18 Psalm 78
Day 19 Psalm 79-83
Day 20 Psalm 84-88
Day 21 Psalm 89-91
Day 22 Psalm 92-98
Day 23 Psalm 99-103
Day 24 Psalm 104-105
Day 25 Psalm 106-108
Day 26 Psalm 109-115
Day 27 Psalm 116-118, Psalm 120-125
Day 28 Psalm 126-135
Day 29 Psalm 136-142
Day 30 Psalm 143-150
Day 31 Psalm 119

There and back again – a hospitalization tale

I had gall bladder surgery this month.  It’s been a trying ordeal to say the least!

It was scheduled surgery to remove my gall bladder on Tuesday, August 6, 2011 because of obvious gall stones found in an ultrasound which matched my pain symptoms (a growing burning pain in my side and various other apparently related pains across the bottom of my rib cage.)  Angela had hers out some 15-20 years ago and it’s been no big deal over the years for her.  The doctor said that I’d arrive early on the morning of the surgery and leave the hospital the next day if all went well.

All did not go well, as you might have guessed.Annoyed

I was not afraid of the surgery, but I certainly can’t say that I was relaxed and the surgery prep, while not really "trying" is certainly not relaxing either – more like annoying!  My experience with the French health care system to date had included plenty of visits to our general practitioner, plus two endoscopies (I really hate those) to look into my stomach to see if there were ulcers, etc., plus some heart tests a few years ago when trying to diagnose various pains that in the end seem to be completely digestive in nature. This, however would be my first hospital stay and first surgery.  I wondered if, when waking up from the anesthesia whether I’d be able to understand and/or speak French.  That, thankfully, ended up being a non-issue.  I’ve not had general anesthesia often (3 times?) but I don’t like waking up from it.  No exception here, but not as big a deal as I had remembered.  I was certainly glad however, when they took me out of the recovery room (with bright lights, noise and plenty of other patients all waking up) back to my room.

The stones that were in my gall bladder!!!The doctor came by that evening and let me know that I’d not be leaving Wednesday but Thursday.  Apparently the gall bladder was quite infected (it seems there is the same kind of danger as an infected appendix…so I’m glad it’s gone) and had somehow become covered by the liver so that its extraction was not as straight-forward as would have been hoped.  So that was my first bummer of the experience…but not my last! Sick smile

Getting home on Thursday evening was so nice.  I was so glad to be home and Angela was such a good nurse.  Friday I was already feeling better.  Saturday I felt kind of blah…less perky.

Saturday night, in the middle of the night (of course), I started getting a pain under my sternum…sort of a burning, dull pain that just kept growing.  At one point, the pain made me nauseous but I only had dry heaves…nothing to get rid of.  Finally it was a question of getting help, but boy did I NOT want to go back to the hospital.  There wasn’t much choice though.  The hospital of the surgery was in Colmar, a half an hour drive that Angela did NOT feel confident making.  There is a local hospital in Guebwiller but even then, in the middle of the night, Angela preferred that we call an ambulance.  So we did.  Then in the ambulance, they asked me which hospital I wanted to go to.  I said Colmar simply because I knew there was a chance that this was related to the surgery and I’d end up back there anyway.  They were going to honor that when their superiors said that I should go to Guebwiller to get an electrocardiogram as soon as possible to rule out heart issues, so to Guebwiller I went.

Thus began 12 hours of nearly pure agony and 5 difficult days (total) in 2 hospitals with 2 ambulance rides (the billing for which still remains a significant questionEye rolling smile). The pain came and went twice and then it pretty much stayed…sort of migrating around my chest and abdomen and left shoulder.  No pain killers were making a significant dent.  Finally, somewhere Sunday afternoon, they either found a good pain killer or it subsided pretty much for good.  By this time I’d been in 2 different emergency rooms, had lots of blood drawn, had full chest x-rays, was given an MRI (or some kind of really fancy scan) and of course couldn’t eat or drink diddly squat! (one of the BIG issues with digestive medicine!) The time in the emergency rooms was particularly annoying as my pain was acute, but sufficiently vague that no one could give me good answers to my questions (and I imagine they felt the same about me!) and due to the recent operation and the narrow emergency room "beds", I certainly wasn’t comfortable in any sense of the word.

Once the pain was gone, I was moved to the standard post-operative ward where I was basically under observation.  This meant that I got the standard nurse and nurses’ aide visits, plus blood tests, plus a second MRI, but not much in the way of contact with doctors who could tell me what was going on.  What’s more, the doctor who operated on me, who would normally have been "in charge" of me upon my reentry into the hospital, had gone on vacation just after I was released from the hospital the first time.  So I felt somewhat abandoned in the whole process.  With being passed from doctor to doctor, there were certainly lapses in communication.  I could tell 10 different personnel that I was not in pain, which answered their question for their purposes, but somehow that didn’t get back to the doctor such that when I asked if I could have anything to drink, she said that as long as I was in pain I couldn’t!  Confused smile

Because the pain had been so significant, I wanted to know what it was…what had caused it.  When I tried to have a conversation about it with a doctor, she literally interrupted me twice with "Stop!" and wouldn’t let me finish my question as I tried to find out what caused my pain.  Apparently there are too many things that could have been the source of my pain.  I finally, after thinking about it and trying to forgive the doctor over and over in my heart, I came to the conclusion that once the pain is determined to not be life threatening (they rule out certain things with tests) and once it’s been dealt with, the pain is no longer so important to the doctor; merely a trigger that got me back into the medical care system and indicated that something was not quite right.  At this point, they operate more based on their tests to determine the cause of the problem than to search back and find a reason why there was acute pain.   I think part of this, of course, is that all the personnel seem to be very busy and juggling many different patients at once.

Certainly one of the great frustrations that I had was the fact that often I was told that something would happen at a certain time or someone would come at a certain time and invariably it was much later, if at all, that it happened.  I think in the end, as the stay in the hospital really began to wear on me, this became the most frustrating thing.

Were there any bright spots in all of this?

Yes!

  • The brightest spot by far was Angela.  Rolling on the floor laughing Her visits and phone calls were pure life to me when I felt alone, scared, frustrated, bored.  She even found her way all by herself to the hospital finally.  It was big trial for her as well, seeing her husband suffer (she saw some of the worst of it), be the communication channel for those asking about me, run the home, etc.  Incredibly precious for me and incredibly draining on her.  Even as I’m still getting over those two weeks, she is too.
  • I also had a visit by my pastor and his wife who are very dear to us.  Their brief visit and prayers meant a lot to me.
  • The prayers of so many people.  I knew I was supported.  Very powerful.
  • I re-read the Hobbit (hence the significance of this blog post’s title) and almost finished re-reading the Fellowship of the Ring. This was my sole weapon against boredom when I had begun to feel better but still had to stay in the hospital.

Conclusions:

  • He who finds a wife finds a good thing!Red heart
  • Hospitals are made for abnormal interventions in the health of your body and not for long stays
  • If hospital food is bad in general, the digestive surgery ward must be the lowest point!Sick smile
  • I’m not wired to care for people in this way – the untiring dedication of the staff that I saw who deal continually with people in the range of health from sick-to-just-getting-better is amazing!
  • The French health care system is good – understaffed and overworked but full of dedicated and talented and, for the most part, friendly people (mostly the nurses) – even under stress
  • The relationship between a doctor and his patient, especially in the hospital, is really complex!  I was, in general, pretty frustrated with the doctors in the hospitals and the sort of "condescending" manner in which I was engaged.  I can see with the steady stream (flood!) of patients that they see and treat how it would be very easy to focus on the problem-solving or the science or the technology of what they’re doing, but one can’t escape (especially the patient can’t) that they are dealing with a person, not simply a piece of biological life. I certainly didn’t feel that they were majoring on me, as a person, but on my liver and how I was functioning as an organism.  Not that they were forgetting about me as a person, but it did not seem to be the priority.  To their credit, they have an incredibly difficult job, and I wouldn’t want it!
  • I don’t think I got enough post-operative counsel as to what I could expect and I’d certainly tell people who have abdominal surgery about the possibility of diverse, intense reactions.
  • Emotionally, I’m not that strong and I don’t suffer well – both of which I’m not very proud of. That realization, along with the intensity of the physical pain I had have both left a mark on me that I’m currently working on with the Lord.  I’m reading a lot of Psalms right now simply to cleanse my heart from fear and deep disappointment.