14 January 2011

another ordinary day

So let me lay down in this field
And stare up at the sky
I hope the days and clouds
Turn into something
As they pass us by
And maybe you could settle
For a skyline faded blue
I hope that you might settle
For this love I have for you

—taken from "These Ordinary Days" by Jars of Clay.

It's been just another ordinary day today. I am hoping God makes something of them as they keep adding up. Kylee has been dead now for almost 10 months. It feels like 10 years and 10 minutes sometimes in the same day. Helen and I are having a baby and he or she is due in August. I'm stunned at the notion of becoming a father in just over half a year. I keep thinking of how awesome it would be to tell my sister that she's going to be an aunt. She never was able to be an aunt—not officially. A friend recently told me that I can tell my sister—that somehow she can hear me in the heaven/earth crossover. I suppose it's possible. I have told her, actually, though telling the quiet night air that you're having a baby can be rather sad.

I guess I lied when I said it was an ordinary day today. I was on a national radio show today, for almost 10 minutes. As I was driving this afternoon delivering flowers, I was listening to some random catholic radio station here in south Florida. The show host was talking about infant baptism and a number of other things on the show and I decided to call in and ask him his opinion about the subject. To he completely honest, I didn't care to know what his opinion was—I just wanted to be on the radio show. Didn't think I'd get on, but as luck has it, I did. It was a nice brush with fame for me. I told that to Kylee too.


28 December 2008

While I'm in Kenya...

I'll be blogging on


just FYI

31 October 2008

Where do I start?

What is there to say when you've not spoken to someone in FOR-EV-ER? When you see someone you've not seen in years, the let-me-catch-you-up-on-my-life update is exceedingly drastic. Instead of "Oh, I cut my hair shorter last week and we rented Baby Mama, it ends up being more like, "We got married and had a few kids since we've seen you last. And, oh yeah, we moved to Oklahoma."

And so I'm trying to tell you that I now live in Tulsa. At least figuratively.

Instead of detailing a long, interesting string of events, I'll just tell you that I'm now engaged to the lovely woman in the above picture.

If you're brow is furrowed with inquiry, then good. It should be. And the story is amazing, as God is in the habit of writing some big doozies. Parting the Red Sea, turning rivers to blood, bringing the dead to life - surely finding me a wife was the next logical miracle in this string of amazing events God has authored.

More to come on this bizarre story, but for now I leave you with a quote from Martin Luther (1483 – 1546):

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

13 June 2008

On being a drunk at heart.

Since the garden there has been
Gaps and holes and cracks
Filled with wanton acts or conquests
There’s been tears
Murder and excuses
Rape and blood and fatherless children
Unprotected little girls left crying alone
With emptiness growing each day
Silent Adams and lonely Eves
Finding no place to meet in the middle

We’re desperate for something
Searching for chemicals
For love, lust, or flesh
We long for touch
Long wanting for words
That soothe or heal or comfort
Anything, really, that speaks to our hurt
Or makes us forget it completely

Reach in my body, Oh God
In my veins and bone and soul
That reek of booze
And are raw from sin
In this body that’s broken from evil
Forgive me my trespasses
Forget my unfaithfulness

Sow love, healing, and purity
Where there was indiscretion
Give us hope where suicide lived
And let us be called Your Redeemed Ones
Let us find the road to you
And learn how to endure
The pain that comes from the fall

10 May 2008


I would like to revisit this subject of eating. Once brought up, self-deprecating thoughts and dysmorphic opinions of what I really look like and how I eat usually produce an overwhelming response from people about how "normal" I actually am. If I may, I'd like to traipse down that path again, flush out some misunderstandings, and redefine what it means to eat like a cow.

One of my many flaws is to over-explain myself and, in keeping faithful to that, I'd like to set a ground rule here. Understand what I'm saying: we're good friends in this discussion and I don't expect you to discourage my perception of myself or other people. I think it's good to be objective and even comedic when looking at your own eccentricities.

Having said that…

Everyone has a certain way they relate to food. Some people view food as fuel to nourish their muscles, flesh, and organs and in doing so take only from food what is necessary for survival. To them, food is a dutiful slave; a puppet that will perform the way they will it too. It's a useless and inanimate object when their body does not need fuel. I often find these people show-offish in the way they parade their self-control by tucking in their shirts and how seldom they attempt suicide.

I have come to realize that I don't have a clue what part food should play in my life. I'm bewildered at how to define this essential and pleasurable component to living. Should my relationship with food be strictly platonic? Do I only resort to food when I need nourishing fuel and all other avenues of sustenance – sunshine, prayer, and laughter – have exhausted themselves? What do I focus on in order to make healthy food choices?

I sometimes think food is like poetry. When carefully chosen, ingredients can become intoxicating components - individually distinctive and collectively one. Some foods communicate eloquently: you do not need me to live and you do not want life without me. I cherish it.

I recently watched a food show on the travel channel about a man who traveled the world to find exotic and extravagant foods. He had a genus palate that could appreciate subtle differences in south-east Asian cuisine. He even said something like "I love how the flavors just dance around my tongue."

That man loves food. He loves, savors, and enjoys it.

More often my relationship with food resembles co-dependency, or rather, total dependency. This week is nurses week and it claims to celebrate the accomplishments and importance of nurses. It's hidden and more subversive purpose is to keep us fattened like prize calves. Neighboring health facilities sent us tubs of bagels and cream cheese. The medical director of the ER offered a cannoli cake, a gargantuan spread of sub sandwiches, and a buffalo chicken wing tray that was approximately the size of a kiddie pool. Another gift was a silver platter tray (no kidding) of little chocolate and German chocolate cakes. When I first went back into the nurses lounge on Thursday to put away my Subway sandwich, I was awestruck at the extravagance. I just stood in the doorway of the room for a moment in total shock. I feared, too, that my poor Subway sandwich would never live to be eaten as it had so hoped only an hour before during its creation. I was correct.

Being the reasonable man that I am, I believe that olives are evil and so had no difficulty bypassing the platter with sandwiches devilishly speared with olives. I had one chicken wing right away just to show my appreciation for the doctor's generosity and then headed off to work.

As the night progressed, though, the smorgasbord of decadence called to me from down the hall – a sort of brothel for overeaters – and I couldn't resist the temptation. I would visit the lounge when nobody was looking and have a taste here and there of the different foods. By the end of my night, just before I was to go home, I went back into the lounge to "get my things" – which is to say that I was going to eat what was rightfully mine.

I was reminded of a scene in Kate's Secret (a melodrama from the mid 80's starring Meredith Baxter, an upper-middle class woman who struggles with an bulimia). After all the guests of an afternoon party left her house, Meredith was alone in the kitchen with the leftover hors d'oeuvres from the party. She couldn't resist the temptation and began stuffing her gut with the luscious treats. She became frantic about grabbing fistfuls of food. She pawed the food like a bear, shoveling it in, and pushing the surplus of food back in her mouth with her soiled fingers. She was a complete animal about her consumption.

And I completely get that.

Sure, eating like that could be considered - by some - to be a bit unhealthy. But those are the sort of people to be on faddish soapboxes pooh-poohing public indoor smoking or crystal meth usage. I myself like to remain open to different ways of looking at things and if someone wants to stuff their gastric pouch with as many buffalo wings as humanly possible, I think they have that prerogative.

I showed little restraint when consuming the wings just before I left for home and, although I demonstrated more civility than Meredith in my rate of consumption, I was merciless on the chicken platter. I'd pick up a chicken wing, lift it to my mouth, and gnaw at it until the bone was bare and then I'd toss it in the garbage. I repeated this rhythmic cycle for a few minutes while catching up on all the department notes and clinical reports pinned to the walls of the lounge. I consumed battered and deep-fried chicken wings while educating myself about anti-platelet drugs and heart attacks.

On my way home, the food finally hit my stomach and I began regretting the last fifty or so wings. I knew that I would pay dearly for my binge and that God would teach me why gluttony was a sin. By using simple physiological responses to overeating and processed food, my body began protesting at its misuse and would soon be in full-blown revolt. At first, I was listless and uncomfortable. I tried to sleep and felt like (what I imagined) a pregnant woman goes through every night in bed. I flipped back and forth searching for the most comfortable, or least uncomfortable, rather, position to rest my incubating enemy.

I finally fell asleep only to wake a few hours later experiencing severe cramps, gestative contractions, and pain. Delivery was imminent and so I walked, hand on belly, to the birthing room. What happened next was not the miracle of birth like so many claim. It was sheer misery.

"I promise, God, if you teach me how to use food, I'll never do this again" I lied on the toilet. I really meant it, I just knew that I couldn't keep a promise like that and so did God. At that moment, though, I needed to show God that I understood the fullness of my depravity and repentance from it. I honestly asked God to show me what kind of relationship I need to have with food and how to be faithful to it. I knew that I was giving birth to intentional sin and I knew that it felt horrible.

I'm a little gun shy now. I had dinner with friends about 12 hours ago and haven't eaten much since. I'm wondering how restart a broken relationship without getting into bad habits right away. A couple of hours ago I ate a Kashi snack and had some coffee. That didn't fill me up, but I figured it'd be a step in the right direction because it's all natural and organic. Well, the Coffeemate creamer wasn't organic, but everything else was.

I'm feeling like my body needs fuel – like it' needs nourishment and I'm at a loss for what to give it. My head's a hodgepodge of mixed thoughts: my cheeks are pudgy - I really should go exercise – I want some chicken nuggets – a beer would be really nice – maybe I'll have some grapes – is McDonald's open – I'd go on a fast if it wasn't for that lasagna dinner on Sunday.

My pangs are growing now and I know I need to eat something. I'm just so confused as to how to make the right choice. I think I'm going to look in my pantry and focus on having more energy and tucking in my shirt.

This sucks.

23 March 2008

I'm ready now.

There are times when everything seems right with the world. Ice cream tastes good and you wouldn't trade the warm sun on your face for all the riches in the world. I really cherish when moments like this come my way because I had a long period of darkness in my life and I really welcome the light. I welcome the love from an unexpected place or feeling unified with creation.

The problem seems to come, at least for me, when these feelings are nowhere to be found. What do you do or how do you think when everything you know, love, or value is suddenly gone? What is there left to bring hope?

Yesterday, I had two patients who tried to commit suicide. One patient came early on in the day and was not interested in connecting with me in any way. Well, I take that back – she did bite me and kick me a bit, but it wasn't the sort of connection I was hoping for. The second came close to the end of my shift when compassion is much more of an effort than a gift. I was bandaging up his arm after it was repaired and talking with him. I asked him a couple of carefully chosen questions and he answered. He had nothing to live for without chemicals, money, or his girlfriend. That was the sum of his existence and it had been taken away yesterday.

I got home to find a friend in my driveway. My heart was broken for his broken heart and there was nothing I could do but listen. It kills me when I can't offer more than a listening ear, but someone told me recently that the act of listening can be worship and so I worshiped with him last night. I heard of the pain that surges when someone you love so deeply and selflessly is ripped from your life. I worshiped as he told me about how much it hurt to know that there was nothing that he could do to bring her back – that he just had to sit in the pain and hope that, one day, it doesn't feel as blunt as it does right now.

Just before I went to bed last night, I was contacted by a friend of mine who was really struggling with hurting herself. She communicated the pain she was in and that cutting was a drug that made her feel alive. I felt helpless against the enormity her pain – like I couldn't do anything to take it away. If I could, I would swallow her pain and hurt in an instant so she could feel freedom, hope, and love. These are the things I wanted for her and couldn't figure out how to communicate them. I have big dreams for her freedom and the people she will reach once she is unbound. Last night all I could do is tell her I love her and that I'm here for her.

It's Easter morning and so many of the people I love are hurting. I woke up less than an hour ago, sat up in my bed, and began weeping for the intense pain that I felt yesterday. Suffering is vast, endless, and everywhere and this is the morning that we celebrate the rise of Christ. What a dichotomy. If this story is true, if Jesus did live, die, and rise again, then he is the common thread woven through each of these lives. If he is able to swallow our pain, take it on himself and suffer in our place, then knowing him intimately is the only relevant thing in all this.

And so we are ready for his return.

07 March 2008

The smell of smoke and rain.

It isn’t so hard for me to imagine how he could drag the knife across is arm like he did. The wrist is such a sensitive and passionate part of the body, it seems only natural that’s where he’d choose to go first. I’ve seen all kinds of suicide attempts over the last few years and I think they are the patients I can identify with the most. They are the ones who have experience the brunt of life’s ugliness and have decided that they have had enough. I get that.

The thing about cutting, too, is that it gives something legitimate and physical to mourn. The lacerations are symbolic wounds giving eye to something much deeper and undefined. The pain of failure, uncertainty, disappointing your wife, failing your children, a myriad of deep passions not pursued – these all go unseen in a man’s heart until one day he cracks. A cut in the skin brings that to the surface.

“Talk to me,” I said.

“About what? There’s nothing to say.”

“Tell me about the cutting, the alcohol. Tell me about your day.”

As he shared about his delinquent son and disconnected marriage, there were a few things that stood out to me. One is that his hair and demeanor were remarkably like that of Gene Wilder – spry and unruly. The other thing I noticed was that his eyes smiled when he looked at me. A smile slowly climbed my face as I listened because I believed there was hope for him.

“You get it, don’t you?” he asked me, not in reference to anything he was saying.

“Yes, I do. I get it and I get you and I think you’re brilliantly normal,” I said. Oddly, I was saying this in a quiet room saturated with the smell of this peppermint schnapps soaked body. I was saying it to a man whose wrist were bandaged from self-inflicted wounds and I don’t think that makes him abnormal. I think that makes him broken and human.

I later took him outside for a cigarette and I listened, mostly, to the things he loved about his son – about the hopes he has for him one day. It was getting dark and the thunderstorm was at it’s peak when my eyes welled. It broke my heart to think how my life would have been different – even just for today – had he pressed down just a little bit harder. I took in the aroma of smoke and liquor and rain and I couldn’t help but think how this smell crossed me as perfect, just perfect.