Sunday, January 20, 2019

Back from "The Land of No Frontal Lobe!"

Greetings, Friends and Family out there in Internet Land!

It appears I am again operational, after some number of days in what I wryly refer to as "Zombie Man" mode. It happens when I am sleep deprived. I may LOOK normal, but I can't think coherently, my coordination is WAY off, I have little (if any) short-term memory, and I may experience auditory or visual hallucinations.

That used to be a regular thing, back when they were treating my chronic pain condition with morphine or fentayl,  from 2005 until 2012. The fentanyl gave me horridly vivid, repetitive nightmares, and the morphine kept me from going to sleep at all, for up to three nights in a row.  That's what lead to my forced retirement in 2007; I was no longer capable of doing my job as a school counselor. At the very end of my time employed, I arranged with the campus police officer to give me a field sobriety test, if there was any question about my fitness for work. And, a couple of times, I failed that test, and had to make arrangements for someone to take me home.

Seven months after marrying my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I realized that the side effects of the pain-killers were keeping me from being the kind of husband and father I wanted to be, and I withdrew cold turkey, from 165 mg of morphine per day to zero. The physical consequences to my body were unpleasant, but were limited to MASSIVE sweating, and restless leg syndrome:  I had absolutely no mental or emotional craving.

A consult with the orthopedic surgeon who had done a cervical fusion for me years before gave me a prescription for meloxicam, a powerful non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.  The pain clinic had given me a script for hydrocodone, in case I hit pain I couldn't manage. I averaged  1/2 pill (5 mg) of hydrocodone per week, and the Zombie Man attacks ceased instantly.

Unfortunately, after about 9 months, the NSAIDS started to make my gut bleed,  and I had to discontinue it. That meant I had to look at conventional return to pain meds again, but this time, they suggested the Butrans patch. Its' active agent is a rather bizarre opioid that appears to block pain without intoxicating the brain, and is missing some of the other bad side effects as well, such as constipation. I've been using it for about six years now, and haven't needed to increase the dosage.

It's very rare for Zombie Man to appear these days. He did show up last summer; my daughter noticed that my comments to her on Messenger were incoherent, so either she or I called my first-born son, who has had some experience with people with various types of neurological problems. At issue was whether this was a sleep deprivation-induced Zombie-Man experience, or whether I had suffered a stroke, seizures, or some other biological event. He came over to my house to check me out, and was prepared to take me to the hospital if needed.

That guy is SO cool! He ran a quick evaluation on me, without me even knowing he was doing it! I guess I have retained the idea that I know more medical stuff than him, because I was an army medic and he was a cannon-cocker. I tend to forget that he has spent huge chunks of the past five years of his life being poked, prodded, and otherwise invaded by brain docs, ever since he had a Real Bad Day in Afghanistan, involving a 155 mm rocket and a concrete wall. He also spent a lot of time with me back in the bad old days, when Zombie Man was a frequent visitor, so he knew what that looked like. He put me to bed, made sure I stayed there until I was asleep, and stayed with me until Vanessa got home.

This time, I'm not sure when the sleep deficit started. It must have started before Thursday, but I WAS able to do some things on Friday, and remember them; they DID take a lot longer to accomplish than they should have. I've got nothing on Saturday, but it was apparent that I wasn't tracking by then. So, Vanessa made me go to bed, and at some point I went to sleep. I slept though the 'get-up-for-church' alarm, and became functional shortly after noon  today.

I've checked my phone, emails, and Facebook page, and it doesn't appear that I insulted anyone, enlisted in the Army again, or made indecent proposals to the grocer.  And, I'm processing well enough to have written this. So, I have many reasons to give thanks. Actually, that's true enough on every day, but especially true after a crisis.

Thanks to the many, many friends who checked up on me, and your expressions of concern. If I have left anyone in doubt (I THINK I replied to all private messages), I apologize. And with that, I'm BACK!

Peace be on your household.

Friday, January 18, 2019

"What is the Kingdom of God Like?"

A great good morning to you, Internet Friends and Family! Just the other day, I had to look something up that was in a prior blog post, and noticed I had put NOTHING up for three weeks.
GREAT BIG sigh....
...because this is something I WANT to do, but with my attention to some other matters, posting here just fell by the wayside.
Maybe I should consider making a schedule, or a to-do list every day. These days, I ALWAYS make a list before going out to the store, and examine it closely when making my purchases, and it works, but I'm not nuts about making the commitment.

Like this, maybe.

So, this morning, while I am waiting on my son to come downstairs, I'm starting this blog, because it is about things significant to me.

In Matthew 13, we read of Yeshua  teaching in parables. I love parables; they were the only parts of the Bible I understood when I was a kid. The rules and laws, I understood, in the sense that I knew what the requirement was, and that it applied to ME, but I didn't understand WHY those rules and laws were there, or WHY I was supposed to go along with them CHEERFULLY.  With the parables, though, the pictures clicked.

The Parable of the Sower. UNDERSTOOD THAT! You spread lots of seed, some bears fruit, some doesn't.

The Parable of the Parables. I didn't really understand that one; why would you present a teaching in a way that was disguised? I understood what He was SAYING; just didn't know how it worked when I was a kid. Today, I understand it works two ways: if you are looking for a reason to reject the Kingdom, you can pretend it's too hard to understand; if you AREN'T looking to reject the kingdom, struggling with concepts a little bit truly helps you to earn what you learn, so you OWN it.

The Parables of the Weeds (or Tares, as we were taught) explains why God hasn't already brought judgement on a sinful world; the Parable of the Mustard Seed illustrates that from a tiny thing, a great thing can grow;  the Parable of the Leaven I understood with my head, but not with my experience until I began to mill wheat into flour, and mix in a LITTLE bit of yeast, which will make the entire loaf double in size.  I had never seen a mustard tree/bush, though, so I had to take that one on faith. It's a real thing, though: here's a picture of a guy reaching up above his head to pick the seed pods:

Picking the pods from a mustard plant; the pods contain the tiny little seeds, 
which are an excellent source of 
Omega-3 fatty acids and erucic acid, and 
may cure  polydactylism and galactorrhea instantly

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Costly Pearl. Yup. Understood them as soon as I heard them: the Kingdom of Heaven is so important that you would GLADLY give away everything you have in order to gain it.

And then, the first punchline. 

NOTE: I just dumped 384 words. They weren't BAD; I dumped them because they weren't ENOUGH. In order to make my point, in the way I was writing, I was going to need at least twice that much, so I cut the whole thing. I still have the words, and if you want them, I'll send them to you, but here's the summing up:

After WWII, everything changed...

...and now I resume with the stripped-down version of this post.

A by-product of those changes was a tendency to regard everything old as bad, everything new as good. THAT HAPPENS NOT TO BE THE CASE.

Yeshua says: 

“Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
My memories of scribes being mentioned in the New Testaments consists almost entirely of polemics against them: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" But here, they are accorded honor, if they are able to accept the devastating idea that things were changing. Then, they would have treasures new and old.

I'd like to be able to bring out treasures new and old, as well. Not the physical stuff; burglars can steal that right out from under your nose. 
Late one cold winter night in 1978, I had my raggedy old Honda 350 motorcycle stolen from the parking lot in front of my apartment. It was my ONLY means of transportation, and I was POOR, in graduate school, and making $250/month as a youth minister at the time. Driven to my knees? Check!
I prayed, and called the police to report the theft, and poured my heart to God. "I don't have ANY money, Lord, and I'm too far from school and work to walk there." Empty, I fell asleep. And, a little while later, I woke up, and looked out my window to see the back of a man running away, and my motorcycle back in its' parking spot. 
Just in case you ever find yourself in the same position, let me warn you in advance: if you call the DeKalb County Sheriff's  Office at 3:30 AM to tell them that the person who stole your motorcycle just brought your motorcycle back, they will think you are drunk. Don't try to fight it; there's nothing about the situation that allows reasonable explanations to be considered.

Nope. I don't want material riches, and I don't want to be materially poor, either.  I want to be rich in wisdom. new and old. In my early life, I was exposed to some fascinatingly wise people, and some of that rubbed off. Later, I was exposed to very UN-wise behavior, and I benefited from that as well: Might not know what I WANTED to act like, but I did know what I DIDN'T want to act like. Then I made some MASSIVE mistakes, things that nearly ended my life, and came very close to ruining it. And, EVENTUALLY, I stopped doing the stupidest of the stupid things, and from that, eventually, came wisdom.

And I went to college, and graduate school, and some more grad school, and some more grad school, and I don't know that any of that gave me wisdom, but it did give me knowledge, and some of that knowledge I was able to convert into wisdom. However, as much as I value my formal education, it is wisdom I've found through 31 years of 12 step meetings, readings, and prayers that has the biggest impact on my daily life.

And ALL of those are the old treasures.

Nother Note: I just cut another 149 words.

The new treasures are the things my kids and grandchildren teach me. It seems that almost every day, I get a new perspective on being the scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom; I find a new facet of being Papa. Kenneth teaches me almost daily, and so does Alicia Ann. I don't HAVE to be in the same room with them in order to learn, but it's awfully nice.

And a final secret: I started writing this as I was eating my breakfast. I've done many important things since then, and I feel relatively certain that whatever it was I planned to say, I have long since abandoned.

But that's a treasure as well; the treasure I seek may not be the treasure I find, but if I keep on doing the next right thing, I believe I will find the treasure I need. And the chaos that's bouncing off my head right at this very moment, as I hear Alicia Ann talking....excitedly... about some cheerleading commitment that she might have or might not have, and Kenneth wants to know if I have made the phone call to his pediatrician to find out if he can stay up an extra hour, and I STILL haven't made it to the drug store, and it looks like my internet cable is frayed?

I believe those are the sounds and sights of the Kingdom of God in my home.

Peace be on your household.