Category Archives: It’s My Life

Mother Knows Best

As diagnoses go, “shingles” would not have been my first choice. But sometimes you don’t get to vote. I, personally, would have preferred “poison ivy” or “Pam’s using too much bleach.” But hey, what can you do?

Several years ago, after Dad got shingles, Mom urged all of us kids to get the shingles shot. She said we DEFINITELY didn’t want to ever get shingles. I checked with my doctor, and he advised waiting until I turned 60. I turn 60 in four months. So that bit of life-planning didn’t exactly work out.

The moral of the story is this. Children of the world: listen to your Mom.

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Meniere’s Shunt Surgery: Six Year Update

April 16, 2010, is when I had the endolymphatic shunt surgery for my Meniere’s disease, which had been tormenting me since around 2004.

Another year has gone by without an attack of any kind–no nystagmus, no vomiting. I definitely have my life back.

A couple weeks ago, I did have a very minor episode, which I can’t really explain. I woke up feeling a bit off, kind of like I used to feel constantly before the surgery. I felt like I was heading toward vomiting, with some minor dizziness and other symptoms. I endured it through the morning at work, but it wasn’t getting any better. So I headed home, fed the cats, and went to bed. That took care of it. No repeat.

Usually there’s a trigger–caffeine, sodium stress, alcohol. I don’t drink alcohol, and none of the others seemed like an issue. So I’m puzzled. However, it was minor, and it went away and hasn’t come back.

That’s the worst I experienced during the whole past year. For those of you who suffer from Meniere’s–you wish you could be so lucky.

As I say every year, I highly recommend the shunt surgery. It’s the least invasive remedy and has the highest success rate.

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Owning Your Privileged Past

This is for all of you preachers’ kids. Like me.

Politicians like to portray themselves as coming from humble roots, and in so doing, tend to denigrate their parents–their work, their income, their education, etc. If I were a typical politician running for office, I would need to craft a bio like this: “I grew up in a home where we never had much. Dad was the son of immigrants, and he became a poor preacher. We lived in a small migrant community and had to get by on whatever our small congregation gave us. We struggled to make ends meet. But I learned from my parents the value of hard work and of doing good for other people.”

Something like that. Or I could be truthful and say this:

“I grew up in a privileged home. My Dad was personally called by God to work for him. It was the coolest thing having a Dad who was hand-picked by the Creator of the Universe. We never lacked for anything. God promised to meet all of our needs, and he did. Sometimes God performed miracles on our behalf. How many kids can say that? Maybe you grew up in a home with a lot of money, and parents who held important and influential jobs. But my upbringing was far more privileged than that. My Dad was a pastor, and my parents poured their lives into serving the Kingdom of God. And for many people, my parents changed where they will spend eternity.”

That’s what I would say.

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At the Dentist’s

This morning I had my semi-annual dental cleaning. Lonnie has been my hygienist for at least ten years. She’s very gentle…which is such a contrast to her predecessor.

The previous hygienist came from a long line of prison wardens, but broke from the family business. She always attacked my teeth with a vengeance, intermittently asking me, “Is it safe?” She’s the only hygienist to keep a barber’s strop hanging from the chair, which she uses throughout the ordeal to sharpen her instruments. Her goal, which she always accomplished, was to reduce me to tears. That always made her smile in an evil sort of way.

The cover story is that she left to have a baby, but my understanding is that shadowy government operatives offered the chance to refine her techniques at Guantanamo. In fact, I heard that her efforts yielded information which led us to bin Laden. So in a small way, I feel I contributed to history and national security and should, perhaps, receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for my suffering.

Anyway, I do appreciate Lonnie. Getting my teeth cleaned is, now, a somewhat pleasant experience. (I may have exaggerated somewhat about her predecessor.)

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The Woman in the Burger Joint

12346569_10153453637563558_1718509235430568008_nPam and I ate at Five Guys (Times Corners) on Saturday. As we ate, a young woman–late 20s, I figured–came in wearing a hijab and what I will describe, in no doubt unlearned lingo, as Middle Eastern attire. As she picked up her order, one of the employees, a young black fellow, engaged her in brief conversation. She responded with a big smile and abundant personality.

As she ate, I kept glancing her way. She was just an ordinary young woman eating a cheeseburger and fries while reading a book. Yet she also represented the fears and hatred of so many Americans. I considered going over and asking her if people in Fort Wayne ever gave her a hard time about being Muslim, but I didn’t. I assume she endures some of that, like derogatory remarks thrown her way from passing cars.

Another thing occurred to me. Everybody in that restaurant knew she was (most likely) a Muslim. Nobody knew I was a Christian.

As the woman finished her meal and headed for the door, the young black man behind the counter called out, “Thanks for coming, ma’am.” He didn’t say that to anyone else–just her. I’m going to guess that he was trying, in a small way, to compensate for the attitude of so much of society. Good for him. We should all think that way.

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Good Discretion from a Gun Dealer

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I attended the huge Indy1500 Gun & Knife show over the weekend. I witnessed an interesting exchange at the ZX Guns booth (a vendor I like to deal with).

A customer was asking questions about a wicked-looking semi-auto shotgun. The young sales guy answered his questions. Then a young woman–the guy’s girlfriend, I assumed–came over. They talked for a few seconds, and then the woman said, “I’d like to buy this gun.”

The sales guy pointed to the male customer and said, “I’ll only sell it to him.”

“Why?”

“He’s the only one who was asking questiona about the gun. It’s obvious that the gun is for him.”

“But I’m paying for it,” the gal objected. “Won’t you take my money?”

“You can’t buy a gun for somebody else. He’s the only one who was asking questions about the gun, so my conclusion is that the gun is for him.”

“Are you serious?”

“I’ll only sell to HIM,” he said, pointing emphatically to the male customer (who was remaining quiet).

The couple moved along.

When you fill out the paperwork to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, prior to them running a background check, one of the first questions specifically asks if you are buying the gun for yourself. It’s illegal to buy for somebody else–to be a “straw purchaser” for a person who doesn’t want to submit to a background check.

“Good job,” I told the salesman. “You read the situation right, and you held firm.”

“I’m not putting my butt on the line,” he replied.

There’s a reason that customer didn’t want to go through a background check.

I aplaude ZX Guns for showing some responsibility, and for training their employees well.

However, I’m guessing the NRA would like to do away with that requirement.

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Remembering Burt Lange

Rev. Burton Lange passed away on Monday morning, June 22. He was an amazing pianist, and funny as all get out. For 40 years, he pastored United Brethren churches in Pennsylvania and Virginia. He was a Huntington University alum, as was his youngest son, Jerry Lange.

In 1967, Burt Lange was the evangelist at Junior Camp at Rhodes Grove Camp and Conference Center in Chambersburg, Pa. He spoke each night and gave an altar call. One night some friends were going to the altar, and they nudged me to go with them. I did. I don’t remember anything else about that night. It wasn’t my night.

My night was the next night. That’s when the Holly Spirit grabbed my heart. I got up to go forward. “You went last night,” a friend said. “I know.” And I kept going. That night, at age 9, I gave my life to Christ and haven’t ever doubted what happened.

Several years ago, I reminded Burt Lange of this and thanked him for the role he played in my Christian life. “With your upbringing,” he humbly told me, “if it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else.” He’s right. It would have been somebody else. But it wasn’t. It was Burt Lange.

And so tonight I’m remembering that summer night, that walk to the altar, that old tabernacle which was torn down about ten years ago. And I’m remembering the counselor who awaited me on the other side of that altar, the man I knelt across from. The man I called last Sunday night to thank for being my Dad. I remember he was weeping. “Do you know what you’re doing, Son?” he finally asked. “I think so,” I replied. He explained some things to me, and then led me in a salvation prayer.

THAT was my night.

Burt Lange, and my Dad, classmates at Huntington College. Forever intertwined in my spiritual journey.

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What Biblical Teaching have I Missed?

The Parable of the Sower is a pat on the back to people like me, at least the way I’ve always heard it. I’m not the rocky or thorny ground. I’m the good fertile ground, where the seed took root. Jesus was saying he likes people like me. Right?

Then on Saturday I’m reading in “Jesus: a Pilgrimage,” and James Martin says this: “It may refer to those parts of ourselves that are open and not open. Can you see your whole self as the field and consider what parts are fertile, what parts are rocky, and what parts are choked with weeds?”

I then went on a two-hour solo drive to Indy, so I had a lot of time to reflect. I could see rocky areas, where I was spiritually passionate about something for a period of my life, but then the fervor subsided. I could see thorny areas choked with weeds–areas like my media consumption and materialism (thank you, American society, for providing weeds in such abundance).

But I was most curious about the seeds that fell on the path and were immediately eaten by birds. Those seeds had absolutely no affect. So I spent a lot of time mentally scouring Scripture, and musing on biblical emphases which have passed me by. What have I just totally missed?

I think for a lot of evangelicals of my generation and older, injustice is not on our righteousness radar. It’s certainly not something I ever heard emphasized growing up in the United Brethren Church. I was two years gone from a Christian college before God put issues of justice and the poor on my radar…and then God forced it upon me in what was practically a Damascus Road experience in 1981. But it’s been there, for ME, ever since.

But are there other biblical teachings which are important, but which I’ve never paid much attention to? I thought hard about that, and came up with a couple possibilities. I’ll keep an eye on them.

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The Editor’s Task: Fewer Words

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As a copy editor, I am always looking to condense. This is particularly needful in my case, since so much of the material I receive comes from preachers, who are never at a loss for words. Which is why I need this clock in my office.

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Lingering Regrets from the Mountaintop

In 9th or 10th grade, I bought a pack of cigarettes (it was Winston), rode my motorcycle out into the Arizona desert, and smoked 5 or 6 of them. I didn’t know how to smoke, and wanted to figure it out on my own, without anyone watching. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

I’ve (happily) never smoked since. But let me tell you the backstory.

Dick and Nora Lundy were a fabulous couple at my United Brethren church in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. They ran Lundy’s Diner. They also built a big lodge in the Hualapai Mountains, about 60 miles away. It would host church retreats.

Three of us from the youth group spent a couple weekends helping Dick with construction. Tom Wilson and Tim Armour were fairly new Christians. And me. It was a blast. We worked hard, and the Lundys fed us royally. Dick was a big, jovial guy, somewhere well above six feet. We held our breath every time he ventured onto the makeshift scaffolding he cobbled together from scrap pieces of 2x4s and plywood. It always held, but only by divine intervention.

On one perfectly calm star-lit night, the three of us sat outside the lodge just chillin’. out. That’s when Tom and Tim pulled out some “supplies” and began rolling their own cigarettes. They offered to make me one. I said no thanks. Are you sure? Yep, no thanks, but you go ahead.

It wasn’t a principled no. I said no because I’d never smoked before and feared making a fool of myself. I didn’t want to leave Tim and Tom and the Lundys with the burden of explaining to my parents how their firstborn son asphyxiated himself in the Hualapais.

I watched Tim and Tom sit back against large rocks and leisurely puff away, with tiny tendrils of smoke wafting skyward. The stars, the fresh mountain air, the pine trees all around–it was so tranquil, so peaceful. Nicotine addiction played no role. They were just young Christians relaxing after a very long day of servanthood.

I wished I had said yes. Even now, I do. I feel like I missed sharing a very special moment of community with my friends in the Lord. As I watched them sitting there smoking away, they were so at peace with the world. Me? I was thinking more about my ambivalence and discomfort, and felt a bit envious. I wanted to join them. I really did. Having a cup of coffee in my hands might have accomplished the same thing, but I was 7 years away from trying coffee. In that moment, a cigarette just seemed perfect.

After finishing one cigarette, my memory is that Tim and Tom smoked a regular cigarette. When it was done, they were done. And then we just sat there a while longer under the heavens.

Reflecting on that specific moment, in that specific context–yes, a cigarette would have been just right. Just one. I should have told Tim, “Sure, I’ll take a cigarette, if you’ll show me how it works.” Just one cigarette, nursing it slowly, while gazing into that vast sky with my friends in Christ.

In the 40 years since, I’ve never had a sense that God would have minded. As long as it went no farther than that. And that’s why, if this situation ever arose again (which it never did), I wanted to be prepared.

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