Hawaii 2010

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

My life with an "incurable" disease

Medicine says I have an incurable disease. I have been living with it for 17 years. I will be 67 in two months. I am also told I can live well with both of my conditions. I have, but not without them creating interesting issues in my approach to life.

I have "atherosclerosis" a heart problem associated with but different from ateriosclerosis. This means my heart muscle and veins are still supple and my heart pumps close to that of a healthy adult my age. This problem followed the diagnosis of adult onset Type II diabetes. As a diabetic I am a fairly conscientious one, my AIC has always stayed just above the diagnosis number. But a genetic issue in my bloodline created a problem that led to the second disease.

In any normal heart a complex system of vein and artery care and repair always goes on in our circulatory system. Any inflammation is repaired by this system. Diabetes keeps inflammation high due to the nature of sugar having sharp edges as it stays too long in our system. The repairs build up and close the walls of the arteries with blockages called plaque.

Tuesday I went through the tenth angiogram, the first three after heart attacks and the last seven after finding oxygenation problems during yearly stress tests. Each time they have ballooned, or stented the affecting clog. I now have 19 of those little suckers. I get a poke in my groin, an hour on the table with a talented cardiologist and his team, a night flat on my back, several days of rest, and a new lease on life.

I return to work and living each day with the need for exercise, healthy food choices, and reducing stress as much as possible.

Each time this happens I face the possibility of bypass surgery...the final frontier of heart disease, and live with the possibility of a plaque collapse heart attack, and a sudden goodbye to this life. Now with 10 of these under my belt and 50 years of learning to live and walk by faith in God I am largely relaxed with the future, and the possibility I may leave earlier and faster than I wish or hope.

I live with my Charismatic friends wondering why that last sincere laying on of hands prayer did not work, and with my beloved who believes if I were a lot less thick around the middle this thing would go away, and my reading into all things metaphysical that tells me I might be able to think and meditate a healing modality, and my hope that if I make it to that bypass table, I will get ten more years, which ought to be long enough to leave thankful and with a longer check list on my personal bucket list.

Oddly, the best thing about living with heart disease is how easy and enjoyable it is to cherish the moment, and life fully in it.  And I will leave you with that, cherish the moments you have to life, love and experience it all. Believe that the end of this life is the entrance into a different but more amazing life....O, and watch your carbs, they turn to sugar!!!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Daily Blog becomes a Monthly Blog, and I am too pooped to protest

Well, it's the Crazy, lazy, hazy days of summer again, and my life has changed. I have completed six months as a full time chaplain, with commute giving away 50 hours a week and enjoying the challenge, the strange connections, and the new way of life that this work demands.

For that reason my poor blog suffers, but it will try to stay alive if but for the few.  Our pool remodel is finished, cost more than we hoped but is nice with blue shimmering tile, and nice floral fountains that make a delightful sound as they spill into the water. We are enjoying the back yard with the grand kids for the second week in a row, and the water temp has risen to perfect along with the June heat wave.  Laura got her last paycheck for substituting work this week and has eight weeks to relax. I am ready for a vacation, perhaps a trip back to our gulf coast roots later in the summer.

I wanted to experience the type of personality that ends in prison, and I have, all types. I am often stunned at the depth of violence and hate that can capture a life, or the dedication to lies, cheating, and deception that a person can rely upon. I am shocked at the racial hatred and how they beat upon each other, and upon their own if they think someone needs prison justice.

I see the love and transforming power of Christ in so many hearts as well, and this makes the whole experience more than worthwhile. That's all for now, the backyard afternoon delight in the pool calls me. Aloha to all.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Arizona, come on vacation, leave on probation!!

Our pool remodel and update is almost finished.

Blessings to you readers and friends, life is busy and my blog posts are few. But here goes.

I thought this title  was pretty funny when a fellow employee shared it with me this week. It is true that this law and order state imprisons folks driving through with marijuana in their possession just to use not sell.

Met a Rastafarian dude from Massachusetts who met that fate, and their religion is rife with the ceremonial use of the substance.

Now that I am in my sixth month I am amazed as how many of the guys I know on the yard, their stories, their lifestyles, their personalities. Fully one third of our 2000 inmates are part of the religious turnout, and I talk to more each day for special issues with family emergencies and various types of interactions. I walk through visitation weekly to meet their girlfriends and parents and wives and children and I know how big a price these families all pay for our penal system and for crimes that harm people and property.

Now that I have been preaching for a month they are eager to share with someone who they know will not prejudge them and someone who treats them as human beings. As I work I find myself still believing strongly in the power of hope, faith, and the transformative message of the good news. The Christian worship is strong, and joyful, and they are serious about growing in the Lord.

I do wish Arizona had a more active leniency and parole board. So many of these men are healed, and high functioning and more than ready to return to family and the workforce.  The sentences in AZ are all over the place and some are outrageously long for the crimes committed.

On the other hand I am reminded every single day of the devastation of drugs and alcohol and the power of addiction at which we are spending huge resources to help. I hear such frightening stories of how violent and cruel life on the edge of poverty caused by addiction really is. I can truly say that I am not wasting my time with these men, for so many have learned their lessons and are changed men.

On a family note, this work consumes 50 hrs a week with the commute, so Laura and I cherish our evenings and regular days off. Our decision to buy this beautifully comfortable home and fix it up for a profit is now on full burn as we plan one project as one is finished. I know this lifestyle is rewarding, but I also know that there will be a time to slow down, just not right now. Thankful for health, energy, exercise, and relatively healthy eating in spite of my own addiction to left and right Twix.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Unveiling of the Heart

With most of my library sold, or given away, I am thankful that the things deep in my mind and heart are still coming to my aid in the lifestyle of
Prison Chaplaincy.

An interesting occurrence this past week. I have been functioning as a Chaplain in our little microcosm of prison life called Red Rock Correctional Facility for four months. The men know who I am, and how I act and react. But they have never heard me preach or teach, until last week. I had the opportunity to share my testimony and some of the life themes I teach. I did this twice in both chapels to our fellowships.

Instantly, the men sensed a kinship of vision, hunger for authentic truth, and have begun to seek me out for counsel and open up about the struggles they face living the life of a prisoner. It is as if I have gained trust and opened door for transformational experiences. There are few places where the lifestyle and close connection to men can provide this level of interaction. They are living in that fenced and secure enclosure all the time. They follow a regimented life with few chances to be human and their spiritual lives come into a sharper focus in prison that is deeper than life with the demands of work, family and freedom.

Many sense the unique opportunity that the disappointment of a prison sentence has given them. The chance to face who they really are inside and to seek change and healing.  They are also surrounded my men who continue in denial and live for drugs, alcohol and self destructive behaviors.

I look forward to seeing what happens as I stay available to those who want new life.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Facebook intolerance



I have grown weary of heresy hunters. The word is so serious that no one should consider themselves discerning enough to use it. When someone has a belief that differs from yours does that mean you can call them a heretic? Ridiculous! Sometimes people recommend a so called expert to put forth their warning. One attack upon the Book and Movie The Shack came from Charisma Magazine. Boy is that the Pot calling the Kettle Black. If I chose to play that game I would suggest that the people who love Charisma have chosen to follow some of the most corrupt religious hucksters any generation has ever produced. Heresy Hunters, O sure!!

I humbly suggest that we learn to have discussions about theological truth. I have spent 50 years as a serious lover of theology, a dedicated reader of all points of view, one who loved the allegorical freedom of authors like Lewis and Tolkien.  Please open your minds, fearful ones. Stop being so sure that your own family of interpreters have spoken the last word.  I say that to you proud Calvinists, and you odd lots of Charismatics, to your end timers and word of faithers.

Lets have some humility that someone may be onto something. Yes, I confess, I loved the Shack. I was in a needy and vulnerable place when I read it, in the hospital. And my studies have broadened my perspective on the theology of the Shack, but Young himself says we are to proud to leave position A, only to get stuck on position B, when we have not in fact seen all there is to see and understand about God and the Gospel.  Forgive the rant, Facebook is not the place to raise issues of heresy folks. Be respectful.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

My strange new life



One of my favorite hiking path pictures which gives the hiker the choice of more than one path to take, just like life.

Almost a month between posts...not good, I will lose my audience that way. Anyhow, now that I am in the groove of my commute, work, sleep, play new weekly schedule I am trying not to lose the things I enjoyed doing, like this blog.

With more time at the prison I am encountering some of the dark side of prison life that I will spend a few moments commenting upon. I am told that all prisons develop a political life that consists of power brokers who intimidate by threats of violence, and often act as judge, jury and executioner when they encounter someone who violates their ideas of proper behavior. This would include any who compromised other criminals during their conviction, like turning in a drug dealer or cooperating with the police. They do not tolerate anyone whose crime was of a sexual nature against children. They insist on reading all inmate communications to make sure no one breaks up their government of intimidation.  I find it discouraging and mystifying.

Nevertheless, so many in prison are trying to improve who they are, why they react the way they do and trying to be model prisoners during their incarceration.

They do their best to stay away from and above the politics, and I am there to find and encourage more of them to walk away from fear even when it enters their life in the form of this sick system of justice they have going.  I am a month away from finishing my trial period, and getting some vacation time that is building up each week over in the real column from the potential column.

We are hoping to make a return visit to the Big Island of Hawaii since we enjoyed a week there in 2013. Thinking about scheduling it during the time when whales are in the area, something we have never done. I have been getting better health checkups since my first retirement and my heart seems to be working fine without the recurring problems that plagued me for a time. I am hopeful but realistic about the future, I just know that I am walking in the path I need to be in for this time in our early retirement life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Working on the weekends

Shannon is now a Junior in High School, raising money for a hoped for trip to Europe. She has had my heart for a long time.

As I start my third month at Red Rock, I finally made the switch from Mon-Fri work to being with the men on programs days, Saturday and Sunday. We have four services running at the same time on Saturday, for Xn, Spanish Speaking Xn, Jehovah's Witness, and Mormon. On Sundays we have Xn and Catholic services.

I have been working for several weeks to get ready for the opening of the new Chapel next weekend. Begging, borrowing, and donating items to get an empty room ready for worship experiences. We put up four bulletin boards and a white board, and hung a TV on the wall for songs.  We have a jury rigged sound system for our praise band using two guitar amps and a boom box, all joined together with connecting cords.

The Xn worship services are maxed out, and the singing and serious listening are evident. I found the days without the activity of the classrooms to be quite pleasant, and I have had the opportunity to meet some families in the visitation room. This adds to my growing compassion for some of the men involved in our worship leadership.

With Laura working for a quarter, this commitment adds more to our time apart, but after one weekend I am sure I need to be there, and that my purpose for entering this type of ministry is being shown to me more clearly.  Saturdays and Sundays the drive up and down the commute are much easier.

So my Thursdays and Fridays are my new weekend, I get a round of golf, two days of later rising, and date night with my best friend, Laura.