Friday, July 21, 2017

Headaches and thanks

Luke 12:48

It seems I have been doing a lot of griping lately – not enough of this, too much of that; not enough room, not enough time – the litany goes on and on.

Abundance brings its own headaches and issues.

I do live in a world of abundance and it is an intentional understanding of abundance, for the most part. I believe that when I begin to hold onto things, just in case; when I begin to hoard, far less is received.

This is lived out every week at Trinity Food Ministry Pantry. I try to give, and give, and then give some more. Still, the larder seems full, space is limited. So, I gripe.

But I have a friend – Gwen. She is such a friend that she is comfortable yanking my chain, pulling me up short when I complain.

And so, she did recently. After listening to me for a good while, she asked, “What’s the rest of that verse “much will be given?” Well, I couldn’t recall right off the top of my head, so I asked my other friend, “Google” if she knew. Of course, she did.

Luke 12:48
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Gwen said, “yeah, that’s it. That’s what I was thinking while you were talking. You have a lot, you owe a lot.”

See what I mean? Gwen stopped me short.

Immediately, I offered a short prayer of thanksgiving. Then, I followed that up by asking that God help me so that I did not become complacent in my abundance.

There is always a lesson, isn’t there?


Today, I am thankful for Gwen and for abundance. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Still Here

So.

This is a strange waiting game. Waiting for Jake to die. Rather grim. But then, sometimes I forget. In fact, I actually only remember when he refuses to eat. Or when I hug him and get an armful of bones.

My #science educated self knows that no animal can live without functioning kidneys. And so the doctor said. It is just a matter of time. But he is eating, drinking, running, and being a dog. And his nose is wet even as I know that he has to be dehydrated. He even played with London last night and was barking at Theopholis this morning.

He is still Jake. Slobbery, hairy, big Jake that wants to love and be loved. So much so that sometimes I feel like he is playing us, big time.

For a while, all he wanted was boiled eggs. He refused to eat the special KD food. He didn't want any of the things I added to entice him to eat. Eggs. Just eggs. And he didn't want these placed in his dish. he wanted me to hand him a whole egg. Then he would run to the living room, get on his big pillow, and then, he would eat the egg. Then he would rush back to the kitchen for another.

Now, he turns his nose up at eggs. He started eating the KD beef stew again. Strange dog. But then, a day or so later. Nah. Nose up again. However, I could tell he was hungry. So, I offered the egg again. Nope.

There was frozen, skinless chicken breast in the freezer so I cooked a couple of those. Bingo! Yes. he liked that.

Today, he ate the KD beef stew but wanted more so I gave him more chicken. I think he would have eaten more but that was all there was.

I will go buy more KD beef stew AND chicken today.

Tomorrow? Who knows?

Monday, April 10, 2017

An Update on the BDE III, Jake

We took Jake to the vet last Friday. The numbers were not good at all. The blood urea nitrogen was out of sight - 130 is the highest level they can measure. Phosphorus was 12. Creatinin was 8. The specific gravity of his urine indicated that his urine is dilute, which means, what goes in, comes out. There is no filtering. Potassium was normal, as was his heart rate and respiratory. He tested anemic which means that his bone marrow is not able to build the red blood he needs. And he was severely dehydrated.

All of this is basically very bad news, except for the potassium levels plus heart and respiration rates. Those were good. 

They gave him an anti-nausea shot plus a "camel-back". That is, they injected sub-cutaneously saline solution. 

We could have gone to the emergency clinic to leave him for a couple of days so that they could give him IV solution to rehydrate him and flush out his system. That still isn't off of the table as an option. However, he is in acute renal failure.

All weekend long the sun was shining and Jake was eating. The subcutaneous injection made him feel much better. We spent a great deal of time outside and he loved just being with us. 

Now, on Monday morning, it is rainy and solemn. Jake turned around after sniffing his food. He didn't even want a cookie. Or a slice of cheese. Nothing. He isn't even drinking any water. 

I have a call into the vet's office. I have to find out options. But I feel as though we are simply buying minutes. 

He is not telling me anything at this moment but that he is tired and not hungry. But he still gets up to go outside and he continues to lean against me when he stands (his way of hugging). 

We will continue to wait. Until it's time. Until he says. 

Friday, April 07, 2017

Senses


I stand in the still of the house, looking out of the window. I see the shadows made by the tiny new leaves on the trees. I feel something…from the past. I don’t know what or from when it is but I feel it any time I look at the shadows/shade made by a bright green tree filtering the sun. It is a sense that time has stood still, that there is a soft sense of melancholy yet not outright sadness. It is almost a sense of what can be rather than of what has been. It is a feeling that peace is within reach but probably not touchable. It is something, I know, that needs to be contemplated. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Saga of Jake and the Best Dogs Ever

We missed the “Best Dog Ever” so much.  She was only 2 months old when I rescued her from the Roanoke (TX) Humane Society.  Rude Dog was the first and the BDE above all others. She was mine and I was hers from the moment we saw one another. 

She got her name because she had a sensitive stomach and would turn the air hot and blue with her emissions. She started off life with the name of Priscilla. We were still searching for a good name for her when we felt/saw the first gas fog she emitted (until we finally found a food she could eat without killing us all). By that time, Rude (pronounced Rudie) had stuck. 

Rude was such an important part of our lives. I didn’t think I would ever have another dog I cared so much about. We had several other dogs and they were good and well loved but they were not Rude. I think it was the fact that she was half Newfoundland. That makes them special. Or it could have been because she went through some really hard times and she was always near me. We had her for 13 years.

A good while after we let her go, Debbie surprised me one day with a picture of this forlorn big dog standing in a corner with his sad face looking over his shoulder. He looked ashamed, as though he could not understand why his foster parents had sent him to this cell.



She showed me that picture and I knew he was waiting on us. So off we went to the Fort Worth Humane Society. I knelt in the middle of the floor and he came over to me and crawled up in my lap…as best he could. We all fell in love. All my Rude love came washing out of me and covered him up.

He was two when we got him. His face had not even filled out fully. He was a small Newf, weighing only 100 lbs at his best weight but shorter than average. He never did get much taller – just broader. He only looked like a full blood Newf after he turned five, after he broaden out some.



He traveled across the U.S. with us. Texas born and raised, he loved St. Louis and the snow. He loved being loved. He loved loving. I am sure he was far from perfect but I can’t remember anything negative. He was just the Best Dog Ever II.

And then he got sick. Ten is and was a good span of life for a Newfie. A full blood Newf may only live between 5-7 years. That is not very long at all for an animal so full of love and devotion.

So, it is probably easy to see why we wanted another big guy. But we didn’t want one like Jak because we didn’t want to compare. We should have known that each one of them is different from the other. Jak was nothing like Rude, except in the best way – their love of being loved and of loving.

One day, a picture of a brown Newf appeared on one of the Newfie rescue sites. We had to go see him. Brown was different and nothing like Black Jak. 

The foster people he was staying with had him in a barn stall. He was covered in thick fur mats and hay. And he was seventeen months old and wild. He had no collar nor leash training. His instinct was to get that noose from around his neck as quickly as possible and to fight with all his might. It took four adults to get him into our car. Once we got him home and up the back stairs (finally), he paced for 24 hours. He was exhausted but it was just too much.



Brushing, touching, talking, over the next couple of days finally calmed him down some. Then he got his first bath.




He was a different dog! Two six-week sessions of classes at obedience school (for us, not him) taught us how to help him understand what we wanted. He became as big of a love (actually about 40 pounds bigger) than Jak.

He came to us with the name of Zeus but 1) it didn’t fit him and 2) he did not respond to it in the least. Some might think that we named him Jake after Jak. But no. The State Farm commercial was playing at the time and Jake (from State Farm) just sort of stuck. Plus, when we called him Jake he looked at us.

We signed him up for the big dog wellness plan at Banfield (PetSmart). We got all the work done, fully intent upon making sure we took good care of this big guy. Sometime during the first few months of his acclimation, we realized how much he was drinking and peeing. We realized how much he was peeing because we would come home from work and through the living room, hallway, kitchen, dining room there would be a line of pee. Yep, he walks and pees. Not inside any more, thankfully.

Sigh.

Jake is the product of a breeder. He was raised in a large concrete outdoor kennel. His hair was bleached from the sun. I don’t know if the mats were from the breeder or the foster but he was a mess. Obviously, he had never been in a house before, nor had any training at all. When he had to pee, he did. Thank God, he likes corners away from everyone and thing to poop, otherwise, I suppose we would have found huge dog piles in the house.

We became much more diligent about taking the big guy outside. We monitored his water intake. Slowly, he began to understand. But he was still peeing literal rivers and drinking buckets of water. We asked the vet about it. I was worried about diabetes.

The results of all the tests (not covered under our wellness plan) showed that he already had damage to his kidneys. The diagnosis was Chronic Kidney Disease. The vet had us put him on a very expensive dog food. He ate it for a while. Then, suddenly, he stopped eating as much. We added pumpkin. That helped for a little while. Then, no. We added egg. That was better but then, he just stopped. He would walk up to the bowl, look at it, shake his head and back away. Then he would turn and go to his bed. He lost from 140 pounds to 117 in a short time.

The vet said keep on trying to feed him the prescription dog food. But Jake didn’t care what she said. What were we supposed to do? Just let him starve? She said he needed the low protein diet. She thought he was being stubborn. She just didn’t understand that he knew something she didn’t.

I began researching Chronic Kidney Disease in canines. There are a couple of good sites that offer help. However, I am not sure they fully understand either.

We tried several different recipes. We tried raw foods at first but he couldn’t digest those. So, we tried Raw turkey, sweet potato, and soft cooked egg. That worked for a while but he started tossing that up. The mess was easily identifiable. If the sweet potato was not cooked enough, it came back up. If the egg was cooked too much, up it came. And if the food was anywhere close to chilled, all of it came back up.

We tried the raw turkey, smushy cooked sweet potato, and raw egg. That worked but it certainly wasn’t putting any fat on him. He was bones and hair. He seemed to have plenty of energy though and he seemed happy. He was just incredibly thin. But he has been eating.

Yesterday, he had to be coaxed to eat. This morning, nothing. He would not, could not be convinced that eating was a good thing. I even went through all that soggy mess and picked out as much sweet potato as I could, thinking that maybe that was offending him. But he still was not interested. So, I offered him a small hunk of raw turkey by itself. He sniffed it and walked away.

So, here we are. The Saga of Jake and his quest to be a BDE. Maybe he will eat later today. Maybe he just doesn’t like the same old food every single day. Perhaps I will leave out the turkey tonight. Or the sweet potato.

Thankfully, we have two chow-hounds who will eat anything. Theo’s nickname is Hoover because he inhales food without even chewing. The Queen London thinks she should not be eating lowly dog food, anyway. So, it is good that the food won’t go to waste.

But meanwhile, Jake is wasting away. We worry about this big guy leaving us too soon. He is only three. That’s just too much dog to love in a short year and a half. We want more time of him being healthy and energetic. He hasn’t earned the BDE III award yet. But he is working on it. He just needs a little more time.  



Monday, March 20, 2017

We confess to you, Lord.

I have never been a fan of the Affordable Care Act. I refuse/d to call it “Obama”care. That name was/is ridiculous and ignorant. I always felt that it put a burden on that middle swatch of people who made just enough to find themselves in a world of hurt should a catastrophe happen.

While I do see the good that the ACA created, it was never enough and was barely adequate for a good number of people, especially those who lived in the 30+ states that did not expand Medicaid coverage to the people in between the haves and the have-nots.

But this isn’t about our messed-up healthcare system. It’s about a story and I don’t know how to tell a story without giving a personal example. So, here is mine.

This year, we were blessed to have a more than decent income. We always seem live from one paycheck to the next; nonetheless, we have luxuries, we have far more than enough.

We did our taxes this weekend past. Already, we knew we would have to pay some. Debbie has two sources of income in which, and one has no taxes taken out. However, we made a mistake in our guess.

One mistake was in trusting a “broker” to take care of our insurance needs with the ACA/Marketplace. We estimated our 2016 income because we knew that one of the two jobs I had was going away in March. We ended up making more than we estimated; therefore, it was determined that we owed the credit given to us – an approximate $8000.

Now. Imagine.

That is enough to devastate a family. Seriously. I have never in my life had to pay the IRS any more than the simply deductions from each paycheck. In fact, I have always received at least of modicum of money as a return. To pay anything seems ridiculous to me. But to pay closer to $10000 seems absolutely criminal.

I won’t even go into how crazy unfair it is for a working person to have to pay such taxes while a lying, cheating, crotch-grabbing pervert sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and vacations in Florida every weekend. But this is not about that scum.

It is about the sorry state of our minds for allowing such travesty.

This news is enough to devastate an average family. Because an average family does not necessarily have stocks/bonds sitting out there because their grandparents happened to save their money. An average family may have a little saved back for small emergencies but emergencies usually are not small. I know people who are thousands of dollars in debt due to illnesses and extended health care needs. I know people who worked hard all their lives just to lose it all because he or she had an illness. I work with people every day who must make the choice between feeding their families or paying rent. This is the type of emergency that could cause some people to lose their homes. Or end up with huge fines, punishable by prison.

I am not a part of an average family.

I was one of those who had a grandparent who frugally saved money, made some great financial saving choices, handed down those savings to her three children. One of those children was my father. He died on March 25, 2015. He, in his turn, left his part of the inheritance to my sister and me.
I am so thankful that I did not go through the money. I could have. I have done just that before. But this time, I did not. I left it in stocks and bonds. In these past months that the current president has been in office, I could have made a “huuuge” amount of money. However, when I took over my part of the inheritance, I told the broker to put it into “clean” stocks and bonds. There was a long list of funds that we did not buy into because of their corporate greed. As a result, any gains over the past two years have been modest. The point it, the money is there.

So, being thankful for that gift from my daddy/grandmother/grandfather, we began to crawl out of our fear and anxiety. We had a way out. So many do not.

This was our attitude as we entered church on Sunday morning.

Then, it being Lent, the celebrant led us in the Litany of Penitence. If you want to read the whole of it, go to the Book of Common Prayer, page 267 or here: http://www.bcponline.org/SpecialDays/ashwed.html.

This part got our attention:
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

All the readings only enhanced this sense of Too Much. The people quarreling with Moses because they wanted water…they forgot why they were doing what they were doing. They forgot that God had led them thus far and that God alone would get them where they were supposed to be. They focused their anger on Moses because he was there.

Paul told the Romans that they needed to remember that hope in Jesus Christ is the only thing we should remember. And, of course, Jesus, according to John, how often are we seeking the wrong source of water and food? We set our thoughts and our deeds on seeking the wrong water and bread.

When Debbie and I headed out in the summer of 2007 to go on the road, we purposely left behind many things. Fear of the unknown was the number one thing. Many material possessions another. Family, friends, community – all left behind because we were following what we believed to be God’s call to us to go out and share our story, to listen to the stories of others, to share the good news that regardless, we are loved by God, steadfastedly, forever.

When we finally settled ourselves in St. Louis, we knew that we were here for a reason. This was/is the place that God called us to be, to do, to share. And so, it has been.

However, somewhere along the way, we forgot that material things are not important. We became comfortable with more than enough. We began to live to the edge again, incurring more debt than savings.

And here is where we are. Brought up short from the midst of our comfort. Rug pulled right out from under us, because of us. Here we are.

It is time to reboot our hearts. We will reset our sights. We will right the wrongs. We will set down our anger, anxiety, and frustration and focus on getting rid of the debt and not incurring any new. We have more than enough. We will live within that. We will focus on need rather than want.

And then we will hang on. Because one thing we have learned – when we listen to the Holy Spirit, she gets all excited. She loves our attention. And this makes me happy.

Here we are, God. We are yours. We will probably forget again. Our prayer is two-fold: that we won’t forget and that if we do, we remember quickly – to God be the Glory in all things. What we have is not ours. It all is for God, because of God, to be used for God’s purpose.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Relentless as the Tide


Lent has always seemed to sneak up on me. But this year, one of my new year goals was to live more intentionally, more fully into the life of Jesus. I have, by no means, been totally successful. Yet, I must say, I have done a better job of it this year than any before. I actually made time to anticipate Lent. Music has played a large part in my prayer life. 

Two songs have been playing in my head over the past three weeks. One, as I stood at the edge of the Gulf with the waves tickling my toes, is "Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew; that I may love what thou doest love and do what thou wouldst do." I felt the breath of God and I have held that feeling close in my heart over that last couple of weeks. 

The other song is "O love that will not let me go". 

I do not listen to "Christian" radio or even too many songs. A bit of Gospel Bluegrass now and again, or Willie Nelson and the Nelson Family doing Gospel large - that is about the extent of my listening to that type of music. Otherwise, I am much more into instrumental, Taize, or Gregorian chants. But  a few years ago, I searched for "peace" songs on Spotify. Several Chris Rice songs came up and I do listen to those. This past week, I have played "O love that will not let me go" so many times as to memorize it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3OJ-V9U_Y8  
George Matheson (1842-1906) wrote the lyrics.

What attracted me initially was the guitar. Then I came to love the sound of Rice's voice - so soothing, so peaceful. It helped me de-stress and breathe properly. Recently, I began to pay attention to the words and came to realize how strongly these verses resonated with my own feelings. 

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

I feel as though I have wrestled with or run from God for most of my adult life. I told God so many times to leave me alone, let me be, yet, that Love hangs tenaciously, relentlessly, steadfastedly to the core of my being. 

That Love wore me out. It overcame deep wounds, scars, and fear. I stopped running, turned and fully faced the power of the Love that will not let me go. As a result, I realized that this life was never my own. I actually knew that as a child, but somewhere in the midst of young/middle adulthood, I lived in a false sense of self. I have offered this self that I thought was my own back to that Love to whom it has always belonged in hopes that the richness of my love will be fuller still. 

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

That light that has shone through me has never been my own. It has always been God's Love shining through me. I know this now. That knowledge allows the light to shine all the brighter so that it is more clearly known to be from God alone.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

I have been blessed with the ability to feel joy, unbridled. My heart has leapt with a hope that is beyond my knowing. Sometimes, that joy comes in the midst of pain and I know...I know that all will be well. 

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

The Cross has always confounded me, in my youth and later. It seemed an icon in some ways - almost a worship of the cross itself rather than what it stood for. Maybe that is the Baptist background in me, always fearing false idols. I see it now as a significant part of understanding that death of this mortal body does not mean the end. It is merely a portal through which we shall pass to get to that "life that shall endless be." I know that death in this here and now is inevitable, even necessary. I cannot escape it. I cannot let the fear of death keep me from following the path of Jesus. 

I read articles I have written in the past and I see such a depth of yearning. I have an understanding of that longing now that has remained elusive previously. I want to be fully a part of this thing called Church. I want my life to be fully about God. Just as tenaciously as God's Love has held onto me, so I want to cling to that Love. 

Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew; that I may love what thou doest love and do what thou wouldst do.


I am on the right path.