Friday, September 29, 2006

So...why does he keep giving me rocks?

What father among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone.. [Luke 11:11]

I was driving down the road between work and home. The road wasn’t as filled with monsters made of steel an rubber as it usually is during my commute. Then again, I wasn’t driving home as I usually did either.

It was somewhere around 10:30am.
La was sick, and I didn’t know why.
She was sick, and I didn’t know when she would be well.

After we returned from South Korea, or maybe some time before we left that country, my wife became ill. At first we thought it was travelers’ diarrhea [which is what I apparently had]. When she woke up on September 12 with a fever of 102.9 [I said .8 in an earlier post, she tells me it was .9], it all seemed to be a little more serious.

Over the course of the week, she frequented doctors’ offices more than any healthy person should. By the end of the week [Friday, September 15] she was in the hospital with an IV slowly dripping nutrients and antibiotics into her blood stream. Sometimes she would cry. The only thing she wanted was to be well and the only thing she seemed to complain about was the difficulty she had sleeping with an IV in her arm.

During a few of my many trips to the hospitals, to her room, to our home…I had a lot of time to reflect and pray. I asked God, very frankly, “Why are you giving me stones?” I asked Him about Eric. I asked Him about my wife. I asked Him about so many times where I had asked and the answer always came as, “No.”

You might be on the end that says, “God was using the, ‘No’ as an element of teaching.”
You might be on the end that asks, “Why is God, the good Father, giving me stones…too?”
Doctrinally, I can tell you why.
Experientially, I am hard pressed.

If you know me, I don’t try to base much on experience either.

One post we came to in the road held an arrow. Another held a mirror. The one with the arrow seemed to be the easiest to look at but made me so angry because I always came to think that it oversimplified the problem. The post with the mirror was so difficult to look at because it reminded me of how unfit I was. When I looked at the arrow I didn’t have to think about my needs, I only needed to walk. When I looked into the mirror, my needs were made immediately apparent. It hurt to look into the mirror, but the answer is what I needed so much more.

When I looked at Laura in her hospital bed, I thought about how impoverished my soul is. I thought about how much it has been starved from the substance of Christ and the character of God. I thought about how poor of a leader I had been in our relationship and how far from a picture of Christ and the Church our marriage was.

Then, I prayed more boldly then I ever have before.

My heart holds not the belief that God will make me healthy and monetary wealthy through faith. I think that belief neglects the millions of Christians who live in developing countries who are starving to death – those who seemingly have no hope, or health, or wealth.

What I was reminded of in the mirror, what I was reminded of by my wife’s sickness, and what enabled me to pray as I did was the still small voice that reminded me that Christ’s blood – God’s blood – is really sufficient.

Over the course of 4 days, Laura’s health increased significantly. I do not attribute this to my prayers; I do attribute this to God’s mercy. When people ask about Laura, I tell them that God has been merciful to us because I believe that to be true. He was merciful to draw me in as a child, to show me what sort of putrid wretch I was and to remind me of what a cherished son and heir I am. He was merciful to make Laura well in a fairly quick manner despite the foul-ups of her respective nurses. He was merciful not to strike me down for my disrespect in yelling at him as I drove alone in my truck.

He was merciful to show me that the easy answer is not always the right one.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A bird, a bird, a bird, and a duck…

[I'm listening to The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens]

A Bird

La was ill – not in the sense that she was angry at me, but in the sense that she had a fever of 102.8 F at one point followed by days of stomach problems. In the midst of her tears and despite her infirmed situation she looked at me and said, “I have a surprise for you.”

It was all a bit surreal. “Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“A couple of months ago I bought you two tickets to the Sufjan concert in Atlanta. I’ve already talked to your manager, he said everything would be fine for you to go. I also rented a room at the Marquis.” She said this with a beaming and simultaneously sickly smile.

This just wasn’t registering. Partly, because I just did not know if and when she would be better. Partly because I was so much more concerned with how she was doing. A couple of days later she was in the hospital with an IV strapped to her. It wasn’t – just some Salt, Calcium, and antibiotics for her stomach. But it was – the IV being changed often, seeing my wife in a hospital bed, praying and feeling like a good Father was giving me stones instead of bread.

Progress ensued.

We went into the hospital on a Friday afternoon. We left on a Monday morning. Sufjan was playing on Wednesday night and we were going on a road trip.

God was merciful to the undeserving.

A Bird

It was exciting to be in a situation where I really didn’t know what to expect. The stage was sparsely decorated with a large projection screen hanging and adorned on either side by what seemed to be the longest streams of tinsel I’ve ever seen. During the opening act of My Brightest Diamond I admired the architecture and detail of the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I followed the curves of the crafted wood into the reaches of the cavernous ceiling that was painted to resemble a night sky.

After some time, Sufjan came onto the stage with his musical entourage. Violins and a standing bass were on his left after the two trumpet players and the trombone. There was a grand piano directly behind him and a drummer behind it. No one was yet on the piano. To his right were the electric bass player and the lead singer for My Brightest [she was on guitar]. The stage was filled with fifteen two eighteen musicians.

The stage was filled with musicians who were wearing blue jeans, grey shirts, masks, and both butterfly wings and bird wings. They refused to take them off throughout the course of the concert. It didn’t matter; this gift from my wife was the best concert I have ever been. Sufjan utilized video [mostly textures as my video-editing friend put into words for us] to accentuate the themes of his music [as if the composition wasn’t already detailed enough]. All together, I had the opportunity to listen to one of the best story tellers I’ve heard in a period.

Sufjan, like my wife is afraid of birds.

He became what he feared – adorning birds’ wings and singing his beautiful and sometimes enigmatic songs.

An Annoying Bird

He was playing The Transfiguration.
She was telling her date about her siblings.
I was trying to tune her out.
I was thinking of how I could cause offense without insinuating that I meant it.
“No offense, but my wife didn’t pay for us to come and listen to you in Atlanta, we’re here for the concert.”
In my mind I said, “After this song…”

Halfway through one of the worst screeching sounds I’ve ever heard in my life occurs – to the cheers of the audience and the well handled consternation of Sufjan.

When I look back, the awful cawing buzzing bird behind me has left [or moved] with her three friends.

And a Duck

This is a bit disjoint, but I thought it fit with the theme.

I was on my way out for a morning run yesterday – too lazy to put on my contacts and too concerned to put on my glasses. I walked down the steps with a bag of garbage in my hand trying to wake despite the dark. At the bottom of the steps, I sidestepped to avoid what looked like a bundle of rags in the dark.

Coming back from my run, I crouched to look at the rags [I am fairly to quite nearsighted]. To my great astonishment, there was a medium sized deceased duck in front of the house we live in!

I have nothing to say upon this as it is altogether strange.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


What do you get when you take one couple, add one sister and one brother to that couple, then add 2 children to that couple, and add a niece and nephew to that couple. For those who are not astute mathematicians, that equals eight people. More than that, it encompasses the population of one apartment during our stay in South Korea.

There was one television. There was one computer. There were two bathrooms.

I kind of have this sense that if you had the same situation in the states that there would also be a chaotic mess to deal with. The apartment wasn’t necessarily small, but it wasn’t huge either. It actually had 3 distinct bedrooms [all which are small according to our standards], but everyone got along comfortably.


If you’ve ever seen an Asian culture in action [for most of you, this would probably be on your respective television sets or in magazines, I assume] you might notice a lot of hand holding and a special closeness.

But in America, we yearn for what we consider to be freedom.

What’s amazing is that when there’s something that rocks your life, maybe that freedom isn’t valued as much anymore. Sorry, there won’t be much more than that – I know that it really isn’t much of a follow up, but I’m still trying to get over the flight back on top of hay fever.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

[Finished Theodore Rex. You can check out my review here]

We’ve had a wonderful time while staying in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula, but in a couple of hours, we’ll begin our journey “home.” La has been an absolute champ in the way that she’s acclimated to this culture and to a few [somewhat] uncomfortable circumstances. I’m not going to throw out a list of things that we did while we were here, but our site will be updated as soon as we can transfer our pictures onto a hard drive.

There’s not a whole lot that I’ve missed about being in the U.S., but there are two very significant things that La and I have discussed that have been hard to do without.

The first involves the language gap. Growing up, I was given quite a few opportunities to learn Han Gul [the Korean name for the Korean language] but never applied myself to it – I was a pretty rebellious son-a-b as a child. Opposed to seemingly popular opinion, the rest of the word does not [in fact] speak English.

[as an aside, we have been tempted on more than one occasion to speak to people in Spanish and Portuguese – which is just dumb]

The second is our loss of autonomy. It has been difficult for us to try to go anywhere alone. When we do, and if we are gone for an extended period, we are asked “what happened.” This is a difficulty as La and I love to explore our surroundings when we’re in a new place. On the good end, my mother’s family have been so unbelievably accommodating in shuttling us around or leading us through different areas. Their kindness has made this trip sweet.

All in all, leaving is sort of bitter sweet.

You come to love people that you’re related to – the same people that you only get to see [apparently] every decade or so. On the other hand, you get to leave the people that you have no social history or common language with.

You have to leave the extreme kindness of your family and new found friends. Conversely, you’re free to live again.

When it comes down to it, that’s what we want though [right]? Don’t most of us in our individualized culture yearn for freedom? Trust me, this will bleed into my next blog.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reporting from South Korea...

[Finished reading The Religious Life of the Theological Student by Benjamin B. Warfield]

With understandable caution, airports around the United States are “randomly searching” passengers before they enter terminals. Considering the assumption of what those charged in England are purported to have planned, Airlines are now also “randomly searching” passengers before they enter into their respective planes.

Shortly after 9/11, I was searched at pretty much any airport I walked through. If I was flying, I was usually with a lot of my Anglo friends; with my thick eyebrows, darker complexion, and crazy eyes I guess I feel like I was often the one singled out to be searched. It wasn’t a big deal to me, I figured that it was just part and parcel of the traveling process.

After that first year, I don’t think I’ve been singled out since. I was singled out this morning when entering the plane to ensure that I wasn’t carrying any liquids onto our flight, but that’s not where I want to go with this.

La was on her way to freshen up. On the way to the ladies’ room, she noticed that a man had been singled out to be checked. They were, as the standards go, patting him down and rummaging through his carry on. That is, they were patting this elderly Caucasian man down after they had him stand up from his motorized wheel chair.

Now he was a candidate for world terrorism if I’ve ever seen one.
It’s a good thing they checked him; who knows what kind of violence he had the potential of causing?

As of late, I’ve thought often of how off base our government is in handling our business and safety concerns. This man is a prime example. In the vein of seeking a politically correct solution, we put forth a “randomized” process where anyone may be searched at any time by process of indiscriminate selection.

Well, at least we can say that there is no race-gendered-socioeconomic-age profiling in our airports. Chalk one up for the good guys.