Eating the most expensive scrambled eggs while pondering cheap grace.

This is NOT the picture of scrambled eggs that sat in a styrofoam bowl along with
a plastic fork and napkin that awaited me in the nuclear medicine lab this morning…
complete with a dixie cup of water–
but I just wasn’t thinking fast enough to snap a picture before downing
my radioactive breakfast.

I had gotten up with the chickens this morning in order to arrive at the hospital
bright and early for a gastric swallowing test.

It was to be a 90-minute procedure that I really felt was not at the heart of my
issues and not what I really needed but I am currently playing human guinea pig.

I was supposed to have an MRI Monday of my liver, with and without contrast…
of which would also take a look-see at my gallbladder and pancreas.
The scan had been scheduled for two months…but last week the gal in scheduling called
to tell me that the insurance company had told the hospital that I had just had a CT scan
so why would they now need an MRI?!

Don’t you just love insurance companies and hospitals!?

“Well yes,” I explained to the gal at scheduling “I did just have a CT scan 4 weeks ago.”
“But that was a CT scan in the office of a Urologist that was to check my kidneys and bladder
for any abnormalities or kidney stones since there has been blood in my urine and lower
abdominal pain along with bloodwork that was all over the place indicating
low kidney functions.”

“The MRI is for the gastroenterologist and was to be performed at the hospital as he wants
an image of the liver before he does a biopsy…
The same blood work that showed poor kidney function also showed high liver levels with even
the fatty liver enzymes increasing…along with the recurrent bouts of either
gallstones or pancreatitis.”

She told me I could go ahead with the test on Monday but that I would have to sign a
waiver stating that I would be responsible for the full amount until the insurance company
decided to approve it…or not. Something like $6000 bucks…
I politely declined and so we rescheduled for the beginning of February as by then I
trust the insurance company will have things sorted out in the understanding department.

So as I sat down in the lab full of whizzing machines and fans,
I raised a fork full of eggs to my mouth and I asked the nuclear med tech if he was going to
poke an IV in my arm for the nuclear meds.
He replied nonchalantly, “nope, it’s all in the eggs.”
“In fact, he quipped, “that’s probably the most expensive little serving of eggs you’ll ever eat.”

Suddenly I felt like some former 007 MI6 / Russian spy who had been discovered
with Putin himself ordering that my eggs be poisoned with undetectable radioisotopes.

But luckily these ‘isotopes’ emit photons which would be detected by the gamma camera
that was to hover over me while I laid perfectly still for 90 minutes.
The machine would follow the path of eggs from esophagus to stomach on out to the small intestine.

Amazing really when you think about it all.
How amazing is it that God crafted every tiny little detail and how amazing is that man is
trying to figure out how to get up close and personal to watch the Master at work!

So let’s back up.

When I arrived at the hospital, the scheduling gal told me to arrive at one entrance vs another.
So once my husband dropped me off at the front door, I hurried in from the cold and walked up to the
receptionist’s desk.
The nice lady told me I was actually to have arrived downstairs at the other entrance.
I had asked the girl on the phone twice and she told me this entrance.
Sometimes I think hospitals are too big for their own good.

So the nice lady at the wrong desk got me scheduled and actually walked me to the elevator and
through the maze of corridors all the way to the Nuclear lab.
Where I proceeded to wait until my name was called.

The gal working this particular desk was actually a former student who began catching
me up on the last 20 years of her life—marriage, kids, careers, divorce and now remade woman.

As other patients arrived and she kept talking, I made nice by excusing myself so the line wouldn’t
continue building behind me as I politely listened to life.

I found a chair in the corner and pulled out my phone to peruse my WP reader.

Now you know that if I ever see a post with the word Bonhoeffer in it, I knee-jerk click.

And I am so glad that I did.

The post is by Jarrett Dickey who is a blogger, pastor and faculty member of
several colleges where he teaches theology and humanities.

His post is titled ‘Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace’
a post based on Bonhoeffer’s writings from The Cost of Discipleship

I have written many a post highlighting Bonhoeffer’s writings based on cheap vs costly grace.
But it should be noted that Bonhoeffer’s works are not often easy to read…they are
deep in both a theological sense and a personal sense.

Talk about conviction–cheap grace.

Here is the post:

The opening chapter of The Cost of Discipleship features Dietrich Bonhoeffer in some
of his best form as a writer. His use of paradox, irony, hyperbole,
exaggeration, and sarcasm makes this one of the wittiest criticisms of popular Christian
theology ever written. It also can make it hard to understand and follow for
the uninitiated reader. In general, Bonhoeffer is addressing the two major
flaws of the Protestant (especially Lutheran) mindset.

The rich and complex biblical portrait of faith is reduced to simple belief in creeds,
doctrines, or statements of faith.
In trying to correct the Catholic over-emphasis on the necessity of good works for salvation,
Protestants have gone to the extreme of making good works almost entirely optional (sola fides).
As Bonhoeffer explains, Protestants have turned orthodox Christianity into Christianity
without discipleship or obedience or sacrifice. In short, this is what he calls
“cheap grace.”
In addition to addressing these two major mindsets, Bonhoeffer seems to be addressing
two other major flaws in popular Christian thought:

You can be forgiven by God without being transformed by God.
In other words, you can continue in your old lifestyle (what the Bible calls
“the flesh”) and be pleasing to God, no need to walk in the Spirit or live a holy life.
There are two levels of commitment. One is for the really devoted Christian
(i.e. monks, missionaries, pastors, etc.), and the other is for the average Christian.
In other words, a spiritual caste lives a devoted and sacrificial life while
the regular class of Christians lives a worldly and ordinary life.
Bonhoeffer’s main point in all this is that God’s grace cost the life of God’s son.
Although God’s grace is freely given to all who are willing to receive,
it still costs something from the one who receives.
What does it cost? Simply put, it costs a man his life.
In return for the free gift of God’s grace, a man offers his life in total obedience
to God’s will. This is what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2.
In light of God’s mercy, there can only be one response:
the offering of oneself completely to God.

On this basis faith is clearly more than just belief.
It involves trust, obedience, sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment.
The Latin term, fides, conveys the multiplicity of faith.
Imagine substituting the English word “fidelity” for the word “faith”
throughout the biblical text.
The reader would walk away with the sense that faith was a lifetime commitment
of enduring loyalty. With this in mind, faith and works cannot be so easily
separated into different compartments. As Paul says in Romans 1:5,
he is trying to spread “the obedience of faith.” The two are linked in a beautiful dance.

Furthermore, the biblical notion of faith implies a change and transformation.
Receiving the mercy of God does not leave a person unaffected.
Grace is the power to live a new and abundant life. Finally,
we can see that there is only one Christian life– the one of total surrender to the will of God.
This, as Bonhoeffer explains, is costly grace.

https://conciliarpost.com/theology-spirituality/bonhoeffers-cheap-grace/

waiting rooms and prayer

Believers ought to be distinguished not only by their place,
but by their way of life. They ought to be obvious not only by the gift,
but also by the new life. He should be distinguishable by everything—
by his walk, by his look, by his clothes, by his voice.

St. John Chrysostom
from A Year with the Church Fathers


(a Bible sits on a table in the waiting room of a doctor’s office / Julie Cook / 2020)

This is a week spent running from a myriad of doctor’s offices and the hospital for tests…
Long story.
Schedules have just worked out making this a full packed week.

So this morning, on my first stop of the day, I was sitting in the brand new
waiting room for my general practitioner.
They’ve just recently moved into a brand new, state of the arts,
fancy schmancy medical complex that sits across the street from our city’s hospital.

You know how waiting rooms can be.
Someone is always talking on their phone when they shouldn’t be.
There’s coughing, sneezing along with some idle chit chat amongst the fellow waiters.

I had not brought a book and my eyes were tired of squinting at my phone so I
opted to survey my surroundings.

I spied the table sitting across from me to see if there might be a magazine of interest
but then I thought better about picking anything up because the flu was running
rampant around the room.
I’ve been lucky thus far and didn’t want to chance things so I dug out some paper
from my purse to scratch off a list for the grocery store.

Yet before I could even start writing, my eye caught a Bible sitting rather prominently
on the table across from me as I immediately inwardly smiled.
I know that my doctor is an ardent Christian.

So I started thinking.
So many people, the rabid nonbelievers amongst us, rattle sabers when they catch a hint
of Christianity out and about in plain view. They protest the outward symbols of
the Chrisitan faith, claiming it is some sort of infringement of their civil rights.

Yet here in plain sight sat the foundation of our faith.
And what an appropriate place for a book of hope to be found since this is often the
place of bad news and burdened individuals.

Throughout the day, as I traversed from one appointment to another, I was constantly
reminded of the fiasco taking place in Washington…be it from a television in a waiting room
or news alerts on my phone…I knew a three-ring circus was filling our lives.

It is so easy for me to fuss and cuss the idiocy taking place from both sides of the aisle
as these people, this body of governmental leadership, has put the running of our Nation’s
business on permanent hold as they wage a petty battle among themselves.
And for what?
Vindictiveness?

And so looking at the Bible sitting on that table, I got to thinking that I actually had
an opportunity. I could either fuss, cuss and lament about our Governmental leadership,
or lack thereof, or I could do something much more important—
I could pray.

Here are two of the prayers found in the Book of Common Prayer
offered for our Government and President.

May we pray for God’s Mercy and Grace…

18. For our Country

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

19. For the President of the United States and all in Civil
Authority

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom
and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the
love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
Amen.

be not anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and position,
with thanksgiving, present your requests before God.

Philippians 4:6


(male and female urinary tract medical chart)

This is the chart that was staring at me today from the back of the door inside
the procedure room where I sat waiting.

I felt it was a waste of my time, not to mention money,
to be sitting and waiting on this final of three procedures.
The race down this particular rabbit hole was not, is not, a part of my current issues…
or so was my non-medical opinion.

Ever since July, I have been slowly riding a bit of a medical merry-go-round.

Bloodwork results resulted in more bloodwork.
More bloodwork results resulted in more specialized doctors.
Waiting on specialized results resulted in waiting to be seen by more specialists.
All kinds of specialists.

It seems this Sjögren’s business leads to soft tissue disease,
eye troubles, mouth troubles, kidney troubles, joint troubles,
even upping lymphoma possibilities.

Over the years, I’ve had the eyes, mouth and joint issues that I just thought
were odd individuals annoyances and not linked together.

Turns out they were linked.

Now throw in the soft tissue disease…gees.

The bloodwork results were all somewhat unsettling.
Elevated levels here, diminished levels there.
Ups and downs all over the place.

Add to that a suspected pancreatitis attack this past weekend…of which
could be gallbladder related…or not…
And thus the mystery deepens.

Now the doctors seem to keep multiplying and the merry-go-round keeps spinning.

Occult blood means that blood is detected via the labs and not seen by the naked eye.
It raises flags and eyebrows by the medical world.

It seems they found occult blood—hence my sitting and staring at a urinary tract chart.

Before her death three years ago, when my aunt was diagnosed with kidney cancer,
she had had no symptoms, no clues… but she did have occult blood.

I will admit, that despite my feelings that my third visit to this particular specialist’s
office was just a waste of time and money, a slight worry did gnaw at the back of my mind.

Thankfully, my non-medical expertise was correct…
All was indeed well…
all but a small kidney stone that has been in the same kidney in the same
spot for the past 4 years.

It is, however, the looming MRI in two weeks, the doctor’s appt on Thursday, what tests
will be added, and the other doctor appointments following the MRI—
all of which will hopefully be more telling.

Casting a bit of light into the darkness so to speak.

It’s not that I’m worried.
I just want to know, finally, what is what.
And then, how to go about dealing with the what.

That’s what doers like to do—they want to know what is what and then what to
do with that what.

However, I am a bit aggravated riding this merry-go-round of the medical world.
It is slow and it is time-consuming.
Yet I suppose many of us will all ride the merry-go-round at some point sooner or later
in our lives.

I couldn’t help but marvel in the day’s verse that came my way…
“Do not be anxious about anything…”

Those words echoed in my mind as I sat on that exam table.

Amen..be not anxious.
Prayer and thanksgiving…

Fast forward to the day’s end.
The day’s news is unfolding as I type, while missiles now fly across the skies in Iraq.
Breaking alerts keep interrupting the evening’s quiet…

My thoughts race back to that verse—
I took it as a fine-tuned spoken word for me today as I sat staring at that medical chart,
waiting for an unknown scope.

So now I cling to those same spoken words as this Nation sits wondering and waiting.

Do not be anxious—petition, pray and give thanks.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

a gentle reminder

“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
St. Francis de Sales

dscn2191
(wild turkey Cades Cove, The Great Smokies National Park, Tennessee /Julie Coo / 2015)

Late one afternoon last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.
It was one of those late in the day appointments that kind of puts a kink
in the entire day…. as in you have to be dressed and ready to go all while making
certain that you aren’t doing anything else that causes you to overrun the appointed time.

You know how doctor’s offices can be…

Either they scold you for running late… as in the receptionist will either
actually say something about how you’ve messed up everyone else by being late,
or rather she will just give you that stare of annoyment while curtly
asking for your insurance information.
Or even worse…they’ll fine you for missing the appointment because
they canceled it when you weren’t there on the dot.

Never mind that you will proceed to sit for hours waiting to finally be seen
despite your punctuality.

I arrived right on time but noticed that the office seemed rather
sparse for that time of day.
This was actually an appointment that had to be rescheduled following my nerve block
as the two coincided and they couldn’t work me in for a solid month,
so I’ve had to wait and wait….
I am happy I wasn’t in total dire straights.

The receptionist asked which doctor I was to see.
When I told her she informed me that he was actually in a different office
in another town that day.

Huh?

“What’s your birthday so I can look up your time…”

I gave it to her while I was now almost certain that for some reason,
maybe the fact that my brain no longer worked,
the appointment was actually to be the following day…
the day I was having to be Atlanta with Dad.

Sure enough it was.

Despite my having gotten the text to confirm the day and time…
despite that the date being marked on my calendar and
despite my cell phone alerting me when to go…

So since I now had to cancel the now following day’s appointment, again,
as I had to be with Dad,
the earliest available was not for another full month…
maybe I will be in dire straights by then…

Anywhoo, I exited the office now mad.
Mad at myself…
mad at my crazy life…
and mad that the doctor can’t seem to see me for months at a time…

Aggravated, I got in the elevator with my nose to my phone making certain
I was putting the new date and time in correctly.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the man coming out of the
same office I had just exited,
right behind me as he entered the elevetaor with me.

I pushed the ground floor and was taken aback a bit when I realized I wasn’t alone.
I asked the gentleman which floor he needed.
He told me the ground floor.

We all know how awkward it can be with just two strangers on an elevator together…
as in what do you say, what to you do, where do you look…I put down my phone and
asked my elevator mate if he was having a good day.

“Oh yes mam I am” he said with a distinct country accent.

Here in the south, true southerners either have a deep southern drawl
or one that is what is considered more country then southern.
Much to my mother’s disdain, when she first met my husband,
who was at the time my fiancé of their first meeting,
his accent was and still is more country than was her very genteel southern intonation.

My elevator mate was wearing a green and white checked shirt, neatly tucked into his
nicely pressed blue jeans.
He was an older black man, graying throughout his neatly cut hair.
He was rather thin yet spry and was squinting in the dimly lit elevator…
all while ginning from ear to ear.

He continued…
“I don’t have to come back for 6 more months cause I just got me a good report from the doctor.”

“That’s great!” I injected, genuinely happy for him because I know all too well
about those bad reports.

“Ever since that operation when he cut on my stomach,
I’ve quit hurting and I”ve gained 10 pounds in a month’s time!
I aint scrawny no more!!!” he proudly boasted.

I told him that that was great and now he’d be able to truly enjoy his Thanksgiving.
“Oh yes mam I plan to…”

By now we were both making our way toward the parking lot.
As we exited the building, I noticed that it was a very warm late fall afternoon.
The sun was shining yet heading deep toward the west while there was a warm breeze blowing.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day” he announced more than asked…
as I respond that that indeed it was.
I added “it certainly doesnt feel very fall like since we’ve not had any fall
or winter-like weather.

“Well that’s about to change this weekend because it’s going to be cold on Sunday.”

“Really?”

I’ve not paid much attention to the weather as of late as we are in an extremely
unseasonable spell of warm weather that is actually hot and dangerously dry.

“Yes mam, but until then, you enjoy this nice weather and you have yourself a
good Thanksgiving holiday.”

“And I hope you do too….”

And with that we went our separate ways.

Suddenly I forgot that I had been mad, aggravated or feeling frustrated that
I’d wasted the better part of the day with stupidity…

Because in that elevator I had met a spry and happy reminder to the things in our lives that truly matter….and it didn’t have anything to do with missed appointments…
or maybe…
it really did…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippines 4:6