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/

slow and determined

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to
go right in someone else’s.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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(box turtle / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(brown rabbit / Watercolor Resort, Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing I’ve never been accused of being is slow.

Determined,
stubborn,
even hell bent…

yes…

but slow….

never.

I’ve never been one to be still for very long.
If I’ve got to be somewhere, I prefer early.
If I’m driving someplace, I drive as if life depends on it…
none of this Sunday driver, leisure business for me.

And it’s not as if I made some conscious decision early on
to take the fast lane in life…
Rather it’s just that I’ve always been like that….like this…
Always seemingly in some sort of quickness or hurry.
Straight from point A to B…no distractions with C, D or E in between…

I have made a point of mostly making the most of my time.
Filling it with as much productiveness as I can….
Maybe that comes from being a teacher as teachers are conditioned
to do so much with so little…
squeezing everything possible into a short space of time…

So you should know that with this disc and nerve business…
slow and determined has oddly become the name of the game and my new normal…
Sigh…
It’s as if my world has suddenly been cast into a slow motion stop frame
of agonizingly slow movement and speed.

As I now have to think long and hard about each and every movement—
nothing herky jerky fast or quick,
lest some shooting, searing new pain emerges out of no where.

And speaking of—this nerve business…

Are you familiar with a cilice?
Something like a hairshirt but worse.

Did you ever see the Dan Brown movie…Angels and Demons?
You may remember the poor monk Silas who wore a metal spiked ban
around his thigh under his habit.
He would tighten the ban as a form of self mortification…
unto bleeding….

I’m all for piousness.
I am gratified and humbled by those Desert Fathers and Mothers
and various saintly ones who have sacrificed both comfort and self
for the union of soul to the Spirit….
but this nerve pain gives new meaning to mortification…

It’s kind of like shingles, without the shingle.
Angry nerves running from the left of the lower back to the top thigh to the groin.

Is it bad if I confess that I have cut the elastic out of my underwear?

And may I add that hasn’t helped?

And that the whole thought of just going naked is making perfect sense…

I had shingles once—long ago—and caught it relatively early enough…
Such that it was short lived.

This disc business however has not been short lived.
And being a modest individual, naked would not be my first choice,
but I am a firm believer in drastic measures for drastic times…

I received notice today in the mail that the insurance company has approved the doctor’s
request to perform a nerve block next week.

How kind of them—

Because I fear if they had not been in agreement,
I might just have found myself in their office holding a cattle prod
asking for the individual who decided I did not need the nerve block.
As perhaps being prodded with electrical pulses from a naked person
might just persuade them otherwise…

I have learned a lot from lying on the floor.
I call it the perspective of a cat.
Not so much that I now know all too clearly that the ceiling fans
need a ladder and dusting…
or that dust bunnies can show up just about anywhere out of nowhere….

but rather that things can look overwhelming when looking up…

Yet the cats are undeterred by their short stature…
It bothers them not that the majority of their world towers over their heads.
They confidently saunter about here and there,
even onto my stomach while I’m flat on my back…
which is not a positive when 17 pounds walks on your stomach
and you’re already in grave pain…

I have even found myself telling my husband that I fear I am no longer earning my keep…
seeing that I’m spending more time on the floor then off the floor.

Now before you feminists out there have a hissy fit,
you need to understand that my take
on marriage is that of a constant continuum of contribution.

Each spouse contributes to the relationship.
My part / his part sort of deal.

When one party feels as if he or she is contributing more and more
as the other gives less and less—-resentment builds.

Ours has always been pretty much unspoken as we each have worked hard at contributing.
Be it going to work to make money to pay the bills…
to actually paying those said bills.
From cooking to cleaning to laundry, to ferrying growing child, to ferrying sick pets,
to cutting the grass—

As there must be balance and an evenness to what is done in a marriage.

Yet there is that whole “in sickness and in health” business….
and sadly ours is a society not too keen on that “in sickness” part.
We can “do” colds but when it comes to catastrophes,
sadly we tend to want to run and hide.

My husband reassured me as he looked down at me on the heating pad on the floor,
that I was very much keepable….

Or I think he was looking at me and not the dust bunny I had found….

So whereas I am not so quick these days, I am gaining in wisdom and appreciation.

I appreciate that I am on the floor by choice and
not because I’ve had one too many drinks to deaden the pain…

I appreciate that I don’t think the ceilings needs repainting…
as that is what I stare at now most of the time…

I appreciate the fact that the cats are well fed and perhaps actually
over weight…
yet love their mommy enough to wonder why she’s on the floor…
obviously there for their enjoyment—
cats are self-centered that way…

I am wise enough now to know that slow and steady are ok and as is often such…
goes to the winner of any race.

I am wise enough to know that things could be worse…
as I think…Dad…

I am wise enough to know that I can cry, and have, but trying to find
something, anything funny, is better…

And I appreciate that I can drive to Dad’s today to met the Hospice Nurse..
thankful and appreciative for people who want to come into people’s lives when life is
looking pretty darn bad…

I think we call that running to the sound of battle rather than from it….

Here’s to not seeing me naked holding a cattle prod as I saunter down the street….

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly;
I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Christian how are your defenses?

“If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.”
― George Washington

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Winston Churchill

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(Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Christian how are your defenses?

Do you lock your doors?
Do you lock your car?
Do you lock up your bike?
Do you have a security system?
Do you have a chip in your pet?
Do you have security cameras?
Do you have security for your phone, your laptop, your car?
Do you have insurance protecting your property?
Do you expect your bank to protect your assets?
Do you expect the FDA to protect your food?
Do you expect your bill of rights and constitution to protect your speech, your vote, your way of life?
Do you have police and sheriff departments protecting your city and town?
Do you have a military protecting your nation?

Yet do you defend and protect your faith?

Oh you say you don’t see the need?

You say you pray, that’s enough?

What about worship?

What if that was invaded, threatened, taken…away?

Have you ever worried that going to church could be taken away, stolen, lost, destroyed…?

Are you willing to fight for your beliefs?

If you defend and protect everything else in your life, why not your faith…

Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?

Psalm 94:16

Look up

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty,
believe in them, and try to follow them.”

Louisa May Alcott

“Hope is the last thing ever lost.”
Italian Proverb


“If you’re going through hell, by all means, keep going. . .”

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill:

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(a tiny yet beautiful skipper looks upward / Julie Cook / 2015)

Spending the day situating Dad’s affairs. . .
As in. . .

Getting the taxes almost squared away with the CPA, the State and the one’s that really count, the Feds. . .

Dealing with the accident report and Police department regarding the little fender bender last week with Gloria and the caregiver while they were out on a mission. . .
Oh, did I not tell you about that?
You don’t want to know. . .

Organizing the growing mountain of paperwork, invoices, bills, receipts. . .
While musing that taking care of Dad and that household of theirs must be similar to running a small corporation or better yet, a small country. . .

Calling insurance companies. . .cars, medical. . .”please hold. . .”

Talking with the Care Agency about lining up the who’s, the whats, the whens, the wheres. . .and we know the whys. . .

Talking with Dad, who is still terribly ill. . .convinced he’s dying yet hoping they can help with the cancer. . .As I in turn inquire as to who told him he had cancer. . .With the response being, “it won’t go away, it’s cancer. . .” Ode to the rationale of psychosis

Talking with the nurse, otherwise known as the wise counsel who still has her sanity in the midsts of all of this while playing go-between with the doctor’s office, the caregiver, me and most importantly Dad. . .

Coordinating taking Dad to the Gastroenterologist tomorrow (which is today if your reading this) with as much ease as possible. . .
While hoping and praying for positive good news. . .

Taking a break, I push back from the phone, the computer, the table, and life. . .
Wondering why I came home from the Ocean’s shores. . .deciding quickly to seek a small diversion.

I step outside into the “feels like 91 degree” humid heat to weed, fertilize and deadhead the now leggy hot garden and yard.
An hour of working in a sauna, I head back inside seeking respite and a popsicle.
I look over a few of my favorite blogs, catching up on a few new postings. . .when I read a wonderful feel good story from Stuart M. Perkins over on Storyshucker
( https://storyshucker.wordpress.com )
Stuart has a Faulkneresque quality as he spins his tales of life and of his growing up in the South (Virginia that is).

His story today regarding a weekend spent at a team building seminar, coupled with my talk with the Nurse charged with caring for Dad and Gloria, each caught my attention as the similarities in these separate discussions was not lost on a sinking psyche.

It is becoming increasingly easy for me to grow frustrated, overwhelmed and sad while dealing with all things Dad and Gloria, while trying to squeeze my own family’s needs into the picture.
Heading into all of this pretty much alone—as in the only child dealing with a dad and stepmom’s rapidly declining health while trying to manage their home and lives, all from afar. . .can drive me to thoughts of drinking bushwhackers quite heavily (you’ll have to see the post from yesterday to understand–“Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all”)

And that’s when it hit me—-the sudden realization that I’m really not alone. . .
I was soothingly reminded that I actually have my own little team.
Remembering to lift my head, looking upwards to that “from whence comes my help”, leading me to the thoughts of my very own team of three–with me making 4.
As in remembering, claiming and holding onto fast and hard the lone fact that in my faith I never walk alone!
I walk hand in hand with a loving Father in Heaven—-Yeshua, His son, who takes me by the hand— and the Spirit of Life who leads me ever forward—
And it is with that thought of teamwork now flooding my mind—
that I felt myself finally exhale. . .

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(the tiny skipper amongst the succulents / Julie Cook / 2015)

Growing up

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― J.D. Salinger

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.”
― L.M. Montgomery

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(Guinea Wasp among the flowers / Julie Cook / 2015)

When did you know that you were all grown up?
Really grown up. . .
As in no longer childlike but rather the designated, tag you’re it, authority of all things known and those things yet known. As in you are now the expert, the one everyone has decided to turn to for help, advice, strength, guidance, knowledge, direction, responsibility. . . the one who had now been taxed with the hard decisions, the tough choices, the yeses and the nos. . .??

For some of us it was perhaps a catastrophic event early on in life. A harsh reality thrust upon us far too early and much too soon.
For others it seemed to come at the cold uncaring hand of fate, the economics of our world, the poor choices of others.

Some of us mark the milestone in much the same way as certain ethnic tribal groups who have ceremonial rites of passage. The hoopla of a 21st birthday, the last hooray of a bachelor or bachelorette party before one’s impending nuptials. Some of us know the passing of the torch occurs the moment our first child is born. . .

I thought my moment came at age 25 when my mom died and I had to care for a father who was suddenly a lost child, readily foregoing adulthood while wrapped in his utter grief. I was pretty certain it hadn’t come at 23 when I married—as I was still so green and terribly wet behind the ears back then.

I think it also happened again when my son was born. I had to put my wants and needs aside as I was now responsible for the well-being of another. Resposiblilty should equate to growing up, should it not? There was just something about losing a parent and then becoming a parent. . .
Surely that was it, the time. . . the time of losing a parent and becoming a parent that signified life as a grown up.

At 55 I figured I was pretty grown up.
No doubt about it, grown.
I had retired had I not?
One has got to be pretty old to be able to retire right?
One would think.

My son got married last year.
I have a daughter-n-law.
My hair is turning rather silveresque.
My bones are a bit more brittle.
My eyesight is eluding me.
My mind may not be exactly as sharp as it once was.
My husband keeps reminding me I’m not as young as I once was.
I’m not keen upon hearing that.

Yet events of recent weeks have once again reminded me, that I’m still not totally grown up. . .
not by a long shot.

It slowly dawned on me, as I sat splayed legged on the floor of my old bedroom, of which now acts as Dad’s office, sorting through a myriad, or more like a mountain, of unpaid bills, forgotten tax information, past due this and that, a plethora of saved junk mail, folder upon folder of the years past all while spending countless hours on the phone sorting out the disaster he had slowly created when, on the fateful day we can’t seem to recall which was which, that he woke up and his mind decided it no longer wanted to be the grownup mind of a dad, my dad.

It may have come when I began writing countless checks, signing my name where his name should have been. When I called the numerous insurance companies seeking help. When the nurse came from the insurance company to evaluate his needs. When I called a care service. When I had to tell him NO or YES to his insistence that there be no care service, that he indeed needed “help”.

Maybe it was today when we sat filling out the healthcare questionnaire for the new doctor. The personal, oh so personal, questions I had to ask, had to listen to his answers. Questions you never imagined asking your dad or having to have him explain. Maybe it was when I had to explain to him about how he had to work the blood occult test kit as he politely told me, “no thank you, I don’t want to do that.”

As he now looks to me, or rather at me, for reassurance, for direction, for help, for rescuing, with questioning rummy eyes, which now look while pleading and searching for answers. . .answers I don’t readily have. The same eyes that were the ones I looked to when, as a little girl, I would call out each night for the various stuffed animals elected to guard and protect me throughout the night, as he’d throw them to me from across the room from their daily resting spot, thrown to my excited open arms in order for me to catch them, one at a time, as we performed our nightly ritual. . .

We all know parents aren’t exactly human. . .they’re a lot like the teachers I’ve spent a lifetime alongside–superhuman, not like mere mortals. They don’t have the same ills or issues as others. They are invincible and beyond the ordinary.
That’s their role is it not. . .?

Theirs is to provide, to guard, to protect, to lead, to guide, to always be there. . .

. . . as now the child reluctantly finds herself becoming the parent,
the lonely role of grown-up. . .

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6