Sometimes You Just Need to Bitch

It’s only been a week and I’m at defcon 4 frustration level with the recovery process. Hating this sling:

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Hating my damn repaired shoulder:

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Hating the fact that the damned Percocet works, but makes me feel sick and gross.

Hating the fact that the damned shoulder exercises hurt like a m————, but probably works pretty well, too.

Frustrated, tired, uncomfortable, with my shoulder buzzing like a cloud of hornets.

But.

I trust in You to make something of this. Something you can use. Something I can use. Something worthwhile. The dr was not kidding when he said the recovery process would be painful. It has been on several levels.

I guess feeling this way is just part of maintaining faith in a world where faith doesn’t make sense. Where I can sit on my couch at 0344 and bitch, when some really hard stuff is going on in the world.

But in the interest of full disclosure, God doesn’t always take stuff away. Sometimes you just have to get through the bad stuff, and take comfort in the fact that no matter what your level of conviction, inspiration, or faith, Isaiah 42:3 is still true and you will get through it. I’ll get through it.

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

With Each Stretch

As many of you know, I had a rotator cuff repair done last Wednesday. I was very fortunate because all of my work was able to be done arthroscopically. That doesn’t mean less recovery time, necessarily, but it does mean a less painful recovery, and I am all for that. It also means this little baby is going to be with me for the next six weeks:

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I take it off briefly when I shower (very awkwardly–my wife has to help), and again for about 30 minutes four times a day when I do stretching exercises. I was encouraged by this initially, because it didn’t seem that bad. Also, because my Doctor had seen fit to hook me up with Percocet. With Percocet, I thought:

Taking this off would be no big deal. Because I’m a boss, and I only need one hand anyway.

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Except I’m not a boss, and the first time I did it I whined like a b****.

Because after all, it is just three little holes in my arm.

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And all I’m doing us placing my hand on a stack of pillows and stretching:

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Set of 12 stretches, then 25 empty hand curls. Then another set of 12 stretches and pivot to this angle:

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Second verse, same as the first. No problem, right? With Percocet I can do anything.

Today I woke up and I could hardly open my eyes. I couldn’t collect my thoughts. I was a zombie.

Who’d wanna be a drug addict? I thought. So I decided I was done with Percocet. It’s just stretching, right?

All those pics I took were sans Percocet, and every stretch hurt like a mother. Because I’d forgotten something. I thought I had to have my little white tablet friends to help me. I thought with them it would be easy. It was easier, to an extent, but it also messed up my head.

Today, I had to try something different, so I decided to make each stretch a thank you.

Thank you to God, for making it just arthroscopy.

Thank you to Dr Peare, for being good at his job.

Thanks to my in laws, for taking care of my boys so I could work on coming all the way back.

Thanks to Jen, for being a Godly and strong wife.

Each stretch, and each stab of pain meant I was alive and blessed. I had two arms, and a place to exercise them.

I have so much. 6 weeks on disability is no fun, but on the other side of it is a job, and more blessings. Wrestling time with the boys. Being able to hold my wife unencumbered.

With God, and a little patience, I can do anything.

So Begins Healing/Recovery

Made it through the first day, and I have to tell you it was a really strange experience. Just took my 2 am meds and now I’m sitting here in my anti-embolism “stockings,” boxers, and tank top with my arm in a “super sling.”

The surgery experience was strange. The operating room was freezing. I took about 3 breaths of the anasthetic and I was gone. I’m told Dr Peare did the arthroscopy and shaved off the bone spurs. Also a rotator cuff “cleanup” and had to stitch some tendon, which was 70% torn.

Waking up in the recovery room was not much fun. My throat was scratchy from the tube and my shoulder felt tight and under a lot of pressure. And it hurt like a bitch. Then the drain in my wound began doing its thing and that helped a lot. So did getting my wits about me again.

Through it all my wife has been nothing less than extraordinary, and the pain has been manageable, though intense at times. The meds help a lot with that, but keep me pretty high and sleepy. Jen has to dump the little bladder attached to my drain every few hours.

That’s about it. Can’t really do much of anything, but that’s ok. Working on getting BP down is the next thing. That will come, too. I know God and my family has my back. I’ll get through it ok.

For now, I’ve got a loaded iPod and plenty to read. Got 3 Rend Collective Experiment records to listen to, and so far the one I like best is Homemade Worship by Handmade People. They sound a bit like Mumford & Sons.

Gonna try to go back to sleep. Feeling blessed and reading to get to healing and rehabbing my shoulder.

For those that were and are praying, keep it up! It helps. Next target: rehab.

Thanks and God bless. I love my family and friends.

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The Bottom Line

Today I awoke thinking again about the sermon from Saturday night, and doing everything in our lives for the glory of God, and about living intentionally. I was pretty tired this morning driving in to work, so I decided to throw on a little hard stuff, and I pulled up Black Label Society on Pandora. Here’s a live clip of the song I heard:

It occurred to me to wonder about the crazy talent God gives people. Zakk Wylde, for instance. I didn’t know anything about his spirituality at the time, but I can’t think of any other guitarists I’ve heard recently who can do the insane things with their instrument Zakk Wylde can. Just watch that video and you’ll see what I mean.

Wylde has had the typical rock star struggles with alcohol/substance abuse, which seems evident from the beers he has lined up on the drum riser in the video. Not long ago, though, I heard an interview with another guitarist, who was describing how Wylde had gotten over his problem with alcohol. He had something wrong with him where if he drank again, it would likely kill him. So he had to quit–cold turkey.

What does a heavy metal guitar player have to do with the Glory of God? Well, after hearing the song today, it occurred to me to wonder if recognition of the gifts given us by God makes them any less gifts? And if are not clearly glorifying God with them, is God’s glory made any less?

I think of a CS Lewis quote that says something like: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can blot out the sun by scribbling ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

So maybe it really doesn’t matter if Zakk Wylde goes on stage and says “this one’s for you, Jesus.” His talent speaks for itself, and it is not made less by whether or not he thanks God for giving him his ability. Nor is God made less by his acknowledgment, or lack thereof.

And then I came work and read this interview Wylde did with an online metal magazing where he was talking about the recovery of a guitar that had previously been stolen. It’s just a snippet, and is buried by the interviewer, but it struck me just the same:

Events such as being reunited with your prized guitar “The Grail” and when that happened out of the blue; does it remind you how crazy this business can be, for you?

Oh, without a doubt. I thank the good Lord every day. I thank him when I wake up and when I go to bed. I thank him in the middle of the day. I’m definitely grateful for everything I have. Hands down.

I don’t need a tragedy to happen to realize how blessed I am. I don’t need that. I don’t need to beat up an 80 year old grandmother and do six years in jail to realize that beating up elderly people and stealing their money is really not a good thing.

On the road, is maintaining your spiritual side important to you?

Yeah, well, I’m a soldier of Christ, man. Without a doubt.

When you say “Soldier of Christ,” what do you mean by that?

The bottom line is that he’s with me all the time.

It was Wylde’s last sentence that really made me think. If he’s with me all the time, then how can I not glorify him? Whatever my gifts may be, if my constant companion is the giver, then how can I not look to him?

It would be like walking some place with your father, and holding his hand. I would constantly look up at him to make sure he was still there, and he would look down at me and smile, assuring me with a look that he was still there, and always would be.

The bottom line is that he’s with me all the time.

Do Everything

Last night Jenny, her brother, mom and dad were all leading worship at church. Ken and John played guitar and drums, respectively, and they would have sounded good playing anywhere. Ken, Jorge and Jenny sang melody on 2 each of the 6-song set. Linda sang harmony. From my perspective (the computer in the sound booth), it was an amazing and powerful experience, and when Jeff came out to speak it only became more powerful.

Not for the first time, it occurred to me that I wished I had a musical gift, even something like a triangle or tambourine. Or a voice, for that matter.

I. Just. Don’t.

I sit in the back, and I hit the spacebar and F9, and I watch and listen.

Jeff said something last night about everything you do, do it for the glory of God. That’s what the players and singers were doing. You could hear it in their voices, and see the light of Jesus shining from within.

How am I to use my index finger to the glory of God?

Then Ken said something during his communion meditation, to the effect of “God knows what He’s doing.” I thought about that, along with Jeff’s sermon, for the rest of the night. I’m thinking about it now, with the dogs curled next to me on the couch and the sun just beginning to lighten the sky.

God knows what he’s doing.

Live life intentionally.

Do everything for the Glory of God.

These things have been running through my mind since then.

I wasn’t gifted with musical or vocal ability, and that’s ok. I may lack the ability to glorify God in that way, but

God knows what he’s doing.

It kind of makes sense I’m in the back on the computer because while God didn’t give me music, he did give me words. I am most comfortable behind a keyboard, or talking to people.

I have been given some small ability to turn a written phrase, but it wasn’t until I began doing it for the glory of God that I really began to discover that.

Maybe it’s like that for you. You don’t feel like there’s anything you can do well enough in your life to glorify God with it.

Maybe you wish you could play, or sing, or speak in front of people.

I would say to you, there’s plenty you can do. One of the amazing kids in the youth group once referred to herself as a spacebar ninja, and I guess that’s me, too.

And that’s ok. I think now that my problem was that I wanted to be awesome at something people could see, so they would see me, too, and I would feel validated in some way.

It was my Glory I wanted and not God’s.

It took the realization that all things work together for God’s glory to make the difference in my life. I promise you it’s the same in yours. You don’t have to look for some special way to give God glory. Rather, glorify him with what is in your life.

This song, I think, says it perfectly:

Here’s me in action during Jeff’s sermon:

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Beautiful One

In my prior life in San Diego, I was part of a ministry that saw a fair amount of people who suffered from PTSD due to abuse or sexual trauma of one kind or another, and it surprised me because I had no idea how widespread that kind of ‘thing’ was because outside of that ministry I had heard very few people talk about abuse of any sort. This is likely for reasons specific to each person, but from what I experienced in my four + years as an intercessor, shame was the chief reason most people kept silent.

To varying degrees, many of the people I prayed with and for felt blame for what they’d been made to endure. The beauty of this ministry was that in most cases, those same people were able to find God’s truth about where the blame lie, and encounter Jesus in such a way they were able to find at least a measure of healing. Also the knowledge that healing was a process, and it was OK if it took some time.

I became a frequent intercessor for these types of sessions, and it eventually became clear that God had gifted me in such a way, and used me in such a way that I was often able to help these people by protecting them while those leading the session were able to do their own work.

Sometimes, though, I would need to step away a little bit, because I could feel myself moving away from what needed to be done and start thinking about things like how much dental reconstruction that piece of crap would need if I was able to go back in time and get hold of him.

That was not my place, and still isn’t. But the man in me thinks it sometimes. The part of me that loves and respects women as beautiful creations of a loving God wants to choke rapists until they turn blue for making so many women think otherwise.

Today I saw this picture:

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And it made me think about that stuff again.

To rapists: while my personal belief is that you are shit on a cracker, I know in my heart that like the women, men, girls or boys your actions do permanent harm to, you are beloved by God. Deep in your sin, where your heart seems so far away from anything loving, you are loved. You know what you’ve done. Seek forgiveness. It can be yours.

To victims: my heart breaks for you as it always has. Know this, and hold it in your heart like the precious truth it is. You are loved. What you feel makes you unworthy is something you had no control over. What you feel makes you dirty is something you did not ask for, no matter what they tell you. This dirt is created by lies, and truth can set you free of them.

You are loved and loved and loved, in spite of what ‘they’ tell you and in spite of what you might think of yourself. Let those words fall away like broken chains.

Try to imagine an oyster, fresh from the sea bottom. The oyster is held in a pair of hands–the sure and strong hands of the carpenter. You can hardly see the pads of scar tissue on his wrists. A small knife with a curved blade appears in one of his hands and he deftly pops open the shell. With the blade he lifts the tissue and extracts a small, slimy ball.

He begins to wipe away the slime, dirt and sediment that has been accumulated by years. Everything falls away at his touch, and he is eventually left with what was there all along; a pearl of great price.

Know this as well: to Jesus, you are that pearl. You are no longer a victim. You are beautiful, and clean, and made righteous.

I want you to know that you are not alone in your pain. The hands that made you wait to hold you.

I want you to know and believe that you are not to blame.

I want you to know that it’s ok to let out what you feel.

I want you to know that healing is available.

My words are failing me now and I will end with what I said before.

You are beloved.

Beloved.

Good

Since my niece’s memorial not long ago, I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot. My sister made a comment that my niece was the first granddaughter for my parents to come along, and then the first to join mom & dad.

I thought about my mother because with the exception of my brother, all the rest of us siblings were gathered in one place, with a great many extended family members there as well.

I could count on one hand the number of times that had happened since my mom checked into ward 2 East for her final stay–maybe even one finger.

It was a terrible last few weeks and months for mom–for all of us, really. It wasn’t like in the movies, where the sick person cracks jokes right until the end. It was ugly, and she hurt, and we couldn’t help her. We hurt, watching her die, and there was nothing to assuage that pain, either.

I remember what an awful son I was during that time. Right when she started to get really sick, I’d gotten a job I liked at a local steak house, but had to quit because I needed to help take care of her. I resented it, and resented having what was supposed to be the fun part of my life encroached on by my mom’s cancer.

I wanted to goof around with my friends, and play, and have a girlfriend (well, that finally did happen, but it wasn’t easy, and for some reason I never told her about my mom). I wanted to enjoy the time after my high school graduation, but that was when things really started to go bad.

So I did as little as I possibly could of her caretaking, in order to still be some sort of teenager. I missed a lot, and I regret it terribly. I spent–no, wasted–a great many years crippled by self-loathing because of how I’d treated my mother over her last few months.

And this is one of the places where I experienced true inner healing, where God reminded me of who I was to my mother, and who I was to him.

The healing came in the form of a memory, and a sort-of vision.

The sort-of vision was this. At the moment I came to faith, I was kneeling on a smallish wooden dock with the knees torn out of my Levi’s. I remember having a slide show of my life scroll before me, of all my transgressions, sins, and times of darkness one after another. I pounded the dock with my palms and cried out to God, wondering if the world was a place I even belonged.

I felt the warmth of a hand on the back of my neck, and a stream of words in my heart.

You are meant to be here

and then the warmth flooded down my arms, and swirled through me, and I struggled to my feet.

I wondered if someone had slipped something to me and on the heels of that was this is God and this is love and this place was where I belonged for a time, because work had been prepared for me to do, and all I had to do was lay my burdens down. So I did.

It was only the beginning, and there were still quite a few hard times to come, but I think if it hadn’t been for that experience, I never would’ve had the other. I never would have remembered that day in the hospital.

The memory came to me quite a few years after I came to belief. It was 2007, I think, and it was during a church service at CVCF, right around Easter. Pastor Mike was talking about how he’d led his mother to Christ, sometime soon before her death. He talked about his mom’s last few days in the hospital, and how they used to play old school, big band music in her room.

It made me think about my mother, and her room–her death-room, as it turned out. Pastor Mike mentioned how at the moment of her death, the song “Heaven, I’m in heaven” came on. He spoke of the peace he was able to find with the knowledge of his mother finally being home.

All the guilt I’d ever felt about my own mom came rushing back, and I got up quickly at the end of the service so I could scurry out.

At the door, the overwhelming urge to sit back down with my friend Ron came on me, and I did exactly that. “Could you pray for me?” I asked him. “I don’t know what about.”

I both heard his words, and didn’t hear them as he prayed. I couldn’t tell you a thing he said today, but that was when the memory rushed into my head and my heart, and I

picked up my brother in my old Mustang II, that had passed through many hands. We had to get to the hospital because it was time for mom to go. I hurried, and let my brother out in the front while I parked. please, don’t let me miss this, too. Pleasepleaseplease. I remembered running up stairs, and following a painted line on the floor to the nurse’s station, and then turning into her room. The girls were there, holding her hands and touching her leg. My brother stood at the end of the bed for a minute, and then turned and rushed out of the room. “Where’s Tommy,” she said.

“I’m here, mom.” I said, and I looked on the cork board next to her bed. My prom picture was pinned there, and I remember looking at it as she said the last word I ever heard her say.

“Good….”

She didn’t die that day. She lasted until February 27, 1987, and then quietly went home while my sister Valorie was with her in the middle of the night.

I don’t know why it took me most of my adult life to remember that, but I’m glad I did. I’m glad my friend Ron was there, and I’m glad he just let me grieve for a few minutes. I literally cried on his shoulder almost until the second service began. But I also felt a wound begin to close.

It was a start. And here I am today, where I never even thought about being.

Another family gathering is in the works for next month, and it occurred to me at the memorial that my niece did something in death that hadn’t seemed possible until that Saturday afternoon in Old Town, and it was truly miracle.

She got the band back together.