The Chronic Pain of Chronic Pain

The Chronic Pain of Chronic Pain

“Push”
The push away
The tension
Cries
The in between
Disconnected lives

To carry on
Can be no more
The hurt
The pain
The days we mourn

What once lived here
We can no more pretend
Pushed too far
This is the end.

The most difficult thing to explain to non disabled people is chronic pain. It comes and goes without rhyme or reason. Sure, sometimes, experience dictates you might feel worse after engaging in activity but you never really know.

My life, never really one of feeling good in recent years, has been in a more extreme downswing over the last few months. Hence, my lack of blogs here.

…The one little thing I do as I can that makes me feel like I’m an active participant in the world… I can’t do. I just haven’t been physically or mentally able to keep going.

I hope that changes, it likely will improve a little eventually, and then revert back the other direction. That’s chronic pain. You just don’t know.

It’s exhausting on every level.

Sometimes, just to avoid giving up, you do things anyway although, again, it’s sort of a one shot deal knowing more pain is coming.

69367806_10214683585783976_7380800624142581760_o
Image description: Man with glasses, beard, blue hoodie, red shorts and gloves seated in a wheelchair. Woman with red hair, glasses, gray and white shirt, and jeans standing. Between them, team mascot standing; a brown dog with tongue sticking out and red shirt.

Last night, my wife and I went to a local minor league playoff baseball game – Awesome.

Today, I’m dealing with higher than normal (even by my standards) back and leg pain as a result – Not Awesome.

I’d love to get more sleep. About four hours a night is my average since my knee replacement in 2015. Last night was a little less and, frankly, I’m struggling.

At least we won the game

This is my life with chronic pain. I hope to write more soon.

Wherever you are this day, remember, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

I’ll try to remember those words apply to me too.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Tormented by Sleep

Tormented by Sleep

“Tormented by Sleep”
Tormented by sleep
As hours tick by
Tormented by sleep
Let out a sigh

Pain is too great
Long to be free
Tormented by sleep
Gaslighting me

Available remedies
None presenting peace
Long for my release
Nightly enemy

Tormented by sleep
Day after day
Tormented by sleep
Take me away.

alone bed bedroom blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com Image Description: Person flat on stomach in bed. Covered completely by a sheet except feet sticking out.

There’s a lot going on in our world. I hoped to talk about some of it today. However, my body is not cooperating.

Disability is like that. You never know how you will feel.

Today, like many days, I feel bad. This is just part of my story.

All I have today is a poem inspired by near nightly painsomnia but I’m sharing because, if you are struggling with pain of any sort, I want you to know you aren’t alone.

That’s part of my story too.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

I hear a lot today about agreeing to disagree.

You know, “I see it this way. You see it that way. We’ll just agree to disagree.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. 

As my friend and great social-minded theologian, Samuel Mudge said recently,

“Agreeing to disagree doesn’t work for a whole lot of people because sometimes, two people are discussing something that is an abstract idea to one, and life-and-death to the other.”

Think about that for a second. I’ll use my most personal examples for clarity.

Not having access to plastic straws might kill me.

Doing away with healthcare protections might kill me.

Using mental health or other disabilities as your excuse because you don’t want to talk about guns or other issues might kill me.

That’s how it works.

The same is true when you endorse leaders who overtly or covertly use their power and systems as a means of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

They aren’t all created equal. People are dying! 

I will say this. We do need to listen to each other more.

I do believe most of us are not as far apart as it seems. Outside the top few, the people from the middle down are all being squeezed economically and otherwise.

Let’s work together to answer these more difficult questions. Maybe life isn’t supposed to be completely found in easy answers.

agree agreement ankreuzen arrangement
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’ve lost our ability to sit across from each other; to hear each other, and to listen to our individual and collective pain. 

This isn’t a suggestion of mere tolerance. I’ll fight as long as I can against racism, ableism, and any other form of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

Inclusion is a table of equity and justice especially for people on the margins. 

That’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about. He restored people to equitable, just community.

This isn’t an over-simplified version of love the sinner, hate the sin. 

That’s just a slight modification of agreeing to disagree with a dash of power mixed in. That’s what got us here.

It’s just a reminder to listen because the cycle will never stop if we don’t do better. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

Are You Hiding Behind Your Smile?

Are You Hiding Behind Your Smile?

“My Sanguine Shell”
Sanguine
Shell
Fake

Pain
Anxiety
Depression
Regression

Rudderless Ship
Assailed by Stormy Seas
Wave Battered
Sinking
No Release

SOS
Drowned
As Smiles Abound.

 

photo of thunderstorm
Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”Matthew 16:18

Do you ever wonder if others can really see you; not just what’s on the surface but underneath? It probably doesn’t happen most of the time. We’ve become good hiders.

That’s what I love about the dynamics between Jesus and his disciple, Peter.

Peter gets it wrong as much as right. He sinks in water instead of focusing on Jesus. He goes around chopping off ears. Still, Jesus sees and loves him. He sees the possibilities behind the fearful surface Peter exudes.

That’s the heart of God. It does the same for us. It strips away all the coverings of brokenness and finds the good underneath. Yet, I still wrestle with this.

I know God can see me completely, but I still cover it up. Talk about hubris.

I hide my true self from others too. Vulnerability is scary. They won’t accept me if they know my weaknesses.

Except, we all have weaknesses. Some of us might be better at hiding them but we all have weaknesses, fears, insecurities, and shortcomings. So, what if we didn’t hide them?

Maybe we’d all be better off if we were a little more honest with ourselves and each other. Maybe, we could engage in meaningful conversation and begin to break through all our divisions.

I don’t think it’s easy. Being vulnerable might be more difficult for us than building equitable systems and relationships and, frankly, we are pretty bad at both these things.

However, since I have to start somewhere. Maybe this change starts with me.

I hope you’ll join me in building coalitions of love, justice, vulnerability, and equity. In doing so I believe we are truly being faithful disciples of Jesus.

What do you think?

God, you see my heart.
You know my
hurts and pains.
You sit with me in my brokenness and comfort me.
Use me as you will to be open to the hearts of others.
Help me be open too that I might sit with them and together we might know your peace even amidst sadness and uncertainty.
May this be my p
rayer.

Amen. Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

My Disability is Not Your Inspiration

My Disability is Not Your Inspiration

My Identity
My chair
Beat up and battered

Like my body, broken
Yet, battery powered, it carries on
Moving me throughout my day
Allowing me life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
My chair and me
My identity

Everyone likes a feel good story.

“An overcomer, how wonderful!”

Except, when it isn’t. 

Now, I have no problem if you find my sermons moving as you would another pastor or if you think I did something good, regardless of the body in which I live, but overcomer stories are insidious. Here’s why.

When you focus solely on achievements in light of my disability, my real life needs are overlooked. 

As disability advocate, Stella Young said,

“No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”

This is what happens: If I have to overcome my disability, I also suffer from my disability.

What if my disability is not the cause of my suffering? 

My body sucks sometimes, sure. Nobody likes being sick or in pain.

Do you know what would help? Access to affordable healthcare. A ramp.

Those are the things I need. We have the technology. We just gloss over the effort.

I’m not bound by my wheelchair. My wheelchair is freedom. Just like those ramps and curb cuts.

sea black and white landscape beach
Photo by Sabeel Ahammed on Pexels.com

I don’t need to be free from my disability.

I just need you to help me create a world that includes me. 

Otherwise, telling me I’m inspirational is meaningless.

In fact, people viewing me as an inspiration is killing me. 

Love Always Includes Justice. 

Wherever you are this day:

Love Accepts You, No Exceptions. 

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

I’ve been in a funk lately. I hope to share more about this on Monday but, for now, I’m just tired. I want to sleep. To be embraced by the night; a time ironically when I often find myself awake. Still, there’s something comforting about the night, awake or asleep, that sometimes seems so elusive for me during the day. Acceptance – Even when you’re tired – I wrote a little about it.

Let me know what you think.

scenic view of forest during night time
Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

“Nighttime”
Morning
Quiet time
You speak of it softly
A time when mysteries unlocked find their place among the awake, the alert, the early risers
“Try it,” I’m told, this thing of beauty
Try rising with the light of day and be transformed
And, I’d like to find this space, this new morning life, I really would – This time of glory
It’s just that it comes so early
Early, not easy in this restricted body though, in truth, it’s never been easy – Even in my nimbler days
I much prefer the night
Its cast of characters, its shadows unlocking truths not so easily revealed in the daytime sun
Sure, this morning of which you speak seems a lovely sort, a perfectly fine fellow, I might even meet someone new who, until now, I’ve only known in passing
But, the night greets me like an old friend – the kind of friend not too warm or too friendly – and yet she is
She’s the kind of friend, we are the kind of friends, you meet, and you know, with a kind of understood silence
A silence that says, “Be who you are, we are in this together.”
So, I take my place, embraced by night, alongside the other daytime outcasts. The broken, the hurting, the misunderstood
Together we move through the darkness, though, it’s brighter than you think
Each of us helping the other find our way – Perfection not required, our scars not readily apparent as the would be at other times
Yet, even if they were, these scars more visible, it would be ok
This peaceful cover is provided for my comfort, for the night has accepted me long ago, just as I am, faults and all
The same is true of my people
In fact, we are the broken-unified as we journey together
Therein lies the beauty
Our salvation is found in the now
We are not told to come back at some ungodly hour
We are met right where we are, and we are loved
So, keep your morning sun-squinted eyes
Mine are more likely to be closed just then
And, it’s ok to be different
I mean, “Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a night person”
Besides, I wish you well
I’m just following the night
If God is everywhere, after all, God is there too
Finding me, loving me, loving each – Even long after most have gone to bed
This is my nighttime
This is my life

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember night or day, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance