Lamenting Travel Loss

I became heavily involved in a mission’s organization when I was 23. Before that I had hardly traveled anywhere, especially out of country. Then for six straight years I went overseas for extended periods of time, mostly in Asia. One summer I was gone for two and a half months to Singapore, Malaysia, Micronesia, and Japan. I loved it!

I discovered that I was pretty culturally adaptable and more fascinated by different cultures than intimidated. After I left my work for that organization, I went on additional trips to Brazil, Japan, and Thailand over the years. But chronic pain came for my love of travel in 2015.

I was fulfilling a long time desire by going to Shanghai, my first trip to China. The problem was that my ankylosing spondylitis was at an all-time worst. I could gut it out everyday at work, and I honestly hoped that the excitement of the trip and joy of traveling with my best friend, Chris Blair (along with another good friend and elder, Jim Chandler) would override concerns about pain. I was painfully wrong.

The fifteen hour flight to Shanghai were 15 of the most miserable hours of my life. When we finally arrived, I was so stiff that my hips were screaming out in pain with every step (and we walked a lot). The hips got better in a few days, but then every moment I sat in the coffee shop reading the story of Jesus with Chinese nationals was agonizing.

Honestly, when I think of that Shanghai trip, I normally remember the good things. Chris was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2019. So, I can never regret that trip, but I wondered if I could ever muster up the desire to go again.

“Birthday Party” in Shanghai. Chris and I are on the far right.

Not all is lost. I got better. I went to Recife, Brazil in 2019 and did much better than Shanghai. But I was recently reading a book that encouraged intentional travel (something more thoughtful than mere tourism), and it brought me to tears. I realized for the first time how much something that I loved was taken from me. I honestly would rather just stay home than even take short trips most of the time. Not only is pain a factor, but so is fatigue.

If you are reading this and you don’t have chronic pain, please learn to be understanding of your friends and loved ones in chronic pain. When they tell you they can’t go, they mean it, even if it is just an outing on the town. Sure, sometimes we can push through fatigue and pain to do something, but it is always costly.

My wife and I with kids at an orphanage in Recife, Brazil (2019)

I asked our Facebook group about their travel loss due to chronic pain. I gave several options but 72% chose this statement, “I loved to travel before chronic pain and my desire and ability to do so has been curtailed significantly.” Granted, it is a small sample size (even for our group), but I believe that a similar percentage would be found among chronic pain patients in general.

One respondent added, “It is a major loss” in the comments. I have to agree. Anytime that an illness and/or pain takes some joy from you so much that it even alters your desire to engage in that formerly joyful activity, it is worthy of lament. It is necessary to grieve a loss like this. Lament helps us to come to terms with what chronic illness and pain have cost us.

You might feel better some day, but you will probably still be skeptical that you can enjoy the trip without difficulty. The fact is that our losses are real losses. And the only thing short of complete healing in this life that can restore them is a “new heaven and a new earth.” Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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How Chronic Pain Changes Our Experience of Time

I am a student of the primary biblical languages (Hebrew/Greek). One of the differences between languages is how verbs reflect time. English is a very “tense” conscious language. One of the earliest concepts we learn as elementary students is the difference between past, present, and future tenses.

Other languages aren’t necessarily this way. The tense in Hebrew can often only be determined by context. The Hebrew language focused more on “aspect” than tense. Aspect is the type of action the verb indicates. Is it a completed action? Then the verb will be inflected in the perfect form. Is it an incomplete action from the past or future? Then it will be conjugated as an imperfect verb. Accepting the risk of being overly simplistic, if Hebrew is on one end of tense emphasis spectrum (that is, very little) and English on the other, then Greek might fall somewhere in the middle.

Why this excursion into the grammatical concepts of time and tense? It is a reminder that attitudes about time are largely cultural. Languages do not even express concepts about time in the same way. This is a healthy reminder to any who have been made to feel of little value because they cannot produce in keeping with the cultural expectations of Western society that you are more than a bang for your buck ratio. Cultural attitudes about time and productivity are relative to the culture that gives them birth. They do not represent a universal value or worth.

Koine (Biblical) Greek uses two primary words for time. According to the gold standard dictionary for Koine Greek (often abbreviated BDAG), kairos means “a point of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology.” When you say something like, “This has been a season of sadness for my family,” you are talking about kairos time.

The other Greek word for time is one that you are probably familiar with, even if you didn’t realize it is Greek. Chronos is where we get our word chronology and, of course, chronic, as in chronic pain. Here’s what BDAG has to say about chronos: “an indefinite period of time during which some activity or event takes place, time, period of time…a long time.” When we think about sequential ongoing time, we are thinking about chronos time. Chronic pain is pain that goes on for a long time and for usually an indefinite period of time.

For Employees to Deliver CX Excellence: Chronos and Kairos
Image Credit: BeyondPhilospy.com

Chronic pain and illness usually impacts the season of our lives, the kairos time. When I am in a flare, that defines not only the sequence of time but the quality of my time. It is damaging to my kairos. Chronic pain is usually defined as pain that is ongoing for at least six months even after an injury or illness has been treated. Most of you reading this are long past that initial six months and are stuck with ongoing and undefined pain.

I recently saw someone lamenting on Twitter about her battle with chronic pain. It was new, and she still hoped for a cure. Yet, she already understood for the first time in her life that chronic pain is no laughing matter. The constant battle with pain and limitation will tax your mental and emotional energy like few things can. If we have to endure it at all, we want our pain to be a season, when in reality it has been chronic.

However, after experiencing chronic pain for a long period of time (chronos), we begin to understand time (kairos) in a different way. We understand that time is valuable not because of a clock but because it is limited. We are mortal, and that clock is ticking whether we acknowledge it or not. Those in chronic pain face their mortality on a consistent basis. And through their pain, comes the grace and wisdom experienced only in suffering.

Senator Ben Sasse wrote in his book The Vanishing American Adult, “Suffering offers us a wake-up call. It imparts patience and humility and puts us in our proper place as servants and stewards of something greater than ourselves.” As you witness others around you who are still under the influence of the lie that everything is under their control, thank God that you have been delivered from that delusion.

Perhaps, it is ironic that in losing our mastery over time (chronos) we finally learn how to “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16, Paul uses kairos in this verse). In other words, we learn what is important and how to make our limited time count for what really matters.

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The Struggle For Women to Be Believed

I watched the entire Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry a few weeks back. I have learned the hard way that just because someone seems believable doesn’t mean they are telling the truth. But it surely still means something when someone comes across as believable and sincere. Both Meghan and Harry came across that way to me.

Oprah's Prince Harry & Meghan Markle Interview: First Clips From CBS -  Variety
Photo Credit: Variety.com

Their most explosive revelation was that someone high up in the royal family had expressed concern over whether their baby’s skin would be too dark. This was said to Harry, and then repeated to Meghan. For their part, they refused to reveal who in the royal house had raised the racist concern. Though I’m sure damage was done to the reputation of the monarchy, they could have named names. They appeared to be taking the high road.

Honestly, I would have taken no further note of it except the next day was full of high profile (mostly British) celebrities claiming Meghan was lying. Piers Morgan became so angry in his accusation that he ended up resigning from “Good Morning Britain.” There were many others making similar accusations, who had no way of knowing that what Meghan claimed was true or not.

Let’s back up a moment. Who made the claim? Meghan was only repeating what Harry told her. Harry confirmed the story to Oprah (the first part of the interview was just with Meghan), but no one was calling him a liar. Why was Meghan the target and not Harry. If Meghan was lying then so was Harry (or even maybe just Harry). Why were so few people willing to name him the liar?

It could be that Meghan drew fire because she is an American, but it could also be, in part, because she is a woman. Why I am writing about royal intrigue on a blog about chronic pain and illness? Because I have heard again and again from women who are not believed by medical professionals and others concerning the pain they are experiencing. The same experience certainly happens to men, but it is much more likely to happen to women. This conclusion is not just based on a hunch. Studies back it up.

The reasons for this bias against women are varied, complex, and go beyond the scope of this post. And I know Meghan Markle’s story isn’t the same as being doubted by a doctor. But whether it is a story like Meghan’s, victims of sexual abuse, or disbelieving someone’s experience with physical pain, it seems harder for women to be believed than men.

Today, is Easter. The first witnesses of the empty tomb were women. A woman’s testimony was not even allowable in a court of law. Yet, God purposely chose women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection. He chose those who would be doubted simply because of their gender. Jesus’ own apostles rejected their testimony:

An empty tomb. A gateway to resurrection life! – Insights Magazine
Women at the empty tomb via insights.uca.org.au

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

Luke 24:9-11 (Biblegateway.com, NIV)

Nonsense. But that’s who Jesus wanted telling his story first. God places a premium value on the word of women.

It isn’t that we need to believe the word of a woman more than a man. A good starting point would be that we believe the word of a woman as much as the word of a man. One of the most powerful gifts Broken and Mended can give women is to let them know that in this ministry you will be believed. Men and women owe that much to one another. And it is for that kind of culture we will strive.

We hear you. We believe you. We support you.

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Is Your Illness God’s Plan?

Someone recently told me that they had been told all their life that “God’s plan is always the mitigating factor in one’s life.” I heard someone else claim that her life-altering stroke was God’s plan for her. I know many others who would recoil at this kind of suggestion. How could it be God’s plan for me to suffer? They may even decide, “If that is who God is, then I don’t want anything to do with him.”

Some draw great comfort from the idea that God has everything planned out. Not everyone in this category is necessarily a five-point Calvinist, but they likely have a robust view of God’s sovereignty. These people can deal better with tragedy and setback by emphasizing God’s plan in all things. They don’t necessarily think God causes all things, but for them, God wouldn’t allow it if it wasn’t part of the plan.

Image result for is your illness God's will
God DOES have a plan, but how does your illness fit into that plan?

Others are comforted by the idea of God entering into our suffering, the one who empathically hurts with us. They are likely to see many things in our world that are not the will of God. They aren’t trying to doubt God’s sovereignty, but they are not comforted by the thought of their pain being part of the grand design.

Where you fit into this spectrum is greatly influenced by many factors, including your faith upbringing, personality, and experiences. I am not sure that the Bible gives us a clear answer. There are some examples of someone’s suffering serving a greater divine plan like Job and obviously Jesus. But when you read the Psalms you encounter a great many people who simply do not believe their suffering makes sense at all. Psalm 10:1 opens with “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

The Bible is fairly resistance to giving answers as to why something terrible has happened. What is modeled is crying out to God in our distress and resolving to trust him when we don’t have answers. Clearly, not everything that happens in this world or in your life is God’s will. Why else would Jesus teach us to pray, “…your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The prayer recognizes a gap between God’s heavenly will and what is happening on earth. The prayer seeks to close that gap.

I make it a point not to challenge someone if they tell me what has happened to them is God’s will. After all, how would I know? I also never tell someone what has happened to them IS God’s will. Again, how would I know that? The tension between the sovereignty of God and the various happening on earth, good and bad, remain in tension until the reign of God is fulfilled in a new heaven and a new earth.

Image result for why god
Do we trust God when we don’t get an answer?

I know it is not God’s ultimate will for any of us to hurt or be sick. And that one day we will be in a new heaven and a new earth where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). I can’t figure out why this thing or that thing happens to me or to you, but I know that God is good, and his will ultimately prevails. And I will trust him as we await that glorious day!

Posted in Character of God, Chronic Illness and Spirituality, Theodicy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Post-Covid Future

That’s what we are all looking forward to; isn’t it? Covid-19 might not ever be fully gone, but, at least, the pandemic will be behind some time this year. Right now, things are still very bad. Some 4,000 people are dying every day. We just passed 400,000 deaths overall, and that is just in the States. The tragedies compound with every hospitalization, funeral, or loss of a business or dream. The pandemic has been the nightmare of our lifetimes. But it does not get the last word.

Before Christmas I was planning some words apropos to the season with a few words about the future of Broken and Mended. Then I got Covid. That put a stop to everything for a while. I recovered, but was behind. Christmas and New Year’s was upon us, and I never got around to this post.

Covid has interrupted everything, including Broken and Mended. We have not had an in-person meeting since last Spring. I have not been able to help other groups get started.

However, not all was lost during this time. We had many wonderful virtual meetings with people from all over the country. I was able to finish drafts of both a leader’s guide (to be used in new groups) along with a participant’s guide with reflections and Scripture for every lesson. I am currently seeking out professional assistance for book design and layout, but they should be ready by the Summer. This means it is very likely that we will have other local Broken and Mended groups some time in 2021!

This also the year that I anticipate recruiting a board and forming a non-profit. This will open up the gates to not only starting new groups, but eventually creating many new resources/materials to help others in the struggle with chronic pain/illness. We will be able to raise funds that will go directly to these efforts.

The Best Kept Financial Secret for Non-Profit Organizations | by Ryan  Griggs | Medium

As with all such visions, there are many curves in the road. We can only go a step at a time. I have a modest goal of starting three new Broken and Mended groups this year, publishing/printing the books, and forming the non-profit. If all that happens in 2021, I will be thrilled!

Covid-19 has robbed us many things but not our future. Vision allows us to see beyond the suffering of the present moment. All Christians need eyes trained with eschatological vision. No matter what happens, we can always see how God will sum up everything in the end. None of the horrors of this world will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. “No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37, HCSB).

Living with vision for a ministry or a church or your family is not the horizon of your vision. We see those things with our eyes cast to the final horizon of time itself, the end of time, the end of all that wars against us. Eph. 1:10 (NIV) says these things are “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” What is Covid compared to unity of all things in creation under Christ? Indeed, not much at all!

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What Is Wrong With Us?

A couple of weeks ago, I had intended to write a blog on the issue of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) and its impact on the chronically ill community. The issue was before the supreme court again. I am bothered by the political conversations that so often leave out the ones who will suffer the most if the courts were to strike down the ACA.

11 Things You Need to Know About ACA Open Enrollment

When my wife left full-time teaching, we no longer had guaranteed insurance. When we signed up for “Obama Care,” it wasn’t a political decision but a survival one. I’ve talked to others who are covered by the ACA, and the consequences of it being struck down suddenly would be dire. Regardless of your political position on government subsidized healthcare, to callously not care what would happen to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people with pre-existing conditions just so your “team” could get a political win is strong evidence that there’s something wrong with you. Yes, you.

I’m sorry if that stings, but it is disturbing to witness the lack of empathy being demonstrated in our political mudslinging. I couldn’t just write about ACA to emphasize the need to care about those who need it to survive because I’ve been too stunned by the heartless rhetoric being shouted across the graves of more than a quarter million Americans who have died of Covid!

The worst–other than the outlandish conspiracy theories that treat the whole thing as a hoax–is the callous and ill-informed mantra of the 99% that will get the disease and be okay. It as if millions of people can completely tune out the tearful pleas of our doctors and nurses, who are begging us to take this serious as they have had to hold the hand of another patient dying in isolation, or have seen another semi-truck arrive at their hospital to be a makeshift morgue.

First of all, followers of Jesus might remember the pastoral example of his own parable in Luke 15. Jesus is the shepherd who leaves the 99 to rescue the 1. Even if only 1% die from COVID, we should care about every one of those people. But keep in mind, that many people suffer greatly who do not die. Either their lives were irrevocably changed by a long stay in ICU and/or they become COVID long haulers.

Second, it has never been about the percentage of people dying. That percentage is contextually dependent upon the availability of care at the time of their medical crisis. As we continue to deplete our medical resources and ICU availability, that number will go up. Millions will die while myopic people rant about it affecting only 1%. This 1% (though again, I dispute that characterization) are the most vulnerable, those we Christians are most called to care for.

I have listened to many who struggle with chronic illness for years tell stories of not being believed by doctors. This is an unacceptable wrong, and we all know how valuable it is to find a doctor who will believe us. How strange is it now that we are not believing our doctors (and other healthcare professionals). I’ve seen an ICU nurse called a liar by several people on Twitter just for saying his hospital morgue was full.

New York City Mass Graves On Island Are Increasing Because Of COVID-19 :  Coronavirus Updates : NPR
Mass grave in New York (Yes, in this nation!)

I’ve also seen this notion circulated that we should let the medically vulnerable stay at home and the rest of us get on with our lives. This is such a callous attitude for so many reasons, but let’s start with the assumption that it is an option for all medically vulnerable people to stay at home! Many of us would lose our livelihoods if we did that. Many of us have school children. We can’t just withdraw from society! But that you would desire it means there’s something wrong with you. Yes, you.

Do I seem angry? You bet I am. I am angered nearly every day by the layers of disinformation and the daily merciless dismissal of so much humanity. Sometimes I can’t believe this is how we are not as a society. I ask all the time, “What is wrong with us?”

But the truth is most people don’t think there’s anything wrong. Or they just see their political opponents as having all the problems. Just be careful you don’t trip over any bodies on your way to throwing your next political punch. God, have mercy.

Posted in COVID-19 and Empathy, Ethics, Imago Dei | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

For the Undiagnosed

Tips to Thrive When You Have an Undiagnosed Chronic Illness – Pain Resource
Photo Credit: painresource.com

One of the more frustrating tales you will hear from those in the chronically ill community is an all too common story of being undiagnosed, sometimes for years, sometimes forever. This leads to confusion regarding treatment plans and accusations of being overdramatic. Frustrated doctors might turn on their own patients and imply or even directly state that the problem is all in the head of the patient. Meanwhile, the one who is desperate for help is made to feel like he or she is the problem instead of someone with a legitimate medical problem.

I experienced a little of this at the beginning of my medical problems. After I injured both of my hips, I had no shortage of well-meaning people telling me I just had something out of alignment and just needed to see a chiropractor. I did eventually see one, who did not help at all. It amazed me how difficult it was for someone just to take my word for it that I had hurt my hips.

My GP didn’t help much either. When I tried to explain why I felt her theory did not match up with my experience, she became agitated and said, “Well, thankfully we have a great sport’s doctor right here in town.” She was dismissing me to go see him. So, I did. Long story short, he eventually suggested that it “might” be in my head and that seeing an orthopedic surgeon wouldn’t make any difference.

Well, I did see an orthopedic surgeon, thankfully. And then I saw another one, who eventually did surgery on both of my hips because of extensive injuries. I also saw a rheumatologist who gave me a diagnosis on the first visit. Since those early days, my experience with doctors has been mostly positive. Getting the right diagnosis was key to an understanding of what I had to deal with and allowed me to partner with my medical professionals with a successful plan of treatment.

It took me about a year and a half to go from the initial injury to diagnosis, but I know that I was lucky. And I have heard many of your stories about it taking years, even decades to get an accurate diagnosis. I can’t imagine how difficult that is. Some have had doctors give up on them leaving them desperate with no solutions on the horizon to even make their life liveable.

Recent conversations have reminded me of this struggle. I was also reminded by our unsuccessful attempts to diagnose a leak in our basement. One contractor and two plumbing companies have already tried. We still don’t know the problem, and it could turn into a financially ruinous situation. Sound familiar?

One day I was praying about our situation with the basement, I started thanking God that at least it wasn’t my body that we couldn’t understand why it was falling apart. And it reminded me of you…the undiagnosed.

There is no diminishing your struggle. I know you need answers. The only encouragement I can give you is to not give up. Meet with yet another doctor. Maybe the next one will finally commit to finding out what is wrong no matter what.

And find some people who will believe you. I will believe you. The good folks in the Broken and Mended ministry are committed to believing you, and even more…we will pray for you and not give up on you and your journey.

Take a little comfort today that God understands what is happening to you. Like the persistent widow (Lk. 18:1-8) of Jesus’ parable, keep petitioning the ruler of heaven and earth. The point of the parable is not to say that God is like the unrighteous judge, but rather that if even such a person will reward persistence, then how much more will our righteous God?

I can’t promise any answers or the timing of those answers, but I can promise that God will be with you no matter what is ahead. For that is his promise to all his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Doctors, friends, and even family may give up on you and leave you, but not Jesus, not ever.

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Practical Theism In the Midst of Chronic Pain

Though Broken and Mended is a Christian support ministry for those dealing with chronic illness and pain, I desire to create a culture that is welcoming to all. The question is will people who do not believe in God or have an active commitment to Jesus Christ want to be a part of a ministry that can’t help but reference belief in divine help and redemptive hope in Christ?

Obviously, people who are hostile toward Christian faith are not likely to be attracted or hang around this ministry very long. But perhaps, someone who is undecided about matters of faith will stick around long enough to see what Christian faith offers to people in the throes of chronic illness.

Allow me an important clarification: If God is not real, then he cannot help you. God cannot be just a crutch to get us through life. If God does not exist, then I would not advise anyone to seek help from him anymore than I would tell someone to go to the Tooth Fairy for financial advise. My conviction is that there is a God, and therefore, who better to help us through life’s trials?

There are a lot of other convictions behind that rhetorical question. To name a few: God is able to help us. God wants to help us. God is able to be known, etc. I don’t want to have to defend each conviction today, but I do want to explain why I believe that faith in God is vital to successfully living with chronic pain.

If there is no God, then there can no redemptive purpose for your pain. Your pain is simply a physiological response hardwired into your body and mind through millions of years of evolution. It would not be in itself evil (just unlucky) because moral categories of good and evil would be mere contrivances. Further, your fate is simply to hurt until you die and then oblivion.

I realize that some atheist who is striving to live a meaningful life might not like that. I am not trying to discourage anyone. I’m just saying that from my perspective any other coping method without God is simply kicking the can down the road until there is no more road. In such a scenario, every person with chronic illness/pain is distinctly disadvantaged to their healthier peers (though we should note that oblivion is their fate as well). There is no transcendent One to help anyone. We just have to get by as best we can.

I don’t hurt any less because of my faith than those who don’t share in my faith or any faith. And I certainly have some rotten days where it is hard for me to appreciate the point of living. But faith in God as revealed through Jesus Christ always calls me back to trust and hope. I absolutely believe that there will be a day when the pain will end–not by oblivion–but by immortality. That hope gives me a horizon that does not stare directly down into the grave. That, in itself, is of immeasurable value.

How to Use the Three Horizons for Future Sensemaking - Disruptor League
What’s on your horizon? Photo Credit: Disrputorleague.com

But my hope is not relegated only to hope of heavenly bliss with God (though it is hard to diminish what that means). I will leave you with one of my favorite passages that describes how God redeems pain and suffering in this life to shape me into a person of greater character than I would be without suffering. Suffering itself may not be good, but God is still working good in my suffering (Rom. 8:28).

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5
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At the Intersection of Grief, Depression, and Illness

Elizabeth Township supervisors add 2 stop signs to 3-way intersection |  News | lancasteronline.com

I was disheartened last week to witness what transpired on Skip Bayless’ show on Fox Sports called “Undisputed.” Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback, Dak Prescott, had recently shared in an interview his struggle with depression in the wake of his brother’s suicide in April. Bayless, who is known for his shock jock hot-takes, went too far when he offered his view on Dak’s admission:

“He’s the quarterback of America’s team. The sport that he plays is dog-eat-dog. It is no compassion, no quarter given on the football field. If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team’s ability to believe in you in the toughest spot.”

Bayless had also said that he had no sympathy for Dak and was seemingly unmoved by the contrary words of his co-host, former NFL star, Shannon Sharpe. Here’s the video that summarizes the exchange and the response of Bayless’ employer.

I suppose I ought to be encouraged by the nearly unanimous condemnation of Bayless’ comments. However, I know there are still many people out there who feel like Skip. When you are a leader, you should never show any sign of weakness.

This is the very opposite of the approach we are taking with “Broken and Mended.” We believe that brokenness is where the precious metal of God’s refinement shines through. When we are transparent with our suffering, not only are we freed from the pressure of keeping up appearances, but others discover they are not alone because of the one who spoke up.

The Japanese are of Kintsugi–where precious metal shines through brokenness.

It is, of course, ridiculous to think that someone like Dak Prescott suffers any less from the death of a loved one because he is rich and famous. Grief and depression may not be the same things, but it is easy to see how grief leads to depression.

Likewise, the loss of dreams, comfort, productivity, or an abled-body can lead to crippling grief. Over time, this grief has a numbing effect, but not in a good way. Depression begins to set in as you feel hopeless for any change in your circumstances or reclaiming anything that has been lost because of chronic illness.

Please do not try to suffer through this deadly intersection of grief, depression, and illness alone. Please do not try to keep silent in order to keep up appearances. There is a greater occurrence of suicide in those who suffer with chronic pain. This is an intersection, when it must be crossed, we do so vigilantly.

It is advisable to seek the help of a licensed counselor and your doctor. Feel free to reach out to me at brokenandmended18@gmail.com. Here are ways you can get connected to the Broken and Mended as a ministry.

Don’t listen to Skip Bayless. Don’t be like him either! Be like Dak.

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Should We Look Forward to Death?

Last time I wrote (it has been a while!), I discussed the “Sacredness of Life.” If life is inherently sacred, then doesn’t it follow that death is the thief that robs us of what is most precious? Logically, life and death are opposite ends of the spectrum, not only from a physiological perspective but a theological one as well.

Yet, you can hear confusing messages about death all the time. Far from viewing death as an enemy to be defeated, many Christians talk about death as “no big deal.” “We are all going to die anyway.” Lately, these kinds of glib comments have been used to diminish our need to be concerned with the Coronavirus. We are all going to die anyway, so what’s the big deal? Why should we care?

Even before these troubling days, I have often heard Christians describe death as an escape from suffering. There is some truth to that. People suffering with intractable pain, may agree with the apostle Paul who once said, “…to die is gain…I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…” (Phil. 1:21, 23). Paul had suffered much. He was not afraid of death. He knew that his reward lay beyond death, but please do not think that Paul thought death itself was the reward.

Today, you hear people throwing caution to the wind because, “I am not afraid of death!” But if you are, “You should stay home!” Such comments are full of false piety and completely devoid of real life situations. They aren’t saying these comments from the solemn ground of a freshly dug grave or as their final words from their deathbed. Rather, they speak them out of the selfish hubris that has consumed a nation.

My comments here are not meant to be political, though politically outraged people will take them that way. I am making a theological point that is also thoroughly biblical. Death is the enemy. The same Paul we heard from earlier said so. At the return of Jesus, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

Death: The last enemy
I’ve seen a lot of memes/captions attributing this quote to J.K. Rowling. Hmm, no, the apostle Paul was first by about 1,965 years!

Yes, death can be a passageway to heavenly reward. And no, Christians should not fear death, because Jesus has defeated it. But treating death flippantly and acting as if there are no consequences diminishes the victory that Jesus has won over death. When I stand on that sacred ground in which we lay a loved one to rest, I know death will not have the last word. That is why I can face it, not because “we’re all going to die anyway.”

When I think of death as an escape from the pain, I understand the sentiment. But it is our culture, not Scripture, that treats death as an ally and suffering as an enemy. While suffering will ultimately not have a place in God’s new creation, it does have a sanctifying role to play in this death-marred world (e.g. Rom. 5:1-5).

I choose to keep living, even when it hurts, because that is the way I honor my Creator and the sacredness of the life he gave me. And though pain is no small matter, God can use it to increase my nearness to Jesus, and through faithful living, I can glorify him. I care about my life; I care about yours too, and so does God. Let’s try to honor the life God has given each of us!

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