Ramblings: On Mother’s Day, A Tribute to a Mother to None, but a Whole Village, My Aunt Helen

This morning my dear aunt, my father’s little sister, passed from this life. She was 93. She had lived with insulin dependent diabetes for fifty years. It is hard to do justice to describe this incredible woman. While she never bore children of her own, she became a mother to whole village, including my siblings and me.

As I describe in the video below, she suffered through incredible hardships, losing her mother to TB when she was two. She then lost her two older sisters to the same disease before she was in her teens. Then when she was 15 her father died from a heart attack in Sunday school. Then her brother, my father, was drafted to go fight on D Day.

Helen was married and (I think) it was her husband’s choice not to have children. Yet, she raised that husband’s niece and nephew as well as helped to raise my siblings and me. I’ve never seen anyone who was a better mom or loved children better than her. Later, like a bad novel, she discovered her husband had another wife in another city and, if I remember right, he did have a child with her. It was a very painful experience for Helen, as you can imagine.

Helen came to live in our home after she left her husband and the big old (built in early 1800s) log home where she had magical life far back in the hills of Tennessee. Her husband came looking for her with a gun and he and my dad had a stand off in our front yard, each man with a rifle. I was seven and hiding under my bed. But my dad was willing to give his life to protect his little sister.

With all these things said, Helen was the happiest person I’ve ever met. Her laugh was contagious and you could hear that laugh before you entered the room. She ran a beauty shop in a small Appalachian town (Fall Branch, Tennessee) for fifty years. It was the center of the town where news was shared and gossip abounded. If you read the book or saw the movie Steel Magnolias you will start to understand what that little beauty shop meant to our village. It wasn’t just for women as it would be the place for men to hang out too, if they wanted a good laugh or to know what was really happening in town.

When my dad became ill, aunt Helen moved back into our home to help care for him. When he was gone, she stayed and cared for my mom for the next thirty years. She stayed, based on a promise she had made to my dad on his deathbed.

Helen was cared for by our neighbor Billy for years, then in her last couple of years, my sister in Jacksonville. I can say that despite the isolation of COVID-19 (her having to go to the hospital alone) that Helen never had to live in the absence of love.

I must give up as there are not enough words to describe this incredible woman, the most loving, the most emphatic, the funniest woman I’ve ever met. Rest in peace dear Helen. Give my love to my dear mom and dad and your (and my) family that I never got to meet.

Meet Helen:

Ramblings: A Troublesome Drumbeat of a New Pandemic Narrative

When out of the blue I start to hear a consistent narrative, remarkably similar, coming from a variety of people spread out across diverse geographical areas, I become suspicious. Over the past 10 days I’ve heard the following narrative coming from a spectrum of sources:

  1. The death rate for coronavirus infections is grossly overstated.
  2. The cost to America by having businesses closed, measured in deaths and ruined lives, will greatly exceed the pandemic if the society stays closed.
  3. Coronavirus infections are not much worse than a cold or the flu, just that the weak and sick are the ones to die. They are going to die anyway, even without coronavirus, so why punish all of society in our efforts to save these people who are going to die anyway?
  4. This whole hype over the coronavirus is being manufactured by those with a liberal agenda of government control of people.
Sacrifice the Weak - Re-Open TN" : iamatotalpieceofshit

Each morning I have a routine of finding out what’s happening in the world. My choice of information sources are based on the experts who evaluate media sources for accuracy and political balance. I start with NPR, listening through a smartphone app from my bed. Then I get up and listen to CNN on Hulu while I make and eat my breakfast. I recognize that CNN has an anti-Trump bias and I avoid several of their shows which are most biased, but they are mostly factual. I also tend to tune into the international version which is less Trump-centric. I stopped listening to MSNBC because of their bias. I eventually check out Fox News to see what they are saying and check out BBC and Al Jazeera (in the international and Arabic language news version) to see what’s happening in the world. I can do all of this information gathering within an hour. Additionally, about once a week I hold my nose and check out the far-right sources, Brietbart News Network, Judicial Watch, and Infowars. I believe that it is important to know what people are listening to, even if those latter news sources are so pathetically off the rails in their hateful agendas and pure bullshit.

After hearing this new narrative, I went back to look for the motherlode of misinformation about the pandemic and I found it within all those politically right sources, with the greatest exposure at Fox News. The fundamental narrative was not coming from public health or epidemiology researchers, but from the business world. After all, that makes the most sense because they have the most to lose (talking simply about money and wealth) by the societal shut down. They have almost nothing to lose from the disease itself because these are CEOs and owners who don’t work on the front lines and have minimal risk. They also have the funding to influence the public with this mis-information campaign. See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackbrewster/2020/04/09/a-fox-news-conspiracy-are-coronavirus-death-numbers-inflated-attacked-by-fauci-birx/#aff8ed816afe

Here is the factual narrative as expressed by the real experts, those who have spent their lives studying pandemics and the behavior of viruses.

  1. The death rate for coronavirus is being grossly under reported due to the lack of testing and a political pressure to keep the numbers as low as possible. (see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/28/us/coronavirus-death-toll-total.html)
  2. We are sitting on a time bomb. As bad as things are, they could mushroom into the deaths of millions without social distancing.
  3. Even with present numbers, we are more than 1 ½ times the death rate form coronavirus than from suicides (est 47K per year) and the uptick in suicides from social distancing is pale when compared to the deaths of coronavirus infections. If the infection takes off, then it will 100-fold worse.
  4. This novel coronavirus is much worse than the cold or flu both it is ability to spread and mortality.
  5. While there is a disproportionate number of deaths among the elderly and ill, it is killing people at all age groups from toddlers to those in their teens, to those in their youth and higher. Some of the deaths occur in very healthy young people and for reasons that are not clear. Still others come out of the infection with serious injury to their lungs and kidneys, from which they will never recover.
  6. There is no political agenda behind the information about the global pandemic but factual information from the real experts. There is no conspiracy behind this.

One of the most troublesome aspect of this new narrative is that I’ve heard it mostly from my evangelical friends. But that makes sense. As I’ve said many times, I spent 25 years of my life in the evangelical camp. During the later years of this time, before I came to my senses, I, like all of my evangelical peers, became a consumer of Fox News and even Rush Limbaugh. But eventually I realized I was being brain-washed with right wing pro Republican, pro big business bullshit and unfortunately, I like my evangelical peers were blending this right wing political agenda, in a very dark way, with our own Christianity.

Anti-vax 'Jesus wasn't vaccinated' shirt gets crucified on Twitter

But I want to look at what is being said from a philosophical viewpoint to try and unscramble this egg.

The Atheistic-Evolutionary Model

First, I want to look at the perspective from an atheistic, evolutionary view of humanity. I know many people who have an evolutionary viewpoint but as Christians, Muslims, or pantheists so it is an error to think that evolutionists and atheism are synonymous.

In this framework, and if you see the goal as the survival of our species (some would even argue with this goal, thinking that a human-less universe would be better), then there should be no social distancing and allow the viruses, as it did for millions of years, to take its full toil. This would “weed out” the weak and in the end, after possibly a loss of 10% of the population, that the genetic pool would be stronger and more resistant to future infections and have a herd immunity to this infection. This is so logical within that philosophical framework, that I call in to question those atheists, and there are many of compassionate atheists, who don’t think we should go this way but that we should intervene to save human lives and reduce suffering.

The Christian Model

Within this framework, there is a fundamental belief that all of creation is special because a personal and loving God created it. They also hold that humans are more special than all else because we, alone, are created in God’s image. Therefore humans, and all of creation, have intrinsic value and worth. The basic Christian philosophical viewpoint also states that evil and suffering entered the universe from the fall of Adam and the universe was not created with these flaws. Therefore, our struggle against suffering is not a struggle against God’s creative purpose.

The Christian message, as clearly stated by Jesus himself, is that one of our biggest problems is our love of money and wealth. Jesus was not pro big business, but was pro people, all people.

So it is odd that my compassionate atheist friends want to reduce suffering and save lives, while my evangelical friends are advocating this Darwinistic approach of sacrificing the elderly, the weak, the poor, the minorities, and those with underlying illnesses (like me) for the sake of money and wealth… and that money and wealth will mostly fall into the hands of the millionaires and billionaires.

To me, this is yet another example where American Evangelicalism as completely lost its way, where it was blended with right wing politics and now that politics have totally supplanted their original Christian ideals.

Update: 5/2/20

Someone made the comment that I had not done an “update” in a while and that they don’t read my ramblings. So, for the sake of those interested in my health and not these tangents I get off on, I will give an update.

I just finished my first three-week cycle of my new chemo (ninlaro). It is certainly much easier to use, swallowing one very expensive capsule per week rather than an infusion or injection. I think I can say that the terrible side effects I was experiencing are very slowly getting better. I mean I haven’t had diarrhea in three days and it was four or five times per day before. So, I’m optimistic. I just have to hope and pray that it is working on the cancer and we won’t know that for a couple of months.

My original symptom (cluster of symptoms), which are neurological are very, very slowly improving for the past 14 months. On good days I can go 20 minutes now and then without the twitching and other motor problems. On bad days, I still have multiple muscle groups jerking and twitching continuously. I’ve gone five weeks without any labs so I don’t have any information there. I do think my anemia is still better as my energy level reflects that. I have run three times now, each just a mile, but slowly picking up the pace.

As I mentioned in my previous Ramblings about navigating the crazies, we are all still in this same boat. I never knew how difficult it would be fore me having absolutely no contact with people would be. I did participate in a COVID-19 antibody study. I was hoping that I was positive, but I wasn’t. If I had been positive, it would allow me to be like other people where I could at least go to the grocery store with a mask on. But for now, I have to keep totally isolated as they predict that someone with my level of cancer, renal failure and age would have a 50% chance of death if I caught Covid.

Denise is still working long hours. Our marriage is stressed as I feel desperate to talk to someone. She has very hard days at the hospital and comes home talked out and does not want to talk to me but to watch a movie and go to bed (she gets up very early). But for the grace of God, I feel that I would be about ready to lose my mind. Again, I am thankful that I have a dog and I live on a lake where I can enjoy some space. But I think many of you can relate to these things.



Ramblings: The City of God—Revisited Part I

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was writing about the idea of the loss of truth. There is no question that we now live in an age when the classical sense of truth (or what I call TRUTH) has been lost being replaced by opinion. Then I became consumed in editing my manuscript for my novel Ristretto Rain, which I’ve now finished, and it is off to the editors. The original task of exploring this topic was so daunting that I have decided to take just one avenue of discussion and that’s how the Christian community (over time) has been engaged or disengaged in the pursuit of TRUTH. None of the things I share, I believe, are out of the mainstream and any professor of these histories would agree.

This article relates my general theme of the loss of TRUTH. I felt like I needed to explain the stance of the WEBB (white evangelical baby boomer) Christians within the historical context of the movement, and in the end, I will connect it to this loss of TRUTH. I will point out again that I was a WEBB for more than twenty years so my statements should be taken as from an insider.

The City of God (English translation of the original Latin, Dē cīvitāte Deī contrā pāgānōs) was one of the classic books of Christian theology, written in the early 5th century by Augustine of Hippo (aka, Saint Augustine). In the year 410 the city of Rome was sacked by the Germanic tribe called the Visigoths. This invasion and sacking were a profound shock felt throughout the Roman Empire. This shock was felt most intense by the Christian community within the Roman Empire. In the year 313, emperor Constantine had declared Christianity legal and then later the official religion of the Roman Empire, replacing—an often—antagonistic polytheistic religious system.

The City of God : Augustine of Hippo, St. : Free Download, Borrow ...

It didn’t take long for the Roman Empire to become blended (in a very unhealthy way, in my opinion) with Christianity. For one, the emperor, while knowing almost nothing about the Christian faith, placed himself as the head and authority of the church, shaping up until modern times. From that day forward, the “Roman Catholic Church” continued with these influences. The protestant faiths did their own unholy blending with secular culture, but that’s another story.

The Roman Christians made the huge assumption in the fourth century that the Roman Empire was the same as God’s Kingdom. That they were synonymous. They also assumed that God would protect this empire because it was special. Almost every Christian nation has made the same assertions throughout history including the “America First” evangelicals.

The Fall of Rome Depicted in Thomas Cole’s “Destruction”

Peter’s Great Sin

I am often a critic of the organized Church, while recognizing the Church’s great contribution to societies, it has also done many great mischiefs throughout its history. I believe that the root of most of the mischiefs was this mixing of earthly and spiritual kingdoms. Peter’s (upon whose faith Jesus said he would build his Church) did the original sin reflecting this confusion in the Garden of Gethsemane when he drew a sword. See John 18:10 (NIV): Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

In the fifth century, as the visible kingdom of the Roman Empire started to crumble, it didn’t make sense to the Roman citizens who didn’t believed that the very powerful and world-wide (the then known world) empire could fall but it was eternal. The Roman Christians had theological reasons to believe the Roman Empire could not fail. They believed that either God was going to come in at the last minute to save the empire, so they thought, or Christianity itself was going to fail. They had this position because they had confused the earthly empire of the Romans with God’s spiritual kingdom.

Peter Cutting off Malchus’ Ear

Augustine of Hippo was concerned about this discouragement and fear. So, while covering many topics in his book, his major thesis was proving, correctly, that God’s kingdom was not of this world and was not synonymous with any human institution.

In the eighteenth chapter of the book of John Jesus had the following conversation:

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

The German Churches and the Nazi State | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
German Clergy Giving the Heil Hitler Salute

Like I said, throughout the Church’s 2000-year history, most of its greatest mistakes continued in this vein of Peter’s original misconception. The Church blended with the Roman Empire, the monarchs of Europe (even evil Kings), all the way down to the German Lutheran Church, at large, got right in bed with the Nazis and now the WEBBS in bed with the Republican Party. Peter and the Church since (not all churches of course) fall for this corruption because of the enticement of wealth and power.

Pope Leo III crowning Charlemagne emperor, December 25, 800.
The Pope Crowning Charlemagne as Emperor of the Romans on Christmas day and Later was made a Saint

Next time, I want to jump ahead to a phenomenon of the American church of the twentieth century and the historical story of how it has tried to create a worldly empire.

Pro-Trump evangelical leaders condemn Democrats' impeachment vote ...
Evangelicals Praying with Donald Trump, many of Whom have Declared him God’s Anointed or Some, the Messiah.

Ramblings: Navigating the Pit of the Crazies

We are all in this together. That is one thing that is different about the COVID-19 global pandemic and my myeloma “solodemic.” When I was first diagnosed with myeloma, it was hard to find anyone who could relate. Then I found the myeloma “support” group. It was fantastic… at first. But then, each day my FB page (where I connected with them) was filled with horrible stories of extreme suffering and prolonged death. I could not bear it any longer and had to leave before I got too depressed. But now, in this facet of life of social isolation, we can all relate. We all speak the same language of loneliness.

John the Dwarf, Who Left Egypt to Live Alone in the Desert in the Fourth Century

In the early days of COVID-19, I received a letter from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, warning me that leukemia and myeloma patients are at highest risk of catching COVID-19 and if they get it, they are most likely to die. The warning advised that I practice extreme social distancing. That I do not go out for any reason, even canceling many of our medical appointments and worst of all, have no contacts with anyone that does not live in my house.

About three weeks ago I was asked to participate in a study. The premise was, because there were virtually no myeloma patients in Asia who were COVID-19 positive, there is a theory that somehow, either having myeloma or taking myeloma chemo protects you from the infection. I had enough renewed (but false) confidence that I went to a hardware store while wearing gloves and a mask. It was my first outing. In the study, they hope to check the antibodies against COVID-19 in 1000 myeloma patients. I was able to join the study and will receive my test kit soon.

But then I wake up this morning to the news that “blood cancer patients such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and in Asia, they died at an alarming rate.” What? But this confusing information what we all face and will continue to face until we understand this virus better. But once again, it warned about the need for us blood cancer patients to take extreme measures.

Wilson Cast Away Volleyball

Sometimes I see the human psyche as very fragile. I know when I was raising my kids, at times, I felt like if I made one mistake, say I forgot and left them in time-out a bit too long, they would grow up and become sociopathic killers. But then, at other times I am amazed how resilient the human psyche really is. My dear aunt Helen, who practically raised me and is on her last leg as I type this, endured the slow deaths of her two sisters and mother from TB, then her father from a heart attack, then her brother (my dad) went off to WWII, all while she was a young girl. Helen was the happiest and most balanced person I’ve ever known. I don’t know any holocaust survivors personally but knowing what they went through is incredible that they did not go insane.

I want to share a little about my struggle, but this is not looking for any kind of pity. The stories that we know the best are our own and that’s all I’m trying to do.

Besides surviving this past year’s unbearable stress and doing so, I think by God’s grace, without any major depression. I was suicidal at times only to escape the suffering, but not frank depression. But now, the loneliness is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to face.

Mountain man - Wikipedia
Fur Trappers Lived for Years in Solitude

Denise leaves for work around 6:45. I’m awake but not up. I am then completely alone at home for the next 12 hours. I do not leave my property, unless I sneak out with Greta (my dog) for a hike on an isolated trail… if I can find one. Then, Denise comes home completely exhausted and stress out. In case you don’t know, she is the nursing administrator at a hospital with COVID-19 patients and her job is intense and never-ending. While she is with people all day, the only words I’ve spoken are words to Greta. She has her own difficulties to deal with and I wish I could support her better.

When Denise comes home, she is completely “peopled out,” and does not want to talk to me, except for essential words, but prefers to be alone or to watch a movie.

I will end with my story here, except to say, you get the drift. I also know that I don’t have a monopoly on loneliness right now. I know many of you, like me, want to scream at times. I do have the fortunate situation of living on three acres and on a lake. I can go kayaking and work on my property. My son Ramsey lives alone in Seattle and works from home. He tells me that this kind of loneliness has haunted him for years. No, it is not healthy but sometimes there is nothing you can do about it.

I remember a classic scene from an old miniseries that was on network TV in the 1980s about the western expansion. The story followed a fur trader in the Rocky Mountains in the 1700s. The only other people west of the Mississippi were Indians and he had to do everything possible to avoid them. Once a year, this trapper would gather all his beaver pelts and float down the Missouri River to a trading post in Kansas. But in one scene, after being alone for almost a year, he comes out of his sod house he was living in and ran to the top of the mountain in his dirty red long johns and started screaming that he’s going crazy from loneliness. His cries were met with complete silence, save the wind blowing down the Tetons. I get it now.

It is always a good thing to try and make lemonade out of lemons. I want to study the old Christian hermits, those who left society and lived alone in the deserts or mountains (this was the precursor to monasteries) for decades. While I don’t agree with their reasons for leaving society (a dualistic view that this world was dirty and evil) I do want to learn how they coped and flourished. Then I think of others who had to remain alone, like the Tom Hanks character in the movie Castaway. I guess Greta is my “Wilson.” By the way, I am so grateful for Jean and Diane’s phone calls today. I’m sorry I spoke too long.

So I pray to God that this nightmare will end, that somehow the virus will vanish or an unexpected treatment would arise (I bet it won’t be  hydroxychloroquine or drinking Lysol) or, if the lemons remain that we can make lemonade and we all find nourishment in our solitude.


Ramblings: Ristretto Rain, off to the Editors!

Please put a bookmark in your COVID-19 reading schedule for June as that will be the estimated release of my new novel Ristretto Rain. I am very excited about this book that got its start way back in 2018. Then there were interruptions such as life-threatening cancer, bone marrow transplants, oh. . . then a pandemic. You know, just the ordinary kinds of things. The book is in the genre of drama with romance overtones written with the backdrop of San Juan Island living, fine coffee making, wooden boats and exploring the secret places of villagers’ hearts. Someone asked me if the book is G rated, like a Hallmark movie. No. Life is at least R rated and this book imitates life, not a fake world without conflicts and disappointments.

This morning the Ristretto Rain manuscript went off to the profession editor (Max) who is an editor for McGraw-Hill (education publisher) but is a freelancer for Mount Erie Press. I’ve worked with Max for two other book projects and he is very good. He does not hesitate to say something is crap or needs re-writing or that somethings is very good.

This will be my third novel and my seventh book. Between each book I’ve worked hard in fine tuning my writing skills by reading the classics and more recent Pulitzer Prize winning books.

Here is a summary of the story:

Halem was one of Seattle’s finest coffee roasters and baristas. Sandra, a wealthy divorcee rescued her from an abusive relationship and took her away to create a world-class coffee shop in a very remote village in Washington state’s San Juan Islands. The Rock Harbor Coffee Roasters, her little shop, was perched on a bluff overlooking a remarkably beautiful marina. She had her regular customers, mostly commercial fishermen and eccentrics who, each, had their own reasons for escaping mainstream society. She also served a host of transient tourists arriving by personal boats each day.

One morning, a mysterious and handsome man named Winston came rowing in from the Pacific Ocean in a little wooden boat. He was the most remarkable man Halem had ever met. He had the uncanny ability to look directly into her, and her customer’s souls and put his finger on their greatest emotional conflicts. Halem had her own personal labyrinth, which was far more convoluted than just her abusive Seattle boyfriend but stretched back into unresolved grief as a child.

During his short stay in the harbor, Winston became involved in helping several people navigate out of their personal quagmires. About this time, Sandra discovers that Winston is really a liar had swindled people in other harbor towns out of money. She chases him out of their little village. But it was too late for Halem as her heart was already lost to this man and was broken with his departure. But was Sandra correct? Could Halem find the truth? Was Winston the greatest man she had ever met… or the most conniving fraud? Would her world finally find peace or an unbearable heartbreak?

Ramblings: “Jesus is my COVID-19 Vaccine,” Metaphysical Considerations.

Most of us have seen the videos of either right-wing protestors at state capitals, taking no social distancing precautions, and demanding to have all the restrictions lifted or evangelical pastors who insist on continuing to hold in-person church services. Both the evangelicals that take part in the protest and the pastors who insist on big church gatherings say things like, “Jesus is my vaccine,” or “I don’t need precautions because I’m covered in the blood of Jesus.” They spout these clichés with a big dose of spiritual pride (in my opinion) and not faith.

WATCH: Harrisburg Coronavirus Quarantine Protest, 'Jesus Is My ...

So, this begs the question, will God determine if you get COVID-19 and possibly die from it? If so, there is nothing you can do to stop God, including social distancing. I have already address this indirectly. I have also addressed, many times and in many ways, the question does God gives cancer and does He then direct the cancer to cause you to suffer and die from it?

But back to this simple question that is a hot topic at this present time. It really comes down to some fundamental metaphysical questions. Now, if the word metaphysical makes your feel uncomfortable feel free to think of it in theological terms. As I said before, Francis Schaeffer used to say that the only differences between philosophy (which deals with metaphysical concepts) and theology are not in the questions asked but, in the answers given.

It is woven deeply within colloquial (meaning common or everyday) Christianity, not just in American Evangelical circles but in many other types of Christian, and many Islamic sects, around the world, that for God to be God, He has to have absolute control of granular fate. What I mean by “granular fate” is the everyday things, even smaller of getting a disease, things like God controls if we blink or if we eat an banana, or if a particular raindrop will fall from 30,000 and hit me in the head… or not.

I will make a bold statement, and you are welcome to prove me wrong (in comments), that nowhere in the Bible does it say that God is control of the granular things of our life. That these things are predestine or controlled by His power. There are many passages that we used and I hear other using now to support their position that God controls these detailed things such as Luke chapter 12 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+12&version=NIV). But read this passage if you want without the cultural glasses that automatically interpret this for you. Listen to what it is really saying. It is saying that for those people not to worry about their housing, their clothing, or their food because worrying does not help. It says, in a general way, God will provide the basics.

It is my opinion (based on my study) that this problem of the God intervening in the small things stems from the adoption of non-Christian philosophies into Christianity, those which dismissed this material world as insignificant. Therefore reason, cause and effect, physics, chemistry, and so on are meaningless and therefore everything is controlled by God, the puppeteer’s hands.

Instead, I say that God created this wonderful world and all the laws that control it. Consistent with the long history of Christian teachings, these wonderful laws that govern life have been fouled, in places—not everywhere—but in spots, which we call the fall. Therefore, viruses exist and cause horrible havoc. So, in the case of this novel coronavirus follow the laws of biology. You will get it if you are exposed and are in the right circumstances. It is not based on how much faith you have or if God loves you or not. It has nothing to do if you are “covered in the blood” or if you believe Jesus is your vaccine. I could write a book on the abundance of historical examples of very devout Christians that were 100% certain God would save them in a situation… and yet they perished in the end. If you hold to their God model, then He failed. But when we liberate God to be the great other, then it has no implications. But if you insist on God controlling granular fate, then you better deal with the example where that kind of god seems to fail.

When I discuss this with evangelicals, almost invariantly they assume that I am saying God is too small to control the small things and the larger things such as if I get COVID-19 or not. I will no be surprised if someone writes me a private e-mail from this post telling me how concerned they are about my soul and that I’m not walking with God. I’m used to it. I am not saying God is too small to control these things,but simply he chooses not to. In ways, I am saying almost the opposite. That for us to insist that God must control the details of our life in order to be God, I am shrinking God down and putting Him in the box I’ve crafted for Him.

If you take historical Christianity as it was, then it is clear that God is in control of the really big picture and in the end, the very end of everything, all will be well. On that point, the major monotheistic belief systems agree and even the pantheistic (although we disagree in other areas).

Note: I hope to get back to posting here. I just finished my 10th round of editing of my novel Ristretto Rain and tomorrow it goes off to the professional editors. If you read an early version, the final is much better. The book should by out by June.

Milestones: A & B

Sorry about a defunct post earlier. It was in a video format and this site would not allow it.


A. I took my first capsule of Ixazomib today, the new chemo. I hope it is a new path.

B. I used to be a modest runner, 3 miles twice a week then 7 miles on Saturday. I ran last the week before I got sick in Jan, 2019. I was so ill and quite anemic for much of the year, that there were even times I could hardly walk to the car. My hemoglobin bounced between 7 and 12 (normal is 13.5 or greater).

For some reason, I have felt stronger in the past 3-4 weeks and my hemoglobin was going up. I told Denise, before my labs were drawn this week, that I felt like it reached 13. Well, it is 13.7 and in the normal range. I couldn’t believe it!

While I have been walking faithfully, today (after I finished my 2 mile walk with Greta) I donned my running clothes and ran a mile. It brought tears of joy to my eyes as I never, ever thought I would run again. It felt great. I had to share this with someone. Mike


Short Version: My new chemo was approved today.

Long Version:

A week ago I reached out for prayer and thoughts about two issues, one being my renal function and the other was getting permission to switch to a newer chemotherapy. I’ve already mentioned that my kidney function, after taking a dip in the “total crap” level, back up to the “mostly crap” level, which was good news.

I have already mentioned that the new chemotherapy (ixazomib), which in clinical experience, has much few side effects than my old one (Velcade), is an oral capsule, and may work even better in keeping the cancer in remission. The one problem is that is about $2800 per capsule and I would take three per month (previously the number I gave was $10,000 and that was erroneous information). So, it has to have approval by the insurance company. We submitted a request for the new chemo three weeks ago. It was denied at first and then we did an override.

Today was my chemo day. It should have been last week, but we delayed it for one week to see if the new drug would be approved. When I arrived at my appointment today, my oncologist said he was sorry but he heard nothing from the insurance company. We had a long debate about the pros and cons of waiting yet another week without chemo.

I have about 4-5 major symptoms that interfere, sometimes greatly, with my quality of life. Of those symptoms, 3-4 are directly related to the chemo and when they are bad, they are miserable. I dreaded getting another injection of Velcade today. However, skipping yet another week would increase the risk of my cancer coming out of remission. We finally agreed to get my regular infusions.

I was sitting in the chair, labs done, prep meds (steroids) given, and my chemo being ready to inject and the nurse handed me a piece of paper. She said, “This just came in for you.” As she literally was getting ready to give me the Velcade, I started to read the letter, which she had handed me. It was from Regence and it said, “Your Ixazomib has been approved for 12 months. After that time a new request will need to be made.” I was able to say, “Stop the music” (in a way) and the injection was deferred. So, the gold-plated capsules are on their way.

There is no guarantee that the new drug will not have bad side effects or that it will work, but the odds are in my favor with it.

On Other Topics:

I was thinking about writing a Ramblings about all the bad news that we hear as we get older, but some people would see it as doom and gloom. Often, I don’t mean things to come across that way, but some readers put attitudes in my head that aren’t really there.

There is so much I’m thankful for. I am still thankful that I’m off dialysis and I thank God every day for that. I said last summer, when I still had the dialysis catheters in my chest, that if I ever got off, I would dance naked through the streets of Anacortes. It was so awful for me that if I had one pick, to end the cancer or end the dialysis, I would have picked the dialysis. Now that Anacortes is doing its social distancing thing like the rest of the world and we can wear masks in public, it would be a good time to do the dance. We will see.

We are all dealing with the bad news about living in a pandemic. But that is not unique to human life. Most of the time humans have either been in terrible wars or suffering from untreatable infections that wiped out entire families.

My personal bad news this week came from talking to my brother, Gary. He started dealing with bone marrow cancer before me. Actually, his hematologist called me December 2018 and asked me to be a bone marrow donor for him. I said yes, but I knew it wouldn’t happen because I already knew I was very sick, but had not been to a doctor yet. I talked to my brother this week. He has fought this terrible disease for about 3-4 years and now he is grave and they are stopping treatments. I lay awake feeling his fear.

Gary and I were fighting brothers. I won’t get into the details but he also fought with my parents and both my sisters. So, we have never been close. But we have talked on the phone on a regular basis for the past year, often sharing notes on our treatments. Pray for him, for God’s comfort.

My aunt Helen, my father’s sister, was like a mother to me, literally. We lived in the same house for a while, but even when we didn’t she was at my house almost every day taking care of me. She is 92 and has been an insulin dependent diabetic for 50 years. I’ve always worried about her. She did suffer a stroke about 7 years ago that completely wiped out her short term memory. Two days ago, a bigger stroke happened, taking out her ability to talk or walk. As you know, the trouble these days with COVID-19 and social distancing, my sister, who cares for her in Jacksonville, cannot see her so she is alone, confused in a hospital. She took care of me every time I was sick before I left home. She took care of my father when he was ill. She took care of other people in our town, and then she cared for my real mother for over 20 years. But now, none of us can care for her and she has to suffer alone. Life is unfair.

I have a friend who is, once again, in battle with her cancer. Unless she’s a better person than me, and I’m sure she is, these battles bring a lot of fear. As I said before, having tasted severe suffering, it is the suffering I fear the most, not so much death. I don’t want her to suffer.

We have another friend who has cancer. She is young and a total health nut. They thought they had cured her cancer last year, but now its back and all over her. “My The gospel of a Lessor god” was “inspired” by her and her plight.

Another friend had to be airlifted off our mountain today. I watched this play out, thinking it was a rock climber being rescued, which happens once or twice a year. But it was her heart. She is okay for now, but just another snippet of bad news.

I lost two nephews a few months apart and I see how much my sister (the mother of one) and my brother and sister in law, and niece (the parents and sister of the other) suffer emotionally.

I share things because they are on my mind, but I don’t think for a moment that they are unique to us. Bad news and suffering are woven into the fabric of the human condition. We pray for God’s peace for all.

I know that everyone who comes here have these hard things in your life. I think talking about them makes it a little easier on everyone. May God grant you peace in your troubles.


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