Friday, March 25, 2011

Arkham Asylum: Home Sweet Home (REVISED)

There are plenty of homeless people in Eugene. Of all those, many are just kids. The first time I began working with homeless kids in Lane County was with a group called Pisteuo that met on Saturdays in the basement of First Christian Church in Downtown Eugene. I remember being amazed at what I saw. I had expected a bunch of teens who just seemed to be lazy and/or didn't care. To be honest, those kids were there. What amazed me was, of course, what I hadn't expected to see. Young children. Some as young as seven or ten years old. Not all of these younger kids were really homeless. But they were hungry and without direction. They were cold. No parents really cared about them. Pisteuo was a warm place, where they could get food and be safe.

Later, after a few years of operation, Pisteuo became Hosea Youth Services Project or HYS Project. How, is a long story involving a neighborhood rejecting a shelter for homeless kids and the untimely end of another charity. But it holds an important place in my heart. The original concept, that it's hard for kids to talk about God while they're cold and have an empty stomach, is still at the center of the program today. God taught me many things there. Things about myself, about being at the end of your rope and about how He can work through and with anyone in any situation.

Redemption Rocks Concerts is putting on a benefit show for Hosea Youth Services featuring some really hot music and you should really check it out:

Paul Wright and Root Down with special guests Caleb and Sol along with The Parker Brothers (Not the board-game people, the band. And, yes, I will make that joke every time I mention them.) will play at Northwest Christian University (Formerly Northwest Christian College, but I guess they got a promotion or something.) Saturday, April 2nd at 7:00pm. The show will be "emceed" by Josh Bidwell, former Duck kicker and NFL All-Pro.

It seems... No, wait... It is incredibly shallow of me to follow up writing about the plight of homeless youth in our area with the fact that my Xbox 360 has stopped working. But here I am doing it anyway. I try, on a fairly constant basis to make sure that what I write here has some depth and soul. It's my intent that whatever gets read here can leave most people feeling like they've learned at least some minute grain of something new, or been reminded of something old, when all is typed and done. Here's your fair warning: This blog will probably come off as somewhat, if not entirely, self-centered.

For the last few days I have been dealing with an enormous amount of pain. Levels that have previously required a trip to the hospital for "pain management" have been my constant companion this week. For those in the professional medical field about to bare their fangs, claws or children's "squeaky" hammers (video below) please read along as I explain how I'm experiencing this pain, in part at least, on purpose.

Hospice is providing me the correct levels of "break-through" pain medication. (For the novice, of which I am still one, "break-through pain" is pain you may/can experience on occasion that your regular pain meds just won't handle. For that, your care-provider will usually, um, provide... a different med to handle and subdue that "extended" or break-through, if you will, pain.) If I took my break-through pain medication as directed, once an hour, I would feel hardly any pain. In fact, I would feel hardly anything at all. And that's the problem.

At some point in this process the cancer may, and at this point probably will, "eat" through the lining of my liver. If that happens my final days, and my imminent death, will be a very, very, painful experience. At that point I will most likely be on the highest levels of narcotics I will have ever received in my life. Do you see where I'm going with this? No? That's ok. I don't like shutting up anyway. The more I can go without those medications now, the more I will have (hopefully) built up the ability to go without them in the future as the pain rises. What I hope this means and, according to my research (which, lets face it, is mostly web based and not entirely accurate), what this does mean is that I will be able to take slightly less amounts of narcotics at the end allowing more moments of lucidity than I would have been afforded normally. Those precious moments of lucidity will be the brief chances and opportunities to speak and spend time with friends, family, my wife (which also fits under family but there's a difference here) and God.

"God?" you say. Yes, "God." At the end of my life I want to continue to praise the one who put me here in the first place. I want to be able to have the clearness of mind to call out to Him... or her... or it... Frankly, the most important part about God, to me, is that I'm not Him. But I want to be able to dwell with God. I know I'll have the rest of eternity for that. But I also have a feeling, call it a belief if you will, that the relationship I have with God here on this earth is very different from the one I'll experience when I've, "shuffled off this moral coil." (Which is very different than shuffling off to Buffalo. Though some may argue that Buffalo itself is a different plain of existence.)

I also want those moments of lucidity for my wife. I don't know what I'll be like at the end. But I get the feeling I may end up fighting back as my body tries to give up. I may need those moments to hear my wife, in all the pain, sorrow, gladness and anger she may be enduring, to tell me it's ok to let go. I've asked her to do that for me when she's ready. To tell me I can go "home". You see, the last thing I want is to leave her. I'm well aware that Heaven is a better place. But the closest, I believe, that I've experience to Heaven here have been the moments I've spent with her in my arms. There's not a molecule in my body that wants to give up those feelings. Not a speck of my soul that looks forward to never being able to hold her hand, or kiss her lips, again.

So I want... No, I need those moments of lucidity. I'm fully willing to experience the gnarled weights of pain that hold me down now, in exchange for short breaths of fresh and loving air in the future. I hope that you will forgive me as I, now, then and on occasion, constantly complain of the pain I am living with. Know that there is a method to my choice. A method to my sadness, one might say. That in the final tally, though I may feel a little embarrassed and humiliated of the pain I endure, (bare with me on the pun) the end justifies the demeans. 

"I'm fully willing to experience the gnarled weights of pain that hold me down now, in exchange for short breaths of fresh and loving air in the future."

All that being said, back to my shallow complaint about my Xbox. We've fixed everything on this thing. Finally finding the last problem to be the power cord, of all things. Which we replaced. Now I'm experiencing the same problem again. Everything on the machine works, it just will not play the game disks. Which, as you can imagine, makes it very difficult to play games. How does this go together with the entire near essay I just wrote on pain? When I'm experiencing that pain, sometimes my best defense is the mindless video game. The ability to temporarily lose myself in an imaginary world that is interactive enough to keep me thinking but silly enough to let me forget. It's incredibly frustrating right now to just lose that option.

At this point I'd just replace it if I could. But we can't. So I'm trying to place focus else where. That's where you came in and, I guess, that's where I leave you. I'm not sure I really said much. But I feel like I've said all I can. God is continues to be incredibly generous. Even when we (just me really) get whiny. He's the most patient parent you could ask for. I look forward to many, many, conversations with Him... or Her... or Him.


I'm about to respond to a comment, two comments actually, from someone who chose to remain anonymous. I'm not sure whether that choice was done out of cowardice or just to make their comments hurt a little more. In either case I guess I need to clarify. Because either my writing was not clear enough or I just have to assume that the anonymous commenter is in some kind of pain or position that leaves him spiteful, hateful, and delusional. Or maybe it's just me. In either case, when I finish this post I'll publish his comments in, well, the comment sectioin.

I can understand, after reading this "person's" comment how someone who did not know me well might assume from the last paragraph of my blog that I am trying, in some back-door manner, to get someone to replace my broken Xbox 360. Please be fully assured that is not the case. I have actually received offers to replace my Xbox and turned them down. This is, again, for those who don't know me: I am not a beggar. It's not that I haven't begged. I've done it here. But only at times when I've had to break through walls of stupid, sometimes selfish, pride because we've had bill collectors at our door and no other option. I've never asked for money that wasn't needed.

So, for the record (as it always is), I do not want anyone to replace my gaming system. I am thankful for everything we have. The Xbox was on my mind because it's one of the ways I escape my pain and, at that moment, I couldn't escape. Those more astute than my, well... let's call him ( I use the pronoun "him" because there is not a shadow of doubt in my mind who this "brother" is. Not that my writing is grand, but, his is so poorly fashioned that it's like a signature.) my, "Generous Benefactor", will note that what I really spoke about here were the reasons I choose to not medicate at the level I need to and instead feel most of my pain. The Xbox, as it relates to my pain, was simply the introduction and exit to my story.

So, with that pre-amble, let me address some "points" that bugged me:

"You preach to others about the word of god, and how we can change our lives by not giving into temptations and sins, yet here you are doing it AGAIN. Greed, sloth, jealousy...are those all not sins in the eyes of god too? Or are you exempt from that?"

As far as my "sins", as he chooses to see them... I have never, in my entire life, denied being a sinner. I think that's the whole point. I am a sinner. It's only by the grace of God that I have any joy in my life. It's only by His grace that I have any hope at redemption.

Preaching is also an interesting phrase for him to use. The only time I believe I could have been considered to have preached to anyone on this blog is to have pointed out that we choose how we react to life and we have the ability to choose joy. I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus is God, and at the same time, the Son of God. I believe that accepting His gift of grace is the only passage into Heaven and a never-ending, perfect, relationship with Him. But I don't believe I've ever "preached" that to readers here, especially about not "giving in" to temptations.

"Why not focus on someone less fortunate than yourself for once? Maybe do some community service or volunteer somewhere?"

I don't talk about it very much, but I've spent a good deal of my life (even when I was living a life the opposite of what I should have) in service to others and to God. It's actually mentioned in the beginning of the blog, you may have missed it my anonymous friend, of some of the time I spent at Hosea. You have no idea what went on there or the painful experiences that led to me stepping away because I believe it's inappropriate to brag about the "good" we do. It's all just rags anyway.

Now, incapacitated as I frequently am by my illness, I do what I can when I can. Kristin and I give and serve as often, and sometimes more, as we are able. When I stand before the Lord one day and all my works are judged by fire I hope to have something left that was done purely in the name of Christ. I hope you have some of the same. (I say that with no sarcasm. None. I sincerely hope that your works stand firm before the Lord in His name. Though, remember, it's His grace not our works that saves us.)

"You say you are thankful, yet I do not see that in your blogs."

If you cannot read my blogs and see that I am thankful than I pity you. I really do. I cherish my wife and family. My church and friends have been one of God's greatest blessings to me on this journey. God has even brought me to a place where I have found myself thankful for the cancer that grows inside me. While I do not wish this horrible experience on anyone, I do hope that one day you have the spiritual experience of understanding what it means to be thankful and find joy in the worst moments of your life. It's a freedom that can't be explained.


Just the fact that you use the word is kind of silly to me. We are all hypocrites. No matter our beliefs. No matter what we stand for, say, preach, etc... We are all hypocrites. No man (or woman) is perfect except for God. Therefor no person can live up to the standards they set for themselves or for others. I would like to believe that I've never set a standard for others that I haven't tried, myself, to live up to. But I recognize and admit, readily, my failures and mistakes. That's the only way to learn from them. A person who doesn't accept and admit one's own faults usually just blames every one else around them.


I guess that about sums up anything I wanted to respond to directly. I'll go ahead and post your comments now. If it helps, you should know that your comments hurt me greatly this morning. Not because they were accurate. Just because it was important enough to you to lash out at me for whatever reason(s) you hold.

From now on people will have to be "logged on" to comment. I know there are still ways "around" that system. But I won't post any more "super negative" or just plain "to ridiculous to be paid attention to" comments... even if they are "logged in". Because I'm sure you'll continue to find a way to hide. (You've gotta admit that posting a comment like this, and making all the allegations you've made, anonymously is incredibly cowardly right? Even if you actually believed what you wrote, and I do think you'd have to be absolutely delusional to believe it, to do so anonymously takes away from any standing or respect you might have been given. If something is important enough to say, you should be willing to stand behind what you're saying.)

Thank you, again, to all those who continue to support and be there for me. Thank you for your prayers, thoughts, occasional gifts and, yes, even constructive criticism. Though, Molly (and you know who you are), I'm still going to keep over using the ellipses... elispseses or is it elipsi?



me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
me said...

I'm sorry to say it DOES sound selfish to bring up your xbox after leading in with homeless kids and god. People don't have homes or even FOOD, yet you feel it's important to bitch about your (one of several it seems) xbox not working? Why don't you just come right out and ask for a new one? You are lucky to have a warm place to sleep, enough food to eat, family that cares, clothes, etc. You say you are thankful, yet I do not see that in your blogs.
I wonder how god feels about greed? You preach to others about the word of god, and how we can change our lives by not giving into temptations and sins, yet here you are doing it AGAIN. Greed, sloth, jealousy...are those all not sins in the eyes of god too? Or are you exempt from that?
Why not focus on someone less fortunate than yourself for once? Maybe do some community service or volunteer somewhere? You probably think I am a hateful uncaring person, which is fine. I am not, and my daily actions show that. But, I will call out people that profess things that are untruthful or half-truths. I wish you nothing but the best, but I will not condone selfishness and greed by a hypocrite.

Matt's Musings said...

I love the bit about us all being is so true. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I am amazed that people continue to think that people, as Christians, are perfect. I know it is some people in our "communities" own fault for acting better than others and being judgemental. We have to, as believers, acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of grace. Hopefully our love will be louder than all the other noise.

I struggle at times with people, not you Aaron, feeling that they deserve, expect, or beg for things when they are so much better off than many that I know...and then I look at my own life, see how I can do the same thing, and I find myself back at the foot of the cross.

I have always wanted to do a sermon based off a song by a band that I love, TwoThirtyEight. It comes from the parable of the prodigal son. I have been thinking about this for so long I almost don't want to share but...the cat is asking to come out of the proverbial bag. The chorus is what stands out most to me, haunts me, corrects, and leaves me with introspection every time. It says,

"I'm not the grateful bastard son, I'm the rich and spoiled one...I'm not the grate-ful bastard son....I'm the rich and spoiled one"

Even as I write it, I wish I could convey the haunting way he sings these lines, striking my core and icing my judgemental attitude and reminding me that I am also a co-dependant, in need of God's grace.
So when my finger comes out to point, accuse, and judge, I am reminded that I am that whore as well, at Jesus' feet, asking for his mercy...because we all have blood on our hands..and those spots that we would out, remind us of our shortcomings.

He who is without sin...cast the first stone. Where now, does the accuser stand?

Love and peace to you Aaron, to the person who wrote the words that stung, and all of us as we are reminded that we are all in need of grace because we have all botched it, screwed up, and fallen short.

Florence said...

Non Anonymous Person Named Liana Says To The Poster Called "me" :

Dear Anonyous: Whoever you are, I have a piece of advice of my own, that I'd like to share: If you don't like what a person has to say on their personal <-----* keyword) blog I suggest you don't read it. Unless you enjoy things you seemingly don't like. If that is the case, hit me up..... my toilet needs cleaned

Anonymous said...

Aaron, I have been following your journey though your blog for some time now. I have thought about commenting many times, but I never knew quite what to say or how to say it. I am not as articulate as I'd like to be, but I'll give it a shot.

Sometimes your writing makes me smile, sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes it reminds me of how very lucky I am, and sometimes it reminds me of things I'm missing. But it *always* makes me think.

You are an inspiration to me, and I believe you are an inspiration to many others as well. Your willingness to share your faith, your emotions, your pain and your joy is something I am very grateful for.

Reading the words of the anonymous commenter made me feel so sad. I hate that he hurt you. That might sound strange for me to say since I've never even met you, but I feel like he has hurt all of those who have benefited from your words.

I am impressed by the grace you have shown him, and I hope to remember to react with such grace when someone hurts me.

You are a blessing, Aaron.


aaron jamison said...

Thanks to everybody for your supportive comments. (With obvious exclusions.)

"C" (boybe),

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I get a lot of comments but rarely post or reply to them.

Your second paragraph gave me one of my first smiles of the day. (It's been a tough one.)

Just wanted to admit though that I really should have shown "him" a little more grace. Not that I'll ever have the ability to show give the grace that God's given and shown to us. But I did put in a couple of "digs" that I didn't need to write. I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to the pain. But I'm not going to go back and edit again. I've said enough and I've got to find a way to put this new pain behind me so I can focus on the old ones. ;)

But thank you for writing and for continuing to put up with my foibles and mistakes.

under His mercy,

Ronnie said...

Ah, Aaron....

I, too, am one of your devoted readers. And, as "boybe" confessed, I have often wanted to comment (even "should have" commented) on your blog, but have held back.

I am so sorry for this lapse on my part. I know that often you have felt alone; and in my silence, I have allowed you to feel that way. Please know that I treasure your posts. I am grateful that you have taken me with you on your journey.

I am so sorry that I have not let you know that I am here ~ crying with you, wondering about you, praying for you, singing along with you, and marveling at your love for Kristin.

Perhaps its my own cowardice that prevents me from commenting.

Forgive me ~ and forgive all of us who read your words and are silent. From now on, I will try to be a more encouraging and vocal supporter. And I hope that more of us step up to offer supportive comments so that when someone writes a discouraging post, you will know that they are in the minority.

Please continue to be honest, brave, joyous, and unapologetically Aaron!

Craig said...

As you will not accept an x-box I will be donating money instead. Were more Christians as joy embracing, and non-judgemental as you I might have fellowship with them and accept the title of those who aspire to be more like Christ.

It has been a Joy to have performed with you and know you over the years.


corrigan said...

I don't know you personally, and I can't even remember how I came across your blog...but you're pretty awesome, and incredibly inspirational, and maybe if you didn't live a thousand miles away from me, I'd invite you over for a Star Trek TNG marathon.

I don't make much, but I plan to donate soon. Cancer has taken far too many from my family.

Stephen said...

Hi Aaron,

I've been reading your blog for a long time, checking it every several days or so. I want to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your many thoughts. "Choosing joy" resonates deeply with me. I admire your great humility, good humor and noble spirit. (I really do think this of you!) I've thought of how Christians ought to live--aspiring to be like our savior--and I see this in you. You walk close to Christ and it's beautiful. I'm praying for a miracle for you guys. This post, in particular, really moved me. Big manly tears, on this end. You're fighting the good fight, you're finishing the race, you've kept the faith. I pray that your pain relents and that you continue to enjoy a lucid mind in spite of everything else. May God bless you and Kristin with His incomparable joy.

In Christ,


Sarah said...

The anonymous guy is an asshole and EXACTLY the type of Christian who has turned me off to religion as a whole.

Aaron, you are awesome. Fact. Don't listen to that loser.

Much love to you and your family!


David said...

Hey Aaron, Just wanted to give you a big Thank You for the shout outs for the Hosea benefit concert. :) BTW: If you and/or your lovely wife are able to come to the show, I'd love to see you both there.
Joy! -David