Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Perspective

This moment, this place, is far to familiar. I went to bed with Kristin, and Belle of course, at a very decent hour. We read some more from the Psalms of David, which has been our current selection, and then prayed amongst our tears. A little after one this morning I became weary of trying to find a comfortable position and had to admit to myself that the pain in my liver had no intention of easing up anytime soon.

So here I am. Just finished a couple hours of mindless video games. I could have taken some pain meds but that would lead to dreams I have no interest in delving into any time soon. As I played my games I decided I needed someone to talk with, but that's not really an option at this hour. Even if I did call someone at three or four in the morning I'd end up waking up Kristin and the puppy. That leaves the blog. Which, honestly, isn't a bad option. It's a good listener most of the time and rarely argues with me.

Today I posted a short "poem", of sorts, on Facebook:
"I'm so tired of crying, of praying and of dying. Feels so much like tomorrow's always lying. Lying to me. The pain keeps growing. Money ain't flowing. God has a plan but the blue-prints aren't showing. >> Why? Why can't I bee the provider? Why can't I be here to help guide her? Why can't I stay here beside her? >> Will I leave her broke and alone?"

Kristin and I, once again, spent the day in a combination of trying to find financial items we can cut and finding jobs we can somehow work to bring in some kind of funds†. As it stands right now, even if we bring in a "room-mate" that covers a portion of the rent and utilities, we'll be over five-hundred dollars short of paying necessary bills each month. Once I pass away, and my disability check stops coming in, Kristin can subtract over eight-hundred dollars a month from that already negative financial pot-hole. She's applied for disability*, been denied and our lawyer is currently appealing what seems to be a very automated decision. If they turn down the appeal we could be looking at one to two years for a hearing due to the lack of disability judges (I have no idea the technical position. But I think the title I've provided will explain enough.) in our area and Oregon in general.

But as I suffered through emotional turmoil today, blaming myself for our financial injury and wishing I had died at the date originally predicted by the doctor. If I had died in August of 2009 Kristin would still have been employed when my life insurance had paid out and we wouldn't have occurred all these wonderful medical bills. Ahem... As I tossed and turned emotionally friends were praying and thinking. One posted some very sound words in a Facebook note:

"[Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig; 2003]
Excerpt from Chapter 27: The Problem of Evil

p. 544
First, the chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God. One
reason that the problem of evil seems so intractable is that people tend naturally
to assume that if God exists, then his purpose for human life is happiness
in this world. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for his human
pets. But on the Christian view, this is false. We are not God’s pets, and the
goal of human life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God—which in
the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment. Many evils occur in
life that may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human
happiness; but they may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper
knowledge of God. Innocent human suffering provides an occasion for deeper
dependency and trust in God, either on the part of the sufferer or those around
him. Of course, whether God’s purpose is achieved through our suffering will
depend on our response. Do we respond with anger and bitterness toward God,
or do we turn to him in faith for strength to endure?
Because God’s ultimate goal for humanity is the knowledge of himself—
which alone can bring eternal happiness to creatures—history cannot be seen
in its true perspective apart from considerations pertinent to the kingdom of
God. The British divine Martyn Lloyd-jones has written,
The key to the history of the world is the kingdom of God .... From the very beginning,...
God has been at work establishing a new kingdom in the world. It is
His own kingdom, and He is calling people out of the world into that kingdom:
and everything that happens in the world has relevance to it .... Other events
are of importance as they have a bearing upon that event. The problems of today
are to be understood only in its light ....
Let us not therefore be stumbled when we see surprising things happening in
the world. Rather, let us ask, “What is the relevance of this event to the kingdom
of God?" Or, if strange things are happening to you personally, don't complain
but say, “What is God teaching me through this?". . . We need not become bewildered
and doubt the love or the justice of God.... We should ... judge every
event in the light of God's great, eternal and glorious purpose.

p. 547
. . .
Third, God’s purpose is not restricted to this life but spills over beyond the grave
into eternal life. According to Christian theism, this life is but the cramped and
narrow foyer opening up into the great hall of God’s eternity. God promises
eternal life to all those who place their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.
When God asks his children to bear horrible suffering in this life, it is only with
the prospect of a heavenly joy and recompense that is beyond all comprehension.
The apostle Paul underwent a life of incredible suffering which included
both natural and moral evils. His life as an apostle was a life punctuated by “afflictions,
hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless
nights, hunger” (2 Cor 6:4-5). Yet he wrote,
So we do not lose heart .... For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the
things that are seen but to the things that are at unseen; for the things that are
seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18 RSV)
Paul lived this life in the perspective of eternity. He understood that the
length of this life, being finite, is literally infinitesimal in comparison with the
eternal life we shall spend with God. The longer we spend in eternity, the more
the sufferings of this life will shrink toward an infinitesimal moment. That is
why Paul called the sufferings of this life a “slight momentary affliction”: he was
not being insensitive to the plight of those who suffer horribly in this life—on
the contrary, he was one of them—but he saw that those sufferings were simply
overwhelmed by the ocean of everlasting joy and glory that God will give to
those who trust him. It may well be that there are evils in the world that serve
no earthly good at all, that are entirely gratuitous from a human point of view,
but which God permits simply that he might overwhelmingly reward in the afterlife
those who undergo such evils in faith and confidence in God.
Fourth, the knowledge of God is an incommensurable good. The passage cited
from Paul also serves to make this point. Paul imagines, as it were, a scale, in
which all the suffering of this life is placed on one side, while on the other side
is placed the glory God will bestow on his children in heaven. The weight of
glory is so great that it is beyond comparison with the suffering. For to know
God, the locus of infinite goodness and love, is an incomparable good, the fulfillment
of human existence. The sufferings of this life cannot even be compared to it.
Thus the person who knows God, no matter what he suffers, no
matter how awful his pain, can still truly say, “God is good to me!" simply in
virtue of the fact that he knows God, an incommensurable good."

This was the reminder I needed. It doesn't solve any of our problems... Not one. But it puts them into a deep, deep, perspective. As hard as it is to remember some, if not most, of the time; Nothing that happens here matters. My life here is about what God has planned after. I still feel guilty. That's natural. I love Kristin and want to see her safe and secure. My anxiety about our bills, debt and the possibility of losing our car or our house or any other item we "need" is not going to just dissapear. But it's nice to have perspective. Even if it's perspective I don't like.

While there aren't a lot of jobs I can actually perform right now, my disability does allow me to make up to seven-hundred dollars a month before they begin to question my status. So I'm looking for something that can be incredibly flexible (you know, around my surging liver pains and other symptoms) and is willing to hire me with the understanding that I may not be available much longer. I know such a position is doubtful. But I also know that if it fits into God's will it can be more than probable.

* As I've mentioned before, Kristin has had some level of anxiety and depression all her life. Usually, in my vast medical experience, at some point those symptoms peak and things get out of control. In the last year and a half, in part possibly (and probably in my opinion), her symptoms have become worse. She was laid off from her last job due to absences, which her employer assumed were a result of my cancer. The truth was that she would just begin crying uncontrollably and was unable to go to work. It had happened in the past, but not so often as it did the last few months she worked. She's tried to work since then and was unable to do it. Her last job ended after she spent the entire first half of the day crying in her new supervisors office. She has now been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and paranoia. How she takes care of me along with everything she has going on is no less than a miracle.

For those of you interested, and (believe it or not) there were a few of you, here's the monologue I performed at Christ Fellowship during our Easter celebration on Sunday:

Monday, May 16th we're doing one more Papa's Pizza fundraiser at the Coburg Road Papa's Pizza in Eugene. Papa's provides a wonderful service to the community with their fundraising opportunities. The Aaron M. Jamison Pre-Memorial Foundation is hosting one more event in order to attempt one more run at paying down bills. The lower the debt I leave Kristin with, the less stress I have. The less stress I have, the more I can deal with everything else on my plate. (And some of those things are brussel-sprouts.)
In order to participate/help-out you'll need a flyer, which you can get by clicking here. Bring in a flyer to the Coburg Road location any time from open (11am) to close (Midnight) on Monday, May 16th, order food to go, to eat in or enjoy their fabulous lunch pizza bar and half of the money you pay for your food goes to help with our bills. Or, you can bring in the flyer (during the same time period and date) and use it to purchase some special gift certificates where 25% of the money helps us out. Either way we'd really appreciate it.

If you're on Facebook, you can find the event by clicking here.

Finally, in spite of my promise last October that I was performing my final improv comedy show, there may be another one in the works. My wife is heading up our Relay for Life team this year and we're trying to put together a family friendly improv show on either Friday, July 8th or Saturday, July 9 to raise more money for our team and the American Cancer Society.

So if you're looking for the opportunity to go out and laugh with the whole family, keep checking back! Because I think this is really going to happen!

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