Hi, and welcome back. Surprise! Two blogs in one week. The blogosphere is trembling in anticipation. Well, not really. But I wanted to offer an update on the medical issues I began explaining in the last blog and, of course, throw in a few other random thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.
Last week I gave an update on what's been going on in the last few months. I had just completed another round of tests and was awaiting results. A number of people asked what's next. My basic vitals and heart function (with the VAD) are good for a person in my condition. What that means is my heart is functioning at about 30-40% of what it should be. But, it's consistent, which they say is actually more important than having a higher level of functionality. Closely related to the cardiac issues is kidney function. Because of the correlation between the two systems, the kidneys are often impaired to some degree. Mine are performing at about 40-50% of what a normal person's would be, but that level has also been consistent, so it isn't a crisis situation.
I also mentioned that they're now looking at the gastrointestinal area - the liver, gall bladder, small intestine, pancreas and a few other organs whose names I can't pronounce. In the last six months I've had several polyps and two cysts removed and biopsied. They've revealed abnormal cells which could be cause for concern. I have a ventral hernia and gallstones. That means more tests to determine a course of treatment. In the last week I've scheduled consults with three new doctors to look at different aspects of my condition. (Actually, my secret goal is to be a patient in every department at the hospital. Well, except maternity...)
I met with our family doctor last Friday. Having looked over all the reports and test results from the different departments at Strong she said, "You know what they're doing? They're looking for cancer but they can't find it. They think you're an anomaly." Well...I've been called worse. I still don't understand if or how these things are connected. Five years ago I was a guy who'd had a heart attack. Now I'm a guy dealing with multiple organ system failure. It sounds ominous but at the same time, what an adventure. I'm continually amazed at the intricacy and complexity with which God created us. There's no doubt when things go wrong it can be difficult to accept but, it is what it is and we take it one day at a time. I'll keep you posted.
THE "YEAS" HAVE IT
The feedback here, emails and personal comments I've received in the last week all point toward, yes, people would like to read a blog. So, I'm going to try to have that online before year's end. The new blog will be similar in format to those I've done before, covering a range of topics, issues and observations on the passing scene. I'll also continue to write here on CaringBridge regarding medical issues. Thank you for your suggestions and encouragement.
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR...ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE THE HALLMARK CHANNEL
People love Christmas and Christmas music and Christmas specials and Christmas movies. It's really kind of crazy. This time of year you could wrap a ham sandwich in red and green paper and people would go nuts for it. Once again this year, Hallmark Channel is running its "8,000 Days of Christmas" programming. Never watch it? Millions do. In fact, for the last two years their primetime ratings in the 24-54 demo have been second only to...ESPN. Fourth-quarter revenue is just north of seventy-million dollars. That's a lot of twinkle lights. I think it's nice because it employs a lot of otherwise out-of-work B-list actors, so they're not stuck doing reverse-mortgage commercials or infomercials for skin care products.
SPEAKING OF MOVIES...
Mark your calendars. January 6 is the Blu-ray/DVD release of "Left Behind", the latest spin-off cash cow from Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. They have shamelessly milked this thing for twenty years and it ain't over yet. The film, which played to mostly empty theatres and barely recouped its costs, was unfortunate on many levels, not the least of which was its shaky theological premise. Unless you're an obsessive Nicholas Cage fan, I'd pool my money with a couple of friends and sponsor a child through Compassion. Or just burn it.
"THROUGH HUMOR YOU CAN SOFTEN SOME OF THE WORST BLOWS THAT LIFE DELIVERS. AND ONCE YOU FIND LAUGHTER, NO MATTER HOW PAINFUL YOUR SITUATION MIGHT BE, YOU CAN SURVIVE IT." Bill Cosby
I don't hear anyone laughing, Bill.
There's nothing funny about the accusations that have been made against Bill Cosby. Mr. Jello. Cliff Huxtable. A serial rapist? How could that be? (Mind you, at this point they are only accusations. But they come from more than fifteen different women and are alleged to have taken place over a forty-five year period. One out of court settlement was made years ago, which is not an admission of guilt, but it does tend to make one wonder. At any rate, the statute of limitations has passed and it's doubtful anything will be done from a legal standpoint. So, at 77, all he has to do is ride it out.)
But can we afford to just let public opinion move on to the next big story? The tendency today seems to be to neutralize the offense because none of us wants to take responsibility for our actions. How many times have you heard people say, "Oh, we're all guilty of doing something" or "I have no business judging. We shouldn't throw stones." If we disqualified Christian artists (or for that matter pastors and authors) with questionable moral values there'd be a lot of empty shelf space at your local Christian bookstore. But is that 'forgive and forget' mindset really helpful to people - believers...non-believers...the broader culture? I have my doubts.
What got me thinking about all this was the reaction of companies who were working with Mr. Cosby. NBC dropped a new series deal; Netflix canceled a Black Friday live concert special; and TV Land pulled the Cosby Show reruns. It reminded me of the many times working in Christian radio when an artist stumbled badly and we pulled their music off the air. Looking back, I'm not sure that really accomplished anything positive. Did it keep listeners protected from the big, bad world? Did it make the station "safe for the little ears"? (I've always hated that phrase.) I don't think so. We may disdain their actions but does that mean we turn our back on their body of work? It's pretty hard to separate the art from the artist.
It's also ironic that the process of coming back from a scandal is quite similar, whether you're talking about a secular celebrity or a Christian artist. First, denial. It's human nature. If you look at almost any scandal no one immediately confessed their wrongdoing or publicly acknowledged their sin. But, as facts and evidence present themselves, it often leads to confession, repentance and, hopefully, restoration. (Those words have a religious connotation but the steps are essentially the same for the secular artist.) One hopes for sincerity in these matters but that's not always the case. When the PR people get ahold of it, it unfolds like this. If there's no way to deny it, have the person demonstrate a degree of contriteness. Not too much and don't spill all the beans. Use friendly media to soften the harsh edges. Lay low for awhile then come back with a song or book that expresses the appropriate amount of remorse (which can be done without an admission of guilt). Make sure the comeback piece has a positive "I've seen the light" hook. Too cynical? We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Situations like this almost always present more questions than answers. They are troubling because they force us to look at ourselves, our past, our own sin. We prefer the "feel good" stories, the easy answers, the spiritual shortcuts. We can forgive and offer second and third chances because grace and mercy are at the heart of the gospel. But if we focus solely on that part of God's message, we're deluding ourselves and those around us. Trust can be rebuilt, forgiveness can be given and restoration can happen but only if we understand that our behavior has consequences. Proverbs tells us, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out." We are all imperfect and broken. We all sin, sometimes horribly. But God can restore us if we act with transparency and true repentance. That's what I'd like to see coming out of the Cosby situation for the good of his own soul and the lives of the women who have accused him of sexual abuse.
I'll admit, in its eight year run, I never once watched the Cosby Show. Probably the only person in America who didn't. But that doesn't mean this situation doesn't touch me because it does. It touches all of us in one way or another. When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery, he chastised the crowd for their self-righteousness. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." A free pass? An excuse for bad behavior? No. Because a few verses later he said to her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." That's the part we too often overlook but it's the most important. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done - the words of Jesus are the same for us today - "Go and sin no more."
See you next time.