Health, Lent, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rheumatoid Disease

“Unimaginable things today”

All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.” (Luke 5:26, CEB)

In the stretch of verses I read today (Luke 5:12-39), Jesus does the following unimaginable thing: he heals a leper by forgiving his sins, in front of a gathering of legal experts and Pharisees. It’s moderately amazing that he heals the man; he already has a reputation for making people well. It’s unimaginable that a person would presume to forgive sins.

Later he appalls the Pharisees and legal experts further by eating dinner with tax collectors.

Really, if he’s a good person, a man of God, why is he hanging around with those traitors? Why is he going out to dinner parties? He has already started to diverge from John the Baptist, although the question coming directly from his cousin happens later in the gospel.

I grew up with a lot of rules for behavior, particularly around the dinner table. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons I so loved the story of the man whose friends dug through the roof (according to Mark) or moved the roof tiles (in Luke’s telling) to lower him right into the room to see Jesus? Sometimes faithful necessity transcends the accepted rules of social engagement.

Today in our town, members of the local Muslim community are standing in front of the public library (as they are in many other public venues across the country), holding signs that say “Ask me anything.”

Jesus did this all the time. He went to the places where people gathered, and he responded to their questions. Some responded favorably, awed by his works and his words.

Others retreated to plot against him.

For some people, speaking to a Muslim person may seem unimaginable, perhaps in part because they don’t know any. Today it is distinctly imaginable.

Holy One, help me to see the unimaginable transcendent good in the world rather than being caught in the everyday transgressive bad things I have been taught to note and avoid. Amen.


I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? The full schedule can be found here.

Health, Health Care, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rheumatoid Disease

Beautiful Kidneys, or a Way with Words

you-have-a-way-with-wordsThis morning we drove to the other side of town while it was still foggy out; I had an appointment for an upper abdominal ultrasound. After many years on methotrexate, my blood work began reflecting elevated liver enzymes last summer, and my new-as-of-last-week rheumatologist wanted a closer look.

A very nice technician took me back into the depths of the outpatient center and began the study.

“Take a deep breath, as deep as you can … Hold onto it … … … … Breathe. Excellent!”

I found the repetition reassuring. While I cannot control the medical “grade” I receive, at least I know that from a behavioral point of view, I cooperated to the best of my ability, held my breath as long as asked, and over and over received the affirmation, “Excellent!” A+, right?

It was a complete upper abdominal ultrasound, so it took a while. Just when I was feeling more relaxed, the technician had to press a little harder to get her angle, and I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. The student observing was sent for a cup of water. I half-sat up, awkward, en déshabillé. The technician never lost her calm, good-natured expression. We began again, and I was asked to roll toward her.

That’s when she asked what work I do. When I answered, her face flashed recognition; she said, “I’ve heard you preach, at Saint Thingummy’s! I remember that sermon; it might be the only sermon I’ve ever remembered. It was about the ocean.”

I tried to remember the sermon while maintaining focus on breath held and released. “Excellent!”

She asked if I would allow the student to take some extra pictures, as part of her training. Of course, I said. “She has beautiful kidneys,” said the technician to the student. “Why don’t you get me xyz measurements?” She left us alone.

Beautiful kidneys. I guess that’s something.

The technician returned to walk with me out to the waiting room. “Was it,” I asked, “about being knocked over by the waves?”

“Yes,” she said, “my husband remembers it, too. You have a way with words.”

So do you, excellent technician. So do you.

Don't Let's Call It a Diet, Health, I Sing the Body Electric, Mid-life Crisis

What’s Next?

I went to see the doctor this week, to check in on my blood pressure and get her advice about how to stay with my life change efforts. After a hiatus (planned) from tracking my food points and a hiatus (unplanned) from regular exercise, I need a little help getting my attitude back in order. I did return to tracking on January 1st, and whatever weight I gained while enjoying the Tastes of Christmas is off again, but my enthusiasm for focusing on this process seemed to be about equal to my excitement about exercising outdoors in sleet or rain. A very busy work schedule over the past ten days did not help, nor does my chronic Eustachian tube problem, which is worse in this kind of weather and particularly aggravated by spending time outdoors.

Happily, the visit to the doctor encouraged me in three ways.

First, she is delighted by my overall weight loss. It doesn’t matter to her that I merely maintained over Christmas, because being down 20 pounds since the end of September and 45 since the end of June is what matters. That served to remind me that while living a new way on a day to day basis matters, I need to remind myself of the long arc, too.

Second, my blood pressure looks great. (Or so they tell me. I would have liked to see a number lower than 130-something on top, but they were rhapsodic that it was over 70, instead of the 92 we saw in June and the 82 of September.)

Third, when I got on the old-fashioned scale, the nurse first put the bottom line weight at a number that was too low, and that reminded me that I look better than the numbers might suggest I should.

We talked about all that and more. I indicated that I knew I looked good in clothes but felt a heavy awareness of what lay beneath them.

She suggested it was time to join a gym and start doing some work with weights.

There is a special gym at the University of Southern Vacationland, about a four block walk from my house, that caters to the not young and glamorous among us. They do a fitness evaluation, teach you to use all the machines and basically set up a workout plan for you. I belonged to that gym for about six months when The Princess was a baby, and I remember people stopping me and saying, "You look great. Have you been working out?" It’s a little pricier than joining one of the chain gyms, but I’m going to try it for three months and try to get there three times a week. I’m waiting for a call back about the date for the evaluation, but it looks like it will be next Friday.

The doctor mentioned what weightlifting would do for my endorphins, and after my last post, I’m sure you would all agree that getting some action in that area would probably not be a bad idea.

Meanwhile, it’s cold and rainy out there, and I’m looking forward to the foot soak event in a few hours. It’s a good day for remembering the long arc.