Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Watching My But

Ever think about the difference between “and” and “but”?

I am training myself to become acutely aware of how and when I use those two words, because I find it can reveal what I really believe about a situation.

Consider this…the word “and” carries no judgment. It simply means in addition. When it joins two clauses, it makes no statement about one or the other. It simply states fact. Yesterday I ate vegetables, and I also ate a cheeseburger. There are no opinions, judgments, or values in that statement—just an account of the facts.

BUT, the word “but” changes the meaning and intent of the statement. Yesterday I ate vegetables, but I also ate a cheeseburger. “But” implies contradiction, exception, opposition. Now you are implying that although you ate healthy food, you may have negated it by eating that cheeseburger. See the difference?

So why is that important? “And” and “but” reveal what’s really going on in our thought or belief system. It’s subtle. I’d rather say, I believe God is faithful, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay this bill, than I believe God is faithful, but I don’t know I’m going to pay this bill. The former sounds odd to us, but it’s merely a statement of fact. I believe God, AND I need to pay a bill. The second statement, however, is really saying, I don’t really, fully believe God.

I’m learning to watch my “buts”. Can I replace it with an “and”? Or perhaps turn it around? I don’t know how I am going to pay this bill, but I believe God is faithful.

What are your “ands” and “buts” exposing? The Israelite spies came back to Moses with this report after exploring the Promised Land: “It does indeed flow with milk and honey, and the fruit is juicy and luscious; but (not and) there are giants in the land” (paraphrase). And therein was their defeat.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


January 2007. The things I’d accomplished in Weight Watchers since my husband, Paul, and I rejoined in the fall (I’m a Lifetime member twice over) were undone during the last two weeks of December. Yes, the New Year was starting just like any other, except for one thing—the itching.

“Kate, I don’t know what’s going on, but I itch like crazy. I can’t stand it!”

I assured my husband, Paul, that he was probably experiencing dry skin and would have to break down, get in touch with his feminine side, and use lotion. So he started slathering lotion on his legs, arms, and torso after showering, and I rubbed lotion onto his back each night before we went to bed. But the itching continued.

“Do you think I’m allergic to something? We aren’t using a new laundry detergent; I haven’t changed what kind of soap, shampoo, or deodorant I use…I don’t know what it could be. Do you think it might be the plug-in air fresheners we’re using in the bedroom?” He took Benadryl. Still, he itched.

And his blood sugar rose. Paul had been had been living with type-2 diabetes since 1999. He was losing weight like crazy on Weight Watchers and expecting to see his blood sugar decrease. Instead, it rose. The folks at Weight Watchers were cautioning him about losing weight too fast, and he was puzzled each time he used his glucose meter.

Paul made an appointment with our dermatologist for the itching and with our family doctor for his diabetes.

We never thought we’d say this, but thank God for Paul’s diabetes. It got him to the doctor…who ordered blood work…which showed high liver enzymes…which raised questions…which landed him in an endocrinologist’s office. A specialized MRI was ordered. And then I got the The Call late one Tuesday afternoon in February.

“Kate, I just heard from Dr. Gangor. He got the results of my MRI. I’m scared.”

The MRI had revealed a mass on Paul’s pancreas. Dr. Gangor gave Paul the name of a doctor at the University of Chicago Hospital for further testing, because “these are often—but not always—malignant.” When Paul asked Dr. Gangor if he should be concerned, his reply was straightforward: “Very.”

I heard the fear in Paul’s voice and forced myself to sound calm. “Okay.” I must have said that a dozen times as I listened to him retell the news Dr. Gangor had given him. I hung up the phone and cried. I called my best friend.

Pancreatic cancer, though not a common cancer, is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths. It is aggressive, spreads rapidly, is often not diagnosed until it is in its later stages, and there are few treatment options available to battle it. (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/, © 2008 WebMD, Inc.) It took the life of musical legends Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Henry Mancini, and Luciano Pavarotti; actor Michael Landon; comedian Jack Benny; and computer scientist Randy Pausch. Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with the disease in January of 2008.

Paul was a blessed man in that he was a good candidate for surgery. Only 15–20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are. He underwent perhaps the most invasive of all surgeries—the Whipple procedure—on March 21, 2007. When we talked with the surgeon after the nearly 12-hour procedure we learned that he had removed Paul’s gall bladder, part of his stomach, about 5 inches of his duodenum, and a third of Paul’s pancreas which included “a firm mass” (according to the pathology report) measuring 2.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cm—about the size of a golf ball.

On Saturday, March 21, 2009, we celebrated two cancer-free years for Paul. It’s a quick leap from the last paragraph to this one. But the past few years involved a whole lot more than a few key strokes and a space between the paragraphs.

We celebrated together on Saturday as we did last year on March 21st, and as we will every March 21st for the rest of Paul’s life. Many of you who are reading this have been (and still are) on this journey with us, and we are so thankful for each of you. We’ve welcomed others that are on similar journeys into our lives, and we’ve been able to tell them our experience with a God who has made his love evident and real to us. Yes, we are witnesses. We’re learning to adapt to a “new normal.” We’ve matured in ways we may never have by easier means. And we are thankful…so thankful.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You shall be my witnesses

I just had an interesting conversation with my 16 year old. Valerie was telling me about a website she had visited in which a young man was giving all the reasons he considers himself an atheist. He cited verses from Leviticus that he thinks are absurd—prohibitions about eating shrimp and instruction to stone homosexuals. In the end, he stated that he believes God is a man-made concept.

My daughter commented on his viewpoints, to which he replied defensively. This is the conclusion she came to: though her desire is to engage in an exchange that would ultimately and ideally end in his being convinced of the truth of God, it is pointless to argue. Pretty mature conclusion, I think. “Nothing I say will convince him, and nothing he says will convince me.” She’s right.

So how are we—who believe in a God who loved us enough to take on the human form in order to restore us to his image—to convey this to those who don’t believe? Logic and experience tell us arguments don’t work. History confirms that legislated belief is no belief at all. “The Bible tells me so” only makes a difference if there is a mutually-agreed-upon premise that the Bible is true.

Still, Jesus did say we are to be witnesses. Exactly—witnesses. In a courtroom, a witness gives an account of what he has seen or experienced. He does not have to feel pressured to prove anything or declare judgment. He is neither judge nor jury. He just gives a true account from his perspective. Jesus never told us to convince people, provide indisputable proof, or argue his existence. He just said, “You shall be my witnesses.”

That I can do!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Identity

What a journey to get to this place!

Two days ago I set up this blog. I was proud of myself—I had joined the blogging community and was excited to get started on this new adventure.

Today I logged in and could not for the life of me figure out how to post an entry! I read the “Help” page, I tried this and that. Two hours later I discovered that my friend Joe, an established citizen in Blog-land, was on Facebook, so I IMed him begging for help! As I tried this and that road suggested by Joe, I came to the embarrassing discovery that I was using the wrong user name and password to enter.

I had an identity problem.

Ah, but there is a lesson in this! Nothing works smoothly when we have a confused identity! God knew that…that’s why he sent his Son. “In the beginning” we were made in God’s image—not a bad reflection in the mirror! But that image became confused and vague and dimmed, and it had to be restored. Enter Jesus.

The problem with my blog account is I apparently have several “identities,” and I was using the wrong one. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have one identity? Hmmm…