Certainty, the Elusive One!

Certainty. That’s a word that seems to elude these days concerning next steps for me and my un-beloved partner, the brain tumor. Yet I am drawn to the way Paul begins his discussion to the Corinthians about aging and pain. He starts the conversation with this certainty. “For we know…” He is talking about his mortal body pushing through life’s trials to finally take on immortality. I really don’t want to think about my immortality, not yet. My mortal body is, for the most part, in good stead, but only for this blasted tumor! When I am asked about my eventual surgery most of the time I say things like, “Surgery? Um, I think it’s going to be soon… not sure really.” I don’t even want to say that we are 95 per cent sure that this could surgery could happen this year in Germany! Not quite the certainty I so wish I could have.

What I always have liked about this Paul-guy is his positive faith. He never seems to complain nor give up even in dire circumstances. Paul finds ways in his writings to help me and millions to cope with our situations. To the Corinthians he gives this metaphor describing the present plight of aging and pain. He says our present earthly situation is like a tent. A tent! How many of you have ever camped in a tent? Did you like it? I personally don’t like camping in a tent. I would rather be in a cushy five star beach hotel replete with Jacuzzi any day!

I kind of blame my lack of love for camping on my parents. Don’t get me wrong, we had some amazing summers camping together. Maybe the spoiler was when I was a young boy and Dad decided that we needed to camp in a tent for 6 weeks straight. Needless to say I’ve camped a lot, even in the snow as a boy scout. It’s not that fun!

Strangely enough a few years ago I bought a tent for Christmas. We set it up in the front yard of our Bangkok home and the girls wanted to sleep in it with Dad! Well, the girls found out that it wasn’t that much fun and we all ended up going back to a real bed in the air-conditioned house.

So I am reminiscing about the good ole’camping days. Here a few things I know about tent living. There is little or no privacy; you can hear everything that happens in the tent and outside of the tent! (Everything!!!) Any food in the tent attracts bugs and tends to spoils quickly. I still remind mom about her making me drink sour milk with my Rice Krispies! Cruelty to children!

Moreover a tent in the day is hot, in the rain humid, and at night it can be cold and uncomfortable. All you camping lovers know what I say is true, sleeping in a tent is a cramped and uncomfortable experience and hard on the back! Am I Right? After awhile the tent poles begins to sag… By the end of a few days or weeks, you are dreaming, just groaning to go back home to your comfortable house!

Aging bodies sometimes feel that way! Paul says it better than I could ever do:

“While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.” – Paul, the Apostle

So the way I deal with my present tumor-situation is to remind myself that I am part of the human race and things like this happens to all people some time down the road. I do wish it was further down the road than at only 50! I also know a lot of people keep praying for me and I feel those prayers. I also know I can face this situation with faith and hope believing that whatever the outcomes are, He is faithful to see me through.Image

But admittedly there are those ‘other times’ when I shake my head and ask myself if this is just a dream, and I let out a groan because I know it’s real. “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh,” The words of Paul are a reminder that it is normal for us to groan out for something better! A groan is an emotional response to the pain and disappointment we feel. It is not great to experience uncertainty and pain.

Yet when I find myself in a place where there is music, music that exalts the character of God, I find myself being lifted again to a good place. No more worries at that moment. When I see beauty in nature and in the eyes and laughter around me, I feel full again. I forget the pain, even for an instant. When I visit someone who is in the hospital hanging on for dear life… it makes me want to hang on too! And I will…

Ah, sweet certainty. I am alive, life is happening here right now, all around me and inside me. If I am still here then there is still more for me to learn, I shall dance the sacred dance of the over-comers, I have more people to love and more to do; God’s purpose for my life is not over. At least that I am so certain of!


A Night to Remember the Pain.

I asked Tuu if I could share a little of his story. He said yes. With great respect, I wrote this after a visit to the ICU where he lays, a helpless victim of  a choice gone wrong.  It’s a night to remember the pain:

Tuu, a hard working Laotian 22 year old, deeply depressed over love and life tried to end his life last Thursday by drinking acid. Yes, acid. The searing pain woke him up to the fact that he wanted to live not die. A motorcycle taxi took him to a hospital that refused him help as he is Laotian and most certainly broke. Our faith community called Verge@50 got a call. The call came to his youngest brother. They told him, “Tuu is going to die, hurry and get here.” A gang of three went into a rescue mode and brought him to a nearby hospital that would take him in. After a long surgery it still looked dim. Seventy per cent chance he would die doctors calculated. Now after almost a week he is still alive. He is on life support and his throat is all burned out and the main intestine to his stomach is burnt out. But he remains alive with wide eyes.

He is also frustratingly lucid but in much discomfort. The act of death has brought him to the realization that he wants to live. He wrote to me on a paper that he wants to stay around the world and serve God somehow. I keep telling him over and over in English and Thai the words of Paul: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I stand there holding his hand during visits. I don’t know what to say for the most part. I just tell him he is loved by many and has value and he should fight hard to live. I rub his head and even kiss his cheek. I want to hold him like a baby. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word… the world is harsh but you’ll be alright.”

The hospital tells me his bill is getting higher and higher and who is going to pay? I sincerely do not know. I have asked him to chose life over death. I too will chose this living world over death and find a way to keep a soul alive if needs be. Somehow I know that God will provide. He will right?

And then, there is this beautiful young blind Cambodian girl named Jenny who begs daily near where I live. I talk to her each time I pass her by. Sometimes I sit there and share with her ice creams I purchased at McDonald’s. She likes Vanilla more than chocolate. Me too. And on my way home from the visit to the hospital with Tuu I see her. I want to avoid her, pretend I don’t see her. Enough pain for a night. But I cannot.

“Hi Jenny!” I say. “Hi Khun (Mr.) Peter!” she says and smiles with perfect teeth and no eyeballs. I tell her about my visit with Tuu. I tell her she is so lucky, she can breathe without a machine, she can swallow and smell and eat without any problems. She agrees wholeheartedly and smiles the biggest smile I have ever seen her do. I want to sing to her too, reassure her that she’s not alone, but I say goodbye with a polite pat on her hand.

When I get home I wonder why there is so much pain. I find it hard to even manage a smile. God, tonight will you remember our pain? Take a look down below and be with the the ones in deepest pain tonight.