Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kodi and the Missional Lifestyle

We have 4 big dogs in the family, all of whom live at our Colorado Springs home. The 10 year old, Kodi, was diagnosed last week with an osteosarcoma in her shoulder -basically a bone cancer. And the hard news is that it is terminal, apart from a miracle. The difficult decision we had to make was whether to have the leg amputated, or to have her "put down" - euthanized - soon, before that leg bone was to shatter. Ultimately, we opted for amputation. For my part in that decision, there were 3 truths that guided me. Truths that actually have a lot to do with living a missional lifestyle.

I would often talk with our veterinarian in Kansas City about end-of-life issues for our dogs, and his philosophy was simple but mature: you are responsible to do for your dogs, who are voiceless and powerless over the diseases/illnesses they have, what offers them the best quality of life, within the limits of your resources. John taught me that when we "signed on" as pet caregivers, we took on a responsibility to do for them what they could not do for themselves, within our finite boundaries. And our goal was to help the dogs have their best quality of life. As I looked at Kodi last week, happy and wagging her tail and full of energy and vitality, it was clear that she is not "done." She has a strong quality of life still possible for some undetermined length of time. That's what I signed up for, to help her have that. It was clear that the amputation was the way to go.

A second truth that helped me in the decision is the call to love, which inevitably means sacrifice. This sacrifice might mean sleepless nights, watching over meds, getting them out for exercize when one might not feel like it, sitting watch in a waiting room, financial commitment, standing by them when they are suffering, and, of course, saying goodbye when the time comes. Amputation definitely fell into this realm.

And another friend taught me the third truth. It has to do with acceptance. He said, "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.. . Unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy." Reinhold Niebuhr said something similar: "Taking, as our Lord Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it." In other words, if I will only accept things the way they are as the starting point, I mean, truly accept that THIS IS THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE, I can start to celebrate what is possible in light of that starting point, instead of getting sucked down into all that I wish was different. I decided that amputation gave us as a family the chance to celebrate everything that is wonderful about this little dog, to savor every day we have left for and with her, to remember what we have adored about her and will always treasure, and to gather around her and make her last months the best they can be. That's what acceptance makes possible.

This is the way of missional living. "Signing on" with Jesus Christ leads us to decisions in which we do what we can for the voiceless and powerless of our world, within the limits of our power and resources. It means that we will make decisions which will at times cost us, even dearly, and especially in terms of having our hearts broken. And ultimately the missional lifestyle insists on our deciding to accept this world as it is, as our starting point, not some illusory fantasy of the way we wished it were right now. This, and only this, gives us the freedom to celebrate what IS possible and to embrace happiness in the midst of the shadow of sin and suffering.

You know, Kodi may not be much. She in fact is called a "tripod" now, meaning she has only 3 legs. She's lying at my feet snoring at the moment, settling back into her home in the first hours since leaving the hospital. But oh, she's not done teaching me about how to live - even how to live missionally in a ravaged, hard world full of injustice and the blight of evil. What a good dog she is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When You Know You're Getting Better

The truth is that all my adult life I have feared, hated being stopped by a policeman. The moment I see the lights, my heart leaps up into my throat, racing at an ungodly speed. My eyes whip around the dashboard, the seats, the seatbelts, anything out of place, what speed was I going, how did he get there without me seeing him, oh I HATE THIS!! The surge rising up from within is fiery shame, for having broken a rule. The humiliation of being caught by Authority burns hot in my heart. It trumpets that truth I have been trying to evade all my life - that I am a loser, a failure.

So, three weeks ago I was driving all day from Colorado Springs to Kansas City, and when I got to the outskirts of KC, barely 20 miles from my son and daughter in law's home, I saw the lights. Pulled onto the shoulder of I-70 just 1/8 of a mile from the tollbooth near Bonner Springs. The Kansas State Trooper, of whom I had seen 11 others of his compatriots that day on the highway (good Lord, really? 12 on one highway? Are there no bank robberies, no litterings, nothing else to do but roam the one east-west route endlessly?), ambled up to my window and informed me that I was weaving a bit in my lane and had no seat belt on when he pulled me. I kindly told him that actually I had worn it religiously all day, but was reaching for change to pay my toll with and had just unfastened my seat belt, all of which was exactly the truth. He looked at me with a somewhat consternated gaze and took my insurance card and license back with him. But before he retreated to his vehicle, he asked, "So, what brings you to KC?" "Came to see my son and daughter in law and two grandsons and I'm taking them to a Royals game on Saturday!!" He gave me the same look and walked off. Like "Who are you kidding?"

When he finally came back, he asked me "This your truck?" "Yep, 1991 4WD regular cab 5 speed manual, 4 cylinder turn your own hubs exactly what I've always wanted. I just bought it in October" This was no doubt way more than he asked for, but I love that truck and he really didn't seem to be buying anything I was saying anyway. He asked what the funny looking bag was sitting on my seat, and I told him it was a Camelbak.. . incredulous look appears on his face as he says "Huh? What's that?" I said "You use them when you hike and climb, and ride bikes. . " Still more dumbfounded look. . . "Uh, you know, so you don't have to take a water bottle out. Really, that's just water in there." "Oh," he said. And so then, at last he says to me, "We're getting a lot of drug dealers from CO coming to KC in old pickup trucks. Just wanted to take a look at you. Stop weaving and keep your seat belt on." And he walked back to his car and let me go.

Do you know what the most wonderful part of all of that was?

I never experienced fear, shame, worry, panic, fast heartbeating. Nothing. I was full of peace from beginning to end. Calm, serene, even happy, whimsical, blessed. And that's when I knew I am getting better. That recovery from the wounds that plague my deep heart are healing. There is no way for me to make those lifelong symptoms go away. Only a work of God does this.

And the Royals won on Saturday, their fourth in a row. Two miracles in the same weekend. You gotta love this life.