Disappointed...in God?


    I wrote in a previous blog (“Into the Batter’s Box…Again) of my experiences with cancer-related issues.  I closed that little essay with the statement that I had at that time (November, 2014) been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, commonly referred to as CLL.  I was comforted at the time by my skilled doctor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic that CLL was a very slow working form of leukemia, sometimes not active for years, and that my level of progress of the disease was very low.  It was, he said, just a matter of monitoring the problem with no treatment planned on the horizon.In March of this year (2015) I revisited MDA (the term of affection for M.D. Anderson) and after $16,000 worth of testing (!) was again reassured that all was under control, and monitoring would continue as needed.  I felt comfortable with the diagnosis and prognosis.  Since that date I have felt well and hearty, probably partly because I have lost a lot of weight on purpose, and as a result I’ve had less baggage to haul around, so I’ve had a corresponding reduction in blood pressure and periods of extreme fatigue.  But…the disease has still been there lurking somewhere in my bloodstream.
    Fast forward to the recent past at my church, Bethel Tabernacle.  Anyone who has been a relatively faithful attendee in the last couple of months will tell you that we have heard several unusually powerful and moving sermons from our pastor, our associate ministers, and even visiting ministers about the healing power of God, and as each sermon was delivered, it seemed that the message was directed to me…to the point that in one sermon the minister referred to “a faithful member of the church who is suffering from cancer.”  I understood at the time that the minister was probably referring to one of our established members who is known to be suffering from the dreaded disease, but even with that, the statement came close to me, primarily because I had not advertised my own health situation very openly.
   During two separate services, when prayer for the health-challenged was offered, the ministers of the church anointed me with oil and prayed as the scriptures suggested, and I felt a tremendous touch of…whatever you want to call it…virtue, healing, spirit, or God (all the same, anyway), and I, after the second prayer, felt that my situation with leukemia had possibly, even probably, been abated.  I felt such, to the point that I looked forward to my visit to MDA on Wednesday, October 28, because I fully expected my doctor to look at my lab work and tests and be amazed at the unexplainable positive changes that had occurred in my blood.  I was so confident that I told my wife that she did not need to travel with me to MDA, because I was expecting a very positive outcome to my tests.  She was scheduled to work that day, and usually she cancels her work to go with me, but that morning I drove away from our home in high spirits.
    All my tests were done by 10:30, so I dawdled and wandered around until my 1:00 appointment with Doctor Ravandi, who has been my doctor since 2008.  At precisely 1:00 p.m. I was ushered into the patient’s room and as usual interviewed by his nurse, then his physician’s assistant.  The PA was looking at the computer screen on the desk asking me questions about my medications, feelings, last six months’ events, etc., and when he finished, he left, saying that Doctor Ravandi would be available in a few minutes.  The computer was still running, however, and I, being the nosey soul that I am, decided to take a look at my medical charts and the results of the blood tests of three hours earlier.  What I saw (I’m learning to read those charts), left me cold.
   It was abundantly clear that my “dormant” CLL was on the move.  Without getting into technicalities, everything about my blood that was supposed to be low was rapidly increasing, and everything that was supposed to be high was dropping like a rock.  I was stunned and disbelieving, and under my breath whispered, “Oh, God, can this be true?”  I felt as if I had been promised a valued prize and at the last minute had it snatched away.  When Doctor Ravandi entered the room a little later, I did not react much to what he had to say because I was already a little numb.  I have described in an earlier essay the moment I was told I had cancer in 2008.  This moment was not as traumatic as that, but it was a shock, anyway.  He told me what I had already determined, but offered the analysis that the progression of the disease had not reached the treatment stage.  By next May (my next appointment), however, he stated if the current activity continued, we would begin some sort of procedure.  Apparently the general consensus is that until a certain level of progression in some diseases is reached, early treatment can actually be counterproductive.  It’s sort of like when I had the blockage in my carotid artery in my neck cleared in May, the blockage had been there for at least eight years, but until the blockage reached 70%, no surgery was planned.  Doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it’s done.
    I said my goodbyes to my medical team and headed home.  I had a hard time concentrating on the traffic because I was so disappointed in the news I had received.  I had been so confident…so full of faith…in the expectation of receiving a great report that I had trouble grasping what had taken place.  If you’ve ever tried to pray and drive in heavy traffic at the same time, it’s pretty challenging.  Actually, I suppose anytime one gets on the streets of Houston, praying while driving is a necessary practice.
    In a short while, however…even before I arrived home…I began to feel a comforting spirit from God descend around me, and I remembered some of the statements I have both said and written during earlier trying times.  God’s time is not our time; sometimes healing comes, and sometimes it does not.  If we were all healed every time we became ill, we would all live forever, but our forever will come in the next life, not here on earth.  I taught a series of lessons a few years ago on “Seeking the Will of God,” and I learned that the only stated will of God in the scriptures is that “none should perish, but all have eternal life.”  Everything that He allows to happen to us is geared toward pushing us in the right direction to insure our eternal salvation.  Healing occasionally comes, wealth may come, earthly security may come, but those blessings are at best only supplemental to His divine plan for us…that we be saved.  It is our job to accept His plan for each of us and follow his leading and inspiration.  He promised, “I will be with you…even to the end of the earth.”
    So I have accepted the situation, perhaps as a child does when he/she is denied a toy.  There is initial disappointment, but just as children eventually understand that their parents still love them in spite of saying “no,” the disappointment quickly fades and the love remains as strong as ever.  I understand that in His time, all will end well.  I will live each day enjoying the blessing of having His spirit near me.  Healing may come, but, if not, He is still my provider, benefactor, and soon coming King.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Election 2016


   In the latter years of the Vietnam War, the United States military unofficially adopted a controversial tactical strategy in a desperate attempt to halt the encroachments of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops into the villages of South Vietnam as they slowly but surely advanced toward the capital city of Saigon and capture of the entire country.  The United States in the late ‘60s had begun massive sweeps of the countryside outside Saigon using grandiose nomenclatures like “Operation Thunder” with the noble intent of clearing areas and villages of the dreaded Viet Cong and restoring order and peace to the allegedly loyal citizens of the target areas. By clearing areas of the enemy, the objective was to slowly recapture the countryside and save South Vietnam from a communist takeover.
    The United States soon learned that the task was comparable to holding back the tide with a mop.  Moving into a village, the US military would find a quaint, idyllic Vietnamese citizenry busy with all the duties of a township with nary a sign of the enemy…especially confusing when just a few hours earlier military intelligence had indicated that the place was a beehive of enemy activity.  Compounding the difficulty was trying to identify the enemy at all…many Viet Cong troops dressed in the standard clothing of the country villager and became part of the village populace simply by hiding any trace of weaponry.  The US military would search a village, and occasionally the enemy would make a mistake in unsuccessfully hiding their weapons.  Retribution quickly followed, but, more times than not, the US military was frustrated in its lack of engagement with the enemy.  This frustration led to a logical conclusion:  if military intelligence had positive proof that a village was a haven for the enemy, and there seemed to be no evidence that the local citizens were being cooperative in identifying the enemy, the village was put to the torch and burned to the ground.  This military policy was bluntly explained one evening on national news when a military official was asked about the burning of a village, and he replied, “In order to save the village, we had to destroy it.”
    Much has been written in recent years of the general frustration of the United States citizenry with its government.  Though we pride ourselves with our democratic process and look with disdain at other not-freely elected governments around the globe, we are still disappointed at the seeming inability of the U.S. government to face the issues confronting our country today and come up with solutions to our problems.  It is not a problem which has surfaced only since Barack Obama became president; it has extended backward through several previous administrations, and the prognosis for the future is not encouraging.  In the richest country in the world we have one of the highest percentages in the world of children who nightly go to be hungry, of citizens who cannot afford proper health care, and of elderly who have no place to go for security.
    Democracy, by its very name is…well…democratic.  While it is a form of government founded upon the concept of rule by the majority, it is also founded upon the principle that any governmental decision will be made with general welfare of the population in mind.  Democracy by it very modus operandi requires compromise, and every law and every decision is an amalgamation of the corporate minds which joined together to make the decision.  The problem with democracy is that it occasionally clashes with individual principle.  Consider the hypothetical situation of an elected official who has sworn to his constituents “No new taxes!” and then has to consider a proposed bill which would take care of a serious problem in the country…but the final version of the bill as drawn up by his associates contains a tax increase.  Although it will ease a problem in the country, does he vote to pass the law and in doing so override his principles, or does he stand firm, waving his flag of unbent principle, and let the country suffer the consequences?  In today’s political climate, we have many politicians who have adopted the strategy of “destroying the village in order to save it.”  Rather than reach a political compromise on an issue which would help ease the concern of the populace, many lawmakers would rather see the country suffer than renege on an unwise commitment or pledge made in the heat of political campaigning…a commitment or pledge which should have never been made in the first place.
    Unfortunately for our country, both major political parties have adopted the “destroy to save” philosophy, and it depends upon who is in power as to what role each party plays.  With the current Democratic president, the Republicans have adopted the knee-jerk reflex of “No!” to anything President Obama remotely suggests.  Knowing that the 2016 elections are on the horizon and seeing the light at the end of the Obama presidential term, Republicans are digging in their heels and throwing out every possible stumbling block to any potential political success for the Democrats…and the country founders with high unemployment, porous borders, a shaky economy, crumbling infrastructure, and rising crime.  Please understand…I am not a Democrat and am not a fan of President Obama.  He and the Democrats have done their fair share of uncompromising destruction.  During the George Bush (43) presidency, the tables were turned, and it was the Democrats who were stumbling blocks, and any legislation which may have benefited President Bush or the Republican Party was soundly squashed…in the name of “principle,” and Bush, being loyal to Republican “principles” was not anxious to cooperate with the Democratic Congress.
    If you ask any politician in the country about democracy, the instant response is “Democracy is the greatest form of government on the face of the planet.”  However, if you ask what the definition of democracy is, the response will be divided into two camps.  These two camps represent two versions of the same delusion.
    The believers of the first version of democracy can quote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from memory.  They are for a government which is mostly kept at a distance, allowing the individual to soar like eagles to unlimited success with the least amount of restriction.  Everyone in this democracy contributes a fair share to the government for basic services such as national defense, but a person’s well being is a personal responsibility.  In this democracy, every person is born healthy and disease free with a marketable talent which allows for the achievement of success.  Working hard and not abusing the rights of others, these believers live fruitful lives, leaving legacies of great influence.  The difficulty with this form of democracy is that it does not know how to handle those individuals who do not fit into the mold.  Forgive me for mentioning the Bible, but even Jesus said, “The poor you have with you always.”  In this form of democracy, if one is “poor” it must be because he/she has not exerted adequate effort to reach the inborn potential which is in every person.  To offer alms to the poor is to deter their work initiative.   
    Along with the poor are the physically challenged be it through injury, birth, or disease.  Knowledgeable people have proposed that, to cut our health costs in this nation, committees should determine how expensive extending the life of a disabled person would be, and, if the cost is prohibitive, health care should be withheld.  I guess it would be the natural thing to do.  After all, in nature, there are many examples of infant creatures that are abandoned to die by their mothers for the good of the healthy ones.  So a person’s health would be a personal responsibility and dependent upon the person’s ability to pay for services.  What I find fascinating about this group is that most believers are aggressively pro-life when it comes to the abortion issue, arguing about the sanctity of the unborn child, etc.  However, if that child is born with a defect, well, we hope mom has good insurance.  If the child is born to poor parents, it’s the parents’ fault…but the child suffers because the government will not offer any helping hand (hurts the budget, you know.)
    Lastly, those in this form of democracy have not learned the lessons of human greed.  One never has enough money, power, or prestige, and without restrictions or governmental regulations big businesses will stretch ethical boundaries far beyond the breaking point.  Competition, which is a concept hallowed in the annals of capitalism, is not restricted to obtaining the largest share of the market but also eliminating as many competitors as possible on the way to the top. Therefore the “pursuit of happiness” mentioned in the declaration may in fact require the deterrence of happiness in someone else.  But, hey, that’s competition.
     At the other end of the spectrum (other side of the aisle, as it were) is the second group of democratic proponents.  Interestingly enough, they, too, are familiar with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but at that point the similarities end.  Because the citizenry is united under the government’s guidance, a newborn child becomes in effect a ward of the state.  Every citizen has the right to the pursuit of happiness, but if another citizen cannot…or chooses not…to make that pursuit, it is the responsibility of all others to “carry those who cannot walk.”  An incredible fact of this group, however, is that the government’s concern for you only begins at birth.  Should a child be undesired prior to birth, an abortion is acceptable with no consequence; however, should that fetus somehow survive to birth, the child is offered cradle to grave security.
    This group has a great distain for the natural competitiveness of man.  It is convinced of the innate greed of corporate America and therefore attempts to control business activities and restrict success, or at least force it to be spread around to more recipients.  The result is excessive restrictions causing hesitancy among businesses to invest and take risks.  Additionally, should some citizens exceed the “normal” levels of success, they should be taxed more heavily because they have more to spend.
     It is in the area of “liberty” where the two groups most contrast.  The second group interprets liberty to mean unbridled freedom.  When the constitution mentions freedom of speech, it means you can say anything you wish, no matter how offensive and no matter the consequences.  There is no decorum or standard of behavior because there is total freedom.  Freedom to choose is interpreted to mean the rights of one may infringe upon the rights of others.  Although a majority of the group may have an opinion in a particular matter, one objection can stop the discussion.  As an example, polls concerning prayer in schools have always shown a tremendous majority in favor, but due to the efforts of a scattered few, there now is no prayer.  It is due to the efforts of this group that we can now enjoy pornography in our homes and obnoxious behavior in our stores and schools.  It is through the efforts of this group that we are now enjoying the greatest federal deficits in the history of our nation with scant positive results. There is another word for unbridled, unlimited freedom…anarchy. 
     As we enter the election process of 2016, we have seen the polarization of the two major parties into the two camps described above.  Most of the candidates offered to the electorate subscribe to one or the other of the two positions, and that’s the tragedy of this election because both positions are disastrous for our country.  Forgive me for being biblical again, but many times in the scriptures, the word “moderation” pops up when discussing actions or behaviors.  It is not just a biblical philosophy but one that has been expounded by many, and it is a philosophy which works in government and politics, also.  The essential element to democracy which has become anathema to many in the political spectrum these days is moderation…a “give and take” in the halls of government which allows for solutions to national issues to be reached.  In truth, government must be friendly to business to encourage investment while at the same time monitoring corporate policies and operations.  A businessman will borrow money to expand his business, knowing that he will be able to repay the loan with increased sales and profits.  At times, a government may also borrow money to invest in people or infrastructure, but it should only be done when there is a good chance of a return on the investment and a repayment of the loan. It must offer help and assistance to those less fortunate while making it clear that effort must be made to stand on one’s own feet.  It must value life from conception to burial, and make it clear there are standards of speech and behavior which respect the privacy of others.  The interesting note here is that these positions are reflected by a majority of the citizens of the United States.  Is there a candidate who subscribes to these basic principles?  If there is, he or she is probably being vilified for lacking "principles."  Unfortunately, it seems to be both those in power and those who are aspiring to power embrace only the two extreme positions.  The United State needs a healer, not a divider.