The Doctor, the Broccoli and the BP

“Do you ever relax,” asked my doctor.

I hate this question. Of course I relax, well…sort of. But when she asked her question a mini explosion of memories burst onto the viewing screen of my brain.

 

Cue Memory Sequence

Way back in 1987-ish, I was a safety and wellness officer for a large state agency. One of my biggest projects was working with a team of people to bring in a wellness fair to the basement hallway and adjacent conference rooms of our building. We had blood pressure screening stations, blood-iron testing stations, nutritionists (such as they were back then), height/weight presentations, exercise tips and so on.

And wouldn’t you know it, it was then, in the hallway crowded with coworkers that I sat down at the blood pressure station. Granted, I figured I had nothing to worry about because I was already eating large quantities of raw food before eating raw food was cool, I ran umpteen miles a week and I had a road bike with lots of recent miles on it. What’s to worry about?

blood-pressure

The nurse dutifully cuffed my left arm and began squeezing that oblong tube-like thing. With each whoosh-whoosh the cuff tightened on my bicep. More whooshing and more tightening.

It started hurting when she finally released it. There was a hissing sound and my bicep was free to breathe again. Then she gasped!

“Your blood pressure’s high. We’d better try this again.” This was all before health privacy, otherwise known as HIPAA, became all the rage, so all of the employees in the hallway turned their heads and gawked: their wellness officer had high blood pressure? Oh horrors, say it ain’t so! But, yep, it was so. And it’s been so ever since.

 

Off to the Doctor

Shortly after this gasping occasion I saw my doctor (I had a different doctor back then, before he killed himself falling off a tractor). He had me come in to his office in regular intervals so he could measure my BP in a supervised fashion. It was always high. Nothing affected it; and besides, there’s only so much raw broccoli a person can eat in a day. So he gave me the bad news: “I’m putting you on BP medication.” And there I’ve been ever since.

Ninji vegNo amount of exercise, raw fruit and veg or strictly vegan diets has lowered it to where medical science presumes it should be. Over the years I’ve tried meditation (both biblical and unbiblical kinds), dynamic stretching (what some might call yoga), deep breathing, progressive relaxation, listening to soothing music, and on and on and on. Still high. So guess what, I take BP medication. And I still eat lots of raw foods and workout every day and practice other relaxation stuff, but without the meds, my BP is high. Go figure!

 

Back to the Question

What’s that have to do with my doctor’s question about relaxing? Because this appointment was my “semi-regular” quarterly BP check-up; and yes, it was high…again.

“Are you still taking your medication,” my doctor asked, accusingly.

Of course I am, do you think I’m an idiot? Well, I thought that, I didn’t actually say it. I just sullenly said, “Yes, I’m taking it…every day!”

“Well,” she said, tapping away on her health records tablet. “I guess we’ll just have to up your medication.”

Yippee skip. She said she understands that I take care of myself, I eat right, exercise properly (if not overdo it sometimes) and my personal life is not in chaos and I actually really enjoy my job. In other words, there are no activities to add into my life or stressors to start avoiding. So there’s really only one thing left to do—up the meds.

Now I am a little ashamed I have to take these meds. After all, as I explained, it’s not like I’m Jabba the Hut, wallowing away with my head in greasy potato chip bags while glugging large volumes of sugary goo. If anything, my BP should be low. But truth be told, I was born with a bit of heart defect and my cardiovascular system has never been what one would call normal.

Over the years, many of my relatives have died because of some sort of cardio disease. Even the recent death of my Mother was due to a “cerebral vascular accident” (that’s code for a stroke). She had several other strokes in her life, as did Grammy and her father (what would have normally been my Grandpa); he dropped dead at 35 with a massive heart attack, Mom was only three when it happened. I was born with heart valve defect. So this cardiovascular stuff is real and high blood pressure can indeed have deleterious effects; particularly when you already have a defective heart. So whether I’m ashamed of the meds or not, I take them faithfully every day. Yes, I grumble about the indignity of it, but really, thinking I can control it alone is nothing more than sheer stupidity or pride—or both.

So I am thankful God has given us people with the smarts to diagnose problems and He’s given others the smarts to help take care of them. So I eat lots of raw veg, ride and walk lots of miles, eat other healthy things…and take my BP meds. And maybe, by God’s grace and the resources placed around me, I can continue living a healthy lifestyle for decades yet to come (unless Jesus comes back before then).

BroccoliBut it’s time to go now, I need wrangle a couple of heads of broccoli.

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The Atonement in Epic Haiku

Recently I had an assignment in my last theology class that was to be a creative project depicting the atonement. Well, I’m not a painter or sculptor, but I do like to write. So I chose to do what I am referring to as an Epic Haiku.

A Little Haiku History

Originally, what we know as haiku today were once known as hokku. These hokku were 17 syllables long in three lines with the following syllable-per line structure: 5-7-5. The hokku was part of a longer work known as a renga, with the hokku serving “as the most significant part of the renga[1] because it established the setting and season for the remaining work. Then the remaining work progressed through a series of what was in the Heian period (794-1185) known as haiku. The haiku of this era was 31-syllables with the per-line syllable structure of 5-7-5-7-7.

Through the centuries, luminaries such as Matsuo Busho (1644-94), Taniguchi Buson (1715-83) and Kobayashi Issa (1762-1826) morphed the literary art form of renga into what is now commonly referred to as haiku but their poems had the hokku structure. In other words, they were producing short poems in what we know in Western culture as the modern day haiku format. However, it was Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) that actually first described haiku as an “independent three-line poem”[2]; the form that was originally referred to as hokku.

All of this to say that I have been writing our current understanding of haiku for years. I appreciate the art form because a properly constructed haiku can pack quit a punch in only seventeen syllables. One of the aspects I enjoy so much about haiku is the third line is usually a bit of a twist from the two preceding lines. For example, Shuoshi Mizuhara’s Solitude:

Closing gate

alone with the stones

on this beautiful night[3]

While the Japanese syllables do not align with our syllables, the point is the reader is thinking this is going to be sad because a gate is closing and the person is alone with stones. Instead, it ends with a person enjoying the solitude of the moment. In my treatment that follows, I tried to capture that third-line sense with an image that sets up the next stanza or leaves the reader concerned for what is coming next. I have also toyed with formatting in an attempt to direct the eye to either sweeping across the page or to plummeting down into the next stanza.

 

“Epic Haiku”

Another reason I like haiku is that, even though they look short and quick to compose, they can actually take a lot of time in working to capture just the right words in the correct syllable structure that properly captures the artist’s intent. But once complete, a well-constructed haiku can be easily memorized for later recall; not unlike memorizing Scripture.

All of this to say that I have taken a typically short Japanese art form and expanded it into a much longer one. My work is several haiku put together; hence, it is an epic haiku. Also, most haiku are about seasons, human emotions or something from an Eastern religion mind-set. I have taken the haiku, expanded it into an epic format, and turned its application to Jesus and His atonement. My prayer and hope is it brings joy and thankfulness to the reader, but I also hope and pray it brings a smile my Father’s face and honor to Jesus Christ.

[1] Tom Lowenstein, Haiku inspirations: Poems and meditations on nature and beauty. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2006, p. 8.

[2] Ibid., p. 9.

[3] Quoted from Patricia Donegan, Haiku mind: 108 poems to cultivate awareness & open your heart. Boston: Shambhala, 2010, p. 151.

Atonement

The Journey of the Atonement in Epic Haiku

 

In the beginning

all was well in the Garden.

Walking, talking and tilling.

 

The trees were nice there,

especially Knowledge tree!

We could look – not eat.

 

Temptation and lies

enticing to disobey.

“Come quick, let us…….hide!”

 

Our hearts darkening,

serpent slithers silently.

Emptiness inside.

 

Coolness of evening,

Footsteps on the Garden path,

“Come now, where are you?”

 

 Talking, blame, banished;

  It all ended suddenly.

   Flaming swords, closed gate.

 

Heel to head doom,

humanity wandering.

Redeemer coming.

 

Years and years and years.

Temporary sacrifice;

still distant from God.

 

Justice demanded,

necessary sacrifice.

The once and for all.

 

The Word became flesh;

Son of Man sent from Heaven—

dwelling among us.

 

Sinless, righteous power.

Fully God and Fully man

the deliverer.

 

Healing, releasing,

even nature obeys Him.

But…then scorned and scourged.

 

Crucified for sin,

replacing mankind on the cross;

paying debt in full.

 

Breathing His last breath—

then darkness upon the earth.

Had sin, Satan—won?

 

Third day, morning light.

Stone rolled away, men in white,

“Not here, He’s risen!”

 

Then appearing, “Peace.”

The redeeming Messiah.

Savior of the world!

 

Standing in our place,

completely paying the price—

bridging the chasm.

 

Born from above,

God and man reunited—

And…it is finished!

Who Needs Salvation?

crossing the chasm

We all need salvation. Scripture says so. I explored this a little bit in my Killing Shalom post. In that post I share Scripture that leads people into the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ. What I didn’t explore in a lot of detail was why we need a savior in the first place.

 

Adam and Me

Simply stated, Adam and Eve were the first created human beings. When they willingly sinned, they introduced a sin nature into the fabric of their psyche. This sin nature then became ingrained into their DNA; and by default, it is ingrained into our DNA as well. (See my post on Image for a little more background on this.)

When they intentionally sinned, they tarnished humanity’s desire to seek after God. This tarnishing built into them the desire to seek fulfillment outside of God. It also led them into a type of pride where they fancied they could become like God. This is the same sin the got Lucifer booted out of Heaven.

 

Sin Nature and Depravity

Because of the tarnishing of this aspect of God’s image, we now have hard-wired into the fabric of our being a sin nature; that is, an intentional, ongoing rebellion against God. Humanity is now depraved in the sense that while humanity for the most part is not as wicked as it could be, humanity is still utterly incapable of reversing this stain of sin without an intermediary

This sin nature has been passed down through the generations (see Romans 3:21-26 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). This is why Radmacher says that “because the human race is ‘in Adam,’ everyone is spiritually dead, and, if this is not corrected, the ultimate result is eternal death” (Salvation, 2000, p. 7).

None of us escape this sin nature and this natural separation from God. The only way to span the chasm between God and man is by faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Mind the Gap—Spanning the Chasm

Thankfully, Jesus spanned this chasm by tearing down the wall of separation between humanity and God. Scripture states that at the death of Jesus, God tore the temple veil from top to bottom (see Matthew 27:51-54, Mark 15:33-39 and Hebrews 10:19-20). It is symbolically significant that the veil is torn from the top down. If I tore the veil, which is really a heavy curtain or a tapestry, I’d tear it from the bottom up; provided I had the strength to tear it all. However, such a tear would be, obviously, man-made and therefore insufficient. Being torn from the top down, however, indicates it is God doing the tearing of the veil. It is God that is opening up access to Himself through the accomplished works of Jesus Christ. We no longer need a priestly intermediary, we now, by faith in Christ, have direct access to God. Jesus is now our High Priest (see Hebrews 4:15).

 

No Prerequisite but One

And entering into a salvation relationship is by simply placing our faith in Him. It has nothing to do with our politics, our lifestyle, our hobbies or interests; it is on the basis of our faith in Christ: do we, or do we not, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Romans 10:9-10 is very clear:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Notice how there are no rules, no sprucing ourselves up or other hoops to jump through; God is saying come as we are and enter into His saving grace through faith in Christ. A sincere heart genuinely seeking salvation in Jesus is welcomed with open arms. Once a person receives salvation, they now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The Holy Spirit can now transform their lives, becoming more and more like Christ! Godly fruit can now be produced in a person’s life in such a way that God’s light and love now shines to those around them, drawing even  more out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God’s saving grace.

So what are you waitin’ for? C’mon in!

Tissues of Praise?

Tissue_Box

I feel crummy. No, not crumby like I’m shoving fistfuls of saltines in my mouth. Crummy as in miserable, as in puny, as in…sick. Yep, sick. I can’t tell if it’s a summer cold or monster allergies or a combo platter of both. What I do know is I’ve gone through boxes of tissues. And when I ran out, I used paper towels (which I highly DON’T recommend!).

 

Missed Meetings and Canceled Dinners

I’ve missed two days of work containing six different meetings. I’ve missed two important and exciting church meetings (yes, I do find them exciting—weird, I know). I missed my oldest son’s band’s Friday night concert. We canceled a small dinner party for tonight and I have to reschedule an invite to the shooting range. And I’ll probably miss church.

I know…waaaahhhh! Still, I’m frustrated. I carefully planned my schedule, color-coded my appointments on my Franklin Planner and set alarms on my cell phone. But all for naught. I fear people are disappointed in me or think I’m wuss. I eat tons of raw fruits and veggies, exercise, get moderate rest; I live a healthy lifestyle. What’s going on?

 

Who Really Holds Tomorrow?

Part of what’s going on is realizing that healthy living is not to become a prideful badge of honor. I’m still in a broken body in a broken world and am susceptible to whatever crud is going around. When I don’t get the crud, I ought not to be praising myself for my healthy living, but instead praising God for sparing me from the crud. When I get the crud, as I have now, I need to praise God that He allows me to draw breath at all—especially since much of my past hasn’t been filled in glorifying Him. Mercy and praise should be my thoughts even as I again empty my schnoz into yet another tissue that frays on my whiskers.

Moreover, God doesn’t promise me tomorrow—He promises me an eternal destiny forevermore with Him. My tomorrow could be in Heaven. Or it could be another day of sniffles and fraying tissues. Or healing.

And in spite of all my planning, color-coding and alarm-setting; God is the one holding tomorrow:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

–James 4:13-15

Plan On…But Pray First

So James does not discourage planning, but he does remind us to remain mindful that God is ultimately in control of all things and does indeed hold our lives in His hands. Planning is good; prayerful planning is even better. Humility then, may be the catalyst for authentic prayerful planning.

So while I’m bummed my schedule has been so severely impacted and I’m equally as bummed to be feeling crummy, I am grateful for the reminder that no matter what my plans or my healthful lifestyle are, God is the One that is central to my life and being. Keeping this in view will allow me to live more freely in the Lord and, frankly, have more grace to others when they can’t show up to meetings or have to cancel dinner plans.

Next week I’ll return to themes more theological, but for now—I’m out; gotta go blow my nose!