Saturday, March 3, 2018

Endings



The Lord blesses a people, with someone who just seems to know the right thing to do all the time. Occasionally, God is good enough to send us someone, and shape them, to be a kind of guiding light to the rest of us. We often take them for granted, walking in the illumination of their God-reflection. Until they are gone.



I was driving to work this morning, and cycled through the radio stations. One of my local stations was broadcasting the funeral of Billy Graham. I could hear the bagpipes playing, and the announcer spoke of the body being moved by procession. They were playing Amazing Grace. I imagined the group of people standing behind the casket as it moved to the final resting place. I took off my hat, there in my car. One of those mighty titans of truth being laid to rest, surely translated to walk in the land of the truly living.



We have lost something, O Lord. Don’t leave us in the darkness.



Just a few months ago, a mighty hero in my life was laid to rest as well. I had the pleasure of playing a couple of songs on my guitar at the funeral. Jim Eller was on of those titans of truth. He walked with humility, and always was there to pray for me, for my family, and remind us of how to follow God. He was half blind, and physically unsteady, there in the last few months. But, I couldn’t help but noticed that he was never more clear eyed, and spiritually solid. His greatest concern was for his wife, grown children, and growing grandchildren. He wanted them to follow in the way that he had been paving his whole life. When we did lay him to rest, I felt like there was a real hole in our community.



We lost something, O Lord. Don’t leave us in the darkness.



My own Grandpa, Jay Denton Palmer, was one of those too. We lost him about six years ago. I named my oldest boy after him. I’m so sorry that my kids will never know him like I did. I loved him as only a grandson can. I know that he believed in me, cherished to see me grow up. He was proud of me. In the way that a proud grandparent can, he respected me. And, I respected him. He ran track in college with some of the legends of the Pacific Northwest, like Ben Moring and Eugene Peterson. He was a Gideon, believing that the Bible was powerful enough to be set into a stranger’s hands and left to work. When he went to be with Jesus, I felt robbed. Even now, I wonder what he would say if he could see what we are up to now; and wonder what kind of wise words he would offer. He was a good man, and we are the poorer for having to let him go.



But, that is the way of things. I feel like there is a grainy color polaroid, of all those who I grew up with. Many of them were people to be in awe of. People to listen to. People to emulate. People to love and respect. They reflected God’s radiance, it seemed. And one by one, their faces are being rubbed out of the picture, never totally removed, but somehow eerily absent. Oh, how the people next to them in the picture grimace at the loss.



Sitting in a coffee shop, I ran into some old friends. Mrs. Murray had lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. Her friends, the Stiltzes, had lost a son to an IED. All three of them having coffee. I MEPS’d in with their son, so many years ago. I’ve memories of us running at the park, in the early morning Spokane hours, trying to get in shape for basic training. I came home. He didn’t. We hugged and caught up. Just before leaving, Mrs. Murray said to me that we are about to lose Marla. My heart caught in my throat.



Marla is one more of those titans of truth. She worked at the church I went to as a boy. She taught us to sing, and had the job of putting on the church musical productions. I don’t know for sure, but I think she loved it. She always came off that way. Marla never stopped being the kind of person you wanted to run into on a hard day. She just reflects that light in a way you can’t explain, but you know when you are in the presence of it.



What are we going to do? Lord, we’re losing so many of our pillars. Don’t leave us in the darkness. Sometimes it feels like our country has its hands around its own throat, and it is squeezing. Polarizing, punditry, anger, and entrenched shouting has become our way of life. Shooting people just to shoot them. Then, accusing and crying about how we were right all along. Squeezing. So much darkness.



Lord! Don’t You leave us alone! Raise up the Elijah and Elisha, the Samuel, the David, the Isaiah, the John, and the Jesus. Send us leaders who know the way, who know the truth, and who lead in the way of life.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Importance of Prayer

What is prayer?

Simplest I can say; prayer is communicating with God. Prayer is the most ancient spiritual experience on record. I'm sure that statement holds up to scrutiny. Prayer is the intercultural, trans-chronologic, universal spiritual experience of every human. I don't think I have ever met a person who had never prayed.

Because of it's universal nature, prayer is the bedrock of human spiritual experience. By it, the ancients called for relief from plague, honored their gods (or God), and called forward rain. Though I am no sociologist, I have a dollar-to-doughnuts bet that every culture (which has been scientifically studied) has stories of prayer.

For the Judeo-Christian worldview; there is no deeper or more abiding connection with God than prayer. Prayer is the most personal of all the spiritual disciplines. And, I think by standards subjective and objective, we can know for certain that prayer; and God's response to it, has been the largest shaper of human history. More than the gun. More than democratic republics. More than antibiotics.

Prayer is the touching of the most inconsequential (like a dude with a theology blog) with the most Divine (the Great I AM) in the most intimate way (sharing thoughts without filter).

We Should Pray
I believe that prayer is the most important discipline a Christian can develop in their spiritual lives. The practice of regular communication with God is the only way a believer can be tapped into the heart of God. Prayer is the only way that God can hear what we have to say, and respond. This is why the Bible is full of commands to pray. For some reason, the Lord of the universe-- Creator and Sustainer of all that was, is, and will be-- chooses to work through the prayers of people.

Though it is mind-blowing, certainly we can all agree to the truth. The Truth. God commands His people to pray, so that He can be doing the things they pray about. Don't get ontologically twisted; there is much here that I am not saying. I am saying that through prayer, we learn what God wants us to pray about; and through prayer we express what now God has caused us to care about; and through prayer God assures us that He is listening, and that He will move. And, through prayer God does what He intends.

Crazy. What kinds of things are we missing out on by not communicating and communing with God? How much have we not been a part of that we could have been? How much more are we willing to lose out on? If every believer in the world began a serious season of prayer; even the unbelieving world would be in shock at the result. For prayer results in the will of God. What loving person would not want to have the complete will of God done here on earth, as it is in heaven?

I adjure you with this command: people of God, pray.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Numbering Our Days


“So teach us to number our days, that we may bring to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

The spirit of our day and age pretends that death does not exist. It shocks us. It’s so rude. We plaster pictures of the young, the immortal, all around us. Creams, lotions, pills, and syringes full of Botox promise beauty and youth forever. We pack our old and sick into warehouses and care facilities, out of sight, and out of mind. There is no place for the befallen. No quarter for the dying. No airtime for the most natural and sure human experience there is: breathing our last and passing away.

The Lord will sometimes bless us with sight of the end of our lives. Anyone who believed they were about to die, experienced something profound. Some never recover from it; unable to live when they realize they are going to die.

As a young man, I was confronted by this reality. I had graduated from college, and I had joined the Army. It was 2005. America was actively engaged in two theaters of war—Iraq and Afghanistan. After training, I was sent to a unit, and we geared up for deployment. And then, we went to Iraq.

I was fortunate enough to be in a Field Artillery unit, which had been tasked with controlling 100 square kilometers of battle space. It meant that as a young officer, I was leading a platoon on all kinds of missions outside the relative safety of the Forward Operating Base (FOB). We were out in the thick of it, engaging in combat operations.

There were more days than I can count, where I woke up, and I knew. I knew, in the pit of my gut, that my life would be required of me that day. I knew there was a jagged piece of steel with my name written on it, and it would be tearing through my body with explosive force. I knew, with absolute certainty, that my number was up, my life was over, and that day would be my last. I had lots of days like that.

It was hard to come to grips with. I lost lots of sleep. I immersed myself in prayer and petition. I wanted to live, but, I was ready to die. I had made peace with my Maker. I asked that God would help me to be brave, for my life to be worth the spending, and I dutifully carried out my orders without hiding behind my rank or position.

But, I did not die. Eventually, I came back home, and I got out of the Army. It was a hard transition. How do you leave that environment, and get back into frivolous life? There have been more men than should be, who came back with me, and could not make the transition. Some of my fellow veterans are killing themselves in this world we moved back to: this land where death is unthinkable, and meaning is hard to find.

Moses, that Biblical figure, is the voice of Psalm 90. He speaks this incredible line, “Teach us to number our days, that we may bring to You a heart of wisdom.” I’ve been pondering that line. There is a wealth of wisdom that comes from knowing, for certain, that our time on this Earth is not unlimited. We only have so many days to spend, and we don’t know when our lives will be over and done.

Since getting out of the Army, and making the transition back to this foreign home, I poured myself into doing God’s work. I joined the pastorate, and have dedicated my life to God’s cause: the Gospel. Now, I’m the one called when a person is in the hospital, or when a loved one has died. I have the honor, and the responsibility, to hold hands with the flock as they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Those times are filled with holy silence and tears: reverence for the mystery of death and life.

I can say for certain, there are only two reactions to being reminded of our finite lives. On the one hand, people go crazy. They can’t handle the terrible reality. They don’t want it, they don’t like it, and it is out of their control. They react in anger, in fear, in hatred, or they react in unmitigated grief, sorrow, or self-destruction. The cancer, the car accident, or the gunshot; is a cold slap to the soul’s face. One will either get drunk with the numbering of days, or get sober.

This is the other way; the way of life. When seeing life is short, people can also be inspired to greatness. Not the greatness of achievement and promotion, but the greatness of love and thankfulness. All of a sudden, one will be filled with the wonder of human friendship, the goodness of those cherished relationships, and the importance of truth. The frivolity of pretended youth, of monetary wealth, social standing, and political propaganda become loathsome to the soul. Selflessness, joy and genuine cheer, and recalling wonderful memories become important. Most often, people who have numbered their days speak out all of the unspoken I-love-yous, and communicate how important people are to them. Their lives become a fountain of unmitigated love. Love without worry of social awkwardness.

Today is a good day. We are yet living. We still have today. We should number our days, and so be a people full of wisdom. Let us live today, looking for meaningful ways to be a true friend, and to communicate how much we cherish the people we love.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Creating Teams in War and Church


The most fundamental action in the creation of a team, is forging relationships. The success of a unit is dependent upon the level of trust between individuals on the team. Trust is not a quality one can simply command, or assign. Trust is built over time, through shared experience. The best teams have been forged through the crucible of participation. There are three basic types of experience that create trusting relationships in teams.

Familial Experience:

Familial experience are those interactions where individuals on a team are able to play, talk, and eat. A leader who desires to create a strong team, will create opportunities for individuals to have laid back contact with other members of the team. Do not mistake competition for fun. The goal of these times together is to know one another outside of the context of the mission of the team. If you are building a military team, take them to a go-kart place, go bowling, or a barbeque. Don’t study operational tactics, not for familial experiences. If you are building a church team, don’t take them to a conference on prayer techniques. Invite families to an all-paid weekend at a lake.

People are wired as social animals. Trust cannot be built without understanding the personal side of their peers. Nothing is more personal than eating together; so build experiences where people are meeting and eating, unhurried. Give them time to hear one another, tell stories about their past and present, and have fun. Nothing builds a team like having a running inside joke. A wise leader will insist on having members of their team having familial experiences.

Victory experience:

Victory experiences are those interactions where individuals on a team are rewarded for working together with winning. I’ll spend the least time here, because shared victory is the most obvious of the experiences. When a team is young, starting small is important. Get them lots of little victories to get momentum and confidence. A team should be built on family experience, and grown on victories.

Fighting through failures:

Leaders tend to fear allowing their team to suffer failure. This is a classic mistake. Logically, we believe that strength and confidence is the only kind of diet our teams should have. However, real life does not consist of a diet of victory only. Do not insulate your team from failure. A team is created through family experience, it is fed on victory; but it matures by handling defeat.

All military commanders know the truth; requiring your team to face giant obstacles that will end, repeatedly, in defeat will turn them into an efficient machine. Defeat is dangerous to a team, but, with proper leadership—it can be the hardening agent that turns a soft, muscly ball of potential into a tenacious, rock hard fighting machine.

How to negotiate the waters of defeat:

First, don’t get hung up on losing. It happens. You get knocked down. A leader must use their ability to inspire after a defeat. Emotions after a defeat are low. Really low. A leader must get in the emotional muck with the team, but not let it become their identity. A leader will use their emotions, their aura, their words, and their relationships to inspire their team to get back up and fight twice as hard.

Second, a leader will learn from the mistakes of a team. The whole team needs to learn, and it is the leader’s job to help the process. Simple questions like, “What can we learn from this?” or “What did we do wrong that we need to get right?” or “What mistakes did we make?” can go a long way in helping a team learn.

Last, a leader must demonstrate an iron will to getting back into the fight. Heading straight back into the fray is not a good plan. Rest is mandatory. Leaders must insist on down time after a defeat, and use that time to gear up for fighting again. It may seem a time of rest would go against the fighting spirit, but a leader who refuses to rest, or get the team to rest, will put a team’s efficiency into the toilet. Rest is essential.

But you come out of that rest like a hard shot. Hit the mission with fury. You’ll find your team is better than it was before, and ready to get back to work.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jesus and the Law


God loves to communicate Himself to people. It seems to be His great pleasure. The book of John begins with this assertion: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This Word is the communication, the message, the [Greek language] logos. John is talking about Jesus, actually. Jesus is the communication of God.

Since that’s true, what is it that God is trying to say? Well, we could write a book on it. Who was Jesus, what did He teach us, and what was His ultimate point to us?

I’d say two things here, in the hope of being brief. First, Jesus’ ultimate goal was to achieve, and invite, the redemption of all creation. Second, Jesus was showing us who God is, who He is like, and what He likes. Jesus was God, in the flesh. You could talk to Him, walk with Him, and ask Him questions.

If God really does love to communicate Himself to people, how did He do this before Jesus?

I’d say two things here, in the hope of being brief (rather than exhaustive). First, God put Himself on display through the people of Israel. Second, He put Himself on display in the Law.

This is why Christians should cherish the Old Testament law codes. They are not the dry and irrelevant rules of a bygone era. The law is the heart of God on display. Jesus contends that if a person would get to know the Old Testament law codes really well; they would be able to recognize Him. Moses is the supposed author of those law codes, which he received from God; and Jesus claims, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5)

The following is a small sampling of one of the law codes that Moses wrote, which Jesus claimed is about Him. It is taken from Exodus 23:

"You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him.”

Crazy, huh? How are these about Jesus?

With that question, you are prepared to enter into the mystery of the Old law codes. They are about Jesus, because they are about the very heart of God. They teach us qualities of God that translate into how we should act. They are about what God wants us to do, and what He doesn’t want us to do: just like Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Advent Candle Lighting

Hey all! I wanted to post the manuscript for my short Advent sermon. Merry Christmas!

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Our hearts are just like these candles. When our hearts are lit on fire, they provide light and heat. The light is the words and actions of our Christian faith. The heat is our love for others, which warms even the coldest heart. A heart aflame, is a heart that is properly waiting for God.

The book of Malachi was the last word in the Old Testament, and those who were waiting for Jesus were holding on to that prophecy. Malachi essentially warns against the temptation to put our relationship with God in a low priority. Mary and Joseph, the wise men, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, were all waiting for the coming of the Christ by closely guarding the flame of their hearts. If we put it in terms of candles, holding a candle in your hand should never be mistaken for having a lit candle in your hand. We too are supposed to wait by closely guarding the flame of our heart, ensuring that it is brightly burning in anticipation of the arrival of Jesus.

Our hearts are just like these candles. They cannot light themselves. They must be lit by another flame.

On that first Christmas, 2017 years ago, a flame entered our world. Jesus was the light that was sent by God. We heard the story tonight, and hear it each year in our celebration of Christmas. But, the Christmas story is not just about Jesus. He was not alone. Did you notice that half the Christmas story in the book of Luke is about John the Baptist? Isn’t that interesting? Most people skip right over the part about John the Baptist, because they don’t want his interruption in the Christmas story.

But, John the Baptist isn’t misplaced. He belongs right in the middle of the Jesus birth story. Let me explain why.

Before God is finished speaking in the book of Malachi, He promises that before Jesus the Christ comes, He would send Elijah. This messenger would have the duty of preparing the way for the Christ. But how would the Elijah character make the waiting people ready for Jesus?

God says, “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” In other words, the forerunner of the Messiah would have the old flame of love. The people would be challenged to love one another like God the Father loved them. The old flame would point to the new one, because, in the end, they are the same kind of light. They are both shining God’s love.

By seeing John the Baptist as a lit candle, the people would see that they had let their own candles burn out. They would want to be lit, once again. The people would yearn for God’s love once again. They would understand their need for Jesus to rekindle the flame.

The Christmas story found in the fourth Gospel says that Jesus was the Word made flesh, and John the Baptist was the witness. God chose to include the human story with the Divine story. This is why John the Baptist in in the middle of the miraculous Christmas story.

We are just like John the Baptist: our own story is written in the middle of the Jesus story, because God is using us to be witnesses of Jesus. Our role as regular human beings is elevated by God, and placed into the very ministry of Jesus Christ. We ought to have hearts that are lit, witnessing to the true Light, just like John the Baptist did. People will then see our hearts on fire as we wait, and will notice that their hearts are not glowing with God’s love; and they will be prepared to meet Jesus, and have their hearts filled with His love too.

In our time, people have grown weary of waiting for Jesus to come again. We have been born at the last of the old waiting period. People are even forgetting what Christmas is for, and do not remember that Jesus came as a little baby, in fulfillment of prophecy, in order to bring His kingdom. They forget that He is at the right hand of God the Father, and is ready to come back at any moment.

We are different. We remember. We celebrate the bright light that Jesus brought into the world. He is why we give gifts to one another, and sing Christmas songs, and have a holiday of loving one another. And, like John the Baptist, we are also the witnesses that come right before Jesus comes again. We have the sacred task of turning the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. We are witnesses to the coming light, by being lights ourselves.

Only Jesus can light our hearts in a flame of love. Only love can ready people to meet Jesus. Tonight, we finish lighting the Advent candle as a symbol of what God has called us to do: to keep our hearts burning until Jesus comes again. And, He is coming again very soon.

So as we spread the light from one another, ask the question of God, “How do you want me to shine the light of Your love to those around me? How do you want me to be your witness?” In the silence, as our candlelight grows and grows, listen for His answer in your heart, and join us as we sing. Finally, when all our candles are lit, we will light the last candle on the Advent wreath, to symbolize Jesus coming again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The New Normal

Hey all! An acquaintance of mine was willing to submit this article for publication, after I asked her to. I know that this blog space may not be the right forum, but her story and mine have so many similarities, I just had to publish. I did agree to protect her as a source (which sounds like this blog is a big deal), simply because there really is a lot of people who don't need to know medical information about an individual. So, without any further ado: here is a guest article!

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Just went to see my medical specialist. I have a chronic disease, which so far has remained unresponsive to every treatment. It took almost two years of personal dedication and insistence to finally receive a diagnosis. I almost gave up. It took two years of talking with doctor after doctor, running test after test. My goal was to begin some kind of treatment that would give me hope. The disease has been getting worse and worse, all this time, and I am nowhere near healthy (the disease I have does not have a cure). Today’s story is just about what it took to get a diagnosis. Because, a diagnosis is what would allow me to start the medications that might put my disease into a halted state; what they call remission.

From the start, I knew that something was really wrong with me. I was dealing with so much body pain, I could hardly cope with life. That has never been me. I have always been a strong and competent woman, doing things that most people never consider. I’ve always taken pride in my ability to adapt and overcome. I am smart. I’m funny. I’m strong. Before this point in my life, I never had to go to a doctor for more than an out-of-control infection, or the odd broken bone. I used to snowboard.

So up till this point in time, my experience with the medical establishment had been more or less, “Take these pills till they are all gone, and then come back in a few weeks and we’ll take out the stitches.” I don’t go back to get the stitches out. Ever. I can do it with a sanitized pair of nail clippers. A gal’s gotta take care of herself. My husband just rolls his eyes.

I have two points to make in this guest blog. The first is about the terrible nature of care for those who are chronically sick, and stuck in a confusing and combative insurance situation. I don’t mean to make a political statement; though I have my own (rather independent) leanings. I don’t believe in falling in line with any party line. This election, I’m voting my conscience, not with the hope of winning. But yes, I’m on Obamacare—which I thought was a good idea in the past. And, being financially woeful, I am on the $0 copay.

Here's what you didn’t know about the $0 category: Nearly every medication you get prescribed will be prior authorized, substituted, or denied. Sure, your doctor prescribes an easy anti-biotic for that nasty cold; you’re probably fine. But if you have something chronically wrong with you, and your doctor wants to start trying stuff to see what works—good luck.

So, your doctor prescribes something, and your insurance is doing what they always do (being a pain, and giving you ten hoops to jump through before they fill it), but you are in a desperate situation. You are willing to pay out of pocket, just because you are so desperate. The pharmacy will not allow you to pay for it. Seriously. In the good old U.S. of A., because you are in that $0 category, they have made it illegal for you to pay for your medication that your doctor has prescribed to you.

It’s not fiction. That is a fact.

My female intuition: because it looks bad, statistically, when the system is so broken the poor people are doing what the government promised they wouldn’t be doing: shelling out money their insurance company ought to. Been there, done that. Metaphorically, of course, because when I was there, they delayed filling (because a delay isn’t a denial), and wouldn’t let me pay. I went home, sick, without any medicine.

One little bonus tip here, just because I’m nice: Your insurance company publishes a rule book for what they need in prior authorizations. So if you’re a smart girl (or boy, or man, or whatever), you do all the fact checking before you go see your doctor, just like I did. I talked with my doctor about what she could actually prescribe. So, I got a smile on my face for doing all my homework, and the doctor was nice enough to play by the insurance company’s rules. The next day, at the pharmacy window, I discovered the insurance company doesn’t actually abide by their own rules. I was denied a medication, after my doctor responded to the prior authorization request. Why?

They couldn’t tell me. And believe me, this woman [my thumbs are pointed at me now] is the definition of determined. I called and called (the automated service is designed, I’m convinced, to be an exercise in futility) and finally talked with someone who was a manager of some sort. I asked her to look at the rule book that I was looking at. After all, it was the rule book that her company put out. Didn’t I fit every requirement for the medication? Well, yes I did. But, someone had already denied the medication, and there was nothing that person could do to reverse the decision. And here is what I could do about it: I could always take it to appeal.

The appeals process is a joke. When they deny a medication out of hand, even against their own rules, the only accountability is an appeals process that takes up to a year to complete. So, if you are sick now, and you are prescribed medication for your sickness, and you go to the pharmacy, and the insurance denies the claim—and you are in the right, and they are wrong—you can get that medicine in a year.

I have become convinced that the $0 state sponsored insurance is about denying care. We the public were sold a promise that was just too good to be true. I’m not looking at statistics here, or scientifically building a case. I’m just talking truthfully about my own experience. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to whine about something that I’m not paying for, but I do think that the American public, who is footing the bill for my medical care, should be aware of what they are paying for. I think we got robbed.

Here is my second thought about chronic illness in the state insurance game. I have one more item that I would like to talk about. I’ve been assured that my identity will be safeguarded, otherwise I wouldn’t write about it. It has become politically favorable to distain the use of opiates in the medical community. There has been a lot of abuse, I’m told, and I’m sure that there has been. But the hammer has come down on the medical establishment, and now any opiate therapy is functionally equated to drug abuse.

Factually, the international medical community, for thousands of years, has been prescribing opiates as effective symptom control for patients with high physical pain. Educate yourself. And if you are a medical professional, please remind yourself of your own science; and don’t get swayed by political faddishness.

This disease is literally eating away my body. With this disease, the only effective pain relief I get is from opiates. And, it’s not a mystery. When it comes to nociceptive pain (the pain you feel because your body is being damaged), there is no medication more effective than opiates. When I first started seeing doctors to try and figure out what was wrong with me, it was absurd how people treated me as soon as I started talking about pain. Every single doctor I talked to went from helpful, to curt, (sometimes even rude) as soon as I told them that I was in agony most of the time. I was shocked. I thought a doctor would look at me, and say, “I don’t think it’s normal to live like that. I think something is medically wrong with you, and I’m going to do my part to find out what it is. And, if I can’t, I am going to refer you to someone who can.” I didn’t think they would say, “We don’t deal with pain here. You have to see a specialist for that. We just look to see if joints are swollen. And if they aren’t, I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t refer you to anyone. (The next is the author’s addition) You are probably faking pain to get drugs.”

Why has it become unreasonable to listen to a patient who knows their body, is listening it, and is talking to a medical professional about it? For the first year that I was seeking treatment, I insisted with every doctor I talked to, that I did not want pain medication. I wanted to be taken seriously. I knew that something was wrong with me, and the primary evidence was how many waking (and sleeping) hours I spent with the sensation of knives and needles being driven into my bones, and then lit on fire. Even though I insisted I was not after pain pills; every single doctor I saw treated me like I was some junky, looking to take advantage of them, and my $0 co-pay, to get free drugs. One even offered to write a prescription right there, with her eyebrows arched, as if I was going to fall to pieces and agree to some pain pills. With a great amount of calmness (and to be honest, a bit of pity for her), I said no, and asked for her to take my complaints seriously.

“I know my blood work has come back saying I don’t have any of the diseases that would explain my symptoms. I know that you are the 3rd doctor I have seen, and there is no diagnosis. But I know that something is wrong with me, and I just want my life back. I want to get better.”

She suggested I start taking an anti-depressant. Have we really gotten that far along the socialized medicine route? Do we now treat every person as if they are faking an illness in order to take advantage of the medical community?

I feel like this is the part of the movie where the viewer sees intense close-ups of the actress’s face, while screeching minor chords are being pounded out in the musical score, and I scream, “What’s going on!? Has everybody gone crazy!?”

I work full time. I am a mother. I run a home. I volunteer at a local food pantry once a month. I even go to church.  Here’s a tidbit that is going to shock you: after I received a diagnosis (I’d prefer not to mention what it is, but it’s a serious auto-immune disease) I had a pain specialist prescribe some heavy opiate therapy. I felt better. [gasp] I was able to go back to work. I was able to get up and be the mom that I am supposed to be. And, I’m responsible with the medication that I’m prescribed. I don’t get high. I don’t sell my medication on the street.

So why all the social angst? Why has it become fashionable to turn up our noses when a patient reveals that they are in physical agony? Why are we treating people like they are making up sickness, and leaving them untreated? How did we get this far?

I’m not an anomaly. Welcome to the new normal.