Tag Archives | my family

Welcoming the stranger

StatueofLiberty

(I have always enjoyed being an uncle, and I am especially proud that both a niece and a nephew have become Christian pastors. They didn’t follow me into ministry. They grew up in Christian families and then in adulthood embraced the faith of their parents. My niece, Kate Van Noord Kooyman, is a graduate of Calvin College and Western Theological Seminary. She is a Reformed Church in America pastor who is passionate about immigration reform. I saw her interviewed by a cable news network not long ago and realized just how articulate she is on the subject, and so I asked if she would write a few words for Doug’s Blog on the subject. Below are those words, together with hyperlinks that support and illustrate her statements. Thanks, Kate.)

Shortly after the birth of my second son, Sam, I went back to work. After months of being home all the time, I was once again immersed in one of the unspoken trials of modern parenthood: daycare drop-off. Crying, whining, begging, clutching, bribing, peeling-toddler-legs-from-mom’s-waist … there must be mommy support groups for this kind of daily trauma.

I got in the habit of reciting a little mantra on the way to daycare, while hyper-extending my elbow so that I could hold hands with my toddler in the back seat: “Sometimes Mommy goes away. But she will always come back. Can you say that with me? She will always come back.”

There’s a new documentary detailing a Christian perspective on undocumented immigrants in the United States, and it made me remember this ritual. In the film, there is a mom who is living life “in the shadows.” She’s working, paying taxes, and raising four kids on her own. At one point she tells us that her youngest daughter has been reporting having dreams that her mom is taken from her. With tears, the mom tell us her response to her child, “I’ll never leave you.” She will always come back. Maria loves her kids as much as I love mine. But her promise isn’t in her hands to fulfill. It’s in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It’s estimated that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US today. The media has told us that these are “freeloaders,” people looking to game the system. The truth is, the majority of the undocumented pay taxes – even income tax and Social Security contributions they will never benefit from, and they cannot access social services like welfare or food stamps. The media has told us that these are criminals. The truth is, immigrants are markedly less likely than native-born Americans to commit crimes. For many, the only law-breaking that occurred was overstaying an expired visa, or crossing a border illegally. The public wisdom is that these immigrants should just “get in line” and “come the legal way” just like “my grandparents did.” The truth is, they would love to get in line. There is no line.

There are lots of ways to think and talk about this issue. We could talk about it as an economic issue (spoiler: immigrants are a huge boon to the economy). We could talk about it as a public safety issue (hint: our current system is a dream scenario for slave traders, drug traffickers, abusive spouses, and anyone looking to prey on vulnerable people). Or, we could talk about it like Christians.

But we don’t talk about it like Christians. Pew Research has told us that only 12 percent of American Christians admit they think about immigration primarily from the perspective of their faith. And that’s not surprising when we learn that only 20 percent of them have ever heard immigration mentioned by their pastor. But while the church might be silent on this issue, the Bible is not. The Hebrew word ger (translated immigrant, stranger, sojourner, foreigner) is mentioned in the Old Testament 92 times – reminding Israel to take special care of the ger, to welcome the ger, to treat the ger equally to the native-born. In the New Testament, the Greek word that we translate as “hospitality” is philoxenia. Biblical hospitality isn’t having your friends over for dinner – it is “love of the stranger.” While our culture encourages xenophobia (that strangers are to be feared), thinking like a Christian about immigration means that we actually approach immigrants as God’s means of giving a blessing.

I believe that immigrants do bring a blessing. I believe that they are the hope for the vibrancy of American Christianity. I believe they are the hope for US economic vitality. But mostly I believe they are the way that the native-born remember that we, too, were once strangers in a strange land. That in welcoming the stranger we are immersing ourselves in that foundational story of our faith in which God heard our cries, God freed us from oppression, God was revealed to be bigger than our nationalism, our power structures, our suffering, our sin. Welcoming the stranger is how we remember who God is.

I invite you to pray for reform of our broken immigration system. I invite you to watch and share The Stranger film. And – if you’re a voter in the US – to advocate for Congress to do something to address this crisis. Call 1-866-877-5552 and tell your member of Congress it’s time to decide on a more humane, logical, and hopeful immigration system.

my neice Kate Kooyman
(Photo: Yes, that’s Kate.)
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My dad passed away last week

Jack Brouwer watercolor

My dad passed away last week, and I can’t quite believe I’m typing those words.

It’s not that I thought my dad would live forever, any more than I think I’ll live forever; it’s just that his death seemed like an abstraction, much like my own death. It’s out there in the distant future, you’re vaguely aware of its possibility, but you don’t think that it will ever, really, finally happen, until last week when it did.

My dad was 88 years old when he died, a good, long life by any standard. He had been married to my mom for more than 66 years. I thought they would easily make it to 70 and beyond. He worked for the same company for more than 40 years. In fact, he worked there so long that eventually he owned the place. He was chairman of the board when he retired, having done every conceivable job along the way.

Everything my dad did – and this was true, I realize, for many men of his generation – he did it with the idea that it was the right thing to do and that he would keep doing it no matter what, until he couldn’t do it anymore.

In fact, that’s the earliest memory I have of my dad – namely, that he was strong. He would give me piggy-back rides around the house, crawling on his hands and knees, and somehow I knew even then that he would be the strongest man I would ever know.

I was surprised one day when I suddenly found myself a couple of inches taller than he was, but that sudden growth never gave me much of a competitive advantage. He still regularly beat me at racquetball, pool, cards, golf, pretty much anything that we did together.

I sometimes wondered where he learned to shoot pool so well, but thought it better not to ask him. “In the service” would have been his reply. He apparently learned a great deal “in the service.”

Not only was my dad strong, he was also something of a perfectionist.

Some of that perfectionism, I realize, has rubbed off on me, so I know it’s not always a good thing, but it can often produce some outstanding work. My dad was a painter, for example, but not just any old, toss-off-a-few-canvasses-in-retirement sort of painter. He took on the most formidable kind of painting there is – watercolor – and in relatively short order he managed to achieve signature membership in the American Watercolor Society, the best of the best.

And he didn’t choose just any style of watercolor painting, but the kind that forbids the use of white paint, a technique that is sometimes called “transparent watercolor.” He painted with a dry brush and razor blade too, and so his paintings – and he produced a few hundred of them in the last 25-30 years of his life – are ultra-realistic.

Not many people can produce a painting so realistic that you’d swear it was a photograph, but try doing it sometime using watercolor. I wish you the best.

I thought of this – and more – on Monday afternoon when I was driving behind the funeral director on the way to the cemetery. In Michigan winters, the words of committal – “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – are often spoken at the church or the funeral home, rather than at the cemetery, and so the burial itself is typically private.

I went anyway, following closely behind the hearse with my car, mostly so that I could reassure my mom that everything had happened properly and with dignity, and so I stood alone in the cold and snow as the cemetery workers lowered my dad’s casket into the ground.

If I had been seeking finality, I would certainly have found it in that moment. But I found something else, something better. In standing there by myself, as tall and straight as I could, shoulders back and head high, I gave my dad what he had always demonstrated for me – strength and always doing my best, no matter what the circumstances.

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Inspired to take action!

reasons to be optimistic

My daughters have heard more of my sermons over the years than just about anyone else.  That’s because when they were children I dragged them to church every Sunday.  Actually, their mother did most of the “dragging” because I was usually at church long before either one was awake.

Over the years, whether they were interested or not, whether they wanted to be in church or not, they heard lots of talk from me about Jesus – the claims he made, the things he did, the company he kept, that sort of thing.

I wasn’t always sure what the effect of all that talk would be 20-30 years later.

And so, I’ve asked each of them several times over the last couple of years to guest blog for me – not about what it was like to grow up in a pastor’s home, but about their faith, how they think about it now, how it affects their lives.  Or doesn’t.

My younger daughter, Elizabeth, is a global health researcher for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the University of Washington in Seattle, and this is her most recent response:

I read Melinda Gates’ tweet today about a list of reasons to be optimistic about 2014 and was not surprised to learn that most of the reasons were global health-related. For decades some of the world’s smartest people have been working hard to overcome some of the world’s largest scourges – with a surprising amount of success.

I like to keep up with the Gates Foundation, partly because they fund my current work, but also because I identify with the Gates’ motivation. The myth around the foundation’s origin is that Bill Gates read a health economics report and was inspired. In 1993 the World Bank published the World Development Report, entitled “Investing in Health.” The report laid out an action plan to tackle global health issues. Basically, it said: these are the diseases that affect the most lives, this is how you treat/prevent them, and this is how much it would cost.

To completely over-generalize, Bill and Melinda Gates saw what was possible with their resources, they decided they could not ignore the situation, and they took action.

The foundation is not religiously affiliated, yet their mission resonates with the believer in me. My main take-away from a childhood of church-going and countless “something about Jesus” sermons is that Jesus wanted us to take action on behalf of the vulnerable. In other words, he wanted us to figure out what we are capable of doing for our neighbors, and do it. In fact, Jesus recommended doing some pretty radical things, including selling everything you own and giving it to the poor.

Is that hyperbole, or was he serious? I’ll let my dad weigh in on that one.

But that is why my faith has led me to global health economics; the field allows me to identify issues in poverty and contribute to creating an actionable plan.

Melinda Gates wants us to be optimistic about 2014, and I think we should be. There is no shortage of ways to heed Christ’s call to action.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)

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Christmas and learning to live on baby time

photo (3)

My guest blogger today is my older daughter who recently made me a grandfather:

The mornings are my favorite time with our new baby girl.  She starts to stir before it’s light out, but politely lies awake cooing while I snooze just a few minutes longer.  The dog, on the other hand, is more demanding.  He wants his trip outside and two cups of food.  Stat.

When I finally go over to pick up Gwen she greets me with a wide-eyed grin.  I take her back to bed with me and feed her.  She always tricks me by falling asleep for a few minutes when she’s finished, but I relish those delicious little breaths on my neck as I burp her.

We head downstairs and I put her in her Snugabunny.  I never knew what that was until I became a mom.  I get the coffee pot going, grateful that I can indulge now in as much caffeine as I want (and I need it after some long nights).  I turn on the Christmas tree lights and we sit together while Gwen eventually slips into her first nap by 8 a.m.

It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?  This slow kind of morning?  Truthfully, it’s been difficult for me to appreciate it.  I’m used to getting going in the morning.  Taking my shower, blow drying my hair, picking out my clothes.  Now it’s all about her.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am to have this time at home with her.  But, the days are long and short at the same time.  The minutes tick on by and yet the sun seems to creep away far too early.  We go on walks, trekking around the neighborhood on a mission to breathe crisp air and feel – if only for a few moments – like we’re a part of the bustling world around us.

But we’re not busy.  We’re not running around.  I haven’t entered a store once to Christmas shop this year.  Instead we are hunkered down, slowed down, buckled down into this new “routine” with a baby.  A friend came over a few weeks after Gwen was born and asked what I “do all day.”  Soothe, shush, swaddle, smile… not much I guess except attend to her every need.

This Advent season has forced me into a spiritual rhythm I’ve never had before.  Pastors like me usually have a million things to do at this time of year.  But during this particular Advent season, as these last days of maternity leave trickle on by, I have had to force myself to be present to this child.  To the monotonous beauty of it.  To wait and watch and listen on baby time.

In the sometimes overwhelming simpleness of our days together there’s nothing else to do but allow the new love I have for my daughter to envelope me.  It’s a painful kind of love that makes my heart ache and causes my throat to choke up.  It reminds me that this is the kind of love God has for me, too.

I’ll always be grateful for these slow Advent days.  This time is a gift.  This baby is a gift.   And as I find myself hushed in quiet during nap time, soaking in the sight of my child, I also remember the child who has come, and is coming, and will come again.

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My Annual Christmas Letter

photo (7)

Advent 2013

Dear family and friends,

Getting older has turned out to be a whole lot better than I would have imagined.

The last year which, to be honest, didn’t start very well, and a year I wasn’t looking forward to anyway because of the milestone birthday, has arguably turned out to be the best yet.  If I had known how much fun turning 60 would be, I would have done it a long time ago.  (Kind of a Yogi Berra tribute there.)

Let’s start with the birth of our first grandchild to older daughter Sarah and her husband Ben.  In what turned out to be a prophetic birth announcement, our younger daughter Elizabeth and her husband Daniel created the following at a couple of months before the actual birth:

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Turns out that labor did start early – about two weeks early, in fact – and Ben was out of town on business.  So, after receiving the call about 3 a.m. to come home, he “rushed to her side,” though making it back in plenty of time for the birth. In the end it wasn’t an especially dramatic delivery.  Sarah did drive herself to the hospital, however, in an astonishing display female strength that made her mother (and me) proud.

Here’s the newborn, sleeping just like her grandpa:

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She’s beautiful, isn’t she – and brilliant too, of course.  On the APGAR test, administered immediately after birth, measuring breathing effort, skin color, etc. she received the top score (one point better than her mother). Based on that as much as anything, I think she’s looking at perfect scores on the SAT as well.  Alert the Harvard admissions office!

Grandma and grandpa – I think we’re going to be “nana and pop” – boarded a plane and made it to St. Louis within a few hours of the birth.  The way we were feeling, I don’t think we really needed the help of Southwest Airlines to get there.  To hold that impossibly small human being – to see my own baby, now thirty years later, holding her own baby – I’m not sure I will ever have the words to describe the feeling which, I now realize, is why we have music, poetry, and art.

In addition to creating unusual birth announcements, Lizzy and Daniel have had an eventful year of their own.

On one fine day in May, in front of a mostly-dignified family cheering section at Hill Auditorium, Lizzy graduated from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.  The next day we loaded up their truck, and she and Daniel made the long trek to Seattle where Lizzy is a researcher – “data monkey,” she says – for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the University of Washington.  Daniel left Apple behind in the move and has spent the last several months on an Internet start-up dream.

Both seem to be embracing life in Seattle, making new friends, and enjoying the outdoor life of the Northwest.

All of that would have been a pretty good year for most people – and it would have been for us too – but early in the year an opportunity came along for a move to Zurich, Switzerland, and we pursued it, not knowing until very early in September if the invitation would ever come.  It did, and after preaching at the International Protestant Church later in the month, the congregation called me to be their next pastor.

Susan and I are spending these last days and weeks of 2013 doing a million and one things that need to be done in order to move overseas – selling a house, building a new one on our Lake Michigan lot, selling one car and putting the other in storage, getting visas and work permits, figuring out health insurance, and – oh – even learning a little German. Ach du Lieber!

And since we gave away all – or most – of our wool clothes in the move to Florida, let’s just say that Susan doesn’t need encouragement to shop.

My contract with the new church is for three years, with the possibility of renewal, and we’re thinking of this as the adventure of a lifetime.

Early in the year I had agreed to lead a tour to Israel, and so after making the announcement to my Florida congregation I took some of those same church members to the holy land for what was my fifth pilgrimage – and quite possibly the best yet.  The first time I went, the joy was in seeing the land for myself.  I had tears in my eyes just about every day.  Seeing the Sea of Galilee nearly did me in.  Today the joy for me is introducing this land to first-time visitors and watching them respond as I did.

Here’s a little video clip of a totally unexpected moment – not on the tour itinerary – that turned out to be one of the high points.  Our very reserved U.S. Presbyterian group joined with a very exuberant Nigerian group, numbering over a hundred, to sing “How Great Thou Art” in a church along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

The photo below is from the trip, a little mud treatment on the shore of the Dead Sea.

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As exciting and thrilling as our year has been, it hasn’t been without its pain and disappointment.  It’s true of course that the kind of joys we’ve experienced should – and do – make up for any failures.  But life is more than a ledger on which you hope that gains will eventually outnumber losses.

So, it was during Thanksgiving week this year that I found what I had been looking for – a way to understand, or to re-frame, our year.  In the Book of Common Prayer, in a prayer of thanksgiving, I found this line:

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

And that of course is where we are as the year comes to an end, acknowledging our dependence on the One who loves us, the One who came into the world in a not-very-promising way (see baby photo above), and the One who left promising to return to make all things new.

We hope we see you this season, and if we don’t, we hope you’ll look us up across the water.  We’ll be the ones struggling to understand our new culture – and of course eating lots of chocolate.

Love,

Doug and Susan

(For everyone who missed it, here’s the YouTube video of my family wishing me a happy 60th!)

And below is a typical Swiss street at Christmas:

swiss_christmas_lights_by_cadaska-d4kj37o

 

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For the 60 year old who has everything

turning-60

 

Click here to view the YouTube video my family and friends made for me!

 

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The Historical Jesus

greek on papyrus

My younger daughter says, “What do you think of that new book about Jesus called ‘Zealot’ where Jesus turns out to be nothing more than a political revolutionary?”

Typical family conversation in our home.

I’ve heard of it of course.  I’ve even seen the author interviewed. His name is Reza Aslan, and the book’s title is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. A FOX News interviewer gave him a hard time for being a Muslim and writing about Jesus, an interview that gave off more heat than light, but was probably great for sales.

“I haven’t read it,” I say.  “I don’t have much use for these searches for the historical Jesus.  They never amount to anything.”

“Really,” she says, genuinely surprised.  “Why don’t you blog about that?”  It had never occurred to me that anyone would be interested.  I thought everyone knew the history.

Peeling back layers of tradition and getting to the person who lived and taught and died in first century Palestine sounds like a noble and worthwhile thing to do – and plenty of scholars over the years have attempted it – but the consensus seems to be that the search doesn’t go anywhere.

But my daughter was right.  Most people don’t know that.  They hear or read about the publication of a book like “Zealot,” and they’re not quite sure what to think.  It’s easy to understand why someone would conclude that it’s nothing more than the work of a Muslim trying to smear Christianity.

I don’t know what Aslan’s intentions are, but his claims to have a Ph.D. in the history of religions and to teach the history of religion are false.  He’s an associate professor in the creative writing program at the University of California, Riverside.  Nowhere in the academic world is he known as a scholar in the history of religion.

That’s all troubling – and tends to undermine the authority of the claims he makes – but what’s really important to know is that all of these searches for the Jesus of history (as opposed to the Christ of faith) have one thing in common.  They make Jesus look a great deal like the person who set out on the search.

Albert Schweitzer famously wrote (in his own Quest for the Historical Jesus, published in 1906) that Jesus “comes to us as One unknown” and that the searches are “often pale reflections of the searchers” themselves.

John Dominic Crossan, who has given the search more than one try himself, finally concluded that most researchers will “do autobiography and call it biography.”

I won’t be reading “Zealot.”

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No manger, but wrapped in swaddling clothes

Sarah Ben and Gwen

So, it’s on to the next chapter of my life.  I’ve got a milestone birthday coming up later this month, and I became a grandfather yesterday.

It’s a miracle of good timing.  I’m finding that one more than compensates for the other.

Holding my first grandchild within hours of her birth reminded me – how could it not? – of holding her mother just minutes after her own birth.  Both times I was handed a warm bundle with an impossibly small human being inside.  The tiny blankets were wrapped so tightly that I had to be reminded how much babies love to be swaddled.

Both times – that time 30 years ago and then again yesterday – I looked down at what I was holding and cried.  Both times a girl looked back at me with surprisingly alert eyes and sized me up pretty quickly as a pushover.

I am.  And have no regrets about it.

There’s not a lot to do with a newborn except look.  And look.  And then you realize how much is happening with that look, how a powerful bond is being formed, yes, but also how a larger truth is being revealed.

In the looking there’s a recognition of the gift of life – mine well along now, and hers just beginning.

(Pictured above is my daughter Sarah, her husband Ben, and the very pink and healthy Gwendolyn.)

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(That’s me, holding the focus of everyone’s attention.)

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We can do more than fight

never-stop-fighting

(Summer re-runs are mostly a thing of the past.  And that’s mostly a good thing, I think.  So, I am somewhat hesitantly re-running this old blog post.  It’s from April 14, 2012.  Partly I’m re-running it because my blog was still in its early stages when it was first posted – and I didn’t have all that many readers – but mostly I’m re-running it because I’ve had some very recent conversations with family and friends about the topic – namely, how should Christians talk about illness and disease?

If anything, I’ve grown even more uncomfortable with the militaristic metaphors that people like to use when they’re sick.  I know what “fighting cancer” means, and I’d likely do the same with cancer or any other illness I might face, but fighters are not typically the people I admire, as the story about my college roommate makes clear.  And I wonder if our faith, too, leads us to say something more.

A member of my family recently completed a year of chemo and radiation therapy.  She battled – no doubt about it – but what everyone saw and loved about her response to the illness wasn’t the fight.  It was the way she re-discovered life.  She lived the last year with the kind of zest and determination that thrilled the rest of us.  She savored each moment with grandchildren.  She traveled   And mostly she lived.  And everyone around her loved hearing and reading about it – not the war she and her doctors waged, but the life she lived.)

The story of my college room-mate

A dear friend of mine from college days – he was my roommate, and his wife was my wife’s roommate – has now entered hospice care.  A year or so ago, he learned that he had a brain tumor and that he had maybe six months to live.

I had lunch with him last August when I was in Michigan on my vacation, and it was good to see him again.  And even though he looked ravaged from the chemo and radiation treatments, he was the same sweet man I knew from our college days.  I count the two hours we spent together as precious and sacred time, God’s good gift to me.

His vocation over the years has been college-level English teaching, and at our lunch he expressed the hope that he would be able to teach at least one class in the fall, which as it turns out he was able to do.  I wish I could have heard him teach that class!  That he has lived more than a year after diagnosis has been a blessing to him and his family, a wonderful gift.

Last week I read in the Care Pages that he, his wife, and his sons post regularly to keep friends like me up to date on his condition, that he had entered hospice care, and I saw that someone praised him there for his “courageous battle” with cancer. That’s not the first time I’ve seen war or military metaphors used to describe our experiences with diseases like cancer, but for the first time it struck me as wrong – or at least not quite accurate.

Having cancer is not always like waging war.

What others are saying

So, I sent an email this week to an old friend who’s a Presbyterian pastor and who has been living with cancer off and on for several years.  He keeps an online pastor’s diary about his experience with cancer, and I’ve been a regular reader.  To Carlos, I wrote, “Where are you with this whole ‘courageous battle’ thing?”

And here’s what Carlos wrote: “Cancerous cells are not some foreign invader: a band of terrorist commandos who slip across the border on forged passports, to blow themselves up, and us along with them. Cancer cells spring from our own loins. They arise from out of our own bodies, the result of genetic mutations that, despite science’s best efforts, are still only dimly understood….It just doesn’t make sense, biologically speaking, to think of cancer as an outside invader. Our own bodies make the cancer. The cancer is us. If we’re going to use the military metaphor at all, I suppose we’ve got to describe it as a civil war – a protracted, brother-against-brother slugfest – rather than some pious crusade against a foreign enemy.” 

But my friend Carlos isn’t the only person who resists this language. A quick Internet search turned up dozens of articles from people who think it’s not quite the right language.

Here’s something from Dr. Gary M. Reisfield, a palliative care specialist at University of Florida, Jacksonville: “Over the last 40 years, war has become the most common metaphor, with patients girding themselves against the enemy, doctors as generals, medicines as weapons. When the news broke about Senator [Ted] Kennedy, he was ubiquitously described as a fighter. While the metaphor may be apt for some, it may be a poor choice for others. You think you have to fight this war, and people expect you to fight.”

A new way of thinking about illness and disease

As a pastor – and someone who spends a fair amount of time providing pastoral care to people who have cancer – I often find myself admiring people for their courage in the face of illness, but I try not to have expectations for them. We all respond differently to illness and disease.

To some it’s natural to fight and resist.  For others – and I think my friend in Michigan fits this other category – it’s far more natural to live with the disease, to find each new day to be a marvelous gift, to accept the care of physicians for what it is, and to seize the time between diagnosis and death as a time to take relationships to a new and deeper level.

Is it time to add new language, new metaphors, to our conversations about cancer and other disease? I think so.

(The college friend I mentioned, David J. Klooster, passed away June 2, 2012.  The news story is here.)

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Blog News

Haiti Trip 168

I was going to report that revenues are down for the fifteenth straight month since founding, but then I remembered that there are no revenues.

This is a labor of love.

Readership is up, however, way up – and that’s great news. Thanks so much for your support!  In May “dougsblog.org” averaged 80 unique views per day which for me is an all-time high.

My current blog design is nearly a year old – and some of you may be tired of opening the blog each time to

HI! MY NAME IS DOUG…

I’M A PREACHER, AUTHOR,

RUNNER, HUSBAND, FATHER OF TWO…

AND THIS IS MY BLOG!

I know I am.  My son-in-law – formerly of Apple, the $373 billion company founded by Steve Jobs, and now head of his own Internet start-up company in Seattle – is working on some tweaks to the design that I’m sure you’ll like.  My blog turns up in most search engines, but not always in the top 2-3 results, and he promises to change that.  (Had no idea, when I named my blog, how many “Doug’s Blogs” existed on the Internet!)  Thanks, Daniel!

Plus, the editor who worked with me on the three books I published with the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. has just completed what she called a “blogathon,” reading 15 months of blog posts in a single day, and she too has suggested several tweaks – not in the design, but in my writing.  These might be harder to implement than the design tweaks, but I promised to try.

Among other things she noted my tendency to start down rabbit trails that have nothing whatsoever to do with the central theme of the blog.  I’m guilty as charged, of course, and I know I do this in preaching as well, but sometimes, as I reminded her, I can’t help myself.

Anyway, thank you, Mary!

And then, last but not least, I’ve signed up for something called “Bloggers Helping Bloggers.”  Experienced bloggers – with vastly larger readerships than my own – agree to mentor newbies like me for no charge, and during August I’ll be assigned to someone successful who will follow my blog and make recommendations for improvements.  Maybe someday I’ll be one of those successful bloggers who gets to tell others how to do it.

So, that’s it.  I welcome feedback on the blog – the public kind in the comments section, as well as the email kind.  Let me know what you think!

(Photo credit:  That’s Dr. Schweitzer … I mean, that’s me at the Hopital Ste. Croix in Leogane, Haiti, on the same mission trip described in the previous post, doing the one thing that I was really, really good at.)

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