Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Life with Diabetic Neuropathy

I’m 43 years old and I have diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and I walk with a cane. The diabetic neuropathy has robbed me of the sensation in my lower legs below my knees, my feet, and my toes. It dramatically alters my sense of balance. I can barely walk more than a very short distance without resting and I certainly will never run again. Falling is a regular occurrence. Stairs are a nightmare; I’ve managed to fall up AND down them many times. Gone are the days of church softball leagues and touch football games on Saturday afternoons. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and I can barely dress myself. My wife and daughters tie and untie my shoes and button and unbutton my shirts for me. The diabetic neuropathy has robbed me of the sensation in both of my hands so it’s incredibly difficult and painful to do even the most mundane of tasks with my hands and fingers. My strength is limited. I can’t open a jar of pickles – one of my favorite late night snacks. I can’t clip my own toenails. I can’t write or type for more than just a few moments at a time. I’ve played the piano much of my life and now I rarely am able to play as it’s just too painful and nearly impossible to play with precision. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and I can’t work anymore. I’ve been very active and have worked hard to care for myself and my family all of my life. But now my entire day is filled with incredible pain. I stumble instead of walking. I fall instead of standing. I drop what I should be holding. Burning. Stinging. Aching. Stabbing. Exhausting. Overwhelming. It’s hard to work when these are the descriptive words I use now throughout my day. I’m completely dependent on the support of others. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and my life is filled with doctors’ visits. There are trips to the family doctor. The endocrinologist. The neurologist. The podiatrist. The ophthalmologist. There’s now an ear, nose, and throat specialist because the neuropathy has now progressed far enough and is severe enough that it is affecting my hearing. I’m also about to add a new doctor to the list: A urologist as it seems the neuropathy is beginning to affect my bladder. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and I’m a walking pharmacy. It seems every other moment throughout the day I’m pricking my finger to check my blood sugar, stabbing my side with one of the six doses of insulin I require, or taking one of the dozen different daily pills I take to control my diabetes and to limit (often unsuccessfully) the pain and discomfort from my nerve pain. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and my life is filled with an endless list of “I’ll Never's”. I’ll never run with my daughters through a field while flying a kite. I’ll never play tag with them or chase our puppy with them. I’ll never hear them giggle as I lift them up over my shoulders as far as I can reach. I’ll never play softball or golf again. I’ll never enjoy a walk without the fear of falling. I’ll never run. I’ll never climb. I’ll never throw and I’ll never catch. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I'm 43 years old and I smile through the misery because that's what people need from me. I laugh for others when my body is screaming in pain. I do my best to pretend everything is going to be okay when the reality is I know it won't be. The only certainty is that it will get worse. Only my family knows the depth of my suffering. And I'm not sure that even they can know what it’s like to be me. And it's all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and can’t imagine living another 43 years like this. Dear God, please don’t let me live that long. I’m 43 years old and I have diabetic neuropathy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How Can You Move Mountains When You're Tripping Over Pebbles?

"Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23 (NIV).

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I’ve heard all of my life that if I’d only believe, my faith could move mountains. But how do you move mountains when you’re tripping over pebbles? The truth of the situation is, at least for me in my experience, that sometimes the big faith comes easily while the little things cause such faithless uncertainty. 

Let me explain. You see it's never really been the demons that frightened me. It's not been death and disease that have staggered me. I've never had trouble getting out of the boat and walking on water. But sometimes it seems like I sure can't get out of my own head. I’m learning that the bold proclamations of faith can sometimes come too easily. Unfortunately, it's the honest confessions of confusion and struggle that we don't often share that come with such difficulty. What do I mean?

We proclaim, “I am more than a conqueror through Christ,” when we really want to say, “It seems like this struggle will never end.” We lift our chin and stick out our chest and say with confidence that, “No weapon fashioned against us shall prosper!” when the truth is we want to weep and say, “I don't think I can take even one more blow.” We sing “Love Lifted Me” while we are really drowning. We rejoice and know that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” all the while struggling because life is kicking us in the teeth right now. 

I’m learning something about the duality of our condition as believers. We are flesh and spirit. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the way we were created by a tender and loving God who is also just a bit wiser than any of us are in this life. We are flesh and we are spirit – together at the same time. And out of that duality often flows two realities. 

He's my healer - I know that to be true. But I'm also diabetic - I know that to be just as true. He rescued me but I sure am lost right now. Yes, I'm a citizen of heaven but I'm also living in a hell on earth - I'm meant for the palace but right now I'm stuck in the reality of the pig-pen-like pit. All too often we are stuck functioning in only one reality and the ignored truth of the other reality becomes a pebble that we keep tripping over. 

The sad thing is that the duality of our reality often makes us wear a mask. We are “Composed Christian” on the outside and “Broken Believer” on the inside. The Christian community around us, our friends and our family, often make us feel as if we must be Super Christian at all times and so we hide the truth of the other reality that we all carry with us at all times. We rarely are faster than a speeding bullet. Hardly ever are we more powerful than a locomotive. And I don’t know that we will ever leap tall buildings in a single bound. 

So, what’s the answer? How do we move mountains and pebbles at the same time? First, we have to take the masks off. That’s the single most frightening part to many of us. If we take off our masks people might actually see who we really are and they might judge us, ridicule us, or reject us. It’s overwhelmingly intimidating but we cannot truly walk in faith in both spirit AND flesh until we drop our guard, bring down the walls, and take off our masks.

The next step is simple. We embrace the duality of our reality. Please understand that this isn’t about the unstable double-minded ways of the man in the book of James (we’re not talking about temptation and sinful things). It’s about accepting the fact that God chose to allow us to live this way. We aren’t the first faith-filled people to have to face the duality of our reality. Take a look at the book of Psalms. Look past the poetry and the melody. Did you know that only about 30 percent of the Psalms are songs and writings about praise, worship, and thanksgiving? What about the other 70 percent? Those are what we call songs of lament. They are words written by hearts who were worshipping through their wounds; words written by hearts lost in the wilderness of life. They embraced the duality of their reality. If you don’t believe me take the time to read Psalms 22.

The last thing that I think we need to do is choose which reality will be the one that defines us. I’m convinced that we must remove our masks and live somewhat honestly and transparently (even if it’s only with those closest to us). I’m equally certain that we must embrace the duality of our reality – that we are both spirit and flesh – and find balance and beauty in that duality. But I’m also confident that we must decide which truth will be the truth that is our testimony. Will you worship in your wounded wilderness or will your wounded wilderness rob you of your worship? 

Lest you think my premise is silly and lacking in Biblical foundation, let me share with you the words of the Apostle Paul, a man who continually wrestled with the duality of his reality, in II Corinthians 12. “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So how do you move mountains when you are tripping over pebbles? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can’t. That’s one reality. But the other reality is pretty sweet; you know Someone who can. And so let yourself off the hook. Cut yourself some slack. Embrace the duality of your reality and move on.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Believe in Magic

I have a confession to make.  I believe in magic.  There.  I've said it.  I believe in magic.  No, I’m not talking about witchcraft, spells, and potions; nor the conjuring incantations and hexes that fill our hearts and minds with fear.  But, yes, I do believe in magic.

I believe in the magic of a pregnant possibility; you might call that hope.  I believe in the magic of a dream dreamt just before dawn – you might call that a fairy tale.  I believe in the magic of a playful tickle and the magic of a tender touch.  I believe in the magic of a sensuous kiss and the magic of a meaningful glance.  I believe in the magic that lives in the comforting relationships of our lives and explodes in the whimsy of our hearts and minds. 
  • I believe in the magic of friendship even when I can’t find it.
  • I believe in the magic of love even when it hurts unimaginably.
  • I believe in the magic of laughter even when I am crying.
  • I believe in the magic of sunshine even when I’m standing in the rain.
  • I believe in the magic of spring even while I’m gripped by the icy chill of winter.
  • I believe in the magic of morning even when it seems the darkness of night will never fade.
There was a time that I would simply tell you that I’m just a kid at heart.  And there was a time that the simplicity of that statement was true.  But it’s not anymore.  I’m all grown up – inside and out.  Life will do that to you, you know?  Heartache has a way of changing us.  Loss has a way of maturing us.  Sadness has a way of hardening us.  Failure has a way of jading us. 

The miles pass.  The moments tick by.  The experiences become less whimsical and all the more devastating.  And for a moment - just for a moment - life pushes you to the edge of despair.  And in that moment you have a decision to make.  Do you give up or do you believe?  And in the face of the gut-wrenching reality before you the only real thing to believe in is… You guessed it.  Magic.

Hope.  Dreams.  Faith.  Fairy tales.  Whether it’s a wish list written with child-like longing to Santa or prayers whispered in child-like faith to God.  I choose to believe.

Yes, I do believe that I believe in magic.  Do you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He's God - Even When I Don't Believe

The writer of Hebrews inspires us with the simplicity of faith with the words, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  We read on and learn that it is by faith that we are able to see that God created the heavens and the earth.  We learn that by faith our spiritual forefathers learned of God and that by faith they lived in a relationship with God.  

We learn that their faith sustained them.  We read of miracles.  We read of victories won and giants slain.  But we also come to know of the heartache and loss of the believers who hoped against hope for something better.  And we learn that “all of these were commended for their faith, yet none of these received what had been promised.”  We learn that faith can bring about mountaintop experiences and that faith can also leave us with the haunting shadows that come with passing through the valleys of our life.

It’s hard to stand on shifting sand,
It’s hard to shine in the shadows of the night.
You can’t be free if you don’t reach for help,
And you can’t love if you don’t love yourself.
But there is hope when my faith runs out,
‘Cause I’m in better hands now.

But what happens when faith runs out?  What happens when there is a cataclysmic collision where hope meets hopelessness and fear meets faith?  What happens when anticipation and expectation turn into heartache and despair?  I know that this all sounds a bit depressing and down but I implore you to stay with me just a bit longer.  I promise I’m headed somewhere positive. 

I’ve spent the past few years trying to figure out what happened to God when I needed Him most.  I’ve looked for lightning bolts.  I’ve hoped for help and holy thunder.  I’ve cried out for intervention and I’ve longed for rescue.  I hoped and I believed but nothing happened.  And now my faith has long been exhausted.  It feels as though my faith has been depleted and dried up like an ancient river that long ago ceased to exist.  

And so where does that leave God?  Is He a fairy like Tinker Bell that only exists because little children believe?  Is He like the Greek gods of legend that are only empowered by the prayers and petitions of the penitent?  Does He only live in great examples that are evidence of His power, majesty, and might?  I used to think so; but I’m learning more and more that the greatest demonstration of His existence is when it looks like He is doing nothing. 

I am strong all because of You,
I stand in awe of every mountain that You move.
For I am changed - yesterday is gone,
I am safe from this moment on.
There’s no fear when the night comes round,
I’m in better hands now.

I’m learning that God is God whether I believe it or not.  I’m learning that when I stop looking for lightning and when I stop listening for thunder that it is then, and only then, that I can best hear His voice.  Many years ago I shared during a sermon that, more times than not, God chooses to take us through something rather than around it.  My insides flip over and do jumping-jacks as I type those words today because I’m learning that His power is best demonstrated by letting me experience Him through my situation.  His power and His deliverance would impress me.  And certainly His touch would make all of this easier.  But truthfully, it would not change me.  And that’s what I need most.  I want to be rescued but what I need more is to be transformed.  It’s true that I don’t want to suffer but it’s also true that I don’t want to live another moment of this life without letting Him be what He already is; He is, in spite of me, still God.

It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down,
It’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground;
So take this heart of mine, there’s no doubt,
I’m in better hands now.

I don’t understand things any better today than I did yesterday.  My scars are still fresh.  My heart still hurts.  My failure still stings and my dreams still haunt me.  But with or without my faith, He is still God.  And as I let that simple truth take root in my spirit, I feel something so very small and tiny.  It’s about the size of a mustard seed.  And if that teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, ever-so-fragile amount of faith can move mountains, then I think I’ll be okay.


The song lyrics sprinkled in my ramblings today are from the song, “In Better Hands” by Natalie Grant.  Those words as well as the words below from CS Lewis’s “The Boy and His Horse” have truly impacted me in incredible ways.   I hope they encourage you to know today that even when your faith runs out, He is still there.


Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, however so long it was since he had had anything to eat.

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.

"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.

"There was only one lion," said the Voice.

"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and--"

"There was only one: but he was swift of foot."

"How do you know?"

"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

"Who are you?" asked Shasta.

"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself", loud and clear and gay: and then the third time "Myself", whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Me

I am quite certain that this may come as a complete surprise to many of you.  You probably don’t know it but I’m something of a quirky guy. I know, I know; you thought of me as calm, cool, and collected.  I’m sorry to turn the world upside down with this revelation, but:  I am not normal.  But I’m learning to be okay with that.

The truth is I have spent my life knowing that I’m a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.  I’ve always felt like I was an odd-ball or an outsider of sorts because I was different than everyone around me.  I’ve wanted so badly to fit in.  I’ve wanted so badly to be like everyone else.  I’ve wanted so badly to be the David that everyone says they needed.  I’ve wanted so badly to be loved for who I am.  And to some degree I was able to do a little of that for a little while; but I can’t keep it up anymore.

You see, my brain doesn’t work like everyone else.  I view things differently.  I experience things differently.  I value things differently.  I love deeper.  I soar higher.  I fall harder.  I hurt longer.  I laugh louder.  I cry more.  I think too much.  I rush in when I should hesitate and I hesitate when I should rush in.  I get it wrong more times than I get it right and I’ve lost more than I ever gained.  And, as you are learning right now, I am entirely too transparent at times.  But that’s who I am; shouldn’t that be okay?  Before you answer, let me give you a few examples of the chaos that is “Dave.”  

First of all, color matters.  No, I’m not talking about race and ethnicity.  I’m talking about M&M’s.  I spend the entire year avoiding M&M’s.  I just don’t care for them – except for during the Easter season.  I know you’re going to think I’m seriously off my rocker, but my brain is convinced that the pastel version of the sweet treat is so much better than the traditional colors.  I think they are milder tasting and are much more pleasing to my discerning palate.  Every year my wife and daughters buy me bags of pastel colored Easter M&M’s to enjoy because color really matters.

To understand me a bit better, you also need to know it’s all about pie.  No, I’m not talking about coconut cream, apple, or lemon meringue.  And I’m certainly not talking about the numerical value that makes mathematics tick.  I’m talking about pizza.  It simply drives me batty when pizza is cut like a square.  It seriously does.  I am quite certain that the manna from heaven was shaped like a slice of pie.  And what you may not know is that some ancient translations of the Bible tell us that when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, He also turned the square pizza slices into triangles.  Everyone should take this one thing away from this blog today:  Pizza tastes better when it is cut like a pie.

There’s another quirk that’s best summed up with these three words:  Lost in translation.  Yes I know that was the title of a hit movie in recent years.  But I’m not talking about movies.  I’m talking about the goofiness of my brain.  They say that when you turn a shark over on his back he goes into something of a coma.  I have that same response to anyone with an accent.  You are probably thinking I am making something simple significant to entertain you today.  That’s not true.  If you want to see me become catatonic, try to get me to order in an ethnic restaurant.  It won’t happen.  And it goes even further.  I want to travel to see ancient places around the world before I die.  I just have one caveat.  The native tongues of the places I visit have to be English.  It’s miraculous that I can even live today in the south as there are few accents harder to understand than hillbilly slang.  I truly am lost in translation.  

The story is told of an old west legend by the name of Wild Bill Hickok.  He was famous for a lot of things.  He lived hard and died even harder.  It was said that he would never sit with his back to the room or a door.  He had to sit where he could see everything.  He only made an exception once in his life.  And that was when the bullet entered the back of his head.  He didn’t make that mistake, or any other for that matter, again.  It’s one of my oddest quirks.  I’ve been laughed at and questioned more about this personality trait than any other.  I cannot sit with my back to people or my back to a door.  If you don’t believe me, invite me out to lunch and see.

I’ve tried to be lighthearted as I’ve shared today something that is so life altering to me.  Truthfully, it’s been an exhausting experience living my life knowing that people don’t value my quirks.  It’s heartbreaking to learn, time after time, that people don’t want to be in my life, or can’t love me because of the beautiful madness that makes me, “me.” 

I cannot begin to number for you today the passionate and tear-filled prayers I’ve prayed in my lifetime as I have cried out to God to change me and make me like everyone else.  I’ve begged God to make me normal so people would like me, and maybe even love me.  I spent much of my life hoping to finally fit into that square hole.  But God has chosen to ignore my pleas.  I’m still quirky.  I’m still odd.  I’m still on the outside looking in.

Do you want to know something?  There are many times I want to give up.  There are days when I would give anything to trade different for normal.  And there are even days that I wouldn’t change a thing.  Sometimes it seems hopeless.  Sometimes it seems exciting.  Some days I’m liked and maybe even loved.  There have been days when I was celebrated and there certainly were days that I was criticized.  

As I launch into the uncharted waters of my future, I want to make a choice to live every day with the reminder of these famous words:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. 

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. 

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”