Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Under the Knife

My first basal cell carcinoma was a bleeding mole I discovered about 30 years ago.  I had taken the young people to a beach party during which I reverted to my teen years, finding sets appropriate for body surfing.  But I spent far too much time under the sun.  That night, when my shoulder stung under the assault of the shower's tiny streams, and then bled when I toweled off, I knew I had a problem.  The surprise for me was how much tissue the surgeon removed.  It reminded me of the old days when the grocer would "plug" a watermelon to show how ripe it was.

Since that time I have had a few more relatively minor basal cell's removed.  Now my wife herds me to the dermatologist with regularity.  He sides with her, saying that married men live longer than singles because their wives keep monitoring their health.  So he touches up my face with liquid nitrogen here and there, leaving temporary but painful scars where the potential cancer cells were found.  One of these locations was found on my right ear.  The last time he checked my ear he decided to send me to the surgeon instead.  Though the dermatologist explained what was going to happen, he has a way of making it sound so casual as to be boring.  I was led to believe the greatest problem would be the need to have some reading material.

Well, yesterday I had that appointment with the surgeon.  As I expected he shot me with some numbing fluid (zylocain?) and did a little cutting and scraping.  He left me on the table and went to his lab to analyze the cells removed.  A half hour later he interrupted my reading of Calvin's Institutes to take a second bite of the ear tissue.  (Yes, I actually was reading the Institutes.  I had brought my Kindle with it's whole library available.)  "Ouch, that one hurt!" I reported.  The doctor apologized and gave me another shot of the numb stuff.

During the next half hour pause I switched to a light novel on my Kindle.  I guess I was building a concern that made it more difficult to read heavy theology.  It only increased when he came back for another whack at my ear.  As he took the third snip out of my ear the doctor casually mentioned that I might want him to make a referral to the plastic surgeon to rebuild my ear.  Now I became concerned!  I had visions of my cat, Pernicious, who contracted some sort of tissue rot on her ear that slowly ate away the ear until there was only a stub on one side of her head.  Because of the location of his work I couldn't actually see what he was doing, so my imagination began to run rampant.

By the time it was necessary to make a fourth cut from my ear I was certain that I was hideously deformed.  I could imagine myself with a plastic approximation of a human ear.  I was wondering if the congregation would gasp when I mounted the pulpit to preach this Sunday.  I need to conduct a funeral on Saturday, and I thought about the monster bandage that would no doubt be distracting from what I had to say.

At last he was finished.  His lab work indicated that all the affected tissue had been excised.  Now I was given a mirror, and together with the mirror held by the nurse behind my head I could see both the front and rear view of my hacked ear.  I was quite relieved to find that my imagination had so exaggerated the anticipation, that the half inch of missing flesh seemed minuscule.

It's quite unlikely that I will get any mileage of sympathy from anyone.  The fact is, I will be surprised if anyone even notices.  Well, at least my sweet wife gives me strokes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fossils can be fun

It scares me to think that people expect wisdom from us aged folk with hoary hairs adorning our heads. It's just not true that getting old makes one wiser.  I suppose it may be that when the farmer steps on enough pasture pies he learns how to get to the barn without getting his shoes nasty.  If that is wisdom, then I might admit to a little.  You don't need to touch many hot stoves to learn that is not a good idea.

I must admit it is pleasurable to be treated as a celebrity simply because I am a fossil in some one's trove of ancient history.  Barbara and I were treated like rock stars when we were greeted by a young lady who explained to her middle school son, "This is the lady who taught aunt Mary to play the piano when she was this high."  She added some flattering epithets about us being such sweet people.  How nice it is to be remembered like that.  Often that is due to poor memory, but that's okay with me.

When men address the Presbytery as "Fathers and Brethren" I now realize that I am one of those "Fathers" to whom others look for sagacious remarks.  That's frightening.  If there is any truth to that, then what I have learned is to keep my mouth shut.  People always think I am more intelligent than I am when I keep quiet.  But when I talk too much, they inevitably hear something stupid.  Actually I have learned that in Presbytery meetings it really is true that meetings last too long simply because although everything has been said, not everyone has said it yet.

Children have a little different perspective on age.  I'll never forget the time I explained to a child at the Christian school that we had been back east to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of a church I had served.  He innocently asked me if I had been the first pastor.  They know the truth.  I didn't get wiser, so much as I just got older.

Yes, I have stepped in enough pasture pies to have gained a little knowledge about where not to step.  Along life's way those metaphorical pasture pies leave one older and wiser, but also sorrier.  You know what happened to our first parents when they fell into sin: instead of being holy and happy, they became sinful and miserable.  The catechism embodies great wisdom here, because wisdom that is gained from experience is most often a wisdom after the fact.  Now I know why I shouldn't have done that.

Wouldn't it be great if a few words of hard learned wisdom could be passed on to the young?  If they could just be spared some of that misery that comes with sin by taking heed to what us fossils say.  "Don't lie to avoid trouble.  You will get caught and make it much worse."  "Don't cheat on your school tests because you are only cheating yourself."  "Don't divorce.  You can learn to love each other.  The children will be hurt!"

There is forgiveness to be found in Jesus.  Yes--praise the Lord--that is true.  But it is also true that some sins carry consequences with them that are very painful for you and others, and just because they are forgiven doesn't mean you will avoid that pain.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trick or Treat

Isn't it cute how we teach our tiny children how to extort candy from neighbors by threatening, "Trick or treat"?  Does anyone actually need to teach a perverted human heart (even that of a cute little 6 year old) how to demand treats from others for no virtuous reason whatsoever?

They have been practicing that kind of behavior since they first were able to talk (and even before that).  Give me that toy or I will cry.  I want to play with the remote control or I will pout.  I want to eat my dessert first or I will throw myself to the floor, screaming and kicking my feet.  "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15).  (You need to look up the reference if you want to know the solution to this problem.)

I remember many years of candy extortion, and I enjoyed this criminal behavior far more than I should have.  Back in the day, I can't remember anyone giving us apples with razor blades embedded or candy that was laced with hallucinogens.  But then, what do I know.  My experience formed a very small slice of history.  Now, as a septuagenarian, I am prone to say that society is going down the drain.  But I suppose the older generation has always maintained that posture.

I also remember the last time I said "Trick or treat".  I was a greedy teenager with my friend who was equally greedy.  It was getting a bit late in the evening--too late for the cute little pirates and ballerinas--when we approached that final door.  We roused the lady of the house, who opened the door with something near terror in her eyes.  She didn't have candy in a bowl by the door.  In fact she excused herself to fetch our treat.  When she returned she offered a small bottle of grape juice and a piece of fruit.  Even this thoughtless, selfish teenager was ashamed of the consternation we had caused this trembling old lady.

I can remember when some more genteel members of society tried to change the tradition by encouraging kids to say "Halloween handout" instead of "Trick or treat".  Fat chance they had to push against the flow of this ossified classic.

There were a few years that we joined the entrenched tradition and handed out candy, but we determined to be spiritual about it.  We had ordered a hundred tracts for children, printed for the very occasion.  That only lasted a few years, mainly because the quality of the tract was so distasteful.

Now we unashamedly take the coward's way out.  We usually eat at a restaurant and run errands during the crucial hours, and keep the light off when we return home.  The last thing these kids need is a duffel  bag full of sugary comestibles.  We already have an epidemic of childhood obesity.  If it doesn't bloat their bellies, it is sure to rot their teeth.

What a lousy tradition our culture has developed to dominate Reformation Day!