Cecil Health Update 4/5

04.08.13 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[4]

Prayer4

Medical update:  Waiting.  I'm usually pretty good with waiting...in traffic, at the dentist's office, when I'm on hold waiting for a "helpful customer service representative".  Well, if I was pretty good at waiting when I came in the hospital I think I'm going for a master's degree in it now.  Almost weekly there have been new challenges, which I've shared here, most recently the kidney function.  Those tests, once again, came back fine.  This week a new twist - my PRA level.  What's a PRA?  Panel Reactive Antibodies; a calculation of the likelihood that your body will accept or reject a donor organ.   

Simply put, a PRA of <10 is good, which is what mine was last fall.  They don't do the test at regularly scheduled intervals so when they did one earlier this week and the initial results indicated mine had risen to 40 the doctors became very concerned.  This is a criteria no one had talked about; the focus has been on the heart, the kidneys, pulmonary pressure, creatine levels, etc.  Early next week they'll have results of a re-test to see if the 40 was a false positive.  If so, we move forward.  If it's an accurate number the door to transplant pretty much closes. 

So, the questions - what causes an elevated PRA in some people?  How do we know the 10 from the initial test was accurate?  Why wasn't testing done more frequently, especially if this measure alone could be a dealbreaker?  And if mine was 10 in October what would account for a 400% increase, while I've been in the hospital?  The most common reasons for a high PRA are a previous transplant of some sort - no; blood transfusions - no; and pregnancy - ahhh, no.  So again we wait.  I'm starting to feel like a broken record (if you're under 35 have someone explain that to you) but if you would focus your prayers on the outcome of the re-test that seems to be where they would be most beneficial. 

I don't know why but we seem to be encountering a lot of complications and obstacles on this journey.  I'm still committed to transplant; God hasn't spoken to me otherwise.  And we can endure the challenges with God's strength and your prayers.  So once again, thank you.  I really don't know what else to say but thank you.  I'll keep you posted.

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A Thought

One characteristic of the liturgical church I’ve always appreciated is the place it reserves for mystery as a part of worship.  As a kid growing up the historical tradition, ceremonial pageantry and music of liturgical worship made a huge impact.  It felt different to walk into church than it did to go into a store or someone’s home or a restaurant.  You knew something unique occurred there even if you couldn’t fully describe it.  The altar, the vestments, the stained glass, the chalice all reflected praise to an almighty God.  They also inspired it.  The focus on scripture in the liturgy emphasized God’s work throughout history.  The common Cup was symbolic of unity in following Christ.  The emphasis on seasons like Advent and Lent encouraged you to pursue holy living in a more focused manner.  The changing color of the vestments and hangings reflected the changes in the church calendar.   All these things together set church and worship aside as something very different from the rest of life.  Rather than trying to conform worship to the cultural norms of the day, liturgical worship stood apart as an opportunity to delve into the mysteries of a Holy God.     

Whether we acknowledge it or not, mystery permeates our faith.  We can’t consider God without taking mystery into account as part of his nature.  Take creation - there are parts of that story – God’s story – that will always remain inexplicable.  Examine the miracles that God performed in the Old and New Testaments; these were not random incidents or cosmic sleight of hand, they were divine intersections of time and space where God’s will superseded the laws of nature he himself put in place.  The Eucharist (Christ’s body and blood).  Grace.  Resurrection.  Healing.  Even a baby’s smile or the songs birds sing each spring; these are mysteries we live alongside every day.  

Sadly, we live in an era that is unacquainted with mystery.  We dismiss things we don’t understand as irrelevant or unimportant.  At the same time we are obsessed with knowing everything.  We’ve become conditioned to ask “why?”  We’re bothered when there aren’t easy answers.  If we can’t conceive something in our own minds we tend to be skeptical of its veracity.  And like a fat kid in a candy shop, we consume trivial information, texts and Facebook postings – the empty calories of modern living – as though they were the substance of life.    

In today’s world, cultural mores and technology blend together as never before.  Social media is the embodiment of that merger.  But is technology a tool to help us explore our deeper selves?  When we’re ‘on the grid’ 24/7 is there any place left for contemplation and reflection; for introspection and observation?  Does technology foster the importance of waiting or the need for silence?  All of these are characteristics of our nature that must be nurtured because they’re characteristics of God’s nature as well.

We long ago exceeded our ability to internalize and use the information we consume in a meaningful way.  Before our appetite is satiated, before we’ve processed what we’ve taken in, we’re reaching for more.  People debate whether technology is inherently moral or amoral (I tend to think the former); either way, it has an addictive quality that seduces us with its capabilities and features.  So while we may be living in the most technologically advanced era mankind has ever known, the purposes we use it for are increasingly vapid -  telling our ‘friends’ where we had lunch, oddball rants and pictures of our kids (Yes, your children are cute but this is your fifth post today.  Enough.)  Even at its most beneficial, technology does very little to help us develop the cognitive, ethical and spiritual filters necessary to make sense of the world in which we live.

Another concern is that our culture desensitizes us to mystery.  The media and technology push us to move forward ever faster.  We are programmed to respond to complex questions with simplistic answers rather than ponder their mystery. 

This affects the church as well; from preaching to publishing to music, the theology-lite behind much of what we label ‘Christian’ teaches a kind of spiritual shorthand with easy answers to life’s most probing questions.  There are some who stand behind the pulpit (or sit on a stool) and preach the easy stuff, the ‘love side’ of the God story deemphasizing the hard truths of the gospel.  I’m not suggesting we make it overly complicated (at least where it’s not) or preach as though we were sitting in a masters of theology class in a divinity school.  Not at all.  But if we fail to understand mystery’s purpose in the grand scheme of our experience with God we risk losing an important opportunity to know him in a deeper, more meaningful way.  We need to let mystery be mystery.  It isn’t quantifiable.  It doesn’t fit in a 3-point sermon outline.  It will not be revealed in a 140-character tweet.  Mystery simply is. 

A Prayer: 

Father, you alone can satisfy the longing of our souls.  You desire to make yourself known to us but too often we fail to recognize that which you offer because of our sin – of pride, of arrogance and of self-sufficiency.   

Forgive us for the sin of presumption, for thinking we can define you according to our understanding.  You are a good and holy God, known and unknown, revealed and unsearchable.  You are the Alpha and the Omega; the God who does all things well.    

Lord, free us from our preoccupation to know things.  Open our hearts and minds to know you.  Prompt us to be conscious of mystery; teach us to live in awe of who you are.

God of our past and God of all that is to come, we ask that your mercy and grace would fill our lives and overflow to those around us.  We commit ourselves to you once again.  Help us to see that you are more – more than our imagination can conceive, more than our greatest understanding, hopes or dreams.  We ask these things by faith, believing, in the strong name of your son Jesus.  Amen.

From Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 3:14-19)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

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Comments

Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 04.08.13 Karen Grisanti commented

Amen. You could not have said it better. Remember that GOD DID NOT BRING YOU THIS FAR TO LEAVE YOU! Maybe His plan is to cause those doctors who KNOW EVERYTHING to stop and WONDER or better be IN AWE of His HEALING.

on 04.08.13 Marcia commented

Praying for you, Cecil, that God will miraculously bring your PRA back below 10. Jehovah Jirah, your provider, Jehovah Rapha your healer is in the house! (and your hospital room ;-) )

on 04.08.13 Beth commented

Will be praying for a positive outcome of you re-test. All we can know is God is in control. Thank you so much for your message, prayer and scripture verse. You still continue to bless others through it all!

on 04.08.13 Roberta O'Brien commented

As Beth said you still continue to bless others through it all. I will continue to pray for you and your family.

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