Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Local realtor Beverly Carter went out to rural Scott, Arkansas late Thursday afternoon to show a house to a man who claimed to be interested in paying cash for it.  

She never came back.  

3 hours after the 5:30 appointment her husband went out to the house.  The door was open.  Her car was in the driveway.  Her purse was in the car.  

The Pulaski County Sheriff's office is coordinating the search for the woman.  It is asking property owners to search their land for clues.  Volunteers are assisting in this effort. So far as of this writing she has not been found.

Little Rock really is a small town.  And everybody tends to know everybody. While I don't know Beverly Carter, it turns out I know one of her friends.  They were supposed to have had lunch last Friday but cancelled. They were supposed to get together tomorrow.  

"This is still very unreal to me," said the text message.  

"Of course it is," I replied. "How can you possibly put your arms around this?  There are no words."

That's because there is no frame of reference for something like this.  Bad things happen.  We all know that.  And while my friend would have been shocked and grief stricken at the news that Beverly had been in a car accident or had sustained a fatal heart attack, still there is a frame of reference for that kind of bad news.  

Not for this, boy.  Your wife goes out to show a house, something she does every day the Lord sends.  Only this time she doesn't come back.  You make plans to get together with your girlfriend.  Except she vanishes from Planet Earth.  This is not the way things are supposed to happen.  

Of course, foul play, as they say, is suspected.  My friend asked me if I thought that law enforcement would get to the bottom of this.  I told her that I thought that they would.

First of all, assuming that we talking about an abduction here, abduction is a very low percentage kind of crime.  Because you either have to keep the victim with you or get rid of them.  Either option carries with it a high risk of getting caught.  

I told her that law enforcement will scour the cell phones of both her and her husband as well as any computer she used for clues about the events leading up to that trip out to Scott.  The local realtors will probably put up an award for information.  Guys on the local sex-offender registry will get a visit.  

Somebody always knows something.  Secrets never stay secrets.  It is safe to assume that we are not exactly dealing with a mastermind here.  And I'm betting that somewhere along the line, he made a mistake.  

Whether they can connect the dots quickly enough to rescue this poor woman is another thing altogether.  My friend acknowledges this.  

"I'm not expecting a good outcome," she said. " I couldn't sleep last night thinking of my friend alone out in the weeds somewhere."

Which is easily the saddest thing I have read in a very long time.  

Certainly we hope for the safe return of Beverly Carter to her family and friends. But experience dictates a more somber assessment of this prospect as days succeed to days.

But there is no place to find perspective in any of this for my grieving friend.

And there are no words.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I spent much of last Friday with the good folks of the Nuclear Medicine department at Baptist Health Medical Center.  Earlier in the month I went to a rheumatologist to try to figure out the weird arthritis stuff that pops up in my hand occasionally.  In the process, they extracted a gallon of blood from both arms.  

The blood work indicated a possible problem with my parathyroid glands, which were 4-I think- examples of God's handiwork unknown to me until a week or so ago. I asked my nurse practitioner brother about this.  He basically shrugged and went "Eh."  I asked my surgeon neighbor the same thing.  His response was equally helpful.  I will remember this the next time either asks me for free legal advice. And so off I went to Baptist to get an MRI done on my parathyroid and thyroid glands.  

People really are good at times like this.  I received many text messages from friends wishing me well and asking me if I were OK.  I was also privileged to receive a running score of the San Francisco Giants game for most of the afternoon.  All of this  helped take my mind off of the lady across from me in the sardine can of a waiting room having an animated discussion on her cell phone with who could have only been her ex-husband.  Later another woman could be easily overheard telling somebody on the other end of the line all about her son's latest arrest.  I found the latter to be especially rude as it greatly interfered with my enjoyment of watching Roger Goodell try to talk his way out of it on the monitor in there.

Eventually, a young technician appeared and called my name.  Never was I so happy to see a white coat in my life.

He stepped into the mud right off the bat however as he led me down the hall to the machine that would record images of my innards.  

"You're having the parathyroid removed right?" he asked.

"Not that I am aware of, Son," I replied. "You know something I don't know?"

His face turned crimson.  

"No Sir," he stammered. "No. No. No."

It got better after that shaky opening drive of the tee.  

He put me into the tube up to my shoulders.  He put a marker on the right side of my throat.  And the machine started humming.  

"Picture #1 is starting," his voice said from somewhere.  

"I'm guessing there's lots of volts running through this thing," I said.

"Ohhhhhhhh yeah."

I've had about 7 MRIs I guess.  Mostly for athletic injuries. There's really not much to do except lay there.  And think.  

I thought about a question a friend asked via text while I was trying to ignore the witless cacophony back in the waiting room.  

"Are you nervous?" the text said.

"I don't do nervous," I replied.  

It's not that I'm particularly brave.  It's just I know lots of people that have it worse off than me whatever this turns out to be.  If it turns out to be anything.  

I know a man with leukemia at M.D. Anderson in Houston.  I know a woman with serious breast cancer.  I know a man in Louisiana who was told he's not long for this world.  I know a local man who is going to have part of his pancreas removed at Mayo next month.  I know a man who is slowly going blind from an untreatable condition.  I know a couple of relatively young guys who have had strokes.

Me?  I got nothin'. There ain't nothin' wrong with me.

The disembodied voice outside the tube told me that he saw on the chart that I was a lawyer.  He asked me what kind of law I practiced.

"Bankruptcy mostly," I said.  "Commercial litigation.  Money and property stuff."

"I guess you were busy around 2008," he said. 

That was when the financial system went kablooey! all over the world. Gentle Reader may recall this.  

"Indeed I was," I replied.

"My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans," he said.

Good thing the machine covered my face.  That way the technician couldn't see me roll my eyes.

"Dave says that you should only finance the purchase of your home.  Because everything else depreciates."


"I'm sorry?"

"Well," so began my withering cross-examination from deep within the tube.  "That means Dave got it all wrong in 2008 doesn't it? Because real estate values went through the floor all over the world didn't they?"


"I guess you're right," he said. "Never thought about it that way."

" There you go. How much longer, Buddy?"

"We're about done."  

And a few minutes later I was back out in the sunshine.  

I'm scheduled to see Dr. Chi's nurse practitioner in late October.  I guess they will call me before then if there's anything wrong.  I probably won't give it a second thought until somebody gives me a reason to.  That's kind of the way I roll anyway.  

But it's also because I know so many people that have really serious stuff wrong with them. They are far worthier of the thoughts and prayers of my well-meaning friends than am I.  

But I really do hope that the MRI was able to somehow capture me rolling my eyes when the young man mentioned his appreciation of Dave Ramsey.  

I don't ask for much.  Really I don't.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

By the time you read this I will have attended my 40th high school reunion.  I have avoided most class reunions at the various institutes of learning I have graced after the 20th.  This is because they tend to be rather dreary affairs at their best.  That and I am pretty much in contact with those classmates who I am close to on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If I am not in contact with somebody (and vice-versa) there is probably a reason for that.  And attending a reunion is not likely to change that.  

Truth of the matter is that I really don't have much interest in attending tonight's gala. (You may safely deduce that I am writing this on the Saturday before) Off the top of my head, I have remained in contact with maybe 6 people with whom I attended high school.  The Reunion Committee (God love them) thought I might help them find people that were eluding contact.  I don't know why they thought that.  I didn't remember 2/3 of the people on the list.  And I mistakenly identified one as dead.  Which they unfortunately ran with much to his considerable surprise which he quickly communicated from here on this Vale of Tears where he is still in residence.

Sure it will be a nice event.  The women on the Committee have worked really hard.  It will be good to see folks I haven't seen in eons.  It will be a beautiful Autumn night at a great venue.

But just for a little bit I would fake a car wreck or something to avoid this.  So why am I doing this?  After all, as someone pointed out the other day, I am not the sort of man that does things I don't want to do even though I concede that I'm not exactly charging a machine gun nest here. 

Here's why.  When Mother died I was set upon by a bunch of women from my high school class.  Some came from far away to be at the visitation.  Some I had not seen in years.  But it was like somebody sounded a fire alarm somewhere.  And these women came out of the blue because they loved me.  

I didn't even know.  

Fast forward 4 years to last Wednesday.  

It might alarm you to know that I am a mentor at the law school.  The Dean in charge of the program gave my name to a young first year student who foolishly thought I would be good for her primarily on the basis of stuff I had written that she found floating around the Internet when she googled me.  

She can't help it that she is not yet quite capable of discernment.  

I met her for lunch last Wednesday.  Nice kid.  Really smart. So purposeful and earnest.  She rattled off questions she had for me from the bullet list installed in her head. Boom, boom, boom.  It was kinda funny.  Part of my grilling came from her desire to find out why my career path went the way it did which was fine.  Besides the public record is the public record.  And part of it was because she is a woman.  It has been my experience that many women have a genuine interest in learning about a new friend's life and family on the front end whereas most guys would prefer to learn such details by what passes for osmosis. I suspect that so it is with my new protege.  

"How old are you anyway?" I asked.

"Guess my age," she replied.

"I'm not very good at this sort of thing in general," I said. "And I'm never around young women any more, unless they are like, 15 or something."

"Oh c'mon," she said.  "Throw out a number."

How old was I when I entered law school?  I couldn't remember.  Honestly.


She points her thumb to the ceiling and jacks it up.  Higher.


"24," she said." I had to do an internship after college to get my RDN. So I'm a year behind." 

Good God.  A time table.  She's way more focused than I was.  But then again, New Orleans will impart focus issues to a young man. Point for me.

"I guess I was 24 once," I said.  

The fact that I am going to a high school reunion is proof that I was 17 once en route to being where I am now where ever this is.  And now I've got a young law student in my charge. It all pretty surreal.  

She and I will be just fine.  She thinks I'm funny.  Really smart women tend to appreciate funny.  Hopefully this can overcome my lack of technical expertise in the law.  

Speaking of women, I am going to go do this thing tonight mostly because those women that showed up out of the blue a few years ago want me there. And to acknowledge a kindness that is beyond my capacity to ever fully repay.

The fact that Grand Funk Railroad will be playing in the background is grossly unfair.  But I will get through it.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I made a cameo appearance at church last Friday night.  One can deduce that one's attendance is irregular when the pastor greets you with "What are you doing here?"

I am going to assume that he was referring to my showing up on Friday rather than the occasional Sunday.  

I don't know.  I was interested in the sermon topic.  And the finals of the US Open will be on Sunday.  So there I was.  For whatever reason.

Anyway, Rev. Skarda's sermon series for the next fortnight or so will be on "When Christians Get It Wrong." Or what I would just refer to as Bad Theology. Unfortunately Bad Theology, being easy to grasp and conveniently malleable to fit most prejudices pervades American junk culture.  

Rev. Skarda led off Friday night on one of my personal favorites " Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." I have written about this before.  It is right up there with other such foolishness as "God Never Puts More On You Than You can Stand (nobody ever says withstand) and other similar gems.  I haven't looked ahead to see what all is going to be discussed.  But I bet that God smiting you with a tornado really being within your tolerance level as He, in His infinite mercy, would never lay on you more than you can stand, or withstand if you prefer, will be on the list. 

My main personal problem with hating sin but loving the sinner, at least up until last Friday night, is that this notion is never applied to any sins other than those of the sexual variety, for those who are predisposed to traffic in condemnation of such matters. More specifically it usually confined to gay folks.  

Having said that I do indeed believe that people involved in prison ministries "love the sinner."  They would have to.  So I give them a pass from this libel as they are getting their hands dirty doing the work of the Lord with people you and I would rather not deal with. 

But you never hear "I hate the armed robbery but I love the perpetrator." Why not? Sin is sin, right?  As for me, I could give two hoots in hell about what consenting adults do behind the privacy of a closed door.  And I can damn sure come closer to loving that particular "sinner" than the asshole that sticks a gun in my face.

Weak vessel for God that I am, I cannot imagine that I could bring myself to love anybody that assaults me.  And guess what? I bet that most of the smug adherents to HSLS wouldn't either.  That's where the hypocrisy comes in.  All of us are sexual beings, but not all of us are likely to be victims of violent crime, to use my most grotesque example.  Insert your own if you like.  Let me know how you really feel about embezzlers.  It is safe to believe in this notion because it is an abstraction for the most part.

Except that it's not.  Sermons can be like baseball.  And I'm not referring to the fact that both can be long and drawn out.  No.  Just when you think you've seen, or heard it all, something new pops up.  Here's where Rev. Skarda comes in. He led off with the fact that nowhere in the Bible is this notion mentioned. OK. That much I knew.

He then pointed out something out that I had never considered.  When you say that you "hate the sin but love the sinner" you are setting yourself apart.  You are making yourself superior. This is the sin of pride which even pedantic gasbag C.S. Lewis held was the worst of all sins.  Because narcissism is in the same Area Code.  And narcissism is both lethal and abundant in society.  By way of example, as I used to say, not all narcissists are batterers.  But all batterers are narcissists.  I give you the recent news out of the NFL if you need a recent example of the breadth of the issue.

Also, as Rev. Skarda pointed out, Jesus ate with the the tax collectors and the prostitutes, much to the horror of the scribes and pharisees.  And probably to the horror of some of the tax collectors and working girls come to think of it.  (I added that last part.) He didn't announce he was going to do it.  He just humbled Himself to do it.  And I like to think that He would break bread today with the sinners that are the objects of such prideful "love." 

So what's wrong with "hating the sin and loving the sinner?" 

It's narcissistic. It's typically selectively (in my experience) invoked in service of prejudice.  And it's impractical.  Apart from all that it is right up there with the Doctrine of the Trinity as far as soundness goes.  

Sermons are like baseball.  Every now and again something pops up that you've never seen or heard before. That happened Friday night.