Tag Archive: Finding Faith

Following a Thursday afternoon meeting, an attempt to stand proved futile as my legs refused to cooperate. The simple act of rising from a chair seemed impossible, as every muscle in my lower body had become inexplicably rigid. I sat in the room as everyone signed off Microsoft Teams and pretended to fiddle with my phone.

Living with multiple myeloma presents many challenges that are not immediately visible to the naked eye. Living with Multiple Myeloma means grappling with the uncertainty of how the disease will manifest itself. One of the less-discussed consequences of this condition is the potential impairment of muscle function. These symptoms can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life, from sudden weakness and stiffness to decreased range of motion.

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A week prior to Christmas I met my counselor. Personally, I believe she thinks I’m nuts.

As you may know, I skipped four of five stages of death. These stages included, denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Maybe I experienced each stage but I experienced them like Tortilla Flat in Arizona, population 6. It’s the sort of town where one presses the accelerator to ensure, that in the unlikely event of mechanical failure, there’s enough speed to coast to the other end.

Thus, her question, “Why haven’t you asked ‘why me?

Having a top secret clearance, I could say, “Classified.” Or better yet, “Because I’m fabulous.” Then again, maybe God didn’t intentionally send me a tumor. “Well, I personally don’t think it (tumor) was intended for me. The package was postmarked, ‘To whom it may concern.’” Truthfully, I have no answer. I just remember that since 2014, my physical symptoms seemed to be accelerating.

On a weird, yet personal note, there were times I reverse-engineered the ‘why-me‘ question.

My first experience with reverse engineering came during a football game where the only player in the history of the NFL died on field. Charles Frederick “Chuck” Hughes. Hughes was sent into the game against the Chicago Bears as an injury replacement. He made one catch for 32 yards and a first down. Three plays later, he was used as a decoy in a play. After the unsuccessful play, he was running towards the huddle with 1:02 left on the clock when he collapsed, grabbing his chest. Hughes was taken away by ambulance and the game continued. At age 11 I questioned God, “Why did I live and he didn’t? What made me so special and not him?”

Even today, as doctors search my colon for another tumor, someone will press me for an ‘why me‘ answer. I don’t have one. Sometimes, I ask the same question. For instance, ESPN college football reporter Ed Aschoff died of pneumonia at 34. My response? ‘Why him, not me?” And then there’s 13-year-old Broadway star Laurel Griggs.’ Ms. Griggs suffered from obstructive lung disease and died after a massive asthma attack. My response? ‘Why her, not me?

Throughout all my questions, God has remained stoically silent. Sometimes, there are weird back and forth that can be both funny and maddening.

“Trust me.”

“What? Seriously?”

“Yes. Trust Me.”

“F*** me.”

“I don’t do that.”

So, yeah, the answer is there, but it’s not quite as detailed as preferred.

As a former rescue man, I know all of us have terrible things happen and it’s just a matter of when such a thing knock’s the door. Otherwise, in spite of all the awful things I’ve done in my life, I’ve been fairly lucky.

I have had many wonderful times in my life. I’ve traveled extensively, scavenged beaches and experienced many wonderful things. “Why me? Not Others?” Don’t know. I am clueless. I have witnessed the deepest levels of human caring. “Why me? And, why can’t others?” Hard to say. As such, each experience humbles me and compels me to become better. I experienced great love and suffered deeply from the loss. “Why did I suffer so greatly?” Who knows. Yet, through it all, God has always … always … always made time for me. And I presume He does the same for you.

Some claim I’m hedging bets, working both sides. True, my walk with God appears perplexing: Grew up Catholic, moved to agnostic, debated atheism, became Buddhist, and Spiritual. I still claim God is an awesome friend, And as my friend, I’m fairly positive He shook His head in disbelief of my misadventures. Yet who among us hasn’t given God the leftovers of both heart and priority? Then at the end of life, look back and regret the many missed opportunities. If you’re such a person, then I’m walking with you.

When my favorite singer, Harry Chapin, died in 1981, his widow reported that Harry’s music supported 17 relatives, 14 associations, seven foundations and 82 charities. Harry wasn’t interested in saving money. He always said, ‘Money is for people,’ so he gave it away‘ (to fight hunger). Even though Chapin questioned God in life, he lived a Christ-like life. My response. ‘Why him, not me?

So, yes. I have regrets. “Why me? But not unlike others.

However . . . In the end, I’m fairly lucky. I have no clue why, but I accept the time remaining. In the end, I just have to trust.

And He whispers, “Yes. Trust Me.”

Finding Utopia

Utopia-in-Four-MovemensFed up with government control of the U.S., not believing in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church” and saying their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer, the Gastonguay family “decided to take a leap of faith to see where God leads us.”

The Gastonguays took their two children and father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati … They never made it.

Kiribati is a strange place to set sail. Kiribati is one of the world’s poorest countries and one of the least developed countries in the world. It has few natural resources. The soil is thin and calcareous. It has a low water-holding capacity and low organic matter and nutrient content. Most health problems are related to consumption of semi-raw seafood, limited amount of food storage facilities, and bacterial contamination of fresh water supplies. It is one of the least suitable places for agriculture in the world.

Weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio.

All of us should reread the tale of Jonah’s voyage of fleeing from, and then finding alignment with God’s will. This is a common theme to the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Spiritual transformation of the Soul is paralleled in the death and rebirth mysteries of numerous ancient religions.

There are lessons for us all in the Gastonguays story.

First, as police prefect Jose Luis Lopez eloquently stated, “They were looking for a kind of adventure; they wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn’t have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately.”

Secondly, the Bible is a book use to enhance one’s faith. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover several times. Nowhere does God actually detail instructions for sailing a boat 5,005 miles (4,346 nautical miles) while living off the sea.

Third, from my limited Buddhist perspective, when you become miserable you divert your attention to something else. If something undesirable has happened in life, you become agitated. You cannot bear this misery and want to run away from it. You may go to a cinema or a theater, or you may indulge in other sensual entertainments. You may go out drinking, and so on. All this is running away from misery. Escape is no solution to the problem-indeed the misery is multiplying.

And fourth, the key to all spiritual solutions resides within. Like many of us today, the Gastonguays seemed severally out of alignment with God’s will. The Gastonguays lost sight of their spiritual goal. Instead of facing their own spiritual crisis, they ran from the problem.

Like Jonah, one can’t run from a spiritual crisis. Taking a cue from the late Harry Chapin, “… you can travel on ten thousand miles and still say where you are.” Endangering children and other family members to solve your own personal crisis is not an act of faith. Seek a spiritual community or sangha. Spiritual alignment cannot be found on an island, car, watch or boat.

As for the Gastonguay family, latest reports indicate the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”

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