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Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

My Unexpected Diagnosis

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

The first time was during Christmas break. I was watching Gangs of New York with my younger cousin, who’s far from the gringo gang banging type, and my father. My heart raced, head flew, and body tingled. After the movie we went to South Crest Hospital and I spent $500 – or, more likely, my Pa Pa comped me – to determine that I was perfectly healthy, but perhaps a bit stress worn. The next day I ignored my parents’ concerns about my health and drove over 500 miles to spend time with my future wife and her sister’s window pressed pregnant belly.

The second time was during yesterday’s holiday party – you read that right, let the holi war commence –  shortly before consuming a mashup of chicken parm and steak tips. I was talking with two of my senior colleagues about the career paths of past employees when my fingers began to tingle, my bottom lip started going numb, and my head went light. I tried to excuse myself from the conversation by explaining my symptoms to my bosses and indirectly inquiring whether I should go to the hospital. They suggested I ingest a combination of charred fare and fresh air. When eating didn’t chase the symptoms away, I called my PCP who ran me through a battery of physical tests, blood work, and a heart cath – all of which I didn’t realize I’ll have to pay for since we’re on a PPO – and found nothing.

I think the doctor wanted to ascribe my symptoms to stress, but since he half-believed my assertion that work and life are going just fine, he said “you have some kind of short-term sensory issue.”

You heard the doctor right: I have Christmas Sensory Disorder*. Since the doctor said nothing could treat it except for time, I’ve designed a prescription of my own.

During this season, please respect my precarious state. Since there is no cure for Christmas Sensory Disorder I’m going to weigh down my torso with an unwashed hoody, reduce the tactile tingling with a bottle of Bulleit and The Art of Fielding, and await the calendar cure.

I’ll see you after the Seacrest stained New Year – by which time my trunk magnet will be designed.

 

* This post is not intended to offend anyone with any other disorder, be it real or farcical. My sole intention is to, perhaps unwisely, plumb the jagged edges of my own neuroses.

I Don’t Think I’ve Ever Met an Unbeliever (& I Don’t Think You Have Either)

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2011 at 3:38 am

Submitted By: Gentry

A dear friend who we’re proud to support in Christian ministry and whom I in no way intent to personally critique in this post included the following quote in his last email update:

“Believers read the Bible, unbelievers read Christians.”  -Preacher at Large Christian Church

Upon first reading I loved this quote so much that I almost tweeted it. As a Christian I have been deeply shaped by the Judeo-Christian scriptures and desperately long to incarnate the beauty, truth, and goodness of the God I encounter there in the midst of an often broken world.

But that word “unbelievers” gave me pause. I’ve heard people who do not follow Christ characterized by this word a million times by Christians, preachers, and theologians. However, until now I haven’t thought about how presumptuous and arrogant the word unbeliever actually sounds.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who could correctly be characterized as an “unbeliever.” I’ve met many who believe in things I do not – such as their ability to channel angels for prophetic purposes, that the Palestinians are an “invented” people group, that human rationality utterly devastates and demythologizes the Christianity, or I’m destined to inherit a tidy planet in the 9th nebula of the Ing Galaxy – but that does not mean that they are unbelievers.

This might be too obvious to type, but other people are not defined by my beliefs. I am. The community that I’m blessed to be a part of is.

Moreover, although many people I love and am privileged to serve beside do not share my core belief in the Trinity, they do believe in the possibility of justice, the transformative power of generosity, capacity of words to provoke, evoke, and invoke,* the unquestionable National League superiority of the St. Louis Cardinals, and so many other things.

These folks are not unbelievers, they are my friends, they are my family, they are those who share parts of my mission, they are my teachers, they are lovers, they are loved.

Would I like for everyone I love to be transformed by the beauty, truth, and goodness of God and share my hope in a Christ who ultimately will make all things new? Of course I would. But I will not disregard their beliefs because they do not completely align with mine and I will not compel them to respond to a call they might choose to ignore.

I read scripture and I long to be shaped by it (except for the genocidal parts and other provisions we can discuss in detail later). I hope that when my friends who don’t believe in Jesus read me, they don’t find that I’ve defined them in opposition to my life or am anything less than grateful for the opportunities we share to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly – with or without God – beside one another.

So that’s my visceral response to the word “unbeliever.” Curious to hear yours.

* To crib the lovely and amazing Courtney Bell.

Fear of Death in the Inner-City and in the Presence of Elephant and Piggie

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality. Before I had children, I never thought about death all that much. Now that two little lives, and one bigger, beautiful, vital one is tied to mine I think about it far more often.

Is this conscious fear of death evidence of a subconscious terror that explains my desperate hope for resurrection? I don’t know. But I’m pondering it, that’s for sure.

In the midst of my pitiful suburban goth phase I’ve stumbled into two books. The first book is called Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago. Our America is a lengthy transcript of an award-winning public radio series that featured two African-American teenagers who live in and among Chicago’s Ida B. Wells housing projects.

Their stories about chemically riven families, murdered five year-olds, and oft-strafed open fields, are heart-breaking and jarring. According to LeAlan, the book’s primary narrator, if you aren’t streetwise by the time you’re ten in the Ida Wells, you’re either dead or soon will be.

As these teenagers tell stories about nonexistent fathers, inexplicable murders, and projects-cum-concentration camps, the subtext of their prose screams: “I want to make it out of here alive.” Fortunately, Wikipedia and Google suggests that both boys survived and, to varying degrees, are thriving as men.

In the midst of reading Our America, I yielded to David Plotz’s cocktail chatter commendation and picked up We Are in a Book! This children’s book by the author of the Knuffle Bunny series,  narrates Elephant and Piggie’s elation at finding themselves in the midst of a plot that is attended to by readers. After Elephant and Piggie find great humor in manipulating the reader, Elephant is terrified when he realizes that his story will end. Piggie slyly navigates Elephant’s fear of mortality by scheming with him to ensure that the reader will read the story again.

Our America ends in the context of utter poverty, urban violence, and the author’s repeated petition: “I hope I survive. I hope I survive. I hope I survive.” We Are in a Book ended in a comfortable suburban living room where a father whose gotten more breaks than not and sometimes – with a certain amount of shame – considers his role as a well-educated generalist a cross, silently thought: “I hope there’s something beyond this life. I hope there’s something beyond this life. I hope there’s something beyond this life.”

God forgive me. Christ guide me through the needle. Spirit help me find the grace to stand behind – or in God’s mercy walk beside – the true heirs of your kingdom.

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