Mike in Alb at Easter 2004
Mike at Work

Back to the Future?

I just finished reading a blog by Keith Oberman of MSNBC. He tells of finding footage from his days with CNN Sports where he managed to interview what would become, twenty-plus years later, the producer of his program on MSNBC. You can find Keith's article here. It is a few paragraphs from the beginning and titled "This couldn't be true, could it?"

That reminded me of two stories of surprise of my own. In 1964 I married Gay Landis Harris, a graduate of the OTHER high school in Boyd County, Kentucky, Paul Blazer High School, located in Ashland, Kentucky. We met for the first time at Kings Daughters Hospital in Ashland where she was working as a Nursing Assistant and I was working as a Laboratory Technician. For me it was literally love at first sight when I saw her. Gradually my charm, intelligence, and humor got her to overlook my lack of handsome features; and this beautiful, intelligent woman actually encouraged me (or so it seemed) to ask her for a date. I did. She say, "YES!" and the rest is history. We married the next year; and we have gone through all the ups and downs most couples who survive forty years of marriage know.

The first surprise was my picking up an old photo of the children's choir at what was then "Second Methodist Church" in Ashland. I saw old friends who were still children in the photo. I spotted two of my three sisters, a friend who is now the Reverend Anita Rayburn, and other tykes who were part of my world in that day. Then suddenly I looked down at one of the persons in the photo again! Could it be? I think it is! Yes! That is Gay Harris in that photo with me when we were about seven and nine years old respectively. We had no memory of meeting one another previously; but there in the photo was the fact---we'd known each other for years! It was a delightful serendipity for both of us.

The second surprise related to one of Gay's close high school friends. Gay knew her as Diana Judd, who "hung out" with Gay and a couple of other friends a lot. Diana was a beautiful, intelligent girl; but she became pregnant senior year; and the subsequent negative publicity of that (in the 1960s) led the parents of Diana's friends to force them to avoid her. She eventually moved away; but Gay did not forget her because of what a wonderful person she had been in high school.

In the mid-1980s my wife and I became fans of the singing duo: The Judds, composed of a woman named "Naomi" Judd and her daughter, Wynona. We both enjoyed their music; and were always impressed about Wynona's mother continued to look so attractive as she was already in her forties at that time. Later on in the 1980s we moved back "home" to Ashland and Gay was hospitalized for a short time. While she was there one of the nurses came into Gay's room and asked her "What do you think about Diana?" She didn't actually know how to respond because, as far as Gay was concerned, she hadn't heard much, if anything about Diana since they had graduated from high school.

It was then that Gay learned that Naomi Judd, of THE Judds was the Diana with whom Gay had shared and played as a teenager. She was already world famous; but Gay knew her only as "Diana," with whom she'd graduated in high school, and with whom she lost contact.

One final note: I believe Naomi (Diana) Judd was a beautiful young woman; but she was no more beautiful than my wife of forty years and who lost her sight three years ago. She doesn't have to deal with my getting older because she can't see it happening. At nearly 59 years of age Gay still has brunette hair, with very few streaks of gray. She's not as thin as Diana/Noami; but she certainly is beautiful in spite of all the difficult events the years of thrust upon her---from chronic illness to betrayal of friends and even church leaders while we were in ministry. She doesn't look like that girl in the children's choir, nor even like the one in the 1964 Paul Blazer High School Annual, where you see photos of both Gay and Diana. She was probably seen as an "also ran" among the good looking girls in the class of 1964 at Paul Blazer; but she has surpassed them all since that time -- doing some modeling in the 1970s and continuing to look very young even into her 40's. Even today I look at her; and I cannot see an aging woman who is married to an aging man. I see one who has matured into someone even more beautiful -- a woman after God's own heart.

I among all men am most blessed.


What is faith in the midst of change?

We are in the midst of emotional/financial/spiritual turmoil because of our realization that we must move toward or to Louisvillle by the end of June. Why?

  1. We have not found a place to live.
  2. We have no current funds for the move, the deposit, or the first month's rent.
  3. We also need to purchase our regular quarterly medications, which will cost over $1,000, during the time period of this other major change in our lives.

So what is faith in the midst of all of these changes?
  • Is it doing nothing but pray in the hopes that God will somehow act supernaturally to "save the day" for us?
  • Is it asking friends and family for their prayers, in hopes that more people praying will evoke a better response from God?
  • Is it apartment hunting with the hopes that the money might come by the time it is needed?
  • Is it asking for the help of others, churches, even the government?
  • Is it a mixture of the above?
  • Is it something else?

I am praying, planning (within the scope of little scientific basis for those plans), asking, and waiting. Faith, it is said, is the substance of that for which we hope. When we realize it we have it; and it isn't based on faith, but "reality." When we hope for it, pray for it, work for it, ask for it, even beg for it, we do so in faith HOPING for a good resolution, even if it isn't exactly the solution we sought.

Faith isn't the absence of doubt, or the absence of fear, or any of the other types of things folk would tend to call it. Faith is simply going on into the unknown with the knowledge that, in the end, the same God who loved us before we were born will protect us when we are old. Faith is acting as though the thing for which we hope is a "done deal," that we know somehow what we need will be given to us.

So we don't know how it will all end; but we know we're in the hands of God.



The Execution of Terri Schiavo

revjmike's blog
OK. I admit it. I only used that title to have a better chance of getting someone's attention. I don't believe what happened to Terri Schiavo was the same thing as an execution. I do not, however, consider it to have been accidental or passive.

Terri Schiavo was as alive as you are; but she was allowed to starve to death because she was unable to feed herself, or even to swallow. If she were in the Commonwealth of Kentucky the feeding tube would still be inserted unless she has a living will that stated what her "husband" said were her wishes. In other words, Kentucky's law says you are assumed to want to stay alive unless there is proof you wanted it otherwise. Not so in Florida, however! This, in itself, is part of what makes this situation interesting and difficult. In Oregon Michael Schiavo could probably have even persuaded a doctor to prescribe something that would have "finished her off" in a very short period of time since they have an "assisted suicide" law in that state.

When did we decide that life is not worth living unless it meets some special criterion or criteria? Do I deserve to live if I am blind, deaf, or mute? Do I deserve to live if my IQ is below 100, below 75, below 50, below 25? What about physical disabilities? Should the authorities say I shouldn't be fed if I am awake, talking, and breathing, but cannot move from one place to another without help, nor eat on my own, as in the case of Christopher Reeve?

The fact is that Terri Schiavo was alive. She may or may not have been able to understand or even perceive the world around her. The stories surrounding her tend to lean toward her being totally unable to determine what was going on in the world surrounding her, more or less like a sponge in the ocean. Yet does that mean it wasn't a life? Does it mean she should be allowed to starve to death? Does it mean the state should be involved in this determination of starvation?

What if she really did know what was happening in the world around her, but just couldn't react to it "normally" so that others could determine she was actually cognizant? Would that make her less or more alive than someone who was totally unaware of that world? Would her life be less or more valuable if her mind were working, but trapped in a body that would not allow her to make that fact known to those around her?

You see, I am one who knows that death is simply a part of the process of what we call "life." I heard someone say on the radio this morning that they hoped to keep Terri from dieing. How? Were they going to freeze her until some method for restoring brain cells was developed; and even then how would they keep her from coming to terms with death at some point in time? ALL DIE! Everyone ends up as dust. There is no escaping this finality in these clay shells in which we are housed.

We in the "first" world tend to think of medical help as a greater source than it really is. It can PROLONG life, perhaps; but it cannot keep us alive forever. That is not part of the way the world works.

So Terri Schiavo is dead at the hands of those who refused to let her be fed. It seems to me this is not what is meant by using artifical means to keep someone alive. Some folk who have lost their esophgases due to cancer or burns use tubes just like Terri's to feed themselves. The fact that she was fed in this manner did not mean her life was of less meaning than someone who could feed themselves.

We have become a culture of youth where those who aren't productive are presumed to be of less value than those who are more productive. We are not generally angry about abortion nor euthanasia. We are unwilling to take the action necessary to keep mass starvation from occuring in some parts of the world because of the effect it would have upon our own economic status.

I grieve Terri Schiavo though I never knew her because she represents a life that was considered worthless. Thus the Tutsis or American slaves were considered in various situations. This is the attitude of the Arab highjackers who flew into the World Trade Center about the value of their own lives and the lives of the thousands of people occupying those towers.

Life is always a gift to be accepted. What we make of it depends on us, upon God, and upon those around us. Terri's parents were giving her a better life than she otherwise would have enjoyed. May we accept our situations in life as gifts from God to be enjoyed or even tolerated, but always knowing that in life or in death we belong to God, to be loved by God, and to be used by God.



He Is Risen; but I am tired!

revjmike's blog

I was born two days after Christmas in 1944. Even though I cannot remember it, I am sure I was in my mother's arms in public worship at Easter in 1945. In fact, I was probably in worship at what is now Christ United Methodist Church in Ashland, Kentucky, the church we attended until I reached high school age.

I was born in Florida at an Army Air Corps Hospital near Sebring. At the age of three months my mother and I traveled by train to my parents' hometown of Ashland while he continued to serve in the Air Corps. Since I have no memory of missing Easter worship for the rest of my 60+ years, I feel certain the two of us, perhaps with my grandparents on the Mansfield side and aunts and uncles as well, were there at "Second Methodist" to celebrate this, the greatest of all Christian Holy Days. I have no doubt that, even as an infant, I could tell there was something special about this day when the crowd overflowed into the balcony and the outer hallway.

The reason I am writing about this is that today, March 27, 2005, I was not in a service of Christian worship. Probably for the first time in my life, and definitely for the first time in my memory, I failed to attend corporate worship on Easter Day. In fact, since my retirement from United Methodist ministry, and my current employment as a Medical Technologist on night shift, I have become a virtual church dropout.

The reasons for this are manifold; but my shift work, coupled with the two hour drive to and from work each day leave me exhausted on Sundays and Mondays, my "real" days off. My wife Gay, who is angry with the United Methodist Church anyway, refuses to go anyway. That makes my decision easier to make; and, to my surprise, I didn't feel guilty about missing worship; but I was disappointed that I wasn't with a local congregation in all the joy of the hope of Resurrection we possess because of what we celebrate this day.

I have no idea what Resurrection is like. I know it isn't what happens to a chrysalis when it becomes a butterfly. I don't believe that our decayed bodies will suddenly become living, physical bodies either. Even if they do, will we be recognized by others? There is evidence that Jesus' resurrected body didn't look like the one he had prior to Resurrection. Just look at the stories in the four Gospels, especially Luke 24 if you want to see what I'm talking about. Yet I do believe there is life beyond the grave in some form; and I believe that hope of Resurrection began on that "third day" long ago when by God's own desires Jesus was Resurrected.

So, since I was not in corporate worship, I am reminding myself, and any others who read this, that "He is not here! He is risen, just as he said."

I also want to say that Jesus' Resurrection means we who believe should be sure that Christ and Christ's message are living in us. The scriptures say, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." In this glorious hope I live out each day. In this glorious hope I celebrate each day's rising from the "deathlike sleep" to another day of life and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May God bless us with many more days of life in this world, or in the world to come.



In search of a home

I have become even more aware in recent days of our need to find affordable housing in the very near future. I pre-paid our rent at our current location through the end of June, 2005. The rent is more than I can afford on my current salary, even if all of our debt were eliminated. I would prefer to purchase a home; but our financial situation makes that unlikely, unless I can find someone who is willing to do a "rent-to-buy" home sale with very little money down. In any case I am realizing we'll have to move again this summer. That isn't the most comforting thing in the world. Before we move we'll need to:
1. Find a place to move.
2. Sell hundreds of items at yard sales and/or give them away to needy folk.
3. Pack what isn't sold.
3. Rent a vehicle to make the move.
4. Recruit folk to help move our possessions, especially the heavy furniture.
5. Reestablish some consistency for my wife, Gay, so she won't stumble around in the new lodging location.
6. Complete moving in by hanging photos, mirrors, etc., which I have avoided here knowing it was a temporary home.

Funny, though, that each of us consistently lives in a temporary home. In my first parish there was a woman in her late 80s who had lived in her current home since she was born. She and her husband had been there for 60 years or so; but she had lived there with her parents as well. Nevertheless, that home was only temporary for her. She eventually left that home for a relativism home, a nursing home, or a heavenly home.

During our 40 years of marriage (as of March 13, 2005), Gay and I have lived in the following places in Kentucky:
Two different apartments in Ashland
A mobile home in Westwood,
A mobile home in Summit
A mobile home in Georgetown
A mobile home in Lexington
A mobile home in Georgetown
A house in Georgetown
A parsonage in Raceland, South Shore, Ludlow, Burkesville, Fairdale, and Dixie.
We have also lived with Gay's brother in Michigan and moved our mobile home there.
We lived in two apartments in Brazil, Indiana.
We lived in a townhouse in Springfield, Illinois.
Prior to our return to Kentucky we lived in Miamitown, Brookville, and Westville (not to be confused with Westerville), Ohio.

It has been awhile since I counted all of them; but I imagine we're looking at approximately 20 moves in 40 years of marriage, perhaps more! That we could have survived that many different locations, houses, apartments, and states is amazing in itself; but that we have thrived in our relationship in spite of all of that is even more amazing. I am blessed with a very loving wife, son, daughter-in-law, and siblings. Our granddaughter is growing and thriving as well.

So we are searching for another place of temporary lodging. It may be a house we "own." It may be a place we rent. It might be a shack by the railroad track. Whatever it is, though, we shall still be in relationship with one another and with God. We'll have God's ultimate protection. We'll know love in all of it.


Continuing Employment

Last night, well actually this morning, the manager of the hematology department in the laboratory called me into her office for a 90-day evaluation. Yes! I have now been working as a Medical Technologist for 90 days. (Of course those 90 days don't include thirteen years of working as a laboratory technician, then Medical Technologist in "another" life, when I was in my teens, twenties, and thirties.

Without getting into the official information about the evaluation let me say I am being "kept" past my probationary time. In another words I am now a regular, fulltime, "permanent" employee. I need to increase my speed, but not at the expense of accuracy, according to that manager; and the person who has done most of my training will continue to train me. We'll be working from 1 AM through 9:30 AM so she will have a little extra time to continue to train me after the bulk of the work is completed.

She also noted that I hadn't missed any work, even during a couple of snow storms when folk who lived only a few miles away didn't go to work; and that I had a good work ethic overall. I already knew that, of course; but it was good to hear it coming from someone else's mouth!

I am very late getting to bed today. I worked on pharmaceutical order checking, then on ordering some vitamins and minerals we take regularly. I also read some e-mail; and I decided it was time to revisit my blog since at least two people seem to be reading it occasionally.

My wife, Gay, had some possibly cancerous skin tissue excised yesterday. The doctor doesn't really believe it is cancer; but, since it is parallel to the last spot where Gay had skin cancer she thought it was best to remove it and have it checked out. We'll know about this in a week or so.

I am starting to wonder if I might have a mild case of pneumonia. I have been coughing for nearly four months now; and suddenly I'm having lower right quadrant back pain when I cough. I'll likely stop at the doctor's office tomorrow for a probably x-ray. (The fact that my younger sister, who never smoked, had lung cancer a few years ago gives me a good enough reason to check this out even if I were not in pain.)

We are still wondering where we'll be living this summer; but buying a home sounds highly unlikely. We'll probably be forced into a small house, perhaps a little closer to Louisville, but not far from Frankfort. Even the next exit (Graefenburg, Kentucky) should have lower rental values than where we currently live, would be closer to Louisville where I work, and still give us rapid access to the things we do in Frankfort, like visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, going to see doctors, and possibly for a hospital visit.




revjmike's blog

I haven't blogged anything for some time; but I thought I should check back in to myself since it appears no one else is reading this.

My work at LabCorp in Louisville is getting more interesting as a regain experience in a field I had mostly abandoned for 25 years or so. The hours (12:30 AM through 9:00 AM) aren't the best in the world, nor is the one-hour drive I make each direction to get there. The income is good, though; and the benefits are better than most places, so I'm staying until I'm really, really, really old!

Speaking of old, I completed my 60th year on earth on December 27th of 2004. The advent of the computer happened during my lifetime as have five major and some minor wars by the USA, including the big one: WW II. Personal computers, the internet, Personal Digital Assistants, and the truly mobile cellular phone weren't even at the "dream state" for most people in 1944.

I am amazed about how good I still feel at 60! I don't know what I expected; but I am just as active and interested at 60 as I was at 50. I don't have quite the recovery speed at 60 I had at 40; but I enjoy life just as much; and I am just as interested in the future as I was at 20! Life is a gift of God that is to be celebrated. Someone has said that is why we call the gift of life the "Present." My present life could be improved by more income and less debt; and my wife Gay's health could certainly improve. Overall, though, life is good; and God's gift is still being perfected in us.

I have no great gains of wisdom to share; but I have made it to sixty. I am finding my life after ordained ministry interesting, though I also find my church life to be much more void than I expected due to the irregular schedule I keep at LabCorp.

I am still married to the love of my life after nearly forty years. I still have good health. I am working at an interesting job. God has not and will not abandon me.