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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

We’ve all heard the miracle stories.  Mr. X was diagnosed with cancer.  People prayed for him.  Suddenly, the cancer was gone.  There’s not even a shadow on the x-ray.  It’s like it was never there!

For non-believers, there’s always an explanation.  Maybe the original x-ray was wrong.  Maybe that shadow wasn’t a tumor after all but an artifact of some sort.  Nothing miraculous about that and the medical profession is well aware of false positive test results.

But sometimes there was a biopsy which conformed the tumor.  Yet, the tumor is now gone.  What are the odds of two tests being false?

For the believer, it is just an unnecessary affirmation of faith.  They believe whether the cancer goes away or not.  Faith is just that.  There is no need for proof.

Anyway, I submit to you my own faith healing story.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I am a runner.  Basically, that means I go outside, I run around for a while, and I end up back where I started for no apparent reason.  That is, I wasn’t running because a bear was chasing me, and I wasn’t running to get a beer.  Both of those scenarios make sense.  I was merely running for my health, which presents quite the oxymoron when you consider all the various aches and pains I suffer for my art.

Last summer, I started having pain in my right leg.  My tibia to be exact.  I eschewed doctors because I was pretty sure their opinion was going to be to tell me to stop running.  After trying to run through the pain, which usually involved limping back home or calling my wife or daughter to come pick me up because I couldn’t make it back, I finally sought medical attention.  An MRI confirmed I had a stress fracture of my tibia.

And guess what the medical experts told me?

STOP RUNNING!

So I did.  Really.  For seven weeks, which is the longest stretch of non-running since 2000 for me, when I committed my body to running to stay in shape and not die as a bloated, out of breath sluggard.

NOT RUNNING WAS MORE PAINFUL THAN THE BONE, truth be told.

A repeat MRI confirmed some healing, but the fracture was still there.  After consulting with enough doctors to finally get a recommendation I could run with, so to speak, an orthopedic surgeon felt there were signs of healing, and blessed me to run 1-2 miles as I could stand, and go from there.  I also used the elliptical because it was low-impact and didn’t stress my leg.

By the end of December, I was running 3 miles three times a week, and mixing 60 minutes on the elliptical on most of the off days.  I didn’t have to limp home or call for a ride, but I could tell the bone didn’t feel right, even though it was my right leg.  Four months, and I still seemed miles away from the runner who used to run 7-12 miles five days a week as if I were some teenager on the track team.  My speed had also fallen quite a bit.

Needless to say, I was frustrated.

Then, while vacation in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, we met with one of my wife’s high school classmates whom she hadn’t seen in years–maybe since graduation.  They were friends on Facebook and when my daughter updated our status as arriving at the airport in Lihue, my wife’s classmate got in touch with us and arranged an impromptu reunion.

Her husband, as luck turns out, is a born again Christian, but not the get-in-your-face-and-intimidate-you kind.  I’m not even sure if he ever asked us if we were Christians, but he may have known some background from his wife and Facebook.

After an evening of catching up on old times, as we were preparing to part ways for God only knows how long, he asked if he could pray for us and help heal us.  This is what he does.

Now before I go any further, I want to note that I am a Christian and we attend a Presbyterian Church.  I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior.  I don’t pretend to know everything about religion but consider myself open-minded.  I grew up studying science and learning about evolution, but found science to be inadequate to fully explain just what life is and how it came about.  I do pray, and I have prayed for healing in my own leg.  I pray for all my operative patients before and after their surgery.  I believe in the power of prayer, even if it probably doesn’t affect the outcome of a Penn State or Steelers football game.  But I digress.

First, he laid hands on my son and prayed for his neck.  He had injured himself on the trampoline years ago–not serious–but had some nagging neck stiffness and limitation of movement.  After the prayer, he asked my son if he felt any different.  He moved his head around and his eyes got wide.  He did feel different!  But that is not my miracle story.

He also prayed for my daughter who has had shoulder problems since she hurt it lunging a horse, and my wife who has had back problems after two discectomies.  My daughter states she felt some warmth in her shoulder when he prayed, some temporary relief, but as of today, she doesn’t think it is any better.  Ditto for my wife, and I’m not even sure she had the warm sensation.

For me, though, I felt something.  I got goosebumps across my body like I do when the Penn State Blue Band marches onto the field at pre-game.  It was  a tingle throughout my body.  And I did feel like my leg was different.  But I was standing in a restaurant parking lot; not running.  We were just hours away from leaving for home, and I wouldn’t have a chance to run for several days.

But since then, my leg is better.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is 100% and it’s not like it never happened, but it is better than it has been since this started last summer.  Some of what I am feeling I think is scar tissue from the healing process and even that is getting better as I run more.  I ran six miles today.  I still ice the leg afterward, which the orthopod recommended, but God can work that way too.  I believe that God works through doctors.  I pray for Him to guide my hands and judgement when I operate and I belive He does.

Two weeks after the healing, I had the orthopod who looked at my scans before recheck me.  He did a fluoroscan–which is NOT an MRI–but the scan did not show any fracture and there was a healed callous of bone.  (An MRI or a bone scan might show residual fracture but he felt neither was necessary if I wasn’t having any pain.  His previous fluoroscan did show the initial fracture back in November.)

That’s my story . . . and I’m sticking to it.  Whether you choose to believe or not . . . is up to you.

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A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.
Victor Hugo

Just an accident waiting to happen?

Recent events have caused me to become reflective.  We got a new mirror.  But that’s not the reflectivity of which I am alluding.

In the course of browsing blogs on WordPress, I came across two by professed atheists, or at least ones who lost their faith, so to speak.  One is a mechanical/aerospace engineer in training, writing on the Blazing Truth, while another atheist is going to read the Bible over the next year and report her thoughts on what she read.  So far she has finished Genesis 1-3.

Pretty strange undertaking for an atheist, no?

Despite not taking a word in this book as truth, I think it is important that I know what it contains nonetheless.

But neither of these blogs, or the countless others you can read under “religion” (2734 recent posts that were tagged as such at the time I type this) is the sole impetus for this entry.

A fellow blogger left me a message on my ABOUT page, asking that I give more detail about what my blog is, er, about.  I actually thought the ABOUT page was information about me, more so than my blog, but after careful consideration, I can see his point.  I’ll put updating the ABOUT page on my To Do list.

But that did get me thinking, what is this blog about?

Your guess is as good as mine.

So far I have written about my dogs, cataract surgery, on-line games, The Rapture, The Rapture that didn’t Capture, Satan reading my blog, having my toenails removed surgically, Adidas Climacool running shoes, my hometown of Altoona selling out its name to a movie, and dog poop.  Almost all of these are written tongue in cheek and hopefully, my readers find the humor in these posts.  That was intentional.  Whether I achieved that or not is up for debate.  I still have not been FRESHLY PRESSED.  I wrote about that too!

So this post will migrate away from being primarily humorous, and will wax more philosophically.

Can one lose his/her faith?

Is there some celestial lost and found box for these poor souls?  But even that slightly amusing but not intentionally humorous question begets an even more critical one: do we have a soul?  I will leave that question for another day, because I want to concentrate on the topic introduced initially:  Faith.

For some background, I was raised in the United Methodist tradition.  I attended Sunday School, and I will be perfectly honest.  The only thing I really remember is not liking it.  I was there because my parents forced me.  Sure, I can recall tidbits of Bible stories I learned over the years:  Noah’s Flood, the Resurrection, Lazarus, the Prodigal Son, etc.  But I’d probably only score a C on a multiple choice test if I had to take one right now.

As I grew and presumably became smarter–graduating high school, college and then medical school–I increasingly became less religious, whatever that means.  Honestly, I stopped going to church, did not pray to God, and seriously questioned God’s existence.  I’m pretty sure I wrote a paper in college arguing in favor of evolution over the creation story.  I was a biology major after all.  I was immersed in the sciences and evolution fit into that paradigm more neatly than God.

One might argue that I lost my faith.

I would argue that I simply put my faith in something else.  Instead of God, I placed my faith in science.  In rational thought.  In proofs and experiments.  I want to point out that religion and rational thought are NOT mutually exclusive.  But whereas religion uses unseen beings (God, angels) to explain solutions, science never resorts to unseen and unexplainable things.  Like gravity.  Science demands proof.  For the most part, religious faith is in spite of proof.  Science rationalizes its unexplained phenomena as theories.  Religion calls them tenets or creeds.  Tomato, to-mah-to.

Atheists have not lost faith–just faith in God; their faith is in what they can see and measure.  They still have faith–just not religious faith.

If you believe in nothing, then your faith is in nothing.

You may not have faith in God.  You may not have faith in science.  You may not have faith in anything.  But you believe something, even if it is nothing.  Your faith is in what you believe.  You may be confused about what exactly you believe, but that is not a lack of faith or lost faith.  Having beliefs–faith–separates us, I believe, from other living organisms.  I doubt very much that celery believes in anything.  It might believe it is a food, but it not only has no calories, but we actually expend more energy chewing it than it contains.  It has negative calories.  It is certainly NOT a food, no matter what the stalk thinks of itself.  But I digress.

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.
Khalil Gibran

After meeting and marrying my wife, I became religious again.  (I changed my beliefs, I attend church on a more or less regular basis and I pray everyday.)  That is in large part due to her, but also to my own maturation.  I discovered that my faith in science left me unfulfilled.  Something was missing.  While evolution certainly occurs, can it really explain how I came to be here today typing this blog entry?

I think not.

Science has yet to adequately explain how life arose in the first place.  Every thing that is alive today came from pre-existing life.  Science has never been able to produce life in a test tube–without using pre-existing life.  Miller showed that inorganic chemicals under the proper circumstances can produce organic chemicals like amino acids, the basic building blocks of life.  But that is not creating life.  That is like manufacturing a piston and claiming you have made a car.  We can manufacture proteins and enzymes.  We cannot create living cells without using pre-existing cells.

Note:  Once you have the first cell, then I can buy the whole evolution thing.  But it is getting to that first lowly cell that seems to be a problem for science.

Just because science cannot explain or replicate the origin of life doesn’t mean that one must evoke a supernatural entity.  But in the final analysis, whether you believe the universe was formed by a Big Bang and life arose by the random chance of molecules combining to form complex cells, or whether a divine creator is responsible for all this is moot.  Either way, you must take the final product on faith.  Neither side has definitive proof.

Likewise it is with death.  Science simply defines death as the cessation of life.  We can measure it medically in terms of brain waves and EKGs.  We can see the body degrade after death.  But what actually makes an individual cell die?  Obviously a lack of oxygen or nutrients is one answer.  When the heart stops pumping, cells throughout the body die.  One can be brain-dead, but the rest of the body can be kept “alive” indefinitely through mechanical and artificial means.

But if you take one cell out of the body that has died, and ask yourself how is it different from one that was alive only moments before, science is hard pressed to answer that question.  Proteins denature.  Chemical bonds are broken.  Cell membranes break down.  Yada. Yada.  Yada.  These are merely descriptions.  They do not answer the fundamental question of why it happened in the first place.  It is almost a chicken and egg conundrum, but not quite since obviously life came first and then death.  But which can be answered first is the heart of that issue.  Why does life begin is as important a question as how does it end.

Again, it is not necessary to ascribe some soul or life force to the cell which makes it living when it is present and non-living when it isn’t, but there is certainly something special about life such that only other life can produce it, and once it is gone, the processes of degradation and decay take over.

For myself, I believe in a Creator.  God.  I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ.  I don’t believe so because I can prove it.  I can’t.  I believe because I have faith.  One of the things that sways me most about the Bible is how the disciples reacted after Christ’s death and resurrection.  This was a rag-tag band of basically uneducated men–manual laborers not priests–who when the chips were down all deserted Christ.  Peter denied Him thrice.  Yet, after the resurrection, this group went out and spread Christianity in a world that was not terribly receptive to them.  Most of them died–were painfully martyred–for their beliefs.  What did they witness that gave them that kind of resolve?  Before his death, they ran scared and lied to protect themselves.  Then, something changed and now they were willing to die for this cause.

Was it mass hypnosis, like the Hale-Bop followers?  Did they drink the Kool Aid?  Or did they suddenly find their faith?

For me, I believe they witnessed the risen Lord and it changed their lives.

But have faith, if you don’t want to believe in that, you can still take faith in that.

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