Update on Roseanna

Update on Roseanna

Well, here I am, 10 days after my first infusion of chemotherapy. So many of you have reached out privately to say you’re praying and ask how I’m doing–and many just say you’re praying and don’t want to be a bother so say I don’t have to reply, LOL. So I thought I’d do an official update.

As David drove me to the hospital on Monday, May 13, and asked what I was feeling, my answer was that I was…curious. I like to know things. How was I going to react to the chemo itself, as it went in? (That first time they do it super slowly to watch for allergic reactions.) How would I react over the next couple of days and weeks? Whether the answers were what I wanted or not, I was glad to be to the point where I’d be discovering them.

I have to say that one of the most impactful things about the whole experience has been how wonderful the staff are at the hospital we’re going to. It’s a 90-minute drive but worth every minute. I just went up again yesterday for another biopsy, and it struck me anew–everyone was so loving, so thoughtful, so conscientious of me and my needs. And that’s been true of absolutely everyone I’ve encountered. The infusion itself went great, and my biggest praise since is that I can already feel the tumor shrinking. Praise God for that! And the bone scan last week agreed with the CT that nothing has spread, so I am so grateful and relieved about that!

The first five days were relatively fine afterward. My taste buds are definitely weird right now–anything salty just tastes totally bland to me, a normal dusting of black pepper burns my mouth, but sweet stuff still tastes fairly normal. (Bring on the chocolate! LOL) Thursday I began experiencing the most common side effect of this particular treatment, which is, ahem, intestinal distress. The weekend wasn’t fun, I admit it. I’ve had quite a few queasy days. And I haven’t been able to sleep well, so I’m more tired than I’d hoped to be.

But it’s starting to ease up. When I’m writing this, I feel pretty normalThat can change minute to minute, but I’m enjoying the respitealong with some of the other oddities that I’ve noticed. The last couple of days, soft things feel so softI know that sounds weird, but when I lean against a blanket, it just feels like it envelopes me in cushiness. The bed feels awesome when I lie down. The car seat was so comfortable. It’s absolutely bizarre, LOL, but also nice. And thanks to that shrinkage already, I can sleep on my side again for the first time in months! And for whatever reason, body odor has vanished. Didn’t see that one coming, but I’ll take it!

For several days last week, my scalp felt very tender, but that has gone away. was warned that hair loss couple begin immediately and that it most commonly hits at 2-3 weeks after the first treatment and can really strike any time. So far, nothing abnormal there. But I’m prepared. I have my crazy purple wig (I tried it on, y’all, and I didn’t even recognize myself! LOL) and a pretty white lightweight knit chemo hat thing. So, you know, if I wake up bald before church one morning, I don’t have to panic.

So there we go. I’ve had a few rough days, but nothing debilitating thus far. And I continue to be so, so blessed by the flood of cards and little gifts and donations. Some from good friends, some from people whose names I don’t even recognize, all of which fill me with such humbleness and love. God is so good, and His children are reflecting that so clearly in my life right now. Please know that I treasure every note, every prayer, and every thought. I’m saving up all the cards that have come in, and it’s a mighty pile already! Just seeing it there by my desk fills my heart with such peace.

This may not be the road I would have chosen freely, but it’s a road filled with beauty nevertheless. A road filled with love and joy and peace. Thank you for reminding me every step of the way that I’m not alone.

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Word of the Week – Meme

Word of the Week – Meme

Did you know that meme was coined as a scientific word in the 1970s?

Yep. Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, wanted a word to describe ideas or behaviors that quickly spread from person to person within a culture, so he came up with meme, from the Greek mimesthai. His own thought-process is thus:

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’. [Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene,” 1976]

By 1997, popular computer culture had picked up the word and used it to mean “images or snippets of video, audio, or text that spread rapidly from one internet user to another.”

Bet you didn’t know that the meme you just shared is part of the study of biology, did you? 😉

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These Bodies

These Bodies

Crucifixes used to creep me out. I admit it. Probably because I grew up in a faith tradition that put a lot of emphasis on “He’s not on the cross anymore!” as a way of deliberately frowning upon any cross that had a representation of Christ on it. That’s wrong was very clear in the teaching.

So when we started attending a Catholic church, the crucifixes…yeah, let’s say I just averted my eyes. For a while. Until I began to understand why it was so important to remember that Christ suffered. So that it was always before us in our suffering. So that we didn’t have to say, “No, I’m fine. No, I’m not grieving. No, I’m not hurting. Of course I believe! The cross is empty!” and instead we can say, “Lord, unite my suffering to your own. Give it meaning, as yours had. Take it, redeem it, and in turn give it your redemptive power.”

When you enter into a Catholic church before Mass, there’s no babble of voices or laughter or gossip. There are people sitting or kneeling quietly, with their eyes affixed to the cross (there are plenty of “empty” ones too). To the crucifix (there’s always one in the front). “Contemplate the crucifix” was instruction my husband received for what to do in those silent minutes.

It was a challenge for me. But one that made some pretty profound truths settle in my soul. Truths that I’m now clinging to as my own body goes through its own journey of suffering. Cancer may not be the same cross Jesus suffered. But it’s a cross. And it’s suffering. And as I gaze upon that reminder of what He already went through for me, it’s how I know He’ll use this for His glory too.

Just think for a moment about these frail human bodies we occupy. We may tell ourselves that the real us, our souls, are not our bodies, and that’s how we live forever–spiritually, our souls in heaven. And that’s true…in part. But it’s not the whole truth, is it? We are each given a unique body, and it is not only ours, it is us, in a very real way. A very material way. We are not just spirit–we are spirit and body. We are a creation that God made to have both spirit and body.

When He sent Christ among us, it wasn’t just as spirit. This was actually one of the great heresies in the early church, with people claiming He wasn’t really flesh. He didn’t cast a shadow. He didn’t leave footprints. Because flesh, they said, was all evil. Spirit is all good. So a perfect Savior couldn’t have a physical body like we do.

But oh, how wrong that was. We know that Jesus went out of His way to let people touch Him. Feel Him.

God became man. He took on flesh, just like ours. Flesh that grew in His mother’s womb, cell by cell. Flesh that came forth from her body with the same fluids as any other baby. Flesh that grew, learned how to suckle, how to speak, how to crawl and walk and laugh and play. Flesh that needed food and drink. Flesh that bled when cut.

Flesh that He told us would be offered to us in bread. In wine. Flesh that became bread. Became wine, so that we could share in it through the ages.

Flesh that He let be bruised, beaten, battered for us. Flesh that was torn by a whip. Flesh that had nails put through it. Flesh that suffocated on the cross. Flesh that collapsed in agony.

He felt that. Every strike of the whip. Every poke of the thorn. Every hammer of the nail. He felt it. He chose to feel it. He refused the drugged wine that would have dulled his senses. That bodily part mattered. It was through His precious body that mankind was freed from our sin. He didn’t make a symbolic, spiritual sacrifice. He made a complete one–body, soul, mind, spirit.

Just think about it. Jesus chose to fully feel that pain for you, in every cell of His body. In the same body He offered in the bread hours before.

The same body that grew in His mother. The same body that reached out and healed blind men with a touch, gave voice to the mute, restored a paralytic. The same body that walked across water, that spoke the words to calm a storm or return life to a dead man.

That’s the body He gave to us in Holy Communion. The one that hung on the cross. The one that died. The one that was buried in a tomb. The one that lay there, dead, over the Sabbath.

Do you want to know how much Jesus valued that body? Enough that He came back for it. Enough that He raised that same body up again–still with the holes in His hands, His feet, His side. Still able to be touched, to be fed, to be clung to. (Ever wonder where all He went between the resurrection and ascension? He only appeared a handful of times to the disciples. What else was He doing in His resurrected body? Where did He go? Who did He talk to?) That body meant so much to Him that He took it with Him into heaven.

So much that He shares it with us still, even today. Every time we partake of His Flesh, of His Blood. He’s still there in heaven, in His body, and that resurrected body is still present with us on earth every time we share in Holy Communion.

That means that His powerful, death-defying, resurrected body is in me. Just a little bit, when I take that wafer. 

You know what that means? That my body matters too. This is the one God gave to me, with all its quirks. For whatever reason, He created us to have minds that think, hearts that feel, souls that chase after Him, and bodies in which He can live. Paul doesn’t tell us we are temples just as encouragement to eat healthy food and exercise. He tells us we are temples because God lives inside us when we open the door for Him, when we share in that blessed sacrament, when we unite ourselves to Him.

But not just to His glory. To His suffering too. We can’t forget that. It’s as crucial a part of the faith as the resurrection. He had to suffer. He had to die. He had to rise again. It all matters.

In my time of suffering, I can look at His and know it matters. I can look at His and know it’s already been redeemed. I can look at His and be reminded that that same body is both in heaven and poured out for me. For my healing. For my strength. But also just to hold my hand through the bad parts. I don’t have to deny them. I don’t have to be stoic. I don’t have to pretend everything’s okay.

I can say, “Even when it isn’t. Even when it hurts. Even when things go wrong. Even when our bodies fail. Even when we’re sick. Even then…even then, He is God. Even then, He knows. Even then, He holds our hand with His own, nail-pierced one. Even then, He is with us. Even then, He says, ‘It matters. I know. And together, we are going to do great things. Even now, when you are so weak. I AM strong.”

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Word of the Week – Prestigious

Word of the Week – Prestigious

I imagine that, like me, you think prestigious means “honored.” And it does…today. But it started life in a very different place!

Prestigious actually comes from the Latin praestigious, meaning “full of tricks.” Think magician shows and jugglers and sword-swallowers, etc. It’s thought that the Latin word is closely related to praestringere, which means “to blindfold, to dazzle.” Anything that was a trick of the eyes–or which perhaps would make you doubt what you were seeing, it was so spectacular, was called prestigious.

That’s where it began in English too, meaning “practicing illusion or magic, deception.” Up until the 1800s, this was a word that was most often used in a derogatory fashion, much like trick today. And then, by the 1890s, it was actually considered an obsolete word, no longer in use. (Fascinating, isn’t it?)

But around 1913, it was given new life, with all illusory implications removed, just as prestige was as well. The dazzle without the deception, so to speak. Which is what it still means today.

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The Passover Seder

The Passover Seder

Today I’m talking about what the Jewish Passover Seder was in the time of Christ, and how it had evolved out of the instruction given to Israel at the first Passover…and more, how that was the perfect backdrop to the ultimate work of salvation—Jesus’s institution of Holy Communion, which started at the Last Supper but was not completed until His death on the cross. This is part of a series I’ve been doing based on Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre*. First I talked about the Daily Bread, then about why the Passover was the perfect backdrop for Jesus’s New Covenant…which is to say, we looked at that original covenant, and last week I paused to examine the relationship of Jesus and Traditions, so that we can understand that He did not dismiss all manmade traditions—there are many He kept and fulfilled.

Including what we are talking about today: the Passover Seder.

In Exodus, we get the original instructions for the original Passover, as well as a command to keep this forever as a holy day, which I talked about in post 2, linked above, Why the Passover. But by the time Jesus walked the earth, those traditions had evolved, as traditions always do. As we go through what it became, keep in mind that Jesus kept this Feast all His life, and He did so with reverence, which is a heavenly blessing upon it.

Jerusalem was the only place where sacrifices could be made in the time of Christ, so anyone who wished to participate in any of the feasts and festivals that require sacrifice had to travel to Jerusalem. Passover was the one that drew the most people, and in this era, hundreds of thousands of lambs would be sacrificed during the feast.

Think about that for a second. Hundreds of thousands. There were so many that they couldn’t all be sacrificed on one day anymore, so they spread it out. Those who were Israel-dwelling Jews would have their lambs sacrificed on Thursday; those who had settled abroad or who were converted to Judaism from the gentile world would have their sacrificed on Friday.

Ever wonder why the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all specify that it was during the Passover meal—for which their own lamb would have been sacrificed that day—was when Jesus instituted the Last Supper, yet John specifies that Christ was killed when the lambs were being sacrificed? That’s why. And it’s really cool, if you think about it. Jesus offered himself not just for the Jews, but for the whole world, and it was at the very hour of that sacrifice-for-the-world that He gave up His own life. I mean, wow, right?

Anyway. Back to the Seder. When the lambs were sacrificed in the Temple, it had become such a big to-do that they had an assembly line, more or less. So much blood ran out of the temple and into the river that the river ran red. The lambs had to be roasted whole, but blood was of course strictly forbidden for consumption by the Law, so they would hang the sacrificed lambs much like butchers still do today to let the blood drain out…only, they would position the lambs on a cross. They even referred to them in this state as crucified.

Lambs, sacrificed and crucified, for the salvation of the people.

The meal was no longer just some slap-dash unleavened bread and the lamb though. Ceremony had evolved to remind the people about the entire exodus story. Every seder meal included a dish of salt water—the tears of the enslaved people; bitter herbs—to remind of the bitterness of those days; the unleavened bread, of which a piece would be hidden for the children to find; charoset—a “clay” of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that is reminiscent of mortar or bricks, as a reminder of the labor done in Egypt; a roasted egg—symbol of new life; a bone from the sacrificed lamb that would be eaten; and “four cups” of wine.

That’s important. The wine was to be drunk at key points in the meal, each one significant—so much so that there was a Law at this point in time guaranteeing everyone, no matter how poor, enough wine for all four cups of the feast.

At the start of the meal, a child would ask a ritual series of “why?” questions, asking why they eat a meal like this, and the patriarch of the family would answer…speaking in first person. “It is because of what the Lord our God did for me when He led me out of Egypt.”

Side note here. While I was studying the book about this, I was also reading in the Gospels, and I read the part where Jesus promises freedom, and some of the religious leaders reply (Roseanna paraphrase here), “Freedom? We are children of Abraham! We were never slaves, so we don’t need to be freed.”

Reading that at the same time when I was reading the chapter about how the very words of the Seder had been written so that every generation was called to remember that God had freed them from the bonds of slavery in Egypt, I had a new understanding of why the claim grieved Jesus so. Every year, they repeated these words. But clearly they hadn’t taken them to heart. The hadn’t remembered who they really were, and what it really meant to be a child of Abraham.

Okay, back to the wine. 😉 First is the Cup of Sanctification or Thanksgiving, remembering God’s promise to deliver His people. Next was the Cup of Judgment, remembering the plagues, during which one would dip one’s finger into the cup ten times, reciting the plagues as the wine dripped onto a napkin.

After the second cup, the meal is eaten. The final part of the meal involved lifting up the unleavened bread, breaking it, and passing it around. That was when Jesus “broke the bread, blessed it, and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you…’” Immediately after that comes the third cup, the Cup of Blessing. This is the one Jesus lifted and said, “This is my blood.”

Notice His wording. He did not say of the bread and wine, “These are symbols to remind you of my body and blood, which I’m about to give up for you.” He said This is.

He is the Word. The very Word of creation. When the Word of Creation says “This is…” He means it. There are plenty of times when He made it clear that things were symbolic. When He said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” But that’s not what He did here. He did something more. Something miraculous. He pointed to bread and wine—two ordinary things, yet rich in meaning in this context—and made them something miraculous.

Then comes something very important as well. The Fourth Cup, which is the Cup of Praise or Consummation. They lift the cup and sing a psalm—which we know Jesus did.

But He didn’t drink it. They left. They went out to the garden to pray at that point, with Jesus claiming He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He’d done so in His kingdom.

What is the significance of that?

The Feast never ended. He stretched it out, kept it moving with Him through the next day. When He was being crucified at the start, they offered Him wine, which He refused—that wine would have mixed with herbs that drugged the senses and lessened the pain of crucifixion, which was considered a humane thing to do for convicts.

He refused. He refused to lessen His suffering for us. He refused that wine, because His kingdom had not yet come. The Passover celebration, His sacrifice, was not yet complete.

But John makes it very clear that the very last act He did as He hung on the cross was drink wine, offered to him on a branch of hyssop—the very branch God commanded they use to smear the blood of the original Passover lambs onto their doorposts. He drank. He finished that Fourth Cup, the Cup of consummation—the cup of the new covenant. He said, “It is finished,” signaling that He was now fulfilling all the Passover ever meant to foreshadow, that He was making this new covenant in His own blood, consummating it as eternal praise, and that this was the coming of His kingdom.

And then He died. The Passover Seder was completed, not in the Upper Room, but on the cross. For the salvation not just of Israel but of the world. He had fulfilled and redeemed that original covenant and then offered us a new one.

But do you remember what I talked about in part 2? The covenant wasn’t created just by the sacrifice. It wasn’t enough to kill the lamb. You had to eat. You had to drink. This was a key part of making a covenant, and it’s one the early Jews understood.

Do we? Do we really understand how important this is? John wanted to make sure we did, which is why his Gospel spends so much time focusing on the bread, the manna, and Jesus’s insistence that we know what we’re doing when we partake. Christ makes it clear in John 6 that the only way to share eternity with Him is to eat His flesh and drink His blood—which are food and drink indeed.

He didn’t just change His mind and give them bread and wine instead because it was easy, and a good reminder. He changed the bread and wine into the heavenly manna that we need. The manna many Jews believed was stored from eternity in heaven and poured out for the Israelites in the wilderness—the manna that is now offered daily to us as believers, Jesus Himself, poured out for us. He transforms those common elements into divine elements. Every time. Every day.

That’s the miracle of it. The daily miracle.

(I’d intended this series to go longer, but given my recent cancer diagnosis, I’m going to mostly leave it at this for now. But I do highly recommend you get the book referenced in the start, and I also highly recommend The Fourth Cup by Scott Hahn* for an incredibly detailed look at that portion of things!)

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