Not all “advancements” in commercialized medicine are improvements

A discussion on Facebook reminded me of how easy it is to smugly view previous generations as “ignorant” or even “stupid”, without realizing how little of their practical knowledge and skills we possess. We are often far more reliant on others to do for us what previous generations did for themselves.

The field of medicine has made enormous strides. But it has also become commercialized, and too many people have become overly reliant on pharmaceutical remedies.

I grew up before medical insurance in a family that had to consider every expenditure carefully. I was blessed with a Daddy who had been a medic in the Korean war, and I was thankful he was able to “fix” my broken nose, help me avoid stitches several times (except for one dramatic injury) and, along with my mother, nurse me through various illnesses and injuries. He also knew his limits and knew when a call to the doctor or an ER visit was necessary.

At age 18, I was diagnosed with a mild case of a serious, usually progressive, neuromuscular disease. (God later healed me during pregnancy, but that’s a story for another time.) While at UCLA, I read everything in the BioMed library related to my disease and watched/listened to every lecture, symposium, and presentation available in the library. I was so up on the latest research that, moments before I had my wisdom teeth extracted at the dental school, one of the professors asked me to explain my condition and its implications to a group of dental students.

It never dawned on me to consider investigating “alternative” treatments.

Then an interesting thing began happening. I’d get sick with something and go to a clinic or doctor — including the top specialists at UCLA — and we would end up having conversation after conversation along these lines:

Doctor: Normally I would prescribe x or y, but those are contra-indicated for you, and there is no safe or effective alternative.

Me: [alarmed, frightened face]

Doctor: Don’t worry. [recommends some home remedy or describes how this sickness was treated before current pharmaceuticals were developed]

Me: Seriously? Just go home and do that? Does it even work??!!

Doctor: The old remedies and treatments don’t lose their effectiveness simply because we have discovered new ones.

Me: Oh.

One doctor, offended at my youthful arrogance: Doctors knew what they were doing long before you were even born, and what I’m recommending has worked for centuries.


“Yeah, but we know better now!” people protest. They act as if everyone used to die of every childhood disease pre-vaccine. They can’t imagine a world before pharmacies in supermarkets and on multiple street corners, before medical insurance, before medical imaging and lab tests…

I’m thankful for many of the advancements in medicine. I have benefited greatly. But I’m not thankful for big corporate medicine, or for how many of us have been turned into helpless consumers of medical services. I’m not thankful for the opioid epidemic, the over-reliance on pharmaceuticals, the obesity epidemic, etc., etc.

Oh, and the “home remedies” those doctors suggested to me back in the day? They worked wonderfully… and without side effects.

[Previously posted on Facebook]

Some thoughts while “sheltering at home”

I was wrong.

At first, I thought measures being taken against the spread of the Coronavirus were extremist and bizarre. Then I reviewed some of what I’d learned in a long ago Public Health class about the history of virus diseases and virology. I read some articles being written now by leading epidemiologists, consulted the WHO and CDC websites, and examined some of the resources being compiled by trusted friends in the medical field.

That’s when I had to reconsider things.

I’m the caretaker for my elderly, frail parents. I need to be at their home at least 3 times daily, making sure they get their medications and food. Needless to say, they are not leaving the house. We even cancelled respite care for this week; I decided that a “day off” from my duties is an unnecessary luxury for me and risk for my parents.

I understand that for many, the very idea of staying home and not going to work or socializing is simply too awful to contemplate. I get it. I was already feeling stir crazy before the “shelter in place” order was issued for my county and then my state. No one says this will be easy.

But the rest of this is for my professing Christian readers…

This is the season of Lent. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this might be a good time to find out. It’s a penitential time leading up to Easter. Many of us use this season to pull away from life’s distractions and addictions in order to focus more on Christ, and especially on the meaning of His Crucifixion. It makes Easter all the more glorious.

We “give up” for Lent in order to gain more of Jesus, in order to experience Him more fully.

Some of my friends, now confined to their homes, have commented that this is the greatest Lent ever, and they are fully embracing this opportunity.

This is not an easy time, by any stretch of the imagination, and I am in no way minimizing the suffering of those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones, those who are without income, those facing the the very real possibility of losing their homes, etc. I’m talking to those of us who, like me, are as of yet unscathed and still can’t figure out why our government is taking such extreme measures.

Use this season. Allow God to use it. Be willing to sacrifice. And please, please stay away from people as much as possible, no matter how people-starved we all might be right now. Let me get personal. You may think you just have allergies, or it’s just a cold, or you may even think you are the healthiest person on the planet. But unless I invite you into my life and home as a necessary presence, or as a family member needing to shelter here, this is not a time for in-person socializing. This is not a time to “drop by”. Please don’t disregard the orders you are under where you live, or the advice of those who know a lot more about pandemics and epidemiology than any of us ever will.

I have two dear parents who need me to be healthy. My husband is in that over-65 vulnerable group. I have asthma too (which, thank God, rarely troubles me these days) and pleurisy-scarred lungs, and I’m not exactly youthful. Pray for my parents. Pray for us. Pray for the many who are like me and like my parents. Pray for the many younger people who, thinking this disease posed no threat to them, are now suffering and even dying.

Use this season and any extra time you may have to seek God’s Presence as never before. Regard this as a spiritual retreat. May this Lent be a time of personal renewal for all of us. May it be a time of breakthrough.

Adapted from something I posted on Facebook earlier today.

When dreams die…


By Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

‭‭PROVERBS‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Sometimes the circumstances of life robs us of our dreams. Sometimes we feel as if we have no choice but to set aside, over and over again, even our most cherished lifelong hopes and dreams, the ones we always clung to no matter what, the ones that sustained us through our darkest hours (“Someday, things will be much, much different and I will…”) Sometimes we make choices that render the fulfilling of those dreams impossible. And sometimes we keep coming up with replacement dreams (“Well, obviously those lifelong dreams ain’t never gonna happen, but I’ll try for this other thing instead!”) only to have to give those up as well.

If we keep our grief over dying dreams to ourselves, we walk that “barren field, frozen with snow” all alone. But to share something so intensely personal as a heart sick from deferred hope — that is taking a huge risk of having our dreams mocked or dismissed, of being misunderstood, of being accused of selfishness, of being told we never should have had such dreams in the first place, of being told we are being overly dramatic… If we are Christian women, we will probably have to endure “helpful” sermonettes about dying to self, about laying our lives down, and about how our role in life is to help others fulfill their hopes and dreams. If we are married Christian women, no doubt we will be told that our husband’s hopes and dreams should erase and replace ours.

There is good reason to be cautious about allowing oneself to grieve, in the presence of others, the death of our dreams.

Sometimes when we’re thrust into that “broken-winged bird that cannot fly” existence, we don’t always react with the grace we would hope for. “Consider it all joy” may not come easily. We may struggle, nurse our wounds, and even cry out in pain. We may struggle with resentment over losing the ability to fly, and we may envy those soaring all around us. Our grief may become messy.

To be honest, I don’t handle heartsickness well, especially when it seems to drag on and on, and when it seems like so very many hopes and dreams, both large and small, are being dashed over and over again. It makes it hard to want to hope for anything in this lifetime. And it makes me feel terribly dramatic and self-absorbed and self-pitying and immature just to write that.

To make matters worse, I’m a verbal processor — an overly verbose verbal processor who is also a near incurable chatterbox. I have been struggling mightily against these natural tendencies of mine, out of compassion for those in my life who have let me know, repeatedly, how unwelcome and exhausting my many words can be. I’ve made some enormous strides, to the point that people have commented on how much less I talk. I’ve tried to focus on the quality of my speech and not just the quantity. I’ve tried to moderate my emotional expression so as not to upset or overwhelm those who find me “too much”. I’ve tried to choose my confidantes carefully — seeking out wise, compassionate and courageous people who will understand me, speak the truth in love, and respect me enough to guard my privacy.

Unfortunately, I still blow it. A lot. All too often, I lack discretion and self-control. Suddenly I’m flailing about with that broken wing, freezing in the snow, and I just start squawking and squawking at the nearest poor soul, and it’s all too often someone ill-equipped to handle my incoherent, emotional dumping. One memorable time, the nearest pour soul I dumped on was so traumatized — I kid you not — that he had to seek counsel not only from his friends but from a professional spiritual advisor.

It’s not just dumping. I tend to be passionately opinionated about many topics, and it’s an immense struggle to keep those opinions to myself, or to tone down the way I express them. It has become increasingly understandable why some people can only handle me in very small, infrequent doses, and preferably in situations where I speak little, if anything.

I’ve been on a personal mission to treat those people with the compassion and understanding they deserve. Controlling my speech (for more reasons than reigning myself in for their sakes, although that’s a huge reason) is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m trying to be more careful with my words, trying not to offer unsolicited opinions, and trying to pick only those confidantes who can handle me and are trustworthy. But, even in the midst of all that trying, sometimes it’s as if I forget everything, my best intentions fly out the window, what little self-control I have vanishes, and my internal and verbal boundaries are obliterated. In the past, I used to think, “Well, yeah, I cried some and I expressed some emotions, but it wasn’t that bad… entirely appropriate in fact, and a very subdued version of how I was really feeling.” And then I would find out that my idea of “subdued” was someone else’s idea of a crazed, overwrought, hysterical, damaged, wild-eyed lunatic.

I keep thinking I’ve learned my lesson.

And then I fail, yet again.

Last night — and there is really no excuse for my behavior — I made someone endure having to hear me acting like a desperate, trapped, wounded bird with a broken wing. It was unfair and selfish of me. It was also foolish and unwise, and I knew it the instant I finally stopped babbling on and on. I regretted bringing up the topic at all, let alone going on and on and on and on about intensely private things, complete with tears and emotions and messy outpourings. But by then it was too late. Much too late. Probably at least a half hour of foolish dumping too late.

Dreams dying may hurt like the dickens, but it’s no excuse for sin, or for casting all wisdom and discretion to the wind. Its no excuse for dragging someone else into my messy drama of internal conflict and grief.

I wasn’t ready to “go public” with my grief and struggles but it seems that, through my lack of discretion, I forced my own hand last night. So I guess I might as well blog about it.

Please pray for me, that I might walk through this difficult season with far more love and grace, that I would offer all my disappointments up to Jesus, and that I would find in Him the fulfillment of my deepest longings. And please pray for all those that I have selfishly inflicted myself upon over the years, that they would no longer be crushed beneath the burden of my careless words. May they be healed… and may I be so healed that I will speak only that which will give grace to the listener.

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

‭‭EPHESIANS‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Sign of a loving heart

The true sign of a loving heart is that it does not give up even if treated as unworthy of any love in return. The sign of a loving heart is that it continues undaunted despite its expressions of love being ignored, rejected, resented, misunderstood, criticized, or maligned. No matter how love is perceived or received, it persists, not in weakness but in strength.

Love does not beg for scraps of affection, for morsels of approval, or for token acts of kindness in return. Love does not grovel, nor is it masochistic. Instead, love lifts up its head, squares its shoulders, and acts with dignity.

Love never fails.

The signs of a loving heart are patience, kindness — in other words, the virtues of Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love. The true sign of a loving heart is that it realizes it is incapable of such holy love, and thus it asks to be a conduit of our Savior’s love. We may fail and fall way short in our bumbling attempts to love well; we may love out of wrong motives; we may offend the very ones we are attempting to love; we may be tempted to give up and retreat to safety; we may find the task of loving our enemies to be a near impossibility; but Christ’s love does not and cannot fail.

Beholding Beauty | Fashionless Friday

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

For years those words haunted me: am I only beautiful if someone else considers me to be so? And, as someone who has never met our society’s conventional beauty standards, why couldn’t I just accept this fact — why was I so hung up about wanting someone to find me beautiful?

As a young teenager, I used to fantasize that there was a boy somewhere on this earth who would look at me — in all my skinny scrawny shapelessness, with my frizzy unruly hair, buck teeth, acne, freckles, and weird-looking bony knees and feet — and somehow find me beautiful. And, since I was fantasizing, I imagined him as a nice, sweet, wholesome, kind, sane boy rather than as a desperate, lunatic boy with low self-image and poor taste. Finally, that fantasy seemed too ridiculously improbable, even for me, so I began dreaming of a boy who would overlook my outward appearance and even my misfit personality, and would somehow manage to fall in love with a hidden inner beauty that hitherto no one — not even me — had ever managed to discern.

I was thinking about all that recently, as I had the enormous privilege to kneel — and I mean this as literally as possible — at someone’s beautiful feet. As I rubbed these dear, sweet, painful, elderly feet with soothing lotion, I thought of the verse, “How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news!” My mother has truly announced “good news of happiness” to many. Her feet are beyond beautiful.

All that has made me think, yet again, about my notions of beauty and my desire to be found beautiful. I’ve written about it before, about three and a half years ago.

That post was about, among other things, purposing to cling to “my other-worldly notions of beauty, and of what makes someone attractive to me”. I ended by stating:

After all, the thought of hearing the words “my good and faithful servant” means far more to me than even the most flattering words and opinions of mere mortals.

What does that have to do with beauty being in the eye of the beholder? I realized, as I knelt at my mother’s feet recently, that God has been changing my eyes — not my physical eyes, but the ways in which I see and appreciate beauty. There is so much more to loveliness than most of us can recognize, especially if our eyes and hearts have been trained by societal norms.

One of my favorite people to pray with has hands I find absolutely beautiful. She sees hands damaged by hard work and arthritis; I see hands that have served Jesus oh so very well, hands that have soothed the dying, hands that have brought me flowers she lovingly tended in her garden, hands that continue to bless everyone she touches. I see hands so beautiful that they have moved me to tears.

Back when I was that young teenager, facing constant mocking and bullying at school, desperately dreaming up fantasies of sweet boys who would find me beautiful rather than ugly, I began looking at myself through the wrong set of eyes. The people who truly loved me never considered me ugly — not even when my actions and attitudes were. It has taken me decades to be able to look at pictures of young teenage me and not feel embarrassment and humiliation… and self-loathing.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Ouch. That’s what I was doing. I was telling my Creator that He did a lousy job when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. I was accusing Him of shoddy workmanship… just because some people, including myself, were looking at me through the wrong eyes.

Love sees beauty even when others don’t.

That’s the kind of eyes I want, so that I might be a beholder of beauty, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I want to have beauty in my eyes, so that I might see beauty wherever it is to be found.