Monday, November 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Hospitals: How Sugar Water Helps Make Christmas Sad

This year we were planning to see my folks for Christmas. It won’t happen. The bills for our son’s medical issues are killing us. In the whole affair, we have experienced the devil and angel of health care. There have been posts here calling out the insurance companies, but it is time to hold the hospitals and clinics to the same fire. Our local hospital in Spokane has been a nightmare of over-charging, while the one in Seattle, Childrens Hospita,l has been a joy. One seems to be out for profit and the other cares for both my son and our family. As we reform health care, an important question is how can we get our hospitals to look more like the Mayo Clinic and Seattle’s Childrens Hospital and less like the pork-filled billing machines many of them are.

Understand our story: we have insurance, but our plan is now 80/20 with a maximum out of pocket, or so we were told. The reality, in practice, is very different and speaks to why our system is plagued by systemic problems. First, our 80/20 split is figured out before the insurance company is given their discount. Second, only a fraction of what we pay out counts toward our maximum. These are the problems of the insurance company. But they are not the only problems within the system.

It is time to call out the providers. The local hospital charged for two MRIs and two C-T scans, when only one of each was ordered, needed, and performed. They billed for two of each because they could claim a change of the angle for each scan and then code it as two different MRIs and two different C-T scans. Doubling the price for the love of money. Now, I say it was one of each in reality, because we had to purchase (after spending thousands of dollars) the MRI and C-T scan to take for the doctors in Seattle. I got only one disk for each, with only one reading, and the Doctors at the Childrens Hospital referred to one of each. One in reality and two for the wallet. In most businesses, such overcharging is considered fraud. In the medical world, this is business as usual. Health-care reform has to answer this problem.

Now, don’t think I am just mad to be mad. Having experienced great health care in Childrens Hospital, I know we can do health care better. The kindness and professionalism of Childrens has been a welcome change. They had us meet with a counselor to help with the financial piece. It also has been a fraction of the cost of the local hospital even factoring the travel and hotel expenses. The better care was cheaper.

The poignant example of how the local hospital over-charged us is a story of the most expensive sugar water. When we brought in our son for his MRI, they had to set an IV. The nurse made my son a pincushion as we, his parents, held him down. He looked at us with terror and confusion. Why were his parents holding him, while someone was torturing him? Eight tries later, the IV was finally set and my four-month-old panting from the experience. The nurse opened one thimble-sized container of sugar water to calm him. She dipped it in his pacifer twice and then threw the rest away. We were billed for two containers at almost $9.00 a pop. If we bought the sugar water by the gallon at that rate it would be $1,180. The pricey sugar water is part of the reason my family will not see my son on Christmas. The question I have is does this seem like justice to you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Abiding in Jesus

As I read the story about the woman at the well, (John 4) I am struck by the transformation that occurs.
Before Jesus, she was dictated by her past.
The town shunned her. She out in the hot sun, alone.
At their meeting, Jesus asks her for water.
She reminds Jesus about the social barriers.
He offers her living water. She questions the living water. Many commentators after the Protestant reformation think her question cheeky, crass or even vulgar.
Here was a stranger who first asks her for water in an awkward social setting. She justs points out the social barriers to him. Later, his disciples also notice the social barriers. A stranger makes some claims about living water. She simply ask him what he asked her to ask him.
Jesus gives her the living water in the next part of the conversation, his presence and understanding of her life. After some conversation. Jesus answer her request by asking to see her husband. The story already has the clues to indicate that she probably didn’t have the best reputation and most likely didn’t have a husband (the time and that she came alone). So when she answers Jesus, that she has not husband, her request at first could seem the conversation is going to end with the stranger starting to shun her as the rest of society.
But when Jesus tells her the details of her past, She experiences divine acceptance. It is his presence that becomes the catalyst to transform her standing as she leads the rest of the town to meet Jesus.
The story makes me wonder is evangelism simply means sharing our experience with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Before Jesus we are defined by our past.
After Jesus, are we defined by our relationship to Jesus?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My wife, the published author

Last night we found that Brill just agreed to publish my wife's dissertation with some changes.

This is great news as Brill is such a respected publisher, but I knew it would happen as my wife, Dr Lace Williams-Tinajero is such a top notch scholar. Her work looks to use the tools of Speech Act Theory to enlighten the current debates in New Testament studies. I am so proud of her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jerks for Jesus part I

The parking lot was filling up as we pulled in. Someone quickly pulled in front of us, as the spotted an open parking spot. He wanted to beat us to the open spot. In short, he was being a jerk. We went a little further away to park. No problem, but it got me thinking.

His rudeness was the garden variety, nothing to comment on except we were pulling into our local megachurch, Real Life. Now I know you probably thinking I am going to shred the church, but other that moment, we had a pleasant time. I like the sermon, the music, and the general atmosphere. We were there to see a friend dedicate their son to God. I meditated on the service, and thought of a new ministry to start. I missed our church, but it had more to missing my family, than anything I saw.

When you attend another church, it is hard not to be a mystery shopper or mystery worshipper. The temptation is to evaluate the sermon, (agree/disagree) the music, (good/bad) the people (friendly/cold) and whole experience (thumbs up/down). To do so is in reality to become a jerk toward the church. It is like being invited into someone’s house only to criticize the furniture. I felt the tug to stand aloof, while as I entered into prayer, I felt the call from God to just to listen to him through the way Real Life worship him. I came to face my own jerkiness.

One of the founding insights of Christian Anthropology claims that we are all sinners. That human beings all fall short of the glory of God is so repeated in Church as to be ignored out of overexposure. I hand recently wrote a piece on how many economists did not account for human nature. If I had translated the word sinner into a word we could more relate to and not ignore, I would use the work Jerk. All people apart from God are jerks, (including me) and then I realized the church could be characterized as Jerks for Jesus.

I started realizing I could start a ministry that could use these images. “Yes, I am a jerk, petty mean and judgmental, but I know that Jesus still loves me.” Jesus’ love helps me transcend my jerkiness. I shared my thoughts that night with my Bible study, and they too could identify with being jerks. So is what the church is Jerks for Jesus? Are Christians simply jerks for Jesus? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Entering the wilderness

The structure of life is the structure of the cross. Why? The question floats up as we studied the first part of Mark. Why did the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness? Why is there pain? And why does new life come from pain? I know these are human questions. The questions of why birth involves pain. They are also my questions as my son goes through his medical issues. My family enters a time of wilderness. My church enters into the wilderness as well as we are discerning our mission as members leave. My church is dying and we do not know the form of resurrection. My country enters into the wilderness of economic storms. The wilderness surrounds me, and to who do I turn?

The resurrection comes through the cross. I see have seen many times those images that make the cross a bridge to God. While there is validity to that symbol, the cross as the structure of life is seldom acknowledged, but it also true. A seed must die to become a plant. Pain is part of the price for new life. I know the most important transformations in my life have been preceded by a painful period. I am now in the midst of a death, a death of how my son's first year should go, a death what will my live become.

Today, I am called to be a peace maker. I will meet with two warring parties, and yet I do not think I have the strength for the process. Peace comes through the suffering and pain of the cross. I have no answers to the whirlwind of questions that nail me to the wilderness, but I know the voice that comes whirlwind of questions, asking me who am I to ask. Was I there at the foundations of the world. I am helpless in myself to answer. I am left with prayer.

In the midst of death,
you revive. In the midst
of flying rocks, you challenge.
In the midst of anger, you
whisper. In
the midst of nails, you forgive.
In the midst of washing hands
and responsibility, you are silient.
In midst of blood, you walk.
In the midst the cross,
you cry to why you have been
forsaken. In the midst of our lives,
you live.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gospel offers life

The Gospel is the answer. The question it answers is one I think we have forgotten. I meditated on this as I am in anticipation for my son surgery. A few weeks ago I got an insight into the Gospel. We where studying the beginning of Mark. There is it was, like current advertising. plain and ignored. It seems to obvious to be noticed. Yet, the truth is to compelling to let lay like unmade bed. Jesus was offering more than what we are willing to take. Bare with as I explain.

John the Baptist was offering repentance and forgiveness of sins. Many times that is what the church offers us, forgiveness of sin, and then if pushed maybe asking Jesus to put our life on autopilot. We get stuck in what John the Baptist offers. John the Baptist then says the one that came after him would offer something more and to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jesus would offer something more than the forgiveness of sin. What?

Throughout the ancient world the controlling question was what was the best way to live. Aristotle asked the question, "What is the good life?" and Jesus gave an answer. It is this question that the Gospel answers. So when John the Baptist say the Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit, keeping in mind the Holy Spirit is the power of life, Jesus baptists us with the very power of Life. His Gospel is far more than the gospel we reduce it to. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God filling us every moment with life. It is the power that makes a seed grow into a grape vine. The power that makes my son stronger each day. More than the forgiveness of sin like the Gospel of the sinners prayer, more than the promise of the gods of our culture (money, power fame) of prosperity gospel, or promise of heaven after this life gospel, Jesus offers the power of life within our lives. The Eternal life starts now in my following of Jesus.

I understand Jesus' love in the interactions with my son. I follow Jesus as I follow the eyes of Tito. God is real. I experience the power of God in my life, in the smallness of my breathing, the grandeur of the blessings of life. No matter what happens with my son, I know Jesus is in the midst and the power of life is behind it all. We have been baptized in the breath of God. Jesus offers the power of love.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Eternal Life

The last few nights, my son has been up crying. My wife and I have taken turns getting up with him. I think that his upcoming surgery has made more aware of him. Even as he cries, I am find the joy of the Lord in our interactions. I realizer how much of a gift Tito is, and my job is to love him. We now have a certain amount of time before the surgery, and that has awaken in my a cherishing of life in general and Tito's in particular. The eternal life Jesus' promised begins at every single moment. I am learning the secret of be joyous in all moments.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Nature of Dread

Dread may come less from the unknown than from the known.

Since we found out the diagnosis of Baby Tito, we have known that surgery was part of his future. The little boy of joy would have to go an ordeal of surgeons, intensive care, and weeks of recovering. We have known it was coming. Until yesterday, we had on idea as to when. Now, after speaking with the surgeon, we know that as well. We know it will be around his first birthday, late March or early April.

Tito smiled as a team of doctors came. He knows no dread about what is coming, only the dread of delayed milk. We, his parents, know the dread of what is ahead.

Kindness and love come in small gestures. Tito's medical team is every thing right about our Health Care system. The surgeon calmly explained what was to be expected. He was followed by a cadre of visiting Doctors from around the world. They, even as some lack the language to express, gave us glances of compassion. As Surgeon explained where the incision was going and what he and his colleague do to rebuild the eye socket and readjust Tito's brain, Tito dropped his binky. The nurse noticed, picked it up and wash it. I knew Tito is in good hands. Kindness has a power.

We have prayed since we knew what was coming became more in focus. Baby Tito will have hours of surgery. Jesus is real in these moments of life. Dread is knowing what is coming. Jesus is real in these moments of dread, in these moments of the cross, in these moments of Grace. Hope is knowing we are placed in nail punctured hands.