Nature’s Call

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Nature (n.) the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.

Look up nature in the dictionary and there are several definitions but this one is the most raw…the most natural definition as it were. Mankind likes to take control and control our world. As a race we strive to control our lives and create our own world. We use terms like “man made park” and “man made lake” to label what we call our creations. However, these aren’t creations at all, not in the truest sense. We manipulate the created to make into something we desire and call it our creation, but we have not created anything we have merely manipulated the created world and rearranged it to better serve us. We build dams to have lakes that allow us to power society and manipulate the irrigation of our land. We beat back the weeds and cut down the trees to make our cities with all their conveniences. We do these things in the name of progress trying to control the world around us and in turn our lives.

The irony in all of this is we haven’t truly created anything and unless we continually fight nature what we have built will be destroyed. If we do not continually cut back the woods they will take over. If we do not continually monitor our dams and relieve the water pressure regularly the dam will burst. Over the centuries we have slowly tricked ourselves into this belief that we are creators of our own world. So much so that with the modern advances in science we are trying to clone and genetically modify plants and animals. Slowly we have told ourselves we are a pseudo-god that can do as we wish. Sadly may have used the Bible itself to say this is good quoting Genesis 1:26 as their reference for their right to dominion.

Many have used the term dominion to mean we can do whatever we want with the world around us. In truth we can’t. To have dominion means we are called to be a good steward of the land, to watch over it and nurture it. For centuries mankind did this in relative consistency, there were those that exploited the land but as a general rule the land was taken care of and nurtured. Somewhere this all changed, in my mind this begun in earnest at the industrial revolution, and we began to treasure money, power, and things more than we valued the world around us. We became obsessed with inventing to make our lives easier and have more and to have it quicker.This has morphed into the instant gratification device crazed society that we have become.

Over time we have not only lost the respect for the land but also for one another. We have begun to stop respecting life. As a society we don’t respect the natural world and feel free to take from or simply destroy if it suits our current desires. We see evidence of this with mountain top removal and deforestation. Nature is destroyed in the most harmful way to make our lives easier or make more money, and in the process poisoning the people and nature in the area. It is easy to point the finger at the coal company who blows off the top of mountains or the real estate industry that is stripping the land to make way for a shopping mall, but we are to blame as well for it is us, as consumers, that drive the profits of these industries.

God is everywhere but mankind has invented distractions so that we may not hear or see Him. It is only in nature, surrounded by His creation, that we remove these distractions and can truly hear and see. I find that it is in nature that I am able be come closer to God. Yes, in church while worshiping God I can feel His presence but even during liturgy there are our man made distractions that dull the experience. In nature, if we leave the cell phone and other tech off, we are not only able to worship God ourselves but also are able to join with creation in worship.

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~ Luke 19:40

So many times my time in nature has balanced me back to center. When I am feeling discouraged and worried nature drives home Matthew 6:26 , especially during winter. When I am feeling angry my time in nature God revels to me how my anger is pride based and humbles me. In nature there is a type of freedom that one can only get while surrounded by God’s creation. Turn off the cell phone, leave the tablet and internet at home and walk into nature and simply sit and listen to creation it will change your perspective. When it is time to come back into your regular every day life try to hold on to the knowledge gained and return often.

Medic!!!

When you watch the old war movies every time someone is shot or is otherwise injured, someone near them yells MEDIC. We joke around our house when someone falls or gets a scrape to yell ‘medic!’ for a kiss of the boo boo. As much as this is a running joke in our family-recently there has been a more real and serious side in our house.

Our house is sick. I don’t mean the hundred year old house itself but those inside its solid walls. Last year it was the Elliana scare that finally came to an end with a Celiac diagnosis and after numerous rounds of iron infusions, an iron count worthy of a princess. Praise God for that news. The hematology discharge news cane while my son Josiah, who has dealt with bowel issues since his birth, was in the hospital for the third time. Since then he has been in the hospital for a fourth time and we have finally after years of testing got somewhat of a diagnosis. His colon functionality is non-existent naturally and with medication it is reduced from where it should be.

So what exactly does that mean exactly??? Surgery to place a cecostomy tube. The tube will allow medications to be delivered directly to the colon. IF his function comes back over time it can be removed but that remains to be seen.

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While this last hospitalization for Josiah was going on I am having to work, because all of my vacation and medical time off has already been spent up with previous hospitalizations for both Ellianna and Josiah. While wrapping up the day my foot gets caught and I twist my knee. I am injured and have to go see my company’s Workers Compensation doctor who promptly puts me on a immobilizing brace and crutches. I go back today, after being on the isolation brace/crutches for two weeks, to see if a MRI is necessary to see if I tore anything.

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Just when you think things can’t get any crazier my Beloved goes to the doctor last week about an issue with her nose and the doctors find 3 masses in her sinus cavity. Today she has a CT scan to see the extent of these masses and surgery to remove them is imminent. They, of course, are concerned that they possibly could be cancerous considering the history of melanoma in her family. So 2 surgeries for definite and 1 maybe (my knee) are in our future.

Sooooo…yeaaaaa…MEDIC…UNCLE….TRUCE…. Can someone stop the bus we want to get off. This makes the 4th time we’ve stared cancer in the face in our lives since 2006. (Me in 2006, Ellianna in 2014, Josiah in 2014/15, and now my wife.) The waiting for those results is excruciating and terrifying. I sat down the other day to map out the medical history alone and figured out we have been in medical crisis constantly since 2008…and that doesn’t take into account anything else during that time.

I know we will get through this. I know somehow we will see the other side but right now the tunnel is really dark for us both, and honestly I am squeamish about the light that everyone talks about ’cause so far all the lights have turned out to be another train. These years of roller-coaster and constant crisis have taken their toll on our health (ironically), financially, and honestly spiritually. I know this is not the plan that God has and He is the Great Physician. This will eventually stop…the question is when and what will the toll be to our family, our relationships, and our finances. Your prayers would be appreciated. (A dear friend has helped set up a Go Fund Me page if you feel so led.)

Anger: A Lenten Reflection

I have this hanging on my desk as a reminder.
I have this hanging on my desk as a reminder*

The Ukrainian crisis, ISIS, Israel / Palestine conflict, race relations, sexual orientation relations, etc. is all you hear about in the news. I listen to NPR or the BBC, or watch the PBS News Hour, and the news is filled with violence and hatred and all around bad and evil things of this world. We, as humans, are drawn to the bad news and gossip of this world. I am not sure exactly why but I am not immune; let me make that point perfectly clear.

With this being the Lenten season I have been reflecting on anger, specifically my own, and the causes and ways to reduce anger but today as I was driving I heard a piece on the BBC radio about social memory and it really sparked my interest. During a discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest book the interesting fact of social memory came up and when it is best to remember or best to forget.** During this discussion Kazuo Ishiguro talks about his book and how the main characters are elderly and trying to remember events in the past but are worried what it will do if they did remember. He mentions how at times social memory is invoked and used as a weapon for political purposes. He mentions examples where in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda where relative peace had been observed then sudden violence broke out. He pointed out that weaponized social memory was a major cause of this new violence.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. All too often past offenses by groups are intentionally remembered to rouse up and stir hate and discontent. The fact is that every nation and social group has its dark moments. Americans have slavery and the atomic bomb, Germans have the holocaust and WWII, and the British have the wars and land conquests of Scotland and Ireland, and the list goes on ad nauseum.

Kazuo Ishiguro mentions the question of when is it best to remember and when is it best to forget; I think the question is more complex however. It isn’t the act of remembering, or by extension forgetting, that is the issue it is the anger that is felt and what we as people choose to do with it. It is not wrong to remember, I would argue that it is good to remember and honor those victims and events to prevent them from occurring again, however if you allow anger to well up inside it is dangerous.  It is good to remember the holocaust, 9/11, etc. and honor those that died but to have hatred and anger toward the Germans or Muslims because of this is perpetuating violence and hatred and continuing the cycle. Not every German is a Nazi and not every Muslim is a terrorist; in fact most aren’t.

It is sad that all too often the actions of a few are generalized on the populous. It is up to us as individuals to keep our own anger in check and to reject any propaganda. How do we do this? That is the real question. I feel that the answer is different for every person. For me quiet time, prayer, and putting myself in another’s shoes helps but I am by no means mastered anything. I’m just thankful for the forgiveness and mercy shown to us by God and pray I am going the right direction.

 

* http://crosscardscom.tumblr.com/image/89773146376

** http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/newshour (Podcast for 3/4/15 @ 15:00 minutes in)

Connected Disconnection – Technology and Health Pt. 2

We all lead stressful lives in one form or another. There is no escaping stress…it is one of the few equalizing aspects of everyone’s life. I have heard in conversations with those many years my senior that people today are more stressed than they were when they were my age (some 30-40 earlier). Several studies have been done that have shown this.* Studies are also looking at the links between technology use and stress.

A recent Huffington Post article looked at how social networking is affecting us.** Looking at research by the Pew Research Foundation they found that those who actively use Social Media are 14% more likely to say their lives are “Somewhat Stressful”. The article gives a few reasons for this including the pressure to keep up with others and the drive to put our best self forward. How many of us are truly honest about who we are online?

Admittedly, I have found myself being affected by Social Media Stress. For myself it hasn’t been the desire to keep up with the Jones’s or to show my best face but instead had manifested in self degradation. I have found myself beating me up for being a bad husband/father because I’m not doing all these things my “friends” are doing with their spouses or kids. This of course in not healthy and when I recognize it I log off of Social Media for a while. ***

While I have mainly focused on the physical health aspects in this short series there is also a much bigger and more insidious side…the emotional and relational. In this connected society it has amazed he as to how less connected we have become. When I go out in town I see it all the time…the vast majority on a phone, tablet, or other technology and not actively engaging with the world around them. I have to admit I too have been guilty of this. It seems to be happening more and more but what could possibly be the issue with this use?

It isn’t hard to imagine the possible physical issues that could arise from a distracted person. One could walk into a wall, a hole, or even traffic. In fact these technology distracted injuries are becoming more and more problematic.**** This distraction can cause us to be disconnected from those around us too. Who know what we have missed while looking at our tech…we may have walked past an old friend we hadn’t seen in years.

This distraction can be especially harmful if those being distracted are parents. Besides the obvious lack of supervision that could lead to injury or worse. But what about the emotional aspects? A recent Boston Medical study observed 55 groups of children at fast-food restaurants. They observed that 40 of the 55 caregivers “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.”***** I have to admit I have been guilty of this at times and I admit it wasn’t even important use of tech.

Much of my reading and pondering has been admittedly uncomfortable. I have become convicted and ashamed of my actions. I have taken steps to remedy my stumbles but I am a long way from where I want and should to be. It is a long road and a difficult one. I have found for myself the lure of technology can be an all too tempting one. Lord willing I will reach that point. I hope this short series might help someone.

 

 

* http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx

** http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dick/social-networks-and-stress_b_3534170.html

*** http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/19/213568763/researchers-facebook-makes-us-sadder-and-less-satisfied

**** http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/17/cell-phone-walking-injuries-rise/2824515/

***** http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/parents-put-down-the-cellphones/2014/08/08/0fb48ba4-1db8-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html

 

 

Blue Light Special ~ Technology and Health Pt. 1

I am going to start a small series on technology and health. It is something that has peaked my interest for several months now and I am going to share my thoughts and research here. I started thinking about this when my eyes began to burn and throb and I lost feeling in 3 of my fingers on my left hand. I went to the optometrist who said my glasses were good but that my eyes were really strained and coupled with my allergies was causing the discomfort in my eyes. As far as my hand goes I’ve not been to the doctor yet but I suspect it is carpel tunnel or something similar.

As an IT professional technology is a major part of my life and I can see the many good things it has brought us but I can also see the bad things as well. In this series I am going to show what I have learned and give some advice on how to counteract those negative effects. Admittedly these posts will focus more on the negative side of technology, mainly because the positive is obvious to us all. Please don’t take these posts as a negative rant or manifesto against technology only as an awareness of the dangers and ways to mitigate those dangers while improving our lives for the better. I am definitely no anti-technology luddite…without computers I wouldn’t have a job.

No one, especially parents of young children, can deny that sleep is vital to a healthy life and most of those I know say they don’t get enough of it (including myself). We all know that consuming caffeine or sugary food and drink late at night can cause us to not sleep well. More and more research is showing that our use of technology is affecting our sleep as well.

When the sun goes down and it gets time for our bodies to sleep the brain releases a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that decreases our alertness and signals us that bedtime is near. The pineal gland releases this hormone a few hours before bedtime and begins the process of our body preparing for regenerative sleep. This hormone helps regulate our circadian rhythm that dominates our sleep/awake pattern.

This rhythm is vital to us getting the correct amount of sleep and our bodies be regenerated and us be alert during the day. With the proliferation of the use of modern technology this cycle has become compromised. According to one study the average U.S. adult spends an average of 11 hours a day with digital media*. All of these devices (TV’s, computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.) emit light…more specifically blue light. This blue light is tricking our bodies into thinking it is daytime.

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http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

Many studies have been done that show that blue light is inhibiting out brains from releasing the melatonin that we need to begin the sleep process. This leaves us to stay awake later and sleep less. This has helped attribute to the statistic that 30% if employed US adults reporting that they get less than 6 hours of sleep a night**. This coupled with our fast paced modern society of early work times and long days has caused sever detriments to our health.

This blue light affects adults negatively but the affect is multiplied exponentially with children and teenagers. It is during these years that we establish our circadian rhythm and during these years we are more sensitive to blue light interruption. In one study I read the melatonin levels were measured in adults and teenagers during the use of blue light emitting electronics. The study found that even when teens were exposed to a level of blue light 1/10th less than the adults in the study they actually suppressed more melatonin than the adults in the study***.

Sleep deprivation affects us negatively in more ways than just being tired during the day. The decreased alertness causes us be less productive and increases our chances of mistakes and injury. I know personally when I am tired I make poorer food choices and eat out more because I am too tired to cook. This negatively affects my health and my finances. It is during sleep that our bodies regenerate and heal. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer****.

The blue light also affects our eyes. This may seem like a duh statement but the effects are serious on our eyes, especially for kids and teens. Cases of digital eyes strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome as it is professionally referred to, is on the rise. Symptoms include the short term effects of burning eyes and headaches but there are long lasting affects as well. Blue light is a high frequency light and it can cause cells in the eyes to die off at a faster rate causing macular degeneration*****. These affects are worst for kids and teens because the pigment that the eye uses to filter the blue light doesn’t develop in the human eye until about age 25*****.

So now the real question is what can we do to help combat these negative effects.  Technology is all around us and it is very useful to our lives. Technology and blue light is inescapable nor do I believe we should escape totally but everything in moderation. The ideal would to begin by discontinuing use of TV’s, computers, smartphones, etc. as soon as possible to the setting of the sun. That would be the ideal but of course there are those of us who can’t. I would personally be one of those people and what I do may help you.

First thing I do is to stop using technology as soon as possible in the evenings. Some nights that is 6 o’clock some nights it is 11 o’clock depending on the circumstances. Ideally it would be at least 3-4 hours before my bedtime to allow my brain to send those melatonin inspired commands to prepare for sleep. When I can’t do that I try to stick to using my smartphone where I have a blue light filter program that filters out a great deal of the blue spectrum light. I also use a filter on my work computer to help alleviate the eye strain called f.lux.

This program coupled with the change in habits has helped me. My headaches are fewer and my eyes burn less plus I do sleep better. The change was anything but instant or overnight. It takes weeks to reset that circadian rhythm clock. A bonus has been that I have been able to wind down in the evenings and have a calmer end to the day with less stress. I was personally surprised at the stress looking at the news, Facebook, etc caused. I encourage you to read for yourself and discover yourself what researchers are discovering.

* http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

** http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038%2F497s13a

*** http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/blue-light-from-electronics-disturbs-sleep-especially-for-teenagers/2014/08/29/3edd2726-27a7-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

**** http://www.brighamandwomens.org/about_bwh/publicaffairs/news/pressreleases/PressRelease.aspx?sub=0&PageID=1962

***** http://www.techrepublic.com/article/digital-eye-strain-understanding-the-condition-and-how-to-fight-it/?tag=nl.e101&s_cid=e101&ttag=e101&ftag=TRE684d531

 

Welcome 2015

Well this post is a few days late but our 2014 ended in a whirlwind of sickness and 2015 started very similarly. As I look back on the year I see the impact of the crazy sickness that plagued our family. The year started with Elliana going into the hospital with some mysterious illness that turned out to be Celiac Disease. Everyone else in the house was sick off and on all year with some bug or another. I haven’t totaled all the hospital and doctor visits but I know there was a lot of them judging by all the bills I kept getting.

2014 ended much in the way it began…we went home to Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family and that week ended with my father in the hospital with heart issues and a mommy with bronchitis and 6 sick kiddos fighting this winters lovely bug (thankfully not the flu though). We rang in 2015 with an early bed time and some NyQuil and DoTerra essential oils. We slept in on the first and the day was spent taking down Christmas decorations and nursing ourselves trying to recover. On the second however we found that Elliana’s iron had not gone back up and they began the process if IV iron/platelet transfusions. She will have to have several transfusions over the course of months at the hospital.

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Biggest goal for this year is get healthy :). Mommy is still fighting the bronchitis and had been to the doctor 3 times now over it but at least the kids are feeling a bit better. I don’t make resolutions at New Years but I look forward to this new year and what it brings. Hopefully that will be improved health and sanity but regardless of what life throws at us we are together as a family and as a family we will weather the storms.

Memory Eternal

memorial

 

6 years ago today a tragedy struck our family. While away at a dear friends wedding a baby we didn’t even know we were going to be blessed with passed away. In the days past that we almost lost a wonderful wife and mother as well. Thankfully a very skilled and loving OB surgeon was able to save my wife’s life but there was no saving our precious child we never knew. We erected a simple memorial in a hidden spot on our property in the mountains a few weeks later and that is what you see above.

To this day that grief and pain is still there.Yes God has seen fit to bless us with 6 wonderful children and we a eternally thankful for that, but that does not change the loss we feel for the one we never knew.There isn’t a day that goes by that it doesn’t cross my mind. I have caught myself many times freaking out because it feels like I am missing a child and I count the heads and come up with 6 but that feeling of missing a child doesn’t go away…because there is one missing.

Summer Fun 2014

It’s been a fun and crazy summer here. Haven’t had a lot of time to post but I’ve got a few in my head to put down. In the meantime enjoy these pictures from our Summer.

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Pascha 2014

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Pascha* (Easter) this year was an especially busy but good one. Holy week started with my children’s teachers being put on notice that homework would not be turned in this week and that the kids would not be in class on Good Friday…and the drama that that caused. Every night of the week we would leave for services and inevitably would hit traffic and show up 15+ minutes late (most services last 2-3 hours this week though). The services are beautiful and painful all at the same time. This time more than any other we face the sinful nature of ourselves and the reality of the cross.

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The services culminated in the Paschal Nocturnes and Liturgy Saturday night / Sunday morning (starting at 11:40 PM Saturday and going till 3:00 AM Sunday). This service has always been one of my favorites. Reverent and joyous this service celebrates the resurrection of Christ in a way no passion play ever could. It is hard to describe…it is something you have to experience.

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We started attending the Orthodox Church during the season of Lent over 3 years ago. A lot has happened in those 3 years…many changes have occurred. Through everything Christ has been there with us… even in the times I was more like Thomas. The Pascha season was a time of remembrance and renewed energy. Christ is Risen…

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http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha

** Photos taken by my wife @ http://memoriaarts.com

Long Days and Short Nights

It has been a month+ since I last posted. Admittedly that is not particularly unusual, however we have had several things collide into a perfect storm on us. I still can’t put to words my thoughts so here are some pictures and quotes in the interim.

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My dear sweet girl (3) hospitalized for a week with a yet to be really determined illness. 

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Traffic….lots of tunnel traffic back and forth from home to hospital to work.

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The extremely long lasting vigil candle lit for my family….Has been going for over a month now (LED)

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Resilient goofy kids 

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Setting of the old day and onto a new one. 

Hopefully things are going to clam down and I can put words together…but right now I have no words. I leave you with a quote from a book I am struggling to get through.

I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out pursue his own way, and not his fathers or his mothers or his neighbor’s instead.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden

Let us spend one day as dileberately as nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden