It’s that time of year again. The time that is apparently crucial for businesses to turn over as much product as possible so that they can stay financially viable for the following year. I’m not particularly cynical about the commercialisation of Christmas, I’ve grown up only knowing a commercial Christmas, so its part of the whole Christmas tradition. But this year, Christmas has had a different spin for me.
Unless we live with our head in a paper bag, we all know that the Christmas tradition has its’ origins 2000 years ago in a greeko-roman society where Jesus Christ was born. Any Judeo-Christian society today celebrates this, some a little more fanatical than others. This contrasts starkly against a Christmas I had in India 3 years ago where the day passed as little more than news item that evening observing the West’s obsession with this ‘festival’. Ironic given the nature of religious pilgrimages in India routinely number in the 100’s of millions.
The West’s obsession with this ‘festival’ however, has very little to do with it’s origins, and a lot to do with financial bottom line. It’s BIG, because it’s big money, not because a child was born in a manger heralding a new counter-institutional movement (that ironically was later institutionalised).
Commercialism aside, Christmas IS an event that is large on the calendar for us, and routinely revolves around family, the purchasing of gifts, BBQ’s, beaches, and eating way too much food.
This year Christmas has made me think differently.
When people have asked me what I want for Christmas this year (in an effort to buy a gift that is more than just a token gesture) I have been tempted to reply with ‘How about a cure for cancer?’. Given the fairly cynical nature of this response, I havent used it. But it has really hit home just how pretty much any of the items purchased for me will have a lifespan that is longer than my own…
Unless it’s food…
- This time next year, unless I’m extremely unfortunate, I should be celebrating Christmas….
- This time in 2 years, if I’m good at fighting, I should be celebrating Christmas….
- This time in 3 years, unless God Himself intervenes, I should be dead…..
How does THAT make me feel this Christmas???
It makes me feel great Happiness in the now, yet great Sadness at the future; It makes me realise that if material items can outlive me, then the living I have left is short.
Above all, this makes me realise how we totally sell out to the belief we need more stuff.
What we need, is more life.
What I need, is not to die…..
The prospect of limited life has made it a valuable commodity, and material goods a cheap add-on. But instead for most of us, it is the material goods that are the commodity and life that is taken for granted.
More Life is not just limited to a temporal measurement, More Life is also how we live it: it’s reaching out to those who suffer, despite the fact we also suffer; it’s making a difference in the lives around us; It’s building God’s Kingdom; it’s ironically giving up the priorities of your life for the priorities of someone else’s; it’s loving with no agenda;
…It’s knowing that even though I am dying, right now I’m still living…..
What you want for Christmas might be a playstation….
All I want for Christmas is to live…..
My previous labelling of chemotherapy updates were under the assumption that there would only be 8 rounds, and did not anticipate the second lot of chemo that I am now undertaking. So, I’m essentially doubling up on my labeling, and we restart here, at chemo 1.0.
Friday was the magic day, and it essentially involved a 90 min infusion of a trial drug/placebo that I’m on on, followed by 2 simultaneous 2 hr infusions of Irinotcan and Folinic Acid (Leucovorin), and then a bolus of 5 Fluoro Uracil (5FU). I then get sent home with a slow 46hr infusion of the 5FU, which was de-accessed on Sunday from my port.
On the whole, when compared to my previous chemo regime, it was a pretty good chemo round. The biggest battle was incessant hiccuping, which is a manifestation of the nausea. So I’m gonna try and see if I can change my anti-emetic regime before the next round.
As of writing this, its the Monday after my infusion has stopped, and whilst I’m not feeling 100%, I’m already feeling MUCH better than I did yesterday.
Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers. The next round will start in 3 weeks since there is a 1 week delay because I am away over the Christmas period.
Tomorrow I start chemotherapy again… for the second time. I’m looking forward to it about as much I would a hole in the head, but because this is the way the cookie crumbles, if I want to survive, chemo it is. This last week leading up to to it has had some absolutely amazing weather, and it has made me appreciate the enforced free time that I have had over the last year. I appreciate it a lot less when it is rainy and I’m stuck inside feeling nauseous.
My apartment has felt somewhat like a prison over the last 12 months. Hannah and I have considered moving a couple of times to a slightly bigger place, but with rental prices the way they are in this part of town, we can’t really afford or justify it.
This is the view of the Auckland sky tower we have from our place, a view that I am completely sick of. I’ve had to look at it far more than the average person would living in a place like this. And now, as I am about to embark on the chemo process all over again, I’m both weary, and appreciative.
Weary because its sucks to be feeling sick and miserable;
Appreciative because I’m glad that every extra day I get is one that I can spend with Hannah and with creation;
Weary because I’m emotionally shattered, and soon to be physically shattered;
Appreciative because I know I’m part of a plan bigger than me;
Weary because I know all this fighting for life will probably end in death;
Appreciative because I know death is not end of everything;
I’m increasingly discovering that life is a tug and pull between juxtaposing ideals and reality. The way we WANT life to be and the way life actually is. Sometimes we think life should be an ‘either, or’ proposition, mostly i’m discovering its a ‘both, and’ one. The good with the bad, the beautiful with the ugly, Christmas with chemo, and life with death. Each holds hands with the other, unable exist without the other, yet inexorably bound to opposition.
Isn’t that what grace is about? Forgiveness in the presence of unforgivability?
My life is slowly being polarised to either end of any given spectrum, great joy with great sadness, a ‘both, and’ proposition that I dearly wish was ‘either, all’. My wishing will however, be in vain, as life is never what we wish it to be, because if it was, our wishing would create a world with no contrasts. A world with no contrasts is like a world with no colour.
The beauty is in the contrast.
Thanks for listening.
I have recently had the opportunity to be interviewed on New Zealand’s Rhema. It was an interesting experience as I had never been on the inside of a radio studio before. I have always had a fascination with job disciplines that are not my own. I guess its a always been part of my curiosity of the world on how things work, and is probably responsible in large part for my interest in science.
Anyway, the conversation largely centered on my life up to now, where it is going, how cancer fits in, and where God is in amongst it all. The interview spanned three ten minute spots, interspersed with advertisements, over an hour. I quite enjoyed it, and once you get past the fact that there are x numbers of people listening to you (where x = any number you like), its quite a relaxing environment on the inside of a studio. I’ll put a link up in the next day or so when it get’s posted online, so be sure to check back if you want to listen to it. [UPDATED: Click here to hear the interview]
I’m constantly amazed at the opportunities that have come my way lately to share my story. I have spoken to a number of groups, which include youth, churches, and workplaces, as well as being interviewed for a short film last week, and now this spot on Rhema today.
It’s amazing how my story of death can be one that can encourage so many people. It’s only God’s grace that really allows me to talk about it the way I do, and His grace alone that opens these doors of opportunity. I can only hope and pray that people will be better off for having heard my story, and closer to God for having been a part of the journey. When I die, if nothing else, I will be happy knowing I managed to build God’s kingdom just that little bit bigger.
Thanks for listening.
I have heard the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” thrown around a bit lately. I was even asked it the other day in an interview I gave which is gonna get slapped on to the extras of a short film DVD. It’s not a question that I felt very comfortable with, and I wasn’t entirely sure why until just recently. It dawned on me why this particular question, which occurs in a somewhat cliche manner in certain circles (I’m looking at you Christians), gets used and misused all the time.
Why do bad things happen to good people?…
There are two parts to this question that needs to be considered. The first is this:
The question presupposes some measure of Good and Bad. That is, it assumes that we have an ability to judge what we think is good, and what we think is bad. Most of us will say that yes, we indeed have this abililty, we can and do make calls on the good and bad in life all the time.
The problem however, is that this ability is essentially entirely relative for each of us. What one person deems to be a good thing is not necessarily what someone else deems to be a good thing. One person might think they are good to make a one off donation to charity, another person thinks that regular donations are the very least they can do. One person might think that is only okay to kill in times of war, another may think that it is never acceptable.
There are literally hundreds of examples of relative good/bad situations that can be given, and on the whole, we live in a society where we are able to hold various positions on this good/bad continuum without too much repercussion. When sufficient people think that an action or stance is bad enough, a democratic society then institutes laws to criminalise those actions (despite a small minority opinion that might disagree). For example, Marijuana is illegal, yet many who smoke it see nothing wrong with it.
Given that we seem to have a relative measure of good and bad, this question then becomes a relative question. That is, one person’s bad thing could easily be another persons not so bad thing, and one person’s impression of what makes a good person might not be considered good by someone else.
The second consideration of this question is that it is an entirely loaded question. Bad things happen to good people, we all know it, and arguably, I’m proof of it (if I was to consider myself good).
But here’s the clincher…
Good things happen to good people too…
AND good and bad things happen to bad people too!!…
Good and Bad things happen to Good and Bad people!
…. We just don’t like it when it isn’t good things to good people or bad things to bad people…
We have some preconceived notion that good people should only have good things happen to them, and bad people only bad things. I guess in the back of our minds there is some sort of sense of justice that drives this. When we look in the world we can see both the good and the bad, and they happen, sometimes indiscriminately, and sometimes, because it was our own fault.
The beauty of having free will is that we get to choose, we get to make our own decisions, and we get to live with the consequences of those decisions. We love it when we get good consequences, but boy, do we moan like its some great injustice when the consequences are bad.
Love it or hate it, the good comes with the bad.
So the problem with why bad things happen to good people is actually with the question in the first place, rather than the answer. The question does not allow an answer that anyone would really be happy with, and presupposes factually incorrect conditions.
…. There are many things like that in life, where it’s the question that is wrong, not the answer. My previous post explored that a little.
Spending more time on framing our questions in life will go a long way to finding the right answers. God isn’t responsible for bad things happening to good people, our questions are responsible for making God seem like that is what He does. I think we should give God more credit that what our faulty logic does.
Thanks for listening.
Finding answers in life seems to be one of the many great human conditions. We are curious creatures, we are always seeking to extend our knowledge and to explore boundaries further. Those boundaries may be geographical as they once were a few hundred years back, or just technological, chemical, biological, or cosmological. Something about being human drives us to find more answers.
What I want to know is what exactly are we trying to answer? What is it that keeps us searching for more?
It seems as though this insatiable drive to discover and explore is driven by the question ‘Why?‘. Why is the question that drives us. When we see something we don’t understand we ask Why, and it begins with simple observations: Why does the sun rise and set everyone day? Why do the stars move in the night sky with seasonal variation and repetition? Why does gravity always go down? Why are plants green? … why?..
As we have answered these questions, our hunger hasnt stopped, still we need to know why: Why are there electrons, protons and neutrons in an atom? Why do photons have properties of both waves AND particles? Why does DNA do what it does to produce life?
So we continue to discover and learn, and still we ask Why? We are driven to know, to learn, and to explore.
.. But sometimes we take this question to other areas in life, and the why question doesnt actually give us the answer we were looking for.
Why did I lose my job? Why has the house sale fallen through? Why do politicians lie? Why can’t we all just agree on the same thing? Why is their evil in the world? Why did he/she break up with me? …or in my case:
Why do I have cancer?…
… and this is where the fallacy begins…
We like to ask why, it’s in our blood, but we are also good at taking one approach in life and universally applying it to all situations. Just because why helped us discover a heliocentric solar system, doesn’t mean that its going to help me come to terms with the fact I have cancer. In fact, the answer to the question is entirely unfulfilling, it leads me nowhere and leaves me empty. If nothing else, the question ‘why do I have cancer?’ makes me want to wallow in self pity feeling sorry for myself and wishing the solar system was more Jared-centric rather than heliocentric.
…It’s a self defeating question…
I’ve learnt that a different question gives me different answers, answers that are more fulfilling…
How can I use my circumstances to encourage others? How can I give God the glory even when times are dark? How can I be the answer to someone elses needs that are greater than my own?
Why leads me to a dead end, How, on the other hand, creates opportunity; Why is unproductive, where How is productive; Why is meaningless, How gives my situation meaning, it creates purpose from something that is otherwise purposeless; Why is all about myself, How is all about God, and all about others; Why brings no fulfilment, How brings fulfilment to both myself and to those around me.
…How has brought me closer to God…
I need to add, for those of faith, that this applies to how we pray as well. Rather than asking God why, we should be asking how.
Asking Why will never produce the answer we are looking for….
Asking How opens up the world to hopes and dreams and potential, even when circumstances might be bleak…
Thanks for Listening.