The Death of My Type 1 Cousin

Type One Diabetes is a stupid disease, and I truly despise it.

My cousin, Rick Boyd, was called into the nearer presence of Christ this morning at 12:45 am. He was 47.

In his youth, a stocky comrade, he was someone you’d want on your team when the neighborhood kids got together for a game of football. Flag football? No, that was for the weak. We were out for blood. And Ricky, when he had the ball, was pretty much a juggernaut. On more than one occasion, it took both my brother Michael (RIP) and myself to take him down, and that was only after he’d dragged us twenty yards.

Back in the day, no one used the term ADHD. There was no such thing. But if someone ever used the words “hyperactive,” Ricky came to mind. In fact, at some point along the way he’d been coached by someone to vigorously shake his hands when he could feel the energy building, except as he did this, it was less of a tool of release for him and more of an indicator that we’d all better get the heck out of his way. For those of us on his team, that was the moment you knew to hand him the football.

Ricky was a counterpart to so many of the adventures of my childhood—camping trips, late night gatherings with family and friends, endless biking around Danville, Illinois where we grew up. You name it, Ricky was often there somewhere. He didn’t have siblings. We were his siblings. His dad left when he was very little, and so we filled that void, too.

He also didn’t have a pancreas that worked the way it was supposed to. Like my daughter, Evelyn, he had Type 1 Diabetes. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily know the breadth of the disease my aunt would refer to when giving him a shot, but I knew it was there. It was the only thing that ever seemed to bring Ricky, the powerhouse kid on the team, to a halt.

I never really fathomed the seriousness of his plight.

Even as he grew older and we lost touch, having lived so far away from one another, I wasn’t kept unaware that his body had begun to succumb to the darker prospects of the disease. A few limbs were amputated and he eventually went blind.

Again, he died last night. Complications from Type 1 Diabetes is what will be printed on the certificate.

Having said all of this, it wasn’t all that long ago that someone said to me that there are so many children out there that have it far worse than my daughter. In the moment, I was really rather angry for the statement. Of course I know it’s true. Things could be worse. But still, it was a heartlessly ignorant thing to say. In a sense, I’ve held onto that ignorant lack of understanding of this disease, and I suppose it was for a moment like this.

Yes, we Christians know that no one knows the day or hour of one’s death—only the Lord. It could be fifty years from now. It could be tomorrow. But there is a statistical “normal” we have as humans, and the terrible truth is that people with Type 1, on average, live much shorter lives than those whose pancreases are intact. To be specific, they live an average of sixteen to twenty fewer years than others.

In this situation, Ricky lived thirty years less than a man my age probably will, and as you might expect, this is a terror that lurks in the minds of parents of Type 1 children.

Yes, I trust Christ. Still, when I look at my daughter, this little bit of ungodly information twists my insides in ways that result in the feeling of needing to micromanage the little things. I know Jennifer feels it, too.

With that, I’m not really sure what to say from all of this. I suppose I could offer that if you know the parent of a Type 1 Diabetic, know also that there are hidden concerns that might cause them to seem overly dramatic. Don’t tell them it could be worse. They already know it, and the hovering is the evidence. They already know that while they’re in charge of the care, every little bit of micromanaged success in the fight against this monster means a changing of the odds. To me, it means that for as long as I can, I’m going to work to make sure my little girl has a better shot at outliving me, and not the other way around.

Letting Her Go

(A Facebook Post.)

We just dropped Evelyn off at Camp Midicha, which is a week-long summer camp for kids with Type 1 Diabetes. Needless to say, I am experiencing a strange mixture of emotions.

In one sense I’m terrified. And why? Because no one knows the particulars of her disease like her parents—not her doctors or her friends. Not even her siblings have it wrangled like we do. We know her numbers, and we know her physical cues. But we’ll be offline for a week—unplugged from her care while others do the tending. In a way, this teeters at the edge of nightmarish.

In another sense, I’m so happy for her. In fact, she was sitting on my lap while we waited to register and she leaned in and asked, “So, everyone here has Type 1?”

“They sure do, honey,” I replied, kissing her cheek. “All of them. Even most of the counselors.”

She gave a sigh. “I’m not alone,” was her priceless reply.

That’s right, you’re not. You’re going to meet so many other kids who are fighting this monster just like you. And although it’ll be lurking there in the midst of the camp, you’re all going to have so much fun, it’ll be like a collective punch to the fiend’s face.

Lastly, I feel guilty. Why? Because as I said in the beginning of this little jaunt, Jennifer and I are now completely unplugged from the scene. In a sense, we get a break from the constancy of our daughter’s care. But I don’t want a break. She doesn’t get a break, and so I don’t want a break. It’s with her day and night, and so I want it to be with me day and night. I want to carry as much of the load for her as I can. With that, there’s guilt.

In the end, I know the experience will be a wonderful one for her. She’s going to make a lot of friends and she’s going to learn so much about how the other kids wrestle through it all, too. Who knows? Maybe by the time she gets home she’ll finally be convinced by a cabin mate that she really should try an insulin pump. Either way, I know the Lord will bless and keep her in His loving care. And when she comes home, we’ll be here to scoop her up, hear all of her wonderful stories, and then continue on together from where we left off, knowing that one day, in the realms of heaven, this stupid disease will be a thing of the past.

But again, until then, we’re in this together and we’ll keep going.

Worship Where Anything Goes

(A Facebook Post.)

I’m sure this has the potential for making a few friends into enemies, nevertheless I’m beginning to wonder if the Christian political activists who claim conservatism and yet exist in the “anything goes” styles of worship and its subsequent theology, both of which are expressly designed to make the church more palatable and the community more inclusive, I wonder if they actually realize the incredible sticking point when facing off with a world trying to shove the LGBTQ agenda down their throat, demanding palatability and inclusivity and a willingness to accept the possibility that, indeed, Jesus is an “anything goes” kind of Savior. In other words, there are contours—limitations—and eventually someone has to say no. Even Jesus. “No, that actually isn’t appropriate in worship,” or “No, God does not speak to you personally and tell you what to do. He speaks through His Word, as the Word itself declares. Period.” The seemingly endless permissiveness in what so many are willing to call Christian churches bears a similarity to the personal subjectivity of the culture, and I dare say that the Christians who fundamentally miss the actual distinctions between the Church and world may not be fully equipped for engaging in the combat of the public square.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

I know I’m supposed to be getting ready to leave for Florida today, in fact, very soon we’ll be making our way to the airport, but I couldn’t help typing a quick note to you regarding a couple of important news items, the first of which has to do with the most recent Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.

In case you hadn’t realized it already, it is a very significant thing that has happened.

If you are unfamiliar with the case itself, you should know that six years ago, a Christian baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He did so explaining that while he was more than willing to make them a cake for any other event they’d prefer, he would not do so for their wedding due to his deeply held religious convictions. He was charged by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and was heftily fined. He pleaded his case before them several times, but each time he was unsuccessful. His case made it into court. He lost. His case went before the Appeals Court. He lost there, too. He petitioned for the Supreme Court to hear his case. The justices were willing, and did so last fall. Their decision was rendered on Monday of this past week. He won, and not by a “narrow victory” as many in the mainstream news outlets are proclaiming, but rather it was a 7 to 2 decision.

This is all very important. I say this because it affects us right here in Hartland. I can say from first-hand experience that the pressures from the gay community upon the churches, including ours, is increasing. Pastors are being attacked personally for the positions they take on the Word of God as it meets with the homosexual and transgender agendas.

I am not unfamiliar with having to wipe spit from my shoes just for saying I believe in Christ and His Word rather than the culture. It happened to me right after testifying before the Michigan State School Board regarding the mandate to allow transgender students the freedom to use the restroom of their choosing in the public schools.

But these things aren’t limited to pastors. If you haven’t already, it is possible that very soon you will be engaged by a family member, neighbor, or friend who will accuse you and your church of bigotry for believing homosexuality to be counter to the natural law and against God’s design and holy will for mankind. As I’ve said in the adult Bible study before, no one will mindfully follow a bigoted Jesus, and no one will put up with bigoted Christians. This is a deliberate tactic of the devil. You will be challenged to change you beliefs and practices that find their origins in the Word of God lest you be forced to suffer in a category called “unloving” and “intolerant.” It will be a hard place to exist. Following Christ will be hard. But remember, He said it would be.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:18-24).

But I shouldn’t leave you with only this. Jesus kept speaking, and as He did, He promised that you would be able to bear witness because He is with you and you are with Him, and all of this comes by the power of the Holy Spirit in faith.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:25-26).

Right now, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few people hovering in the social media world who are trying to lessen the impact of what has come by way of this monumental case. My public words in those forums have been to say that anyone now inferring that the Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case is valueless in the fight for Religious Liberty and the cause for the Christian Church to remain faithful to Christ are betraying the fact that they’ve not actually read the ruling. I encourage you to read it. Even spend a little time working through the shared dissension offered by Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor. You’ll see by their own words the revealing of a shaky confidence in the legal strength of the gay agenda they more than publicly support when not on the bench. There’s a reason the decision was 7—2 in favor of Phillips and his little cake shop.

As your pastor, I cannot overstate just how important this victory is as it meets the confessional Lutheran life, practice, and overall identity in which we engage here at Our Savior in Hartland, Michigan. Of course, I would never admit that by this singular case the war against the culture’s impositions upon us has been won. We are far from the war’s end. But this case does provide for the establishing of significant fortifications against some incredibly vicious tactics used by an unrelenting enemy, tactics I have experienced personally, and you may experience in the near future, too.

With that, I’ve included the an Op Ed. on the ruling that I wrote last week. It was published in several papers throughout the state.

To conclude, I pray the Lord’s blessings upon you this week. I trust that the visiting pastor will serve faithfully with the Word of the Gospel on June 17. I also offer a very happy Father’s Day to all of the dads in the congregation. And while I’m looking forward to time away with my family, I’ll be happy to see all of you when I get back. You never leave my thoughts. You are always in my prayers—even with a Scotch in my hand beside the swimming pool beneath a palm tree.

———————-

As a Lutheran Christian pastor, many things became clear for me following the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.

One of those things is that even as gay rights advocates have reached their goal of securing a place for same-sex marriage within the framework of constitutionally protected rights, Christian pastors who hold to the historic biblical perspective regarding marriage cannot be required by the State to perform such a wedding. If this was in question before, it no longer remains so. The words of Justice Kennedy in the Court Opinion have cemented this into legislative history:

“When it comes to weddings, it can be assumed that a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform the ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion. This refusal would be well understood in our constitutional order as an exercise of religion, an exercise that gay persons could recognize and accept without serious diminishment to their own dignity and worth” (p. 10)

Another result of the ruling appears to be a clearer view of true bigotry. To explain, Christians are called to love all people, but they are not called to be accepting of all behaviors, especially when those behaviors are in contradiction to God’s Word in the Bible. Nevertheless, even as they will find themselves differing with people, the Christian faith requires the showing of love to opponents. This is dogma. Knowing this, an honest consideration apart from anyone’s highly charged opinion must admit that sanctioned hate against gays does not exist within the Christian community. Sure, every community has its crazies. The Westboro Baptist Church is one example. But I can say in comparison that I’ve been spit upon by a group of homosexuals just because I was identifiable by my clerical collar as a Christian clergyman.

Still, while I’m hesitant to summarily say that the gay community believes, doctrinally, that spitting on people with differing opinions is acceptable practice, by this ruling, a poisonous militancy within the camp of the gay rights activists has been outed. It is now on record by the U.S. Supreme Court that Jack Phillips, while attempting to keep to his convictions and not use his talents to give the impression that he supports same-sex marriage, indeed was kind and respectful to his opponents by being willing to bake anything else the gay couple wanted. It is also on record that Phillips has been viciously accosted by the gay community and by officials serving on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in this. He has been portrayed by his accusers and those in positions to judge as bigoted, ignorant, unloving, and a despicable human being because of his Christian faith. In a roundabout way, the ruling names Phillips’ accusers and their unruly deeds as the truer intolerance in the situation, and it gently warns that such tactics will find no footing at the highest level of the American judicial system. Justice Kennedy leans into the point:

“To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere” (pp. 13-14).

Justice Gorsuch adds to the premise:

“Many may agree with the Commission and consider Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs irrational or offensive…. And, to be sure, this Court has held same-sex marriage a matter of constitutional right and various States have enacted laws that preclude discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But it is also true that no bureaucratic judgment condemning a sincerely held religious belief as ‘irrational’ or ‘offensive’ will ever survive strict scrutiny under the First Amendment. In this country, the place of secular officials isn’t to sit in judgment of religious beliefs, but only to protect their free exercise” (p. 7).

While there are so many, I suppose a final point of interest may be Justice Thomas’ pondering of the Obergefell case:

“Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’ (Alito, J., dissenting)” (p. 14).

Here Thomas reaffirms that Americans retain certain inalienable rights, and no particular law must ever be allowed a potency for usurping those rights. He acknowledges that the Obergefell decision set a dangerous precedent. But by this most recent case, the freedom to dissent from what has become “the new orthodoxy” was precisely challenged, and in the contest, we learned that people of faith are not obliged to forsake religious convictions and join the cultural masses pressing against the boundaries of observable biology and the simple contours of Natural Law. Instead, people who believe otherwise may take courage. The freedom of speech and the right to the free exercise of religion, thankfully, have won this particular day.

Stop It! You’re Not Helping!

(A Facebook Post.)

The Church is neither a fast food restaurant nor a service tantamount to a trip to the Secretary of State—that is, a place you visit only when you desire a particular service. In the case of postmodern Christendom, such services are baptisms, weddings, and funerals. As hard as it may be to hear (and barring a few exceptions), just because you were a member of a particular church at one time but haven’t stepped foot in that same church for twenty-five years does not obligate your pastor. Do not be confused in this. Pastors are not in place to punch your “life event” card and give you a receipt showing that your Christian “tags” are up to date. And pastors who do allow for the church to be used in this way, be warned. Even as you may be working beneath the guise of being “loving,” without clearly communicating that love as it emerges from Law and Gospel, ultimately resulting in the fruits such love produces in Man, you are doing the people a grave disservice and making life so much harder for the Church as a whole. You are training human beings to see the efforts of the Church and the ones who stand in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself as negligible, cheap, and of no real consequence to the totality of one’s life.

Stop it. You’re not helping.

If anything in this regard is to be done in love, let it be that you speak kindly the truth of God’s Word, encourage faithfulness to it, and be found secure enough in your vow to hold the line against the abuses even when you sense the heat is getting turned up on you as an individual.

No, you’re not being unloving. You’re being honest. You’re being faithful.