Easter Eggs

Are you familiar with the term “easter egg” as it’s used in relation to movies? Just in case you aren’t, essentially it’s a little extra “something” the movie makers planted in the background for movie goers to discover. The folks producing the Marvel films are notorious for doing such things. I remember the first time I noticed an easter egg in the very first “Iron Man” film. As the camera panned through Tony Stark’s lab, I caught a glimpse of Captain America’s vibranium shield being used to prop up a portion of his experiment. There it was, a little something special, and a nod to the Marvel nerds that we should be expecting a film about the first Avenger on the near horizon.

The reason this comes to mind is because this past Saturday while having lunch at Subway with Evelyn, we were talking about easter eggs in movies. At one point she asked, “Do you hide stuff in the things you write?”

It was an insightful thing to ask. And yes, I do. I hide things in my articles. I plant them all over the place in my books. I weave them into sermons. I drop them into so much of what I scribe. I think a lot of writers do. In my opinion, sometimes the hidden things are the best tools for teaching.

For example, it’s most often true that you shouldn’t just lob the entirety of an idea at someone who’s never confronted it before. It can be startling. Instead, planting the idea in various forms over the course of time is a great way to help someone become familiar with the idea long before they realize the familiarity is actually there. It’s psychological, of course. But if not abused, it’s a great way to make an out-of-the-box idea less frightening, and in the end, to move the ball down the field toward a goal.

I suppose a looser example would be the things I hide for myself. They’re there, but I’m the only one who knows about them. I shared with the Board of Elders once that if I find myself struggling with a sermon, sometimes I’ll muscle through the effort by actually making the task harder. I do this by establishing unusual rules for the manuscript. One way I do this is by requiring myself to make the first and last sentence of each paragraph have a certain meter or rhyme scheme. No one in the pews ever notices—at least no one has ever told me they’ve noticed—but I know the pattern is there. And it has a purpose. Its purpose is, more or less, to force me into a stricter mode of concentration while I’m crafting the sermon—to work harder at understanding what I’m really trying to say and to choose the best words. It might sound crazy, but in the end, it usually comes to a conclusion with me feeling a little more like each paragraph is more closely knitted to its surroundings.

I shared this secret with a fellow LCMS pastor in the area and he laughed out loud, saying it was a ridiculous practice. Well, whatever. Weird? Yes. But it seems to work for me.

I spent last Thursday reading through portions of my book Type One Confession: God, a Pastor, and a Girl with Type 1 Diabetes. I’ll read it on occasion as not to forget just how far God has carried me and my family in the past few years. If you know the pulse of the book, then you’ll know it’s a visceral mixture of conversations between me and God. The whole book is filled with easter eggs, but there’s one chapter in particular—Chapter Fourteen—in which I take time to translate the Christian ability to see how the various things of God along the weary of road of life fit together. They’re there. Maybe we notice them and maybe we don’t. Either way, they create a Christian universe that spins around a bright-beaming message at the center of its gravity. I call the ability to see the universe “Christian Recognition.” Not a fancy term. And instead of explaining it, I’ve included the chapter below. It’s a quick read. Take a minute with it and I think you’ll see what I mean.

After you’re done, I think you’ll also have figured out what’s hovering at the center of the universe. If you guessed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your salvation of your soul, then you’re right.

A Fish on the Side of the Road

As many of you who are familiar with social media may already know, every now and then Facebook will show you something you posted years ago in order for you to share it again with a comment. They call this “memory posting.” When it comes to the posts they suggest to me, sometimes I appreciate the virtual recollection, and sometimes I don’t. For example, one post popped up a few days ago from five or six years ago, and as I read it, it felt a little existential, like I was reading something from someone who’d suffered a concussion and was struggling to spell correctly. I’ve always been a pretty good speller, so the only thing I can say is that perhaps I typed it as fast I could (on my phone, of course) without actually going back to read what I’d written before pressing the “Share” button. Certainly this was no big deal, but still, in response to this particular memory, rather than sharing it, I deleted it. I didn’t want to see it ever again.

That’s the way it is with our bad memories. We wish they’d go away.

Not all that long ago a memory popped up that I didn’t want to forget. I don’t remember the particular destination to which Evelyn and I were traveling, but I remember that it happened as we turned onto the south bound exit to US-23 from White Lake Road. It went something like this:

Evelyn: “Daddy…”
Me: “Yes, honey?”
Evelyn: “I saw a fish wayin’ in da gwass.”
Me: “Why on earth would there be a fish laying in the grass?”
Evelyn: “I dunno. But he’s got big pwobwems.”

I think that one thing I like about this particular post is that it not only recorded a moment in time when Evelyn was much smaller and a bit cuddlier, but it was a time in her life well before she ever became burdened with Type 1 diabetes. In that moment, she was just riding along in the car seat with little more to care about than what she thought was a fish out of water on the side of the road with “big pwobwems.” She certainly wasn’t faced with a never ending regimen of injections or the terrible nighttime specter of the possibility of going to sleep and never waking up.

But do you see what just happened here? It was a subtle and almost effortless shift. A good memory was infiltrated by a bad one, and in a way, it proved the breadth of Sin’s reach. This is an important thing for us to consider. I suppose that in one sense, it means Paul was right when he said so emphatically in Galatians 3:22 that “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin…” When he wrote this, he wanted the reader to be clear that the Word of God understands that nothing of this world is free from Sin’s sinister grip, and so it must unequivocally declare with divine power that everything this world has to offer is in its very nature infected by Sin and shackled to it as an unstoppably hostile force. Everything in this world is destined for undoneness.

But notice that Paul didn’t end verse 22 at the word “sin.” He kept going, adding, “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

These words are of great import to me, both as the father of a Type 1 diabetic and as a sinful human being. They mean that the things I’ve done that I want to forget—particular sins, memories, or whatever—they’ve already been snatched away from me and pinned to Christ on the cross. I no longer own them. He does. But these words also mean that even while we’ll never escape the overarching effects of Sin in this life—the fact that even the things we may consider good are tinged by Sin—the gripping nature of a Gospel promise heralding our rescue through the person and work of Jesus Christ is given to those who believe. Yes, you read that correctly—the nature of the Gospel becomes our nature by faith.

So, what is the nature of the Gospel? It is nothing less than the baptismal fearlessness that emerges from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That becomes our own. We die with Him in His death. Death is no longer the end-all consequence for the believer. We are buried with Him in His burial. The capstone seal of our own gravestone is nothing more than a moment of rest for our mortal flesh while our soul awaits the resurrection of all flesh.

Yes, the resurrection. We are raised with Jesus in His resurrection. Our fallibly ill bodies are sowed perishable and raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42). No more sickness. No more struggle. No more Sin. No more bad memories born of Sin. No more good memories vulnerable to streaks of Sin’s sadness. All that the Lord has accomplished is accounted to us and we are made new. All things are made new.

I like this. And why is that? Well, for the same reason I prefer write the word Sin with a capital “S” and the word Death with a capital “D.” These words deserve capital letters because they stand to represent the most formidable and destructive powers in this world. And yet these powers didn’t stand a chance against Jesus. His sacrifice—a sacrifice that defeated them both—is the greatest thing this world has ever seen.

This is the Gospel, and it’s ours to claim by the power of the Holy Spirit in faith.

I pray this Good News will lift and sustain you this week as you inevitably make what you would consider to be both good and bad memories, all the while remembering that there is a hope that reaches to us here in this life and it extends far beyond this world’s boundaries to the world to come where we will live with the Lord forever.

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.

Type 1 Diabetes is No Big Deal?

(This was a Facebook response to the suggestion that my daughter’s affliction with Type 1 Diabetes was nothing in comparison to the other childhood diseases out there.)

I mentioned in a sermon a few weeks back that Jennifer had shared with me that Michigan is number two in the nation for child abduction and sex trafficking. She also told me about a recent attempt at a local gas station by a group of men from a trafficking ring. One tried to distract the mother while another tried to snatch her daughter right out of the car.

There you have it. The truth about the planet upon which we dwell. This world eats kids.

Why do I say this? Because it is a reflection of a very real, very personal experience with an ungodly disease that will haunt my daughter (and therefore us) for the rest of her life. It’s a disease that, left unmanaged or untreated, would kill her. It’s a disease that shortens the average lifespans of even those who manage it superbly, and can be surprisingly fatal much sooner than that.

I suppose to answer your question… If I sat down with God to choose a disease, before I did, I’d be sure to thank Him for sending His Son to conquer everything that would make this a world where not even children are safe. The next thing I’d say to Him is, “You choose.” From a theological perspective, that’d be the only way to keep my daughter safe from diabetes, cancer, or any other predatory disease that stalks the littlest among us. I say this because I’m not so sure that God chooses these things for us. He certainly allows them. Sometimes He even moves to cure them. Either way, He is always working all things for the good of those who love Him. It is all being managed according to His good and gracious will—which is that we would be saved. Still, in the end, the Devil ushered sin into this world, and he did it through man. These things are our fault. We’re the cause for Sin and the resultant diseases that emerge as its fingerprints in this life.

That’s why we need Jesus.

I struggle with my daughter’s Type 1 diabetes. No, I hate it. I think I hate even worse that I sometimes find myself in the middle of it all seeing it as God’s fault, and in that moment, I see Him as my enemy. But He’s not. The Gospel is the proof for this. My book, and the chapter above, gives folks a little insight into this reality, and the insight certainly isn’t limited to my daughter’s disease. Any parent struggling with such a thing would receive this book well. Yes, it is from the perspective of a Pastor, but I think it’s important for folks to realize that even pastors wanna throw a punch at God every now and then. In the end, however, I know by the Gospel that God can handle these things and that He can be more than trusted to care for us no matter what we are facing and no matter how ticked off with Him we may find ourselves. The book is in place to walk folks through these emotions and then give them the Gospel, which is the hope that can be found even in the more dimly lit places.

I suppose I’m rambling on. So, sure, in a mortal sense, we could put the various diseases on a scale and say that some are easier to handle than others, some are worse than others—but if their end result is an untimely or unnatural Death, then they are by default horrible. Still, we’re all gonna die, and on our way there, no matter the situation, people are going to be facing off with God and asking Him “why?”. I don’t want to ask that question anymore. I don’t want to think that a choice was made by anyone in this, unless I’m thinking of the events from Genesis chapter 3. I’m going to look to Christ and know that He has it handled—all of it. And when I get tired—when I look at a pile of syringes and know that the pile is only going to continue to grow, to continue to stack higher and higher, and all along the way each of those needles is going to pierce my precious child, and that the piercing is necessary to keep an even more ferociously prowling beast at bay—I’m going to look to Jesus and pray “Come quickly, Lord, for this world is not only seeking to swallow me, but is watching and waiting in the weeds to snatch my children, too. Come quickly, Lord! I need Your help! We need Your help!”