Making Sense of Miracle… Paisley, Part 11

I come now to the brass tacks of fact and fiction regarding Paisley’s miracle, which will be the final post in this series. The ranging anecdotes I have recounted thus far may have left the reader with somewhat mixed signals. Had God answered prayer, or was He absent at the darkest hour? Was Paisley saved by a miracle, or by Pasteurian-Darwinian science? Was the experience a glory to God, or a reason to question His existence?

The force of such opposing arrows teaches a parable all its own, underscoring the deficiency of personal experience for navigating the waters surrounding miracles. Within the compass of a single individual (myself), one could distill nearly any moral to the story.

Nevertheless, real answers do exist. We need not wander in the mist between anecdotes. Malleable personal experience must be displaced by the stone of hard fact. To find it requires that we lift our gaze to a broader view. The cure for flat earth viewpoints hovers at high altitude.

So friends, this final post will present facts to make sense of it all. My question to you is whether you are interested in fact and truth, or whether you wish to preserve a favorite but somewhat fictional anecdote. We sadly cannot have both. [Read more…]

Prayer Most Desperate… Paisley, Part 10

If not now…

How gentle the rise, I thought, as they lifted me on that gurney. Two teams of paramedics had swept noiselessly into my kitchen, to find me collapsed on the floor. Chest pains had dragged me to the earth, coupled with strained breathing and the distinct sound of blood rushing through my ears. Crumpled to my knees, and then pulled further down, I had finally been flattened out on the stained concrete. I felt myself on the brink of losing consciousness, coupled with the sense that I would stop breathing if I did. The color had entirely drained from my face, and my frightened wife called for aid. A great hand had reached down and simply flipped the switch, or opened the valve, and the vital force had bled out of me. So they shuttled me by ambulance to the hospital, leaving my tearfully anxious wife alone with her fears until someone could come to relieve her. Paisley had not yet been born, or even conceived, but our three other children had remained fast asleep in their rooms. [Read more…]

Death of the Casual… Paisley, Part 9

Sinking the Old Frigate

I fell silent after reading that book, laying, as Job memorably stated, my hand upon my mouth. I stopped the grinding mental machinery of dismissal. I pulled back from friends and from life, and I dug in to find out what the truth was. [Read more…]

Dissonance Dawning… Paisley, Part 8

Two Standing Questions

My friends, I come now to the turn in the story which will, no doubt, lead to a good deal of seat shifting among you. However, before rounding that bend, I hope to briefly lay to rest two standing questions that have been put to us. [Read more…]

From the Rooftops… Paisley, Part 7

Lyrical Turn

Within a week following Paisley’s homecoming, my irrepressible happiness began to find its way onto the page, where a lengthy poem about the ordeal began to take shape. Following a period of toil, in which I wrangled with seesawing themes of despair and elation, the incubation yielded a grander idea. Feeble as the poetic embryo seemed, I sought out backup, rather clandestinely contacting my brother-in-law, a gifted musician:

I feel that this poem simply falls short of that moment, of what it felt like to actually be there. Do you think you can turn it into a song?

The smile began in his eyes – could he? Such an unnecessary question. [Read more…]

Equilibrium… Paisley, Part 6

It would undersell the truth to say that our Paisley had survived. She had passed through fire and death, to borrow Tolkien’s words, and without a scratch. She was perfect and whole in every way. Joy suffused us, and we felt a permeating thankfulness to God and to her doctors. She was an example both of Providence and of advanced Western medicine. She was our little miracle. But miracles are curious things, tumbling together the oil and water of the improbable and the impossible. [Read more…]

Valley March… Paisley, Part 5

A Different Cadence

You start already tired, as my wife puts it. You have already lost sleep and struggled with anxiety before ever arriving at the hospital. Exhaustion compounds downward from this depleted outset. Crisis-born adrenaline wires you briefly, while borrowing heavily on energy reserves, for which you must soon pay. The shear pressure of decisions, grappling with consequences, and the demands to stay somehow calm – these accruals run all accounts into the red. Long hours of silence chew down fingernails, but they are ever punctuated by medical interruptions, cheering visits from friends, phone calls from concerned family, and sobering consultations from the doctors. The brain must learn a new language: that of meningitis, of bacterial strains, of antibiotic treatments, of dosing intervals, and of prognoses. Night brings the red eyes of unsleep, equipment alarms, and nursing break-ins. By 36 hours into the ordeal, reserves are fully spent. You realize that you haven’t changed clothes or showered.

But people adapt. As those who have known life at the ICU will attest, we find a way. We find a new cadence when the world changes. We normalize to the absurd. [Read more…]

Pockets and Posies… Paisley, Part 4

Yesterday’s Life

Night had fallen while we had been in the windowless ER, somewhere in the belly of the medical behemoth. From there, they transferred us to the intensive care unit.

Centered in the vacant sterility, Paisley lay under a dim overhead lamp, stabbed and wired in places too numerous to count. As we stared down from behind our masks, my wife tried to hold Paisley’s hands and feet still, to keep her struggles from pulling out these lifelines. Digital equipment throbbed and chimed continually. They would have snatched away the hope of sleep, had we wanted it.

I do not know a word for the futility of that place. The soul is tied by the limbs, rent and quartered. Shock and numbness mingle with the welling pressure to scream and to see everything broken. One wishes only for the quiet of home. To go back to yesterday’s life. I wanted to hold Paisley, to stand between her and the demons, and to make them take me first. Instead, you are made to stand there. You are made to feel the emptiness of your hands: a useless guardian keeping futile watch. [Read more…]

Landfall… Paisley, Part 3

Drops of White

Paisley was only twelve days old, and no bigger than two upturned palms. She had that scent that belongs only to infants. Pink skin, with tiny newborn speckles on the bridge of her nose.

And she was writhing. Her eyes were rolled up, and she was clutching against a pain strong enough to quench her cries.

The air became leaden as the doctor and nurse, obscured behind their masks, took up positions across the table from each other. Paisley lay between them, and she was rolled to face the nurse and me. The doctor cleaned the insertion point between two vertebral knobs on her lower back. The nurse cupped her body in his two large hands, with one behind her neck and the other grasping her buttocks. As the needle was bared, my wife could watch no more, and she took her trembling and prayerful tears to the hallway. But I stayed. [Read more…]

Tempest Rising… Paisley, Part 2

Pink Bundle

Paisley arrived in late January, during that time of year when the Texas air feels most out of character. She completed our quartet of children, a collated symmetry of boy, girl, boy, and girl. Being indifferent to sports but fond of cultural idiom, I dubbed her, “the final four.” She did seem to complete us as a family. But owing to events that transpired not long after her birth, she came to occupy a special place in our hearts and memories.

I find it becoming difficult to write already. Eyes moisten; breath comes up short; fingers quaver over the keys. Still yesterday.

Life has a way of trespassing its own character. Just as with the dissonance that Texas winter embodies, there was something about Paisley’s hale and golden dawning that makes befuddlement of that which followed shortly after. Just before her gentle rise pulled free of the rim. [Read more…]

Paisley

The near brush of death leaves upon us an indelible mark. So much more the case, when the noose of jeopardy closes upon a child. Our daughter Paisley hazarded that scaffold just twelve days after being born. This was three and a half years ago.

Medical intervention was swift, bending a potent light upon her affliction. As she fought to live, our church family rallied around us, lending full force to our plight. Much prayer was lifted on her account, and friends gave selflessly to help and to comfort us in whatever way they could. It was a darkness driven back by creeds, both Hippocratic and Christian. [Read more…]

Heaven is for Real: Odometer of Credulity

It is not snobbish to notice the way in which people show their gullibility and their herd instinct, and their wish, or perhaps their need, to be credulous and to be fooled. This is an ancient problem. Credulity may be a form of innocence, and even innocuous in itself, but it provides a standing invitation for the wicked and the clever to exploit their brothers and sisters, and is thus one of humanity’s great vulnerabilities. No honest account of the growth and persistence of religion, or the reception of miracles and revelations, is possible without reference to this stubborn fact.

~ Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Heaven is for Real. Sigh. Over the weekend my older two kids and I went to a Barnes and Noble to chat over coffee while looking at books and magazines. While there, I thumbed through and read several sections of this abysmal little pamphlet, for calling it a book would grant it far too much dignity. Not since the Prayer of Jabez have I seen piffle more perfectly suited as a litmus test of human credulity.

Basic Criticisms

Criticisms for the book are easy to discern from directly reading it or perusing critiques on the internet. [Read more…]

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My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. ~ Zoe

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