Sunday, October 30, 2011

What if Christianity worked like public health?

In his homily today, the bishop said "Evangelism is one hungry man telling another where to find bread." This basic statement triggered a series of flashbacks to my Baptist church evangelism days (which merit their own post. Gosh,there are a lot of things I'm not proud of. But it made me wonder...what if churches(and other Christian organizations) went through the same steps and procedures outlined for public health interventions? I have a lot of ideas about how this might work, and I want to take some time to bounce some of them off a priest-friend of mine who is actively planting churches.

But the main point: in public health,our goal is to make communities places where it easy to be healthy. What if, in Christianity, we aimed to make churches places where it is easy to love Jesus? I don't mean haphazard trying, I mean systematically following an established process.

*Disclaimer*: Chaos reigns in plenty of public health ventures too- often due to having insufficient resources, time, and trained personnel. But the discipline acknowledges that's far from ideal.

*Additional Disclaimer*: I have not yet read The Purpose Driven Church, which delivers a formula for how churches should approach the future. It's entirely possible that everything I'm pondering has already been said. Depending on how serious I get about this project, I should probably do that. (However, I'll mention that I watched my father try to "do" The Purpose Driven Church in three different churches for a period of 10 years, and he was less than thrilled with the results. "Results" happened to include being run off from a church. So I have a generally negative view of the book.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The alternative to breaking noses

The alternative to breaking noses: a blog post about STUPID things people say (or publish!) about inflammatory bowel disease.

Counter to typical practice, I'm not citing these,because I don't think it's good manners to point fingers.

1)You might be gluten intolerant.
Do you want to SEE the photos of the ulcers in my colon? It's pretty disgusting. I get that food allergies are a big deal for many people, including some with IBD. I'm not one of them. Oh, and food sensitivities generally don't need surgery, or steroids, or immunosuppressants or....

2)Often, if Crohn's patients are not hungry, it's better for them not to eat, because it gives the intestine time to heal.
(In all fairness, I understand this one a bit better). I weigh 115 lbs on a good day. I'm always hovering right around the low cutoff point for normal BMI. If I don't get some sort of nourishment,particularly protein, my body is not going to be able to maintain normal functions, let alone repair itself.

3)A colon is not a necessary organ, just a highly convenient one.
I hope that's self-explanatory? I consider this Exhibit A of why people who do not have chronic diseases should be extremely cautious of writing books for people who do. NOBODY wants to lose body parts. ever. And you're not going to help anyone come to terms with losing a body part by telling her that it's not important. My colon doesn't work perfectly, but it's my colon, and I'd like to keep it. It's special to me in a way that a J-pouch or ostomy bag never could be. I'm hoping I'll never have to have that conversation, but no doctor will convince me to have surgery because my colon isn't important.

4)You need to look for good sources of calcium, like canned salmon with bones. If the bones bother you, you can smash them with a spoon, or put it through a blender. But you'll probably start just eating the salmon, bones and all, once you realize how much work crushing the bones is.
Why am I supposed to get excited about eating bones? And if whole grains, nuts, and seeds can irritate the ulcers in my colon, I have a feeling bones will do the same. It seems rather presumptuous to make judgments about my food preparation priorities, especially when I'M the one with the diseased colon.

Sigh. I have a feeling that I should title this "The alternative to breaking noses" part 1, since it's likely to become a regular feature.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Falling back on youtube videos, since I can't think clearly at the moment.

These both have something to do with my Belize work (which I seem to have committed the next four years of my life to. Pretty excited about that.) and something else to do with feelings about living in the U.S. at the present moment.

That is all.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Perhaps someday gratitude might become forgiveness.

My alma mater broke my heart over and over again during the four years I was there.On a bad day I might contemplate whether or not this was an abusive relationship, though most of the time I know that's an exaggeration. That place left me questioning my sanity and certain that I was failing horrendously at being a Christian, a student, and a woman (and I will never come near their ideal of that mystical intersection of scholarship, femininity and faith).

But I've been digging through reports lately (this one , for example). And I'm remembering that Christian college I resent so much has sent spring break mission teams to Belize. I don't remember what those teams did, and I'm fairly certain I don't actually know anyone who took those trips. But I'm hopeful they did something good. And it's possible that someone, somewhere, who works(worked?) for that institution or graduated from there loves Belize as much as I do.

Because I have a relationship with that country that is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I read numbers and I see and hear things. Statistics are situated by the unbelievable blue of the Carribean sea and the view from the top of Xunantunich. Survey results sound like a Creole woman singing along with the radio while she chops vegetables, the Garifuna boy who told me he'd fallen in love at first sight, a surgeon next to the fan in his office. And I will be going back soon, though not soon enough.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I don't want this corner of the internet to be solely about my disease. But there's something safe about this little monologue, and it seems to be worthwhile to try to package my thoughts into a conversation, one-sided as it is.

Honestly, I don't want to admit that Crohn's disease is a big deal or that it changes my life. Enter Episcopalian Mom Former Boss telling me that "Denial is not just a river in Egypt." She's right- and she wouldn't be that blunt if she didn't love me. I have a chronic disorder that can be downright dangerous if not managed properly (my new favorite potential complication: sometimes in Crohn's patients, ulcers can burrow into blood vessels in their colon and cause hemorhages), and it's not going away. But at the same time...I don't think she's right. People with Crohn's disease have a life expectancy close to that of the general population. I'm fortunate to have one of the milder forms of Crohn's. When people are dying of cancer, starvation, HIV, war, whacked out immune system isn't that big of a deal. There's a part of me that feels that it's selfish to acknowledge (even to myself) that my disease matters, never mind that maybe, it matters a lot.

If I look inwards, even for a moment, I see fear. Fear of the things that could go wrong. Fear of potential treatments and their side effects (immune suppressors? During FLU SEASON ?!) and their cost. Fear of what I might have to give up (in spite of the ulcers, I'd very much like to keep my colon, thank you just the same, and I really don't want to have to live under a bridge). I'm afraid of not being able to do my best, not being able to attack life (and research and writing!) with the same fierceness. I'm afraid of needing to rest...and paradoxically, of not being able to rest. Now, any change in appetite or bit of nausea makes me panic over what might be happening.

And then there's blame. Why doesn't anyone else in my family have this condition? If it's a combination of genetics, environment, and some sort of bacterial trigger, like my GI says...then what did I do, where did I put myself, that made this happen?

I am ashamed of not being adult enough to control my emotions. I am ashamed of not being scientist enough to comprehend that life threatening complications are rare. I am terrified that someone else will be hurt by this- that I will be inconsiderate of others or neglect my responsibilities because of focusing on my symptoms and inner chaos.

Y'know....let's go back to Egypt. Denial seems to work better than acknowledgement. It's less scary, anyway.