Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bishop’s Note: March 23, 2017 – the Samaritan Woman at the Well


Bishop Eric Menees

Last week’s gospel lesson from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John presented us with the iconic meeting between the Samaritan Woman at the Well and Jesus. While one could teach for weeks on this scripture lesson, three things jumped out at me that I’d like to share.

First, Jesus arrives at Jacob’s well alone, having sent his disciples on ahead to the town of Sychar to get provisions; all the while knowing that the Samaritan woman would soon be meeting him, though little did she know what that meeting would mean for her. It is the desire of Jesus to meet each one of us, one on one, where we are, and he accepts us where we are – but he doesn’t want to leave us there. Jesus met the Samaritan woman and, speaking the truth in love, transformed her life. Jesus desires to do the same with us!

Second, like many of us, the Samaritan woman met Jesus with skepticism and doubt: “‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’” We are all well aware of the animosity between Jews and Samaritans, so amazed and probably thinking that she was being set up, the Samaritan woman kept Jesus at arm's length out of ignorance and fear. Too many of us do the same thing; we keep Jesus at arms length. Oh sure, we’ve heard of Jesus, we’ve sung hymns about Jesus, and when the chips were down we even prayed to Jesus for help, but from ignorance and fear we keep him at arm's length. And yet, to the woman at the well and to us, Jesus says, “‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”

Third, Jesus is persistent. He doesn’t accept her cynicism and recognizes the true source of her estrangement – sin. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ 17 The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”  Note that Jesus’ response is not one of condemnation or judgment – he speaks the truth in love! I’m sure that these were not easy words to hear for her, but in them she hears that Jesus is more than a wandering Jew or even a visiting rabbi. “25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

In many ways, we are all the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus seeks us out and invites us into relationship. The question is: will we keep him at arm’s length or open our hearts and minds to him?
                                                                                    
The Lord bless and keep you all!

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
XIX. Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same….



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Heart Disease, Type A Personality And The Fruit Of The Sprit


Fr. Dale Matson

As a retired psychologist suffering from Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) I find it both interesting and ironic that the concept of the Type A Personality was coined not by psychologists but by cardiologists, Doctors Friedman & Rosenman. They found that the Type A personality had characteristics, which made them more vulnerable to heart disease. The three personality factors are competitiveness, time urgency and hostility. This was further refined and referred to as “Type A Behavior Pattern” (TABP). https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html. By the end of their study, 70% of those men judged as TABP developed heart disease. They were twice as likely to develop heart disease as a comparison group of Type B individuals that did not exhibit the same three personality characteristics.
Other research also points to an inability to deal with stress. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20030722/type-triggers-heart-disease
What I also find interesting is that the usual list of risk factors for heart disease does not even list the TABP. The Mayo Clinic lists the following:
Age, Sex, Family history, Smoking, Poor diet, High blood pressure, High blood cholesterol levels, Diabetes, Obesity, Lack of exercise, Stress, Poor hygiene. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/risk-factors/con-20034056. I really believe the role personality plays in heart disease is understated.
I had only two of the listed heart disease risk factors. I am a male and over 70 years old. However as a Christian I can reflect on a third risk factor that is more important. Both Old and New Testament use the phrase “hardness of heart”. Hardness of heart can be understood to mean many things but the Internet includes, “being incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness; unfeeling.
Synonyms: unfeeling, heartless, cold, hard, callous, unsympathetic, uncaring, unloving, unconcerned, indifferent, unmoved, unkind, uncharitable, unemotional, cold-hearted, cold-blooded, mean-spirited, stony-hearted, having a heart of stone, as hard as nails, cruel.”
         Unfortunately, while there are a host of pills to treat most of the heart disease risk factors, there is no personality pill that will transform the hard heart of the person with TABP.  How many cardiologists would say to a patient, “Your personality is the main reason you have heart disease. You need to change who you are.”?
         Yet this is exactly what the theological process of Sanctification calls each of us to do as we mature in the faith. Sanctification doesn’t just mean becoming holy. It also means becoming whole. It means, putting off the old man and putting on Christ. “…To put off your old self, who belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
         I resonate with St. Paul when he states, “…For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  (Philippians 4:11b). Notice however, that contentment is the result of a learning process, especially for me. I am still learning to be content.
         I also think the fruit of the Spirit is an antidote to the poisonous turmoil within the person with TABP. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Can you imagine the treatment plan for the hard hearted in general and the hard hearted person with CAD in particular if these fruits increasingly manifested themselves in their daily life? Isn’t a diet high in fruit, good for the heart? For me I think that patience and peace in particular would be the Balm of Gilead.
         Loreena Mckennitt has a wonderful haunting song titled “Full Circle” http://www.metrolyrics.com/full-circle-lyrics-loreena-mckennitt.html.
Her final lyrics state, “In your heart, in your soul, did you find peace there? If only, Lord help me. Amen






Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bishop’s Note: March 16, 2017 – Receive & Believe


Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s Gospel lesson from John chapter three included the iconic encounter in the night between Nicodemus and Jesus, in which Jesus proclaims that if you want to see the Kingdom of God you must be born again. To which Nicodemus responds – how can a man be born again? Jesus answers by saying: "'5 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again."'" (John 3:5-7)

With this proclamation, Jesus is referencing what we read in the prologue of the Gospel of John, which states that Jesus had come to the world but was not known: “11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11) Scripture goes on to say: “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Those who RECEIVE and BELIEVE are given the right of adoption by the Creator of the Universe – it’s too amazing to understand, and too important to ignore!

What does it mean to receive Jesus? Think about receiving someone at your home. To greet them at the door is not the same as receiving them. Too often someone shows up and we don’t want to invite them in – it’s too messy; to0 intimate – it’s easier to greet them and leave them at the front door. Better yet, just have your conversation through the screen.

But RECEIVING them is to invite them into the home. I think of the scripture from the book of Revelation when Jesus says: “20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

To receive Jesus is to open the door of our heart and welcome him into our messy lives. I recognize that is difficult for many of us – we like to keep the illusion that all is well, and to invite Jesus in is scary because he’ll see that all is not well! (As if Jesus didn’t know that already!) In the 1970’s there was a book out by the title I’m OK You’re OK. Remember that one? Problem is - we’re not OK. A more honest title would be: I’m All Screwed Up and So Are You.

In my thirty years of ministry in the church, I’ve met many people who “believe” in Jesus but who, in their fear, never invite him into their lives. It’s easier to keep Jesus at arms length – to say, “Well, I’ve been baptized. I go to church...when I can. Surely that’s enough.”

The idea is that we’ve got Jesus at the ready – when and if the chips are down, I’ll open the door and call Jesus into action when I need him; no need to overreact and be one of those “religious fanatics.” This is a way of saying “I’m in charge – I’ve got this covered.” And ultimately, Jesus is left outside, looking through the screen door of our lives.

My brothers and sisters, my prayer for you and my prayer for me is that we’ll have the courage not only to believe in Jesus, but to receive him into our lives – warts and all! It is only then that we can truly be adopted as sons and daughters of the Living God! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I pray you all a blessed and Holy Lent!


Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.


They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cardiac Stents, Dual Antiplatelet Therapy And Anemia


Dale Matson

In December of 2016 I had two Drug Eluting Stents (DES) placed in a coronary artery.
The standard protocol after DES is dual antiplatelet therapy. In my case this meant Plavix and aspirin. The reason for this is to prevent a clot from forming in the stents. The preferred standard of care in the United States is one year on DES and longer if there is no bleeding. How much longer is still being evaluated.
The problem for me was I had three ulcers that I was unaware of and on January 1st I began to notice black stools, which is an indication of a GI bleed. I was hospitalized and the following day an endoscopy was performed and the ulcers were cauterized. Thankfully this stopped the bleeding but not before my hemoglobin dropped to 7 because I lost half my blood volume.
The GI doctor prescribed daily doses of a liquid antacid and protein pump inhibitor to control the acid in my stomach and reduce the chance of a future bleed. The decision was made at the hospital not to give me an infusion of blood even though my hemoglobin level warranted it. The current thinking is that it is safer to let the patient build back their blood numbers without the possible problems that can accompany a transfusion.
I was sent home under this circumstance and had previously been prescribed Lipitor, a statin drug. Lipitor is prescribed for lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation but the side effects for me were unacceptable with insomnia and loss of libido. Additionally statin drugs also are blood thinners.
I am 72 years old and don’t even want to talk about the possible other side effects of statin drugs for older people.
I had a prior bout with anemia because of prolonged bleeding from a surgical procedure a few years ago and learned how to raise my iron levels with iron rich foods and iron supplements. I also used a private testing lab to regularly check the progress of my anemia.
I began the same regimen but this time I was making very little progress. My hemoglobin, hematocrit and iron saturation were very low and climbing only slowly. I began to wonder about this and talked with my primary care physician. His comment was that the blood thinners and antacids were reducing the iron uptake in my system. He suggested an iron infusion but I am concerned about this because there is essentially no literature out there saying that iron infusions are safe for patients with stents.
I have read considerable literature about optimum duration of dual antiplatelet therapy for DES. In Europe, the standard is 6 months. As I understand the research on this, it claims there is not a significant difference in stent thrombosis with patients who stop dual platelet therapy after 6 months and those who stop after one year.
My GI doctor told me I could bleed again and this weighs heavily on my mind. It is the double-edged sword of the risk of bleeding verses the risk of a clot in my stents. It is not easy to live with and I wonder if some of the heart attacks in the stent research were stress related. It would simply be devastating to bleed again and lose what little progress I have made with my anemia that is a daily burden and an increased risk factor.
I know that my cardiologist, because of the U.S. standard of practice, would not be allowed to tell me to stop the dual antiplatelet therapy at 6 months even though I am at risk for another severe bleed. However, I will do what is necessary to maintain my quality of life. I have seen more than one piece of research from Europe that states that current generation DES are much safer than the first generation. The fact is that when there is a high bleeding risk the duration of the dual antiplatelet therapy should strongly evaluated. In some studies after one year the risk of bleeding increases as the risk of a stent thrombosis decreases.
I have not included citations of the research I have discussed, which can easily be found on an Internet search. Additionally, I am a layperson not making recommendations to anyone else. I am merely stating the difficulties I face and the decisions I have to consider. I know this however. It is important to be an informed consumer of medical services and that it is the individual patient who can and must be their own advocate and final decider.
I think there are a great number of folks out there who are in the same situation and I hope this article provides some clarity. What are your thoughts?