Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Discouraging About These Statements?

I pose this Question Du Jour, at the risk of being a crank [although this minor concern has never stopped me before]. 

Well, first, I will establish the contexts.  
  • None of these statements originated with me
  • All belong to the "public domain", by which I mean, none was communicated individually or specifically to me, and all are intended for general consumption
  • The sources of all three statements represent themselves as speaking from a Christian Perspective which, as should be obvious and is underscored by this post, is an increasingly large and vaguely defined intellectual landscape
Here they are:

1- "A prayer is a wish turned heavenward";  this was observed about an hour ago, on a church "marquee" as I drove through town.

2- "And while I still loved God and followed him, the thrill was gone." This is a statement from a current online article posted on a website aimed at Christian women.  To be fair, the writer does go on to make a helpful observation or two, but the hook and tag line of this copy, summed up in the above quote, gave me pause.

3- "We take the Bible seriously, not literally"; observed on the back of a public transportation system bus, i.e. paid advertising for a local church.

OK, then.  

I do not sit in judgment on the originators of these statements.  I am neither assigned nor equipped for that task, which is reserved for Christ Himself. But Christ-followers are to know Christ and make Him known; if this is no longer the case, I missed the memo.

I can only conclude that we have woefully lost sight of the priority to think Biblically, and the importance of distinguishing between Biblical thinking and worldly thinking.  As has been noted many times before, words mean something.

1- When did a prayer become a "wish"? Prayer is talking to God.  Maybe my interpretation is too narrow, but I associate a wish with a hopeful, if not necessarily serious, roll of the cosmic dice. And, by the way, there aren't any cosmic dice.  Not there.  Jiminy Cricket musically enjoined Pinocchio to "wish upon a star".  A star is not a person and does not communicate with humans...not even the stars set in pavement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  And the entertainment celebrities whose names appear on those stars are no more able to make "wishes" come true than they can ensure themselves Emmys or Oscars.

And what's going on "heavenward" that would cause one to turn his wishes in that direction?  Get real.  Heaven is where God is, and the eternal place from whence Jesus came to earth, to which He has returned, and from whence He will come again.  It's inhabited. By Someone who doesn't traffic in "wishes." He inexplicably desires authentic relationship with us and has  paid an incomprehensible price to make that possible.  Equating wishes with conversation between us and our Creator, Redeemer, and Counselor is misleading and disrespectful at best, and actually much more sinister.

2- I have a long, long, long way to go in my intimacy, obedience, and surrender to God.  But I find it confusing and unhelpful to read that a self-identified ministry leader has found, while following God [her words], that "the thrill is gone."  We must not be referring to the same "God."  Meaning no disrespect to B.B. King's classic ballad, it don't think the thrill can really be gone when it comes to relating with the God of the universe....not if we're clearly keeping in mind Who He is, and who we are.  

I'm not peevishly parsing words here...I'm pointing out that, over and over again, we seem to begin from the wrong side of the relational equation.  Too many of us begin and end with ourselves.  I’m not sensing the “thrill” anymore, so what gives?  I suggest that it’s a simple matter of losing sight of Who we’re talking about.  Get our eyes off of ourselves.  God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22].  This same passage in Isaiah likens us to "grasshoppers" from God's perspective...but He calls us His friends [John 15:15]...what's not thrilling about that?

3- And finally, we may find ourselves in traffic behind a bus with the provocative but wholly unhelpful claim that the Bible should be taken “seriously” but not “literally.” Again, whose lead are we following here?  On what basis does a church find it is their prerogative to decide what to do with the revealed Word of God?  Take careful note that this view diverges from that of Jesus, Whose references to the Law and the Prophets were unalloyed by doubt or skepticism.  Viewing the Bible as anything other than, not to mention less than, Christ does is treacherous terrain that leads to no good destination.  

We are accountable for the spiritual light we are given; those who choose to turn away from or not receive spiritual light, and yet purport to be a source of it anyway, are blind guides and speak without knowledge.

There’s no smorgasbord of spiritual truth.  There’s just one, full-strength, pure, unadulterated, and unspeakably expensive choice.  Menus that suggest otherwise are evil fiction.

The Definition You've Been Waiting For...

...courtesy of John Daniel Holliday, 15, and self-styled expert on the opposite sex:

"Girls are just a great big bowl of confusion!!!"

So, now you know.

You read it here first!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reprinted from The SPICE  Feb. 2013, First Evangelical Free Church


by Kathy Holliday

Heart-shaped candy boxes are making their annual appearance.  “Love” is in the air.  Portrayed as the virtual champagne of life, the world’s version of love bubbles and sparkles enticingly, suggesting effortless fulfillment. But frothy, fizzy emotion lacks staying power: often it quickly goes flat, and the effervescence is replaced by crushed hopes and scarring emotional pain.  Prime time television is cluttered with “reality” shows featuring bachelors and bachelorettes who evaluate bevies of candidates who  each hope to be chosen as “the one.” 

This isn’t Love; it’s a carefully manipulated set-up exploiting our intrinsic need for love, while at the same time allowing viewers to be virtual voyeurs .  Let’s be honest; the real motive behind these “love pursuits” is advertising income. 

Real love is fundamentally different. It is indivisible from God Himself.

A nugget of truth shared by an Adult Sunday School teacher applies here: “The fallen world we live in is upside-down. If the world is pointing one way, you can be sure that God’s Truth is the opposite.”

And an additional pearl of wisdom, gleaned in another Sunday School class, [lesson: pay attention in class!]  true love -in whatever relational context- is “an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” 
We all are imperfect, born with a fatal flaw that can only be remedied by a love beyond our capability, a profound and costly love.  The Lord’s agape love is other-centered, a love “in spite of” the beloved’s shortcomings. It’s love that never fails [I Cor. 13:8] and never runs out because its source is God, and “God is Love,” [1 John 4:8].

Any who doubt need only look at the cost He willingly paid to redeem us and the undeniable life change in those who have been transformed and thus able to extend the same agape love to others.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Message in the Fence

A familiar twinkle glinted in his eye and the corners of his mouth couldn't stay down if they wanted to...the Ladies' Man had Stepped Off the Curb, and her answer was in the affirmative! Yes, the LM's first foray into the treacherous terrain of Homecoming is just around the corner...

Back in my day, the options for social interaction were much more limited: telephone, telegram if you really wanted to leave an impression, pen to paper via the US Postal Service, and--if all other options were exhausted--one could suck it up and approach someone face to face.  With that last option, there were full points for courage, but, seriously, how prosaic!!

No such worries in this brave new world of abbreviated, envelope-pushing, instantaneous social discourse. Why talk when you can text? No need to worry whether your auditor has halitosis. And you avoid all that pesky eye contact.

Alternatively, one can resort to Facebook and trust that your private message doesn't "somehow" get broadcast all over cyberspace.  In a pinch, one can ever delve back into ancient history and use the "human telephone line."  Admittedly, this tends to lead to message distortion, not to mention all sorts of unintended and unforeseen drama.

NEWS FLASH! The essential element du jour for the confident cavalier is Creativity. Who knew?

Hopelessly Backward Parents:  You did what?!?

Ladies' Man: What? Homecoming's coming can't wait too long, ya know.

HBPs: So, what does that mean?

LM: What?  I'm cool with it.

Fount-of-Information Sister: Johnny's going on a date. Can't you tell?

HBP: What?!

LM: *grin* - *glint*

Mom: Who did you ask?

LM: Just a girl I know ...

Dad: What's her name?

LM: Brooke.

Mom: What about *Girl From Last Week*?

LM: Huh? *shrug*

Dad: When did you ask this Brooke?

LM: Today.

Mom: Wait, wait, went up and asked a girl today to go to Homecoming with you...

LM: Uh, ye-ahhhh!

Dad: Wow...

Mom: Were you nervous? I mean did you man up and just go right up to her?

LM: *quizzical, sympathetic glance*.  Of course not.  You have to go for creativity these days. what did you do?

LM: I got all these cups  and stuck them in the fence links.

Wow, that must have taken a lot of cups...

LM: Not really; I just spelled out "Will U?"


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Provoked to Rant


It is not often that I am provoked to actual ire by a piece of automatically generated "robo-mail"...but such was the case recently.  To put this in perspective I received --in the same mail delivery--another piece of robo-mail of undeniably more unsavory content...a reminder from my friendly, neighborhood gastroenterology center that, with the advent of my last birthday, I was also due for Colonoscopy #2.  I did not click my heels in glee when I read this and recalled my first experience at this "interesting" health facility.  But, these mortal tents we live in down here degrade over time, and this quite-intrusive procedure serves a purpose.

But what caused my blood pressure to shoot upward was the following missive, received from my insurance intruder...I mean, provider.

I quote:


I have reviewed the request to cover *MEDICINE YOU NEED*.  I am pleased to inform you that I have approved your doctor's request for this medication.  This authorization is effective from 08/16/2012 through 08/16/2013.

If you have any questions regarding this request or the proper use of this drug, please contact your doctor.

If you have any questions about your pharmacy benefits coverage, please call the Customer Service number on your CIGNA ID card.


*Intrusive Pharmo-Crat*, PharmD
Manager, Pharmacy Service Center"

Frankly, gentle readers, there is far too much objectionable presumption in the above content to comment upon sanely; however, I found myself so livid that I could decompress only by venting via a letter which I will mail to *Dr. -Crat* as soon as I can decide whether I should bother sending it certified mail or not.

For those interested, below I append my letter of complaint:

23 August 2012

Dear Mr. Imperato,

This afternoon I received a form letter over your signature telling me that you are “pleased to inform” me that you have approved –for one year--my physician’s request for the medication that she has prescribed for me.  The practical implication of your letter is that I will receive the medication that was prescribed for me some weeks ago, which I appreciate. 

In point of fact, when my husband and I enrolled for a CIGNA benefit program through his employer, it did not occur to us that the benefits to be provided were conditional.

I am aware of the ongoing, spiraling costs of medical care and medication that have plagued the US for several decades.  I am also aware of the sizeable contribution deducted from our salary that pays for our CIGNA coverage, including prescription benefits.  Although I do not find it convenient, I am content to use the mail-order pharmacy service mandated by CIGNA to fill maintenance medication prescriptions.

However, it is no happy realization for me that the current state of insurance-controlled health care benefit programs,  specifically CIGNA’s prescription plan, has devolved to the point that an insurance pharmacy manager apparently wields the prerogative to grant or deny a bona fide prescription request for a patient covered by an employer-sponsored benefit plan.   

Mr. Imperato, I am offended by this policy. 

No doubt, the development of this practice by CIGNA is not the sole responsibility of any one individual, but as you are the manager from whose jurisdiction this letter was sent, I am directing my feedback to you.  I am taking the time to do so because I choose to believe that there is good faith in the many assurances given by CIGNA that the health concerns of your member patients are your priority concern. 

However, my current experience has been the opposite.  Not only is it the case that various drugs are classified into “Step 1,2,and 3” categories with associated variations in accessibility; it is now apparent that, beyond processing and shipping valid prescription requests for member patients, CIGNA sees fit to encroach upon doctor-patient relationships.  Under what auspices or presumptions has this come about?

 I do not need or desire, nor do I think it appropriate, for CIGNA to do any more or less than what was contracted for when I enrolled in the benefit plan to which I refer.  My objections to CIGNA’s  quality of service include (1)the erecting of virtual obstacles to the fulfillment of promised benefits; and (2) requiring my personal physician to spend undue time and attention justifying and “pre-authorizing”  the very prescriptions which she has already ordered for me on the basis of her medical expertise, experience, and  intimate knowledge of my personal medical history. 

Beyond this, apparently CIGNA considers it within its purview to provide a “health advocate” service, the purpose of which, in my experience, is unrelated to the prompt and professional processing of prescriptions.

Just yesterday afternoon, I received a third unsolicited, automated call from CIGNA offering to enroll me in a program that would link me with a “health advocate” to help “answer any questions [I] might have” and to provide guidance in developing and pursing my personal health goals.  Ironically, when I asked the question of most importance to me, namely, whether my prescription would be filled as written, the well-meaning health advocate could not help me.  She seemed unfamiliar with the Step1,2, and 3 drug categories outlined in CIGNA patient literature and was only able to transfer me to a CIGNA pharmacist, who also could not answer my question.  I assume this is because my order was still awaiting an approval decision from you.

I do not need or desire any further interruptions or obstacles to my health care.  I am fortunate to have excellent medical professionals to evaluate and treat me. What I seem to lack is a simple, straightforward program by which to have my prescribed medications provided. 

Can you help me with this, Mr. Imperato?

Finally, it is apparent that the policies and practices referenced above potentially place CIGNA at cross-purposes with its own expressed goals of excellent patient care.  Some of the escalating costs which managed health care ostensibly was developed to control seem to be exacerbated by the policies I have experienced and detailed above. In my own physician’s office, an additional employee had to be added to process the many pre-authorizations  required by CIGNA and other insurance benefit providers.  Clearly, this does not reduce costs.

Mr. Imperato, it is my sincere hope that you will give thought and attention to the concerns I have described, particularly  those related to the ways in which health insurance policies  intrude upon and diminish doctor-patient relationships. Please consider this letter as feedback from a veteran client who is dissatisfied with the pharmacy service  you provide.

 In light of your pharmacy service's many claims to excellence and concern for client heath concerns,  I look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.


Kathleen K. Holliday

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Don't Live at the P.O.

[with apologies to Eudora Welty, author of “Why I Live at the P.O.”]

To begin with, I consider myself a staunch supporter of the U.S. Constitution, including all of the various and sundry responsibilities and areas of purview that it ascribes as specifically governmental concerns. 

To wit, “Article 1,Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution, known as the Postal Clause or the Postal Power, empowers Congress "To establish Post Offices and post Roads with the implied authority to carry, deliver, and regulate the mails of the United States as a whole.

And so it was, armed with an earnest and wholesome belief in the authority and commitment of the United States Post Office to fulfill its Constitutional duty that I set off on my most recent misadventure.

As these things tend to do, another family milestone had crept up on me recently and I found myself in need of postal services.  Our oldest daughter was to be graduated from high school, and the pertinent announcements, mailing lists, and open house invitations were arrayed before me on the dining room table.

Too late did I realize that in my zeal to complete this task, I had neglected to ensure that all necessary components would fit in the same size envelope.  Thus, I had already purchased announcements, just printed photo open house invitations, and had no envelopes that would accommodate both. Cowed at the possibility of having to pay first class postage to mail all pieces separately,I turned to my trusty personal accountant and husband for counsel.

 “Just take them to the post office and have them metered.  Then you’ll be sure you don’t have to pay any more than you have to.” 

With these syllables of wisdom resonating in my ears, I set forth with my bulging tote bags of mail and a gleam of hope in my eyes.

Patiently, I queued up in the Loves Park Post Office lobby.  After a not unreasonable interval, I was summoned to the counter.

“How can I help you today?” asked the smiling postal clerk.

“Well, I have some mail I’d like to have metered, please.”

The friendly brow contracted slightly in mystification.

“Um, yes.  Metered.  You know, like how you run pieces of mail through a postage meter instead of sticking a stamp on each one?  You meter mail for people…”, I trailed off.

“Oh, no we don’t do that,” with a brief head shake and slightly bemused look.

“Nope. I mean, yes, seriously, we don’t meter mail here.”

I glanced from Friendly Eyes to the adjacent clerk, Kenny.

Now, Kenny and I are old, if not formal, acquaintances.  I’ve had a few skirmishes with Kenny over the years, but it’s always been civil, if not strictly logical.

For my edification, Kenny chimed in. “We don’t do meters here.”

“But, this is a post office, and I’m trying to mail my mail.”

“Oh, you can still do that here!”  Thanks, Kenny.

Back to Friendly Eyes.  “It’s just that we don’t meter mail HERE.  If we metered mail here, the line would go all the way out the door and into the parking lot.” Hmmm, wouldn’t want to work you guys too hard…

Kenny chimed in again.  “Nope, can’t do the meter here. But you could go somewhere else, like, say Adams Letter Service, they’d do it for ya.”  Adams Letter Service is easily 25 to 30 minutes away, and gasoline in these parts is running  $3.59/gallon on a good day.

“But then, they’d a likely tack on a service charge,” he added helpfully.

Friendly Eyes corroborated this by nodding. Nonplussed, I began my futile, and apparently fictional, protest that the Post Office was here to serve me.

“I’d say the quickest thing to do would be to get stamps for all of these,” Friendly Eyes concluded, slapping my invitations and announcements on the postal scale.  “Yup, they each qualify as single-first class.”
 “Hmm, let’s see, we have several forever stamps now…did you say this was for a party?”

Chiming Kenny added, “We have those Celebrate stamps. Would you like those, Miss? How many do you need?”

Um, about 90, I guess.

“Uh, don’t have that many…Kenny you got any of those stamps with the balloons?”

Quicker than you can shed a tear of frustration, Kenny slapped open his battered binder of current postage stamps and was retrieving “Celebrate” stamp sheets.

After reluctantly handing Friendly Eyes my credit card, I proceeded to take out small stacks of envelopes and, despite now  lacking anything close to a celebratory attitude,affix stamps to each.

“Ma’am would you mind stepping over there so others can get to the counter?” Kenny raised his turbulent eyebrows at me.

I glanced back at the completely empty mail lobby, loaded up my tote bags, stamps, purse, and seething frustration, and proceeded to the outer room.

About a quarter of an hour later, the last of the envelopes had been duly stamped, and I was trudging over to the “Stamped Mail” bin.  Mirthlessly, I eyed the adjacent bin, labeled “Metered Mail.”

But, the last laugh was theirs:  striding toward the exit, I spied this helpful US Postal Service sign:  “Helping Make Your Life Easier Is What We Do Best.”