Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Becoming a Kidney Donor

Just in case you haven’t yet heard, on next Wednesday January 26, I have been given the extraordinary opportunity to donate my left kidney to a woman from my church named Ann. Towards the beginning of last year Ann shared with our church that she was suffering kidney failure and would need a kidney transplant. Since then Ann has gone through multiple tests and fistula surgeries to prepare for dialysis treatments, hoping, as anyone in her situation does, for a transplant.

Before I get into explaining how and why I made the decision to become a kidney donor for Ann, I want to admit that talking about this has proved to be very difficult for me. On the one hand, whenever I do share about the donation process, I am thankful for the support and prayers most everyone has offered for Ann and me. But on the other hand, I get quickly embarrassed by the attention and adulation I’ve received from folks who just want to share their appreciation. That in a nutshell is why I get leery about telling folks that I’m donating a kidney.

As to the question of why I’m doing something like this, it’s simple: I’m donating my kidney to help Ann, and that’s it. My one satisfaction comes from knowing I have the chance to help a friend and sister in Christ. Keeping me from any other lesser motives is Jesus’ admonition that says, “But when you give…, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4). Again, the reward for me comes from the act of giving. So why should I broadcast it and risk further discomfort of the limelight?

I’m sharing my reasoning and decision making for one big reason: that you can understand what goes into a decision like this and discover how viable an option it may be for you or someone you know to be a live organ donor. If my sharing would encourage someone else to donate an organ and give the gift of life to someone else, that more than doubles the satisfaction for me.

Up until learning about Ann’s predicament, I had never before even remotely considered being a living organ donor. But shortly after Ann made her announcement that she would need a kidney transplant, she shared with me that one of her biggest fears is that her blood type is O+ and that there aren’t too many other O+ folks out there, let alone those who would donate a kidney. I thought to myself, “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m O+, too. We can give to anyone, but only receive from someone of the same type.”

Then an unusual thought came to my mind, “Wait, I am O+. I wonder what’s involved in this whole donation thing.” So, I went to the University of Maryland’s kidney donation site, and looked into it. I learned that donating a kidney is a worthwhile option that is far less evasive and risky for the donor than in used to be. People can live perfectly fine with just one kidney, and the surgery, performed almost entirely laparoscopically, is followed by a short recovery time—just a few weeks!

Then I got to thinking about two people I had gotten to know in the last several years whose lives were saved by receiving an organ donation. One was a former landlord who received a heart transplant. The second was a man from my church who received a living liver donation from his son. In both cases, I saw how difficult it was to find a donor but also how receiving a needed organ saved their lives while returning them to a good quality of life.

When I saw Ann again on a Sunday morning, I asked her if there was a form or application someone would fill out to be a donor. She assured me there was, and when I came into my office the next morning, there was a large brown envelope with an application inside of it sitting right on my desk. So, I looked through it, went home that afternoon and asked Blairlee what she thought, and to my surprise, after looking into it, she was highly supportive.

Then I began the testing process. An initial cross-match test found Ann and me to be an acceptable match. A few months after that I began more intensive testing which included a whole battery of blood tests, a glucose tolerance test, and a urine test to determine my baseline health. Kidney donors need to be in very good condition. At every point in the donation evaluation process, the health and safety of the donor is the primary factor. Nothing would be done to jeopardize the short-term or long-term health of the donor, which has been a great comfort to me. Along those lines, the surgeons made clear to me that I needed to drop some weight, a minimum of 10 lbs. but ideally close to 50 lbs. Thankfully, over these past five months, I’ve almost met the 50 lb. goal and intend to keep losing weight and keep it off in order to take good care of my health and my remaining kidney.

The final part of the donation evaluation was a full day of testing and interviews. Over the course of the day, I was given some education on the donation process, the donor and recipient surgery and the recovery. That was followed by more blood tests, a chest x-ray, a CT scan of my kidneys and surrounding anatomy, a psycho-social evaluation with a social worker, an appointment with my donor surgeon, and a full physical including an EKG. Ann’s husband Dave later quipped that at the very least I got one heck of a physical out of the whole deal!

A few weeks later, a multidisciplinary team looked at all the test results from Ann and me, determined that we were good to go, and set a surgery date. Right now, I can’t wait for us to get to January 26th and have the surgery. For both Ann and me, that will become a hallmark day in both of our lives.

I want to say again how incredibly touched and grateful I feel for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers many of you have offered Ann and me as we prepare for the donation surgery. That has taken what has been a deeply moving process and made it all the more beautiful. Every step along the way, Ann, our families, and I have seen, heard, and felt the presence and leading of God. In recent weeks, we have experienced God in the love so many of you have given us.

Even as strenuous and at times overwhelming the donation process has been, it’s all worth it for nothing else but two reasons: the hope of Ann returning to health with a functioning kidney and to hear others say, “If you can do something like donate a kidney, I could consider doing something like that, too.” That truly makes my joy complete!

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It Could Be Dangerous to Play It Safe

Growing up, my mother would call me a bull in a china shop. I used to bristle at that. These days, however, I’m beginning to claim that dubious title as a badge of honor, most especially in the all-too-civilized, predictable, highly controlled world of the Christian faith and church.

To a large degree, I’ve always felt like an outsider to established Christianity, and that’s because my formative years were spent on the outside. But even now, 18 years later and an ordained pastor, significant parts of me have refused to be domesticated within the institutional church. That has been both liberating and painful. Ultimately though, the constant struggle and lesson learned have always pushed me to be myself. It only harms myself and the people I serve whenever I slavishly attempt to fit within the oppressive expectation-molds of religious people and religious institutions.

I’m glad I’m not alone in this struggle and that there are brave women and men who have enough love for Jesus and the courage to call a spade a spade. The spade is this: over the last 1,700 years, most all of Christianity and the church has become a civilized institution built on control, tight structures, complete conformity, formalized religious practice that resists any form of deviation, safe and predictable outcomes, and an ingrained reluctance to engage, love, or respect anyone or anything outside of itself.

Recently, a good friend of mine suggested a firebomb of a book written by Erwin Raphael McManus called The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within.  When he told me what the book was about, I was hesitant to pick it up. It sounded it would give voice to many of the thoughts and struggles I’ve had trying to be a disciple of Jesus within the institutional church. Did I really want to be ruined that way? Could I bear to face the consequences of listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit if God decided to speak to me through this book?

Well, I ended up buying and reading The Barbarian Way. It’s a little, short, muscular read that pulls no punches and is filled from cover to cover with a call to passionately, sacrificially love and follow Jesus Christ no matter the cost, realizing that doing so will make us barbarians in a civilized church and religion. And McManus was also clear about the peril of  following Jesus, considering that living as a child of the kingdom of God puts us in direct conflict with the kingdoms of darkness and evil in this world.

Warning: this is not a nice, politically correct book. If you have touchy theological, ecclesiological (church), or even language and imagery sensibilities, McManus will most definitely offend you. But perhaps you need to be offended. Oops… sorry… that wasn’t too politically correct, either!

Here are a couple of samples from The Barbarian Way that stood out to me:

…Christianity over the last two thousand years has moved from a tribe of renegades to a religion of conformists. Those who choose to follow Jesus become participants in an insurrection. To claim we believe is simply not enough. The call of Jesus is one that demands action. (5)

There may not be a more dangerous weapon for violence or oppression than religion. It seems counterintuitive, but when human beings create religions, we use them to control others through their guilt and shame. True religion always moves us to serve others and to give our lives to see those oppressed find freedom. (47)

To study the Bible is important, but it is not a primal evidence that you belong to God. Anyone can study the Bible, but only those who know Him can hear His voice and are taught by Him. Although the barbarian may not be formally trained, she is always God-taught. Jesus expected that those who were His followers would hear His voice, know His voice, and follow only His voice, even as He calls us out by name and leads us on the barbarian way. (84)

It is true that the enemy will essentially leave you alone if you are domesticated. He will not waste his energy destroying a civilized religion. If anything, he uses his energy to promote such activity. Religion can be one of the surest places to keep us from God. When our faith recomes refined, it is no longer dangerous to the dark kingdom.

Barbarians, on the other hand, are not to be trusted. They respect no borders that are established by powers or principalities. They have but one King, one Lord, and one mission. They are insolent enough to crash the gates of hell. For the sake of others, they are willing to risk their own lives and thrust themselves into the midst of peril. (128)

Pretty audacious stuff, isn’t it? Like I’ve said, this book is not for everyone. Is it flawless? Far from it. But if you at all consider yourself a Christian, I dare you to read it. Even if the imagery he uses does not resonate with you– and not all of it did with me, either– there is much here to challenge and awaken our faith to be truly alive, daring, and willing to love God with all our being, love our neighbors as ourselves, and to do whatever it takes to live out this “barbarian” invitation of God.

As for me, McManus has pushed me to be less fearful and a little less careful. I don’t think this means being obnoxious or going out of my way to be reckless. But it does mean letting go of my fear of people and institutions in order to listen to and fear God. Am I just a little anxious over the consequences? You bet I am. But if it means being fully alive with God’s purpose, God’s love, and God’s presence, then nothing else could compare. I’ll be a despised barbarian any day for that!

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2010 in Review

It was a fantastically adventurous, insightful, blessed 2010 for me in the blogosphere, and that’s all due to friends like you who take the interest and time to read my schtuff and then go the extra mile to interact with each other and with me. I love to write and to use the power of words (and the concepts behind those words) to encourage, challenge, and at times, to make a holy mess. And I love to read your writing and thoughts, too. You’ve helped me to grow and mature this past year.

Thank you for enriching my life and the lives of other readers by the conversations we have in the world of ideas concerning life, faith, and “religion”. I look forward to sharing the journey with you in 2011! Happy New Year, and may you find every blessing of God for you each day, one day at a time.

-your friend and brother, Chris

The WordPress.com statistics for pastorchrisowens.wordpress.com

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 27 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 24 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 15th with 1 views. The most popular post that day was My Two Words for Pat Robertson: Shut Up!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were WordPress Dashboard, facebook.com, en.wikipedia.org, networkedblogs.com, and derrenbrown.co.uk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for agnostic, hebrew bible, scripture, ignatius of antioch, and cross and flame.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

My Two Words for Pat Robertson: Shut Up! January 2010
138 comments

2

Post-Christian Agnostics: Understanding the Spirituality of Most Americans January 2010
42 comments

3

About Chris June 2009
9 comments

4

Another Look at John 14:6– What Does Jesus Really Mean? January 2010
32 comments

5

Smashing the Jesus Idol of Churchianity January 2010
6 comments

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