Easter morning brings unbelievably good news!

This is my Easter column in the Greenville News.  May you have a deeper understanding of the message of the resurrection of Jesus.

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20130331/OPINION/303310014/Ed-Leap-morning-brings-unbelievably-good-news?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|s

Easter Sunday is the day we too easily make Jesus the God of good people, the God of nice boys and girls and proper men and women, with freshly pressed clothes and baskets of candy, who go home for nice dinners.  The people who know all of the right Sunday-School answers to life’s questions.

However, having spent my medical career seeing a lot of wounded, broken people, I have a message this Easter, whether you’ll be in church or not; whether you’ll have chocolate bunnies or just be happy for food. Whether you have a new dress or an old pair of jeans.  Because the miracle of Easter is for all; and especially for those who are longing for hope and love.

Here’s what you need to know.  The resurrection was for ancient alcoholics and 21st century Methamphetamine addicts.  It was for the prostitutes of antiquity and the sex-workers of the Internet.  That magnificent event was meant to heal the bitter slave holders and oppressors of times past and the manipulative money-launderers of modern banking scams.  The Man from Galilee died for physical sicknesses of the past that left men and women beggars, and for the schizophrenia that leaves people babbling beneath underpasses today.  He died for the grief, depression and anxiety that we now treat only with pills and more pills.

Jesus’ act was for all.  For the Roman soldiers who crucified Him and for the terrorist bombers of our time.  It was for the poor and rich, for the starving and the obese. He died and rose for environmentalists and litterers, for progressives and fundamentalists.  It was for those whose sin is pride and for those whose pride was long ago lost in professional failure.  It was for those who rob from the poor, and for the vicious poor who use poverty as an excuse to steal and murder.  It was for the married and divorced, the widowed and the engaged, the orphan and the beloved son or daughter.  It is for the believer, but it remains available for the ones who can’t believe; at least not yet.

Jesus came for scientists and simpletons; for academics and tradesmen.  He made no difference between them, for all were ultimately in need of the same saving work.  He came for the religious leaders who condemned him, for wayward pastors, embezzling televangelists, abusive priests, patient missionaries, non-committed universalists and the martyred founders of the Church.  Indeed, He came to give the same clarity to all.  The clarity that He was the way and that by believing and seeking Him they could find their longings answered and be re-born in Him and in His love.  His intent was for His followers to continue in kind, and embrace everyone else with the love they received, offering them not sterile, disinterested ‘tolerance,’ but much more.  They were to spread His offer of healing, forgiveness, redemption, transformation and eternal life.

Consider this.  In an age of endless demographic groups used for politics and marketing, there is no demographic for whom Jesus did not die and live again.  There is no sin or affliction, no shame or personal abuse, no history, no wound, no lie, no faithlessness, no cruelty endured or inflicted that did He did not take to the cross.  Nothing, and no person, that He neglected in His universe changing, soul-saving, death-ending, time-shattering, sin-atoning act.

This is harder for us to accept that we might like to admit.  It’s one thing for Jesus to die and return for me; but quite another that he did it for someone I dislike, disdain or with whom I share no commonality.  And yet, that is the salient point.  The bruised, bloodied and resurrected point.  He is our commonality, who unites us in redeeming our common sin.

Whomever we are, we bring our wounds and sins to this new day, this resurrection day; sometimes hidden beneath our pinks, greens and blues, suppressed (even in church) by the right words and smiles.  Happily, whatever we woke up bearing, whatever personal agony, whatever tomb we seem to dwell in or be destined for, this morning there is unbelievable news.

Jesus took our place, Jesus took our pain and guilt and sorrow and fear.  Jesus took our disease and wounds and very mortality and condemnation up to the cross, down to the grave, and left it behind.  And whatever we are, or did, or bear upon us, these words remain relevant.

He is risen.  So are we if only we desire and accept.

 

This morning brings unbelievably good news! Happy Easter!

This morning brings unbelievably good news!

My column in today’s Greenville News.

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20130331/OPINION/303310014/Ed-Leap-morning-brings-unbelievably-good-news?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Easter Sunday is the day we too easily make Jesus the God of good people, the God of nice boys and girls and proper men and women, with freshly pressed clothes and baskets of candy, who go home for nice dinners.  The people who know all of the right Sunday-School answers to life’s questions.

However, having spent my medical career seeing a lot of wounded, broken people, I have a message this Easter, whether you’ll be in church or not; whether you’ll have chocolate bunnies or just be happy for food. Whether you have a new dress or an old pair of jeans.  Because the miracle of Easter is for all; and especially for those who are longing for hope and love.

Here’s what you need to know.  The resurrection was for ancient alcoholics and 21st century Methamphetamine addicts.  It was for the prostitutes of antiquity and the sex-workers of the Internet.  That magnificent event was meant to heal the bitter slave holders and oppressors of times past and the manipulative money-launderers of modern banking scams.  The Man from Galilee died for physical sicknesses of the past that left men and women beggars, and for the schizophrenia that leaves people babbling beneath underpasses today.  He died for the grief, depression and anxiety that we now treat only with pills and more pills.

Jesus’ act was for all.  For the Roman soldiers who crucified Him and for the terrorist bombers of our time.  It was for the poor and rich, for the starving and the obese. He died and rose for environmentalists and litterers, for progressives and fundamentalists.  It was for those whose sin is pride and for those whose pride was long ago lost in professional failure.  It was for those who rob from the poor, and for the vicious poor who use poverty as an excuse to steal and murder.  It was for the married and divorced, the widowed and the engaged, the orphan and the beloved son or daughter.  It is for the believer, but it remains available for the ones who can’t believe; at least not yet.

Jesus came for scientists and simpletons; for academics and tradesmen.  He made no difference between them, for all were ultimately in need of the same saving work.  He came for the religious leaders who condemned him, for wayward pastors, embezzling televangelists, abusive priests, patient missionaries, non-committed universalists and the martyred founders of the Church.  Indeed, He came to give the same clarity to all.  The clarity that He was the way and that by believing and seeking Him they could find their longings answered and be re-born in Him and in His love.  His intent was for His followers to continue in kind, and embrace everyone else with the love they received, offering them not sterile, disinterested ‘tolerance,’ but much more.  They were to spread His offer of healing, forgiveness, redemption, transformation and eternal life.

Consider this.  In an age of endless demographic groups used for politics and marketing, there is no demographic for whom Jesus did not die and live again.  There is no sin or affliction, no shame or personal abuse, no history, no wound, no lie, no faithlessness, no cruelty endured or inflicted that did He did not take to the cross.  Nothing, and no person, that He neglected in His universe changing, soul-saving, death-ending, time-shattering, sin-atoning act.

This is harder for us to accept that we might like to admit.  It’s one thing for Jesus to die and return for me; but quite another that he did it for someone I dislike, disdain or with whom I share no commonality.  And yet, that is the salient point.  The bruised, bloodied and resurrected point.  He is our commonality, who unites us in redeeming our common sin.

Whomever we are, we bring our wounds and sins to this new day, this resurrection day; sometimes hidden beneath our pinks, greens and blues, suppressed (even in church) by the right words and smiles.  Happily, whatever we woke up bearing, whatever personal agony, whatever tomb we seem to dwell in or be destined for, this morning there is unbelievable news.

Jesus took our place, Jesus took our pain and guilt and sorrow and fear.  Jesus took our disease and wounds and very mortality and condemnation up to the cross, down to the grave, and left it behind.  And whatever we are, or did, or bear upon us, these words remain relevant.

He is risen.  So are we if only we desire and accept.

 

Cataracts and clear vision

I had my second cataract surgery today.  I tolerated it for about two years, but it just became too difficult to see.  I was, essentially, using my good eye for everything.  I became pretty adept at mono-vision, thank you very much.  But enough was enough.  Jan finally wearied of watching me hold things too close, or fiercely squint at the television.

Cataract surgery is surreal.  I lay there, fully awake, as my eye was prepped, anesthetized, opened and the cataract vibrated into tiny bits then gently removed.  Before I knew it, I had a shiny new lens where before I was seeing the world through cellophane; wrinkled at that.

When I left the surgery center, it was with a face painted in yellow betadine, and enormous black, wrap-around sunglasses.  I had to stop and wait in Wal-Mart while my wife and kids helped load boxes for our church food-bank.

There I sat, 48 years old, sitting in giant wrap-around glasses, waiting on the bench just inside Wal-Mart, an unlikely impersonator of a retiree (with all due respect).  The only thing lacking was any sort of anesthesia hangover.

It’s about 12 hours after my surgery now.  My vision is remarkable.  Despite a little swelling and blurring, to be expected, I have clear sight where before there were blurry shapes.

Oh, I have been the recipient of gifts.  The gift of my wife Jan and her concern. The gift of access to a skilled surgeon(thanks to Dr. Scott Massios of Blue Ridge Eye Center in Seneca, SC) .  The gift of technology that is, in its own way, a kind of miracle; diffused slowly through science rather than suddenly via Messiah or saint.  Miraculous nonetheless.

And I have the gift of insight and new sight.  While I’ll need reading glasses for life, while I had to undergo surgery, I know what it is not to see.  I comprehend the blurring uncertainty of bad vision.  I grasp the spiritual metaphor as well.

The Bible says it so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:  ‘for now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.’  You can also understand that to say, ‘but then with utter clarity.’

Of course, John Newton had a similar experience, whether or not the old redeemed slaver ever had cataracts.  ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

In the end, our physical ailments are perhaps best understood as the hammers and chisels that shape and carve away the excess and unsightly, and give us the eternal shape hidden beneath by our artist.  Or, more to the current point, they are the scalpels that remove the blindness from our eyes forever.

If I gain nothing else from my cataract surgeries, that is enough.

A snowstorm brings the gifts of solitude and silence

A snowstorm brings the gifts of solitude and silence

This is my column in today’s Greenville News.  Happy Winter!

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20130217/OPINION/302170007/Ed-Leap-Snowstorm-brings-gift-solitude-silence

When I was in medical school in West Virginia, I was also in the Air National Guard.  One drill weekend, when I was scheduled to drive to my unit, a blizzard blew into town. And I mean the real kind, officially designated by the weather service and properly pedigreed.

I had every legitimate reason to call my Chief Master Sergeant, explain the situation, and stay in Morgantown, tucked in my apartment.  I didn’t.  I decided that I had to make the three and a half hour drive.  Was I patriotic?  Yes.  Was my girlfriend, and current wife, also at the end of the drive? Absolutely.

So off I went, in my little red Dodge hatch-back.  I slid into a guard-rail on the way out of town,  but the damage was cosmetic.  I continued on my way. The snow was thick, and the wind blew it in great gusts across I-79.  It piled up along the way, and at various points I recall that it was difficult to see the lights in business by the side of the road, difficult to make out the lights of other vehicles.  I could barely see road signs until I was very nearly next to them.  I drove behind, and by, snow plows and salt trucks.

As I drove further on my journey, I saw fewer and fewer vehicles, testament to the potential of the storm.  I pulled over at a fast-food restaurant for a break.  My hair and coat were wet with snow just from the walk into the building.  I grabbed a large Coke and a snack, then settled back into my car.

Not much further down the road, I spilled the entire drink in my lap; a sure way to stay awake when it’s below freezing and snow is swirling all about.  I stopped, next, at a shopping center and changed clothes.  Just in time, because wise managers were sending employees home for their safety.  Foolish and intrepid, I pressed on, my clothes dry and my drink refilled.

In the end, it took about six hours or more to reach home.  I made it to drill, and I visited with Jan.  It was a foolish, wonderful, thing to do, traveling in weather like that.  If my children did it, I’d be furious, and worried.  And at least they would have cell-phones, which of course almost no one had then.

But there was something about it that I can’t describe.  There was a beauty in that snow, that solitude, that uncertainty.  Maybe it was spending so much time with so many people in classes and in the hospital.  Maybe it was that fact that as a child, I liked to wander in snowy woods alone, and hide in snow-banks, listening to the wind in the trees.  Sometimes, loneliness is just the ticket.

A few weeks ago I was traveling in Indiana.  A snow-storm came up as I drove towards Evansville.  It was just a few flakes in Louisville.  But as I drove west on I-64, the flakes became more frequent, and ultimately, the roads became slick, the lights dimmed by the enveloping white.  Finally, the snow was blowing horizontally across the road, and cars were fewer.  I found my way to my hotel and settled in for the night.

Mind you, I had a cell-phone, and a more reliable (and likely safer) vehicle than back in my medical school days.  And I’m a better driver than I was then.  And unfortunately, I was driving away from my wife and children, rather than towards them.  But there was a similar emotion, a familiar sense of delight.

The highways of the Midwest are long and often straight.  Even when they snake up and down hills, their vistas are impressive.  Seeing the snow come across those highways, seeing the black clouds coalesce, sitting quietly in my car with the dash-board lights and radio, well that was a kind of quiet treasure; a gift of travel and solitude.

But it’s a gift we rarely receive these days.  Our phones are never at rest, and never leave us at rest. Screens are everywhere, in offices and waiting rooms, in homes and even in vehicles.  We clamor for more information, more entertainment, more people, more connection.  The lights of social media are never dimmed by weather.

It’s a pity, because solitude is often magnificent.  And silence is spiritual.  And few things bring them together like driving alone in a snowstorm.

 

 

 

 

Watch for mysteries everywhere! (Especially in the shopping cart!)

Here is my column in today’s Greenville News.  Enjoy!  And remember what you put in the cart at the store…

Everyone loves a good mystery, don’t they? It’s why we enjoy shows like CSI, and The First 48. The idea that we can take the evidence before us and construct an explanation for events, why that’s good fun! And I wonder, sometimes, if folks aren’t taking notes in anticipation of future misdeeds!

It all makes me wonder. Someday, when I’m long gone to glory and the children are far away, someday when these woods and fields are unexplored and wide open before other occupants, I wonder what they’ll think?

How will they explain the assorted animal bones that litter our yard and woods ? I know that they’re the consequence of keeping a pack of dogs around the yard. Thanks to the dogs, I am never surprised when the law-mower flings half a mandible across the yard, or a small skull crunches beneath my foot as I work around the porch. Not that the dogs take the energy to kill anything, mind you. But they’re great at dragging things out of the forest that have been killed by other, more enterprising carnivores. Of course, the collected skeletons may seem a little odd to future excavators, since this place clearly wasn’t an active farm.

Coupled with the scattered shell-casings, lost arrows, abandoned hatchets and machetes characteristic of boyhood, future excavators might take this for a battlefield, a sacrificial location or an abattoir! Small creatures buried in boxes might also make it seem like a burial ground. My daughter recently interred a tiny tortoise in a wee box She tenderly wrapped it in a leaf and flower, with the kind of gentility only a child can show for a thing that seems so inconsequential to silly adults. Of course, I had to dig the hole, but that’s papa’s work.

When the kids were smaller, I wondered what an investigator would think of my last car. Somewhere, under a back seat, there were probably a couple of forgotten diapers, at least two pounds of potatoes in the form of petrified McDonald’s French Fries, enough straws to make a snorkel, enough loose change to re-fill the gas tank and multiple forgotten crayons. The seats themselves likely had enough DNA from childhood incidents and accidents to reconstruct a very confusing crime-scene involving blood, saliva and urine. I imagined the detective scratching his head next to my body, wondering if I had been killed by a diaper wearing short-order cook with a creepy penchant for coloring books.

However, I never wonder about the ‘story’ more than when I’m in line at WalMart or some other store that has a wide variety of items. As I check out, someone must be asking, ‘why would he need 500 rounds of .22 ammunition, 50 pounds of dog-food, a blade for a power-saw and scented hand soap?Can I get a deputy on aisle 20?’

And there’s the dietary issue. Sometimes our kids have friends over to visit. I always enjoy the look in the clerk’s eyes as I check out with 10 pounds of hamburger, 6 boxes of Swiss Cake Roles, 10 bags of assorted chips, batteries for the X-box controllers, 10 liters of Coke products, three boxes of Oreo Cookies and an archery target. ‘You don’t want to know,’ I think to myself. The only thing better would be adding a vial of insulin.

So it is with a smile that I view a big screen TV, a leopard print bra, stiletto heels, four gallons of wine and a packet of steaks. ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ it cries out! It is with a laugh that I watch Star Wars action figures, a box of Vanilla Wafers, a pack of juice boxes and some frozen kids’ meals. Mommy needs a little down time, apparently.

It is with wonder and a little surprise that I see frozen dog cookies, a car battery, a stroller, a chainsaw chain and a set of socket-wrenches. Just what sort of vehicle are we building, eh dad?

And it is with a sense of foreboding that I watch as 100 feet of rope, a set of steak knives, a shovel and a gray tarp roll down the conveyor. Family coming to visit? Big plans? I wonder if someone is going to show up on America’s Most Wanted.

I’m fairly easily entertained. But few things entertain me like constructing stories, whether it be from tiny corpses in my yard to scary purchases at the store.

There are mysteries, and stories, all around. Just you watch!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! St. Patrick's Breastplate…

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

http://www.prayerfoundation.org/st_patricks_breastplate_prayer.htm

Have we lost touch with the real world?

I wonder, sometimes, if humanity is progressively, steadily, losing touch with everything it means to be human.  I could give a long list of reasons I believe this to be true, but what strikes me are the ways people are incredulous about their bodies when I see them in the emergency department.

Afflicted with a bruise on an arm or leg, but no fracture, they say:  ‘So if it isn’t broken, why does it hurt like this?’  Or, ‘why is it black and blue?’

When their children have cough and head colds, and no pneumonia, they are flabbergasted by fever.  ‘I don’t get it.  I give him Tylenol and the fever goes away…but then it comes RIGHT back!  Something must be wrong!  And he won’t get up and play or anything!’

Or this one, whose young wife fell a few feet down an embankment but suffered no fractures.  ‘Have you ever heard someone fall and make a loud thump?’  Simply stunned that contact with the ground wasn’t silent.

I don’t mean to belittle uncertainty, but in ages past our grandmothers, with no formal medical training,  knew that bruises were painful, fevers were cyclic and falling down (outside of a vacuum)  made a noise!

Have we so ‘medicalized’ the world that nobody knows what normal human bodies do?

At our current rate, it’s unlikely to change, as every natural process from birth to death becomes insulated in procedures, diagnoses, medications and ironically, increasing mystery to a world of humans out of touch with their very humanity.

Edwin

Merry Christmas! Belated…

Merry Christmas dear friends!  This was my Sunday Christmas Day column.  I didn’t post it yet, so my apologies.  I hope it remains relevant for you.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus

Christ. We’ve been preparing for weeks; maybe months (if the
Christmas music on the radio is any indication). Our homes are
decorated with lights and trees. We’ve purchased too many gifts and
eaten too much food. We’ve worn shocking red and green clothes. Even
today may have traveled to see family and friends; sometimes people we
don’t particularly like, but love nonetheless.

Christmas, in my opinion, transports us to a kind of glorious,
frantic madness. We stretch it out as long as possible, and celebrate
it as well as we can afford (and maybe a little more). We desperately
try to balance our spirituality with our consumer impulses. But even
the madness is a kind of delight for most of us.

To some Christian believers it’s a bit too pagan. For many
non-believers it all appears merely a celebration of ludicrous
mythologies. For others still it is the credit-crushing evidence of
American greed and materialism. But detractors aside, believers and
children alike understand that Christmas is a time of wonderful
insanity.

The French say, at Easter, ‘l’amour de Dieu est folie!’ The love of
God is madness. Indeed, it may be that we go a little Christmas crazy
because we are washed over with the love of God, whether we know it or
not. That even if we don’t believe, even if we consider the story a
fairy tale fit only for the nursery, it’s still an amazing one. Still
a story that, if false, came from the hopeful hearts of broken men and
women and that remains our deep, cherished dream.

You see, it’s a madness that reminds us of some very important
things, at least in my humble analysis. We give lavishly because we
were gifted lavishly. The child in the manger, and the redemption He
brought, was a gift we still cannot fathom despite our best attempts
at theology. I wonder, therefore, if our excess gift giving is a
profound (however fallen) attempt to give as lavishly as we were
given.

It’s also the madness of something new, for we all love new things!
New babies, new stories, new technologies and new movements. The
Christmas story is still new, 2000 years after it was first told. The
idea that all men are equal before God, that all men (kings and
peasants) were equally sinful and equally loved was a cataclysm that
still stuns our hearts and shaped our modern world. I doubt if the
idea will ever really become an old one. I certainly hope not, I
should say.
And it’s a kind of madness that resembles an illusion. At Christmas,
nothing is as it seems. Whether we see this in the character of
George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, the person of Scrooge in A
Christmas Carol, the wee sorry tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas or
the silent bell of The Polar Express, Christmas reminds us that the
world is brighter and more hopeful than it appears, even in our
darkest, most hopeless, most unbelieving moments.

The child born in the manger, simply, quietly, in an unobtrusive way,
in an unimpressive place to parents of no influence, well that child
appeared unimportant. But He inspired madness. Because He was far
more than he appeared. Hidden in the manger was the power that shaped
the universe. Lying in the straw, covered in cloths, was the child
who would become the man, who would be the sacrifice for all, and
whose touch, example and words would radically change lives, cure
diseases, forgive sin and conquer death. Nothing was as it seemed.
The poorest and the richest, kings and wise men all clamored to see
Him and worship Him; what an oddity!

It’s all crazy, you see. And all of us who believe it are, quite
frankly, a little off our rockers. But that doesn’t mean we’re wrong.
We all want to see Him still. Or something He represents. And He
welcomes us at Christmas. In our doubt, fear, poverty, riches, sorrow
and joy; despite our importance or irrelevance, we are called to the
manger.

Whether we are broken or whole, it makes no difference. We all may
find ourselves headed towards Bethlehem, crazy with sorrow or joy, mad
as hatters, dripping tinsel and eating cookies, checking bank accounts
and longing for the past, or the future.

For only there, with Him, is our madness turned to sanity at last.
Only there does the love of God finally make sense.