Thursday, July 08, 2010
The last 6 months have been some of the busiest of my entire life. My wife and I bought our first house, found out we were expecting another little boy, realized that we didn’t have adequate insurance, had to move out of our apartment because our new house took too long to build, wrote a book, raised a hilarious and compassionate 2-year old, lived with my in-laws for four months (which went really, really well), amongst the normal things of our jobs, raising a family, enjoying our marriage, and more.
I don’t say any of that to sound impressive, and if you saw my running times for the half marathon, you’ll see and know, there’s not much to be impressed about...unless of course you have the keen perspective to see it a benefit to be able to run a half marathon for the entire duration of a Godfather movie. Instead, I wanted to say that I had every reason not to want to run, and many days my body tried to convince me that the major chaffage and general smell of my shoes in cooperation with the business of my life would make it stupid to even try to run a half marathon.
So when Jamie sent out an email to myself and some college friends taunting us with his bulging calves and promise of lapping us in the running of the Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA I laughed of course. And promptly thought that I’d send in a couple of bucks to help them as they looked to raise fund through running these races for their adoption process.
But how could I look into the face of Jamie Berry, well at least read the hilarity of his blog, and think that I could not support the former college housemate and founder of the famous wrestling move called “The Fishook” and not try to help out? In the midst of all the craziness of my life, the half marathon provided some much needed space, and best of all I could actually participate in helping good friends and great people participate in practicing justice, of joining with God in making things right in the world as they are seeking to adopt a sibling group from the 5 million orphans currently living in Ethiopia.
What I didn’t expect, when I told Jamie that I’d run and help him raise money to help offset the costs of the adoption, is that through the training and running of the race, that I’d be changed through the process as well, and that it would be such an emotional and powerful experience for me personally. But as I trained and ran the race, and found myself inhabiting quieter spaces, enjoying the beautiful hills of VA, and thinking about my family, the future hope of Jamie and Misty’s new family, and the joy of what that day will be like when these children will have a home, I began to realize to new depths the significance of what Jamie and Misty are doing together through adoption.
As I slowly crossed the finish line, and trust me, it was slowly, and my pregnant wife, extended family, and thousands of other people who I didn’t know cheered me on, I was reminded of the vision of what heaven may be like: when all people, in all of our glorious differences, with our different languages, experiences, nationalities and more, can be together and have a home where there is no more sorrow or pain, no more hunger or thirst, and no more orphans.
So, as I crossed the finish line, with tears welling up, I was reminded of the powerful significance of what Jamie and Misty are doing, as they are bringing into reality, for their part of the story, the vision of heaven here on earth. And though the next couple of days I could barely walk up or down stairs, and the chaffage made me scream when I tried to take showers, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh, and even cry when I think about the joy that Jamie and Misty will give as they become a new family with the orphans they will adopt; but I think that I also smile, laugh and cry, thinking about the joy, hope, and change that these once orphans and now sons and daughters will bring about in Jamie and Misty.
I thought that I was the one helping Jamie and Misty out, to raise money, spread awareness, and get my butt kicked by some streets near a college that wait-listed me even though “they really wanted more men to apply to help raise gender equality at the school (blah blah blah blah blah).” And I think I may have helped some. But honestly, I was so glad that Jamie and Misty have invited others and me to share in their journey and story of helping orphans halfway around the world become sons and daughters.
Thanks for letting this slow guy run and participate in such a great act of justice and hope as you raise funds and eventually adopt orphans from Ethiopia. If you’ve read this far, take a minute and see if you can’t support my friends as they move through this adoption process. Whether financially, you can donate here. Or by sending funny pictures for the blog, you can send them to Jamie here. Or by asking Jamie and Misty how you might be able to do something where you live or with them to help. Not only might it change your life, but it will certainly change the lives of a group of siblings looking to become part of a family, and that is a great place to have hope and justice converge.
Thanks for including me friends.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
This Lent I am going to be both giving up and putting some things into action. On the personal side of things, I am going to be reading through Peter Rollins newest book The Orthodox Heretic, which is a collection of parables exploring themes of justice, love, the nature of God, and much more. If you buy the book during Lent, Paraclete Press will email you an additional 7 parables so that you can read one parable per day for 40 days. I probably won't blog about it every day, but I am really excited to read the new book and to be shaped by the power of story.
Something I am really excited about is the 40 Days of Water with Blood Water Mission. Over the next 40 days I am going to be drinking water and donate the money I would have spent on other beverages to Blood Water Mission. This amazing organization provides access to clean drinking water to people in Africa who are in need. They are amazing with their donations and are great people.
As I look at the picture of Rowan (my son) above, it is hard for me to think that there are millions of kids, many his age or younger who lack the basic access to clean water. I simply can't imagine what must be like for those children and those parents who watch their children suffer.
I imagine there will be a few times that I have to break the fast for work, but for my personal time I will definitely be trying to consume nothing other than water. My friends over at Wordswell designed this awesome new site and helped shape the campaign for Blood Water Mission. It looks amazing. If you decide to join me and many of my friends for 40 Days of Water, you can sign up and get your own personal website to help you track the drinks you are giving up and the amount you'd like to donate. You can follow me here: http://40days.bloodwatermission.com/joshhayden.
Take a moment and think about joining me on the 40 Days of Water campaign to support Blood Water Mission!
Friday, January 29, 2010
The next class that we had after I had asked him a seemingly small question on Barth, led to a brown paper bag sitting on my desk with a few new, great smelling books that he hoped would continue to help me ask more questions, keep up the conversation, and spur me on towards greater learning. Over the four years in college, and the next four years afterwards, we kept in touch, meeting occasionally for a meal, to discuss my going to seminary, to meet other prominent professors, to introduce Shey to some fantastic art historian, or just to catch up...he always listened, and he helped me to believe in myself in ways that I had never believed in myself before. He asked great questions, and he somehow kept ahead of the curve theologically, and was in tune with a broad swath of conversations and theological discussions across the spectrum.
Dr. Thomas passed away the right before I graduated from seminary, and the news was sent to me while Shey was in the hospital, in the middle of some of the worst weeks of my life thus far. To be honest, I haven't even begun to process the hole that is in my life now that he is gone. His death represents so much more than simply an absence of guidance, great questions, and insight...his absence is sorely missed as I evaluate Ph.D. programs, read a new theologian, or simply need a helpful voice to speak into my life. I know that I wasn't the only one impacted by this generous, humble, and kind man, he had a way of impacting every student in one way or another that he came in contact with.
So as I read tonight:
The Rev. Dr. William W. Thomas, Honorably Retired pastor
The Rev. Dr. William W. Thomas, age 74 and Honorably Retired pastor, died on Saturday, May 24, 2008, at the Bridgewater Nursing Home in Bridgewater, VA. Dr. Thomas was a longtime resident of Harrisonburg and retired from James Madison University as a full professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion in 1997. Since then, he taught at JMU on a part-time basis and continued his involvement with the students, faculty and staff at JMU. Prior to teaching at JMU, he taught summer sessions at Bridgewater College.
He was the last survivor of his immediate family. The Rev. Thomas Reynolds will conduct a graveside service at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, at St. Matthew's Cemetery adjacent to Reformation Lutheran Church in New Market, VA.
Memorial contributions may be made to Bridgewater Nursing Home or Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Va.
from an email that I can't get myself to take out of my inbox, I was jostled a bit, because Dr. Thomas' life has left a lasting handprint into the very way that I see the world, and his generosity, kindness, humility, challenge, and strong spirit I know lives with me as I try to live and learn as he taught me. The truth is: I miss him. In the midst of the pain of watching Shey and Rowan fight to make it, I simply ran out of tears to cry, and so tonight, as the tears well up, I know that it wasn't because I didn't care then, that is when I first heard, that I didn't cry. It was because I had nothing else to give.
So tonight, Dr. Thomas, as we come closer to celebrate Rowan's two years of life in June, we will also remember you, and pray that we can spur on and spark in Rowan the joy of God, life, theology, hope, and curiosity that you worked so hard to create and cultivate in both Shey and I. Thank you for believing in me and helping me to believe that with some hard work, we can grow, learn, and open our minds to amazing things if we are just willing to listen and be open to the great diversity of ways that God can work in the world.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
After Shey's difficult and complicated pregnancy, delivery, and Rowan's early troubles, we had a difficult time getting insurance for both Shey and Rowan. Rowan was added to my policy at the church after an initial appeal, but Shey was denied twice. They advised us to reapply after six months to a year, and thought that without any other complications she would be fine to get coverage. During the next year, we kept coverage for Shey through COBRA which is anything but cheap, stretching our budget a good bit, but we worked things out. We reapplied this past summer and Shey was denied coverage again on the plan with Rowan and me.
So we pursued an individual policy for Shey through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (the same company I was on with Rowan, and the same company that Shey was on through her school) and she got coverage. Weird isn't it? As part of the policy, we had to pick up a maternity rider, the rules being that Shey could not become pregnant within the first six months of coverage or they would not cover the pregnancy costs. We made it 4 1/2 months. We weren't trying to get pregnant, but apparently being careful doesn't always work!
So, not only were we faced with the prospect of a major change in our family, which is surprising, but we could certainly grow more excited...but we then had to face what seemed like overwhelming obstacles of trying to figure out how we are going to cover the costs of all of the medical expenses. Pre-natal visits, labor, delivery, hospital costs, estimated between $10-15,000. Add to this that Shey must also be on a prescription of Lovenox shots, twice/day, with an estimated cost of $3,000/month. And oh yeah, we are in the middle of buying a house! And while we've saved some money by renting and living in people's basements, we don't have that much money...I'm a youth pastor and my wife was a teacher for four years before Rowan. Basically the conservative estimated medical costs (shots for 10 months, pre-natal, labor/delivery, and then a normal hospital stay) would be my entire salary for one year.
So most of December was spent trying to finish up teaching, finish my book, and then figure out how to cover some of the upcoming medical expenses. We found out that I make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for all the expenses outright, so as you can imagine we were freaking out a bit.
Thankfully, the folks over at the company who make Lovenox (Sanofi Aventis) have a program for those who are underinsured or uninsured, and they have given us a 3-month supply of shots for free, and as long as I don't get a raise, and we should continue to be able to qualify for the program. Next, there is a Baptist Minister's Relief Fund of Virginia that is in the process of helping us figure out some things. I just got an email yesterday, and am going to talk with someone about negotiating with the price of the hospital stay for Shey.
We've played by the rules, we've been decent people, we've paid taxes, we've never lost coverage for health insurance, and we've done of good job of staying pretty healthy, but at the time when we needed solid coverage and health insurance, it hasn't worked. We are certainly thankful for the other organizations and even for the drug company (even though it is the steep prices that caused much of the problem in the first place), and of course our families will never let us starve or foreclose on our new house...but the healthcare system didn't work for us. And we aren't poor, and are educated, and have access to information that many other folks don't have, to at least explore other means of help.
I'm not going to say that Obama's plan is the only viable option, or that I know all the answers; because I don't. But I thought that our story is one that helps highlight the need for change and reform. If we can't get reasonable coverage or coverage when we need it the most, and we are in the middle class or even wealthy compared to many families who are without jobs or whose lives have been devastated by lack of coverage earlier, it seems like change might be a good thing.
We knew that the system was messed up after the last pregnancy and birth of Rowan, and their hospital bills without insurance would have been about $90,000/person respectively (and that's nothing compared to some of our other friends who have had more serious problems or Shey's sister who suffered through a car accident and was hospitalized for nearly a year).
I guess I wanted to add my voice to the discussion, because it is easy to think about healthcare as a political issue (which it certainly is), but it is also really easy to demonize people who disagree with you on the issue. I simply wanted to share our story about how the current healthcare system is not working for us. Thankfully, the community of faith, and our family are supporting us and helping us figure some things out, but many people are not so lucky.
So as you discuss healthcare reform or change, or talk about how the "Dem's" are trying to make us all socialists, or how the "Rep's" need to stop having tea parties and start offering other solutions, I hope that we can try to help others see beyond the political spin machine and remember that there are real people whose lives are being dramatically altered and changed, and perhaps forever changed depending on the results of the healthcare discussion. We know ours is.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I've spent a good part of the last few months thinking about hope, in both preparing to write and in writing the book on sacred hope for students. It forced me to take a look at some of the bumps and bruises of the last couple of years, and some of the deeper wounds that are still healing from years past. Rowan is going to have a bump for a couple of weeks probably, and will have a little mark for probably months. All from climbing up on his play kitchen, slipping, and then bumping his head on the corner of our buffet.
I am just finally able to start talking about in any meaningful way about some of the traumatic experiences of the last year and a half, and yet we already have some new challenges that have arisen while finishing the book. I keep looking for a pause button somewhere; a place or time where I can catch my breath, slow down, and recharge, but so far we haven't found that place yet.
I suppose it is like advent: the waiting, the anticipation, the longing. Anticipation is a difficult emotion and means of life. It necessitates a hope in the present while also implying a hope in the future. It is really hard to live in those tensions. Not to mention the bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes the bumps and bruises are actually cuts much deeper though, and take much longer to heal than I want to admit. I know that I haven't wanted to admit the pain still exists and affects me. In some ways, I'm just learning how to speak again.
I hope this means that I will figure out how to be a better husband and dad, to find a rigorous hope that helps me to live into the present with greater awareness of the future. The bumps and bruises are always scary at first, but they heal quickly; it is learning how to gain feeling back into the places where there were deep wounds and gashes that take time, silence, and perseverance.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
When I started painting in college, I was told that it was simply inappropriate to not listen to country music while painting. I disagreed. Then alt-country became hip, indie-fied, and good. It became the new necessary music to listen to while painting.
Also, in the winter, I find it essential to listen to heavier, darker, more complex music. You'd think I'd get enough grey in the cold winter with short days. But apparently I do not.
In November I painted a lot of hours to earn a few extra bucks getting ready to buy a house in a really short period of time and this album by The Avett Brothers became indispensable.
Put all this together (painting+country music+winter) and The Avett Brothers new album I and Love and You simply can't get enough plays on my iPod. It is one of my favorite albums of the year, and is an album that I can't get enough of right now.
It's not all dark and depressing all the time, but it is always good. You should probably check out this video for the title track I and Love and You. So, so good.
Monday, January 04, 2010
On the personal side of things I taught my first class ever, Christian Theology I, in the diploma program at The John Leland Center for Theological Studies. This was a test run for me...a much cheaper (in fact I got paid for it!) way of figuring out if I'd like to pursue a Ph.D. some day. I had a great time. It was a stretch to make it happen while working a full-time job, but the experience and the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was amazing to sit on the other side of the classroom, and have the privilege of being there as folks realize a new way of thinking about God, life, and theology; or to be a part of helping them ask better questions, or rid themselves of some unhelpful theologies. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to teaching Christian Theology II this spring semester.
I also officiated my first wedding a couple of weeks ago for one of Shey's cousins, and it was also a great time. Stressful at points, mostly because we were all trying to figure out how to best bring all of the details together, but when it was all said and done, it was a great time. Good food, family, friends, and two people eager to begin a new phase of their journey of life together.
Lastly, and everything isn't all said and done quite yet, but I turned in last week a manuscript for a book titled Sacred Hope for an organization in Kansas City called Barefoot Ministries, which is under the Nazarene Publishing House. It is written and geared towards students, and aimed at helping them interactively engage with the theology of hope: hope for tomorrow and hope for today. It is a short book, most likely in the 60-75 page range. I haven't received word yet if the manuscript has been accepted, so I haven't gotten my hopes totally up yet! Either way, it has been a wonderful process and a great opportunity to try to write a book. I'll keep you posted on how things work out.
I have been writing a lot for the book, and thus not writing much many other places. But writing so much over the last few months has sparked in me the desire to kick up some dust in the blog again. I forgot how much I loved writing until I was writing the book. I think the hardships surrounding Rowan's birth and Shey's back in tandem with graduating from seminary did a bigger number on me creatively, theologically, and emotionally than I was probably honest with myself about, and it showed in my lack of writing. I just wasn't at a place where I could simply be, and be in such a way where I could write transparently, even if only for myself.
So here's to 2010 and to more writing. Just in time to coincide with reading more poetry too. Love it.