Monthly Archives: November 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre

On the Virginia Tech Shooting:
April 2007…

I just added Cho Seung-Hui to my Word spell-check dictionary.

He doesn’t deserve such recognition. It’d be better if, for years to come, whenever anyone typed his name in any document, it would promptly be underlined with red.

But people will be writing about him for decades, though likely not with the spin he was hoping for.

Apparently, he thought himself a martyr. In the videotaped manifesto he mailed to NBC, he associates himself with the boys from Columbine. With rotting hatred he blames every person caught up in the culture of the day. People like you and me. People with laptop computers, email addresses, cars that run, and dreams to pursue. All said, Cho insists it is our fault that all those students are dead.

And on this point he is right. He is right in the abstract.

But in the specific, he is very wrong.

Make no mistake; Cho Seung-Hui is a murderer, not a martyr.

But it is true that we all share in the eventual breakdown of humanity, and the destruction of creation. Not in his act specifically, but in our disposition corporately.

It is true that each of us has blood on our hands.

It is true that we all contribute somehow to the cause of this effect.

And we are not excused from our own sin just because he was the one who pulled the trigger, over and over again.

Does it hurt yet?

We are quick to categorize, aren’t we? Cho is a creature unlike us. We could never do what he did. Our hearts are not so bent.

Ah, but our Story says otherwise. Our story claims that were it not for the fear of consequences enforced by civil law, we might all very easily be predisposed to crimes of such magnitude.

And more profoundly, apart from the redemptive work begun by God in Christ (and promised from before the beginning of all time), manifested in individual hearts and corporate communities, we would end in a royal bloodbath for sure. For the bent to have our way, the demand to be paid heed to, the ache to be respected – even loved – unchecked, would drive us all to take matters into our own hands.

And our hands would drip with blood.

Yet perhaps a royal bloodbath is precisely what we need, but of a very different kind.

Royal as in the Kingly kind. Blood as in the blood of Christ.

Perhaps what disturbs me as much in Cho’s words as I am grieved by his actions, is his violently flawed interpretation of the life and death of Christ, as paralleled by his own:

“Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”

Cho died hating those he killed. Cho brought death.

Christ died loving those who killed him. Christ brought life.

Big difference.

We don’t need Cho’s revolution; we need Christ’s.

If it is a bloodbath we need, it is the life-giving blood of Christ. His is the death and revolution we need. Blood that not only covers us in forgiveness, but blood that pulses through us in life-giving, world-transforming, life-change.

In the end, Cho is responsible for his crimes just as we are responsible for ours. And the greatest crime of all time, the crime for which the blood is indeed on our hands, is the rejection of the God who loves us as God loves us in Christ.

Accepting Him is receiving His life and accepting His ways – perpetual re-creation through self-sacrificial love.

Love that gives life. Not hate that takes it.

Love that takes the bullet. Not hate that pulls the trigger.

We watch the news and we wake up to the world that is. It is broken. There is real evil here. Left unchecked and unrestrained in any of us it would wreak the eventual destruction of life. It happens every day. And what is done cannot be undone. But what may otherwise become the inevitable end in any situation can be avoided – the story rewritten – by the simple but sustained invasion of heavenly presence in and through the lives of those who belong to God. We go to Him to be saved from our own darkness, and then we participate in the dawning of His kingdom here. Simple, faithful acts of kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, and appropriate and well-timed truth-telling can rewrite a person’s story from one of destruction to one of deliverance. I am watching this happen this week.

A week or two prior to Easter, a friend of mine confessed to me his fantasies of murder. He had been hurt before. He felt altogether unloved (though this may not have been an actuality, it was true in his mind).

A vague suicide note months before had landed him in a mental-psyche ward for three days and an incurred bill of $3000 for what he suggested was liability reasons. He determined never to mention his fantasies or suicidal thoughts to a professional ever again. But he was willing to do so with me. He needed to talk it out. He needed someone to hear the person beneath the pain.

He confessed serial killer tendencies. Days later he had strung up an extension cord.?Ǭ† Wrote the note. Called me in a last-ditch S.O.S. Acknowledged recently that had he easy access to firearms, someone would’ve been dead. I opted out of an Easter Service band rehearsal to pick this guy up and drive around a Minneapolis lake for three hours while he stabilized and made specific plans to make it through another day. Spent most of the time listening and loving. Spoke proactive truth when it seemed appropriate to do so. I have no doubt that death was prevented that night.

But this was not an isolated incident of redemption. Ten years ago this friend left the church in a spiteful rage. He systematically isolated himself from every Kingdom representative he had ever known. He tried to do the same with me, but I wouldn’t let him. He was my friend, and I loved him, after all. The culmination of ten faithful years of sustained (though not consistent in measure) presence in his life was realized in that evening by the lake and in the daily interaction in weeks that followed. There is now this day the evidence of unfolding redemption in his story.

The potential shedding of blood in and by his life was prevented by the preemptive shedding of Christ’s blood on Calvary. Christ’s selfless love saved me, inspired me, and empowered me to play a part in Christ’s salvation brought to this broken world.

So this causes me to ask a question regarding Virginia Tech: where were God’s people in Cho’s life? Where were the Kingdom representatives? Not all evil can be prevented in this world, but it can be curbed. We do not know of the violence that goes unrealized in the otherwise destructive lives of those who’ve been redeemed by God. How many of us are there in the Kingdom today that might have been perpetrators of these very deeds were it not for the redemption Christ has already brought (and is currently bringing) through our lives?

Never underestimate “unnoticed” acts of kindness. Never assume the little you can do makes no difference. Indeed, Christ knows the force of the revolution He has begun. Let us trust Him to do what He does greatly through that which we can do but feebly.

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Prednisone, Again.

One beneficial side effect is that my wrists feel a wee bit better, and I may be able to tap out a few words this month. I’m on prednisone again. How about that.

11eli3.jpgPast few months have been busy for me in the clinical realm. Never fun. Interesting sometimes, but never fun. Rheumatology. Infectious Diseases. Physical Therapy. Chiropractic adjustments. Backaches. Cavities, toothaches, and root canals. An MRI. An EMG. X-Rays. Lab work. Prenatal, and Craniofacial Therapy.

This week I reconnected with my old GI doc: I’m having a Crohn’s flareup again. First time it’s been this bad since I was diagnosed four years ago. I’ve lost near ten pounds in two weeks. Haven’t been feeling so good. Until today, that is. Until I swallowed another 40 mg of the Zone. Never thought I’d do that again. At least now I don’t fall asleep watching the evening news – not like it’s uninteresting.

I was just kidding about the prenatal thing. Guys don’t do prenatal. You knew that.

11ade1.jpgThis afternoon I have my first CT scan since credits rolled on the chemo. I’ll know the results in about a week. It’s a big one. It’s been six months. I’m not nervous really; I just don’t like drinking Radiology’s version of a smoothie. Especially while my belly’s so stinking artsy. Sensitive to the core. I’d prefer Jamba. Or an Orange Julius. And four cups? Even when it’s tasty I can’t drink that much. Do I really look like I could pack that away?

I ended up backing out of a Writer’s Conference this last weekend. I was looking forward to meeting and hearing one of my heroes. And learning a thing or two about writing (and perhaps publishing something other than blogs). Walt Wangerin was at Luther College. I was supposed to be, too. But fatigue and frequent trips to the jiffy rendered me a no-show. Just couldn’t do it. Bummer.

Two weeks hence, I plan to be speaking at a youth retreat in Nodak. Then flying to Chicago for a video shoot with friends at Awana (I get to wear makeup). This would normally be far too ambitious an itinerary, especially with insides neglecting to absorb any good thing, but with corticosteroids jacking my adrenals, it’s actually starting to look like good timing. Funny.

11jna1.jpgSpeaking of timing, Jen hasn’t been feeling so well lately, either. She’s got a nasty cold. And some other stuff. Tired, and a cough that just won’t go away. Now I’ve got it, too. Goes with out saying that when mom’s well, all’s well. And when she’s not well? Well…

Things are at a pretty serious standstill here regarding my employment and things of that sort. I’m still on Social Security Disability – which has been a Godsend for a season (still is, really). When it kicked into effect a year ago they wrote a check that was retroactive back to five months after I got cancer. So for twelve months it was like we were getting twice what we were actually given. Monthly, that is. Now all our reserve is dried up. That retroactive lump sum routinely covered our monthly shortfalls. We had reserve. Now all we have is shortfalls.

I get a check from Social Security. Jen gets a check from Emmaus. And our kids get a little bit from the big G as well (perhaps another kid would actually be an asset…) All told, we’re still leaning hard into whatever help we receive from those who can give it. Life’s expensive. Especially with kids, no job, and a hobby like mine.

11eli2.jpgAnd these days, my medical hobby’s looked more like a vocation than an in-your-spare-time thing. And for as much as there is to be made in the medical profession, the pay’s not so great from this end.

So plainly said (gulp), we could use your help.

I’ve done this so many times I think I could accurately display some reflective psychoanalysis here: It is hard for anyone, especially a young husband/father of 2 or 3, to ask other people for his daily bread. Much easier to ask God who says he’ll give before you ask. Then go work your butt off to acquiesce.

It’s much easier to ask if a) you are really, really sick and incapacitated; or b) able to contribute something to society or the church as a whole, even if not directly related to the sustenance for which you are asking, in order to more or less earn your keep.

11eli4.jpgWell, trouble is, right now I’m only sorta sick (as compared to CALGB 8811 chemotherapy: a.k.a. the last two years) and relatively unable to do the things which I feel amount to my potential contributions to the body (write, perform, travel and speak, etc…).

Point is, asking’s pretty hard. Feels a bit like begging. Feels a bit like raw humility (not the admirable kind). But both desperation and prednisone has put me out here. So here I am. Out here.

11eli1.jpgI learned today that I need another root canal. Pronto. That’ll be before our insurance calendar year turns over, and will cost approximately a thousand bucks. A legitimate billing black hole with our car insurance people revealed this month that we owe $1800 in back payments. Treatment for TMJ (my painful jaw that limits singing and other things, like chewing food – my molars don’t come together on either side) yields a hefty debt that insurance barely touches. We’ve been working on that for a year, and still owe $1500.

One of our cars is so goofed up my dad’s got it checked into a garage up in Roseau with high hopes of nursing it back to health. Wrenches at Saturn down here in the Twin Cities were scratching their heads (and charging for that) at the myriad of things gone wrong.

So all of this has kind of come now. Right before the holidays. Right before gift shopping and birthdays and Christmas concerts. Right before some gradual, hopeful, and rather monumental changes in our lives, and it’s a bit difficult. This isn’t my sad song. These are just the details. Or some of the details. There’s still more to tell, and much of it is good (I hope to write the proverbial Christmas Letter this month – big news and all), but it is befuddling. For now, I think I’ve said enough.

11jnj11.jpgMy apologies for not sharing brighter news. My hope is my meager attempts at humor aptly allude to our joy and held out hope that things will get better, someday. Or at the least, that we, and our faith, will be made strong.

If for nothing else, thank you for being aware of our story. My hunch is there is even more for which I could say thanks, like your prayers. But I’ll save that for another post, when I have the stamina and the words to do it well.

Blessings, friends.

Still His,
Jeremy

11ade2.jpgP.S. If you are one who is able and would like to put bread in our basket, here are three avenues. The first is simple enough: you could mail it to us at 8121 Fourth Ave. S. Bloomington, MN 55420. The second is like it: there’s a benefit fund in my name at the Citizen’s State Bank in Roseau, PO Box 160, Roseau, MN 56751. The third is a benefit fund set up at Emmaus that actually yields receipts for tax-deductible donations: In this case only make checks payable to The Jeremy Erickson Family Benefit Fund, and send to the same c/o Emmaus Lutheran Church, 8443 Second Ave. S. Bloomington, MN 55420. This last one is a channel specifically for paying medical related bills and monthly living expenses. The first two give us a little more leeway, like birthday gifts and nights out. In either case, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…

Categories: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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