Gonorrhea Maybe

There are a number of things you expect to sacrifice by being in the mission field. You know you're giving up being close to your family. You know you're giving up the comforts of your home culture. You know you're leaving friends behind. But, and I think I can speak for all missionaries here, you don't expect to give up a testicle.

Now this may be more information that you'd like from a blog about missionary experience and theology, if that's you, feel free to move right along. The other option is lots of detail about the nitty gritty of what you might be sacrificing.

Four years ago I had gonorrhea and I all-but lost a testicle as a result.

Well, it might have been gonorrhea, it might also have been the mumps. Apparently two things cause the swelling I had—and the following atrophy that will be with me forever.

I sat in the doctors office after he had done an exam and found Luigi to be about two times the size of Ramone and the doc said, "Hrm.... are you married?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Are you being faithful to your wife?"

"Yes."

"Is she being faithful to you?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure?"

".... well shit. I was." So I pulled out my phone and called her right there in the doctors office. When she picked up I asked her if she had been sleeping around. I expected an incredulous voice, but she calmly asked me to repeat the question (perhaps assuming she misunderstood me), and so I did, and she simply said, "I'm going to hang up now."

The western doctor was a bit befuddled about my condition but we were at a local kidney hospital and he said, "You know what, there is a doctor two doors down, all he does is look at testicles all day long. He'll know what to do." So he stood up and I followed him (slowly, because standing was excruciating) down the hall. He popped in a door while I stood outside. There was a line of men about 50 people long out the door and down the hallway. Each of them in varying states of visible discomfort. Whatever my doctor said got the foreigner bumped to the front of the line and the testicle doctor asked me to come in.

No sooner had I dropped my trousers than the doctor bent down, took a look, popped up and said, "Testicular infection, give him antibiotics, he'll be fine."

And that was that. We walked out and back down the hall to the western clinic. My doctor then said to me, "Man, I wish he had given more of an explanation, but like I said, all this guy does is look at balls all day long. If that's what he says to do, I'm going to trust him. I mean, all he does is look at balls."

I took the prescription and returned home. This was at day 7 of excruciating pain. And the reason it took so long for the diagnosis is another story altogether that may or may not involve the Singaporean woman who sat next to us in church every week holding my testicles unable to discern that one was indeed infected. But the antibiotics kicked in and the swelling was gone about three days later. If the antibiotics cured it, it was gonorrhea. However, when this happens as a result of the mumps (a viral infection), it runs its course in 10 days. Meaning it may have been bacterial and the antibiotics helped, or it may have been viral and the antibiotics did nothing—I simply recovered around two expected timeframes. I was never tested, and in retrospect I really regret not knowing what took Luigi from me.

You don't realize how much having two feels like an insurance policy until you're down to one testicle. Once Luigi was dead, I spent about a month in constant fear that I would lose my last remaining hope and be on artificial testosterone for the rest of my life.

At the time I did have a friend with the mumps. On the other hand two days before the infection reared it's head, I had visited a spa (hot tub, sauna, steam room, cold pool) near my apartment complex. If mumps was the cause, my sick friend is the explanation, if gonorrhea was the cause, the spa explains things (although none of my friends who went with me that night got anything). But I still don't know which it was—I could have gotten tested to find out before I took treatment but I was in so much pain I just wanted treatment.

Laying flat on my back on couches and propping my feet against the wall for a week was humiliating (especially in the office). Riding an electric bike down bumpy roads to and from the doctors office with one leg on the seat, or hovering just above it was humbling and excruciating. Being told by the first doctor I saw, "They look the same size to me, you'll have to wait four days and come back when the male doctor is in," was actually terror inducing. But not knowing to this day what caused all of this is the pain that has lingered. Had I had gonorrhea, I would at least have bragging rights.

Tips for Spiritual Guidance for 2018

It's 2018 and it's time to make sure you have the right priorities to suit the times and your spiritual needs. Here is a handy guide to help walk you through the process in a systematic way so you don't have to worry that you're "doing it wrong.™"

1) Pick a Hipster Church

If you're new to a town, one of the most important things today is to pick a hipster church. Theological depth, good community, and diverse crowds are a thing of the past, the way forward is much simpler, surround yourself with people exactly like yourself and avoid getting to know them. A simple point system will help you understand how hipster your church is, or if you find it scores too low, it will help you seek out and find one that is hipster enough to better suit your needs. Simply print out this guide and make a tally for each category and then add up your points at the end. Any church scoring over 20 points is certifiably "hipster enough":

+1 point per each white guy with a beard on stage. Two if he’s on the worship team.

+1 point if the worship leader stops to change the tuning of his guitar during worship.

+1 point if for each person on stage who wears boots during service (leather or snow).

+2 points if you sit in refurbished wooden pews instead of chairs.

+2 points if your church used to be an old church.

+1 point if someone prays with a voice that sounds like they’re on the verge of tears.

+1 point for a pallet wall somewhere in the church.

+5 points if your pastor drops a curse word during the sermon.

+1 point if someone on stage refers to the audience as “church”, e.g. “Good morning church," or, "Now church, I want us to consider this for a moment."

+1 point if the pastor refers to Facebook from the pulpit.

+5 points if the pastor tells you what the real Greek or Hebrew word says and why you should trust his understanding of it over the professional translators.

+2 points for every man bun in the auditorium.

-1 point for each minority on staff or on stage during the service.

-3 points for any woman that speaks (announcements included).

-1 point if there is a piano or keyboard anywhere on stage.

-1 point if anyone who is not on staff is allowed to speak during the service.

-1 point for all members of the congregation over the approximate age of 60.

If you've successfully found your hipster church there is one more check to be sure this is the church that should be your spiritual guide for 2018—find a church that will leave you with a little sense of guilt every time you attend. Perhaps this is guilt about some sin in your distant past. Perhaps this is guilt over your need to take Xanax to function. Whatever it is, let that guilt run deep. If the Gospel were about freedom the Church would teach that.

2) On Theological Direction

Pick a system that has the name of a great forefather attached to it. You should hold to it unquestioningly and allow yourself to be rebuked by your peers if you ever ask questions about it. These systems of theology have been tried and tested in the fires of human tradition, they are hardly likely to fail now.

If you find yourself becoming heartless and impatient with those who think differently than you, cling to the passages in the Bible that back up your thinking. God must not desire love or grace if these things are true and aren't to be questioned.

3) On Baptism

Get baptized in the name of your favorite theological leaning. Whether that be the name of Calvin or the idea of Pentecostalism. Paul never wanted us to be united in Christ, so it's good that we cut out the middle man (Jesus) and go straight to baptism in the name of the things that we will use to divide us.

Always opt for a hot tub on the lawn behind your church. Baptismal pools and rivers/lakes are so a hundred years ago.

4) On Communion

Communion should only be taken with flavorless wafers or cheap white breads and grape juice. If you find yourself doing something that resembles communion with a small group of people, or you're suddenly sharing food and drink with other believers and you haven't stood in line to do so, you should be afraid.

Communion should only be taken in a manner that is worthy, and the only worthy way is to be directed in lines to the front of an auditorium by a Deacon you don't know. The longer the wait to get to the "elements" and the more moving the music during the communion time, the holier the experience will be. The more holy the experience, the more sins will be forgiven each time you drink and eat.

5) On Small Groups

A church that knows what it's doing will never refer to Small Groups as Small Groups anymore. They should have a fancy name like, "Missional Community" or "Affinity Groups". "Life Groups" is a word that is still being thrown around but is already considered passé by most pastors worth their salt.

These Small Groups (or whatever your forward thinking Church calls them) should not focus on community, but rather they should spend the lion-share of their time reflecting on the pastor's sermon. If your church is going to achieve the celebrity status that our board really wants for it, you'll need to do anything you can do to spend more time thinking about your pastor. Perhaps this is a good time to come up with a few choice quotes from the sermon and share them on social media. Just be sure to agree on your hashtags ahead of time.

If you're opposed to talking about the sermon, pick a book to study through—but definitely don't read through the Bible. A group of people without seminary educations reading through the Bible might come up with some heretical teachings. Best stick to something in the "Christian Inspiration" section of the book store.


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Once you have followed these few steps you'll be well on your way to being properly spiritually guided through the year. Be sure to check back regularly and make sure the church has not gone off script.

Church is Rough in America Right Now

My family moved to Denver about two and a half years ago, and in that time we still haven't landed at a church. We've had a few stints at a few places that lasted longer than others, but we still tend to only manage a few months before we fizzle out and leave. There are a load of reasons we've had a hard time (sermons that were fundamentally opposed to the gospel, lack of diversity, kids programs that literally made my kids cry, small group leaders who referred to gay people as "flamers" etc...), but the fundamental issue for me is that I really want church to be about community. And we haven't found one yet where that's the case.

Some do better than others. And admittedly a few of the church's we've attended have seemed to have great community if you fit a certain mold (under 35 and without kids for example), and I recognize that with our four kids it's quite difficult to get plugged in. People invite singles or even small families over for meals to get to know them, but I'd be a fool to not acknowledge that it's a quite a different level of commitment to have a family as a big and chaotic as mine over.

So it's been rough, and I know it's not all on these churches, I know I'm the biggest problem in this situation—me and my lack of patience with American cultural values around church.

Yesterday was particularly rough. We finally found a church that our children absolutely love. There was one they liked attending before, but they really only liked that one because the church gave them candy at the end of each service (honestly, I'm totally fine with whatever it takes for my kids to be excited to attend). This current one seems to actually have decent teaching, and there are other kids for ours to connect with (and time for them to actually connect).

But the teaching in the adult portion of this church is really painful. Not wrong mind you, just painful.

The teaching yesterday was about praising God. There were some good points, such as God is the one who enables the praise and praises through us. We don't need to show up worthy in order to praise etc... But then it delved for about 10 minutes in to what the different body gestures in worship meant. "One hand in the air is like shaking a hand with God, two hands is like.... kneeling is like....", and my wife turns to me and says, "Are they somehow pulling this from the Bible?"

No. No they're not.

On the drive home we passed an old church building that was bought by a new-age-y group and, while there is no longer any tie to Jesus or evangelicalism, it is still labelled a church. "A Center for Spiritual Learning". Something like that. The building is huge and the parking lot was absolutely packed to the gills. The church sign said the topic that morning was "Divisiveness and Strife: Spiritual Basics for Toxic, Troubling Times". My wife sees the title and says, "Which would you rather hear? A talk about what I'm doing with my hands during worship music? Or something that actually engages with what's going on in our society and helps people enter in to the discussion? No wonder that place is packed."

She's not wrong.

Maybe they bomb teaching the truth (I can say with some confidence that this is highly likely), but I bet they get community right.

So many of the ways a church is run today are results of strange American Christian cultural values. Sitting is pews isn't inherently evil. But it's not in the Bible as the prescribed way of doing church either. Nowhere does it say that there must be a white male with a beard, a guitar, and a real desire for a record deal at the front singing songs as loudly as he can.

Yesterday's bitter tweet:
Community is a great place to start. When we gather, we should actually gather. Right now we do about as much gathering as if we all downloaded a podcast and listened at home. There are many many other assumptions I'd love to see questioned as well.