And in other news...

Talk about the dog days of summer!

"What is cancer?"

My almost-4 nephew asked my mother and me earnestly a few days ago. He overheard a discussion we were having about a dear girl we know who is suffering from complications.

"Cancer is something that happens in your body to make you very, very sick."

"How did she get cancer?"

Great question ... if only there was an answer.

"I don't know, honey."

She is only 6 years old. A spark-plug, a cherub, a chatterbox, a jock, a beauty. A cancer patient.

And then there is my friend (who may as well be a sister), who lost her grandmother to the monster not one month ago. "I am so sick of cancer," she wrote to me. It is an ugly beast. You hear the word everywhere now -- no longer surprised that your cousin's sister in-law or neighbor's pastor or the guy from that TV show have been diagnosed.

And yet, as the degrees of separation become fewer upon hearing the news, it's suddenly jarring and raw again. "I used to babysit her." That's when your heart drops just in time for a punch in the gut. Lord have mercy on the ones who instead say "I conceived her."

The Healer hears us, so let us pray.

Swallowing camels

Last week I was particularly moved when I read my church's daily devotional. It comes from Matthew 23:23-24.

23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

Jesus' righteous indignation here is directed at a group of people who rank high on religion but low on faith. They are so concerned with following the letter of the law to a T that they neglect the spirit of it. In another verse, Christ would illustrate this as cleaning and polishing the outside of a vessel while its insides are rotten and decayed.

Mint, anise and cummin were practically worthless herbs, yet Pharisees worked painstakingly to assure they were included in tithing. But every second these men spent measuring their spices was a second they couldn't spend on the "weightier" matters of justice, mercy and faith. Is there anything more tragic in religion than when rules become the goals themselves instead of the guidelines?

But the image that stuck with me the most was that of straining gnats from water and wine to avoid ingesting them, only to end up swallowing a camel. Such a stark reminder and haunting image. Not that Christians today would make such a mistake :) Is it a mystery which God is more concerned with -- pure hearts or pure language? Budding faith or short skirts? Spiritual growth or two glasses of wine?

Justice and mercy and faith ... oh my. May the divine meanings of those words guide our motives as we not only judge the world around us, but most importantly ourselves.

Call me old-fashioned...

...but as a dyed-in-the-wool journalist, it's hard to get excited about an interview that takes place under circumstances such as these -- resulting in a mess like this.

Angelina Jolie was already far from my favorite celebrity type, but this is downright irritating, not to mention ridiculous. Whatever happened to simply refusing to answer a question you don't like? Journalists know what libel is and they know full well they can get their pants sued off for knowingly misrepresenting anyone in a new story. Is it really necessary to further threaten and bully honest reporters who just want to land a good interview?

Ms. Jolie, why don't we just save ourselves the trouble and patiently wait for you to conduct and write all of your own interviews -- no doubt people will LINE UP for that.

"PH" balance

How can you not love a TV journalist who refuses to say the name of a certain hotel heiress? I'm not sure how it all started, but some time ago, Anderson Cooper made a promise to himself not to mention a person whose name rhymes with Ferris Milton while he's on the air. Needless to say this past week has presented a bit of a challenge since Cooper anchors his own one-hour news show on CNN. He's managed to keep his word pretty deftly thus far -- creatively introducing segments reported by other journalists. It's quite entertaining, actually.

So if your local paper is anything like mine, putting Ferris Milton on the front AND an inside page, and you find yourself shuddering at the mention of her name, you might want to give Anderson a try.

"But trust me on the sunscreen"

I should have paid better attention to Baz Luhrmann's words of caution in his musical tribute to the class of '99. Last week I got burned -- bad.

A brief science lesson: For those of you who don't know, California is positioned closer to the Equator than northern parts of the United States. This results in a more direct hit from the sun. If you are not a native Californian (as I am not), you'll do well to remember this little factoid. And no, you don't have to be in a bathing suit at the beach for sun poisoning to happen. In my case, a Padre game on a *mildly* warm day was the perfect storm. I looked like a lobster. And it didn't help that I hadn't been drinking much water since our arrival.

It began the day after with a sneak attack of dizziness and a touch of nausea, which subsided for awhile. The dizzy spells came and went for the next couple days, until I started crashing Wednesday night and got progressively worse Thursday. I couldn't keep anything down so dehydration became a major concern. It took most of the day to get my strength up just to get in the car and ride to the local ER. Seven hours later, I was fluid again, thanks to the IV, and on my bumbling way with prescriptions for Pepcid and something with a long name that --get this-- "may cause DIZZINESS." Ya, I'll get right on taking that one!

The next few days were a blur. I could eat a little lunch without losing it, but the vertigo-like feeling kept pushing back our travel plans. (Did I mention we drove instead of flew?) We finally made it home late Sunday night, but it still cost me two days of work. Superman was exceptionally super through all of this, needless to say.

Yesterday at about 4:15 p.m., the fog began to lift. The clouds parted, birds began singing, and I could feel my brain slowly but surely start to normalize. At my worst, I felt as if I were wearing permanent dark glasses with water in my ears as someone gently pressed a board down on my head -- oh, and filled with enough alcohol to keep the room spinning and my feet from walking a straight line. Not a very practical state of mind :)

But I'm feeling better every day, and this was an opportunity for me to slow down and respect the elements (I often fancy myself indestructible because I'm usually quite sturdy). It also made me grateful for my health and that I don't live with chronic pain or a life-threatening disease. My short-lived discomfort is a way of life for many. Lord, let me not take my well-being for granted -- what a gift!

The "vacation" was not a total loss:
- Traveling 50 mph down an unpaved mountain road in the dark to keep tail lights in view (the highway shut down 2 1/2 hours into our first night of travel so a semi driver lead the way through a perilous alternate route)
+ Attending my second MLB game ever
+ Rediscovering Disneyland
+ Meeting my husband's mentor and family from his Campus Crusade for Christ days
- Losing $ on three hotel rooms due to unavoidable changes of plans
+ Introducing Superman to a most "awesome" great uncle
+++ Enjoying the care and hospitality of a family who made us feel we were right at home

If you are traveling this summer, be sure to drink lots of water -- just in case you find your skin extra pink, wanting to avoid an ER visit. And trust me on the sunscreen.

A less than ideal equation

Vacation + sun poisoning = no blogging. Sorry about that, mates! But Lord willing, I'll be back in the saddle again soon. Have a great weekend!