Who condemns you?

One of my favorite stories in all of scripture tells of a woman who was dragged in front of Jesus, being used as bait to trick Jesus into a no-win situation. She had been caught in sin, clearly guilty, but the interaction between Jesus and the religious leaders was not about her at all. After Jesus deals with the men trying to trap him, he turns to the woman standing there in her shame and asks, “who condemns you woman?”

She looks up and sees that all of her accusers are gone and replies in amazement, “no one Lord.” Then Jesus tells her that he doesn’t condemn her either.

Who condemns you?

Self-condemnation is part of what I am working through. I don’t toss around condemnation at anyone around me. I truly believe that our job is to love everyone and let God sort everything out later but when it comes to myself I’m having trouble letting go of my hyper self-critical dysfunction. Showing compassion to myself? Forgiving myself? Cutting myself some slack? I’m not very good at any of those things.

Honestly, if I were standing in front of Jesus right now and he were to ask me, “who condemns you, Scott,” I’d tell him that I condemn myself. It is so strange because I know that my God doesn’t condemn me, and I know that my church family is behind me, and I know my family is with me, but I have these feelings of failing that keep bubbling up.

Those feelings get into my head and they zap my motivation and work to convince me that I shouldn’t even try. I’m able to do the stuff I need to do by forcing myself but I miss the excitement and motivation I had just a few years ago. I want to want to teach. I want to want to preach. I don’t want to just go through the motions.

Not every depressed person lies on their couch with a blanket over their head while their sad dog cries while holding a leash in its mouth. I see those commercials saying depression hurts everyone and I conclude that I’m not depressed. But then when I read through the list of the symptoms of depression I have to check off several.

No – continuous low mood or sadness
Maybe – feeling hopeless and helpless (not helpless but maybe powerless)
Sometimes – having low self-esteem
Sometimes – feeling tearful
No – feeling guilt-ridden
Maybe? – feeling irritable and intolerant of others (impatient)
Yes – having no motivation or interest in things
No – finding it difficult to make decisions
Somewhat – not getting any enjoyment out of life
Yes – feeling anxious or worried
No – having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Twelve years ago, I went through a period of depression like you see on those television ads. I was sick and needed a transplant. Am I dealing with depression now? I’m not lying on my couch day after day with my hood pulled over my head, but I am having days when I isolate, feel overwhelmingly sad and just want to sleep all day. Those online self-assessment thingies tell me I have moderate depression but the list of symptoms is so extensive it makes me wonder who isn’t depressed .

If I am battling some depression, is that okay? Can I share it openly? Can a pastor be a pastor and fight depression? I read the book of Psalms and see the Psalter doing what I have been doing. He battles, writes, questions things and feels depressed and then restates the truth of who God is in spite of how he feels. Is that a reminder to himself?

Have you ever read Psalm 88? If you think everything has to always be happy, happy, joy, joy when you have faith in God, you’ll be surprised. Heman the Ezrahite was a man of faith, a musician, an Influencer who loved God but was clearly struggling.

Is it okay for a pastor to struggle?

Maybe, since Heman struggled and David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Moses and Jeremiah struggled, it’s okay for me to be struggling as well? If Jesus said his soul was deeply grieved to the point of death, why do I think I cannot or should not struggle?

The “accuser of the brethren” keeps whispering that I cannot shepherd my flock, that I am unqualified and that I cannot have these feelings and claim I believe in Jesus. I know he’s a liar but he sure is persistent and persuasive.

The real answer to “who condemns you, Scott” is “no one Lord, especially not you.”

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No bad parts?

The body is a unit made up of many parts. The bible uses this truth to explain how followers of Christ should function together using the truth that the human body is made up of many parts as a given. I’ve never really considered the parts that make up my psyche, my personality, and my character until now.

Why do I think the way I do? What shapes my reactions and responses? What parts have worked together to either protect me or help me cope with difficult situations or trauma?

I’m now reading No Bad Parts by Richard C. Schwartz and finding it very interesting. Once again I am finding a number of the principles presented aligning nicely with many of the teachings of Jesus. It’s pretty funny how these authors work to clearly distance themselves from religion but then end up saying some of the same things Jesus said, just in different ways.

We’re working on the self-critical part of me right now. It’s the part of me that focuses on my missteps and mistakes and magnifies them to the point of self-denigration. For example, Sunday morning a member of our church family shared some things. I gave her a handheld, wireless mic. Not knowing how to use a mic, she held it at her waist which made her difficult for some to hear. In my mind that became, “Scott, you idiot, you should have put it on a mic stand!” Everything else in the service went very well but I left unhappy with myself because of one little thing. I am very frustrated with myself.

According to Schwartz, unless I am misunderstanding, this behavior developed in part of me that was working to develop a coping skill. That makes no sense to me. I can’t understand how my expectation of perfection from myself, while I extend grace to everyone else, came from a good thing. Why won’t I extend grace to myself?

I’ve been a good boy, writing myself little affirmation notes. It feels ridiculous…

Dear Scott,

You did a good job communicating today. People seemed engaged and your points were clear. Things went well! You even ended on time.

– from me

Sheesh, this exercise feels so stupid. I mean, those things are true and positive but I feel silly writing them.

In a letter to the church of Philippi, Paul counsels them to focus their thoughts on the things that are true, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, instead of what psychologists calls

“ANTs.” (*Automatic Negative Thoughts)

Philippians 4:8

I know this is a training exercise helping me reprogram my mind and I know Paul tells us to do it. I just wonder when it will stop feeling ridiculous and contrived. No one said stomping out ANTs would be easy.

So … that’s where I am in my mental health journey. I know we all have ANTs. I need to go from an ANT infestation to managed, balanced ANT control.

🐜 🐜 🐜 🐜 STOMP!!!

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Rewriting my internal dialogue

This week’s assignment feels weird. I haven’t been able to do it yet. I get started and then think, “this is stupid” and then I give up.

I like to write encouragement cards and send texts to others saying stuff like “attaboy” and “I appreciate you,” or “good job.” I mean every word of each text or card I write.

“Would you be able to write something like that to yourself?” my counselor asked.

We were talking about my tendency to see everything short of perfection as failure for myself and how I dismiss praise as disingenuous.

I immediately thought of Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live looking at his reflection in the mirror,”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

If I don’t even believe other people when they say kind things why would I believe myself?

Last week I saw a Facebook post thanking a photographer for volunteering at a non-profit event and praising his work. The photos posted were absolutely terrible. They were dark, out of focus and lacked any sense of composition. Honestly, they looked like the work of a 10-year-old with a new digital camera. What bothered me was all the posts underneath heaping on praise for all the “awesome” photos.

I get it. People were just being kind and thanking him for his efforts. He’s obviously just learning. The problem is that my messed-up mind concluded that people are also lying when they say my photos are awesome or they are just being kind.

It’s ridiculous. I know I have years of undergraduate and graduate level formal education. I know I have knowledge, technical proficiency and 40 years of professional and semi-professional experience as a photographer. My resumé includes dozens of weddings from Maine to Florida to Hawaii with happy people giving rave reviews. Hundreds of portraits hang on walls: seniors, children, families. Gallery pieces sell every year. Marketing, branding, professional headshots … but still, my mind is now telling me I don’t really know what I’m doing and I stress out before even the simplest of shoots.

Male and female bluebird at feeder.
Mounted a GoPro at my bluebird feeder.

The same thing is happening with my work as a pastor. I know I am equipped to teach. I know my seminary education prepped me and I know that working in ministry since 1981 has left me with plenty of experiences, good and bad. But I am stressing out about everything thinking, “you don’t know what you’re doing. You suck at this.”

So now my therapy homework has me writing down my strengths, telling myself I did a good job with this or that and affirming my value. I’ll keep doing it because people who study brains and know how they work tell me this will be helpful. I need to change my internal dialogue.

More importantly, David shows me in the Psalms that it is certainly a biblical exercise as well. If it was good enough for David it is good enough for me and I will make myself do it.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Psalm 139:13-14

I really, really appreciate all you who are praying for me through this Romans 12:2 journey of renewing my mind. Thank you!

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How long will this take?

I finished my brain book. I think it was helpful but the last section with the practical tips seemed a bit too simplistic. Maybe “simplistic” is the wrong word. I don’t know what the right word is.

The Upward Spiral cover

Perhaps the practical tips are more for the depressed person who has largely given up? I found myself saying, “Yeah, okay, I do that. Why am I still a mess?” I have too many moments when I isolate, sink into the couch, and just go into phone scrolling oblivion.

When I have no motivation or interest in much of anything I usually try to force myself out of my unhealthy patterns by taking some of the same steps the author recommended. I’ll give you some examples of action steps Korb recommends that I already do.

  • Volunteer to help others.
  • Spend time being around people.
  • Smile and find things to laugh about.
  • List the things that you are grateful or thankful for.
  • Find some sunlight.
  • Do something different. Change the setting.
  • Deep breaths & meditation (prayer)
  • Write encouragement notes/cards.
  • Root for a sports team.

Other recommendations that are definite struggles for me:

  • Be okay with good, not perfect.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives. Elevate the positives.
  • Consistent exercise. (If my plan falls through I do nothing.)
  • Restorative sleep.

An old pastor type once told me that the most difficult part of being a minister is “it is only a matter of time before you will be a disappointment and fail to live up to expectations. People will come and go no matter what you do.” I didn’t believe him and wrote him off as a jaded old man. Now I understand the pressure he was talking about.

When people come they praise and gush. When people go, they complain and criticize. I brush off the praises almost immediately and think, “yeah, just wait.” When people leave, I hang onto their criticisms and play them over and over again in my head. I blame myself for not being a better pastor even when their criticisms are not based in reality. It’s dumb but I see their coming as luck and their going as my fault.

I almost never leave after Sunday morning thinking on the positives. I think of my stumbles, the notes I missed, the livestream that shut off randomly or the sound system feedback. It doesn’t matter if a hundred people tell me things were wonderful. I don’t believe them.

Now that I’ve read book number two on my mental wellness journey I am starting to wonder what it will take to get me back to thinking straight and processing in a more healthy way.

I think I’m a bigger mess than taking regular walks in the sunshine is going to fix. I want a quick and easy solution but the ancient manuscripts I read (the bible) describe mental health as a journey of retraining and renewing. Ugh.

Last night was not restful at all, even after a 13 mile bike ride yesterday afternoon. My mind raced and it felt like my heart was racing too. I focused on slow, deep breaths in and out thanking God for his goodness and then praying for his blessings on everyone who came to mind. In … out … in … out. I finally gave up and got out of bed at about 4:30 AM. I felt no better. It’s 7 now and I still feel that pressure and anxiety even with a VERY light day ahead. I’m not even scheduled to preach Sunday!

This is so frustrating but I will continue to plug away, learn and try to take every thought captive.

I appreciate all you who are praying for me and walking this same journey with me. There is victory ahead even if we can’t see it yet.

Photo of tree on a dirt trail through marsh
From my ride on the Eastern Trail. So peaceful.

Posted in anxiety, burnout, counseling, depression, discouragement, hope, hopeless, leadership, mental health, ministry, pastor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where are my memories?

You want to know something weird? I have zero positive Easter memories from growing up. I only remember one Easter when I was 15 years old and it was very negative. I’m 60 years old and I think of it every single Easter that arrives.

My dad battled alcoholism for most of his life. My sisters grew up with him being an active alcoholic but by the time I was seven or eight, I think, my dad started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not really sure when he was drinking or when he was dry but I do know he always had some type of breath mint or lozenge in his mouth. I didn’t know why then but I suspect I know why now.

My sisters were out of the house by the time I was 9 years old, being 10 and 12 years older than me. I remember growing up with my mother always telling me that if my dad started drinking again we would be leaving him.

When I was 15 years old he did not come home on Easter Weekend. He did not come home Friday night. He did not come home Saturday night. I remember how tense my mother was but she wouldn’t say anything to me about it. I had never witnessed dad going out on a full weekend bender.

When I woke up on Easter Sunday morning my mother was waiting for me and told me to go back into my room and pack some things. She told me that Dad didn’t come home again and said through tears “I won’t live this way again.” Stunned, I did it she asked while my mind was racing with all the normal things that would be racing through a teenager’s mind. What would this mean for me? Would we be moving? What about my friends? What about my sports? Why would he do this?

I remember sitting down at the table to eat breakfast. My plate was the only one on the table instead of the usual two plates, one for Dad and one for me. The tense silence was so thick that it was deafening, if that makes any sense at all. I heard footsteps coming up the back deck and saw panic on my mother’s face. She told me, “go get your things.”

I came out of my room with my bag and saw him standing there in his long London Fog trench coat looking like he’d spent the weekend sleeping on a park bench. The hurt on my mother’s face made me more angry than I think I’ve ever been. With tears rolling down her cheeks she said something to my dad that I couldn’t quite hear and we walked past him and out the door.

I have no idea where we’re going and then when I figured it out I was shocked. We were going to church. Church was the last place I wanted to be. I was mad at my father but I was equally as mad at God for “doing this to me” as though he pushed my dad off the wagon. I remember thinking “this is stupid” while watching my mother trying to sing the traditional Easter hits and everyone being all happy that Jesus rose from the dead. Me? I was thinking, “so what?”

We spent that whole afternoon ruining the pastors’ families Easter at his house. I could hear the adults talking in the other room and could hear my mom crying but I was left sitting on a flower patterned sofa in the other room staring at a TV.

That’s the only Easter I remember. I don’t remember little kid Easter egg hunts. I don’t remember Easter baskets. I remember nothing except for that nightmare.

I don’t know what happened but now I’m sure our church played a role in my parents patching things up and my dad getting back to battling for sobriety again. I spent almost two years not all that interested in God. I played the church game, did the youth group thing. As far as I was concerned, church stuff was all about the social. I pretended to buy in pretty well.

Now I am a pastor and our Super Bowl Sunday is Easter Sunday. Churches work like crazy to make everything bigger and better trying to compete for the people who come once a year. That has never appealed to me but I do feel the Easter pressure that every pastor feels.

I wonder if part of my non-celebratory attitude is linked at all to that Sunday when I was 15? If I wasn’t the pastor I think I might avoid church on Easter even though I love Jesus and love the community I have in my church. I’d definitely go other weeks though. I love church and celebrating the risen Christ. It’s just Easter Sunday that I have to push through.

This week I asked why all these trauma memories that have nothing to do with my cancer diagnosis or transplant PTSD are bubbling to the top. Apparently I am mentally vulnerable right now so the negatives are rising to the surface.

Am I doing more harm than good? Am I opening up a can that should stay closed? She assures me I am not and says I am doing well at taking steps toward mental health by processing things I’ve pushed aside.

I’m not totally sure I buy that yet but I can see that I’m at least gaining understanding

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Shaking off the dropped balls.

I really could use some beta-endorphin and beta-lipotrophin from pedaling my bike today. The last I knew today’s forecast was for warmth and sun. Now it’s calling for rain and 48°.

The endorphin thing is brain talk I’m learning from “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time” by Alex Korb. Wow, does that sound like a page-turner, or what?? It’s not that bad, actually.

I’ve been trying to spend 15-20 minutes watching birds at my feeders. God uses them to calm me and remind me that I’m secure in his love. Did you know that research is showing that birding changes our brain structure. Yes, it’s a thing. I like watching and photographing birds so I’ve been trying to spend more time with them in my efforts to rediscover things I like that I’ve allowed life to push aside.

I also like baseball but I’ve watched very little baseball since the COVID stoppage. So, I’ve been making an effort to watch baseball again. I don’t know that watching the Red Sox is helping. I might have to find a new team with more positives to root for!

When you drop the ball, do you ever give yourself a break and think, “hey, millionaires who get paid to catch balls drop them too?” I’ve seen a bunch of professional ball catchers drop balls so far this baseball season. They keep playing. When I feel like I’ve dropped the ball I dwell on it, condemn myself and sulk. I need to learn from them and not let the balls I drop (if I even really “drop” them at all) help me forget all the balls I catch day in and day out.

Yesterday was a dropped ball. I was ready to force myself to get out on my bicycle but then 43° and 15-20 MPH winds stopped me. Then, I felt like a failure for not forcing myself to get out there and went into a funk, hid under a blanket on the couch and slept. I then ruined our date night with my foul mood and physically didn’t feel well. If someone came to me telling me they decided not to ride their bike in 34° wind-chill I’d say, “well, of course not!” But for me, somehow the cold weather became my fault and I failed by not exercising.

I know in my knower, as a former coach used to say, that kind of thinking makes no sense, but the feelings in my feelers are disconnected from what is rational.

It’s a new day and I am determined to charge into it chasing down fly balls. My goal is to shake off the drops, even my perceived drops, and instead focus on the ones I catch. Those millionaire ballplayers are still millionaires even after a drop and I’m still just as valuable to my Creator. I know that in my knower and am praying God starts rewiring my feeler.

Posted in anxiety, burnout, Christianity, counseling, depression, discouragement, exercise, hope, hopeless, mental health, ministry, pastor, peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just getting started

I knew, going into counseling, that I would encounter stuff that I consider way out in left field. I knew I’d hit things recommending ancient practices for self-regulation and I knew I’d come against things that fly in the face of my faith in Jesus. It didn’t take too long before that started.

I’ve just about completed the first book recommended to me that is mostly a biography written by a journalist who was experiencing panic attacks. He set out looking for answers. Long story short, he found a way to be 10% happier through Buddhist meditation. I found it fascinating and I found numerous parallels with the teachings of Jesus as it relates to meditative prayer, peace, and rest. But, the ultimate goals of Buddhist meditation are vastly different than the goals of meditative prayer.

What do I mean? With a caveat that I am no Buddhist scholar and have only taken a few courses in comparative religions and have now read this book, it seems that the ultimate goal of Buddhist meditation is to meditate enough and do enough good deeds to be reincarnated as a higher life form until perfection is attained. There are numerous levels of consciousness to work toward and always motivation to work harder.

The ultimate goal of meditative prayer for the Christ follower is to build an intimate relationship with God that leaves one more Christ-like in attitude, word and deed. The reward of an eternity in heaven and new life is not based on achieving additional levels or working harder. The reward comes through faith in Christ alone and his redemptive work on the cross as a gift to sinful, imperfect people.

However, even with that being said, I found some of the methodology described for Buddhist meditation transferable to my own meditative prayer life so it wasn’t a total loss. For example Buddhist METTA includes steps to consider self (although not called self), then someone close, then someone neutral and then someone we don’t like, and lastly, everything in the universe. In my meditative prayer, after focusing my thoughts on God’s character and worship, I can pray recognizing my need for him to work in my life, then for my loved ones, then someone in my circle who I know of but do not know, and then my “enemy” and finally, thy kingdom come. I like that idea without buying into the cosmic energy and thought power stuff.

It was a worthwhile read but I won’t recommend it by title because it will cause way too much confusion to someone not firm in their faith. It did give me better understanding of a different religion and culture.

The counselor I am seeing has me journaling (here) and keeping a log of my emotions, thoughts and reactions. Also, I am supposed to be doing things I like that I have let get devoured by demands on my time and attention. Honestly, I am having trouble remembering what I used to like. I don’t know if that even makes sense but, whoomp, there it is. I think I like a lot of warm weather things but not many cold weather things. Robin and I have been setting aside time for us though and I like that.

Something from my log:

“Wednesday PM teaching, second guessing myself. I know Jesus was at Ceserea-Phillipi when he said this but am afraid to say it because I might be wrong. I know I am not wrong but doubt myself. 8/10 nerves. Tight breathing, headache, feel fuzzy headed like I am watching myself. I think I hid it well. No one knows. Took medication before bed to settle. 45 min later, was still wound up mentally and emotionally.”

That’s an example of some of my crossed wires, racing thoughts, self-doubt. I feel so stupid writing it, like I am crazy or something but I’ve promised to share honestly. Sharing from a place of weakness is hard. I don’t like it.

Now I am onto a book written by a PhD neuroscientist about brain research findings. This is much more my style. I like data. I like explanations that make sense. I don’t find science a threat to my faith at all. I am only a chapter in but much more hopeful that this one will help me make sense of why mind is so chaotic.

I am doing my best to be attentive to God working all around me. I’m thanking him and working on training my mind to “take every thought captive.” But, training those thoughts feels a lot like herding cats right now.

I know we’re just getting started.

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Seeing a counselor?

On Sunday, March 12, I stood up in front of the church family I love and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue like I am.” For the next 30-40 minutes I opened myself up and let everyone in on the stuff I was hiding and told them I needed help. I told them I have been having some mental health challenges and have been hiding all of it and pretending I’m fine.

It was scary. I’m a pastor. I don’t know if you know much about Christians or churches but there’s a significant chunk that believes seeking any type of mental health help is unbiblical and even “of the devil.”

Pastors don’t get help. They struggle alone for as long as they can and then they leave ministry to sell insurance or real estate. I have no desire to do that. So I decided to come clean and admit my self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and mental confusion with feelings of being totally overwhelmed.

Even though I was nervous and scared of the thought of opening myself up to everyone, they took it very well and surrounded me with support, love and prayer. I don’t know why I was so nervous about it because, in our church family, we know that life is messy and try to maintain a culture where we share burdens and walk with each other through weakness. We also are not at odds with science and medical advances, believing that God, in his providential love for humankind, has allowed us discovery and knowledge.

I had my first session with a counselor Thursday. Ever since my cancer diagnosis, my thoughts and emotions have run amok and are making me feel feels and think thoughts that are unlike me. Actually, it feels like all my wires are crossed and the me that I am has been disappearing in a hole while people topside toss shovels of dirt on my head. So, I need some counsel to help me sort all this out because I believe mental health is important. Also, I miss me.

Transplant, trauma, starting over, surgery, PTSD, being totally dependent on others, self-doubt, loss of roles, disability, irrational fears, rational fears – phew! I’m a lot. Am I a counselor’s dream or nightmare? I guess we’re going to find out. The good news is that she didn’t have me committed so I have that going for me.

I have homework to accomplish before next week:

1) I need to do some things I like to do that I have not done in awhile – things that have been pushed out by too much busyness and overcommitment.
2) I need to observe my patterns and write,  keying in on what usually precedes an avalanche of feels.

No sweat. I can do those things. In fact, I’m looking forward to them.

Robin and I went out to a real restaurant last night where we didn’t place our order with a teenager at the counter. We haven’t done that, just the two of us, since probably Fall of 2019.

I carved out some time yesterday, grabbed my camera and went walking one of the Presumpscot trails with Pom (my dog). We used to do stuff like that. She loved it, I loved it. I remember the calm of just sitting on a log, watching a stream, thinking about nothing, planning nothing and thanking God for life. There were no signs of life on yesterday’s icey, muddy trails but I still found beauty and it felt good to breathe.

I was hoping to photograph some signs of Spring but found only mud and melting snow.

There is beauty even in this in-between season of dirty snow and mud, we just have to search harder to find it. We won’t find it unless we look at things from a different perspective. I studied the inside of a rotting, hollowed-out tree and ended up making my favorite photo of the day there in the decay.

The inside of a rotting tree.

While we were walking, I also stopped to photograph the inside of a woodpecker’s hole, stumps, downed trees and mud. Once I accepted what was, I was able to find the beauty in it.

There’s the lesson of the afternoon – once we accept the reality of what is, we will be able to find the beauty in it.

I could have slip-slided my way back out of the woods, disappointed, without taking a single picture. The signs of life I came for were nowhere to be found. I could have driven home believing I wasted my time and scolding myself for even trying.

I remember one of the most difficult times of my life, sitting in a small room waiting for my mother to die. But there, beside her bed, sat my father holding her hand. She was not conscious and he was in the throws of Alzheimer’s, not fully aware of much. With tears in my eyes I snapped a precious, beautiful picture in the midst of the pain. Their wrinkled hands, with arthritic fingers and bulging knuckles were locked together. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was precious. I am so thankful I didn’t miss it. Even in the final days of hospice grief, there was beauty if only I would look for it.

I can’t tell you that I’m comfortable admitting that I am seeing a counselor yet. There are jokes and jabs all around us about people who “need therapy.” I don’t like admitting weakness but, I’ve decided to write about it and share my continuing journey with you as honestly as I can, hoping that it might encourage, motivate, educate or inspire you. Or, perhaps it will at least give you someone to pray for.

Thessalonians 5:16-18 (with my thoughts)

“Rejoice always (in God’s faithfulness, never leaving us), pray continually (lay it bare), give thanks in all circumstances (looking for the beauty); for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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Is it okay for a pastor to feel these feelings?

By Scott Linscott

Life has thrown a number of curveballs of uncertainty at me of late. Added to that, internals and externals have overwhelmed my calendar with dates and deadlines and people needing something from me at every turn. Added together, they have me feeling like the proverbial camel dreading that one last straw that will break my back.

Has a song ever stopped you in your tracks while the lyrics hit you and made you wonder, “did they write this song about me? Is someone watching me?” That describes my morning here in Georgia, alone in this big, empty, silent house, where I have come as a literal escape from all the things pressing in on me. I’ve played it and replayed it at least 10 times, a few times with tears streaking my cheeks.

“When your weary heart is hurting or you’re feeling so alone
When you think that you’re a burden or nowhere feels like home
When everything feels like it’s changing and you don’t understand why
Trying so hard to be strong and brave but so tired you wanna cry
Don’t forget as you fall asleep to lay it all at the Father’s feet”

My mental health is not so healthy right now. I’m being triggered by new health challenges in addition to too many people depending on me and hoping that I will be able to help them with whatever challenges they face. I think I know at least part of what I am battling. It’s called “Imposter Syndrome” or “perceived fraudulence.

“Imposter syndrome is believing you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. You develop a fear of being found out, and may believe you have only got to where you are by luck. This commonly leads to feelings of self-doubt and anxiety.”

Tessa Armstrong, Voices for Life

I know its name. I know what it does. I know that it’s irrational and ignores my training, my experience, my degrees, my history, my resume, and my qualifications. And, even though much of the evangelical world does not recognize mental struggles or illness as valid, my symptoms are as real and evident to me as the scratchy throat and sinus pressure of a cold.

“You can rest, you can rest
In the one who never breaks His promises
Close your eyes, talk to Him
When you’re scared and feel the darkness rolling in
In your worry and your pain, just breathe in and out His name
Jesus, oh, Jesus
And you can rest

When you’re looking in the mirror and you’re struggling to believe
Am I really who He says I am, or will God give up on me?
When anxiety is yelling and it’s drowning out today
When it’s hard to see tomorrow and you don’t know how to pray”

Is what I am feeling biblical? Did others feel it too? Am I a faith fraud too? I read of Moses initially wearing a veil over his face to temper the radiance that came every time he met with God. But, then 2 Corinthians 3:13 talks about how he later kept wearing it so people would not see that radiance fading. Was Moses suffering from imposter syndrome, feeling like he didn’t have it anymore, even though his resume and experience were undeniable? Maybe?

Jesus consistently addresses our feelings of inadequacy as the result of our inability to grasp the total paradigm shift he brought where our value is not the result of our performance or excellence. Our value is in our very existence as the focus of the creator of the universe. I know it, I preach it, and yet here I am with my mind rejecting it and needing some reprogramming. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus reminds us three times that we need not be anxious (vv. 25, 31, 34) and gives us eight reasons we can rest. (Coming soon to a message I will teach.)

“You can rest, you can rest
In the one who never breaks His promises
Close your eyes, talk to Him
When you’re scared and feel the darkness rolling in
In your worry and your pain, just breathe in and out His name
Jesus, oh, Jesus
And you can rest
You can rest

Don’t forget as you fall asleep
You are safe at the Father’s feet”

We all know that hearing “don’t be anxious” or “you shouldn’t feel like that,” apart from practical steps to help us retrain our thinking and establish new patterns, is not helpful. I’m recognizing that I need to restart the process of “renewing my mind,” as it says in Romans 12:2, trusting God, and being realistic in evaluating every external influence over my life. I’ve started putting together some steps, a punch list of sorts, to move back onto the path of mental and physical health and peace:

  1. Stop working for God and start working with God again.
  2. Set an appointment to talk to someone who has the tools to help me find clarity and direction to sort all this stuff out. (Dempsey Cancer Center?)
  3. List things, responsibilities, and projects that see me as “the solution” or “the answer,” and release some, no matter how worthy.
  4. Deal with this irrational fear that my “luck” is going to run out, revealing me as a fraud and a failure. Any successes I have had are the result of God’s providential love and support, not luck. His providential care DOES NOT and WILL NOT expire!
  5. Process this irrational fear of again being a burden to my wife, family, church, and friends. (Related to upcoming surgery and my past transplant surgery. They are NOT the same.)
  6. Get free from this belief that overworking is the only way to meet expectations and gain acceptance.
  7. Process these feelings of being unworthy of attention or affection.
  8. Stop allowing criticism and conflict consume me and nullify accomplishments.
  9. Delegate or delay rather than take on more.
  10. Do something entirely different? Learn something I know absolutely nothing about? (Edit: not instead of being pastor. I mean learn a new hobby, take a course, volunteer somewhere I have no leadership responsibility, etc)

It’s year ten of me leading a church of people I love. While I resisted becoming “Pastor Man,” I fear it has happened anyway, somewhat naturally. Imposter syndrome has me questioning if I should even be in this role. Am I truly qualified? Why am I in this position? What if I let these people down? Pastors shouldn’t feel like this, right? I shouldn’t feel like this. I should be stronger than this.

Even as I typed that paragraph of negative self-talk, I see the problem. It’s even tattooed on my right leg as a reminder. John 3:30, “He must increase; I must decrease. He must become greater; I must become less.”
Yet, somehow, here I am. Me, me, me. I, I, I.

“You can rest, you can rest
In the one who never breaks His promises
Just close your eyes and talk to Him
When you’re scared and feel the darkness rolling in
In your worry and your pain, just breathe in and out His name
Jesus, Jesus
Oh, Jesus
And you can rest
You can rest”

Songwriters: Hillary Scott, David Wesley Haywood, Katy Boatman. For non-commercial use only.

If I change nothing, nothing will change. That final straw will eventually be added, breaking this camel’s back.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30, The Message


Scott Linscott is blessed to be one of a team leading a body of Jesus-followers in a 135-year-old church building, smack dab in the middle of one of Maine’s fastest-growing, quickly-changing, high-needs cities. FBC Westbrook is known as a body that lives an active faith meeting needs, serving, and loving its community.

Posted in burnout, depression, discouragement, leadership, ministry, pastor, time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Honestly? It’s a bumpy time for me

Back in 1993 to 1999, I flew pretty often. There were some seasons when I was gone several weekends in a row or a few weeks in a row speaking at camps and conferences and going to meetings. I was very used to flying. I didn’t mind it until we would hit the bumps. Thankfully most flights were pretty smooth but there were a few that left me with white knuckles from grabbing the bar.

Life is full of bumps. We can fly smoothly through it for months or even years without hitting any major bumps. Eventually, for all of us, the phone rings with bad news, or a doctor shares words that none of us want to hear.

Airplane in snowstorm

I remember one flight into Denver when we were hitting bumps so strong that overhead compartment doors popped open. I swear I saw my diet Coke jump up out of my cup and then land back in with a splash. I’m not sure that actually happened but my memory says it did. After we landed in Denver, with literal applause from the passengers, I learned that we were the last flight allowed to land before they closed the airport! A giant snowstorm was pounding Denver. That was the worst turbulence I ever experienced. It left me with white knuckles from gripping the armrest so tightly.

Before the news of my needing a liver transplant, I had only experienced mild to medium turbulence in life. It was all the normal stuff: the financial challenges, unemployment, and marriage squabbles, but none of those caused white knuckles. The news of my needing a liver to survive was our first white-knuckles turbulence. That was about 12 years ago.

I’ve had a few little bumps that seemed like bigger bumps only because of all I went through but, overall, things have been pretty smooth. And, realistically, this turbulence that’s making my knuckles turn a bit white right now isn’t even as big a deal as my mind is making it.

No one likes the C word, right? When any of us hears the word “cancer” we get a little catch in our throats. That’s my turbulence – the c-word – and it has nothing at all to do with my liver. It’s totally separate. Lucky me, right?

I have prostate cancer. It’s not even big-deal, aggressive prostate cancer. It’s just “moderate risk,” monitor-or-treat cancer that went from nothing, to a little bit more than nothing in the last year. I can either treat it with chemotherapy, targeted radiation, or robotic surgery. Or, I can do nothing and have a third biopsy next year to see if it has gotten worse again. My fingers are tightening, stress is building, knuckles whitening…

I don’t want to deal with it, so, taking the advice of people I trust, I’m going to surrender to the robot in the Fall. This whole process is triggering emotions, fears, and nerves. It’s turbulence.

My faith is strong but my nerves (my docs call it “PTSD”) are making me bounce like I’m going into Denver again. It’s affecting me in ways I don’t like, ways that make me feel guilty and even ashamed. I stand up in front of people every week, as though I have everything figured out and never worry about anything. I give life lessons, talk about facing trials and tell people they can meet every challenge with God giving them strength.

I believe that. I’ve experienced that. I know it’s true and I know my God has not left me. I know he’s here with me and I KNOW I will face this and get through it but, I still will feel all the feels. I even know that, in terms of medical advances, this is no big deal at all and not even scary. I’m not going to die but the irrational side of PTSD is winding me up and making my heart race. It’s placing a 40-pound, invisible weight on my chest.

I feel stupid because of the way I am reacting. I feel like a faith failure and a disappointment to God. I’ve even been asking myself what right I have to stand up front on Sunday mornings. The enemy has been using the word “hypocrite” in my mind. Is he right?

Back when I started writing all the transplant journey stuff I promised I’d write honestly. Thankfully, I haven’t had much to write about. Life is good. Very good. Even with these challenges ahead of me, it will still be good.

Now, if only I could get my emotions, my mind, my nighttime dreams, and my blood pressure to believe it too. If only I could get my feelings to be more rational.

If you could join me in praying for peace, that would be swell.


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A Bonus Day in Boston with My Entire Crew

We had a whirlwind of a great day Saturday. All 13 of us packed into two vehicles to head for Boston for a fun family day. My seat was assigned by Calvin. I was informed, by him, that I would be sitting in the back of their Toyota SUV with him.

After I somehow managed to squeeze my 225-pound, petite, non-muscular body into my spot, climbing through a gap between Chloe and Colton in the middle row, the questions began. Rapid-fire, one-after-another, non-stop “Grampa, why” continued for 90 minutes until I was faced with the challenge of climbing out of my place in the sardine can into the expanse of a Boston parking garage.

A day of learning followed. Nana read every educational sign from phytoplankton to Weedy Sea Dragons, Colton decided it was finally time to do some real walking beyond three steps and a lunge and Ethan was wide-eyed exploring all the things he’s seen in his animal encyclopedias. Chloe marched forward, directing the troops, with no idea where she was going and I could see Emma studying the colors and shapes and movements of everything. I suspect we will see them influencing her creations this week.

Calvin made a great discovery that he was very excited to show everyone. “Look Grampa, those penguins are playing! That penguin is laying on top of the other penguin and they are both flapping really fast! Everyone, come see what I found!!!” All gathered in amazement to watch as I quietly sneaked off ahead of our crowd to avoid, “Grampa, why are they playing like that?” I figured I’d leave that one for their parents.

After lunch, we made it to the Museum of Science and saw only one wing again. It’s the same wing we always see that focuses on math and engineering and the very sciencey stuff of science. We Linscotts interact with interactive exhibits while Nana teaches and I take pictures and push buttons here and there.

If I can pull it off before July 31 when our membership expires, we’re going to go down again in the morning, skip the penguin playland, and go straight to the museum of science to explore the rest of it. Let’s leave the math and engineering stuff alone and head into the section that focuses on living things, planets and how the world works.

After feasting on Cheesecake Factory deliciousness, and laughing at Colton enjoying time with Auntie Laura and Uncle Jake, it was time for the journey back to Maine. No one was interested in switching spots with me, even for money, so I was in for another 90 minutes of Curious Cal while we listened to the Red Sox.

“Grampa what does it mean that he grew up in the Dominican?” (Radio announcer said it about Devers.)

That’s the country where he lived.

“Oh, but what does ‘he grew up’ mean?”

It means he successfully completed being born, getting older and not getting sick and dying. He grew up.

“He never got sick???”

No, he got sick like everyone gets sick but he didn’t die. So, he grew up and turned into an adult successfully.

Silence as the wheels turned in his little brain.

“Grampa, am I Dominican?”

By this point, his dad is laughing so hard in the front seat that he’s crying.

No, buddy. You were born in America. You are an American.

“Grampa, are the Red Sox still up to bat? What does “to the warning track’ mean? Did he strike out? Is the other team ahead? What are “extra innings?” Is that cheating to have a guy on second before anybody is even batting? I think it’s cheating. How many more minutes till we are home? My back hurts. Is Chloe sleeping? Was that a strike or a ball? …

We pulled up to our house and I somehow managed to wrangle myself out of the back once more without pulling even a single muscle.

“Bye Grampa! See you tomorrow!”

I am doing a good deal of reflecting, just 12 days from the tenth anniversary of my liver transplant. I remember celebrating each year completed but five years of survival was a milestone. Now, 10 years, is another. Only 52% of people transplanted before age 65 survive to see this milestone. That’s a little better than a coin flip.

Since that summer of 2012, I have not had a single overnight stay in a hospital. Other than the normalcy of life with a suppressed immune system and having tons of colds, flu, and ear, nose, and throat infections, I have cruised to this milestone with just one minor rejection scare.

Ten years ago today I was laying on a couch begging God to give me an end. I was working on a letter to my wife and each of my kids, urging them to go on with life. I remember being so afraid they would be angry at God.

God did not give me an end. His plan was to give me a beginning. And after Saturday with my crew and holding hands with my oldest grandchild in the backseat of a Toyota Highlander, watching grandchild number 5 beaming with pride as we celebrated his first real walking success, and walking behind my youngest son holding hands with his two adoring nephews, I have to admit that my eyes keep filling with thankful tears.

Today is bonus day number 3638. I have only 12 days left to come up with my 10-year tattoo. Maybe Robin has suggestions? (She HATES tats!)

Posted in Liver disease | 3 Comments

We are 1 month from 10 years

It was May 7, 2012 when I received my second shot at life.  I am coming up on ten years of bonus days. Ten years of my Pompom pal at my side.

As I approach my ten year mark I am finding myself a bit more introspective than normal. Like George Bailey, I’ve wondered what things would have looked like without me.

While I was wrestling with my 5 grandkids, ages 1-6, yesterday, that “what if” thought crossed my mind. I shook it off and enjoyed my spot at the bottom of the pile.

Before what I call “my transplant journey,” Myers Briggs personality profiles labeled me an “ENTJ.” I came through on the other side as an ENFP. It’s a big change.

“ENTJs are planners. Making decisions and having a schedule or course of action planned out gives them a sense of predictability and control. They are highly rational, good at spotting problems, and excel at taking charge.”

“ENFPs have excellent people skills. In addition to having an abundance of enthusiasm, they also genuinely care about others. ENFPs are good at understanding what other people are feeling. “

Before my transplant, the plan was my focus. I liked biggest, best and coolest and spent a lot of time and effort achieving those goals. A lot of kids came out on the other side of my systems, truly impacted and with a strong faith. But, marginalized kids remained mostly invisible.

After my transplant, my focus is much more on the marginalized, the broken and those our society calls “the least.” Snags and bumps and hiccups in my programs don’t bother me much, even though I still aim for a certain level of quality. What kills me is when efforts fall flat and people just disappear. I desperately want connection and belonging for everyone but don’t have the capacity to give it to everyone myself.

“Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.”

Maya Angelou

I believe God uses all personality types to accomplish his purposes. I just find the personality transformation of my trauma interesting. Do we have to experience true brokenness to understand, value and identify with the broken?

“Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.”

– Maya Angelou

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An escape to the mountains

by Scott Linscott

I’ve been in the White Mountains this week. God provided a surprise opportunity for me to escape.. It’s been a productive week. I’ve had times to rest and times when my adrenaline was pumping (trail rides.) I’ve outlined my Sunday messages through Feb 13. I’ve updated the church website to upload Monday. And I have done a lot of thinking and praying. I’ve also been a bit introspective.

Am I ready to return to hit the ground running? Probably not, but that’s okay. With current events being what they are, It’s probably not a “running” time as much as it is a “standing firm” time. (Ephesians 6)

This morning I used this picture as my prompt. I made this image at the Fryeburg Fair tool museum. Making photographs is different than taking pictures. I was most interested in the cleated shoe in the middle of the display of heavy things. I pictured a logger doing what loggers do, standing firm, solid stance, and good footing.

Roman soldiers wore cleated sandals and some wore cleated boots when Paul wrote his letter to the Jesus followers in Ephesus. Paul told his friends to get dressed in allegorical God armor, not so they could march, or take, or forcefully advance but so they could stand firm and not be moved off their footing on “the good news (gospel) of peace.” He used the word “stand” three times. In this day and age of everyone advancing their opinions and agendas and forcing their ways on everyone else, standing firm is an important distinction.

But, be careful here. This does not give us a license to stubbornly dig in our heels for our own opinions and biases. It means we dig in our heels for the gospel that Jesus taught and lived. We stand firm on that gospel; the die-to-self, I-am-second, servant-focused, redeeming good news that brings incomprehensible peace.

I like to advance. I like to build and create. I have never been much of a maintenance-type personality. I think that’s why this pandemic pause has taken a big toll on me. Almost everything I want to try, start, or put in place is tempered by the “not yet” reality of today. Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic pause has made us do church differently and that has been my spark. Our efforts have turned almost entirely to serving the marginalized and meeting needs. There are very good things that have come out of this mess. We, I, have learned much.

I am not returning to real life with “wings as eagles” and lots of energy to “run and not be weary.” (Isaiah 41) That’s okay. I think we are still in a “wait on the Lord” period. I think we’re still in a “stand firm,” challenging season where we need to lace up our cleats, dig into the Truth we know and face whatever is ahead with faith and confidence.

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged | 2 Comments

COVID 99.7% survivable but half the story

While we do know that COVID survivability is high and hospitalization is low for the population as a whole, the oft-quoted 99.7% survivability statistic only tells part of the story. The actual data shows increasing mortality rates by age. It also increases by category of vulnerability and varying levels of immunosuppression.  As a solid organ recipient, I am particularly aware of the studies, though limited, in our population indicating a mortality rate at least comparable to the 65+ age group and as high as 20%.

Yes, the young and healthy population is the least likely to need hospital care. (Although new strains appear to be impacting this data, it is, for now, generally true.)

My oldest son, a Urologist with a Ph.D. in drug research and development,  is also a big advocate for vaccination, especially in healthcare and all areas where people serve the most-vulnerable.

I am sorry that the medical field is faced with potential vaccine mandates but, having a less robust response and decreased protection from my own immunizations, I hope my caregivers will take every available precaution for my protection.

In the state of Maine, healthcare workers must currently prove immunization against:

1. Rubeola (measles);
2. Mumps;
3. Rubella (German measles);
4. Varicella (chicken pox);
5. Hepatitis B; and
6. Influenza

(There are formal processes where certain healthcare workers can file for exemption or reassignment to a less-at-risk work environment)

I’m confident that if vaccines were available against VRE and MRSA, which are mostly spread in hospital environments, they would certainly be added to the list.

Again, I am so sorry a global pandemic is putting us all in these positions and dividing us. I am sorry our freedoms are being impacted as we do all we can to try to save lives and stop future mutations.

There are so many inconsistencies. Part of our society resists every attempt to limit abortion services with, “my body, my choice.” Now, many who normally dispute that rationale are using the very same argument against vaccine mandates. The slogan should be “my body, my choice depending on my personal beliefs, my circumstances, and how it impacts me.” But, that doesn’t fit on a protest sign very well.

Do we now agree that it is “my body and my choice” throughout? I don’t support that rationale in any case where human lives are at stake.

The same group that refuses vaccines with, “God will protect me,” appears to be the same demographic that fights all gun legislation saying guns are needed “to protect myself, my family and property.” Will God protect us from disease but not from break-ins? It is confusing. It seems to me that we should trust God while using wisdom to boost our personal safety using the tools available.

Most arguments are inconsistent and subjective and influenced by our personal preferences at their base.

I hate that excellent healthcare workers are leaving or realigning because of vaccine mandates. I hate that excellent teachers are being forced to make career choices. I hate that all of us in people professions are faced with difficult decisions.

I also hate seeing hospital hallways filled with gurneys because no beds are available. I hate seeing parking garage spaces transformed into overflow treatment areas and cold storage trailers rented for overflow morgue storage.

I believe that God, in his Providential care for humankind, allowed development and discovery of the most effective vaccines in history for this time. I believe that he allows discovery and advances in medicine and will glorify himself through them even though humankind has, sadly, used some of those gifts of discovery against his character and desire.

Having lived through the horrendous ordeal of a liver transplant, my selfish desire is that all who are involved in my care take every precaution against transmitting a highly-transmissable virus that kills as many as 1/5 of solid organ recipients. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7673773/)

I offer all this only as an explanation for my opinions and not to denegrate those who choose to forego vaccine mandates and face realigning careers and lifestyles.

This situation is awful for all.

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Misinformation in the transplant community?

Did you know that my undergraduate degree is in Journalism and I actually served a stint as the editor of The Daily Maine Campus back when it came out on stone tablets? I had aspirations of being a political columnist or foreign correspondent. Eek. I’m so glad I didn’t head that way!

On my way to that degree, I spent some time studying marketing, thinking that was where I was heading, and then some time pursuing photojournalism until finally settling on the news/editorial track. I think that’s why I’m so critical of what we call “news” today and the clear bias, left or right.

I still like the process of doing a little fact-checking and checking sources. It’s a nerdy thing. Plus, since I can play around with Photoshop a bit, I even check photos whenever I think, “what? No way.”

That pic of the 30-foot boa constrictor? Nope, not real. Cat the size of a calf? Nope. People at the ocean swimming with masks? Nope, Photoshopped. There’s lots of cool photoshop magic available.

Baby Grows Beard Just Like Grampa!

That explains why I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive about this information stuff. I’m an old guy from a time when Walter Cronkite was our hero, libel cases were real, and there were consequences for bad reporting. You couldn’t just take your audience to another network. I’m old enough to remember seeing my grade drop if my personal bias was evident in my reporting or I failed to represent both sides of an issue.

I check misinformation reports on a daily basis. Today’s big viral stories that don’t stand up to scrutiny:

1) ALL PCR COVID tests were recalled for false results!

Nope, not even close. But, yes, doing what the FDA does for our protection, it reviewed the results of the Curative SARS-Cov-2 Test and found too many false results being generated. The biggest concern was FALSE NEGATIVES leaving patients untreated and the virus spreading. The manufacturer of that test quickly issued a recall. Thankfully, the FDA regularly issues reports of everything from pet foods to cheese to medications to medical devices. Now, for fun, what things do we consume or use that have no FDA testing or oversight?

2)”Vitamin B1 repels mosquitoes.”

This would be awesome if it were true. I live in Maine where mosquitoes are big enough to carry babies away. (exaggeration) Unfortunately, B1 does nothing to discourage mosquitoes. The only thing this claim appears to do is boost supplement sales. How do we know this? Remember your neighbor’s kid who spent 8 years in college to get that bug Ph.D.? They spend all day with creepy-crawlies now to see what impacts their behavior. They find no evidence that B1 does anything at all. I would not want to spend all day, day-in and day-out, with bugs.

3) Depressed Mother Tiger Adopts Piglets

2004, not in California, but at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand

Aww. Have you seen this one? How sweet that a depressed mommy tiger who lost her litter, adopted a bunch of baby piglets and nursed them as her own! Except, that wasn’t what happened. Momma Tiger wasn’t depressed. The viral pictures being shared thousands of times are actually from a 2004 study at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand where they wanted to see if animal mommas would feed other animal babies. A sow fed the disguised baby tigers. Why did they do this? I don’t know. Ask your neighbor’s kid who went to school forever to get that Ethology Ph.D. (animal behavior).

Giant hippos invade Maine.

4) LOCAL WARNING! Infestation of giant hippos in Gorham, Maine.

This one hasn’t gone viral yet but I have a firsthand, eyewitness report of two GIANT hippos living in a small pond off Harrison Lane. They are there with American Bullfrogs. My source, Ethan Da Beethan, told me they appear to be friendly hippos but, knowing that hippos are dangerous and aggressive from reports out of Africa, I figured I should warn you. One more thing? Ethan has no formal education and no degrees of any kind but he does watch Storybots, loves dinosaurs and is an expert on Paw Patrol so I think he’s believable. Plus, no one has proven that hippos aren’t invading Gorham so … share this information with everyone you know.

Today is NATIONAL COAST GUARD DAY. I’m thinking the Coast Guard must be slacking. How else would hippos infiltrate our state? They obviously swam here! Plus they missed the Chinese Army moving into Maine last year. (That was a funny one. Click for the bizarre story.) Come on, Coast Guard, we need you to step it up!

There you have it. Now you have some explanation for what makes me so intrigued by this crazy time we are in where we can say anything we want and present any information we want, regardless of evidence or accuracy. Qualifications no longer matter, educational achievement is unimportant and expertise is dead.

The information age has led us to this bizarre reality where the burden of proof has shifted from “prove this true” to “prove this untrue” where, if we cannot prove something untrue, it must be true. (For example: the majority of dinosaurs were rescued from the ice age by aliens from another galaxy who are now on their way back to return them because Earth is warming. Can you prove me wrong???)

Why does any of this matter in the transplant community?

Misinformation that causes us to lose trust in our transplant centers is a matter of life or death. I’m serious. I had a friend offer me some miracle, antioxidant elixir discounted to $90 a month. He counseled me to stop taking all the “dangerous chemicals poisoning” my body, including my anti-rejection prescription, and replace them with just an ounce of his elixir every day.

That’s nuts! There are studies underway to see if, under medical supervision, we can wean off our antirejection meds someday but that’s not now and certainly not without observation. Still, my friend was so confident in his product and his hate for Big Pharma that he truly believed my drugs were killing me at worst or, at least, keeping me a slave to the “lie of modern medicine.”

In the midst of this global pandemic that has killed millions, false information, snippets taken out of context and blatant lies are actively undermining the confidence we have in the very doctors and medical processes that saved our lives through transplant. Some in our transplant communities are refusing vaccination against COVID and buying into the anti-vaxx propoganda. That risk is bad enough for healthy individuals but for those of us with suppressed immune systems it is a HUGE risk that could cost us our lives. What’s worse is that some in our transplant communities are now actively joining the fight against vaccines even within our fragile circles.

Unfortunately, this entire pandemic was, and continues to be, politicized. The top medical minds in our country, many of them known personally to we who were fortunate enough to have them intervene on our behalf, are united in urging vaccination for all, especially solid organ transplant recipients.

If you believe in them enough to have them cut into you, cut out an organ and sew in a donated one, why would you refuse to believe them now when it comes to vaccines?

Posted in End Stage Liver Disease, Lahey Clinic, NASH, organ donation, Organ transplant | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment