Aloha Friday Message – July 15, 2011 – A Bad Day at Black Rock


Read it online here. Please use all the other links in this message, too. Thanks!

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.


These words were often heard in my mother’s room at the Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora, Colorado. She would experience panic attacks associated with her advancing dementia, and she was convinced she could not breathe. My brothers, along with the excellent nursing staff, were the ones who had to deal with it directly. I was thousands of miles away here in Kaua‘i. This happened so frequently, and was so disruptive and disconcerting to the other patients that it led to her being heavily sedated most of the time. The medication helped her, calmed her fears, and made it possible for the nursing staff to provide the level of care she needed. She was completely dependent on others for every function of her life, and, fortunately, only rarely during the years she stayed there did she experience again the sensation of not being able to breathe. My brother Dave often pointed out to her that if she had enough wind to shout, she must be breathing.

Although I was not there to witness her distress or to assist in her care, I certainly understood what she experienced. Some of my earliest childhood memories center on my lifelong asthma. I can remember several times going to bed at night and waking up the next morning in the hospital in an oxygen tent. Sometimes I would be there over night, or maybe one or two days. There was one stretch in the fourth grade when I was out for weeks. The feeling of not being able to inhale or exhale is definitely terrifying, and the panic one feels makes it even harder to breathe. Asthmatics learn how to take slow and shallow breaths so as not to start coughing. Coughing can be exhausting if you can’t get enough breath into your lungs to make it effective.

Over the past 60 or so years I have gained a lot of experience with that kind of “defensive breathing.” Most of the time my asthma is well-controlled with a regimen of medications, exercise – or avoidance of some kinds of exercise. As long as I manage the disease properly, most of the time it’s not a problem. I hardly ever have “just a cold.” I get pneumonia as easily as most people do common colds. Fortunately my doctors understand that I know when I am going to need additional medications, and – working together – we can usually avoid getting into serious trouble; but not always. Occasionally there are circumstances that I cannot manage. Take this past Thursday as an example.

Crucita and I were spending a week on Maui. We set aside Thursday to go snorkeling. Her nephew is a pipe-fitter working a job on one of the resorts near Black Rock Beach, a premium snorkeling spot. We parked near the hotel and walked over to the beach. Crucita is a natural in the water. Me, I don’t even like being wet, but I have at least mastered snorkeling and enjoy the beautiful things I see. It takes me a little longer to get into the water because I have to be careful of the UV which is always really intense here, so Crucita went ahead and got into the water. I slathered on a ton of sunscreen, gathered up my gear and went down to the water’s edge to join her. When I pushed out into the water, I got about 20 feet out and things went crazy in a hurry. I felt the beginnings of a bronchospasm, something I had not felt in years. Every breath I took through the snorkel tube made it worse. Suddenly I was yelling those words at the top of this message. I could not breathe. I could not cough. I could, however, panic; the ocean is a bad place to do that.

Crucita tried to get me to take her hand so she could tow me in, but the surf surge – small as it was – made it impossible for me to try to suck in air without my snorkel, and I knew something in the snorkel had triggered the bronchospasm. It was a dilemma, but solvable. I latched onto a boulder and tried to stay shoulders-above-water. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes; this was no NDE – Near Death Experience. I’ve done that three or four times, and this was nowhere near close. But it was scary. I didn’t pray, I didn’t call my angel, Baruch, to come get me. I just held onto the rock and tried to move some air in and out while shouting I CAN’T BREATHE! I CAN’T BREATHE! Well, to quote Dave, I had enough air to shout, so I must have been breathing. I simply had hope and faith that somehow I would get out of that mess.

Then a solution arrived, an act of charity, a wise choice made by a young boy – maybe 10-11. He offered me an orange boogie-board and Crucita, the boy, and a few other people got me out of the water. It took nearly an hour to bring everything under control and to be able to breathe nearly normally.

Now, what in the world does all of that have to do with St. John’s message, today’s chosen Bible passage? First, please click on this link to see that passage in context. John is talking about testing spirits to see if they are of God of The World. The proof of being of the Spirit rather than of The World is Love. If it is from or leads to Love it is of God. Now, think of this: There is evil in The World, but not all of The World is evil. We can get into things that indeed are life threatening not only to our natural, physical life, but also to our Spiritual life. You have heard, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Death is a punishment, one that can come suddenly and unexpectedly from something that at first seems inconsequential – or more likely from something where we have chosen to ignore the possible consequences. We fail to “test the spirit” of a thing or action, commit to it without thinking, and end up in trouble.

Beloved, we are at war in The World and at war with The World. As Paul stated in Ephesians 6, we are in a spiritual warfare. That is also why John was exhorting believers to stand together in love, and not to fear punishment for doing what is right and good. But we also know that just as The World can suddenly become life threatening, so too can our experiences with the spiritual world. The potential consequences of this war are way more terrifying than not being able to breathe. Not breathing can take your life. Not fighting the evil can take your soul. So here’s the point:

The best way to get out of trouble is to stay out of trouble. In our lives we will have those moments when things go horribly wrong without warning. We will be betrayed by a loved one, become desperately ill, suffer some kind of tragic loss, and while it is true that sometimes these difficult things are the natural consequences of our choices and actions, it is also sometimes totally random. The World likes to call that “An Act of God.” You can argue both sides of that and not get very far because “what happened” is less important than your response to it.

John and Paul each tell us to respond with and in faith, with and in hope, and most importantly with and in Love. My “Bad Day at Black Rock” ended well because I, and everyone around me, held onto faith and hope, and then a little boy showed up and completed the triad by an act of unconditional love. He gave up his boogie-board and floated me to safety.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

Please continue to pray fro Maddie Spence (who suffers from Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, we pray for strength throughout the treatment and healing process. Find out more at Madelyn Spence’s Corner)

Also continue to pray for the continued healing of M, a 51 y.o. husband and father who got Chicken Pox. He is making progress.

Also we continue to pray for PB in Flagstaff who is struggling to break the grip of addiction.

Remember MC, TO, CF, and everyone who has experienced huge loss recently. Pray that the hurt and the confusion caused by their trauma will be eased by the faith, hope, and love of their friends in the MBN and elsewhere. Pray that ALL who are in pain, sorrow, danger, or illness with find a healing word.

Remember to pray for one another, too. And please, please, please remember to do small things with great love.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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