Thanks for the prayers; can you help take the cats to the vet's?

I have an email to quote first. The sender is real. I'm leaving the email address in.

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From: morningwood2010 [at]
To: me
Subject: Religion + Jeff

From Jeff's blog: "I am so incredibly sick of religious extremist

I was not able to read anything about Jeff's "life-threatening"
accident so I cannot comment about it.

However, I AM curious if anyone *prayed* for Jeff to survive his
"life-threatening" accident and for his recovery, and whether or
not Jeff acknowledged and was thankful for those prayers to God.

Though I do not know Jeff personally, and though I disagree with
his use of "god" not being capitalized, I, as a Christian, will
pray for him.


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I figure by responding publicly, I'll respond more politely.

First, thanks for writing. Since you don't know Jeff personally, let me catch you up. After Jeff's accident in December 2010, he spent two months in a coma and on a ventilator, in a trauma center's neurological intensive care unit. We celebrated when he moved from a neurological ICU to a trauma ICU, because that actually meant he was getting better.

He nearly died again in the trauma ICU due to infection. Out of curiosity, can you remember what you were doing around Christmas and New Year's? I was authorizing frightening surgeries approximately every 36 hours to attempt to stem the systemic infection that very nearly took his life yet again close to a month after the accident.

Fixing the infection site required cutting his abdomen open so many times they couldn't close his abdominal wall, so they left a giant hole in his abdomen and covered it with a skin graft to protect against infection.

After moving from neurological ICU to trauma ICU to step-down unit, physical therapists began the job of re-teaching this man (who has a master's degree in electrical engineering, by the way) how to do basic things. When I say "basic," I mean "swallowing," "talking," and "sitting up."

When he was too strong for an ICU but not strong enough to walk on his own, he was sent to a rehab hospital, where they worked for another month on getting him mobile with a walker, and fitted him for a wheelchair when he wasn't strong enough to walk.

Jeff, still with the NG (nasogastric) tube and tracheostomy still in place.Jeff prior to tube removal

Six months after those scary surgeries (remember Christmas and New Year's?) we were sent to another trauma center in another state in order to reconstruct and repair his abdomen without damaging his intestinal tract. The hole in his abdominal wall was about 6"x9", by the way. Imagine trying to bend over or tie your shoes with a hole that large in your abdominal muscles.

An eagerly-awaited moment: Jeff gets his first solid food, 3 days after the abdominal repair surgery at Vanderbilt.First solid food, post-op

He's relearning things. He has holes in his memory from throughout his entire life. If you're married, imagine how mind-wrenching it is to have to tell your spouse -- whom you've been together with for half your life -- how you met. Because he doesn't remember.

What's worse? He's going to read this.

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Things are not back to normal. The old normal is gone, replaced by this new normal we're still figuring out. He still isn't back to work. He'd like to go, but permission to even attempt a few hours of work per week is up to his neurologist, his occupational therapist, his general practitioner and probably a couple of other specialists I'm forgetting to name here.

So while I'm recounting things, I'd like to tell a little story. It is, unfortunately, a true story, and it's emblematic of many of the stupid and small things that I have gone through in the past eight months. I'm sure pretty much every member of Jeff's family has similar stories; I can't speak for them, so this is mine.

We have cats. Big, silly, bitey orange tabbies. They're twelve-year-old littermates. They're our kitty-kids. They adore me, like Jeff, and distrust the rest of the world.

They look like normal cats until you put a yardstick next to them, and then their catbeastness becomes clear. Had we not fed them, this never would have happened.  (Tenzing is on your left, Edmund on your right.)Our mistake was feeding them

By law, they also have to be vaccinated and examined every 12 months, or we face penalties from our county. As luck would have it, they were due for their shots in December. I spent two weeks of December camped out in the neurological ICU waiting room. After that, I had to go home and resume working at my job, in order to preserve my sick time. It was somewhere around Christmastime that it hit me: the cats had to get to the vet in the next few days or we faced fines.

Between keeping in constant contact with the ICU nurses (the trauma center was 90 minutes away) and trying to work full-time and trying to deal with Social Security, disability policies, insurance policies, and legal matters -- I barely slept, much less ate. Not to mention trying to get to the hospital every chance I could.

It was somewhere around this time I began noticing something that hurt like hell, and still hurts. The easiest way to tell if someone was about to disappear from my life was to hear the statement "I'll pray for you." It was as if those words were an absolution, a get-out-of-jail-free that meant they had done their Christian duty and could go on with their lives.

Maybe some people are buttressed by the power of prayer alone, but offers of prayers didn't get the cats to the vet's.

In larger terms, it's asking if you've got anything other than platitudes and pretty words when you're presented with someone who is in actual need.

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There's a good quote that I think is worth bringing out at this point:

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. "

In comparison, I think of my friends -- some religious, some not. They brought food. They made phone calls. They got me to and from the hospital when I was too tired to drive safely. They picked up my husband's blood-stained belongings from the wrecker's office. They had me over for dinner even though I was too shell-shocked to talk much, because that way they could make sure I was eating.

One of them stayed two weeks by my side in the hospital. That's a level of loyalty and care that I'll spend the rest of my life repaying.

These people also had something else in common: not once did they say "I'll pray for you." They didn't have to say it; their beliefs (some religious, some not) shone through in their actions, and their kindness.

Every time someone says, "I'll pray for you," there's a momentary wistful look on my face. What they can't see is that I'm mentally trying to decide if I should bother asking if they'd help me get the cats to the vet's office.

* * * * *

Even though I am not religious, I am aware that the right thing to do, when a kindness is extended, is to be gracious and thankful. However, I also learned the hard way that many people don't recognize when it's time to stop reading the words in their holy book and start living them.

Perhaps you intended your email to be sarcastic and thought-provoking, but -- in a nutshell -- you sent a caustic, smug email, couched in religious terms, to someone who had tried to let people know that her spouse had been in a (the air quotes are yours) "life-threatening" accident.

You sent it to someone you didn't even know. Would you ever send an email like that to your co-workers, your family, your friends? Would you want your spouse receiving an email like this if you were injured?

To paraphrase the end of your email...

I don't know you personally, but as a non-believer, unless you're coming to help take the cats to the vet's, so to speak, I would prefer you not pray for me. Instead, please, pray for yourself. Pray for guidance, pray for kindness, pray for charity. I think you need them more than I do right now.

Tenzing's got a vet's appointment next week. If you're in, let me know.

The most #teamjeffie shirts I've ever seen together. Taken after the DrupalCon Chicago closing ceremonies.Group photo for #teamjeffie

Also? and -- we really aren't that hard to find, y'know.


I've said this in other places, but I'll say it here: Woody, you have a bullshit interpretation of what intercession is and is not.  Yours was an asshat email.  Stop that.  Jesus did not make the Gentile feel inferior to him as Jew; neither should anyone who acts as a Christian seek to belittle someone who may or may not be.  Live out your witness and shut up unless asked.

Geoff, it's so sad that my comments brought out such nasty remarks from you when I expressed nothing but concern with Jeff's situation. It's sad to see a similar response from Amy who has no doubt been through a tumultulous time. If you actually read my email, you would know that I did not mention "Gentile or Jew" as you put it, nor meant to belittle anyone, but simply asked if Jeff would accept prayers to God for him (Jeff) to live and recover based on *HIS OWN TEXT AS POSTED ON HIS BLOG*. And Amy, if you don't won't my or other Christian prayers, that's okay. I'll pray for the both of you anyway. Wood


Wow; I've read some really rough responses to what this guy wrote below. And I know that the reason they are so rough are because Jeff's and Amy's friends are both loyal and consequentely biased :-)

So, I hope that my comment here below will be helpful. I'll include a few details that might be unecessary for some readers so skip over what you'd like but I want to say something that will have as little chance at being misunderstood as possible.

> I was not able to read anything about Jeff's "life-threatening"
> accident so I cannot comment about it.
> However, I AM curious if anyone *prayed* for Jeff to survive his
> "life-threatening" accident and for his recovery, and whether or
> not Jeff acknowledged and was thankful for those prayers to God.
> Though I do not know Jeff personally, and though I disagree with
> his use of "god" not being capitalized, I, as a Christian, will
> pray for him.
> Regards,
>  Woody

Ok so here we go. First of all I try to have as little "religion" as possible. I could go through here and start quoting a bunch of scriptures but since that would likely turn some people off I won't go there. But I will allude to some scriptures which anyone who doesn't get turned off by that sort of thing will likely be familiar with what those scriptures are anyhow.

I take a bit of a preference to being called a "Christ Follower" as opposed to a "Christian" because the latter often do a lot of what Amy so eloquentely touched on; "I'll pray for you", I might even write out a check to your favorite charity, but their hands and feet spend little time on the "Good Samaritan stuff" where they completely inconvenience themselves on a regular basis for the sake of someone that's not "in their congregration", "click", or "social group".

And to give you a bit of reference, I live in a third world country (Philippines). I moved here for the specific purpose of helping people (the poor) that God led me to. I was an agnostic for many years, did everything from selling drugs, to calling the four corners (it's a Wiccan thing), to trying to climb a corporate ladder or be Environmental Nonprofit guy at an NGO.  But now feeding street children (with my own two hands) and buying medicine for people that make less than four bucks a day is just about a weekly occurence for me.

Hopefully that gives enough framework for my comment which is directly for Woody but I hope others might benefit from as well; so here it goes.

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*** Woody ***

I don't think that insulting you or attacking you is of any benefit. After reading what you said (about three times) I don't think that you intended what others here might have perceived. 

However the insult that you received isn't entirely underserved either. You my friend stepped into a "hornets nest". And just like the person that steps into a real hornets nest, you didn't get stung for doing so deliberately. What you are getting stung here for is because you were 'not' deliberately cautious about what you did. You exercised little to no caution as I can see it.

If you are a real follower of Christ (sorry but I don't know you) I will simply say that you seem to be missing out on both experience with people that don't come from a fundamental christian background and/or you are not very familiar with the scriptures that speak about "believers" passing judgement on other believers but leaving everyone else alone. In other words, it's God that has something to say about those 'outside' of those following Christ "lock, stock, and barrel" ... Check out  I Cor 5:12 if your not familiar with this one (sorry to anyone else for that one reference I said I wasn't going to make :-p )

I don't want to discourage you from your passion however I just want to curve what you are actually doing. I say this just in case you have really been given faith and just in case your intentions are correct. I don't discredit the possibility of this either; just pray for some wisdom here.

Hope this helps; not only you but I hope it helps others understand how to swing well intentioned (or not so well intentioned) Christ followers and religious folks in the right direction.


... Tim


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P.S. ... Bravo to Amy for an entry that I think would help a lot of people (Christ follower or otherwise) to get geared up with the meaty action that they should have. That reference you used from the book of James is one of my favorites :-)



Geoff, it's so sad that my comments brought out such nasty remarks from you when I expressed nothing but concern with Jeff's situation. It's sad to see a similar response from Amy who has no doubt been through a tumultulous time. If you actually read my email, you would know that I did not mention "Gentile or Jew" as you put it, nor meant to belittle anyone, but simply asked if Jeff would accept prayers to God for him (Jeff) to live and recover based on *HIS OWN TEXT AS POSTED ON HIS BLOG*. And Amy, if you don't won't my or other Christian prayers, that's okay. I'll pray for the both of you anyway. Woody

As a side note, Geof: coffee on Sunday? We've had to miss the last few weeks, but it's good for Jeff and me to get out on weekends for a little while, and I've missed it.

I get a really creepy feeling from someone who openly admits he knows NOTHING of a situation and cannot comment on it, and then proceeds to say the kinds of things he said about it. And his email address is morningwood. And he signs his email as "Woody". Wow. I just cannot fathom the selfishness, narcissism, and insensitivity that someone must have to .... I'm in disbelief. As I said before, even if this guy is or was praying (which I doubt, since it seems like something he just says to feel superior - hence the narcissism), the Christian God I've grown up being told of would turn a deaf ear on any "prayers" that might leave his mouth as an effort to use his "belief" in God as a weapon against someone. What a shame that this guy gets to breathe air and walk around on this planet when so many more worthwhile people are much more deserving of the privilege. Amy, you were much more diplomatic about this than I ever would have been. I admire your grace and strength in dealing with this whole ordeal, especially in the face of words like these.

There's an element of sadness for me about this e-mail Amy received. One cannot read the e-mail Woody sent as a simple trolling post; my first reaction was that it was a back-hand to the gut that had to be taken at face-value. It is a reference to a post Jeff himself made on his blog over a year ago, yet sent to Amy because of the header she placed on those pages. There's no e-mail link, and this isn't a comment on the blog entry involved. This took deliberate action to create and send. One would hope deliberate thought has gone into it.

If so, I don't feel its presence: it states ignorance of the situation, while Amy has provided the link to her blog's Jeff page with details; quotes "life-threatening" in a way that suggests Woody is doubtful of that assessment; focuses on whether or not Jeff has acknowledged being prayed for by others, instead of whether he has recovered at all; and injects an issue concerning capitalization. If we're generous to Woody and assume his quotation marks are merely poor grammar, then it seems he is not willing to return the favor concerning capitalization. Given the content of Woody's e-mail, it is quibbling over a relatively trivial and irrelevant detail in the midst of stirring emotions concerning a larger issue.

As I said before, I can't see this as simply trolling. Why not post it as a comment on the blog? Why send any sentiments about prayer at all, if it is trolling? The impression I get is that this e-mail was in earnest, and that makes it such a hurtful thing for Amy to get in her Inbox.

Pure trolling could be ignored or laughed at. If something gets too outrageous, then the outrage becomes laughable in its extremity. But this has enough hallmarks of effort to not allow Amy that escape, and that makes it hurtful. Considering that apparent ignorance of the likely effect of his e-mail, I'm saddened by Woody for his blindness.

There is hope, if he seriously considers that Amy's response is an opportunity to both increase his awareness of how people respond to his words, and to actually make a difference instead of merely speaking.

Amy has a quote from the Epistle of James (chapter 2, verses 14-17) in her response, above. I find this fitting, because it expresses part of what my pastor said in response to a query from me about why some folks simply say "I'll pray for you" and do nothing else. She noted to me that you can ask them to pray for someone to come over and help clean the house. Prayer should be transformational, and asking for something so specific should give someone who merely intends to pray a moment of pause and reflection. Hopefully, Woody, you'll consider that.

If not -- if Woody is content to simply pray for Jeff, if the extent of his deeds is to voice opinions without regard for how hurtful they might be to his audience -- then a more fitting quote from James for Woody to read is probably chapter 1, verse 26: "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."



Bravo Amy.


May I say... What a dick. I can only assume people like this are narcissistic sociopaths, thinking their own selfishly-driven words are so important they need to disturb the peace of someone who's gone through so much. Please don't give another moment of your precious time and energy to this person!

I've been checking in now and then on the posts here to see how things have been going, being a bit of a lurker, but I must say what a true miracle of medicine and caring family/community it is to see someone recovering from something like this. I'm so glad for you both - not praying for you but wishing you well. Though it's unlikely, if I'm ever in your neck of the woods I'm allergic to cats, but I'd be happy to come by and do some weeding. ;)

For the record, God spoke to me and said if I lived any closer, I should take Tenzing to the vet.  At least in this case, I'm sorry I live in Ohio.

So, it's fairly obvious (to me) that Woody didn't really bother to read my entire post. It didn't say anything about my own religious beliefs. It merely pointed out the problems that I think anyone (regardless of religious affiliatin or lack thereof) should have had with Bob Marshall's position. My opinion is that Marshall's comment, if read for content, was approximately as offensive to Christians as to non-Christians.

Incidentally, for anyone who is curious, I encourage you to read my post in its entirety and make your own judgement:

By the way, I think my capitalization was quite appropriate, given Marshall's statement.