Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ten Things Parkinson's Disease Has Taught Me

10. I’m on the way to becoming irresistible to women.
They say women are attracted to men who are tall, dark, handsome, and soft spoken. Everyone keeps asking me to speak louder. So, I must be soft spoken. That’s already one-fourth of irresistibility. Sorry, ladies, I’m already happily married.

9. Even with a blunted affect, I still can’t play poker.
A blank facial expression might be good for poker, but for me, it makes people think I’m uninterested, when the fact is, I just don’t know how to play poker. But bored or thrilled, I just have the same poker face. Except when I laugh. I need to laugh more often.

8. I am not my body.
The person I’m talking about when I use the word I is not the same as my decrepitating body. I have to live inside it, and let me say it used to be a much more comfortable home than it is today, after so many years of weather. To change metaphors, my body is a car and I am the driver. The car is an older model—today, the radiator leaks, the engine isn’t running on all eight anymore, and the tires are going flat, but the driver is still fine. The driver just can’t go as fast as he used to. Sometimes he can barely get out of the driveway.

7. Feeling frustrated doesn’t make anything better.
You know, it’s kind of aggravating when my mind tells my legs to lift me up and all they can say is, “That’s above my pay grade. Let the arms do it.” I tell my legs that they are very muscled, but they say, “What’s it to ya?” And that chronic back pain; you feel it less was now that gets old after a while. And then there’s my diminishing ability to use my beloved tools. My right hand is getting increasingly uncooperative, so now I can’t seem to make a pair of pliers do what I used to do with them. But getting upset over all this doesn’t make a difference, so why bother to get upset? Besides, not many people like a grump.

6. I don’t take anything for granted.
My handwriting is already comical. Maybe I’m writing in secret code and I just don’t know it. I dare you to try to decipher it. But how much longer will I be able to type, even with my clumsy, disobedient fingers that insist on leaving out some letters and doubling others—even in the same word. But I can still type, sort of. This is a blessing. And those rebellious buttons that fight me every buttonhole. True, they no longer cooperate the way they did years ago, but, eventually, I can still button a shirt. This, too, is a blessing. In fact, I see every good thing as a distinct blessing, and not as an entitlement. Life is good—increasingly awkward, but good. Whether I eat a 99-cent taco or a prime steak, I’m content—no, make that happy. Grateful and happy. Some people take their health for granted. Big mistake.
5. I have a lot more compassion for the handicapped.
I’ve learned that we shouldn’t judge others by using ourselves as the standard of measure. We can’t fully understand what others are going through unless we ourselves have the same situation. I feel as if I’ve been put into a body that doesn’t belong to me. I ask, “Why is my body stumbling around?” and “Why does my tongue stumble, too?” and “Why is my handwriting so small? Is there a paper shortage only my hand knows about?” Yes, I feel awkward and conspicuous when I walk around. And now I know how other people feel who aren’t young and agile and “normal.” God bless them. So, less judgment, more empathy.

4. There’s no “Why me?” here.
When something bad happens to some people, they ask, “Why me?” when the real question is, “Why not me?” We’re told that in this world we will have tribulation. And while we’re quick to ask, “Why me?” when we get sick or hurt ourselves, how come we never ask, “Why me?” when we’re eating lobster on a vacation cruise or even licking an ice cream cone at home?

3. We can’t predict the future.
Seems as if every time we expect a high fast ball, we get a low curve ball instead. The fact is, only God can see around corners; we can barely see in a straight line. Maybe we should take the hint and trust God for our future instead of trying to outguess him.

2. I am now more aware of my mortality, and that’s a good thing.
Yep, we’re all gonna die. But we don’t think about it that much until the Lord calls our attention to it in a quite personal way. Gonna die. Check. Got it. Getting ready.

1. I still have hope.
I have hope—not that I will be cured, but hope for the kingdom of God. And hope for strength during the remainder of my stay here.
The Bible is a good place to find out about our hope. Isaiah tells us:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary;
there is no limit to his understanding.
He gives strength to the weary,
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.
—Isaiah 40:28-31 (HCSB)

Do not fear for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold onto you with My righteous right hand.
—Isaiah 41:10 (HCSB)

How Much Did Abraham Pay Ephron for the Field and Cave at Machpelah?

Monetary equivalencies are quite challenging, because we need to take into account the difference in purchasing power of gold and silver, which are frequent monetary units.  I use some equivalency standards to get ballpark ideas.

Example 1: Ephron's field. Abraham paid Ephron 400 shekels of silver for the field and cave at Machpelah. What is the equivalent? Note first that we must avoid using the metal evaluation method: 1 shekel of silver was 224 grains or 0.512 ounces. As I write this, silver is selling for $18.50 per ounce. That makes a shekel worth $9.47, and the cave and field selling for $3030. Pretty preposterous, huh?

Now, let's take the labor equivalency standard. A shekel was worth 4 denarii. A day's labor paid 1 denarius. A laborer today might make $10 an hour. For a day's work, 8 hours, that's $80. Therefore, a shekel would have had $320 worth of purchasing power. The field, at 400 shekels, then sold for the equivalent of $128,000, a very possible amount.

Another method I use is the bread equivalency standard. In the eighteenth century in England, a servant, paid well, might earn 30 pounds a year. A pound this morning is going for $1.32 US. That would mean that a servant was paid only $396 a year. But wait. In, say, 1750 a loaf of bread sold for a penny. In that era, there were 240 pennies to the pound, making 7200 pennies in a 30-pound salary. An inexpensive loaf of bread today sells for $2.50, making a salary equivalent of $18,000. (And remember that servants had housing and meals as part of their compensation.)

So, what does that make a marriage settlement of 10,000 pounds a year in those days among the upper classes? 10,000 times 240 times 2.50 is 6,000,000. Six million dollars a year would put the couple on a budget, but is they shopped carefully, they could make it.

I'm sure there are other equivalences that might shed light on purchasing power for a given income in the old days. I remember in my twenties I could fill a grocery bag for $3.50. Now it takes $20 or $30.