Sep 18, 2014

Kevin Korobko

I lost a dear friend today, one of the first people in that category that I've lost before his old age since I've been an adult. Kevin Korobko died early this morning from heart failure.

He and I wrote an article about him a few years ago that never went anywhere but that meant a great deal to him and to me. He enjoyed working on it with me and I thought it would be appropriate to share as a tribute and memorial to a very dear and good friend.

He is in Heaven now sharing some good laughs with his mother in the presence of his King.

Kevin is a metatropic dwarf. Dwarfism has become a relatively common sight in the public eye (Oompa-Loompas, R2D2, Little People Big World, Mini-me, Peter Dinklage). Metatrophic Dwarfism, not so much. Little people are generally aptly named: they are human beings on a slight scale with serious, but not life-threatening, aberrations in the skeletal system, just as genuine giants (such as Andre the) are human beings writ large with substantial skeletal mutations that are not immediately life threatening, though they do affect life expectancy.  Metatrophic Dwarfs are quite different. Similar to Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, and Cystic Fibrosis, Metatrophic Dwarfism falls in the category of diseases causing quite unglamorous physical disabilities. Unlike these other diseases, however,  Metatropic Dwarfism does not have a special fund for research and prevention, a special 5K here, or a grocery store aisle coin can there. It is a wholly unglamorous and unpopular congenital disease affecting 80 or so people across the globe.
     Metatropic – from the Greek “metatropos” suggesting changing systems and patterns
     Dwarfism – the state of being short in stature; the abnormal underdevelopment of the physiology.

     Kevin is constantly changing. Twice before the age of three, in the mid-70’s, his mother rushed him to the hospital for substantial changes in his body’s frame and substance. His doctors sent x-ray films of his body to Germany for a diagnosis as Metrarophic Dwarfism was not widely understood during Kevin’s childhood. The changes his body underwent were quite striking and harmful. The most damaging was the atlantoaxial Instability. He describes it in this way: “put one fist on top of the other. Now move your top fist to the left so it is just barely resting on the bottom hand. The bottom hand was my spine. The top hand was my head.” Kevin, of course, cannot place his hands on top of one another to show anyone this early condition of his spinal cord, but his words are sufficiently explanatory. The shift in his neck brought total paralysis. The only solution for this most disconcerting condition was a permanent spinal fusion linking his head to his body. He was placed in halo traction and confined to a stryker frame for three months encompassing Christmas. His head still bears the scars from the screws that were placed in his skull. He cannot remember a time before doctors fused his spine. And yet his body changed and still changes. His doctor visits last hours as he and his provider talk through every aspect of his health.

     Kevin is in love with Christmas. It is by far his favorite holiday. One of my favorite moments with Kevin was dressing his living room for the yuletide season with wreaths, candles, bows, stockings, lights, and a gloriously overburdened Christmas tree. Boxes from Kevin’s storage yield untold numbers of ornaments both ancient and modern. Here are the family photos from the seventies and eighties when Kevin’s body was most in rebellion. There are the fragile glass angels his mother gently laid on the tree.  The process of trimming the tree is somewhat arduous with Kevin as he likes things a certain way and is physically incapable of trimming it himself. To be anything less than patient with Kevin is cruel, even though he often (he will admit) inspires impatience in others with his fastidious insistence in certain areas of his life. Christmas, if it is to be done at all, ought to be done right, he believes. With his mother gone, Christmas is not done right every year. The memories of gladness can become waves of sadness at her passing every year.  Even that year, when my wife and I trimmed the tree with him and his father lit the lights that marked is house as a Christmas-loving home, we shared a moment of grief for her passing. She so loved Christmas, Kathi did.
     Kevin is a momma’s boy. Kathleen Noonan was born into a hearty Catholic family of ten children (naturally) who would take on jobs as mothers, plumbers,  carpenters, and anything else that required rolled up sleeves and sweat on the brow. The Noonans are not quitters: never have been, and never will be. They did not give up when her mother Julia Noonan begin forgetting to change the diapers on her youngest and could not remember where she was and why she had gone there. They did not quit when Julia was committed to a psychiatric hospital not long after she birthed her last baby. They did not yield to the oft-paralyzing instability brought by the loss of a parent at a young age when their mom forgot the faces of her own kids and her husband. They cared for one another as their mom’s mind slowly disappeared into the great void of Alzheimer’s. When two of the sisters evidenced signs of the disease they banded together to fight it by offering themselves to medical science at the NIH, among several other institutions, and started a bicycling fundraiser called Memory Ride that has raised millions for research.  To this day they are still fighting the faceless foe of their genetic disposition to this most cruel disease.

Kathi would not let Kevin quit when his Metatropic an excruciating surgery – the modern-day rack, he says – and marched him back and forth in the kitchen ten times in each direction. Her boy would walk, she knew. He would beat this thing, this Metatropic Dwarfism.

But Metatropic Dwarfism is not so easily tamed. Kevin’s body changed for the worse even as Kathi was trying to change it for the better. The instability in Kevin’s back was such that the doctors performed a laminectomy.  Kevin did not walk again. 

Something approaching bitter irony clouds a panoramic of Kathi’s life. The two diseases that defined it – Kevin’s and the cancer that took her life in 2001 – are  vastly different than the one that changed the rest of her family and marked her youth. How could she have seen these coming when her family was already caught up in the battle against Alzheimer's? Yet she was beyond a trouper; she was a warrior.  No quit in that one. Whatever in Kevin won’t quit as his body continues changing, well, that is Kathi fighting in him.

     Kevin is much like his father, more so than he might admit. Mickey is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. He likes trying new things, within certain tame and fiscally conservative limits. He owned corvettes. One of his favorite post-retirement activities is flying virtual planes around the globe via Microsoft Flight Simulator. He once scared the living daylights out of me by hollering from the pitch-black bathroom on the hallway I traversed to care for Kevin in the wee hours when I dressed and prepared him for work. I don’t know as I’ve ever seen Mickey laugh so hard. Kevin certainly enjoyed this new experience – scaring the pants off the help. Kevin inherited this try-something-new trait, though his body limits the range of his trying. Often I am roped – gladly roped, most of these try-something-new times – into helping Kevin experience a full life. My wife and I cruised with Kevin to Alaska on a trip whose heights included a helicopter tour over a glacier and a lovely train ride through the sullen grey-streaked mountains of the land of the gold rush and whose depths included several hours on a plane with Kevin sitting in my lap, his rear end too sore for him to sit in an airplane seat for a moment longer than necessary. He threw a massive birthday party for his 30th and another for his 40th because, hey, who lives as long as he has with this disability, anyway? (He is third in the longevity line among living Metatropic Dwarfs) Recently I helped push his chair over rough patches as we circumnavigated a nature trail near his home. Why did we do it? Because he wanted to know that he could. Kevin and Mickey like new experiences.

Not new food – no, they’ll have their Polish and Italian standards night after night, thank you – but new experiences.

Mickey is also a pretty tender man, more so than he might admit. What tenderness is required of a man who yields his life, his money, his time, his cars, his experiences, his would-be adventures for a son whose existence without him would approximate nothing like what it is now. Mickey invented ways of caring for Kevin in every part of normal human life. Mickey built the ramps, bought the right-sized house, opened the floor plan, painted the scuffs, charged the chairs, fed and walked the canine companions, woke in the latest hours of the night to wrap a blanket around his cold boy even as the boy became a man and neared middle age.  Age is slowly creeping up on Mickey.  And yet he remains; bathing, changing, and loving his son. He has given about all he has to give, and still he gives more. 

Kevin is like his father in his desire to help, to love, to serve; and it strikes me that his greatest frustration is his inability to help another person in the ways he has been helped.  He cannot satisfy every boy’s greatest wish, to be like his father, because he still needs his dad to meet the basic requirements of continual existence. So Kevin seeks to help others, inasmuch as he is able. He listens to as many people as come to him a patient and attentive ear. He has gently listened to me through the years, a gift that I have and will always treasure.
     Kevin is a man. He is not an asexual being floating along in his chair, perhaps your response when you see him. He wants a woman, a wife; a significant challenge for someone with his level of physical deformity. He’s had a girlfriend or two, but nothing lasting. I cannot imagine his frustration at his body. I cannot think of a soul in his life that wants Kevin to remain single, and yet single he remains.

He is hypercompetitive in the manliest way. He hates losing. Though others have to fetch the game pieces and though his roll of the dice is but a short flick of the wrist into the lid of whatever board game you are playing with him, he still triumphs when you move his piece the appropriate number of spaces and he beats you. He loves Risk and Settlers of Catan, games that combine luck with skill. He loves mating a good game with a good action movie. I’ve enjoyed many a manly competitive testosterone-filled afternoon with Kevin and talked manspeak as the afternoon waned.

     Kevin is a Christian. It is important to him that you know this fact. He believes Jesus saved him from his sins by dying on a Roman cross some two thousand years ago. He believes this in the face of the overwhelming physical curse that God, in his infinite goodness, has chosen to leave with Kevin despite numerous prayers to the contrary. Kevin has preached and read Scripture and prayed before his congregation. On Sunday mornings he ushers and serves communion. He credits his God for his parents’ marriage and the  peace they enjoyed through his teenage years and into college. His church picked him up from work and has ferried him to and from doctor appointments and other engagements. His church takes care of him when his dad is sick, took care of him when his mother was dying. His church brought him on as volunteer staff and yields to his opinion when it is a good one. They listen to him and love him. They share his view of Jesus. They view him as a child of God like them. Without his faith, Kevin says, he would have given up long ago.

     Kevin is a living challenge to your understanding of handicapped. He was not a massive drain on society or a waste of space. He finished a college degree and worked for the Social Security Administration for several years. (Imagine your surprise when you arrive to claim disability for a sore hand or bad back and there Kevin sits and works and takes your little claim.) He helps others in whatever ways that he can. He is loving and kind to his family and unfailingly writes cards and buys gifts for special events.

At the same time, Kevin was not and is not a spectacular success story of someone who accomplished an incredible deed in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He doesn’t feel like he needs to do these things to prove his value or have a meaningful life. The music did not swell as Kevin tried to walk and eventually failed: indeed, he could not and cannot walk. He has not written a best-selling book with the blink of his eye. He cannot draw with his feet or walk on his hands.

He is a white-collar man with a blue-collar heritage, an American man who likes family standards for dinner, Sinatra on the stereo, big-budget action flicks (and some chick flicks) on the big-screen TV, and rattle-the-windows sound from his oversized stereo speakers; loves a good argument (politics, religion, whatever); desponds in the face of purposelessness; battles his weight (63 lbs is 3-4 lbs too much); totes an iPhone; has recently made some foolish purchases he regrets; misses his mother. He is this and so much more that is reflective of you or someone you know, someone normal, someone average, someone who did not have his spine fused at an age when children are mastering the art of walking, someone who has not sat in a wheelchair day and night for decades, who has more mobility than the minute swing of an arm and the opening and closings of his hand.

Kevin was a normal, a regular guy, an average joe in many respects, but he was average in the face of insurmountable odds; average when his genes told him he should not have lived as long or as joyously as he did.

I will miss him.

Sep 8, 2014

#TakeDownThatPost ... and All the Others, Too!!

Charisma Magazine made waves with an awful post on piling up bodies in Jesus' name and was rightly called out on social media with the hashtag #TakeDownThatPost.

Why stop with one awful post? Let's survey a few and think about taking down these posts, too, shall we?


Anything about the "Spirit of Jezebel."

Apparently this is a thing:

4 Keys to Stop Tolerating and Start Breaking a Jezebel Spirit

"What makes this so significant is the fact that not only was the spirit of Jezebel not agreed with, but also she was not interfered with. The leaders of Thyatira allowed her to manifest in their church, and this was tragic! Jezebel will never be conquered unless she is confronted. It was so terrible to Jesus that He said, “I am holding this against you.” We must never tolerate what Jesus wants us to obliterate."
The 7 Demons That Might Be Attacking Your Church

"This spirit is basically the spirit of domination or an unwillingness to cohabit peacefully. This is not about women or liberation, for this spirit can attach itself to a man or a woman. Many may think that this spirit is identified with sexuality, believing that a woman who looks a certain way is a “Jezebel” in her character. But this is not so. A wolf can easily hide in sheep’s clothing.
When you find a spirit of Jezebel operating, you will also find an “Ahab” nearby, or someone in leadership who is allowing the spirit access and control."
How on earth do these peudotheologians arrive at this presumed theology of demon-possession/affliction and know - just know, intuitively, like "everyone knows this" - that these demons will show up in your church? What kind of exegesis is this? 

"A Jezebel spirit also hates the preeminence of Christ. There is no way to compete against it. The first time “preeminence” is mentioned is in Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (kjv). However, the second time we find the word, a Jezebel spirit is attempting to control a body of believers. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 1:9, kjv)."
This is so bad that I don't even know where to begin. Hermeneutics? Experience?

How would anyone ever know that this "Spirit of Jezebel" exists, and have these authors considered the kinds of conversations that could occur.

SCENE: Elder Board Meeeting

Elder 1: I think we should up the A/V budget to account for a new projector.

Elder 2: Well, we're running tight on the budg...


Elder 2: Uhhh....

Elder 4: Let him speak!



Really, most folks would argue that the Jezebel referred to in Rev 2 was a real person, and that this person was being called a Jezebel because of her effect on the church in question. There is no such thing as a demon of Jezebel. That's utter nonsense - #TAKEDOWNTHATPOST


Anything With False Prophetic Confirmation

The smiling face of Anne Graham-Lotz will haunt your dreams.

"It hasn't rained here in DC for several weeks. But, this afternoon a storm swept through our nation's capital. I saw several reports of a double rainbow over DC—again! Lots of folks posted photos of  the rainbow on Twitter.

"Though I sadly missed seeing it with my own eyes, I smiled real big when I read the news. I've lived in this town nearly seven years and can attest to the fact rainbows do NOT happen here that often. My friend The Lord has sent us yet another gracious sign that He has heard our prayers."

Apparently, for the rabidly smiling face of Anne Graham-Lotz, the double rainbow over WASHINGTON DC was confirmation that God was answering her call to prayer for JERUSALEM. Somehow. What?

This must be somebody that the theological establishment rejects, right?

Oh, wait...

Houghton College – Honorary Doctorate of Divinities
King College – Honorary Doctorate of Humanities
Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary – Honorary Doctorate of Divinities
Dallas Baptist University – Honorary Doctorate of Humanities
Seoul Women’s University – Honorary Doctorate
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Honorary Doctorate of Divinity


This wild interpretation of rainbow over DC wouldn't hurt so much if the BIBLE DIDN'T STRAIGHT UP TELL US WHY WE HAVE RAINBOWS


What? I don't even... I mean... siiigh. OK, a double rainbow is not a confirmation that anyone on Earth is qualified to judge. Not even the daughter of our most famous evangelist. #TAKEDOWNTHATPOST


I could go on, of course. So many bad articles, so little time. So many bad uses of stock photography, too... 

Why do we let slide abuses of Scripture, but raise our voices when someone puts to words a latent racism and islamophobia present among many Christians today? Why are we so abhorrent of this one man, when so many articles here are wrong? At some point, doesn't a source of information discredit itself beyond repair?

I'm going to pray about this and look for a double rainbow overhead.