Category Archives: Uncategorized

To Care

Here is a common refrain: if you are having problems with depression and you need more gratitude, focus on serving others.

Here is my problem: what if the majority of your existence is already serving others? What if the cause of your emptiness is that you are giving all day, and there are people after people looking at you to give more, pleading with you to help them in a way you simply do not know how to help?

I know we so often taken for granted things like food, but how do you be grateful for food when you can’t taste, you’re nauseous, you don’t feel hungry at all, and you are simply putting food in your mouth and mechanically chewing, because you know the vehicle of your body technically needs fuel?

The part that seems so rarely discussed is that in caring for others, you carry their burdens. It is not a costless equation; far from it. For you to lift suffering is to take at least a measure of suffering upon yourself. This is by no means an argument that it shouldn’t be done. But it does seem unusual and cruel to turn it into a job.

Care for your neighbor, yes. Dredge up all the neighbors and ship them off to be cared for, the pain and weight falling on those deemed appropriate to care? How can it not become more than can be carried? Is it right at all to learn to not care, to build up walls between you and others, to get a callous to protect yourself? We justify it on the grounds of still being able to do the work, but then there are a hundred thousand people begging that we learn to be vulnerable, that we don’t actually have human connection with each other.

Is it fair to say that since I care more than you, it is my right and responsibility to learn to care less? Or do I merely endorse the destruction of my human self on the twisted framework of society? Or is this what it means to be poured out like a drink offering: painful and soul-sucking and right and true for the passing breath of this life?

If the latter-most is true, it makes you long for the end of the age. I can find nothing to refute it, but it bleeds the hope out of tomorrows. The draught put before you will never be empty, never be less bitter, will never choke less when you swallow. Where do you put the gratitude in that, other than hoping that someday it will all be over?

It hurts.

testing

migrated to a new server, testing functionality

Thinking

I have been thinking, which is, actually, a good thing. It was one of the reasons I realized it was time for a break. When you’re too busy to think, you really are too busy.

I think about life, because life means something different to so many different people, depending on the time and place, the culture and the societal positioning. What people accept is largely based off of what they expect.

I am poor, but I am not poor. I am lonely, but not lonely. I care a lot about taking care of others, but I’m deeply self-absorbed. It all depends where along the sliding scale you put me. I see or hear people who pack up everything and move, and I think, I have too much stuff. But I worry about my stuff. About the noise my car is making and about my laptop dying. But does it matter at all? There’s always the third-world argument. Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what I’d be like if all my “stuff” was stripped away. Would I be less anxious, if I didn’t think I ought to expect the perfect solution? If I realized that eating and sleeping were already two of the biggest gifts a person could have?

I tell myself it doesn’t really matter, because I am here, so here is where I am. But somehow it does matter, because God is everywhere, and where God is truly is important. Not the bubble of me. How do you get outside of the bubble of you, when you are wherever you go?

Part of what I struggle with is the understanding and belief that God is using me, and will use me. This sounds silly, maybe, given how when I just recently quit my job I had patients and past patients tearing up and telling me resolutely that they were happy for me. But it is true; vanities of vanities tends to catch up to me. It’s too hard, often, for me to remember that if God is everywhere, that includes right here. Even when that bubble seems to envelope me, and I can’t seem to hear anything but my own pulse throbbing in my ears–God is still there, working. Working, and using me, even when I don’t realize I’m being used as a vessel of His grace. He doesn’t let us know ahead of time–“OK, get ready now, because I’m just about ready to use you!” It’s frequently in the subtle things that we don’t even realize we’re doing: the smiles to random strangers, the “just doing my job” times, the listening when someone speaks.

Be we–or at the very least, I–are results driven. Okay, there, I did that. What did that accomplish? What happened because of what I did? Was it worth it? Should I do it again? Was it all a mistake? Did any good come out of that? Even results-driven in terms of planning. What is the point of that? What will it accomplish? Will the benefits outweigh the costs?

But I wonder if that really a valuable metric. If so often we can’t see the benefits of what we’ve done or where we’ve been, is attempting to measure the benefits any use at all? The obvious statement would be that there is no metric, but this feels too vague and undefined. Maybe there is some other metric with which to measure the worth of your decisions and life. But every metric I’ve seen is equally unsatisfying. They’re missing the point. What is the point?

Walking with God.

Where is God?

So I see myself subconsciously trying to make God more tangible. If the important thing is being with God, then let’s make God easier to hang on to, so we don’t get so easily side-tracked. It makes me realize how false religions are so easily started, because it can be so hard to hold on to something that isn’t tangible. I’m a hands-on learner. How am I supposed to learn about something, some One, I can’t put my hands on? You’re supposed to walk with God and talk with God, but you can’t see Him and can’t hear Him.

I complain, but I already know. How many times has God told us, again and again, to seek Him? That’s active, and that’s intense. It isn’t usually, “Look, admit it! I’m standing in front of you with a big, flaming sword. Helloooo? I’m right here!!!” Instead it is–Seek Me. Find Me. Search. Look. Ask. Be persistent. That always gets me. For some reason it really bugs me that God basically says, “Look, you have to nag. Don’t ask just once. Be like the widow. Pound on the door like the guy at midnight.” I mean, it’s encouraging that I’m not doing something wrong when I don’t get an answer as soon as I ask. But it’s really frustrating all the same. Can’t we just, you know, deal with it like adults? Talk it over, agree on a course of action and move on? What’s up with all this pounding on the door stuff?

Here’s the thing. Sometimes people like to get together a monastery so they can better devote their time to concentrating on the God-ness. That’s faith, right? But God is all about loving people, so you go out into the world to love people. (That’s works, right?) But now there’s all that hustle and bustle and cares of this world, and sometimes it’s hard not to lose your steadfast gaze on God, and then everything falls to pieces. And we know we need both–faith and works, or faith showing itself by works–but it’s so hard not to try to find some kind of formula that will keep you on the straight and narrow. If you could just nail the right proportion of withdrawing quietly before God and going out into the world to be His ambassador, you could keep a razor-sharp focus on Him always. Right?

I know there is no formula, the same way I know I need this time of quiet. I only find myself looking for it because everything is so much easier if you can keep your eyes on God “with childlike simplicity.” When you’re busy marching around Jericho blowing on the horns, you can either stand there thinking to yourself, “What I am doing? Seriously, stomping around in a circle and making noise? Who am I kidding? Maybe I need a new plan. Maybe I need to be blowing harder. I guess maybe if there were enough of us stomping hard enough at one time, maybe it would cause a mini-earthquake. Let’s see, how many people would we need to get that going? If each footfall is approximately 80 pounds of force. . .”

Or you can say, “Dude! God has this under control, and I’m just here for the party. Let’s stomp around and make noise!”

I want to do the latter, but I’m nearly always doing the former. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s probably something more important to be done then stomping around and make noise (results-oriented, remember?) or else that I’m not stomping and making noise good enough, and that probably I should be doing it better. But other times, I get this other feeling. One that says I’m trying too hard, and I should just show up for the party. I should stand and watch God work, the way I used to watch adults working. Sometimes you could go and fetch them something, but mostly you just watched in fascination and tried figure out what was going on and how it was all going to work together and be amazed as everything came together. It was cool. It was kind of relaxing, sometimes. You felt like you were learning, but the world didn’t depend on you.

Sometimes I think we wish we had more of a bird’s eye view of what the heck was going on. But I think we imagine that angels have more of a bird’s eye view, and then it says the angels are busy watching us to learn what God is up to. So maybe the bird’s eye view is over-rated. I think maybe it is more in the attitude, as much as a results-oriented person finds that annoying. You can say, “Oh, God, please show me what You are doing and how you want me to be a part of it!” all angst-ridden. Or you can search out what God is doing just to enjoy what God is doing, without being worried that you’re going to screw-up God’s symphony by playing your triangle half a beat late.

I am finding that dwelling on the smallness of me and my reasons and my resources is getting me nowhere. God made me, He already knows my smallness and weakness, and that’s not the point. The point is His greatness and His reasons and His resources, and that they are to be sought and enjoyed. Both, together.

My patients would sometimes complain to me, “This isn’t easy!”

“No, of course not!” I would laugh back. “If everything was easy for you, you wouldn’t need my help and you wouldn’t be here!”

Sometimes I think we get mad that it’s so hard to seek God, but I don’t think He is under any impression that it would be easy for us. That’s why He tells us over and over again to do so; if it were easy, He wouldn’t have to encourage us to do it. The same with being thankful, or being joyful, or being still. God, why is it so hard to be still? But if it were easy for us to be still, He wouldn’t have to tell us. If it were easy to know that God was with us, He wouldn’t have to tell us, over and over and over again. We feel like we’ve failed when we can’t do those things, but we’re right where God knows we’re at. Yes, it is hard for you to be still. Let’s practice it. It will bear fruit. Yes, it is scary for you to trust Me. This is how you’ll learn that I love you, and I want you to learn how much I love you. So it is time to do scary things, and My love will drive out your fear.

I want to know what we’re doing, but what we’re doing is learning about God’s love. I want Him to make me into a better and better Martha (poor Martha; and if I held to patron saints, she’d likely be mine), and what He is saying is, “Honey, you’ve got it all wrong. I came here to do the work. You’re here to benefit from it. Come sit down and learn how much I love you, and stop trying so hard to impress me. I already know you; you need to come know Me.”

I’m climbing over the edge of the boat, but there’s an awful lot of wind and waves. Hold out Your hand, and keep saying my name over and over. . .and over. . .

REBOOT

How often do you re-boot your computer? If you are energy conscious and dutiful, maybe you are one of those people who shuts off your computer at the end of every day, and re-boots it the next morning. If you are like the rest of us dreadful people, you run the thing into the ground as it becomes progressively more buggy and finally crashes, ceasing to function. Then you re-boot, and start it all over again.

I think I’m currently in the process of re-booting my life. I am hoping (ever the optimist) we are past the crashing and the blue-screens of death, but the re-loading appears to be taking sometime. De-fragging may be necessary. Cupcakes may be called for.

If all else fails, I expect I may need to jerry-rig a household vacuum cleaner to blow all the static out of the lines.

Word

God spoke the Word and the world was made, in it’s entirety and complexity and confounditity.

Ever since, man has been speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking, somehow thinking that if the could just speak enough, they could box creation and contain it. Maybe even they think that if they can learn to speak well enough, they to can create by speaking.

But it’s horribly, terribly tedious, and frequently a dreadful waste of words and time and effort.

I’m sure that’s wickedly unscientific of me, but really. It’s as impossible as trying to pick up a wiggling piglet made of red-jello. You can’t put God in a box, and He marks His creation with the same attribute. You can’t explain the human condition with words, no matter how large your book or how many initials you put behind your name.

Observe it? Possibly, parts of it.

Confine it, define it, and make tidy little rules? Ha. Have fun. I’d rather make cookies; among other things, I’ll be more successful than you.

Most tedious of all is the arrogance of assuming man-made rules can contain a God-made universe.

Sat. Eve. Blog Post

A blog I follow does things thing called the Saturday Evening Blog post. . .she invites her readers to leave a link to their favorite blog post of the last month (that is, their favorite post they have written). I like the challenge to at least write one post per month that is good enough you would like to broadcast it to the world. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I can do that.

This month was a double feature, and I actually felt like I had two posts I could offer up, so I did–Where Are You from July, and Pandora’s Box from August.

(Part of the SEBP deal is to link back to the place where all the links are gathered so more people can get in on the fun, hence this post.)

You know your population is aging when Physical Therapy is the new Town Hall.

“. . .and it hasn’t gotten better, I can tell you that. I had more fun back in the Great Depression than I do now!” His statement was emphatic, but more surprising was the unexpected, vigorous “That’s right!” from across the room.

Every clinic has elderly patients coming in, and in every clinic patients invariably share notes, get friendly, and start chatting. This being a rural clinic, topics tend to take a different slant than more urban locations. Still, in the midst of the repeated implications from the media that The Great Depression is the sort of thing to be spoken about in hushed tones and avoided no matter what the cost, it is extremely striking to have a handful of people who lived through the Great Depression saying “It wasn’t as bad as all that–in fact, it was better than this mess!”

Don’t get me wrong, some of that, I’m sure, has to do with what rural people find a hardship. Being told what to do with your property, your money, your life–those are hardships. Being poor is just a way of life. More urban areas, it would seem, consider being poor a terrible, horrible, unmitigatable disaster–but having everything dictated to you, down to what type of bed sheets and lightbulbs you can use, is just a way of life.

But part of me can’t help but wonder. . .what was the Great Depression like? The reason I say that is because it seems that anyone who dares, dares to say that it wasn’t the most horrible thing that ever befell us is dismissed as not knowing what they’re talking about. There is, I know, a certain part of us that likes to see the years of our youth in a golden light. . .but they were there. And various talking heads have summarized what they have decided has happened, and have proceeded to shove it all at us obvious fact.

And I know that the Great Depression affected different people in different ways, depending on a multitude of factors. That sorta is my point. To take one period of history, declare it horror, and apply it to all locations and all classes and all lives–is just plain silly. With the terror the Great Depression is painted with, no one, any where, should possibly be able to be discussing it in more flowery terms than the present.

For some peculiar reason, though, I’m extremely reluctant to dismiss first hand accounts.

Hometown

Caleb took a shot of this house while I was driving, and it reminded me of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed in the wee early hours of the morning, and drove off toward Town. It was light as though the sun were up, but it was such a hazy, cloudy, dense morning that you could hardly call it bright. The thickness of the weather would soon result in rain, but as of yet there wasn’t even a breeze. Everything just hung closely to the ground and staid put.

I rounded one of our large, sprawling hills, and the view opened up into the valley that contains Town. Most fittingly, there before me was a scene that made me think quite strongly of the Twilight Zone. I don’t have a picture for you, because I was on my way to take my boards examination, and quite honestly the last thing on my mind under those circumstances (weighty exam, early hours, etc) was the thought of taking along my camera in case there was something noteworthy (in the testing center. Where they make you strip off every shred of electronics, including your analog watch, and lock it away, lest somehow technology give you the answers to the universe).

Embedded in that thick haze were several of these mysterious orbs, all blue-green-grey. They weren’t moving there; they were just dispersed over the city, hanging there oppressively, waiting, watching.

After doing a few double takes, I finally realized what I was seeing. The local festival had launched it’s hot-air balloons–yes, even at such an absurdly early hour. The humid haze was muting all of their bright colors to the point they all looked something the color of little army men or split pea soup. When they lit their fires, the bright flash of light seemed no less ominous. They weren’t moving because there was no wind. So 8 or so of these balloons, strung out over the valley and looming over the city, were deprived of every ounce of festivity and instead equipped with a very foreboding the-mothership-is-here sort of feeling.

They were so low, and so still, whatever doom they were bringing seemed to be quite near. They were so much so the color of the weather, it seemed as though they were the ones responsible, settling this obscuring cover over all of the closest thing this area can call civilization. It was horribly eerie, and you couldn’t get away from it. Every time you rounded another corner, they were still there, but now even closer.

Fortunately, the rest of society was oblivious to their danger, and so we escaped without harm. Riots, hysterical screaming, looting and military crack-down were all avoided.

Probably the Town didn’t notice their impending danger because they weren’t looking at the sky, and they probably weren’t looking at the sky because it was absurdly early on a Saturday morning.

Which just goes to show you that one can avoid a lot of horrible fates if one just has the sense and good fortune to stay in bed, particularly on Saturday mornings.

ta-da!

um, hi. Did you notice we were re-wall-papering? Special thanks to my brothers for indulging me!!

Licky’s preferred way of fishing. . .

They say this is in a “flooded drainage ditch”. I almost think that’s the most amazing part. . .