Monday, February 28, 2005

If It's Broke, Fix It.

About a week ago, I tried to fix a broken closet door by standing on a pile of things which don't belong together. Of course it wasn't safe, and of course I fell. Using up at least three of my nine lives, I felt a sharp pain in my foot and looked down to see one of my toes askew. My first thought was to call for my husband who was sleeping on the couch, my second thought was to fix that toe--put it back where it belongs. I guess I'm just a fixer by nature. Needless to say, the toe stayed right where it was, jutting out rakishly and very sickeningly. My husband arrived and did the same thing, tried to put the toe back where it belonged. It was out of place. It was wrong. I asked him to stop because by then I realized that moving a broken toe around doesn't decrease the pain. In a very Stooge-like sequence of events, I made it to the emergency room with my toe at wrong angles to the rest of its mates. The events that followed are truly something directly out of a sitcom episode, but that's a story for another day. The X-ray showed the bone in my fourth right toe was indeed broken. The ER doctor said the best thing to do would be to tape it to toe #3 and asked if I wanted him to straighten it out first. Since both my attempts and my husband's had failed to put my toe back where it belonged, I figured it would be well to let someone with Novacaine and a medical degree take over. The shot of Novacaine was not a pleasant experience, but shortly the toe was numb enough for the doctor to pull and twist it back into some semblance of normalcy. Some tape, a walking shoe, a Vicodin Rx, a $100 copay and I was out the door on my own two feet. I spent the next two days icing my wounded toe and being waited on as much as my family would allow. There were still meals to cook and dishes to do, but I hobbled my way through as best I could. A visit to the orthopedic doctor a few days later assured me that my healing is on track. I need to wear my funky shoe for three weeks, keep #4 taped to #3, put my foot up when it hurts and await the X-rays to see if the doctor's work, my care and time have done the trick and healed my toe. The swelling and bruising are going down, and the pain isn't as bad as it was. I took my pain killers on schedule--ahead of the pain curve as the directions suggest. It's true, Vicodin kills some pain but creates a wakefulness that is both a deterrent to addiction and an opportunity to ponder. During one of my sleepless nights, I realized the older I get, the more I see that everything that occurs in my natural life has a spiritual parallel. On a different plane, that of my spirit, I have things that are broken and wounded. I can try to fix them myself or have someone else fix them. From the outside, it might even look better. But unless I go to the Great Physician and have him X-ray the problem, diagnose and then treat it, what is wrong inside will not be corrected. He may have to give me a cure that seems worse than what ails me. I know that Novacaine shot at the time hurt worse than breaking my toe, but it was for the purpose of making right what was wrong. If the doctor had left the bone twisted, I would have to deal with the future pain of a crooked bone. I may yet have to deal with the pain of having broken my toe, just as my wrist twinges from breaking it in high school. That's not the same thing as trying to walk on a toe healed wrong, though. If I don't follow the doctor's orders, my toe may not heal properly, just as my failure to follow through on God's prescriptions for me have left me half-healed and often worse off. I need to do two things: 1) bring my brokeness to God and let Him fix it; and 2) follow His directions for care after He begins the healing. Healing takes time. It always takes time. It can't be ignored by anethestizing or drugging it; it can't be shortcut. As much as I hate the thought of waiting for something to heal (my toe, my heart), there is no substitute. The Great Physician is the right man for the job, and I must trust Him and follow His orders to the letter if I want to be healed. Vicodin for the body and the soul is a short term fix, but I have to want more, to trust for more, to believe there will be a day when I can walk unassisted and without pain. It's not today. But that day will come.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The End of the Monarchy

I have two words to rationalize the dismantling of the monarchy: Charles and Camilla. God have mercy on England and on those of us who love England.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ship of Fools

If life is a boat, or in my case, a dinghy--I wonder what would happen if I jumped ship? What if my boat is leaky and sinking, and I refuse to get off. Am I going down with the Titanic? Will someone be playing 'Amazing Grace' as I slip gently beneath the icy waves? What if I jumped into someone else's vessel, either by invitation or as an act of piracy. How would my life change? I think about these things as I reflect on my choices. I've always chosen the safe route, as far as I can see. It's not necessarily bad, but it's definitely a pattern. Choosing schools, relationships and jobs based on familiarity, not excitement or challenge or risk. Very little risk involved. Cowering in the prow of my life, I let things happen to me rather than me happening to life. I'm not the one who took the Road Less Traveled and that has made all the difference. I would be different. I would dare and risk and live. But when I try (the few small attempts), I usually hate the outcome. I like my safe boring world. I know myself too well to change. As much as the antithesis looks exciting, I prefer the devil I do know to the devil I don't. My boringness may be terminal, but at least it doesn't hurt, most of the time. When it does, I can numb the pain with a book, a movie, a sleeping pill or a glass (or five) of wine. I may be on a ship of fools, but it's my ship. I know every nook and well-worn cranny. Perhaps someday I'll try or be something different, but I haven't met a catalyst big enough to do it yet. I am doomed, fated, destined to take the Road More Traveled, and it really has made all the difference.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Essence of All Things

As a friend of mine spoke yesterday, I caught a train of thought and was whisked away. She mentioned the discussion Jesus had in the Gospel with a lawyer (yes, even the Messiah had to deal with them). The lawyer asked "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Without hesitation Christ answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:36-40) It was that last statement that sounded the whistle to contemplation. Loving God and loving my neighbor are the essence of God's Word. In my mind's eye I could see the Scripture being distilled (which is to purify, refine or concentrate, to obtain the part that is essential and pure) to these two thoughts. As a fine perfume, the Holy Writ's fragrant blossoms harvested and refined to essential oil then combined for a sweet savor, a scent beyond compare. I thought about the meaning of the words essence and essential. They come from the Latin word 'essentia'--to be. Essential is the fundamental nature of a thing which must be present for the thing to exist, to function. And my heart cries out. That is why Jesus said "HEAR, O ISRAEL. The Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Jesus referencing Deuteronomy 4:5,6 in Mark 12:29, 30). This is it, guys, listen up. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. Pay attention. Nothing matters like this. If you never get anything else, get this. The train of thought stops and lets me off at my destination. I look up. The station sign black and white before me reads: Essence. I know I've arrived. I know the essence of all things. Love God and love others, but love God most.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tsunami relief

My beloved friend and fellow sky watcher and I have been pondering the whole "waiting on God" part of the Christian life. Like Peter we are sitting in the boat, and the storm is raging. The question is, step out and walk by faith to Christ or sit in the boat and wait for Him to come to you? The answer is yes. Both. It depends. I am prone to jump out of the boat and walk by faith at the wrong place and the wrong time. Here comes a tsunami. Jesus is nowhere in sight, and I leap from the vessel, tired of waiting on Him, valiantly planning to succeed on my own. I am crushed beneath a wall of water (or circumstances, problems, call it what you will) and wash up mostly dead on the beach. He picks up my ragged carcass and says, "Why did you do that?" I have no response. Take two, He is walking toward me on the water and beckons. I pretend I don't see Him. I don't have my glasses on, so He must be pointing at someone else. He calls my name, but I shake my head. Everyone knows when you don't have on your glasses, you can't hear either. I'm not ready to get out of the comfort zone. People drown in deep water, Lord. There are sharks. Slimy things might touch my legs. I have an itemized list of why it's a bad idea. Do you want it alphabetical or chronological? He looks at me again, will I come and join the dance? "Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’ t you, won’ t you join the dance?" I sit this one out. "Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance. Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.*" He gets to the boat and says, "Why did you do that?" I have no response. And I think of Robert Frost's poem 'Wild Grapes' "Don't you weigh anything? Try to weigh something next time, so you won't Be run off with by birch trees into space." It wasn't my not weighing anything So much as my not knowing anything-- My brother had been nearer right before. It's not so much my not weighing anything (trust me there), but my not knowing anything. Or more specifically, not knowing Him. If I really knew Him, I'd trust Him enough to stay put when He tells me to and to come when He calls. Even my dog can do better than that. Perhaps even my cat. Take three. I'm in the boat, the storm is raging. He's nowhere in sight, so I stay put. Waiting on Him. Trusting He'll show up and get this boat to shore. Or if it sinks and I die, there'll be dying grace or resurrection. Some amazing miracle that only He could do. He's done it before a million times, for the Bible tells me so. I hear a noise in the boat and turn. There He is. He was there all the time; I just couldn't see Him. Were there scales on my eyes? He smiles at me because this time I did what He wanted. I have no response to that, but this time that's okay. Take four. I'm still in the boat, and a new storm is raging. Scanning the swells, I see Him. My glasses are wet with the spray, but I don't miss the beckoning. He bids me come--out on the waves. I can hear His voice calling. It's my name, not anyone else's. My list is still there, ready to be trotted out--to tell Him all the reasons I shouldn't come. Physics is against me, for one. I'm ready, though, to try. I step from the boat and walk toward Him. Because He's there, the tsunami may swell over my head, but it cannot kill me unless He says so. If it doesn't, I'll be with Him. If it does, I will too. I take a step, and He smiles. He doesn't need to ask why, and I don't need to respond. And that's okay. (Thanks to Lewis Carroll's 'The Lobster Quadrille'.)

What up with that?

I have a few very dear friends who are single (and not in some limbo between one and the other). They aren't necessarily in a rush to find Dr. Right, but they wouldn't mind him making a house call in the near future. Are the good ones all taken? I see a pattern. People single in a rush to be a couple, and couples in a rush to be single. It's the Star-bellied Sneeches all over again. I can be Sylvester McMonkey McBean and make a killing. I digress. So, as a faithful friend and voyeur, I went on a Christian singles website to find potential matches for my friends. Yikes. I put in the stats--gender, age, area of the country. Placed before me is a menu of men. Interesting thought. I read many of them, sorting by criteria important to my friends (and to me). Faith, education, finances, height and weight. It's easy to rule candidates out. Finding Dr. Right is no easy job. That's why they need me. And, I suspect, many of those men need me (or someone like me) to help them clean up their portfolio. This is your first impression, and we all know from our mothers how important first impressions are. With that in mind, here's some advice to the lovelorn as they seek their soulmate: Use a good picture of you. If you don't have one, get one. Don't use one with your ex still in it or obviously cut out. Run a spell check. For heaven's sake. It's not rocket science. If you don't, you risk ruling out anyone literate. Answer the questions. If you don't care enough to put some thought into what kind of person you want, you don't really want her (or him). Cease and desist with internet punctuation and sentence structure. Use capital letters and periods where they belong, otherwise someone might confuse your writing with their thirteen year-old daughter or niece's instant messages. Spare me. Spare your potential prince or princess. Don't lie. If you're fat, say so. If you work at Arby's, be honest. If your last relationship broke up because you were a class A you-know-what, own up. We're pushing forty, or we've pushed past it, so don't pretend to be Brad Pitt or Jennifer Anniston. They have enough troubles of their own. ( But if things don't work out, Brad, here's my number.) Be creative but not over the top, witty but not too too, unless that's you--then just be you and let the chips fall where they may. We all know from Brady Bunch reruns that we want people to like us for who we are, not who we pretend to be (remember Jan and George Glass?). Be you, and if there's a crooked lid for your crooked pot, he or she is out there somewhere--maybe even on the same website you are. Take a few minutes to brush your hair and put on a clean shirt, so to speak, and Dr. Right might take a second look, and maybe even make a house call.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Live Like You Were Dying

The other night I saw Tim McGraw's CMT video "Live Like You Were Dying." There's good ol' Tim in his jeans, with his perfect teeth telling me to smarten up. He even plucked at the heart strings with some video clips of his dad who just recently died of cancer. It's easy to sing about living full out as if there's no tomorrow. Here's the problem though, if I'm not really dying (as in a specific ETA I've been given), it's impossible for me to do. I always know in the back of my head that I'm just pretending, so I pull my punches, I fake it. I haven't looked death in the face and embraced it's truth, it's reality, it's finality. It's a subjective destination--like being thin or self disciplined or righteous--will I ever really get there? In our society, death is kept at arm's length. Sick and disabled people are kept far from us, and dead people are sanitized, starched and made up and then boxed up: out of sight, out of mind. It's a Brave New World we live in and everybody is healthy and wealthy and wise, certainly not sickly or dying or, perish the thought, dead. So, Tim, when I'm not really at death's door, how do I live as though I were dying? I don't know what it's like to die. Even though my adolescent and post-adolescent ruminations often glorify it--usually as a mode of vengeance (won't he be sorry when I'm gone, serves her right, etc.), I'm as alive as I can be physically speaking. How can I live, to steal the phrase, as if I had no fear? Now fear is something I know. For me, it's hidden away in the most indecipherable of motivations, but I know it's there. It drives most of what I do, if I'm honest. Jesus says to fear not, that perfect love casts out fear. The Bible talks a lot about not being afraid. That indicates to me that fear must be a common denominator for all of us. God wouldn't tell us not to do something if we never did it. He's not a waster of words. The crux of it, then, is that I don't know how not to fear nor do I know how to live like I were dying (although I reckon the song said live like you was dying). What that leads me to is telling God how incapable I am of succeeding at this task. But if he would kindly push the eject button, I wouldn't object to being shot from my helplessness into the wide open spaces of life in the face of death and freedom from fear. The Serenity Prayer I used to think was so trite is now one of my favorites: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Perhaps it's what I've been seeking all along--the impetus to shoot me into living life for real--knowing what I can change, accepting what I can't, being able to tell one from the other. Serene, courageous and wise. Sounds like living to me.