A Rock Feels No Pain

In despero , obscurum ; In Diligo , Lux lucis. (In despair, darkness; In Love, Light). -Me

Mission: Dominican

Mission: Impossible

Mission: San Marcos

Well. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and longer still of any substance; and this one, too, is delayed, but I am still processing, still trying to think of all that went on, that I learned and felt and the times we shared.

So, practical things first. A couple of weeks ago, on the 28th of June, 21 people set out at the crack of dawn. Sixteen kids, from 14-18, and five adults, from some age to 47. We met at 0-dark’thirty, at the Church, and boarded a chartered school bus. We rode said bus, to the Newark, NJ, airport, and got off at terminal C. (It would have been silly to get off anywhere else, because that’s the terminal the flight was departing from, you see. I know you were worried about why we chose that terminal, and now you know).

Anyway, we herded and corralled, and counted heads a lot, and worked 21 people through security, immigration, boarding-pass checks, and onto the plane. A few (short!?!?!?) hours later, about 1230, we disembarked at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and began a great adventure in hard work, sharing, laughter, tears; in working, building, sweating, bleeding; in short, we started a week of mission work to the San Marco area of the Diocese of The Dominican Republic.

I can’t tell you, how proud of those kids, I am. Sixteen teenagers, working in dirt, shoveling, carrying concrete, heaving buckets of water (“Mas Agua! Mas Agua!”). We dug, we sweat, we panted; we sang, we laughed. We made friends, even across the language barriers. We learned that in this country, in our cozy little tiny-village lives (Yeah, small- the population of the “bigger” village, where our church is located, is estimated at 6663, as of 2007; the hamlet I live in, next to that village, is so tiny they don’t measure population separately from the surrounding areas), just how blessed we are, how fortunate.

We spent that week working, on a building site that will eventually become a Church, School and shelter for single- moms. Our little band turned out to be the first group in. The Padre we worked with had never had a mission group to work with before, and indeed, we were the ground breakers for the entire project.

Not to minimize the physical, for the kids did an incredible job, considering- 250′ of trench for a foundation, 18” deep and wide; concreted mixed, barrowed and poured that length, and cinderblock wall to about 4′, for most of that length, using hand tools like hoes, shovels and picks; some of our young ladies are almost five feet tall, and might weigh 100 lbs, and they worked without a serious complaint, for a week, in temperatures that approached 100, with 90% plus humidity. Not a single one of us were seriously hurt; as the designated first-aide guy, I had to flush two kid’s eyes, one for a bit of rock chip, and one for sunscreen dripping, but other than that my primary concern was blisters, hydration, and sunblock. (After all, I had to bring ’em back in the same shape I took ’em from moms and dads, right?).

So, the upshot, was a lot of hard physical labor.

But-

The most wonderful parts, had nothing to do with that. As great as they were at work, the gang of kids were even better, at mission and outreach, at connecting and friendships. Each one, in their own way, joined hands with neighbors and friends that we hadn’t met yet. Smiles, laughter, little ditties in Spanish, little ditties in English, clapping to the beat of songs we didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, set the stage for a deeper relationship. (I wish I could remember some of the little movements and words, to a little thing we learned from a 14 year-old gal, that first night; we have video, but I don’t have it here, but oh Lordy, we laughed!).

Some of the things that stand out, with crystal clarity-

  • The Dominican workers refusing lunch until we, the “guests”, had eaten; and, on the last day, when they realized they’d not purchased enough food for the entire week- watching them eat ketchup sandwiches; some of which, were cut in half, so each would get something.
  • The grandmother of one of the little girls opening her home, humble as it was, so we could use her bathroom- and, although clearly impoverished, offering me a cup of cafe, as if she had gallons to spare. (I know she didn’t, because 1. I could see her supply of coffee, and it wasn’t much, and 2. All water had to come from bottles, you’d no more brew gallons of coffee than you’d water plants with your drinking water).
  • The look on a couple of our teenager’s faces, when they realized, in horror, that one of the workers was barefoot not by choice, but because he didn’t own a pair of shoes. The look on those same faces, as well as the worker’s, as they took him to the little peddler’s cart and bought him a pair of shoes.
  • Later, the gratitude on Joan’s (Pronounced jo-ahn, and it’s a male name- we kept wanting to call him Yohann, lol) face, too, when he received a pair of shoes from the feet of one of the boys. (Does it count that I did bring some of ’em home shoe-less, albeit healthy?)
  • The gentle kindness of the Padre, as he bent to speak to the little girls that flocked around us, after we started our days with a prayer service in the teeny shed that acted as the church, for now, explaining why they couldn’t wheel the wheel barrows full of sacks of concrete up the street for us.

There’s so much more, so many little things that I can’t recount, I can’t express some of it yet, I’m still processing the whole trip, the whole community we formed to go, and expanded while we were there; the welcome we were given to join that far-off group, the love we all held, and showed.

Why, today, am I writing this? Well, cuz we had a follow-up meeting with the ‘gang’, today, after Church. We managed, it seems, to raise a substantial amount more than we needed, and the kids decided it would be appropriate to give it back to our parish, who had contributed so much to the trip; but, they also decided, on their own, that they needed to continue this connection, and all we heard for an hour, was how they could do more for the people of San Marcos.

Yeah.

It costs $300.00 (US), per year, to send a child to school, up through high-school. That includes tuition, uniform, books, etc. So our gang, today? They figure that if each of the twenty of us did just a little bit, per month, that we probably wouldn’t even miss, well; “Pauloa, Joan, Roberto… they could go to school!”

Yeah

Proud, I am, so proud of that gang.

And I love ’em all, each one.

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Filed under: blessings, friends, friendship, God, musings, spirituality, , , , , , ,

Friends, Thank you!

The last few posts I’ve done here, have been back and forth, and not particularly spelled out; but, I have to say this: despite some knocking, despite some attempts by that ol’ black thing, to sneak back around-

You beat it back.

Yes, I know, “I” did it- but dammit, you all were here, even when I didn’t answer your comments, even when I’ve been so bad about commenting on your blogs (I do read, promise!)- and I’m grateful, for that.

Even now, you’re there, you’re here, and I can feel it. It is a wonderful feeling, to me, to have people that care. In so many ways, this is a new feeling to me; I was commenting just the other day, to a dear friend, that the old tagline of my blog (in it’s first iteration) was “I Am The Invisible Man”.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am, to each of you, that I no longer feel invisible; so, thank you- all of you:
Craig
melissa
imetam
redheadeditor
buttafly32681
emily
phyllis
lb
db
sb
ms

I wanted to say that, and also to let you all know, including the folks that inquired via email or IM- I’m okay. I’m okay, and doing better than ever, and the light is shining far above, spreading it’s warmth.

Thank you again & God bless all of you-
Dave

Filed under: "mental illness", depression, emotions, friends, friendship, God, invisibility

David and the terrible-awful-no-good-day

Today, March 13th, is a terrible-awful-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

But not for me, anyway. Today, for me, is a day like any other day. I got up, went to work, did some research, put together some analysis, had lunch- really, just a day.

But I feel great. The only thing I can point to, is simply related to the last few posts.

I’m alive.

I have God.

I have family.

I have friends.

So I’m feeling happy and content and at peace, at the moment.

I hope YOUR Friday, is just as nice in it’s own way, for you.

Filed under: "mental illness", emotions, family, friends, friendship, God

Not My, but Thy

(This is really long, and rather wandering, but I needed to write it, and post it- so my apologies in advance)

I’m jumping back again, back to the fall of 2006. This would be post suicide-by-truck-into-bridge-averted-by-some-other-powers-hands-on-mine-that-saved-my-pretty-useless-carcass-for-some-reason (at the time) unknown-to-me timing. This would be post drop-the-kid-off-for-his-first-year-at-the-university timing. Post (or during?) the find-out-about-things-in-our-relationship-that-are-not-so-good-to-find-out-about timing. Anyone following that? No? Me either, but that’s okay.

The important parts, of the whole time period then, are varied- it’s sufficient for some of it, to simply note that a whole lot of garbage has been worked through, sorted, thrown away and is gone. A lot of ripping out of the deadwood, to leave behind what is real, and true, and valuable, in my relationship with Lynn. Of course, there is the minor detail that I’m still alive and around to care about this stuff, which along with our caring about one another again, is an ongoing process, as well as an ongoing commitment.

But something very very interesting happened, in the midst of all of the yuk. There was a time, a moment when my heart was breaking, when I honestly couldn’t have given odds that I would ever be whole enough to care about anything. But, once again, I was feeling those warm hands, that so soft voice- and because of that, I did something I hadn’t done in years.

I left my house, and went to church. Not on Sunday, not for a service, but just because I needed to be there.

I went to the church we’d found back in 1999, when we moved to this teeny village. The white clapboard little country church, where we’d found a spiritual home. Granted, I’d spent intervening years actively avoiding it, granted that during that time I couldn’t have, (or rather, wouldn’t have) acknowledged that God existed, much less cared- that didn’t matter. I knew, in the same way that I’d felt those warm hands on mine two months before, that I needed to get my ass to church.

I prayed there, sincerely, and for the first time in a long long time, I prayed the one prayer that I believe God likes to hear more than any other. Pretty much, I said, “Show me what YOUR will is here, show me where I need to be going, because I don’t know; I need you to show me what path YOU want me on. If that means I lose my marriage, my life, my place in this world, so be it.” YOU know- the whole, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” praying.

And, much to the chagrin of the part of me that had been running from it, for so long, so thoroughly, He did what will always be done, if we can but listen, if we can only see. He told me. He showed me. He made it very very plain to me, that despite all of my best efforts, He was there and waiting, patiently, for me to wake up. He made it plain, that my first job now, was to get my house in order. Then, he wanted to talk to me some more. (Know how it was, when your dad or mom would say “I want to talk to you?” Yeah, that’s the tone, right there).

At that point, there was still a lot of work to be done, of course. A ton of work, a lot of tears, and anger and frustration and ready to quit. A lot of learning, and relearning, and all the work of restoring trust, and rediscovering one another, and relearning about one another. (No, I’m not talking ’bout marriage here, although that was true, too- no, I meant between myself and God).

That growth is ongoing, of course, and will be forever. I started by making the simple changes I needed to, in order to make the opportunities for communication to happen. I started getting to church, and becoming more actively involved there. I began to make time to pray, and study, and think, again. I spent time reflecting on things that I’d heard, and known-but-denied, and acknowledging that sometimes, other people might know us better than we know ourselves.

And so, eventually, I took an opportunity to explore some things at the Seminary in New York; I jumped into some things at church that I’d never done before, and they were amazing. I started teaching the high school classes, as I’d done years before. I started working with various groups, and these days, I’ve found myself on the vestry- whodda thunk THAT, five years ago?

I’ve struggled, and still do- and probably will, forever, with wanting things that aren’t good for me, aren’t what God wants for me; and, no doubt, I will succumb to those temptations, and beat myself up for it, for not being stronger, or better, or whatever.

But, I’ve learned something that I can cling too, that I grasp, that I hold dear to my heart, and that I thank God for each and every day, each and every time I pray. I’ve learned that I am much happier, much more complete, much more than I used to be- if I remember to pray “Thy will”.

There is a whole range of things I can think of, and point to, and reflect on, that let me know that I am finally heading where I’m supposed to be, that at least I’m at the beginning of the right road for me to take. I’m not going to try to catalog them all, I’ll spare you that.

But, one of the steps that I took last week, is a huge one. A letter was sent to a carefully, prayerfully chosen group of eight people of our parish. This letter is the biggest thing I’ve ever tackled, and the most important thing of all, in so many ways- so, I’m placing it here, as well as in my heart and the hearts of the ones that received it in the mail.


To: ***
From: Father ***
Date: Ash Wednesday – 2009
Re: Discernment Committee – David ***

Dear Friends –

I write to ask your help in serving on a discernment committee for David ***. David has a strong sense of calling to serve in ordained ministry in the church, and has over the past two years begun the work of testing that calling by taking some classes at General Seminary and by substantially increasing his involvement in various church ministries here at Christ Church. The time has come to assemble a parish level discernment committee on his behalf.

The work of a discernment committee varies with the candidate they seek to serve, but always involves hearing the story of the candidate’s life and sense of calling, and helping the candidate reflect on their experiences of both church ministry and ministry in the wider world. Discernment committee work is typically prayerful, deep and nourishing for all involved. This committee will meet to assist and support David until he either moves beyond the parish level in the “process” of formation for priestly ordination, or until he is clear his vocational calling lies in another arena.

If you agree to serve on this committee, you can expect to meet about once every six weeks, usually on a Sunday afternoon. Past discernment committees have typically shared a simple lunch together after church, meeting for about an hour and a half. We will convene for our first meeting of the group at some time early in the Easter season.

You are receiving this invitation for very specific reasons. I trust you will honestly and prayerfully consider serving with this group. Your presence would be a blessing to us all, and David in particular.

I will call soon to answer any questions and see if you’ll be joining us. Thanks in advance for your kind consideration.

Faithfully Yours –

Father ***

Obviously, I don’t know for sure where this will lead. I think I do, and so do many others- but the point is to help discern that. But that’s okay, right? Cuz I get to say, “THY will…”

Filed under: depression, emotions, God, learning, love, lynn, marriage, suicide, , , , , , , , ,

Skipping ahead, and back, and around- and it’s good

I’m skipping ahead, from where I stopped last post. Why? Because it’s my blog, and I can! Okay, so really, it’s because this week- tomorrow, actually- marks the one year anniversary of an event that has been on my mind lately. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget dates, I’ve written about that before- but either way, since I don’t seem to be able to get it out of my head, I thought I’ll share a bit here, and see if it helps.

I wrote about this, sort of, on my return, here:
But, I’d never particularly said what it was that threw me into said tailspin. Last year, about the time we we were redecorating my daughter’s room, I was doing something or other to Lynn’s computer. While doing that, I had seen some things that indicated that an attachment to one of her gaming friends had gone beyond just good friends, and it tossed me backwards, and down.

Good old black thing, seeing this, reared up it’s ugly, cold self, and tried once again to swallow me up. By that night, I was a complete, gibbering, useless emotional wreck. (Do you know that even knowing that it’s an illness, etc, and all that- it’s really not easy to admit to falling apart like that?) (Good thing I know you wont tell anyone, huh?) There was very little room for any forms of rational thought, nor was there any space being left for what I KNEW I should be doing, namely praying and letting God take this on. I have a hard time with that, though, which is one of the things that the depression both causes, and feeds upon. When you feel useless, and worthless, and unable to consider any value in yourself- well, then, why would God? After all, He knows better than anyone just how worthless I am, right?

It’s a nasty, vicious, icky cycle, and about the only good thing I can say for it, is that it certainly does keep you from doing things. Oh yes, if you want to have no ability to function, then go for the depression. Other than that? No, not-so-good.

Anyway, I was falling apart, completely. I had fallen so fast, and so deeply, that Lynn felt the need to hide the car keys, and to move medicines, and to keep a careful eye on me, in case I found a knife, or a razor. That terror, that fear in her eyes, was about the only thing that could have, that finally did, penetrate. I knew, somewhere, someplace inside, that even through the mistrust and anger I was feeling towards her, and her friend, and my own uncertainty about what that meant for our relationship- I knew that I hated that look even more than I hated myself.

Now, a couple years ago, I may well have made the determination that I could eliminate the look, if I eliminated myself. How extremely logical, no? No fear in your wife’s eyes, if you’re not around to have a wife anymore, right?

Thankfully, the God that I just KNEW found me useless and worthless, didn’t. No, once again, He whispered, he reminded me that I was still around for a reason, and that even if I didn’t understand that reason, He did; and He’d let me know why when I was ready to hear it, but that right now, tonight, I needed to stay alive, and here’s the handy solution. Harder solution, yes- but the right one. He told me, get going, dude-

So, I checked into the nut-hut (Behavioral Psychology Medicine Unit, for those that insist on boring, uninteresting names for things). I spent just under a week there, working with the Docs and Nurses, and the counselors and other patients. Something very unsettling, about realizing that the reason the orderlies come into the room every 20 minutes, is to make sure you’re not dead; yes, the whole ward was monitored, basically on a suicide watch, the entire time, every one of us.

I’ll tell you this though, as I reflect over the past year, look back on that day. I am much, much stronger than I was then, much healthier. I know this, because of something that happened just three weeks ago. I was going to start the car, warm it up before church, so went to get the keys from Lynn’s purse. Can you imagine the smack in the face I felt, when I found a couple of phone-calling-cards, and two pictures of the guy from a couple years ago, that had nearly ripped us apart? Yeah, that guy. The one that “I’ve not spoken to, chatted with, thought of, in xxxxx time.”

Yeah, the one that during the first seven months of what I call the Hell Time, was a repeated occurance. Lies, evasions, half-truths, but never actually stopping contact.

That, was a nasty, ugly slap in the face. Every old feeling, all the old fears and jealousy and anger, plus the new anger that arose, thinking that all this time, all the work we’d been doing, all the professions of love and newly rekindled relationship, was all false.

But- and this, my friends, is the much more interesting part, to me- I’m still here. I didn’t spiral into a suicidal depression; I didn’t leave; I didn’t kill myself, or her, or him. In fact, I managed to get to church, and do what I needed to do: I prayed. I prayed to God, to let me see what and why this was back, what I needed to do, what was he wanting from or for me.

And, once again- He answered. He answered through the conversation I had with Lynn, later that day, when instead of leaving, I listened. Seems, the purse she’d grabbed from the closet the day before was an old one, not her current one; she needed to use something, because she’d left hers in the car, and it was with one of the kids. So, she grabbed this one, tossed her wallet and keys in it, and did whatever. Forgetting to get the other one from the car, well, who cared? Her point, was that the photos, the calling cards, were old and outdated. They were not anything she kept intentionally, nothing that she cared about.

As we talked, I fought the unease, the disbelief, the doubts that were there, and did my best to listen with the knowledge that I’d gained in the last two years. Knowledge of her love, through the looks she gives me, of the laughing and fun and joy we’ve re-found; of the love, of the play, of the sex and the giddy silliness that we’ve been sharing, all of these things were in my head as I listened, and tried to counter the ugly, horrible, outdated feelings.

And, my friends- I won. It worked, that time the black thing didn’t stand a chance. By that night, we were wrapped in one another’s arms, entwined and loving one another, making love, hugging, talking. Sharing, as we’ve learned to, the bad times- and rejoicing in the good times, celebrating in love, and fighting off the bad.

Totally different reactions, from one year to another; from one guy, to another guy, from a real threat, to an imagined threat, to a past threat, and once more, God told me to stick around, that He’s not done with me yet. As I was thinking about last year, and what a horrible time it was, how depressed I was, I also couldn’t help noticing something else; Yesterday, in the car, I was singing to Beth and Lynn, singing along with a cd we’d made years ago.

Perhaps you know the song, “I can see clearly now”. Well, the line I loved, and actually repeated, because it seemed so fitting: “I think I can make it now, the pain is gone…
All of the bad feelings have disappeared…
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for…
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sun shiney day.”

Works for me.

Filed under: "cuckoos nest", "mental illness", anniversary, Black Thing, depression, God, lynn, meanderings, progress, razor blade, , , ,

Thanks

Almighty God,

We give thanks to you for all the blessings you have given us in this life. We thank you for our family, those who are gathered together here, as well as those that are far away. We thank you for the abundant riches that you have given us, for warm homes and sufficient food, for clothes and friends and our community.

We ask that you bless this food, that we may take sustenance from it, to always seek your will for us, and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others, especially those less fortunate than we.

We pray this in the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

This is the blessing I asked today, as we sat around our (too small) table. There were five of my clan, as Rob is spending Thanksgiving with a cousin in North Carolina; this is the first holiday we’ve ever spent where all six of us weren’t together, and that’s a strange, strange feeling.

In addition, we had one of Lynn’s brothers and his wife, and one of their kids- (the other is the cousin Rob is visiting). We had one of Lynn’s sisters, and her son and wife and their child. In all, we squashed 12 people around our table, sitting on extra chairs from the den, from the office, from the basement and from a bedroom.

We feasted, on turkey, squash, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry. We had salads, and beans, and pie, and more pie. There was coffee, there was milk, there was wine and sparkling water, there was laughter, and jokes and stories. We giggled, we roared, we raised a ruckus and we shouted. We hugged, we looked at hand-blown glass, we shared and we loved one another.

I looked around, and thought, “Who cares, that this year we’re a little cash-strapped. Who cares, that I’m not exactly sure how to replace the tires on the car. Who cares, that the den needs carpet and that I can’t repair the ceiling until my arm will work. Who cares, indeed.

We have a roof; we have enough to eat, and the kids’ are warmly dressed, and we’ll be able to fix the ceiling soon enough. I don’t need tires yet, I can’t drive anyway. We have so very much, compared to some people, who are struggling not with how to fix a car, but how to fix their shoes.

We have family, we have love, we have a fire in the fireplace, we have friends and we have each other, and we have God.”

We’re doing pretty damn good, if you ask me.

I hope all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with peace and love.

Filed under: family, God, love, , , , , ,

Story Discussion Today

This morning, I had an interesting discussion with a group of people from Church. As we prepare and proceed through Advent, the season of preparation, there are several of us that have signed up to participate in a discussion group together. We read stories from a book called Yards of Purple, by Sarah M. Foulger, and discuss them, one story per Saturday, through the Advent season.

The book follows the lectionary cycle, which makes it very easy to relate to the particular reading for the Sunday that will follow, and also makes it very easy to remember that the whole purpose isn’t so much to have a book-club discussion, but to relate the stories and passages from The Bible to the messages that God has for each of us.

Today’s story is called “Miracle Cookies”, and relates to the lectionary passages from Isaiah 2:4, and Matthew 24:42. The story centers around an inner-city, gang-infested neighborhood, and what happens when two elderly men who have been sworn enemies for almost sixty years decide to try and make a change. One of the men, known to us as “Old Man Williams”, decides that he’s tired of living in fear, and takes the very courageous steps to go his ex-friend, in a spirit of forgiveness and “with the kernel of an idea.”

What happens next is the spreading of this movement, which they name “Swords into Plowshares”, and the joining and coming together of various people and businesses to try to make a difference in the lives and times of this community. We don’t know what the end result is, in the very broad sense, but we do know that even Janine, who bakes the cookies that form the title, has “tried to keep her well-developed skepticism far from the making of them.”

Interesting, to me, was the discussion that we had; and how many of our small group (there were only nine of us there today) focused on the forgiveness aspect of the story. Several people said that what they took away most, was the feeling that one can forgive another, as Christ has forgiven us, if only we can be open to try. We discussed how difficult it can be, sometimes, to reach out, to make that first effort, but how necessary and affirming it really is, when we do make that attempt.

One of the women said something about how hard it can be, particularly if the problem, the behavior that needs forgiving, is repeatedly occurring; she said she struggles, when the forgiveness is required “over, and over, and over- with no sign of acknowledgment from him.”

At that point, our Rector spoke up, agreeing with her, and said it feels sometimes, in his own life, like “getting poked in the eye. Then you come back for more, and get poked, and it repeats itself.”

We talked then, about the old testament, and the repeated failings of the people of Israel to follow and keep the commandments of God, and yet his repeated forgiveness, and willingness to try again, showing and redeeming over and over again, demonstrates vividly His love for us. We laughed, of course, because none of us are God, and if we were, perhaps we wouldn’t struggle so with the idea that even when someone has done us wrong, we are to forgive, and forgive, and forgive again, as many times as is needed.

Funny, though, at that moment, as we all sat there, together, there was a period of silence. Not asked for, as one might after prayer, or before, but spontaneous. Just a time when as we all looked around at one another, no one was willing to break the silence. Everyone was reflecting, and while I don’t know what was in the others’ heads, I know that I was very conscious of my failings in that; that, all to human, I fail to live up to that example, that I, in my frailty and weakness, am not so good at this.

So the take-away from this, or part of it anyway, for me- is that it’s okay to forgive, and it’s okay to forgive the very fact that forgiveness might be repeatedly needed. I can try, as Advent progresses, to remember the example of “Old Man Williams”, and look for batch of Miracle Cookies, in my own life.

Filed under: bible study, forgiveness, God, spirituality

I’m thinking of heaven

One of the good things about traveling, at least if the travel is for business, is that I can spend some time alone, just to sit and think. The last two weeks, I’ve been away (although home on the weekend, yeah!) and been incredibly busy. Nothing like putting in 12-14 hour days, and then lock yourself in a hotel room.

On the nights we didn’t work that long, I found myself thinking a lot, particularly as I tucked in to try to sleep. Reflecting, looking back at different things that have happened in my life, different attitudes and thought patterns that I can see developing as I’ve gotten older.

Perhaps, as I’ve been accused of, I’m an introspective kook, who thinks too much. But, I rather think that looking at what motivates me to do certain things, examining the whys and wherefores of choices that have been made, is not a bad thing. I don’t always like the conclusions I come to, because sometimes it’s hard to look at myself and see just how inept I’ve been, at some facets of this thing called living a life. No, some things, I wish would just go away, so I don’t have to have the retrospective embarrassment that sometimes occurs, when I think of a particularly stupid or boneheaded move.

But the flipside of that, is that I can look back at some incredibly good things, as well. Some choices, some acts, are so clearly indicating that God has something in mind for me, that I can’t imagine how I thought I could fight it off for as long as I did. Maybe the biggest goof-up is that I wouldn’t listen for so long, despite the not-so-infrequent hints? I don’t know… Perhaps, as has been said in different conversations, I wouldn’t have heard until I’m ready anyway, so there’s little point in worrying about it.

I can look at four wonderful, healthy and well-adjusted and polite kids, and think “I had a hand in that, I helped to teach them manners, helped them to know right from wrong, to be polite and respectful.”

I can look at my family, my two brothers, my sister and my dad, and although not as close as some, I know that if I needed them, any of them, they’d be here in a heartbeat. I know, deep down, that they can feel that from me, too, and that’s pretty special on it’s own.

I have even made some friends, in the last year- which, for me, is pretty amazing. But they’re in my life, to one degree or another, some online only, some I’ve talked too, some are even in-person-friends; I’ve shared stories with them, we’ve cried and laughed and shared hugs, we’ve told each other dreams and nightmares- and a few of them, even come back for more! (Hmmm, what’s wrong with ‘em?)

So, I don’t think that some time to think is a bad thing, overall. But now, sitting here in my big ol’ leather recliner, with Lynn over there >>>>, the kids arriving home from school, well- that’s what I call heaven, really.

Filed under: family, friends, friendship, God, life, love, meanderings

Wandering Thoughts Again

Been a while since I had time to write anything, so much is going on I’m sometimes feeling swamped. It’s a good feeling though, so different from when I’d get overwhelmed and be unable to even think about things, in so many ways I’m loving all the aspects of my life these days it’s amazing to me.

This time of year, specifically because of the pain of last year, has been bringing up all kinds of thoughts and memories of what was. A lot of “That was then, this is now,” thinking. I’m not broody about it, mostly, overall it’s been a positive thing- my attitude for the most part has been along the lines of “Look at how much better it is now.” I have the occasional moment of ugh, but generally doing okay with things. Maybe, someday, I’ll be able to not notice any particular day/date combinations and that will be a good thing- but for now, I just keep reminding myself that it’s only a year, so these are the first occurrences of each event’s anniversary and maybe it’s to be expected that I’d notice them.

The class I’m taking, is a joy. As stupid as I’ve felt regarding some of the writings, and some of the author’s methodologies, it is fascinating to begin to get a glimpse into the settings and contexts of the ancient writings that make up the old testament (Hebrew Bible, if you prefer). Last night’s class, for example, we spent hours tracing the political, economic and social settings that were interplaying between Egypt, Mesopotamia and the area that would become Israel and Judea, as well as the combination of circumstances that led to the formation of a national state for the tribes of Israel. Fascinating stuff, for me.

I’ve been getting more involved with our parish, as well, and taught the first Sunday school class of the year for the High School group. What a great bunch of kids, and they have so many things to teach me as well. I wrote our Rector, who is going to be the primary instructor for them, and asked about participating more even on the weeks when he’s there, and that will be fun too.

Did I mention that I decided what to do for my mid-life crisis? (Yes, I deliberately planned it, why would it have to be random? Much more constructive this way!)

I took Beth for ice cream last week, and bought a new car. We’re good at that, she and I have done that a couple times now- run an errand, and come back in a different vehicle. Yup, decided that since Lynn’s Pacifica can tow the boat, and we don’t really need two vehicles that get poor gas mileage, to dump the truck.

Now, I’m driving a silver Chrysler Sebring convertible. Fun little car, too, and it’s kind of fun to have joined the ranks of the middle-aged men that want to have a sexy car. Granted, the truck wasn’t “unsexy”, as we were able to make use of the back of the truck a few times- but, I’m sure we’ll manage to break this one in as well.

So overall, doing pretty good, and that in itself feels pretty good to me. A far cry from last autumn, that’s for damn sure.

Filed under: cars, depression, God, meanderings

Another Class

I am taking another class this semester, down in New York City. This one is an Old Testament class, because I found that I just don’t know enough, as I think and pray and try to learn. Not so much that I’m denying God anymore- I’ve come back to acknowledging God’s presence in my life with a vengeance- but the context and stories, the history of the scriptures, and even just the locations of stories.

On the first day of class, one of the questions that was raised, is “Why bother studying the Old Testament?” It’s rather interesting that there are a fair number of respectable theologians that are almost dismissive of the Old Testament. Their view is that it’s not as relevant to the newer reality of Jesus and his saving grace, that it’s an area that can be, if not ignored, at least not focused on.

Interesting way to look at it, but I don’t think that you can fully understand and participate in, and appreciate, the miracle of the resurrection, without the context and history of the people that surrounded that event. The professor on Thursday night also had a way of looking at it. Paraphrasing here: The God Jesus called Father, is the Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures; thus, who are we to discard what Jesus himself did not?

Seems like a simple enough reason to incorporate the Old Testament into spiritual life, and looking for more than just a dismissal of an entire body of work as irrelevant, seems to me to be pretty arrogant. There were a couple students in class, whose comments left the impression that they would just as soon not be looking at this either, but it is a required class for M.Div students, and I think for the M.A. students as well. It will be interesting to see if peoples’ views change, as we go along.

But for now, I’m trying to get my textbooks; I went in on Saturday, specifically and only to get them, to find that the bookstore lady was “Having troubles getting in”, and the store never did open. Naturally, they don’t open on Sundays, and of course I can’t get there between 10 and 5 during the work-week. Sigh. I’m hoping I can order them on the phone, and have them shipped. That will get them to me tomorrow, which will give me tomorrow night and Wednesday to catch up on the readings.

Luckily, much of the reading this week is from articles that I have, and the Bible itself, which of course I have.

Another step on this journey, which still has no end in view, but it’s all fun.

Filed under: class, God, old testament, spirituality

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