Monday, September 7, 2009

Fighting the good fight

I am getting demoralized by trying to open the minds of right-wing friends on health care reform.  Just got off a several days long, polite but passionate exchange with a a friendly acquaintance who's diametrically opposed to me on the issue.  Been trying so hard to be rational, humane, reasonable, open-minded, and yet not pull punches or back down on why I think a national plan, is the better option.

But dang it I'm getting tired of this deadlock!  Today I just found out this person gets her talking points from Glen Beck.


There goes the chance for reasonable discourse.  How do you get people to even see their filter, the presuppositions that color every "fact" they see? 

It's been giving me that awful, ugly gut feeling I used to get during implacable stalemates with loved ones, the kind you absolutely can't walk away from but you know they will never ever see what you see and will label you the "enemy."  But just like those heart-rending spousal or parent-child battles, I know I'm supposed to stay and engage, not walk away.

Because if we Christians can't stay, be civil, be honest and assertive about what we believe, how can there ever be reconciliation?  The Bible has so much to say about unity among believers, and how that is the most powerful witness to a watching world.  I don't mean that all Christians should have the same political opinions (heaven forbid!), but it makes me so sad when other Christ-followers use their religion to justify why their political opinion is right.  Don't they realize I could just as easily play that game and "prove" Jesus is a left-leaning radical social reformer?  But I won't sink to that level.  It's pathetic, it tears apart the body of Christ and makes the enemy laugh.  

Not that that's exactly what this person was doing.  I know she wasn't questioning my faith, but something about all this is making me kind of queasy.  Of course, my faith has to support my political beliefs.  Duh.  If they ever conflicted, it would be the politics that has to change, in a heartbeat.  Maybe part of what's making me queasy is recognizing that temptation so strongly in myself - to say Jesus is a pro-life Green and everyone else is just wrong - and know how long and hard I've tried to see the Right's point of view about this and I just don't get it.

I want to find common ground but it's fading fast.  All I see in the anti-reform sentiment is misinformation, ungrounded fears, and a failure of compassion.  There, I said it as nicely as I could.  My original adjectives were a heck of a lot more incendiary.  But like I said, I really want to find common ground.  

Somebody on the Right please, please, PLEASE prove me wrong.

Show me that you really get what it's like to have a pre-existing condition and be denied coverage time and again.  To live with the daily fear that any time anything happens to you or your kids' health it could mean you lose everything, savings, job, home, all of it.  To be literally unable to go to the doctor when your child is sick because you know it'll just be one more black mark that makes it even more impossible to get the insurance you so desperately need.  Explain to me how in this amazingly blessed and bountiful country of ours it can possibly be "okay" that some people get state-of-the-art healthcare and others die for lack of a simple drug or diagnostic procedure.  How is that okay?  How is that "Christian?"  And then, after you've told me what a horrible socialist takeover we're heading for, please show me your better option.  Because that's what I haven't seen yet.  Show me how these profit-driven, insane CEO-bonus giving, coverage-denying, shareholder-courting, free-enterprise-pleading private enterprises are suddenly going to do an about face, out of the goodness of their own hearts (without any legal lash) to make it all better.

And they say Obama's naive.  

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Square one, redux

The Zoloft gave me massive brain fuzz.  The SAM-e worked really well for the depression, but made me sick to my stomach (as in, doubled over in constant pain and unable to sleep) at the recommended dose.  So, I took a couple days off and restarted at 1/4 dose, to see what I can tolerate.

Other than that, vacation was good.  Summer's ending.  Good riddance kinda, I think.  Except there's another couple of summery things left to do.

We saw a wonderful free local Shakespeare production with 3 of the kids.  R&J done as manic, hormone-drenched all-nighter.  There were several "interesting" adaptations that nevertheless worked really well.  It's so rare to find theater productions that use novel ideas without turning them into gimmicks, or snarky self-referential distractions that submerge the wonder of the Bard.  But this really worked.  The urgent pacing, cross-gender casting ("Nurse" played by a stocky middle-aged man whom you very quickly "believed" in the role), and loose-cannon physicality of even the more traditionally passive roles (Juliet!) added a freshness I haven't seen in R&J in a while.  It's so FUN to find great arts freebies!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Some heavy duty theology

19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

 20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

 21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

 23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

- 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (KJV)

It begins (v.19) with what's very obvious, in looking around the world we live in.  Of course we're fools if judging by the world's standards.  Each person for themself, follow your bliss, the pursuit of happiness, whatever. . . maybe that system works really well for some people, in some places and fortuitous time.  For others, it's a rabbit trail.

Then a pretty straight-forward, on the surface, description of the order of resurrection (v. 20-23), but that's pretty weird too.  I mean, who can really imagine what that is like? That world, redeemed, those eternal bodies, who can really inhabit that belief?  We've had some talk at church lately about the inadequacy of English to express the fullest translation of what we often call "belief."  The word we translate, in other languages, could more accurately be called "trust."  So, it doesn't matter nearly enough that I say I "believe" in resurrection, if I don't trust it as well.  As an aging, broken, this side of 40-years-old person, it's easy enough to recognize that the bodies we live in now are painfully inadequate.  But how on Earth does one imagine resurrection of ourselves? It seems almost sacreligious even to try.  .  . I can imagine Jesus resurrected easily enough, but He was/is already perfect.  It feels comical, almost pathetic, to try to imagine that for little old me, with this ridiculous flesh housing an even more limited and obsolete consciousness.  Where to even begin?

So let's just move along in our reading, but now it gets even stranger.  In v. 24-25, I like that Paul mostly side-steps the trippy eschatological imagery, fire and brimstone, dragons and cosmic ladies, and deals instead with the earthly powers of men.  Except, he isn't really.  We know there are also the "powers and principalities" as the real enemies, not just theological abstractions but manifested in bones and stones.  Here I get really  irritated, because my conscious imagery has been influenced by too many Hollywood epic battle scenes (I blame Peter Jackson for making LOTR so dang "evocative").  I really don't want to focus on the gore. the rallying cries, but to understand in whatever paltry level what it would feel like to welcome that king, to be part of that following, to step into eternity.

Then again, maybe I don't want to tax my little brain that much.  It's late, and things are bizarre enough.  We see through the glass sooooooo very darkly, or not at all.  And when our eyes are too tired to see, when we can't even bear the over-stimulation of what clutters our retina for this second, we may be allowed to smell it.  Maybe a wordless, subconscious hum we almost heard.  We can't quite understand, we can't entirely say we "believe" because we're so smart and modern and have to explain, define, compartmentalize it before we can trust.

I don't understand.  Except when I do.  Sometimes when it's way too late and I can see the full moon, taste the insomnia, it's almost within reach.  I miss those midnights with my feral nurslings. the raw physicality juxtaposed with acute clarity. Often times now it's so much more mundane; I act like I 'trust" in a resurrected life far too often for it to have been just some good idea I invented.  This journey has far outlasted any good idea I ever had; it started with someone else.  Lately I'm walking more in shadows and clouds (not doubts, clouds) than I have in decades.  Frustrated and irritated all the time, and yet I know it's the only path open.  I"m not aligning with the enemy.  I'm not strong enough to challenge the creator of the Universe, or young enough to play the nihilist/existentialist pose any longer.

So where were we? Oh yeah, we come to the last baffling line (v.26), which is either supposed to be reassuring or just make you scratch your head, I'm not sure.  I'd like to just accept it and go on, except it changes the entire physical/temporal nature of the universe and existence as we know it.  How can consciousness go on after death is defeated, if by "go on" we mean "to go forward in time," when time no longer exists?  And anyway, thank goodness it isn't "us" that goes on anyway, us petty, silly (I'm being charitable) half-blind ghosts (okay maybe I'm being a bit misanthropic . . . ).  I'd want it to be someone far more perfect than us, someone that bears only the faintest whiff of resemblance, and that only as a merciful nod to recognition.  I'd want it to be someone awake enough, clear enough, alive enough to really belong there.  See how even the usual adjectives don't work here?  "Good" and "wise" are so earth-bound and arrogant.  We just can't pretend, right now in this world, to understand or even describe, let alone be those creatures that would inhabit Eternity with Him (a far better writer than me might attempt it, but even C.S. Lewis only dared to be specific in his allegories, not as a literal projection of heaven).

Of course, the other option is to take it at face value, accept that we can't understand it yet at any deeper level, and return to the work of this temporary world we live in.  Serve somebody, knowing it's not nearly enough to make this hurting, F'ed up place as good as it was meant to be.  But it's what we do, it's the only thing we can do, while we wait for the one who will defeat the last enemy.  And when we're really honest, we tremble at the bit of enemy still inside us, that must die.

Have a great week, kids!      : )

Monday, May 25, 2009

I did it ~ sort of . . .

Well, the 5K is over, and I'm trying to reframe this as a successful learning experience, if not an outright Success.  I didn't make my goal of running the whole way without stopping to walk, but I learned a lot.

Lesson 1: know your route.  Had I known the topography in advance I would've paced myself much better and possibly not had to stop and walk.  The route was pretty much straight up hill for the first 2.5K and mostly downhill on the way back.

Lesson 2:  Go sloooowwww . . . like, WAY slower than you think you should be. I thought I had learned this one during training, that the only way to go the distance is to pace really slowly, but in practice I guess my default pace is always starting out way too fast and burning out.  I had to stop once to walk about 1 Km into it, and again briefly at 2K and 2.5K (top of hill for a water break).  Still, I ran almost the entire way back down, and my final time was under 37 minutes.  That's about 2 minutes better than my personal best, and 4 minutes ahead of my goal time.  Which tells me I was going way too fast.

Lesson 3:  Meta-lesson.  I don't "learn" nearly as fast as I think I do, because I'll think I've learned something when I understand it intellectually, but it doesn't do me any good till I've learned it experientially.  Until I knew what it felt like to apply lessons 1 & 2, above, I couldn't really apply them in the crunch.

But anyhow, I did it!!!! I finished the 5K in less than 37 minutes, and it was a glorious Family Event (both Nelson family and church family) for a good cause.  Yaaayyy team!   : )

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here's something you don't see every day

I'm training for a 5K.  Big whoop, you say, but this is me.  


So, now that you've picked yourself off the floor, be reassured that I will approach even this most  seemingly physical of endeavors with as ruminative and navel-gazing a perspective as ever.  Already I'm convinced of at least 3 great "life lessons" learned from my 2 weeks (so far) of haphazard training.  But the most wonderful part is that I haven't quit yet.  And it hasn't been nearly as impossible as I would've thought.  Or at least, the really hard parts are completely different/opposite from what I thought they would be.  But more on that in later posts.

Already I'm up to running 2.5 miles without stopping to walk.  Yes.  For me that's the best cardio-vascular performance I've ever had in my life, except perhaps in the fog of some netherworld dance-clubbing days.  And those certainly weren't exactly healthy days . . . 

But off I go to bed now, since this "training" things works a whole lot better if I get something resembling sleep at least 5 nights a week.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aaaahhhh . . . finally it's spring!

70's and sunny, that's what I needed.  Actually went running OUTSIDE today and didn't hate it.  The birds are twittering non-stop, the pea plants haven't been devoured by foraging animals (yet), and I'm looking through my Breck's catalog for next year's tulips.  Because the one and only thing I miss about our old house is the awesome tulips.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April? What the . . ?

Last week it snowed.  This week, out with the kids, I saw what I thought was another snow and inwardly groaned.  I was wrong.  It was a cascade of pear tree blossoms caught in a gust of wind.


Perhaps because it's been the LONGEST winter anyone can remember, I'm really noticing the spring signs proliferating this year.  Every single day, there are changes from just a day before, buds that hadn't quite opened, leaves growing right before my eyes, (pre)teenagers sprouting another inch overnight . . . and suddenly our dead brown neglected lawn is green again.  When did that happen?

Now if it would just warm up a little.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Mahatma Gandhi


On this day before Good Friday, I want to reflect on how little we resemble Christ, NOT as a way to beat up Christians (after all, will the person in the room who isn't a hypocrite please stand up?  There, you just found your hypocrite), but as a reminder how much we/I need a Savior.  The Good Friday cross brings to mind so many things, but the latest visions are particularly brutal to me this year, having just watched a PBS special where an anthropologist did various high-tech scans of an antiquated specimen, a human heel-bone pierced by a Roman nail.  The computer simulations illustrated graphically what would have happened inside a body after that nail was inserted, and the chain of indescribable suffering that would follow.


Can anything but horror and incredulity be an adequate response that treatment of one human being by another? 

Call me slow, but I just got something really central to the faith.  All these years I've been critical and dismissive of my own level of spiritual surrender (or more appropriately, lack thereof) because even though I am to metaphorically "die to self" everyday as a follower of Christ, it's usually pretty symbolic.  Sure, I'll surrender my rights/wants/needs here and there, even if I don't really love the recipient of whatever limited "grace" I have to offer.  And of course I would lay down my life for my children, and maybe even for someone else if that's what was required.  But that's a tremendous MAYBE ~ God's grace would definitely have to be acting for me to be that surrendered at that moment.  But even then I'm thinking a quick bullet to the brain, or something equally instantaneous and relatively suffering-free.  And I'm not really thinking about it at all, in terms of the full trauma of expectation and knowing what's going to happen.

But to choose a death like He endured?

Never.  Not in my wildest dreams.  That is a level of Willingness and Acceptance that I truly cannot fathom.  And somehow, in my warped (works rather than faith-based) walking out of salvation, I've held that as a minus against ME and my spiritual immaturity.  But it's not about me.  It's about Him. What he was willing to do, "while we were yet in our sin."  While we continue (even years after being saved, see above mentioned hypocrite) in our rebellion and hard-heartedness.  He still would do that for us; He still loves us that much.

So this Good Friday the kids and I are taking some food to the Healing Center (pantry), delivering some chocolate bunnies to some kids who probably won't get much from the Easter Bunny, and thinking about how much we've been given.

Happy Easter!   : )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lenten thoughts

Although I expect it to be predictable (isn't that kinda the point of rituals?) every Lenten season is different.  This year, after deciding I don't have enough legitimate "vices" leftover to give up, and I'm DANG sure not giving up teevee during March Madness (grrrrr . . .Pitino!!), I gave up radio instead.  This means no NPR, no classical tunes, no sports scores, nada.  It's been a good thing, one less angry voice screaming through the day, if you know what I mean.

I think I'm used to the surreal never-endingness of this cursed winter.  It's gone on, what, like 9 years now since we had sweater weather?  But today I put in the seeds for early starting with the little kids, so we have a pan of dirt on top of the fridge now, teasing us with dreams of future basil and beefsteak tomatoes. Oh me of little faith, I honestly can't fathom that we will ever see gardening weather again. . .

So into the midst of this gloom and pessimism comes the promise of Messiah, the ancient wish for renewal and salvation.  God we still need saving, 2000 years later, so Somebody please come quick.  

I'm glad we're doing this corporately, 50+ churches in greater Cincy are using the "Reset" curriculum to recharge, explore, explode our concept of who that Jewish carpenter was and what he really came for.  It's a pretty heavy-lifting curriculum that requires real study and commitment, not just sitting in a pew once a week.  Every week we have a small group meeting, suggested readings, and several assigned writing prompts to help us dig deeper.  Plus we're going into large chunks of the gospel of Luke from various angles. The point of this, for me anyway, is to kick me out of the malaise and inertia of thinking  I "know" what Christianity is supposed to be about and remind me once again of who Messiah is.

That guy isn't just the hippie Jesus, the nice guy, the baby in the manger, the American Protestant.  He's world-changing, enigmatic, unpredictable, dangerous, life-giving, life-saving, friend of the poor, enemy of tyrants, Lion, lamb, a brother, a mother, the beginning and the end and (most unsettling of all) the right now.

Where do I even begin?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Go see "Slumdog Millionaire"

Go see slumdog millionaire.
Go see slumdog millionaire.

If you're Indian(ish), go see it.
If you're not Indian, GO SEE IT!!!

Get past the first half hour of horror-show, and end up dancing in your seat.  Go on, I dare you not get all Bhangra . . . 

Side note: perhaps the most amazing, disturbing, sadly appropriate usage of a Clash song I've ever seen in film.

Beautiful.  Now, go see it if you haven't!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh it's almost Groundhog's Day and we're in a blizzard ~ hey! : )

Not really a blizzard.  Just 10" of snow with a thin layer of ice in the middle, resulting in 4 days off school for the littles and a leeeeetle cabin fever for the rest.  Luckily, I still remember last winter's lesson that going outside, no matter how crappy the weather (or sometimes, the crappier the better?) makes a huge diff in my attitude, at least for a few hours.  Or maybe it's just the St. John's Wort finally kicking in.  Or maybe it's the psychological perspective of the days' sunlight finally getting longer . . .

Or maybe it's the 2 days I spent in bed past noon (ahhhhhh . . . blessed sleep!)

I have been complaining to the husband for about 2 years now (because no one seems to take this freakin' thyroid disorder of mine Seriously enough sometimes)  that I have literally FORGOTTEN what it feels like to "get enough sleep."  As in, what does it feel like to get out of bed because you actually got enough rest, rather than because a kid is crying or you have an appointment somewhere or the phone is ringing?  I had truly forgotten that feeling.  And no, insomnia doesn't count as "not needing sleep."  Just the opposite sometimes, maybe it's the sub-manic, semi-welcome, polar opposite of exhaustion, but it isn't the same as real energy.

But for the record ~ shout it from the rooftops ~ I had one day this year (January 29, 2009) when I slept in from around midnight till 3:25pm the next day and I got enough sleep!

Yes, you read that right.  I actually got out of bed because I had had enough rest and felt competent to face the next 8 hours or so.  Till 10pm~ish, and the littles were abed and I could surrender to the torpor again.

So we still have a good 6" on the ground but most of the major roads are good, and tomorrow is actually February.    As an act of supreme self-preservation (clawing towards optimism one bloody fingernail at a time), I am going to look through the gardening catalog and actually order something to start our seedlings early.  

Those of you who've followed NelsonLand gardening adventures over the years may argue that therein lies madness, but I reject such nay-saying.  Gardening isn't about Product Yields or any such.  Remember that little seedling at the center of "Wall-E," that they all risked their lives to protect?  

It's an act of faith, pushing away awareness of the too-close, deadly COLD,  to warm our little souls till spring comes.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"All is quiet on New Year's Day . . ."

So it begins.

Today's topic, boys and girls, is the "cup of suffering" and what it means to drink of it.  Perhaps before I begin I should issue a disclaimer more in keeping with the season, perhaps a gratitude list of sorts for the goodness of this past year, or at least an acknowledgement that I'm glad our household has been spared (so far) much of the hardships the rest of this country faces, but that's assumed already, and I have limited time to write.  So assume the gratitude is there and we'll move on.

Been thinking about how we're all called to take up the daily cross, count the cost of what it means to be a disciple, and keep our eyes on eternal things rather than get completely enmeshed in these passing troubles.  Wear the world "like a loose cloak" and all that, rather than a straight-jacket.  There was a time as a new believer, or perhaps all my life out of some misplaced guilt, that I would have insisted I have no real suffering in my life, since materially and in almost any externally apparent way things are so better-than-average (demographically . . .) for my clan.  

But now I'm a little more honest, or at least more beaten down, and I can admit that "suffering" of any sort - emotional, physical, intellectual, or other - feels real enough when it strikes, and distinctions about whether or not a critical mass of society would acknowledge it as valid makes no difference to the real and crippling effects one experiences.  Or the surprising blessings.  Because on the flip side of loneliness, pain, sadness, fear, failure, and disappointment, there are times for introspection, refining, rest, peace, and getting to the heart of what we claim we believe.  

I know, the cynic in me wants to say that things like perspective, humility, and moderation are just the consolations of a life winding down, or of watching most of your younger self's dreams flame out or fail miserably.  But enough of the pessimist.  Even if that voice is true, it's only half the story. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control . .  those ring a bell, anybody?  They're the "fruits of the Spirit" Paul exhorts us towards, or rather, they're the promised gifts of living a life of true discipleship.  Like somebody said on the radio the other day, when this older woman meets somebody for the first time and they immediately tell her "I'm a Christian," she thinks already?!  How'd you get there? I've been trying all my life to be one . . .


So, I haven't made much headway with this cup of suffering thing.  I suspect, as always, it's probably not what we think.  First, it was Jesus speaking explicitly of his own actions when he said he was willingly drinking of that particular cup (crucifixion and death, and all the Passion in between).  Then, when he told us we would have to take up our crosses daily, anyone I know would give a very wide, loose, individualized interpretation of that "cross." Besides the obvious, awful suffering of many in the world for the Gospel (the acknowledged and unacknowledged martyrs ~ there's a rumor in Christian circles that there are more people dying in the world today because of proclaiming Jesus than there were in the first Century, but I don't know if that's fact.  It's certainly believable in terms of sheer numbers of the persecuted church in some parts of the world) there are the limitless, inexpressible sacrifices we daily, semi-willingly make.

I don't mean simply that the question of taking up suffering seems counter-intuitive, which of course the gospels so often are.  The why part is answered pretty clearly for any believer, and its motive quite different from the ascetic renunciation of other faith traditions - there's no aspiring to self-purification or perfection here, but instead a million little actions and individual decisions stemming from, at core, being His.  Being so consumed with and hungry for that presence that all the other sacrifices and hardships seem as insubstantial and petty as mosquito bites. A love,  a longing that is at once both utterly selfish and selfless.  And there is no "how do I get there," or at least there is no how.  For those who want it badly enough, I think it eventually sort of just happens.