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Archive for June, 2007

Years ago, I was stopped at a redlight, reading the bumper stickers on the car in front of me. One of them read, “Honk if you love Jesus!” I happily, impulsively honked. And then observed the enthusiastically proffered middle finger of the motorist ahead of me. “Oh,” I thought, “must not be your car.”

Today I visited Lynn, who also encouraged me to honk if I love Jesus. Sorta. She offered a meme, The Jesus Meme, which is “five things I dig about Jesus.” I really like what Lynn did with it, and I decided to give it a try.

1. He speaks to people in their own language. Not Aramaic. I mean, he met people where they were. If you were a farmer, he told you stories about farming. If you were a tax collector, he used money stories. A fisherman, he told you about fishing. He exemplified my Mom’s teaching, “You treat the janitor the same as the governor.” He spoke to people who were “beneath” him. Because he knew they weren’t. And he wasn’t afraid to confront people “above” him. Because there’s no such person. He showed us how to do these things. God, I love that man.

2. He is steadfast. As a child growing up in an often chaotic environment, this knowledge was one of the things that made me decide to stick to him like glue. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). No need for anyone to wonder what kind of mood he’s in, whether he’s been drinking, whether he’s mad at me today. Steady. Like a rock.

3. He understands what we’re going through. This is especially meaningful to me as I continue to endure WTF Disease. I haven’t yet found another human who knows what all these various bizarre symptoms feel like. But the one who is both creator and human being, would know (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:14-16). That comforts me. I’m not alone.

4. Jesus loves me, this I know. I dig that I am unconditionally loved. Humans talk about this, but I don’t believe we can pull it off. Oh, we try. And if we really do try, we can manage it a good percentage of the time. But not always. Even parental love, which probably comes closest, is sometimes qualified with the knowledge that if that little (or big) miscreant weren’t our own flesh and blood, he or she would sorely test our love ability. There’s a condition — you’re my kin. It does me immeasurable good to be loved when I am at my most unlovable. Which, frankly, is most of the time, lately.

Some people talk about Jesus dying — being beaten, spat on, crucified, as evidence of his love. All the things that were depicted in Mel Gibson’s movie (during much of which I buried my face in Jif’s shoulder; I’m not interested in seeing the violence). For some people, that is sufficient evidence of this extraordinary, supernatural kind of love. Not for me. Frankly, others have suffered, and do suffer, worse physical afflictions. Some even voluntarily, in the name of love. No, for me, what really made it sink in, what he did for me, was a sermon that I heard when I was eleven years old. I have never heard it presented in quite the same way since. But here’s the gist of it: When Christ allowed himself to be killed to pay for the sins of mankind, he took on himself, into himself, those sins. Think of the worst you can think of. Genocides, child abuse . . . the worst. He took all of that onto himself, in our place. And not only those acts. But also the shame that accompanies such acts. And all the suffering that ripples out for generations to come, from such acts. And all the pain that preceded, that set in motion, that created beings who would perpetrate such acts. He became all of that (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that we can be reconciled to a perfect, holy God. For me, it is that unimaginable psychic suffering, soul suffering, that he endured, that speaks much louder of love than any level of physical torture could speak. I choose to believe it happened the way I’ve read that it happened. And that it meant what that sermon so long ago said that it meant. Greater love has no one, before or since (John 15:12-13) .

5. He is mysterious. Years ago, when LG was in preschool, I invited the children of one of the moms I had befriended, to attend Vacation Bible School with LG. Over the years, we have invited children of various religions and none at all to attend VBS with us. But that particular year, I admit, I was making an assumption about the children we were inviting. The father had a very German name, and the mother had a very Irish name, and I assumed they were Christian. What’s more, I assumed either Lutheran or Roman Catholic. I was wrong. She declined my invitation, saying that she didn’t want her children to learn the fairy tale of God. She and her husband had decided to be, and raise their children as, atheists, and they wanted no interference with their plan. I confessed to, and apologized for, my assumption. And she allowed that actually, I was right, in terms of how they’d been raised: Lutheran and Roman Catholic. But she said that in college, her husband had done exhaustive intellectual research which led him to the absolute knowledge that God does not exist. Alrighty, then.

What I didn’t say to her, but what I will say now, is . . . that doesn’t work. I am all in favor of intellectual research. In favor of critical thinking. Of skepticism, even. But applying the powers of the intellect to matters of the soul . . . that will always fall short. To me, that is comparable to the difference between understanding the chemical composition of chocolate, and actually feeling that chocolate melt in your mouth, tasting the sweet, the bitter, the creamy. Even if you can recite the chemical composition backwards and forwards, you don’t know chocolate through the intellect. It doesn’t compute. At least, you don’t know it in its entirety. Another example: you can intellectually explore the act of jumping into a clear lake on a hot day. You can understand the physics of how you get there — the trajectory of the jump, the force required to overcome gravity on your way there . . . and you can understand the physiological, biological changes of the various anatomical systems as your body goes from hot to cool, dry to wet. That’s all good. But it’s not the same as knowing what it’s like to jump into a cool lake on a hot day. You’ve used the wrong tools, or at least, lesser tools, if you’re trying to really know that experience. God — Jesus — can be understood through the intellect. But that’s not how we’re made. God is spirit. Meant to be experienced and understood spiritually. Through faith. Faith is the method through which we best know God. Certainly we should use the other methods — intellect, emotion, whatever you choose — but you haven’t fully experienced God without doing so via your spirit. Your soul. That’s what I believe.

Perhaps this is as good (or bad) a place as any to say something that I often think when I see comments from those who don’t believe. Very, very often, since I began blogging, I’ll see people comment on the site of a “believer,” and say something like, “I wish I had faith like you do,” or “I wish I believed in something like you do…” And I think, “Just do it.” Let me explain. Some people believe in God (as a Christian, I believe in the mystery of the Trinity — God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are One) because they “came to believe.” That is, a series of life experiences, perhaps even some mystical or miraculous experiences, led them to believe. Many more people, though, choose to believe. They decide to believe. There really is no wishing required. If you want to do it, do it. It is a choice. A decision. I do believe that when people make that decision, it is as a result of the Holy Spirit inviting them. And that can happen in more ways than I can imagine. But bottom line, it’s a choice that we have the power and ability and freedom to make. Or not. If you’re wondering whether it’s for you, I would suggest a test. For a week, behave as though you do believe. See how that works for you.

I don’t feel, never have felt, compelled to try to persuade anyone else to believe what I believe. I’ve never spoken as explicitly on this blog, of (some of) what I believe, as I am speaking here today. And it’s fine by me if you don’t agree with a word of it. That’s between you and God. Or just between you and yourself.

Anyone (religious, not, whatever) is welcome to do the meme. Or leave in the comments here what, if anything, you “dig” about Jesus.

***

And with that, I’m outta here. I have an opportunity (read “invitation requiring very little $”) to visit a state I’ve never visited before, staying in a friend’s 200-year-old cottage for the coming week, so I am doing my darnedest to get me and the fam together to go and do just that. Hope to leave some time over the weekend. The place is not near any of you, to my knowledge, or I would have told you. Indeed, I don’t think I have ever seen the state represented in my sitemeter stats. So when I get back, I think I’ll post some pictures so you can guess where we were. Won’t that be FUN? (Shut up.) And the handful of you whom I’ve told where I’m going, “Shhh!”

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I went to a continuing ed. event today, where the presenter asked for volunteers from the audience to be his clients and help demonstrate his therapeutic technique. I have always had mixed feelings about this practice by presenters. On the one hand, we get a birds-eye view of what the therapeutic technique looks like. On the other hand, you never know what sort of volunteer you’re going to get. Sometimes you get someone whom you can tell came to this particular seminar in the hopes of getting a free therapy session from such-and-so famous therapist, or worse, someone exhibitionistic who came to get sympathy from a group of her (usually her) peers. Or sometimes, you get someone who is genuinely engaged in the seminar and being altruistic, generous, helpful, in volunteering.

The first time I saw this technique used was shortly after I earned my graduate degree, and it was a distressing, disturbing spectacle. The volunteer was someone who needed much more help than the presenter could provide, and was also someone who fell into the “exhibitionistic” category. And even worse, the presenter was an author of what was then considered the “bible” in its field, but she wasn’t a credentialed therapist. She orchestrated a train wreck on the stage, and I don’t know what happened to the therapist/client/volunteer. It was truly painful to watch, and ethically atrocious, in my opinion.

Today’s presenter was competent, and those who volunteered were doing so out of genuine engagement with the material, and out of altruism, I do believe.

  • There was a woman whose young teen daughter had been abducted for a period of several hours, and had kept that a secret for years.
  • There was a woman whose daughter had physically abused her son (the daughter’s little brother) for years.
  • There was a woman whose son was suicidal and currently hospitalized.
  • There was a woman whose sister had recently died.
  • There was a woman whose husband was deployed to Iraq as her children hit their teens, and his return was causing adjustment problems within the family.
  • There was a woman whose husband had been wounded in Iraq, and is being maltreated now by the military. He suffers from depression and inability to support his family financially, now.

These were all the same woman. When she volunteered, I feel certain she didn’t know where the demonstration would go and how much a hotel ballroom full of strangers would learn about her. I left feeling like I’m doing OK. The Fairchilds will be OK. I hope the Volunteers will, too.

file under: &Work

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oddmix gumby
Photo, kindness of OddMix

Sunday Post ~ “As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.” — Caroline Kennedy Schlossburg

Hebrews 13:1-2

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I’ve been feeling overwhelmed for quite some time, now. And I can take a lot. I think I’ve often lived a rather stressful life. Much of this was not of my own making, but I must admit, some of it has been. WTF, as best I can tell, is not of my own making. I got some news this past Monday that I haven’t even told many people IRL yet, and no one online. The toxicdoc called me to say that the tests she did to confirm the initial Ti poisoning tests . . . they came back negative. She doesn’t think that’s my problem after all. I cried. On the phone, to the toxicdoc. I cry at movies and such, but on the phone with doctors . . . not so much. But a lot of things are different about me now. She said, “I know you may not think so, but I think this is good news, because I’ve been researching, and I can’t find a treatment for Ti poisoning.” I’m trying to let that sink in, but I still don’t think it’s good news. It means other things aren’t ruled out. Other things without treatments. I never would have imagined, a year ago, that I, who had been healthy for 45 years, would be sad that I wasn’t slowly being poisoned by a metal, creating a condition for which there is no known treatment. I would not have imagined that, given my known options, that’s the one I’d choose. Ohfuckit.

Yes, I’m whining. I get a turn at whining. It’s not just WTF. It’s money, it’s time, it’s relationships. But I swear, believe your Mama when she tells you that if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything. If you have your health, I believe you can create, earn or steal anything else you need. You can make some more money, you can make some more love. Health . . . there are limits to your control over it.

I’m back to square one. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know I struggle every day to do the most ordinary things in the most minimal way. I haven’t given up. But I have to confess, I’m having those moments. It’s old. It’s so fucking old, now. I feel overwhelmed. OVERwhelmed. I’ve been thinking about that word a lot, lately. Wondering if I, why I, couldn’t just be plain ol’ whelmed. Whelmed, but not overly so. I looked it up. It’s an odd word. There’s a big difference, say, between eating and overeating. Between sleeping and oversleeping. Spending and overspending. But between whelming and overwhelming, not so much. In fact, one definition of “whelm” is “overwhelm.” That shit ain’t right. I want there to be a difference, and I want to settle back into whelmville.

ThesaurusLegend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms

Verb 1. whelm – overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli

devastate – overwhelm or overpower; “He was devastated by his grief when his son died”
clutch, get hold of, seize – affect; “Fear seized the prisoners”; “The patient was seized with unberable pains”; “He was seized with a dreadful disease”
arouse, elicit, evoke, provoke, enkindle, kindle, fire, raise – call forth (emotions, feelings, and responses); “arouse pity”; “raise a smile”; “evoke sympathy”
kill – overwhelm with hilarity, pleasure, or admiration; “The comedian was so funny, he was killing me!”
benight – overtake with darkness or night
knock out – overwhelm with admiration; “All the guys were knocked out by her charm”
stagger – astound or overwhelm, as with shock; “She was staggered with bills after she tried to rebuild her house following the earthquake”
lock – hold fast (in a certain state); “He was locked in a laughing fit”

whelm definition
tr.v. whelmed, whelm·ing, whelms
1. To cover with water; submerge.
2. To overwhelm.
whelm synonyms
verb

1. To flow over completely: deluge, drown, engulf, flood, flush, inundate, overflow, overwhelm, submerge. See full
2. To affect as if by an outpouring of water: deluge, flood, inundate, overwhelm, swamp. See full

whelm etymology
[Middle English whelmen, to overturn, probably alteration (influenced by helmen, to cover) of whelven, from Old English -hwelfan (as in amacr.gifhwelfan, to cover over).]

Reading about these words really confirms for me that I am overwhelmed. Whelmed on good days, maybe. The whole idea of being knocked over and then submerged. Drowning. That’s about right.

Some years back, I noticed that when I went to social gatherings, parties, what have you, and new people learned that I was a therapist, their ice-breaker line would be something like, “So, what, in your opinion, is the biggest problem that most people are dealing with today?” I’m not kidding. I was asked that repeatedly. And I eventually stopped furrowing my brow and resisting the urge to say, “Who the fuck knows?! Everyone is different!” And I actually came up with an answer, that I believe to be true. What we perceive as our biggest problem, most of us, anyway, is the reality that we can’t make other people (parents, kids, sibs, friends, lovers, employers, doctors, politicians…) behave the way we want them to. We just can’t. I have, I like to think, made a rather impressive peace with that reality. But when WTF is at its worst, that still gets to me, too.

And now, because I can, I am going to play SPF, for the first time in a very long time:

diffuser

This is what I use to smell-fresh my house. And by gosh, even with WTF, I can operate this thing. Every couple of weeks, I flip the little sticks, and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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I love my work. I thank God I’m still well enough to do it as much as I do. And some days, where I work, it’s too much, and we just look at each other and shake our heads, like, “Are you believing this?” I had just gotten off the phone, taking an application for our waiting list, a family in need of a counselor. I walked out of the office to see my colleagues looking a bit the worse for wear, and I handed the application to the director, and a copy to the other clinical supervisor.

Lydia: How do you say this name, the mom? Ki-nee?
Susie: No, it’s pronounced, Ki-NAY, see I wrote it phonetically right there…
Donna: And the daughter, is that Ky-mee-ah?
Susie: No, it’s more like Kuh-mee-uh.
Lydia: As in, C’meah? C’mere! C’mere, C’meah!
Susie: That’s right, it’s expedient. See, you don’t even have to say c’mere! You just say C’meah, and she knows you mean, c’mere, C’meah!

We’re laughing, now. We’re starting to lose it. The front door is locked, we’re sprawled in chairs in the waiting room.

Donna: The boy, what is his name, Cry-on?
Susie: It looks like cry-on, but it’s pronounced Koran. Like a holy book.
Lydia: Lemme see. That’s not Koran. That’s . . . Carry-on.
Susie: Yea, the kid is baggage, so she named him Carry-on. “C’meah, and bring Carry-on!”

We’re howling, now.

Donna: Yea, and his brother is Satchel . . .

PWAHAHAAAAAAA

Susie (can barely get it out, we’re laughing so hard): And the older sister is Valise!

The bell rings and we look toward the door. Lydia opens it and in comes her client, a single Mom with her little boy, who has Asperger’s. Lydia greets the Mom, finds out how her week has been, while the little boy shows Donna and me what he’s been shooting on his VideoNow camera. Lydia walks them both to her office, Donna goes to get the ringing phone, and I return the call to the man who couldn’t talk because he was at work earlier, but now he can so he tells me that Child Protective Services told him to call us after his 8-year-old showed up at school with the man’s handprint on his face. The school where the man’s wife, the boy’s mom, teaches. Back to work, silly girls.

How can you tell when you’re ready for a vacation?

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Every time I encounter this, I feel the need to say something, to shout something, about it. But I haven’t before. I’ve just encountered it again. I’m saying something.

I have to say this, not to criticize those who have already done it — that’s not productive — but to plead with those who are thinking about doing it, to those who are convincing themselves that it will be OK. IT WON’T BE OK. And even if there were a slim chance that it would, the risk is too great.

I have seen them in the media, and I have met them in real life. Over and over and over again. Those women (usually it’s women) who were sexually violated during childhood by family members. When these women grow up, they convince themselves that their own children will be safe around those same family members.

“He’s old now, he doesn’t think like that.”
“I forgave him, and we have moved past that.”
“I told him what will happen if he does, and he’s promised me that he won’t.”
“He knows how much it hurt me; he would never do that to his grandchild.”

GET. REAL. I understand that you wish all those things were true. It’s only normal that you would wish they were true. I wish it for you. But God didn’t entrust your child to wishes. God entrusted that child to you. It is your job to keep her or him safe. When you delude yourself enough to put your child in that situation, and what you have convinced yourself won’t happen, happens . . . You are the one who knew better. Not your child, not even the perpetrator, who may have convinced himself he wouldn’t do it again. No, you are the one whose job it was to keep that child safe, and you, better than anyone, know that his promises aren’t true. They weren’t then, and they aren’t now. How many times were you promised it wouldn’t happen any more? Or told that it was OK? That is was normal? And all the other lies that just now disgust me too much to even write them here?

You know better. If you don’t do better, then you are an accomplice. Please don’t sacrifice your child in the name of family relationships, or saving face, or an inheritance, or forgiveness, or writing a happy ending to your story, or any other of the dozens of things that can’t compare to your child’s safety.

Some resources for help or more information: SOAR (Speaking Out About Rape), RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), and MAVAW(Men Against Violence Against Women).

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whispering to Daddy

Sunday Post ~ “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” — Clarence Budington Kelland (speaking of his father)

Ephesians 6:4

Happy Father’s Day to the Dads, brothers, uncles, single Moms with double duty, and all those whom someone is watching how you live. That’s pretty much everyone.

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