Monday, February 20, 2017

Up the down weekend

The devil bastard.

It was an up and down weekend. I was planning to visit my parents in Illinois but I developed a cold towards the end of the week and decided to cancel. So it started off pretty down. I did a lot of staring.

I only had to work three hours on Friday because I'd worked the previous Saturday. So instead of driving to Illinois, and since I was not feeling good, I went home and plopped in the recliner. It was almost 70 degrees outside but I was a zombie. I never did actually sleep, but just sat there and stared at the TV (or the wall, I dunno) all afternoon in the dark. My mind started to darken.

See, they delivered 'the kiosk' at work Friday morning. I haven't been given many details at all about it, but two construction guys were there to unload it off the truck. They planned to put it in Friday afternoon, but apparently didn't get around to it. Anyway, they were kidding me about it being my replacement and they put my business card on the front of it and were calling it Dan the whole time they were there. I know they were just joking, but given all the secrecy and confusion surrounding it, it's not very funny to me.

So I sat at home and sulked and stewed and the later it got the more worthless I felt. Pretty soon I'd convinced myself I would never be able to hold a job again. I ended up staying awake in the recliner until around 5:30 the next morning - I just could not shut my brain down and fall asleep.

Saturday morning Jane went somewhere so I was alone again, and the descent continued. It wasn't like I was suicidal, but I just honestly felt like I didn't know if I could function anymore. I finally made myself put some clothes on and get out of the chair. It was another unusually warm day - the whole weekend was in the mid to upper 60's - so I gradually started cleaning the house and picking up sticks in the yard and eventually realized I was still alive. It was a long day and a half though. I do not like those dark days.

I've probably stated this before but I have always had a love for Sundays. It has been especially good lately. I like being able to sleep in and get to the church gathering at an agreeable hour for me. We start at 10:30 and it only takes us 10 minutes to get there. I feel so good during the service. Lately I've even been able to envision myself starting to get involved in things again - at least while we're at church. I feel hopeful and positive and it's just a good feeling during the service. At least at the church we are presently attending.

On this particular Sunday we also hosted a party in the evening. We invited some of the young families from the church I used to pastor. They are all around the age of Drew Carrie (and they were there too). Including us there were 24 altogether. 9 were adults and 15 were kids ranging in age from 2-15. Jane made bbq and everyone brought a dish to share, and we had a great time. The kids were able to play outside until it got dark, and then they all played in the basement. The adults squeezed around the kitchen table for the most part. Jane and I didn't do a lot of talking, but we enjoyed the heck out of just listening and seeing everyone. A couple times I found myself just staring, and smiling. I was partly remembering how fun it used to be to have all these kids running around the church, but I was also marveling at the people they were turning into. Some of them I hadn't seen for four years I suppose, and they were all soooooo good. This was a good feeling for me. It did my heart good. Sure, there were things I wanted to say or ask, but they were things that didn't have all that much to do with life anymore, so it was nice just to hang. Really nice.

And then when I tried to go to bed last night... I couldn't fall asleep again. My mind was stuck on work again. Part of the problem is that I know the ridiculousness of the situation. I do not have a bad job, but I just feel such angst and uncertainty.

Ultimately, I know in my head the crux of the problem comes down to me and my expectations. I remember from the last time I was in counseling being told the way to contentment was dependent on reality/expectations. We either need to change our reality (which we can't really do, contrary to what you hear today), or we need to change our expectations. That is by and large my biggest issue right now. I am placing expectations on others that are not being met. And it's not THEIR fault they're not meeting MY expectations. So, while it's nice to know, it doesn't necessarily make it any easier to live with.

Well, that's about all there is to say about that. I was pretty low at the end of the week, then very high, and then back to low again at the start of this week. I've been trying to do the Brother Lawrence thing of 'practicing the presence' of God lately. It helps sometimes, but I always end up forgetting at some point. So, try, try again.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Faithful presence - review

I finished reading David Fitch's nice little book "Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church For Mission" this past week. I'm glad I read it. As with most of David's writing (book, blog, twitter, etc.) it was challenging to many evangelical conventions, but it spoke to me richly.

In paperback it came in right around 200 pages, so it was fairly easy to read (especially for DF books). It was broken into two sections. Part 1 describes the theology of God's faithful presence, and how he believes the church is the answer to changing the world. Part 2 is then the seven disciplines to guide us in carrying it out.

The book was written in response to questions regarding whether the church has anything more to offer a world full of injustice. As Fitch writes on p. 10:
"Can the church reach out to the worlds around me in a way that doesn't judge them, alienate them, or ask them in some way to come to us? Can the church engage the hurting, the poor, and the broken with something more than just handouts?"

He continues on p.10 to propose that the answer to these questions is 'faithful presence:'
"Faithful presence names the reality that God is present in the world and that he uses a people faithful to his presence to make himself concrete and real amid the world's struggles and pain. When the church is this faithful presence, God's kingdom becomes visible, and the world is invited to join with God. Faithful presence is not only essential for our lives as Christians, it's how God has chosen to change the world. In this book I aim to describe what this faithful presence looks like."

The rest of the book is then a description of the seven disciplines given to us by Christ that shape us into his presence. He lists them as:
  1. The Lord's Table
  2. Reconciliation
  3. Proclaiming the gospel
  4. Being with "the least of these"
  5. Being with children
  6. The fivefold ministry
  7. Kingdom prayer
He states that "In these disciplines Jesus has given us all we need to shape our lives into his presence for the transformation of the world."

Fitch also proposes that these disciplines are best understood as 'on the move.' He says they occupy three spaces continually - what he calls the close circle, the dotted circle, and the half circle. These circles basically represent within the church, in our homes, and in the community.


So, my personal take on the book (for what it's worth)... Like I said, I am glad I read it. I haven't read too many "church" books for awhile and this was good for me. That said, as much as I think Fitch doesn't want it to be, he writes at a fairly high level of understanding. This was probably his most "readable" book to date, but I'd say it's still not something the average church attendee and/or Christian would take much interest in.

I read it with great interest though. I liked all seven of the disciplines he pointed out. I was perhaps most surprised - and blown away by - the one on being with children. That chapter by itself was worth the price of the book to me. And that's what I like about Fitch, God's grace, and Jesus as well - the surprising little ways that really reach out and slap you in the face but caress your heart at the same time. Anyway, I don't want to give too much away, but I really like that Fitch's church requires everyone to work with children at some point, but at the same time they don't separate the children from the adults for everything either.

Overall, the book is written very well; I believe very solid biblically; and filled with a lot of good real-life stories and examples to explain and give credence to his proposal that what the world needs more of is God's faithful presence through His church. I highly recommend it for church leaders of all stripes.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cleaning up washington politics

The truth is I'm not all that smart about politics, but unfortunately I have occasion to drag myself into interest. I don't understand much about world affairs, the electoral college, or political science in general. However I do care about people, and the workings of society have a lot to do with how people are treated and live. So I read about things now and then, and these are some things I think could help. Maybe. At least in my brain.
  1. Healthcare Overhaul - I am tempted to be in favor of a single-payer national health insurance program, though I've lately been leaning more toward some type of all-payer rate setting of some kind. From what little I've read, the biggest culprit in the outrageous price-gouging going on with healthcare is not necessarily the insurance industry (which a single-payer program would minimize). It has been suggested that government oversight of healthcare services and products would better serve to bring health costs down. Setting a hard price on medicines, procedures, and other products would hinder the pharmaceutical rapage of society more than trying to regulate insurance companies. It seems to go more toward the source of the problem than dealing with the symptoms.
  2. Term Limits for Congress - Not only that, but how about if they were held to the same laws and treatment (healthcare/retirement) as every other citizen. Why is this even an issue anymore? I don't think I need to say more.
  3. Campaign Spending Limit - How about if we set a cap on how much politicians could spend on campaigning. It would cut down on the amount of time we have to hear negative adds, plus it might hinder the influence corporations and lobby groups have in politics. How about a limit of $5 million for federal positions, $500,000 for state, and $50,000 for local elections??
  4. No Corporate Campaign Donations - As if #3 were not enough, let's just eliminate the ability for corporations and groups to donate altogether. You raise money from individuals - whether it's a lot of small donations or a few large ones wouldn't matter as much if #3 were in place.
So, that's my four-point plan for cleaning up Washington politics. Well, probably not really, but these are some things I have been thinking about and it's my blog so... there ya have it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lost in the space beneath my skull

It's been awhile since I've posted anything. I actually considered just ending this misery of minutia and letting the blog die but.... well, here I am again. Like the stray cat that just won't leave, because where else would it go? So, I will try to remember some of the thoughts that have passed through my mind over these last few days.

The last time we served food on the street downtown I talked to two different guys who had recently been beat up and had their stuff stolen. One guy had the tent he'd been sleeping in ripped to shreds. These were both somewhat desperate guys, and you could tell they were worn down by life even though they weren't all that old. As I chatted and listened to them my heart sort of sank a few degrees. I just cannot imagine that life. However, I guess it made me feel like we were doing something even a little significant. Once again, I am seeing my role as just being a sort of presence there to smile, listen, learn names and speak them. I don't know if there is such a thing as a ministry of familiarity, but it sounds intriguing even if this is the first time it's ever entered my mind.

In a similar vein, I am in the middle of doing an auction at my place of employ. We have decided to do them online now instead of physically onsite with an auctioneer. There are pros and cons but either way requires the same work and detail. I have one customer who is being especially difficult, but there's another one that was more impactful. This guy - probably about my age or a tad older - has pretty much all his possessions stored here, and he's going to lose them. We tried to work out an arrangement but he finally came in and just admitted that he was never going to be able to pay his bill and maybe it would actually be better for him to just cut his losses and move on. I probably agree with him, but it was a sad exchange. He almost seemed relieved to be losing his "things." I felt bad because I imagine it's not easy reaching that conclusion. On the other hand, I can see the freedom in no longer being tied to "stuff."

Speaking of work... it continues to be a mixed bag. As I've stated many times, I really do like my job, I just have a hard time playing with others. An electrician showed up at the office yesterday to run the wiring for the kiosk they are going to install here. He was asking me all these questions, and I couldn't be much help because I haven't really been told much at all. I have a hard time dealing with people refusing to talk to me, though I can understand why they don't want to and I'm not all that sure I would believe a lot of what one of them has to say anyway. I don't blame them for not wanting to talk to me because I know I am difficult to deal with. I wouldn't want to talk to me either. I wish I had a better handle on my emotions, but if I did then I probably wouldn't be working here in the first place. Still, I am frustrated by being kept in the dark. I've been told my job will not be eliminated, but based on other things I've heard and been told, something does not add up. You don't spend the kind of money these kiosks require without getting rid of human workers. THAT is what they are made for! So, who knows.

There are some other things occupying my mind and heart that I'd rather not discuss at the moment. On the bright side, though, is the growing sense that bad things are not necessarily bad. Much can be learned from the journey, and history shows some of the greatest things in life have come from detours. So I feel like I'm starting to enjoy the trip a little more. I like this little quote I ran across some time ago. I used to keep it on my desk at work:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What's in a name

I have a bit of an odd name. One day I must have run across an ad for and been bored enough to click through to the origin and meaning. I'd known it was of German origin, but had been under the impression it had something to do with "house" or "home." Ancestry had this to say though:

Horwedel Name Meaning
German: topographic name for someone who lived by a swampy ford, from hor ‘dirt’ + wede ‘woods’.

Hmm. Who knew? Sort of a 'person of the earth.' I'll take that.