I’m writing this on Maundy Thursday, 2015. This is the day our Christ had his last earthly Passover Seder. It is the day that he prayed in Gethsemene for the cup to pass from Him. He knew what grief and pain and horror lay in his path. He knew exactly what was coming. Each tang of the lash, each piercing of each thorn, the thudding tears of the nails as they hammered into his flesh. He knew it. He begged to be released.
Wrestling with chronic pain I always feel especially close to the man Jesus on this day, and especially in awe of the God Christ.
That’s why the ear has taken on such significance in my life.
Picture it. He knows that these people are coming to take him to not just death but wracking physical, emotional and spiritual pain the likes of which none of us will ever taste–because God never forsakes us. These soldiers coming through the trees were there to bring him to certain agony.
Peter, whose temper is much like mine, grabs a sword and hacks off the ear of one of the soldiers. Slices is right off. He’s defending God.
So what does Jesus do? He picks up the ear and heals it. He heals the man who has come to drag him to his death.
And then he follows the soldier. And then he suffers. And then he dies.
He HEALS the man who stands against him.
I’m not going to draw any direct parallels to my own life or the lives of others, because if I start I don’t stop. But I think of that every time some scenario comes up where I feel challenged to defend my beliefs in any form or forum.
Do I slash the ear off or do I stand aside and let Him do the healing? He’s Alive and I’m forgiven. So I endeavour to stand aside.
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I’ve been up since midnight, flushing toilets and opening faucets every hour to make sure the pipes aren’t blocked or shattered by ice. The rest of the time three faucets are left dripping–which is handy for the flushing thing as I need to pee frequently–power of suggestion and all that.
I had made up my mind that I would spend January re-reading A Song Of Ice And Fire (The series more commonly known to television viewers as “Game Of Thrones”.) I thought it would be a good idea to give me something to distract my mind from the usual doldrums of the raw year. I did not plan on reading about Jon Snow on the Wall (hundreds of feet high, made entirely of ice) while it was actually colder here than it is in the book. I mean, the Wall is weeping in the “heat” at this point in the story. If the wall were in my backyard that sucker would be solid, laughing at the mere mortals who need heat to survive.
I do not like winter; I moved 500 miles away from kith and kin to escape it. I feel like a weather Jonah, with the bad joss following me ever southward.
I wish I had something more interesting to say about it all. I don’t really, because what is there to say but “It’s terribly, awfully, excruciatingly cold and I do not like it at all” ? I will say that a few minutes ago I had grisly thoughts brought on by Westeros’ 50 year winters. (Seriously…winters last 50 years in that fantasy world. I do not see myself coping well in their realm.) I was wondering what they do when they are out of trees and coal and whatever else they burn for heat. Then I started wondering how well human bones would burn, if they would stink, if breathing the fumes would carry disease. I’m now obsessed with this concept: Human bones as fuel, a sort of cannibalism of heat. How very morbid, yet how very authorly. Even as I write this I’m working it into my own novel’s world. They do not have 50 year winters, but they are faced with some other shortages brought on by conflicts between races. Remember when I chiefly wrote romance? Well, you probably don’t since I haven’t published any of it. But trust me. There was a long time when all I wrote was daisy-petal stories of unrequited, yearning love. Now I write cosmologies of fantastical worlds. With romance. There must always be a romance to keep me interested. Not a gacky series-of-misunderstandings romance, but grown-up ones. I do so enjoy writing, and right now I’m escaping to the warmth of living in a tropical world. It’s make-believe, of course. But it is definitely not 10 degrees below zero and since they’re underwater I have no reason to leave the faucets running. I shall come up for air eventually.
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Back when I blogged regularly I used to periodically do these stream of consciousness posts where I only corrected typos and didn’t frame my thoughts for writerly presentation. I found them very relaxing and only sometimes felt they were too revealing. Since I’m having trouble writing something coherent I figured that I’d just go with this method of getting something on the books.
I’m writing again. Actually I’m always writing, but now I’ve decided I want to have my blog be active because I need a place that isn’t a book (too long) or Facebook (too short) or Twitter (too contentious and waaaaay too short and waaaay too contentious). I’m pretty much assuming I won’t see many readers so I’m not that worried about what I write here getting too many eyes. Even if I were I’ve been me long enough to know pretty much what I’m comfortable sharing and what I’m not willing to put out there.
Several of my friends talk about sex a lot. I don’t. I’m not ashamed of sex at all. I just think it’s private and it’s for me and my partner and not a matter for public consumption. I get uncomfortable reading other people talk about their sex life because I feel like they’re wanting to take me into a private space of theirs that I don’t want to be intruding upon. I also feel like they’re asking a sort of committment from me as a reader to go with them to that place and I have to say I find it a little offensive. This is something I realise about myself lately. Of course, I also have to say that I don’t mind being offended. I know that sounds strange but I figure most of the time other people don’t intend to give offense. It just happens. It’s like being jostled in a store or something. People don’t mean to bump you in the back of the legs with their shopping cart or to bump up against you as you both come out of the elevator. It’s just one of those things that happens when people are in the world alongside you. I feel the same way about “offensive” behaviour. Folks are always doing something that offends other people. I figure I can tell them I’m offended and they can either do something about it or not do anything about it. It’s not my call. But I like to go on record and say “ow, you bumped me” or “I don’t like it when you do X.” Of course, being offended is different than being hurt. Folks offend me when they talk graphically about their sex life. (I have a couple of facebook friends who regularly do this and I just sort of skim that.) But folks HURT me when they say “fat people are gross.” I’m fat. I am hurt when you say I’m gross. To my mind if you know you’re hurting people you should not continue. I have opinions on things that may be hurtful to others. So I keep those opinions to myself. An sort of example: One person I’m no longer in any sort of touch with AT ALL (so if you’re reading this it isn’t you) has a terribly disgusting, rude and mean husband whom I can’t stand. I don’t tell her–and never did tell her–that I thought she made a mistake to marry him. That’s just one of those things that you don’t have to say to people. And I think that way about most hurtful opinions. Especially in matters of religion. I have Jewish friends who think that I’m crazy for following Jesus because in their view Jesus was–if he exists at all–a sort of Che Guevara of Nazareth. But they don’t tell me that. Anyway, this is me processing all of that. I’m going to stop kind of abruptly here because I’ve strayed above my 500 words AND Gus is gnawing away on a bone. He’s on the landing of the staircase which functionally puts him right by my ear and I can’t hear myself think. So here we go. Whee. I’m blogging.
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It’s New Year’s Day. That means that most of us are going to take down the trees and the lights and the dancing snowmen (that should all be destroyed anyway). We’re going to start depriving ourselves of food and rest, pushing our bodies into new activities, despite the fact that we are still in the cradle of darkness. Come January 2 “The Holidays” are over for the secular world.
In the Christian church, however, those 12 days of Christmas _start_ with the celebration of His birth and last until January 6. That day is Epiphany. We all know the Christmas Story, where the angels tell the Shepherd that Jesus has been born in a house in Bethlehem and laid in the livestock’s food dish. That was when Jesus appeared to the Jewish people. That crowded house in Bethlehem, full of Joseph’s distant relatives, was there to watch this unwed teenage virgin give birth to a child. And they were there to attest to the fact that she WAS a virgin when Jesus was born. That is the fulfillment of prophecy of Jesus being born of the line of David. Epiphany is when the Magician Philosophers from other lands showed up with the significant gifts acknowledging that this child was a King, a Priest and a Sacrifice.
Christmas Day is the culmination of the prophecies of the Messiah’s lineage and advent.
Epiphany is the commencement of the prophecies of the Messiah coming to all nations, Gentile as well as Israel.
The party is just getting started on Christmas. And it doesn’t seem like a lot of fun to continue to observe a celebration once the gifts are given and the food is abjured. But if we are commemorating the Christ Child we miss half the story by putting away the lights before the tale is fully told.
We who are Christians have much more to honour than a birthday. We have a life of the King and Priest who is our Ultimate Sacrifice to celebrate, to honour, to rejoice.
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My parents are moving from the home they’ve lived in since I was 16. This is the big house in the country with the swimming pool and the creek and the acres of land and the fieldstone fireplace. It was their dream house.
I had referred to this house as “home” for a very long time–long past the time when I moved to Tennessee and established residences with my own family. I left my home physically but didn’t leave it mentally and emotionally. Of course I can’t blame myself entirely. I was young and I moved to a city where the only people I knew were my husband and a bipolar guy who had been his friend at university. I spent years fantasizing about moving back.
I don’t know exactly when the shift occurred, in fact I suspect it was a gradual thing. We bought OUR dream house and got our first two dogs. I started working at jobs I enjoyed. We began meeting people here. I think the biggest shift happened because of two things. I started blogging and I met people who were like me–bookish nerds who lived for words. Before that I became absorbed in Harry Potter, and that gave me another home to go to.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with women over the years about leaving home. It many cases it’s the hardest thing we do emotionally, and we have different ways of coping. Some call their mothers every day. Some romanticize the life at their childhood home by remembering the good times in the golden haze of nostalgia and shoving all the arguments and tension into a shadowy corner of their minds. Some throw themselves into creative things like scrapbooking and quilting–as though creating works of beauty can recreate the sense of peace conferred by the idea of Home. Some women just never leave. I know a great many women who live in the bosom of their childhood families.
I coped in several ways–crafts and nostalgia and frequent visits to the home seven hours northward that I had turned into the platonic ideal.
I’ll let you in on a secret. Once you realise that you are the key to Shalom Bayis–peace in the home–and it is up to you to make a peaceful sanctuary for those you love it is one of the most freeing experiences you’ll ever have. You’ll come to realise that your home is not a place. Your home is people*. Dream houses are just that. They’re houses. They are edifices of stone and glass and wood–hard things meant to stand between the people you love and the world outside.
If I have any advice at all for other women, especially the young women who are going through the heart struggle that I lived with for so long, it is this. Stop trying to _go_ home and start trying to _make_ home where you are.
*I owe this phrase to Aral Vorkosigan. This is your daily reminder to read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga.
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I’ve never really understood the appeal to mountaineering. I’m afraid of heights to begin with, and then throughout my adulthood there seems to have been a Grave Disaster reported out of the Himalayas every 7 years or so. (I didn’t even realise until Sunday that there had been another horrific catastrophe on Everest earlier this year. That’s how commonplace news of these have gotten. They aren’t even NEWS anymore.) In the past I’ve had thoughts along the lines of “what an irresponsible waste of money and effort and lives, not in that order.”
As I grow older, though, I realise more and more that if I can’t see any sense at all in something I don’t understand then perhaps I truly DON’T understand it and it’s time to take a closer look. So I did what I always do in this circumstance. I asked people who did it–none of whom answered because why would you bother, really, with someone who seems hostile–and then I checked book after book out of the library. I’m now on my third book and while I still am at a loss to understand how a man could leave his pregnant wife or young children to do it, I do understand the appeal overall. There’s a mindset of detail and determination and a will to overcome that drives people to conquer difficulty.
Eerily, though, as I read I began to notice something. Climbers–hailed on every inhabited continent as heroes and humans of exceptional character and fortitude–had something in common with me. With me and many of the people I’ve come to know in the last ten years.
Read a climber discussing the problems of living at high altitude and you’ll see painful joints, wracking cough, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of coordination, severe body aches. Read a climber talking about the dangers of the Death Zone–where oxygen is so limited above 26,000 feet that your brain turns stupid and your blood to sludge–and you see the exact description of someone suffering from anemia.
People who climb mountains are heroes. They are hailed for accomplishment and given corporate endorsements. Yet there are roughly 10 million people in America alone who live with chronic pain from various disorders. We are labeled “Hypochondriacs”, “Narcissists”, “drama queens”, “Malingerers”. One doctor friend always wonders why people show up in his office and are disappointed when they have no serious diagnosis. How do I explain that when you’re climbing a mountain no one else sees you’d at least like someone to admit that you are scaling something other than air.
It’s been interesting to me to see myself through the lens of the climber. They do what they do for a few months and go home. I do this until I die. I probably won’t get on a Wheaties box in this lifetime. But I’m going to give both the climbers AND my fellow sufferers of chronic pain a bit of a pass. We keep climbing. Because it’s there.
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Yesterday I listened to a little bit over an hour of a notable personality whom I’ve always liked speaking on a podcast. It was not fun; in between long and pompous announcements about how he was an “open-handed moderate” unlike “right-wing” “fascists” I got to hear about how he was so much smarter than religious people. This fact–the stupidity of religious people–was a frequent spice to the conversation, adding a little-needed extra dose of pomposity. About 45 minutes into this we were told that he does what he does because he “just enjoys people.” At that point my main thought was “do you LISTEN to yourself? You enjoy half the people, at most.”
A bit later on I was looking something up–truth be told I was looking up opinions on this person–and ended up at a website I rarely visit. This collective blog aimed at conservatives is a popular place for sharp-tongued articles that repeatedly use “liberal” and “leftist” and “Hollywood” as demeaning and dismissive adjectives. I realised it was a nice picture of two sides of the same coin.
I’m not sure when it started, but I know during the last 24 years of my lifetime it has been de rigeur to mock and belittle the people you disagree with–not only the points on which you disagree, but also everything else about the person. I’m fairly sure we didn’t invent this method of discourse but I’m also pretty sure it’s gained an obscene amount of traction via the things we did invent–Twitter, FaceBook, blogs.
If you page back through this blog a few years you will likely find things I wrote that have that same sort of equally-disdainful acid dripping from them. I’m not proud of that but I’m glad they’re here because it’s proof that people can grow out of that, can grow in Christ and learn to practice faith proactively.
There’s a very popular Christian blogger whose blog I do not give attention or press, so I’m not going to link it here. But he’s popular largely because he takes this same tactic. If someone does something he doesn’t like or agree with he not only has to tell you what he disagrees with he has to call names, say inconsiderate things and generally practice cruelty. This happens a lot because people tell themselves “anybody who does this stupid thing doesn’t deserve respect.” But I’ll say right now that if we are practicing Christianity we need to take First Corinthians 13 very seriously. If we don’t speak with love we are only putting more discordant noise into the air. Snark is funny. Snark gets hits. Snark goes viral. But like real virii, it infects the cell it attaches to, turns that cell into a septic destroyer of the body and then rages from cell to cell, growing in poison.
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