Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dots that Don't Connect

Dot one. This will sound a little like Jeff's "Saturday Ramblings," in Imonk.  The point is, I miss writing.  One of the greatest joys I've ever known is intensive writing.  I use to write articles from medical journals.  I wrote a couple of insignificant books but had dreams (and starts) of many that I hoped would be more significant ones.

I use to come here often and carried with me one solid thought to put in text. But I am so consumed these days . . . and my consumption neglects my writing like someone being too busy to hold their lover anymore. Is it still love? When I do have time to write, I have to write so fast that my typos are so bad, worse than my usual dyslexic ramblings and are almost illegible in comprehension.

It is sad, in a way, but my consumption was deliberate. Two years ago I faced the incredibly sad day that my last child was leaving home.  I've been a father of 5 children, starting 28 years ago.  I knew nothing else. I am defined by "dad" and if I lost that, the intimate dad role, I was afraid that I too would cease to exist in the same way those "3-D" side walk caulk drawings quickly disappear under a brief spring shower.

I feared depression too . . . and maybe most of all.  I've walked through the valley of two serious depressions and I honestly don't think I could survive another.  Loosing my "fatherhood" could easily have been the last straw.  So, I fulfilled a dream of starting a headache clinic from scratch in order to consume my soul and to distract my thinking and my emotions from this season of loss.

The clinic is gaining on its two year anniversary. It has been hell. If the public was aware of the total nonsense that is required to run a clinic they would be outraged. So, my goal of finding a distraction has worked far too well.  But I'm starting to crave normalcy.

Dot two.  I've written before about Christian decision making.  This week I decided to buy a car.  It is bizarre the rapid flow of emotions entangled with this decision.  There use to be a commercial on TV where is at the check out in a grocery store and they are asked, "plastic or paper" and immediate a hundred imagines run through their mind as they try to make the correct decision.

I remember when I was an evangelical and believed that every single decision in life had a deep moral implication . . . and God-preference of which choice I should make.  It was scary trying to make the right choice.

On one side would be the self-denial, other's first, humble servant motives. On the other side, my personal desires.  It was assumed that only the altruistic motives should count . . . right?  It would quickly push us into this crazy world, like a fun house at a carnival . . . but it wasn't fun but just with all kinds of distorted mirrors.

Here is one example.

I was very, very poor when I was in graduate school.  I'm serious.  I often went a day or two without any food. I would go to public buildings (hospitals, hotels, dorms) and search the furniture for coins so I could buy a box of 19 cent Mac and Cheese.

I loved backpacking. I had saved and saved to buy some boots.  I had tennis shoes full of holes, which didn't work well on the trails.

Finally I had the $90 for the boots.  I picked them out of the REI catalog and wrote the check.  I had the check in my backpack and headed off to a Christian conference (I had forgotten to mail it).  At the conference, they had a missionary couple from Mexico speak.  They were raising money to go back.  The pressure was intense on the 500 + college students.  It was a deeply convicting message (after the missionaries spoke) about giving up our own material possessions for God's work and how God would repay us in some way.  So, I tore up my REI order and redirected the $90 to the missionary couple.

But then I noticed that our local Christian organization staff guy lived in a upper middle class house, and just bought a brand new car.  I was perplexed.  I asked one of the other leaders, "You know, as the leader guy said at the conference, that it hurts God when we spend money on our own, selfish desires.  How does the leader justifying buying a brand new car?'

That Christian group leader seemed perplexed and angered by my question.  He has the right to live in any kind of house he wants.  God has blessed him with a great house and a great car.  God loves His children and wants to bless them.

I still couldn't get my head around it. "But, we were just told that anytime we spend money on ourselves, it is selfish and hurtful to God.  Doesn't him buying a big, nice house in one of the best neighborhoods and a brand new car mean that he is spending money on himself?"

Then the leader got really made at me. "He is doing God's work. He needs a nice house to rest in for the ministry. He needs a reliable car to do God's ministry. He isn't spending it himself."

But I thought in my mind, how is that fair if I'm not allow to have hiking boots? Couldn't I hike as a part of ministry? I was still confused.  Looking back, I see so many mind-games that were played in that world . . . none of which make any sense.

So, as I worked though this idea of trading my 2000 car for a 2008 car, one with 160,000 miles for one with 52,000 miles . . . I wrestled with some of the same thoughts.  Yeah, I could get another 100,000 miles out of my car.  Yeah, there are people in Africa who will die because they don't have money for food or HIV drugs and if I didn't buy the car, I could send them the payments each month.

But, there has to be a peace that many of these day-to-day decisions are amoral. That God doesn't give a rat's ass one way or the other.  I still carry some guilt about making the trade.

I will stop here but I had about three more dots that I will leave in the pen.

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