Writer’s Block, or 1401

This is my 1401st post on my blog.  WordPress (kindly or not) has been reminding about getting close to 1400 for several weeks, which has served only to give me writer’s block.

Normally I don’t hold with writer’s block.  I’m a writer; I write.  I can’t stop. If I don’t have access to my blog, I write in my journal. If my journal isn’t handy, I type misspelled notes in my phone with my thumbs. If I don’t have my phone, I write on scraps of paper.  Mostly, I lose them, but it none of it keeps me from writing.  If I want to think better, I hold a pen in my hand.

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But that 1400th post choked me.  Ought it to be something significant?  What is significant? Certainly not my first few posts, which were (sadly enough) about oatmeal.

This morning I made oatmeal again.  Oatmeal is ordinary. My posts are ordinary.  My blog is ordinary.

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Because the beauty in my life comes from the ordinary.

This has been the lesson I have learned from my blog.

My blog is a written record of the small ordinary.  Like using a macro lens, writing in this place helps me see the small gifts buried in the detritus on the counter.

Today’s ordinary gifts:

  • a cucumber-melon candle
  • artwork by a friend
  • children laughing
  • a basket full of library books

Thanks for joining me here, friends.
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Compassion

Can I point you toward Oddny’s Blog?  Though we have never met, I love what she writes.  The post linked here is on Compassion.

The Camping Ban of which she writes has been in effect here in Denver for a year now, and it’s on my mind.  Proponents say that the goal of the ban is to push the homeless into getting assistance.  The reality in Denver is that there are not enough shelter beds, and many of the shelters can’t accommodate families.  When offered a choice between splitting up their family and sleeping on the street, many choose to sleep on the street.

As Oddny’s post says so eloquently,

 … I was so happy when some of the leaders of the Norwegian Church suddenly one day decided to say: Enough is enough. And they packed their sleeping bags and went to one of the public parks in Oslo to sleep outside with the beggars. They thought that when politicians decided that the poor could sleep outside in our parks, but didn’t give them any other alternatives either, then they, the followers of Jesus, would show them what they thought Jesus would have done. They were going to sleep with the down-and-out.

There are a few folk in our church who are active with ministry among the homeless, and I have dipped my toe in the waters with them.  I confess that every time I do, I am afraid of drowning.  Will they ask more of me than I can give?

The needs before us are so enormous that solving one problem often opens the door on six more.  Where I work as a physician, my patients frequently can’t afford the medication– or physical therapy, or surgery– I recommend.  Ought I then to buy it for them?  If I manage to find a surgeon who will see a patient without insurance, but it’s all the way across town and my patient doesn’t drive, what then?  Should I drive her there?  My patient who speaks only Spanish manages to get to her appointment at the neurologist but then there was no translator, so he didn’t understand what the specialist said.  Should I have gone with him?

I serve from a place of insecurity.  Will what I bring be enough?  The answer is always no.  It’s a slippery slope, and I feel myself slamming on the brakes before I even start.

Yet the Norwegian Church has presented a third way.  Jesus’ way, I think.  And when I serve along with the church, among the poor instead of to them, I can allow Jesus to be my sufficiency.  To meet needs and to be a witness to how he does it.  When the Church owns a ministry together (here I use the word “own” in the sense of “takes responsibility for”) then we will find a way forward together.  Maybe I could see the patients and meet medical needs, and others in the body could translate, or provide transportation, or prayer, or money for medication.   I am not comfortable (and maybe comfort isn’t the point) going out to sleep on the street with strangers… but the Church together can have an impact.

I am tired of being self-sufficient.  I am tired of being afraid to minister.  How does your church body meet needs together?  What does the third way look like for you?

 

New Years

What is it about taking down the Christmas decorations that turns my mind to fresh and new?  I guess it is a changing of seasons of sorts.  This year Sam did it without me (bless him!) and all I had to do was find the well-hidden Christmas tree drop-off.  Which I couldn’t do at first, so J and I left the tree tied on top of the car while we went to lunch.  Alas, no one helped themselves to our tree while we were eating.

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After we found the tree drop-off and managed to get the huge thing off the car, we saw a bald eagle on a telephone pole.  Actually, we had seen him ten minutes earlier (or maybe we saw two different bald eagles?) but I was going 45 and couldn’t really stop to admire him.  J didn’t even see the first one.  But the second one?  He seemed like a sign.  So we stopped and looked until J saw him.  Really saw him.

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Anyway, my neighbor cleared out her basement, and my friend Renee cleared out her budget, and I am left wondering what I’m supposed to be clearing out to make room for the new.

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And then in prayer the answer comes: discontent. Covetousness.  An old word that simply means not being satisfied with the riches already lavished on me.  Not sure what that’s going to look like this year (or if I even want to embrace the call.)  Sometimes I’m so full of wanting more that there’s no room to enjoy what I have today.  So maybe I need to go with that for 2013.

Are you clearing out the old to make room for the new?

Riot for Austerity

Have you heard of the Riot for Austerity?  I am just an observer of it, but I admit to being very intrigued.  When I look at the Occupy movement, I long for a viable alternative.  It’s fine to protest, but tell me what the other option is. Riot for Austerity is an alternative: a challenge to reduce your household emissions in seven categories to 90% less than (of 10% of) the average American household and keep it there for a year.  Like a diet on consumerism.  But unlike a crash diet, the maintenance of these changes can have a real lasting effect on our use.

My friend Anisa introduced me to it.  She’s doing a “Quiet Riot.”  We’re not shooting for 90%, but like any of my efforts to reduce, it is so helpful for me to see actual numbers.  How much natural gas are we using?  How much electricity?  Water?  Transportation fuel?  Water?  Garbage?  Food that is not local, or not sustainably grown?

I admit that I had hoped we were already using considerably less than average, but that wasn’t the case.  It takes a lot of heat to warm this house, even with good windows and insulation.  And we like our showers hot and long around here.  It’s hard to measure exactly how much of our food is local vs. not.  Do I measure in pounds, or dollars?

But charting the actual numbers has made me realize what we use and has started me thinking more concretely.  We hung fewer Christmas lights, and now that I’m turning the computers off every night (rather than just letting them sleep) we used 10% less electricity than for the same 3-month period a year ago.  Our natural gas use is down 18% from last year (based on 5 months of bills each year).  And none of our changes– using the clothesline or turning our heat down earlier in the evening (at 8:30 p.m. instead of 9:30 p.m.)– really bother us at all.  For now, comparing our use to our own use a year ago has been helpful.  I don’t know when I’ll be ready to dive into the R4A for real, but I’m learning so much from thinking about it.

If you look at the R4A from a Christian perspective, I’d strongly encourage you to read Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity with it.  He writes about Simplicity as an end in itself simply being one more dead end. But if we use a holy practice of simplicty as a tool to identity with the world’s poor and to become more like Jesus in the process, then we’re getting somewhere.