Thursday, October 21, 2010

hunger and homelessness and a bit of Luther...

Yesterday, I spent a chunk of the day teaching about hunger and homelessness at the inner-city school where I worked to establish the weekend food program.  The Washington Post just ran an article about how DCPS is adding a third free meal to the day, an early dinner.  All of the children know hunger.  Some of them know homelessness.  That was a delicate dance, and I am one who with two left feet.  However...not when teaching.  Never with teaching.  The politics of being a teacher...well...not so much success there.  Teaching itself...pure joy and always a beautiful thing!

Young minds seeking.  Wooing reluctant learners with my voice and expressions as I read.  Querying them so as to lead them to an answer.  Delighting in their discovery of something new.  Oh, how I savor any small opportunity to be a teacher once more!

The children walked for hunger and homelessness afterward, chanting, garbed in their Help the Homeless t-shirts.  The tiniest ones had shirts to their ankles.  Many were holding hands as they milled about afterward.  My other joy that day was getting to take photos, trying to capture the moment for others to understand.  Out of dozens, a few are usable.  I am out of the habit of looking at the world through the eye of a camera lens.  I miss that, too.

"Manna" gave me some beautiful Luther the other day:

People don't earn God's approval or receive life and salvation because of anything they've done.  Rather, the only reason they receive life and salvation is because of God's kindness through Christ.  There is no other way.

Many Christians are tired of hearing this teaching over and over.  They think they learned it all long ago.  However, they barely understand how important it really is.  If it continues to be taught as truth, the Christian church will remain united and pure--free from decay.  This truth alone makes and sustains Christianity.  You might hear an immature Christian brag about how well he knows that we receive God's approval through God's kindness and not because of anything we do to earn it.  But if he goes on to say that this is easy to put into practice, then have no doubt he doesn't know what he's talking about, and he probably never will.  We can never learn this truth completely or brag that we understand it fully.  Learning this truth is an art.  We will always remain students of it, and it will always be our teacher.

The people who truly understand that they receive God's approval by faith and put this into practice don't brag that they have fully mastered it.  Rather, they think of it as a pleasant taste or aroma that they are always pursuing.  These people are astonished that they can't comprehend it as fully as they would like.  They hunger and thirst for it.  They yearn for it more and more.  They never get tired of hearing about this truth.  Similarly, Paul admits in Philippians 3:12 that he has not yet reached this goal.  In Matthew 5:6, Christ says that those who hunger and thirst for God's approval are blessed.  [AE 14:26]

Definitely a Myrtle selection.  I certainly want to hear the Gospel again and again.  I certainly need to hear it again and again.  As much as I know it to be true, I oft do not understand the whole of it, recognize the shape of it, but oh how I long for the sweet, sweet taste of it.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

on the morrow...

I sat outside Church today, too ashamed to walk inside, tears dripping down on my Greek homework as I struggled to concentrate on working out the First Declension of nouns.  I want to learn those words so that I might learn the Word better.

"Manna" was inside.

Sunshine came after church for her Sunday night Bed & Breakfast stay and the result was so beautiful!

I took them to the Lutheran pizza place, my name for Pizza Man's restaurant and they had their fill of his oh, so tasty creations.  Manna treated us!  Whilst there, someone called me to help me work through the decision to return to work tomorrow.  I am not ready.  Going when I weep so easily, become overwhelmed by all that has happened and is in my heart, is a great risk.  Remaining away any longer, having earned my boss' ire enough as it is, is also a great risk.  Weighing both options, he came down on the side of returning. 

Never have I struggled as now.  Pieces of me lie all about. I gather them up, thinking I can hold onto them.  But I cannot.

Friday, I got a call from a man with whom I cried at the first question of his greeting.  As has been happening, I open my mouth to say one thing and out pours my grief and confusion and fear.  I keep very little in check.  He, a Christian, might just have a wee bit of help to offer.  If nothing else, as a proper Protestant, he promptly began praying for me right then and there.  I confuse him when I talk about Lutheran doctrine; though he is a professional contact, I cannot help myself knowing he is a Christian.  But I will admit I very much welcomed that personal lifting up of the mess that is Myrtle...although...I found myself wishing he prayed the Creed, the Kyrie, and the Lord's Prayer as that Lutheran pastor does.

I wept at the bank. I wept at Target.  I wept at the gun store.  I wept talking with the cardiologist's nurse.  I am a bloody sieve with both my eyes and my heart. Oh, how I hate this.

Manna and Sunshine played Rummikub with me and were so very kind and gracious about me walking away from meal and game to talk on the phone.  However, Manna and Sunshine had no problem talking and sharing with one another in my absence. 

How my heart sings to know that Bettina has met Sunshine and Sunshine and Manna have met each other.  These wonderful women God has brought to me are getting to know each other.  This afternoon, Sunshine had a spectacular idea for sharing the Book of Concord, but I shall wait to reveal it yet, hoping it might come to fruition soon!

We talked for hours after lunch. 

Then, Sunshine helped me review the Greek I had done on my own, having missed class by being too ashamed to walk in even there.  My noun declensions were far better than I thought, but my two verb tenses were only half correct.  I need further review and am behind on my vocabulary.  Once again, however, class is canceled for this coming week, so I still have a wee bit of hope for keeping my head above water.  My plan of attack has been to write out every form/case/ending, both singular and plural, for every verb and every noun.  It is quite time consuming and rather tedious, but I believe is effective. I am learning the declensions in a different order than the Pastor is teaching them by rote in class, so I shall have to plug my ears once I dare to cross the threshold again when that recitation is being chanted. 

I have learned the pattern of my chart and try to visualize where on the chart the word would fall to determine case and number.  That is something I have noticed most about my cognitive decline, I hang onto information far better if I make some sort of association with it.  Sheer memorization simply does not work anymore.

Then, I worked on Sunshine's older laptop for awhile, trying to beef it up for her. I had victory with clearing out caches, giving her new antivirus software, and cleaning up her desktop/arranging her quick launch bar.  I was less successful with getting a wireless network card to work.  Hopefully I can do so tomorrow evening, for that dear woman is going to come wait for me after her volunteering so that we might have a few more hours together after my first day back to work.

Afterwards, I rather greedily asked her to sing hymns to my as I typed in Psalm 104 for the daily Book of Concord Snippets email that the new group is now sending out.  Once I finished, I asked to keep singing so that we could sing together.  Of course, I had her finish with two hymns I consider lullabies, ones quite comforting in tune and lyrics.

So, it is late and I shall be tired starting off my first day back.  But it is my prayer that the Truth contained in the doctrine and Scripture I typed, as well as the hymnody poured over me, might remain in my heart and my mind as I pass through the waters of tomorrow.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

a long 24-hours or so...

I had an asthma attack a while ago.  "Manna" was wonderful about it.  She remained calm and just helped me open things and get my nebulizer set up.  The epi-pen was a new kind, which threw me for a loop.  Yet the drugs worked and the attack was stopped.  I am just left with the racing heart and tremulous body until the medication wears off.

I have learned such hard things in the past 24 hours or so.  I admit that I am weary of learning hard things, especially since they are mostly about where I am wrong, where I have sinned, where I am not understanding things.  Late last night, a pastor rather patiently questioned me until he led me to a conclusion that is more sobering than anything else I have learned of late.

To be sure, I shall be wrong in thinking that the spiritual matters more than anything else, physical or mental well-being.  But I do.  From the moment I opened the Book of Concord, all I have really cared about, oft to the exclusion of all else, was grasping what I could see but yet still is so elusive.  Sadly elusive.

Today I learned a big, huge, rather devastating why of me.  That why was extrapolated to my spiritual life, which sort of sent me into a tailspin until God provided reassurance that He is, indeed, greater than even those whys of me.

Monday is my return to work, after a month away.  After receiving a less-than-pleasant email from my boss, I am truly worried, though I have two more days to rest and am trying to focus on that. 

I had a set-back the Tuesday of last week that in many ways has me at the beginning of how I was in taking the time off, if not the beginning of how I was when I opened my mouth all those years ago.  The doctor told me today that it was like having a major earthquake.  Sometimes the aftershocks are as bad or worse as the original earthquate, and they will linger long past the date of the quake.  Although he had not seen Firefly, he did tell me that this will eventually pass.  Step aside and let it pass.

The cardiologist is upping the medication to help with fainting, since it has been determined the previous vomiting was another problem.  I have become accustomed to the faint nausea and constant tremulouness from the drug and am hopeful the increased dosage shall be okay.  On the medication, standing from a sitting position is much, much better.  I still faint when I get up in the mornings if I am not careful, but I am hopeful the increased dosage will help even more.  Plus, I believe I breathed better on the higher dosage.  Too bad it does not a thing for the thermoregulation.

Two asthma attacks in eight days I blame on missing my medication last week.  But, perhaps, it is just a bad time for me.  It used to be October was my worst month.  That, too, ought to be a consideration in my mind. 

While coughing, I was joking with "Manna" that now I could go to the ER with someone.  Bad humor, I know.  Still, I very much would like to know what it is like to not be alone at such times.  However, you haven't really had a visit with me until you've been through a full blown asthma attack.

Here, in the quiet of the night, I can hardly bear the image that lingers from the mirror held up last night and the one from this day.  Would that I could grasp more fully the freedom of my baptism.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Manna" is here. 

She humbled me by coming all the way from the great white North to sit with me.  I am poor company.  I am sleeping only in spurts, so I have slept most of the past two afternoons as well.  I do not wish to talk. I wish to hide in mindless TV, not thinking about what I think and feel.

I opened my mouth again, damn it, when I had done well not doing so, and wounded deeply the person whom I was trying to tell how scared and frightened and lost I feel.

I would, at the very moment, give away every blooming thing I have if someone would teach me how to talk without wounding that person.  Everything.  Everything and count it the greatest bargain in the universe.

Lord, I am Yours.  Save me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

of many things...

I learned many things of late, most of them unpalatable at best.  I have learned more of lies and more of betrayal and more of just where it is that trust lands you...or rather me.  And I have learned that it is actually possible for a near unbearable burden of shame to grow immeasurably heavier.

One of the hardest lessons is that I have learned why it is that silence bothers me, what it is that I yearn for in speaking that which society deems unspeakable.  The why of it makes sense, but the fact that silence still reigns, for the most part, hurts all the more.

Bettina, oh that blessed gift from God, came down to be with me this past weekend.  She came to sit with me, to let me cry without telling me doing so was manipulative or any similar thing, and to listen to the depths of my hurt.  She actually helped me refine a plan for that which is the desire of my heart, willing to let me be who I am, willing to let me go if that is my choice.  I can be honest with her in my thoughts and feelings and she will still pray and sing with me, still read the Living Word to and with and for me. 

Sunshine came, too, for her regular Sunday night Bed & Breakfast stay before heading off to her volunteer job in the city.  Funny, she and Bettina, though completely different, share the same willingness to let me stand before them as I am and yet allow me fellowship still.  We sang harmony on a hymn, which reminded me how very much I have lost cognitively since doing so used to be a breeze for me and yet what I stand to gain if ever I can grasp the words that flowed from those notes.

I have known many hard things in my life, but I have never known the abject terror that binds me now.  Not the nightmares, not the things about myself that scare me, but an utter, complete inability to even open my front door for fear of what happened last week may come once more.

Here has been the evidence that ever since I started speaking of that which should not be spoken, I have become a bloody sieve, pretty much ruining nearly all the relationships I tried to start during that same time, since mostly I wanted them to help me stop the leaks that were developing one after another in the container that held my past.  No one wants to help do such a thing.  Wanting, desiring, asking was wrong.  I have been taught quite thoroughly just how terribly selfish and wrong it was. 

So, today, as the second day wore on in the silence I knew would ensue, even though I foolishly hoped would not, I resolved to remember the words I once heard on "Firefly" in regard to great pain...This is only a moment in time.  Step aside and let it pass.

Two days now, I have managed to keep my mouth closed, save with Bettina.  But even there the leakage of things hurtful has been brief.  My goal is to put it all back in the drawer and let this pass by.  Be a grown-up for once and take my medicine, endure what I deserve, for opening my mouth in the first place.

The person who is supposed to help me has told me that healing lies in opening my heart to God.  Growing, deepening my faith in Him.  And, for good measure, consider what Buddhism offers since religion as a whole is good no matter the source.  Every fiber of my being is screaming at me that such direction is just the same damn futile path I experienced in the Protestant Church trying to escape the burden and failure of my shame.  But I do not have anyone other than this person to really help me lock up the past once more.  It is my fervent hope I can do so without thinking about faith at all.  To me, that seems the best course of action.  After all, are we not supposed to forget what lies behind us?

I will admit I dared ask a question of an Internet pastor today, fairly sure I will not garner a response, but asked nonetheless:  What does it mean to fear God?  I am pretty sure it does not mean what I think, what I feel. 

Funny, in my terror, I keep running across the admonition to fear God.

I am yours, Lord.  Save me.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Women United for the Christian Book of Concord

So, "Manna" has taught me to think big and suggested that we ought to start a group to fostor reading and studying the Book of Concord, especially amongst women.  The result is:

She has certiainly done her part, talking with the women she meets, sharing with them this amazing resource, and personally reading it to others!  Her social circle outreach is so much greater than mine, and that raises such hope for me to know she is out there doing this, for the Word never returns void and will always accomplish its purpose.  The Book of Concord is is full of the Word and helps believers understand the grace and mercy, peace and forgiveness of Christ crucified. 

As you know, I have given away many copies, as well as talked about it, quoted it, and created the booklet to help others start reading it.  So, here's hoping this might be another small effort to help others know the joy that is the Book of Concord.

If you believe the Christian Book of Concord is full of pure doctrine for all, pass this link along.  Better yet, start reading it regularly yourself (if you do not already do so), read it aloud for others, and give away a copy or two or as many as possible!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!