Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Will you not listen...

When I crawled into bed last night, I was rather exhausted.  However, Amos couldn't sleep.  Amos couldn't sleep because he couldn't find his beloved Flower Baby.  Now, whenever Flower Baby makes her way downstairs, I am always careful to take her back up with me.  Amos really cannot sleep without her.  And when Amos cannot sleep neither can I.

I looked high and low for Flower Baby and grew quite frustrated.  I mean, how does one lose a stuffed animal in a bedroom?  Finally.  Finally, I thought to look beneath Amos' pillow.  [Yes, Amos has his own pillow.]

In fact, Amos has his own side of the bed. And, if you haven't noticed, he now prefers to be tucked beneath the covers as he sleeps.

Once he was reunited with his beloved Flower Baby, I tried to sleep myself.  But I got sicker and sicker and sicker.  My head was aching and the nausea was coming in waves.  I couldn't think what was wrong, but then my heart felt like it was exploding in my chest and I broke out in a cold sweat.  Ah!  Low blood sugar.  Somehow I had let the bottle of glucose pills beside my bed become empty.  I stumbled and fumbled my way downstairs and shoved food hand over fist into my mouth and then lay trembling on the floor until I recovered.  Around seven this morning, I finally fell asleep.

It rained yesterday.  The night before, I actually sang a bit of a rain song (I don't dance) because I saw that the dog days of summer were finally coming to Fort Wayne.  Greedy Myrtle wants to keep her GREEN grass, but is trying to hold to her resolve to not water.  Sure enough, we had two brief, but hard showers.

Yes, I tried very hard to think, today, that the sudden downpour yesterday was not God commenting on the inappropriateness of my pastor praying for this very confused (hopefully still) sheep, but rather the blessing of much needed water to brace the soil and grass and other growing things for an extended spate of heat. Amos and I watched the rain together.

And I admired the hanging baskets I have been creating from the footings.  Finally, the one on the left is looking respectable.  In posting this, it just occurred to me that the one on the left might be grow better if I switch them.   Man, in so many ways I've become a creature of habit. I have turned them every other day, but I have never switched them.  Maybe it is not just that the one on the right had better footings.  Maybe it gets a wee bit more sun???

[I just popped out to the front porch and switched them.]

Anyway, whilst waiting on Amos today, sitting on the back steps, I noticed that the places where I managed to replenish the mulch were still nice and damp.  I really need to get those other bags out.  However, I also need to keep remembering that I simply cannot be doing such work anymore.  If I am awake when Firewood Man comes to mow this week, I thought I would ask if he would move four bags this week, then another four next week, and finish up the third week.  That would be easy peasy for him and I would just be spreading mulch for a few minutes each time.

Tim is always amazed when I don't hear him mow or edge or blow, but if I am sleeping with my sleep mate on, World War Three could happen outside and I wouldn't hear it.  Even if you pound away on the front door.  I have yet to know if someone has rung to doorbell whilst I am sleeping to see if that would wake me.  I cannot figure out if this is a good thing or not.

My poor sister discovered that the uniform pants order (plus some odd school supplies) that she placed with Wal-Mart last week did not actually come to fruition.  By this I mean that she placed the order and received a confirmation email, but did not execute the order and the order number she was given was actually recycled to someone else.

She left work early and went on the prowl because my nephew starts at his private school for youth on the Autism spectrum tomorrow.  So far, he had but one shirt and the shoes.  His other shirts were monogrammed ones, so they were coming later.  But additional white polos and the pants were supposed to have arrived.  We texted for a long while ... my sister asking me to Google things or check the school lists for what was required.  I am proud of how she handled another obstacle during a very distressing time for her.

The boys both needed luggage tags for their backpack, so I found Texas Ranger ones.  Those were a hit.  All in all, I placed five orders online, my sister two (one that didn't work), and my sister went to six stores.  I got the idea of putting a Back-to-School shopping reminder for her in my calendar for next July 15th, so as to do all of this in a more relaxed manner.  It is hard ... very, very, very hard ... to be a single parent of a special needs child.  My nephews' father does little more than visitation.  So, my sister has been juggling switching one son to a new school, setting up alternative arrangements for after school care for both sons (I helped with that), putting together a school uniform wardrobe, and trying to keep straight and track down school supplies for a 5th and 7th grader.

It feels ... a bit self-centered of me ... but I very much savored being helpful in the flurry of activity between last Friday and today.  Although, I admit that is is hard for me to face how much she's struggling.  I want to help her and there is little that I can do.

It's been a wretched innards evening, and I am beginning to think that my working theory on the matter might not be so crack-brained.  You see, the erythromycin, once mixed, is only potent for 14 days (and must be kept refrigerated).  That hasn't mattered with the smaller bottles, because they have only 10 days of doses.  However, it seems that around Day Eight of taking the medication, its efficacy begins to wane.  I've hypothesized that, since the bottles are so very old and so close to expiration (November), the medication is less potent and cannot last the full 14 days once mixed.

Tonight, I have been in considerable pain and am swollen the entire length of my abdomen.  Awash in nausea, my Taco Bell reward for fetching my prescription has been followed by ginger ale and saltines and Zofran.  My blood pressure has also had such wild swings, since getting vertical means the pulse pressure widens immensely as my systolic pressure rises with my tachycardic response to the orthostatic hypertension that is taking place.  In a nutshell, I've also fainted four times.

Part of me wants to switch to the pill version of erythromycin this very second.  But the practical bit of Myrtle believes paying $72.21 for the next 30 days is far better than paying $436.  Because I will be 7 days shy of my next budget cycle and did not want to have that cost in the same cycle as paying for the three bottles, I asked the pharmacist to try ordering the bottles one more time.  She tried all sizes, even the 5 day bottle.  Nothing.  I could very well be consuming the last of the solution in America.  But, realistically, I'm sure there are bottles sitting on shelves of small pharmacies somewhere.

The other up side of making the switch is that I will no longer have the ever present bad taste in my mouth from the solution.  Man, some of the food I eat might even be tastier!  Imagine that!!

I will note that as I lay writhing in pain tonight, I was comforted by having read the Living with Bob blog.  By this I mean, the author describes much of what I face so ... bluntly ... and one of the best parts was a bit I read about the pain of having a sheet touch her stomach.  It is ever so comforting to know that there is another person on the planet who understands that pain, who wouldn't blink at a wailing over the weight of a sheet or t-shirt.

I have also been thinking further about two thoughts from yesterday.

One was this quote:

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is perfect provision. The leftovers are meager, but they perfectly provide twelve lunch-sized baskets for the twelve disciples. It is a fulfillment of Jesus' own prayer to "give us our daily bread" (Mt 6:11). It is an unmiraculous miracle, the same sort of miracle we often fail to recognize today when we receive our "daily bread." We celebrate abundant provision, but rarely are we equally amazed at the God who so intimately knows our needs that he provides perfectly—no more, no less than we need. When we take into account this intimacy, the miracle of perfect provision might well be the greater of the two.  (emphasis mine)

Have I not written again and again and again that the Psalter shows us how intimately we are known by God?  In a way, the Psalter has been the perfect provision for me.  It is clearly written in Myrtle Speak.  The thoughts and feelings and experiences I battle are all in there.  And in being in there I am comforted that ... somehow ... God understands those thoughts and feelings and experiences ... and is neither appalled nor offended by them.  I suppose I would also go so far as to say that the Psalter itself is the unrecognized miracle of the Word of God, the perfect provision of daily bread so often overlooked.

The other was my pondering if it could be said that the purpose of light (also) to reveal that which has been hidden by darkness.  For darkness not only obscures the truth, it can completely hide it.  Depression, despair, suicidal ideation, anxiety, terror ... those aspects of darkness can make one insensible and unable to see the truth.  Therefore, in such times and for those wrestling with the darkness, great help (and mercy) can be given in simply pouring the Living Word into that person's ears.

I had the offer of having the Gospel of John read aloud to me from beginning to end withdrawn before I could take advantage of such a gift.  Tonight, I have been wondering just how great a loss that is.  I think I would put that on my bucket list save for the fact that having someone read to me the Gospel of John is not the same as something I would like to do before doing is no longer under my control.

Again, if I am to have a near miraculous puppy dog as a companion, why couldn't he be a bit more miraculous and be able to read the Living Word to me?

Mark Chapter 7 makes me think of an older Michael Card song that actually comes from his trilogy on the Old Testament, specifically The Word, written about the prophets:  "Will You Not Listen?"  Funny, eons ago, when I heard this song, I had absolutely no idea of the importance of hearing the Word of God.  Funny, too, that here is a song of Jesus pulled from the Old Testament.

Is not He who formed the ear
Worth the time it takes to hear?
Should He who formed our lips for speaking
Be not heeded when He speaks?

Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken love to us
Why will you not listen?

Listen to the sacred silence
Listen to the Holy Word
Listen as He speaks through living
Parables that must be heard

Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken peace to us
Why will you not listen?

He spoke a word of flesh and blood
Flesh and blood that bled and died
Bled and died just to be heard
How could you not hear this Word?

Why will you not hear this Word?
Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken hope to us

How could you not listen?
Why will you not listen?
How could you not listen?

Michael Card's commentary on chapter seven has quite a bit of historical background to it.  Far more that I would even attempt to record.  The most fascinating bit, though, has to do with the oral law (the tradition).  I did not know that the Pharisees believed that God gave Moses the oral law when he received the tablets and that Moses came down from the mountain and passed the oral law on to Joshua and the elders.  Jesus, clearly, does not recognize the oral law.  Michael Card points this out by noting that Jesus refutes the accusation against Him with Scripture.

[Hah!  Imagine that!  Jesus does not argue His position from His own convictions or experience but from the very Word of God!!]

This was the third instance where Jesus was confronted with the fact that His disciples had broken the law (first with fasting, then not keeping Sabbath).

In the midst of his historical explanation is this confusing bit about what "corban" is, so that you can better follow Jesus' response.  I've read it a half dozen times and still do not understand.  However, I am focusing on the fact that I did learn the distinction between the Law and the oral law and that the Pharisees called themselves the disciples of Moses (Jn 9:28).  That makes the whole Jesus-as-the-new (and improved)-Moses stance all the more damning.

Anyway, in the passage being explored (Mark 7:1-23) is the single most painful and most comforting verse to me in the entire Bible:  "Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that com out of a  person are what defile him." (verse 15).

Why?  What that verse?  Well, the most frank answer is that even before I encountered Christians who taught me that I was no longer pure since, by virtue of sexual abuse, I was no longer a virgin, I felt defiled.  Or, more truthfully, the defiled one was my identity.  The sexual abuse of a young child is dirty and messy; the child literally becomes filthy with the bodily fluids of the abuser.  It is a lightning fast leap from literal to figurative.  On all fronts, I struggled with being and feeling filthy, being and feeling defiled.  And, frankly, the church has done very, very, very little to dissuade that notion of mine and of other survivors of sexual abuse.  There seems to be no ... exceptions ... to the resulting condemnation of a lack of virginity.

When I tried dating in college, when the truth of my past came out, primarily two responses followed: 1) because I was not pure, I was not marriage material and so there was no point of dating and 2) because I was not pure, it was okay to pressure me to engage in sexual behaviors ... even abuse me when I resisted.

Because I was not pure.  SIGH.

Again, bluntly, sexual abuse, for the survivor, is something that happens from the outside, not from within.  So, this single verse in Mark ... it is both the deepest desire of my heart and the most terrifying Word of the Bible.  Is is true?  Is it true for me?

In Mark 7:14 Jesus turns to the crown at large.  His appeal is that they "listen" and "understand."  (These words should be underlined.  They will be lived out later in the chapter describing a prophetic healing.)  Jesus is about to redefine the people's fundamental concepts of clean and unclean.  Uncleanness, he says, comes from within, not from the outside.  Rinsing your hands ceremonially has no effect whatsoever.  He does not explain the statement to the crowd but leaves them to arrive at the "aha" moment on their own.

And later in the explanation:

Jesus continues, "From within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts" (Mk 7:21).  He might have said that uncleanness reside in the imagination.  Every one of the sins in Jesus' list begins in the imagination.  Evil renders one unclean, not eating with unrinsed hands or touching a corpse or being overshadowed by a leper.  Nonconformity to an oral tradition is no longer sin.  This is a world turned upside.


The teaching is begun and ended with the admonition to listen.  In Mark, this is common in Jesus' approach to teaching.  In a way, that bookend of instruction connects to the third story in chapter seven, which had another historical lesson to it, about hearing.

But, first, my wondering about the verse remains unclear.  There is all this good bit about sin coming not from the outside, but then there is that one sentence:  Evil renders one unclean, not eating with unrinsed hands or touching a corpse or being overshadowed by a leper.  What does this mean?  Sexual abuse is evil. So, am I unclean???

And, second, before the connection to listening comes the story of the woman and crumbs and dogs.  This was the story from Matthew that my pastor taught.  He ... he taught different things.  The only thing I would note is that Michael Card's commentary points out that the word Jesus' used for dog was not the word for stray dogs, but the diminutive term for "little dogs" or perhaps "pet dogs."  He notes that this was not a Jewish scene, but a Gentile one, and in the woman's world it was common to keep small pet dogs.  Therefore, the image of children throwing scraps to the dogs is more one of affection and care rather than an offense.  If He was calling her a dog, then He was calling her favored and cared for.  I find all that ... confusing.

The most confusing line, though was Michael Card's endnote:

But once again, the long-distance healing of the little girl is not the point of the story.  There is always a miracle behind the miracle.  In this exchange it is the persistent faith of the Gentile woman that is miraculous.  Without realizing it she has asked for something she does not deserve.  She has asked for mercy. (emphasis mine)

What do those last two sentences mean?  SIGH.

So, to the connection to listening.  In writing about how Jesus healed the deaf man who had a speech difficulty, Michael Card notes:

Even though Jesus is in an area dominated by paganism, this crowd appears to be Jewish.  His command to keep the matter secret (Mk 7:36) is one indication.  That chafe has only been issued to Jews in Mark's Gospel.  The second reason to assume they might be Jewish is the method of Jesus' healing.  The opening of this man's ears is told only by Mark.  The way Jesus goes about the healing is "prophetic activity"—it becomes a parable for the opening of the spiritual ears of Jesus' followers (see Mk 7:14, 18). (We will witness another healing with the same prophetic character in Mk 8:22-26.  These miracles only occur in the Gospel of Mark.)

Jesus places his fingers in the man's ears, reminiscent of Isaiah 35:5.  He spits and touches the man's tongue, echoing Isaiah 35:6.  Mark's term for Jesus' "deep sigh" or "groan" is related to the same word Paul uses for the Spirit's groaning on our behalf in Romans 8:26.  This is the emotional Jesus.  From the depths of that deep sigh comes the Aramaic word Ephphatha.  We are privileged to hear Jesus' voice in his own tongue. (emphasis mine)

Despite Jesus' command that everyone keep it secret, word of the miracle spreads.  As a result, in Mark 8:1, Jesus will face another crowd of thousands of hungry people.  The nameless man who can now hear and speak plainly represents a living parable for Mark. His healing has been prophetic.  Jesus' groaning words, "Be opened," represent the deepest hope of the gospel:  that you and I might truly ear and eventually clearly speak the good news.

Open your ears.
Let him who has ears hear.

Why is it that hearing is so difficult for me???

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