Temperature’s rising…it’s the flu.

IMG_20150103_172451138flumap

This is the time of year, in my job as a school nurse, that I like to see where we are with the annual spread of the influenza.  Missouri has just recently been upgraded to “local” instead of “sporadic”, which is not bad considering it’s February (at this writing).

Understand, this is just about the true flu, not the stomach flu, not strep throat, not “just a cold”.  This is the one, if you’re smart (in my not-so-humble opinion), you get a vaccine for, especially if you work every day among all those walking petri dishes known as school children.

I once had a middle schooler tell me that it was okay with him if he got the flu, presumably so that he could stay home from school. 

Yet another evidence that the prepubescent frontal lobe is not yet fully formed.

The influenza is bad, like, r-e-a-l-l-y bad.  High fever, cough, aches, you feel like you’re gonna die, and sometimes wish you could.  And in fact, people still do, die that is, from the true flu.  So, despite what my sweet middle schoolers might think, I’m quite pleased about “The Map” for this time of year where I live.

I can only imagine and try to appreciate what was happening to Simon Peter’s wife with her mother being so very ill (and probably highly contagious) when Jesus came for a visit. 

“Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.”

Right.  No “don’t worry, Mom, we’ll just have leftovers, you go and rest.” No “here, Mom, let us take care of the dishes, you put your feet up.” I am fascinated by the woman’s response.  There seemingly was no sense of victimhood entitlement, no pity party, not even an inkling of self indulgence.  What was her response to this healing (or we could fill in “deliverance, provision” or any number of God’s other good, good gifts to us)?

Service.  Paying it forward by serving others was her way of paying it back to the One who cared for her the most.  Instead, we often find (including in ourselves, the church) an unhealthy sense of ownership, of what I feel is “due” me for all the hardship I’ve endured.  Or there’s the temptation to hoard my good fortune (truly a misnomer) for fear of losing it again. 

I don’t think Jesus was terribly concerned about where or what He was going to eat that evening.  But I do think He was interested in what that dear woman would do with the gift He had just handed to her.

We are blessed so that we can serve.  And serving is contagious also, but for a Christian, there is no vaccine.

Mark 1:30, 31   Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt Book 2) (Kindle Locations 5792-5794). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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Oops

wood 2I’m not techno-savy, as I’ve mentioned before.   At the same time, I’m not as illiterate in all things computer as I was in the past.  The learning curve is still fairly steep, but I choose my own plateaus here and there along the way.  I have no false aspirations of becoming the “Tim McGee” of my generation.  I mean, after all, I procured this new Macbook thing instead of my old PC, but I did cheat by downloading Microsoft Office onto its little hard drive.

That was my first mistake….

Here may I back up in the story?  I’ve been praying that this whole blogging thing would not become an idol.  Let’s face it, when a few wonderfully generous people (like you) take the time to read and “like” what I write, those feel-good endorphins smother the gray matter and little chemical smiley faces pop up inside my head.  As a Christian, that can go one of two ways.  Either I can Continue reading “Oops”

Define “green”, please?

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We were visiting our eldest daughter and family this past summer at their home in southern California.  I don’t really know what the Mamas and the Papas song “California Dreamin’” meant back in the 60’s, but starting about 2011, it meant dreamin’ of water.  I’m also reminded of a pretty impressive draught we had back in Indiana many years ago.  The grass had turned not only brown, but so crispy that you couldn’t comfortable walk on it without shoes!

Nice, spongey green grass, on the other hand, is so soothing to the feet, smells fresh when cut, and the sheep and cows feast away.  No wonder the shepherd/songwriter/soon-to-be-king David used that in what has become probably the most beloved psalm in the Bible.

“The Lord is my shepherd,  I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

I like all of that, I really do.  It’s just the “I shall not want” part that gets me a little tripped up now and again.  Truth is, I DO want, a lot, and often, and sometimes not very patiently.  And I don’t think I’m the Continue reading “Define “green”, please?”

Be Lifted!

quillWelcome to another installment of Not My Poetry!  (Somewhat irrelevant disclaimer HERE.)  Now here’s another place on the internet you might find some pretty positive vibe!  I mean, just look at her blog title:

joyindestructible

This poem, ah!  This poem articulates my inadequacy to describe a God Who can only describe Himself to us.  And how very grateful I am that He has.  (And that’s not arrogance speaking, but the humble gratitude of faith…)

BE LIFTED!

Father, lift me above the conflict of ideology:

 Religion, philosophy, politics; the Continue reading “Be Lifted!”

Ouch

quillEvidently, poetry, not unlike prose, can arise in the bosom of life’s epiphanies or adventures, e.g., The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, or even our own Star Spangled Banner. Today’s offering comes from the coffers of my own experience.  I prefer to allow the reader his or her own interpretation:

I wore my socks

And stubbed my toe,

It’s had its knocks,

But now I know:

My toe is blue,

It hurts to walk,

So wear a shoe,

(Like I should talk)

Next week, I will return to those more skilled than I in this fine art.  Perhaps, then, I can walk a bit more.

Take it to the compost pile!

garden last

I wanted to take my gardening prowess, which isn’t very high to begin with, to the next level: I wanted a compost pile. I was, however, concerned about attracting rodents.  (UGH!)  A friend of mine alleviated this by convincing me to recycle only plant products, i.e., just flora, no fauna.  So scraps from smoothie makings, salad fixin’s, and the corn cobs of summer were diligently tossed into a special homemade “bin” made of old wooden pallets situated in the side yard.  Okay, they do tend to attract flies, but one day I noticed that a nice big spider had set up housekeeping right over the very spot—if any spiders have brains, this was one of them!

Then there’s the odor.  Ever caught a whiff of a compost pile?  You shouldn’t really be able to, at least not if it’s Continue reading “Take it to the compost pile!”

Xoloitzcuintli…and don’t mess with him.

picmonkey dogSo far, I have been blessed to share different portions of my life with several different dogs: a dachshund (Wiggles), two English setters (Marnie and Mickie), three Pembroke Welsh corgis (Peanut, Popcorn, and Indiana Jones), and now the one and only Mighty Wonder Buck, our rescue mutt.  Have you ever stopped to consider how many types of dogs there are?  I did a brief (very brief) survey online just to check the number, and couldn’t pin it down.  One site identifies five “breeds” based on function: there are companion dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, and working dogs.  Checking out the American Kennel Association website, however, the term “breed” is a bit more inclusive. I have never heard of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or a Leonberger.  My personal favorite is the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee”)  Really?  Who comes up with these?  Far from being the cute little glamour queen the name sounds like, it’s actually a pretty cool canine of the guard dog variety, which means despite the fancy moniker, his nickname should be “He-da-boss”, so don’t mess with him or his family.

There are probably those who would argue the point, but most dog-lovers and owners of multiple dogs would tend to agree that, regardless of their intended function, dogs have different personalities, likes and dislikes, and temperaments, some based on breed and some not.  As such, there is  probably a “nature/nurture” argument that can be made within the functional breeds themselves, that is, certain breeds tend to like certain things or behave in certain ways, because they were designed that way.  Nature puts it in, and nurture can capitalize on it.  They are born with certain capacities, and disciplined training improves upon those capacities.

Case in point.  We didn’t know much at all about Pembrokes when we “rescued” our first two litter mates from the local veterinarian.  Peanut and Popcorn were about one year old when we adopted them into our lives.  Our vet told us that the breed tends to be high energy, happy, exuberant.  This was perfect for a family of three high energy school-age girls!  First, we brought home Peanut.  One evening, we decided to take her for a walk in the neighborhood, but found that she kept wanting to circle around the back of us and then come up the front to continue walking.  After a while, she would do it again.  Then again.  Finally, some of the group purposefully began to hang back to see what Peanut would do, and predictably, back she trotted to the back in her effort to pull us all in together—she was herding us!  Like she was bred to do!  It was fascinating to see.

Things were going well after we brought home Peanut.  What a sweetie.  But when I decided to retrieve sister Popcorn as well, it soon became evident that their first year of life had been less than perfect.  To begin with, they were both afraid of feet, or of the broom—the implications of this did not bode well.  And although they were “housebroken”, they apparently had also been broken in other ways.  We began to find doggie biologicals throughout the house, until one day we came home from church to find a small brown pile in the middle of our bed.  Now for a stumpy-legged Corgi to get way up there took effort and determination—someone was trying to make a statement!

Our seasoned vet told us that this was probably the dog’s way, who was yet unable to distinguish between “good human” and “bad human”, of showing anger to humans in general.  Based on her less-than-friendly demeanor and her un-Corgi-like elusive behavior, we assumed correctly that the perpetrator was Popcorn. This was going to take more than carpet cleaner and laundry soap.  This was going to take time and patience. Bonding takes relationship, and relationship requires communication.  How could we communicate with this dog that we were “good humans”?  Strategies, anyone??

Much as some of us would dispute, humans are not dogs.  But there are some interesting similarities that, I think, can be safely made between people and their beloved puppies:There are a variety of opinions within the psychological community concerning personality testing. As such, there are a variety of personality tests of different levels and depth and measurements. You can be a color (green, blue, orange, or gold) or an animal (lion, otter, beaver, or yes, our good old Golden Retriever), or a shape (square, circle, triangle, or squiggly lines), or even just a letter (I think it spells DISC?).  There are even more sophisticated tests that have been developed by people with lots of letters behind their names.  These tests can actually be quite helpful, since we can’t look at a person and tell by “breed” what innate personality traits they may have by nature, (regardless of what nurture has done for them…or to them.)

Valid personality testing can give us some indication of how best to communicate to this person, how to relate to them, since the important thing with people, as with our canine compadres, is relationship. And as posited earlier, relationship means communication. Some personalities tend to be more sensitive to what others are feeling, some may be literally oblivious.  While the latter may come across as unfeeling, it is a dangerous assumption to presume so.  Some personalities pick up on social cues pretty easily whiles others just have to be hit over the head with it.  It took me awhile to figure this out in our marriage, and if you’ve persevered in marriage for longer than, let’s say, six months, you may have figured this one out also… Communication strategies—one of the values of personality testing.

Another plausible usefulness of these tests is the indications of typical strengths and personal challenges that seem to be endemic to particular personality “breeds”. Our Corgi may have been pretty adept at herding us, and this would have been a great thing to nurture in her if we had been cattlemen or shepherds. But we weren’t, and since this innate quality was purposefully neglected, it passed as she matured.  I guess, even in dogs, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Interesting to think about, especially when it comes to identifying the innate gifts and certain traits in our children, our employees or committee members, our church congregants,  and the list goes on.

Conversely, although Peanut probably would have been a good herding dog, she would most certainly not have been a quality hunting companion. She hated water—swimming was definitely not her strong suit and I could not fault her for it. We were at a lake one day, and I had her try to swim out to me.  She seemed to think I was in some kind of trouble out there in this wet stuff, and was trying to get out there to help me.  It was a very big heart in that very small dog!  We didn’t do much of the swimming thing again.  Similarly, with not only our children, but ourselves and others, it is important to try different activities to see what fits, while at the same time to have wisdom to know when to change over to something else.  I think I’m pretty glad Bill Gates didn’t go into professional football, or I might be typing this on a pica with lots of white correction fluid…

As worthwhile as recognizing the different types of people, it is critical to remember that we are, in fact, talking about people, the only order of being created in the image of God, and therefore we cannot be reduced to a test result. If dogs can be rehabilitated, how much more human beings? Again, we must be careful to utilize these tests as a strategy for communicative relationship and change, rather than merely a category to explain away and accept (and therefore enable) someone’s destructive behavioral choices and responses. By the same token, we did not allow Popcorn to continue defecating on our bed, nor would any other sane dog owner!

Popcorn and my husband, Bob, had a particular “come-to-Jesus” confrontation, if you will.  This was a breaking point, not of the heart, but of the head, not of the spirit, but of the will.  Someone needed to be in charge, and it was to Popcorn’s benefit that it not be her.  It was gentle, but firm, it was consistent and yet forgiving.  She and my other half became best buddies for the rest of her little life, and what a good life it was, once the proper communication had been establish and the relationship realigned.

Thank God that’s exactly what Jesus came to do for us: communication on our level to realign us with proper relationship with our Father.  He knows how we are created, and therefore how to connect with each of us within our unique personalities, and is willing to help us in connecting with each other, not in spite of, but within the context of that unique-ness.Photo on 12-31-15 at 8.48 AM

Viva la difference!

From God Loves Dogs, by Dawn Jones

B-o-i-n-n-g!!

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On the Sunday platform with the worship team, first song (no, it couldn’t even be the LAST song, had to be number one!), upbeat tempo in full gusto, and there goes a string!  As it starts flapping in the front of sound hole, I somehow manage to keep the beat and finish the song, after which I just wrap what’s left of the sting around the head stock, thankful that I somehow didn’t go horribly out of tune (maybe a little), and that I didn’t get slapped in the face with a thin piece of steel. 

This is not the first time I’ve popped a string during a set, and it’s really not a serious problem, especially since I play a twelve-string guitar.  Shoot, I still have eleven strings.  But then it hits me—this is exactly what the phrase “koinonia” is about. 

Koinonia is a word that has its origins in the ancient Christian community.  It indicates shared experience, which can be applied on several different levels.  It includes my participation and contribution to the whole.  I have a part to play, however small it may seem (at the time), and even if that contribution is not acknowledged by others, it is a stand out to God my Father. 

So back to my Fender fiasco.  A few other considerations:

  • When one strings pops, the others can still continue the song. And when one member of the Body of Christ “over-stretches”, the others can continue the work while the wounded one is gently wrapped around the Headstock until the situation is repaired.
  • Of course, some don’t want to be repaired. Their “break” is, unfortunately, with fellowship altogether.  This is particularly tragic, but offenses still happen and the work of building God’s kingdom is still our mandate.
  • Now, this kind of break generally throws the whole instrument out of tune. Out of tune is just ugly.  It’s best to just STOP, admit the problem regardless how interruptive or awkward, and with the help of others to get back in tune before starting the next song.  Otherwise, the whole song is pretty well useless and distracting.  (I won’t insult you by explaining the obvious comparisons…) 

Admittedly, I can be a bit of a procrastinator.  Some of the team members are gone this coming Sunday, you know, ones that helped cover the distraction of my worn out string.  I finally got the rest of the strings replaced, and now they are s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g so that they will (hopefully) stay in tune tomorrow.  New strings take time.  But that’s for another analogy.

Koinonia is a powerful thing. 

Are you in tune with the rest of the band?    

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

(by John Fawett)

OK, OK, so the shorts are padded already!

KATYFor cycling, I wear padded, spandex biking shorts.  Yes, I do.  I readily admit this conjures up a somewhat unpleasant and even humorous mental image for a lady with salt-and-pepper hair (emphasis on the salt), but there it is.  Now, my husband, who also wears the padded shorts while cycling (and cuts a much better figure in them than I do, just sayin’) has two very practical rules for wearing spandex.  I share them here:

Bob’s two rules for wearing spandex—

Rule #1 To wear spandex, you must have the right body type, and….

Rule #2 ….nobody has the right body type.

No matter, I wear it anyway because otherwise I’m in pain.  It’s affectionately referred to as “saddle soreness”, which I get even with the padding if I haven’t been diligently riding my bike enough.  It’s that infamous truism, if you don’t use it, you lose it. 

Of course, that’s a phrase that’s been around a long time and applies to more important issues then my derrière on a hard little cycle-saddle.  For example, my algebra skills are markedly decayed, but I’m pretty doggone good at making (and eating) homemade pizza.  Evidently, skills aren’t the only Continue reading “OK, OK, so the shorts are padded already!”