Today’s Quote 1/31/07

Our own passions are the worst tyrants: if you obey them but by halves, a perpetual strife and contest exists within; and if you entirely give up yourself to them, it is horrid to think to what extremities they will lead. May God preserve us from that fatal slavery, which the mad presumption of man calls liberty! Liberty is to be found only in Him.    Francois Fenelon

The thing I miss most when I have been sick 0r Chronicles of Don’s Fifth Kidney Stone

So what am I doing up at 3:30 AM drinking a cup of coffee? Well, it’s the thing I miss most when I have been sick. And I’m gonna make up for lost cups. (They say you can’t make up for lost sleep, but when it comes to coffee the future is just a chance to make up for lost cups).

Yesterday was a time out for a kidney stone. I can never pass those darn things, and they have to go get ’em. But I knew what I was in for – this is my fifth stone over the years. And you had better believe I knew what pain medication I wanted – and lots of it. The medical staff were surprisingly open to keeping me high all day. Usually you have to kick and scream. Maybe I had that wild Jack Nicholson look in my eyes from The Shining. (By the way, I just saw The Departed. Wow – it’s a gotta see movie – Nicholson’s great – and if you aren’t from Boston, this is how its looks, folks). Maybe Sharon had a .357 under her coat pointed at the staff all day long – “don’t mess with that man,” I can hear her say. So once I got in and got my meds (narcotics, as the nurses called them – it made me feel like I was in a crime movie), it wasn’t a bad day at all. I probably had a better day than most of you, in fact. And for those of you who think I’m not being sensitive to people who are in recovery, I AM IN RECOVERY!!!

I suspected for about four weeks a stone was coming (something wicked this way comes!!). But unlike my other stones, this one didn’t hit me in a moment. It snuck up on me. It drew out the pain as long as it could before it was discovered. It was like a senior stone had coached it how to make Don the most miserable possible. Past stones rose from the dead and gave this stone their powers and their collective wisdom. (“Attention, all stones – we call this meeting to order. Our first order of business is help this little stone here hide long enough so that it can become a big stone.) (I have always preferred to call Christ the Rock rather than a stone – now you know why – another issue for my therapist).

But now it’s over – I mean out. Over and out. There is a little recovery time here, but at least I am back to my coffee. I made some observations while in the hospital that I will share with you soon. I will change the names to avoid lawsuits and to protect the innocent. Meanwhile I am sitting at my computer enjoying a nice cup of coffee and oxycodene – this is what I call a great cup of coffee. (The next order I place at Dunkin’ Donuts – “I’ll have it black with two sugars and a dash of oxycodene.”)

Choose a Word, Choose a Church

Joe Queenan, in a recent article in the New York Times Book Review, writes that he had recently established a screening program by only purchasing books that at least one reviewer had described as “astonishing.”  Previously, he had limited his purchases to books deemed “luminous” or “incandesent,” but this meant he ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer(a Dutch painter). The problem with incandescent and luminous books, he writes, is that they veer toward the introspective or the wise,while he prefers books that go off like a Roman candle. When he buys a book, he doesn’t want to go away happier or wiser or even better informed. He wants to get blown out of the water. He wants to come away, well, astonished.

He won’t buy a book just because it has the word astonishing in the title, and he won’t buy the book if the author or publishing house uses the word to describe the book. It has to be said by a reviewer. Then he buys it.

It makes me wonder what has to be said about a church for someone to try it. Here’s a selection of words:

A work of art

So what word are you looking for? What turns your head and turns you on? (Can we say “Shallow Hal”?)

Another question: what happens to a church that is trying to be one of these words, or some of these words, or (gasp) all of these words? What happens to “Ugly Betty” churches? Extreme makeover? Or extreme leftover?

Just been wondering. By the way, do any of these words describe your family? They don’t? And you still stay? I don’t get it.

Nothing but “little old ladies”

Erika Haub links to a post by William Willimon, “Divine Wisdom Among ‘Little Old Ladies'”.  This expresses my heart. There are no small people in the business of doing God’s will. Churches don’t have to wait to be something different than they are to be in the center of God’s will. They don’t have to have certain kinds of people with certain kinds of incomes and certain kinds of gifts and certain kinds of influence and certain kinds of looks and certain kinds of whatever.  Ain’t it grand!!!!!!!!

The Good Shepherd – Movie Review

Edward Wilson, the only witness to his father’s suicide and member of the Skull and Bones Society while a student at Yale, is a morally upright young man who values honor and discretion, qualities that help him to be recruited for a career in the newly founded Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency). While working there, his ideals gradually turn to suspicion influenced by the Cold War paranoia present within the office. Eventually, he becomes an influential veteran operative, while his distrust of everyone around him increases to no end. His dedication to his work does not come without a price though, leading him to sacrifice his ideals and eventually his family. The movie revolves around the advice given to him by a veteran spy, “Get out while you still have a soul.”

This movie is based on the real life character of James Angleton, who co-founded the CIA. His secret weapon is silence. He watches and listens but reveals little. But his secrets are a weapon turned against his own soul. He must not say, reveal, let on. No one can get inside him.

I think we all find this true of ourselves. Our secrets are turned against us. I am not talking primarily about our secret sins. I am referring to the things we believe, value, wish, desire and hope. If we spoke these things it would be like declaring to the world how far short we have fallen, how far away we are from the land to which he had hoped to travel. These things spoken then turn to taunt us. Often we are cowards who do not have the courage to live out of God-given abilities to see possibilities and then pursue them.

And so we watch life, see and do the ordinary – but keep our mouths shut about how we wanted (and want) it to be. We will talk, but not about hope. We will reveal but not about wishes. We will turn our conversation to the things here and now but not to the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”

I hope you can tell someone your secret. There is probably someone(s) who would want to help.