The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Livin' La Vida Leviticus

Alright, let's put it right out there... When reading your way through the Bible, there are some parts you just aren't looking forward to. It's ok - you can say it. I did, and no lightning ensued. No chasm opened up, swallowing me, Edward G. Robinson, or any golden cow. Nor did Charlton Heston lob any stone tablets my way.

The word "begat" can instantly make us want to check our email. Major prophets can leave us in a minor fog. Revelation sometimes isn't revealing.

Sorry for that last one. I'm feeling a little punny this morning.

And then there's the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Old Testament. There's action, drama, brave deeds, inexplicable redemption...

And Leviticus. Not to mention Numbers.

Oi vey.

Now as you may know, or as you may not know, since obviously the doings of my little life are scarcely worth a blip on the radar of the grand scheme of all things considered in the world as a whole, um... where was I?

Oh yeah.

I listen to the Daily Audio Bible each day. It keeps me centered in the Word, it makes me mindful of God's place in my day, and at the very least, it keeps me obedient to show up every day. Listening for me works better than trying to navigate and read the word, since I can keep my hands busy (with crochet or loom knitting) which keeps my head engaged.

Except... for... Leviticus. (And, not to mention, Numbers.)


Now, for anyone who lives an orthodox faith life that includes following the laws and commands in Leviticus, please don't interpret anything I might say in any way slamming, insulting, disparaging or otherwise casting nastiness on the things written therein. The foundation of my own faith life comes from there, and the whole Bible is God's word to me.

That being said, I repeat:


It's taking some major effort to stay engaged. Or to not fast forward to the New Testament reading. I mean, we're in Mark. I can get a handle on Mark. I can engage with Mark. The depth of the wisdom of Jesus eludes my thick head, but still - I can engage with it. But when phrases like "This is the law for he who has a sore or rash of the skin" come up, I want to run screaming from the room.

And don't even get me started about when the word "emission" comes around. *shudder*

Thankfully, Brian Hardin has been taking some level of pity on us, reading from translations that at least give us some modern language to wade through. I can't imagine listening through this in the King James Version.

Not that there's ANYTHING wrong with the KJV. Just to be clear. Really. I mean that. Look - the KJV is one of the translations in my PocketBible App. Look - right there. See?

(did I cover enough of my hiney on that one?)

Today, I think the Lord had mercy upon me, when He prompted Steve the Mental Hamster to spin up a little something that I can wrap the ol' noodle around to help me put some of what I'm listening to in perspective. Thanks Steve - as always, you fling and I'll catch.

There are exceptions to that rule, by the way.

Anyway, what I'm finally getting out of Leviticus is just how much I take God for granted. How much I try to reduce Him or try to pare Him down to fit into my little world. The way I try to take my walk as a follower of Jesus, and turn it into a stroll, a shuffle, a meander, a wander - anything but a walk. To make every day Casual Friday, or spin off a new movement - Casual Christianity. (I'm certain someone already thought of that...) In other words -

To make God into "my Big Buddy upstairs."

And that He should never be. Not in word, not in thought, and certainly not by my deeds. And if there was any doubt about that, a trip through Leviticus will clear it up.

God is holy. His people approach a holy God, and in order to come to Him, they must be clean. Nothing unclean can come to Him, and to try and approach Him thus leads to death. Trying to come to Him directly is impossible - it requires the consecrated priests to go between us and offer the sacrifices. The sacrifices must be without flaws or blemishes, or He will not accept them. His festivals and sacrifices must be observed. His sabbath must be obeyed.

All because He gets great entertainment seeing just how many hoops He can make people jump through just to contact Him, right? To get His kicks seeing just what lengths these flawed human beans will go to so some guilt will be lifted off their backs?

Because He's so detached from all creation that He can't relate to us at all unless we perform all sorts of snitty little things to even have Him notice us at all, let alone hear us or, dare we imagine it, respond to us?

Um, no. Nope. Nada.

Get this into your basic view of everything around you: The world is broken. We are fallen, broken creatures in need of redemption. Sad, but there it is. No matter how much optimism we try and pour into it, regardless of how much we'd "like to teach the world to sing," or how we're encouraged to "coexist," it's like putting a bandaid over an amputation. There's a deeper, severe issue at the root of it - it's all broken.

That's not pessimism, that's not bein' an old poop, and that's not refusing to make lemonade when the world hands me lemons - it's the basic premise that in my little limited world forms the key to trying to understand any of the chaos.

So how does one approach a perfect, holy God when one is a flawed, broken creature in need of redemption?

Livin' La Vida Leviticus.

Now, forward on to my time and my A.D. world... The Lamb of God was sacrificed to redeem this broken creature. And all broken creatures. But is the one sacrifice any less than all the countless ones that went before? Or is it so much greater than everything before or after that the ordinances and rules and forms of Leviticus seem simple in comparison?

And how should I respond to such mercy and grace? If the Hebrews couldn't come near to God without the intervention of the priests, how can I just roll out a hearty "OMG!" with nary a guilty twinge? If the implements of service in the Tabernacle were so holy that they required a whole list of rules to just get them from place to place, how do I act and interact at our church?

Just because God's gift in Jesus is free, we can't ever see it as "cheap."

One final observation, lest the ship get so overbalanced in one direction that we capsize... We live under grace, not the Law. Christ came to grant true and absolute freedom, and I am thankful for that. Believe me, saddlepals, in my second life and new physique, I understand a bit more of overwhelming grace than I ever have.

But the attitude of my heart, and the actions that spring from it, needs to reflect the weight of that mercy and grace. Not to bear it, since I can't; Not to add to it or take away from it, since my puny humanity could never accomplish such a thing; and not to discount or cheapen it by my attitude or behavior. To strive for and hopefully achieve the balance between amazing intimacy with Jesus, and proper awe and reverence for the Father. To worship the Triune God both as a fallen creature in need of redemption, and as an adopted son redeemed by faith in Christ Jesus.

And to remember the lesson of Leviticus - God's gift of life is free, but it is never ever cheap.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Clearing the Mental Plumbing ("Steve, get the PLUNGER!")

A good old-fashioned but new-fangled head clearing - that's the ticket. That's what's required here. The ol' mental plunger, to clear up the cerebral backup. Psychic laxative to unblock the brain...




That's where I is at today. Right here, right now. The normal flow of thought and feelings, the usual accumulation of crap and waste, the unrecognizable, the unmentionable, the decayed and decomposing, it's all mushed up into a clog and resists all attempts to get things moving along.

Or, maybe this picture will induce less squirming - consider the Neti Pot.

(yeah, like that's gonna reduce the squirm factor...)

The Neti Pot, in case you didn't recognize the name and already ran screaming from the room, is the cute little pot that one fills with warm (but not hot, body temperature is best) water infused with salt (using their specially mixed and prepared salt - trust me, it's better that way)...

And then pour it through your head. In one nostril and out the other. Use about half of it, then repeat on the other side.

Mmmmm. Lasting freshness.

My Beloved won't even remain in the same part of the house if I'm rocking the Neti Pot. And she takes Ezzie with her, lest the dog investigate the goings on.

But the dumb thing works. Really well.

I'm such an addict, I've progressed to the next level. (kind of like moving up from a gateway drug into the hard stuff - from fluffy Starbucks drinks to REAL coffee at Biggby. Sorry - my bias is showing...)

I use the Sinus Rinse, baby. What's the difference? Two words - squeeze bottle.

No, you really don't want to know. Really. But my sinuses are so clean, you could eat off...

(That didn't come off quite as awesomely as I imagined it. Forget you heard that. I blame video games, Hollywood, and reality TV. And politicians. And oil companies. And unemployed web designers.)

(Not the latter, actually. There aren't any unemployed web designers. Not that I've heard of. And of course, I've heard of everything. )

(Ha ha. It is to chuckle. It is to laugh. It is to snort, if you're Niecelet #1 and the timing is right.)

So, the head cleansing seems to be going well thus far, eh? Look at all the sludge I've already shoveled, in only 388 words and climbing.

The reason for this backlog was a major shift in routine for a week. Getting in a little employment for a few days, making for a nice addition to the OlsonEconomy, but totally changing my routine and going from zero to sixty in way too little time for this fifty-three year old dude.

Yet I pulled it off. I got where I was supposed to be, on time, did the work along with the long hours, kept most other things from crashing to the ground, and came out the other end not needing an oxygen tank and physical therapy. I came out just dandy, thanks.

Not to say that some things didn't get neglected - the kitchen suffered. Cooking became "grab what isn't fuzzy or can be consumed with little or no prep and have at it." Ezri was asked to contribute to the general upheaval, and she, in her patient canine way, did. She put up with a shifted schedule, irregular mealtimes and the time change to boot, and still wags her tail mightily when we come home. I love that doggie.

And we survived. One car, one trike, two schedules, and one fast week. And I'm gonna do it again next week, not getting killed in the process.

But the area that needs the most repair is my head - my mental healing and recovery. A crazy week can lead to mental shutdown for me, and that's never good. I lose track of the mindfulness I have to bring to each day, each hour, each moment. The awareness I must maintain to live, not just survive. When my head shuts down, all the progress I've made in the last two years shuts down too.

I don't mean that I revert to EvilCal, pre-weight loss and pre-psychointervention. I don't go ape crazy, diving into despair and decadent dishes in unequal measure. I don't do carb therapy, grabbing whatever snacks and sugars my heart desires. Because honestly, although I did snack on some contraband here and there, I didn't desire unlimited quantities of it, nor did I use it to self-medicate.

(Actually, my #1 craving these days seems to be chicken from Cousin's Tasty Chicken. I blame video games, Hollywood, and reality TV. And I suspect that the gang at Cousin's adds something to the frying oil that creates a chemical dependency - you must have more or you perish. Oh, and the CIA uses that to control your mind. Yup. The truth is out.)

So it seems that in a high pressure week, the things I've tried to convert into habits have taken root and are growing. I stick (mostly) to my new life and avoid my "normal" stress reactions.

Yay me!

But the mental logjam is harder to navigate and eliminate. It takes time - long moments, stress and pressure absent, where my slow, mindful approach to each day allows the things below the surface to come up, be recognized, and be swept away.

I'm tempted to say "normal" people make this sort of shift much easier than I do. They take the changes in stride, accommodating them into the structure of life, and keep everything moving forward in fine shape.

But I suspect that this picture of how "normal" people handle the stresses and changes of a busy life is not accurate. I've never been "normal," so I don't have any first hand information to compare it to, but in thinking about the frail, flawed creatures we are, I would imagine that we all find ways to roll and dodge and move in unusual weeks that are decidedly un-"normal." We each find ways to keep our balance - some good, some not so good, some that others would look at and think, "Man, I had no idea they were so messed up!" And some that work for nobody else but us.

I'd guess that some things get dropped in everyone's high-stress weeks, and that the lives of those we see around us aren't nearly as perfect as we would imagine them to be. Dirty dishes are left, clothes are unhung, underwear resides on the floor, dust gathers, science experiments create themselves in 'fridges, laundry becomes self-ambulatory, and we look around at our less-than-perfect surroundings and wonder how others do this, keep up this pace while their world stays pretty, pristine, perfect...

And "normal."

Mental logjams come up, stresses get shelved because "I just can't deal with this right now," personal time is a joke, and relationships are strained for a bit.

I guess what matters most is what happens when the pressure is released. What we do in "recovery mode" - when we have a moment to catch up on the dishes, set the laundry free from its grimy bonds, throw out the pizza boxes or chicken bones, and get something out of the freezer with a good chance that it'll actually get made into something lovely before it turns into a science experiment.

And to clear the mental logjam. To reconnect the strained relationships. To find the balance again. To listen, to think, to feel and to imagine, instead of just respond, respond, respond.

Maybe the key to moving gracefully in and out of "crunch time" is remembering "recovery time" - that we have to make the time to come back from the edge, and know that if we don't mindfully plan that time, our minds and bodies will find a way to TAKE that time, in appropriate or inappropriate ways.

Sabbath - it's not just for Sunday anymore.

We need to remember that nobody is "normal." We all find our way in and out of action packed weeks in ways that are unique to ourselves. Nobody does it the same, nobody does it perfectly, and most everybody imagines that others do it better than they do. And most of us leave underwear on the floor from time to time.

The key is, after the pressure lifts, pick it back up. Put it in the hamper or the chute. Smile, bless the Lord for the ability to rise to a challenge, and eagerly anticipate that we'll handle the next one a little more gracefully.

And maybe pick up some new underwear, just for emergencies. And a Neti Pot. Trust me - you'll love it.

Thanks Lord, for helping to clear the way. Thanks that every time I step into a busy week, You're already at the week's end, waiting for me. I simply have to look for You when things settle. Help me to gracefully, mindfully shift from busy to calm, from stress to peace, from movement to stillness. And help me to look ahead enough to remember that for every fast-moving week, there needs to be a calm harbor for a rest afterward.

Thanks for the adventure - looking forward to the next one!