Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Musings of a fevered brain

I've been sick. It was one of those things that come on you slowly: first, at the beginning of last week, a little sinusy, a little washed out. It grew progressively worse through the week. Praying to get better every day.

Saturday morning I got up not feeling good. Thought about skipping EFM, then dragged myself into the shower and went. Went to the office for a couple of hours to catch up on stuff. Enough of this. I went to my best friends' house and was served up a nice dinner and a movie. They deserved better than me. Praying to get better.

Coming home from church Sunday, all right, I'm definitely sick. My head hurts. My sinuses hurt. Nasty stuff is draining down the back of my throat. My throat hurts. The sun is sending knives of light into my eyes, which are squinting and watering like crazy. I go home and stretch out on the sofa. Praying to get better. I'm definitely running a fever now.

I keep thinking about a meditation for the Maundy Thursday foot-washing that our deacon had asked me to write a couple of weeks ago. Great phrases are coming into my head as I lay here. I finally get up, go to the PC and write it out. I don't think it will be usable for a service. Too personal, probably too metaphysical and sensual. I dunno. I'm going to make a couple of minor revisions then I'll post it next week. You can decide if it's just delirium at work.

Monday morning, the alarm goes off. My body says, "I don't think so." I shut off the alarm and go back to sleep. I wake up a couple of hours later and call in sick, get something to drink, take a decongestant and antibiotic and go back to bed. I'm coughing terribly and my sides hurt from coughing so much during the night. My head hurts, my face hurts. I can hear popping, crackling and whistling sounds from the vicinity of my bronchia. Yuccky stuff. I wake up for short periods of time then sleep.

In my more conscious moments, I think a lot about Christ. In one of the chapters of the book I'm reading, Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, Warren affirms that it's in our times of trouble that we reach out to Christ the most, and I think that's true. I've been praying, asking for His presence, and I am aware of His presence. He's right here with me. I feel like a small child being comforted by a loving parent. He tells me it will be okay, and I know it will. It is good to be so aware of His proximity. Illness does give me more time to pray.

Still, not all my thoughts are so lofty. For instance:

1. The Romantic Novel/Soap Opera
or, As the Stomach Churns

Our Heroine, tragically dying of tuberculosis, reclines on her deathbed. Amazingly, her long illness has served only to make her thin, beautiful and 20 years younger-looking.

Enter Mr. Should-a-been from stage right. He approaches the bed of Our Heroine hesitantly, head down. He looks upon her slight form and his shoulders shake as a sob wracks him. He sinks to one knee and buries his head in Our Heroine's (now fuller) bosom.

"My dear. All these years it's been you. You're the one I loved. Please give me a sign that you can hear me."

Our Heroine's eyes flutter open. She is able to lift one hand and gently cup the side of his face, smooth his hair.

Mr. Should-a-been looks upon Our Heroine lovingly, with tears streaming down his face. He takes her hand and holds it in his, gently kissing it. Then he buries his head again, at her side, determined to stay with Our Heroine until the end.

"I have always loved you," he declares, "through all the years of separation. I have been searching for you these last few years, hoping against all odds that you love me too. Please tell me you love me -- then I will die happy."

Our Heroine struggles to speak.

"Hack ACKK hack, spume ACCKKK wheeze hack ACKKK ACCKK HACCKK."

"Cut !"

2. Thoughts on a scaredy-cat dog

I've written before about The Best Dog in the World. She really is the Best Dog in the World. I'll call her Betty for short. Part border collie, part Australian shepherd, part who-knows-what, the lights of canine intelligence and good nature shine from her eyes.

Betty's biggest problem is that she looks like some kind of black-with-white wolf. Small children are frequently frightened of her, which puzzles her and hurts her feelings. She likes them. (No, I mean in a good way -- not for breakfast.)

Today, she keeps me company in my sick bed, all 45-50 pounds of her. Once in a while, she gets up, sniffs towards my face, and says "whuff" in sympathy, smelling the infection and realizing I'm sick. She snuggles against my leg.

One thing about Betty has been puzzling me for a while: she is afraid of the dark. She goes out for her morning romp with no problem, goes out anytime during the day, but is scared to go out after dark. I usually have to order her out. She goes to the door, peers cautiously around, peers nervously up at the night sky. Sometimes she'll then slink out, do her business as fast as she can, then fly back inside the door. Sometimes she refuses to go out unless I step outside first, walk out with her and stand guard over her, my wolven dog, while she squats.

In the hot part of the summer, I used to wait until after dusk to take her for walks, when it was a bit cooler. Understand, Betty loves to go for walks. She's overjoyed by the sight of my white, lace-up walking shoes. But several times at night, she suddenly panicked like something was after her, and she bolted for the safety of the house as hard as she could go, dragging me behind her on the end of her leash. I gave up on this night-walking practice.

I wonder, what frightened her? Did an owl swoop at her sometime? Did she walk into a cobweb? Do her canine senses pick up on some danger that doesn't register on my poor human senses? -- I do believe in the unseen world. There are things undetectable to our everyday senses.

Betty is a very sensitive animal, unlike Good Old Boy, my golden retriever. He is sweet and lovable, but definitely not sensitive. He shows no hesitation about going out after dark.

Sometimes, I stand there with Betty, peering at the night sky and wondering what she senses, or remembers.

I say prayers of protection for my animals, my home and myself.

3. Pondering on The Purpose Driven Life

I haven't been journaling regularly on this book. I'm finding most of it to be pretty basic Christianity 101. In Chapter 22, Rick Warren talks about how we are created in the image of God, not to be gods (of course), and how God's ultimate goal is not our comfort, but our character development (as in, this illness is good for my character. True--it made me just stop everything and pray). We become transformed, metamorphosed, through the Holy Spirit working in us.

Chapter 23, "How We Grow," continues the thought, talking about choices and commitment, and changing our autopilot, or our basic thinking, to an attitude more compatible with our beliefs, so that we "automatically" tend to the best choices.

In Chapter 24, "Transformed by Truth," Warren talks about the Bible being our spiritual nourishment. He gets into some thinking I find flawed -- he discounts tradition and reason.

I believe in Richard Hooker's three-legged stool of Scripture, reason, and the tradition of the church -- the foundation of Anglicanism. I don't believe that God personally wrote every sentence in the Bible. He inspired his prophets, who wrote it. These people were listening to God, but they were human beings, in their time and culture, and this has to be taken into account as we read it. The Bible is not merely a list of rules. It's a beautiful witness to God working in these people's lives and their relationship with Him. It teaches us, it instructs us, and it has to be interpreted. It's not a dead dusty book, but a living witness.

From the writings of Richard Hooker, courtesy of gigibeads.net - Chaplet of Richard Hooker:

"God is no captious sophister, eager to trip us up whenever we say amiss, but a courteous tutor, ready to amend what, in our weakness or our ignorance, we say ill, and to make the most of what we say aright." -- Richard Hooker sermon, "A Learned discourse of Justification."

The Holy Spirit guides us in applying scripture to our own lives and to what he is doing in the world today. He is working, and the church usually lags behind him. I think this is because the church, whatever denomination, is a bureaucracy, intent on defending itself, its position and the way it has always done things.

So whether it was slavery, women's rights, child labor, concentration camps, civil rights, or whatever the Holy Spirit turned his attention to, the church lagged behind. Certain people, clergy, came to the fore in these issues, working for the change the Holy Spirit required, but the church as a body seems to always lag behind.

The church as a corporate being just doesn't respond very well to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

So I am leery of any kind of demand that wants to make him or the Scriptures like a fly in amber, frozen in time. This is what some of my AAC brethren want to do. They'd like to put him in a vault in a museum somewhere. They're still unhappy about women in the church and cannot see any possibility that God might call a gay or lesbian.

I really didn't expect the General Convention to ratify Gene Robinson; I was surprised at the vote. This required me to do some hard praying and thinking. I came to the conclusion that this was the Holy Spirit at work.

So, anyway, this is an area of disagreement with Warren. Another area is the idea that this time on earth is no more than a preparation for eternity spent in heaven. I believe that this world is real and it matters here, too. Salvation begins here, in fact, we're already in life eternal. And the Kingdom of God is at hand, not in some far off cloud.

Chapter 25, "Transformed by Trouble," (yes, this illness is serving some purpose to mold me), Chapter 26, "Growing through Temptation," and Chapter 27, "Defeating Temptation," are all pretty standard.

Anyway, it's late, I'm sick and tired (literally) and I'm going to bed.

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