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The best day of your life? May 6, 2014

Posted by philangelus in pensive.
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Five years ago, I dashed home between errands to find that after ten days of failure, we’d trapped the cat.

trappedkitty

I had almost exactly ten minutes to spare in my schedule, so I burned rubber to get the cat and the cage back to the animal shelter. She was bleeding from her paws from trying to claw her way out of the bars, and she kept yowling. I snapped the above picture because I didn’t know if she’d test positive for feline AIDS or FeLV and they’d put her to sleep before I ever saw her again. She howled in rage and terror the whole way there.

When the cat shelter volunteer unloaded her from the car, she said, “This was the best day of your life, the day you walked into that cage.”

Before I left I looked at the cat — bleeding, trembling, maybe about to be euhanized — and I couldn’t agree. She was fine outside, fine until she’d gotten injured. She’d survived for six months in a wildlife-filled, relatively car-free Swamp. She came when I fed her but wasn’t so hungry she’d walk into the cage for ten days.

Later we found out she’d been shot by a beebee gun, twice. Her leg was permanently wrecked. And from her behavior we deduced her previous owner was either neglectful or outright abusive.

Last week, while puttering around my bedroom, I heard a rhythmic, “tik-tik-tik-tik…”

The cat was sitting on the bed, looking at me lazily. I wasn’t interacting with her at all, and yet she was purring.

Our previous cats were happy with us. I have no doubt about that, although Hazel would have burnt at the stake before admitting it, and yet none of them ever sat there just purring. Purring because their human was in the room, purring because there was warm sunlight and a soft bed and a bowl full of food and a cuddly brain-damaged cat companion and no one to hurt them.

So was it really the best day of her life? At the time I said no. For six months after, while the cat slunk around depressed, I’d have said no. But now I wonder.

I looked at the devastating things in my own life, those plunge-points of tragedy where the ripples spread out and changed everything that happened afterward. I can’t say those are the best days of my life, those days where I did the equivalent of ripping out my own claws trying to escape the cage that had suddenly trapped me. I can see where they formed me, but you’re never going to get me to say they were good. Emily’s death created a lot of good (in the world, in me) for example, but I will never, never say her death was good.

Yet maybe the cat awakens in the night sometimes from a nightmare of a suddenly-slamming cage and steel bars, panicked, and would never think of that as a good thing. Maybe she likes where she is now but doesn’t connect it to the horrible stuff that came before. So I don’t know: maybe we never recognize the best days of our lives.

A little kindness, at least September 5, 2013

Posted by philangelus in family, pensive.
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As a warning, there is dead wildlife at the end of this post. If that’s a trigger for you, please stop reading here.

On Tuesday nights, I come home late with one of the Kiddos while my Patient Husband runs the household and gets dinner on the table. Last Tuesday, as I pulled into the driveway, two Kiddos stood at the curb, waving me in. That’s good. They’re playing outside. Usually there are too many mosquitos outside at dusk.

As I pulled into the garage, though, I noticed my Patient Husband standing at the back of the house, waving at something, and my first thought was to look for smoke. The Kiddos were clearly waiting for the Fire Department. Except there was no smoke, and he hadn’t urged me not to pull into the garage, so I quipped, “I wonder if he set fire to the cast iron pan” (something I nearly did last week.)

And, yeah. No. I wish there had been a fire.

Last week, I’d looked out the back window to see a brown and black spotted tabby sunning himself in front of our shed. I’m used to specific Swamp Cats, but I’d never seen this one, so I called over the Kiddos. I opened the window and talked to him, but when the Kiddos went out on the porch, he slunk off into the Swamp.

Later he went back out there, sunning himself again, and I again opened the window and chatted him up. Again he slunk away. But this time, I remembered we had a very old box of unused cat food in a closet. Back from before Hazel needed prescription food — so for all I knew, the box was full of bugs and no food. I brought it out onto the deck, and to my surprise, it looked fine, so I went down to the shed with a handful.

I don’t feed outdoor cats. I just don’t. Hunting cats survive just fine in the Swamp, and we can’t take in another cat right now. I don’t know why I fed this one.

The food disappeared within an hour, so I went down with more. That also went away. I didn’t see if the cat ate it or if any of the million other Swamp creatures.

I didn’t see him again. The box on the deck was pushed around overnight, but I didn’t see him again until Tuesday night.

My Patient Husband had sent the kids onto the deck to shuck the CSA corn, and Kiddo2 looked down to see the cat. For the next half hour, my Patient Husband was on the phone trying to find someone who would come out and euthanize the cat. The vet said animal control; animal control needed to be called through the police. The police paged her, and she left her dinner to come, getting to our house just after I arrived home to find my husband doing whatever he could to keep the poor thing comfortable. But the cat died sometime after I arrived and before she did.

The Animal Control woman called it coyote-work. She said she’d never seen an animal that badly damaged make it that far.

And I realized: he came to us. He struggled all the way back to us because people are comfort. People talk nicely to you, and people give you food. He needed help. So he came back to the deck where he knew we’d talked to him and where he knew we’d left a box of food, only then he couldn’t get up the steps.

My Patient Husband said, “I guess that’s what happens when you feed a stray cat.”

I don’t know why I fed him. Maybe because God knew the cat needed a little kindness. A fully-grown cat suddenly appearing in a place where people dump unwanted cats. A cat who didn’t know how to survive in the wild. A cat with only a handful of days to live. There was no way I could have caught him, nothing else I could have done for him. Someone told me, “You showed him a little kindness, at least,”  but it’s still so awful.

You’re in Paradise. Take the Advil. August 24, 2013

Posted by philangelus in pensive, religion.
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Just yesterday, someone was telling me about a trip she’d taken with her elderly mother. It sounded like a fantastic trip, the kind you take once in a lifetime — and given her mother’s age, that’s likely to be the case. And I think she had a good time, but every so often she’d talk about how her mother made it difficult to enjoy themselves on the trip by being, in general, a difficult person.

In addition to the other she-created-these difficulties, the mother has difficulty walking due to joint inflammation. Her doctor has apparently told her she can take Advil for this, and when she takes it, it helps. But on the trip, she refused to take the Advil, and this meant they couldn’t walk around everywhere they’d have liked to go, and they couldn’t move quickly, and they couldn’t take a bus because it was too high for her to step up onto the bus.

In the middle of telling us this, the daughter exclaimed, as if at her mother, “You’re in Paradise! Take the Advil!”

That keeps coming back to me today, and I began to wonder: are we really in Paradise? And when aren’t we taking our Advil?

Because it’s stubbornness on the part of this woman’s mother. Having met the mother, I’ll say there probably isn’t what you or I would consider a “reason” not to be taking it. For example, if Advil caused her stomach cramps, we’d be sympathetic. But no, she doesn’t like to take Advil. Why? Because she doesn’t like to take it.

When we get into Heaven, is it maybe not Heaven for us so much if we refuse to accept the things God gives us? Since I assume we retain our free will even after choosing God in eternity, is it possible to shuffle around Heaven clinging to our emotional baggage from Earth? How about us still here on Earth? When God gives us a Giant Clue, how often do we refuse to accept it, just from stubbornness? Or even, if we’re blunt with ourselves, how often does God give us a gift and we refuse to take it? A real gift, like the urge to let go of a grudge we’re holding, only we cling nice and tight. Why? Because we’re holding a grudge, that’s why.

Is there that same desperation in God’s voice? “You could be in Paradise! Take the graces!”

We’ve been given so much, literally everything we have. We didn’t give ourselves life, or this world, or the choice of being born into a culture where we’d get educated enough to read about Paradise and Advil. These all came to us without us meriting it, so really, we’re in a kind of Paradise. What’s our Advil?

Little injuries August 14, 2013

Posted by philangelus in pensive.
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While biking a few weeks ago, I ran over a caterpillar.

It was one of those “you can’t help it” things. By the time I saw the caterpillar, I was on top of it. I tried swerving, and then I went back to look for it, just in case, but I couldn’t find it. So either I didn’t squash him or else I did and “the body was never recovered.”

I biked home sad because I killed a butterfly. Not intentionally, but still. Butterflies are beautiful, and now there’s a little less beauty in the world.

I’ve been aware lately of the little injuries in the world, the small wounds that harm individuals at most, but are caused from carelessness, thoughtlessness, freak mistakes, and the like.

For example, early in July while I was at the playground, my son was playing with his friends when a grandmother came with her grandson, who had a sand bucket and three digging tools. She set them out on the ground, but the little boy didn’t want to play with them. My son and his friends played with them instead, and when I told them to leave the toys for the little one, the grandmother said no, it was fine.

A lot of older kids came to the playground too, but everyone was doing just fine. When it was time for us to go, I went back to find the sand tools for the little boy, and I could only find two. The grandmother and I looked around, but the third one had vanished. Had one of the kids buried it? Or one of the older kids taken it? We never found it, and the grandmother said, “It’s fine. He’ll never know.”

She’s probably right: the little kid never showed any interest in the digging toys, but it’s still a little injury in the way the world should have been.

I’m not sure I have a point here, and I know I’m not living up to the blog’s promise of satire. Sorry. But if the work of God is, as Father Walter Ciszek writes in He Leadeth Me, to do whatever work is in front of us, then part of that work is to heal life’s little injuries. Only sometimes we can’t, and I’m not sure if the best response is to pause and grieve them, or if it’s to be like the little boy’s grandmother and just acknowledge them, shrug, and move on.

Guest Post by Ken Rolph: “I wish I still had a typewriter.” April 5, 2013

Posted by philangelus in geekery, pensive.
6 comments

If you frequent the comment box, you’re familiar with Ken Rolph, our resident Australian (actually, he’s residing in Australia and we all gather wherever via the magic of the internet.)  He posted this to a forum we both belong to, and I asked permission to post it here, which he granted. I think all of us can relate to the tech-woes.

I have just effectively had a quarter of the year trashed by big companies and their technology. Early in January I got my MacBook Pro upgraded 2 system jumps, and there are still things I can’t do. The helpful Apple Centre geniuses mentioned that this machine would be declared “vintage”, by which they meant “buy something new or go away”.

My ISP was bought by a large telecom and shut down. We naturally had to move to something else, so on 15 January we signed with a new, large telecom for phone and internet. They would supply a cable modem, wonderfully fast and fully featured. We didn’t have a cable, or even a pipe, so we had to go through all that. A technician finally put a cable into our study, leaping from the skirting board to the desk in an elegant arc that would be easy to trip over. He turned the modem on and went on his way with a cheerful, “Just start up your browser. It’s all automatic.”

Which was partly true. The modem took control of our portal and tried to access the registration page. Then came back an error message that said we couldn’t register at that time, and to try again tomorrow. In cheerful innocence I believed it at first.

For the next 45 days our browser would do nothing else but go around this loop. We called for help and went through another loop. The person on the end of the phone (in the Philippines or India) could not solve the problem. They would pass it on to an activation team, and someone would call me back the next day. They never did. No one could or would explain what the problem was. At the end a technician admitted that there was a problem with the new software that was trapping thousands of new users in this loop.

Unwired was to shut down on 28 February, so we were getting a little desperate. On 22 February, out of the blue, our local federal member of parliament rang up. She was a student of Jan’s and wanted her help in a local project. There’s a federal election coming up and this makes political parties a bit ready to connect with local voters.

We mentioned our problem with the telecom. The MP said to drop photocopies of our dealings down to the electorate office on Monday morning. Which we did. That afternoon the phone began to ring with apologetic telecom technicians, activation team leaders, official apologisers. We had 6 returned phone calls over the next two days. On 28 February, at midday, a technician turned up (not at the appointed time, of course) with a new user name and password scrawled in texta on a piece of cardboard. He did something to the modem and we were away and registered in an instant.

The next couple of weeks were spent updating our online presence. This creeps up on you over the years. I had a two-page list of places where my email address was used in a meaningful way. It took a long time to update because of all those passwords. The most security conscious financial institution kept me going for an afternoon. Log in and add a new password. Wait for an email telling me that I’ve added a new email and need to confirm it. Change the new email to be the primary one. Wait for an email . . . Delete the old email. Wait for an email . . .

Last week we sat down to calmly survey the damage and look for the way ahead. Exactly 3 months ago we had a home network linking seamlessly 4 computers and 2 printers. Relatives and friends could come with their laptops, phones, pads and I could just add their MAC number to our access list and all would work slowly but reliably. Now nothing worked with anything else. So I pulled it all apart and put the cables in a drawer and started again. One cable modem wirelessly to one Mac, with a colour printer plugged directly to it. The rest of the stuff didn’t fit into the picture at all. So we thought we would get some new technology. Jan bought an iPad mini. I got out an iPod which I had acquired some time ago and never been able to use because of software incompatibilities. Now it worked. We set up Jan with her own personal email address. Up till now she had to use the school one or mine. Of course the incoming/outgoing mail settings were different from the leaflet that came with our new modem, but I was able to read the account the technician had set up on my machine.

Then, in the snail mail, we got a threatening letter from our new telecom wanting to cut off our service because we hadn’t paid any of our accounts. What accounts? It seems that although the technical department could not give us internet access for 45 days, the billing department efficiently sent our January and February bills to an email address we never had and are never likely to have. I got that sorted out.

On Friday afternoon I got a call from a bubbly voice henchperson of our telecom. She said they had noticed that I just changed my email address and wondered if everything was okay and working properly. I gave her a sardonic account of the past three months. She didn’t seem the slightest bit disturbed. Either she was used to hearing the story, or she hadn’t yet done the official grovelling apologiser course. Inevitably we got to the date of birth question. She said I sounded younger than that and that my attitude to technology reminded her of her dad. She said it might be a generational difference. She said we was twenty . . . well, you know what I’m going to say. The driving force underlying all art and commerce of Western Civilisation — the energetic 23-year-old woman. I ended up agreeing that the new service was all fabulous. Later I thought about not being like someone’s dad and 1967 — a great year for music.

Saturday. I got some Beach Boys music for the iPod and went into the garden. The darn device locked itself on CoverFlow and wouldn’t shift. So I couldn’t change the volume. So I couldn’t hear above the noise of the lawnmower. Jan called for help with her new iPad, which had gone to a blank blue screen and wouldn’t shift. I said, “I’ve had it with technology. I’m going to read a book.” So I went and sat of the teak seat under the shade of the melaleuca tree in the back garden. Later Jan bought me a cup of tea, and very unkindly pointed out that there was a contradiction between escaping technology and reading a Kindle DX. I said that’s not technology. That works.

My new definition of technology. Offers you heaven: leaves you in hell. You can’t get it to a stable point where you can just use it for work and play. Someone has to keep moving the bits. It’s like a carpenter having to spend all their time fitting new handles to a hammer head and never getting to use it to hit a nail. I said to myself, I wish I still had a typewriter.

Sunday the grandkids came and I was thoroughly escaping technology. In the garage I found some old boxes we hadn’t got around to in our pre-retirement cleanup. I pulled out a vinyl LP of Also Sprach Zarathustra, which was #1 on the hit parade around the time when the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey was showing. I asked #1 grandson what it was. He replied with all the confidence of his 4 years that it was a DVD. I hear that cheap turntables are available again.

Also in the box were the last few audio cassettes we still have. One was a large wraparound plastic pack containing 6 cassettes of the Beach Boys; the Capitol Years. I started listening to it in the afternoon. It reminded me a earlier times when I thought things were possible. There used to be a booklet with it. I wondered if I could find a copy still around. After all, we have this wonderful internet stuff which contains all human knowledge. So I googled. I couldn’t find the booklet. I couldn’t find any mention at all the cassette version. A Wikipedia page mentioned a 6 LP and a 4 CD set. Frequently I find that information on the internet is inaccurate, misleading or simply missing. Of course it only contains what people put there.

Over supper Jan and I considered what to do. Then we remembered that we are old and rich, so we said, right, we’ll just buy new stuff. After she went to bed I sat holding the Beach Boys cassettes and thinking about the inadequacies of the internet and its many betrayals. It only contains what people put there. But wait, I’m a people! So I signed up to be a Wikipedia contributor and made my first addition.

This morning I sat pondering what to do with the old technology. Then I realised that I do have a typewriter. There is a functioning Macintosh and a functioning laser printer, which work together. All my problems had been with connectivity. I could still write and print out things for editing. And I can cable the two Macs together and pass stuff via the drop boxes.

One day, perhaps, I can get back to a point where I can use all this technology to do actual work.

Ken Rolph

Blacktown Australia

 

I wanna be her when I grow up January 22, 2013

Posted by philangelus in pensive.
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Sorry I posted such a sad story yesterday. Let me tell you a less-sad story so maybe you’ll keep coming back.

This woman’s name I don’t remember, but my dispatcher said I’d be bringing her to “the meeting of the blind,” something I later learned was a monthly occurrence.

I ended up at a trailer park on the border of Angeltown and Nowhere At All, with excellent directions. I loved when they gave me directions better than “There’s a tree on the corner — you’ll turn a few blocks before that.” Try to imagine life in the days before Google Maps could get you anywhere — actually, imagine Apple Maps after it’s belted half a bottle of bourbon. Anyhow, this woman gave me quaint landmarks like street names, and directions like “left” and “right” instead of “it’s around there somewhere.” I pulled into her driveway behind a Monstrously Old Brown Car.

She told me her story as we drove: her husband had died a couple of years ago, and afterward, she had gone blind.

She did exactly what anyone would do in that situation, of course. She organized a city-wide support group for blind senior citizens.

That was how this woman spent her days now: on the phone organizing support group meetings and telephone-counseling the elderly who were losing their vision. Right. She was living on her own even though I believe she had family in the area who wanted her to live with them. She apologized for getting a ride from me, but her son had to work. She told me how stubborn the city hall folks were about providing more elderly transportation services and how they kept limiting public transportation. I could tell City Hall would be her next target.

Two huge losses in a few years, and yet she was so upbeat.

When I brought her back home, she pointed to the Monstrously Old Brown Vehicle. “That’s my car.” And then she added, “I can’t bear to sell it. That would be admitting I’m never going to drive again.”

Blind. Never driving again. Good call. Just don’t admit it, and you’ll be fine. And she was.

I understand that kind of spirit doesn’t come out of nowhere. She’d cultivated her resiliency over a lifetime, somehow, day by day. But you know what? When I grow up, I wanna be like her.

The ghost of her memory January 21, 2013

Posted by philangelus in pensive.
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“I’ll be your driver today, Mrs. Penn,” I said when she answered the door, this tiny white-haired woman with a nasty dog at her heels.

She grinned and said, “It’s Miss, not Missus, and you can call me Shirlee.”

She’d grown up with an unusually-spelled name back in the days when you just didn’t do that. (I’ve changed it, by the way — a google search on her real name turns up her, and only her.) Over time, as I drove her to various appointments, I learned more about her life, how she’d been born in that same house where I’d picked her up, how she’d never married — and bits and pieces I found myself fitting together even when she herself didn’t. Relentlessly cheerful, she never spoke badly of her family, and I didn’t yet know the word “toxic.” I knew she was alone, but I also knew she had family in the area. I met her sister once, a bitter woman who showed up only because a doctor wanted a family member there.

Shirlee annoyed me sometimes, and I didn’t let it show. She didn’t get why I wanted to stick to a schedule, or why she shouldn’t spend twenty minutes in the house after saying “I’ll be one minute — I just need to get my purse.” She liked that I brought a baby with me to her appointments. At some point, I believe her nephew moved in with her, into that crumbling house crammed with a lifetime of junk and darkness.

I don’t know why I’m thinking of her. The ghost of her memory came to me while I was knitting another shawl.

It would have been Christmas 1999 that I bought her a gift. It wasn’t much — a pretty sachet and some scented soaps, and then I wasn’t sure how to get it to her. But of course, God looks out for fools, drunks, the United States of America, and me: the dispatcher called a week before Christmas with a same-day appointment, so I tucked the gift in the back seat. After her appointment, Shirlee asked me to stop at Walgreens, and I figured she wanted to get a prescription. No, she spent an interminable forever wandering the aisles and then bought a gianormous teddy bear for one of her nieces or nephews. Irritated, I still helped her back to the car with a smile and an assurance that no, I really had nothing else to do today.

When we got to her house, she gave Kiddo 1 the teddy bear. He hugged it, and I thanked her and said she hadn’t had to do it, and then I reached into the back and handed over her gift and card.

She said, “Oh, you didn’t have to — ” and then stopped. It was wrapped. There was a card. Her eyes widened. “You didn’t know I was going to give him that!” And in that moment, she realized I’d actually bought a gift for her, planned it out and meant to do it.

And she started to cry.

I felt like garbage afterward, that maybe this lonely woman got one Christmas gift that year, and it was a lousy sachet and some soap. Wendy told me, “At least she got something,” and my Patient Husband said, “You can’t make up for a lifetime of unkindness.” But I never expected her to cry.

I just felt so helpless.

Some time later, it might have been my last trip driving her when she asked if we could go visit her old school house, so we wandered down this rural road I’d never been, in a backwoods between two thriving towns; widing alongside a lake, she told me about how cold it used to be to walk a couple miles to a one-room schoolhouse, told me about woodstoves and other students. And then after we found the spot her school used to stand, I dropped her off at home, and I don’t think I ever saw her again.

I did go to her wake. Her nasty sister glared at me, like how dare someone come to the wake because they liked Shirlee. As my Patient Husband said, you can’t make up for a lifetime of unkindness.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of that teddy bear.

The way things open and close January 1, 2013

Posted by philangelus in family, pensive.
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Stephen & Hazel (small)

She arrived in our house after we’d been married a few months, part mistake and part fate the way good things always are.

We had seen teeny-tiny kittens in the pet store, so I went to the animal shelter to ask if there were any laws about selling kittens too young to be separated from their mother. The shelter folks said no, but I looked at the cats. She was there, newly turned in after someone found her wandering around a parking lot in downtown Ithaca. Out of the cage, she stood on my Patient Husband’s shoulder just like our goofy kitten did, so I put our name on a list, and a week later they called.

The two cats got along great, but that was seventeen years ago. Our family has transformed from me and my Patient Husband living in a terrarium with two kittens…to seven angels, four kids, and up to as many as eight cats for six teeth-clenching weeks one summer. Stormy died two years ago. Last year we acquired the brain-damaged kitten (because every household needs a furry beast that will never grow up, a furry beast that finds twist-ties wherever they hide and plays with them on your bed in the middle of the night.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She hadn’t been doing well, and the vet said there were two separate problems. She lost weight, and in the last week, she looked skeletal. She still was in good spirits, but she couldn’t jump on the bed any longer. Whenever I went into the bathroom, she’d follow because that was her domain, and she’d look at me expectantly as if waiting for something good, but she didn’t want food. Or cold water. Or her treat. Nor even to sit on the toilet lid, her kitty-throne.

On Sunday night, Kiddo2 and I sat up with her, petting her, brushing her, talking about her. She purred, and in the morning she was still with us. She spent the day in her basket by the window, then moved to her spot under the bed, and sitting underneath where I was reading, she died.

God answered our prayers: her death was peaceful and quiet, and the ground wasn’t so frozen we couldn’t dig a grave. I carried her basket outside, and we laid her in the ground wrapped in her blanket. Stormy’s ashes had been waiting for two years in a locked box in a plastic bag sealed with a twist-tie, and we sprinkled them over her now.

Back inside, I set the basket in its place in front of the window. So much for the physical realities of death. I sat in bed to knit and feel miserable.

Orion, our brain-damaged kitten, went to the basket and sniffed around it, then pounced. His head came up out of the basket, and in his mouth he had a twist-tie: the twist-tie that had been on the bag of Stormy’s ashes. And he began to bat it around.

I guess there’s a lesson somewhere in there if you care to find it, that death and life are intermingled in ways we don’t truly understand — pain and play, youth and age, endings and beginnings. But I didn’t have the energy to find them. Instead I just watched the kitten play with a twist-tie, unaware of the way things open and the way things close.

I wouldn’t have gone back either November 22, 2012

Posted by philangelus in pensive, religion.
7 comments

I have a question: Did Jesus like people to follow the rules?

Jesus said that not one jot of the law would pass away, and he certainly followed the rules himself (see the bit about paying the Temple tax) but there were times he didn’t (picking heads of grain on the Sabbath). But what about breaking the rules he’d set out?

I’m a little flamboyant with the phrase ‘breaking the rules’ though, so I’ll just cut to the chase. Luke 16 shows us ten lepers who ask Jesus to heal them. Jesus doesn’t say he’s going to do it; he just tells them to go show themselves to the priests (which sounds a lot like “fill these stone jars with water” and “bring it to the steward” because at no point does he say “and then a miracle occurs.”) And they go.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, on the way there, they notice they’re healed, and one of them turns back to go tell Jesus thank you. Jesus says, “Weren’t all ten made whole?” and asks why only the foreigner (a Samaritan) came back to thank him.

All my life, when I’ve heard that story, I’ve resolved to be more thankful. And the last time, I realized, that’s not the point at all.

The point was, nine of them followed the rules and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. The one who didn’t was the one raised outside the Jewish system, the Samaritan, who probably didn’t care so much for the rules of Jewish society as much as he cared, “Sweet! I’m healthy again!”

We don’t know that the other nine weren’t going to track back and find Jesus to thank him after they did what he said to do. But I can tell you right now that if it were me that happened to, that I would go and do everything Jesus had told me to do. And yes, a large part of that would be for fear that he’d take away the good thing if I didn’t complete the task he’d set me. (And no, he didn’t. God doesn’t take the gifts away if you’re insufficiently thankful.) But also because, well, when God tells you to do something — you do it.

I’ve read about Lot’s wife, turned into a pillar of salt for turning back to look at a burning Sodom. Would I want to be turned back into a leper? No. Therefore, if Jesus said, “Go show yourself to the priests,” there I would have been, showing myself to the priests. And then I’d go over to Burdick Chocolates to pick up a little thank you gift for Jesus to show him just how happy I was.

So what did Jesus expect, I wonder? Didn’t he want people to do what he said?

Kind of a scratch-your-head moment for your friendly neighborhood rules-conscious Philangelus.

 

Standing out (or is it, “out standing in its field”) October 19, 2012

Posted by philangelus in pensive.
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I actually stopped on my bike ride and did a U-turn to get this photo.

In between us we have a rock wall and a horse pasture, but there is is, one lone tree changed so much that it stands out from all the others, ahead of its time…a tree gone autumn.

I keep thinking about this tree, wondering if our souls do that when we learn something or when God’s preparing us for something. I thought about how sometimes it’s not bad to be different, and of course if this tree were a kid on the schoolyard it would be teased and possibly bullied because it’s ahead of its time.

I came across a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, from The Interior Castle, where she’s comparing the spiritual life to the life of a silkworm, and adds, “When it is full-grown, then, as I wrote at the beginning, it starts to spin its silk and to build that house in which it is to die.”

Do our souls “go autumn” before we die? I asked that two years ago, and I still don’t know. You can look at that tree and know what’s about to come, but the tree doesn’t know. If the tree could see itself compared to its neighbors, wouldn’t it be shocked. “What’s wrong with me? Why am I no longer green?”  It might even ask, “Why am I so ugly?” while all the green trees recoil and wonder if it’s catching.

Really, all that’s wrong with this tree is it’s ahead of its time. Maybe it does know what’s to come. Maybe the other trees are the only ones who don’t know.

A friend and I were talking about Jesus as a child, who must have seemed different in some ways, who probably got teased for following the rules and doing his work and obeying his parents. I said to my friend, “How does someone lovingly respond to harassment?” and she said, “He probably prayed for them.”  I said, “But as a child, what did he do then, before he grew up in wisdom?”

She thought for a moment and said, “Maybe he just took it all inside.”

We see that during the scourging and the crowning with thorns, where the soldiers insult him and harass him, the ultimate bullies, and he takes it without replying, prays for them in action, and forgives them. Whether he did that as a child, or whether he learned it through practice — I don’t know.

Maybe maturity in the soul is just as visible as that tree in the field, only we don’t recognize what it means.

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