On a Leg and a Chair.

Well, it’s been two days and I think I’m starting to adapt. Most of yesterday I struggled to get from the chair to the bathroom to the dining room table where my computer is set up on crutches. I hated it!

Oh it was tolerable enough with Roberta around to get things for me, but she will be gone 12 hours a day starting Monday, so I needed to think of something else. So I tried using a roling office chair my friend Rachel gave me, and it seems to be doing the job. I get around for the most part and my bad foot never gets any weight put on it as per doctors orders. It is still a drag though.

Fortunately, a pleasant distraction arrived to help take my mind off things – my good friend David. David lives in Goderich and had a day or so off work and knowing of my situation decided to come down and pay me a visit. He stopped in just before supper last night and we had a great time eating, talking and watching on old sci-fi movie on DVD.

I suppose that’s one advantage of what’s going on right now. If things were the way they normally are I wouldn’t have been home to visit with David; instead I likely would have been out and about doing something somewhere. This situation has certainly caused me to slow down. As I mentioned earlier, I had been looking for a way to do just that, to find more time to write, to read, and to get a few other things done. It makes me wonder if I was so busy, so obsessed with all the tasks I needed to perform that this was the only way God could get my attention. That seems rather extreme, but then Israel wasn’t far different.

Time and again in the Bible we find Israel ignoring God to the point where the only way He can bring them up short enough to listen for a while is to have some other nation drop in and conquer them. Then of course, they spend more time wailing and complaining then listening, but eventually they clue in, get their act together, and pay attention. Then God puts the other nation in its place and Israel is fine for another generation until they decide they know better than God and follow the same destructive pattern of behaviour.

There’s no denying that I do have a hard time slowing down and focusing, even though prayer and meditation are part of my routine. But is it reasonable to imagine that God would allow such an injury to take place just to get my attention, or am I just reading something into the situation trying to find some meaning that will make it less agonizing?

I mean, if this accident is entirely the result of my own stupidity, then I have nobody to blame but myself. But, if it is the maneuverings of divine providence, then it’s not entirely my fault. God did this to get my attention, in fact, in some bizarre way it is an answer to prayer and I am completely off the hook for not looking where I was going and falling down that stupid hole. Wouldn’t that make this a good thing?

Truth is, I’ve had a few people tell me that is exactly what is happening and I should regard this situation as a gift from God, sent by Him in answer to my needs. Frankly, I don’t buy it.

You see, while it’s true that God is all about forgiveness, the scripture makes it clear he’ also about taking responsibility for our own actions. He didn’t let Moses off the hook; his rebellion kept Him from entering the promised land. He didn’t cut David any slack; his disobedience cost him a son and kept him from fulfilling His dream to build the temple. Moses, David and many others all eventually learned from their experiences and were blessed by God in what they did; but forgiveness was never a blank cheque. They all had to live with the consequences of their actions.

That’s why some non-Chrsitians have a hard time with the idea of forgiveness. They see it as some kind of cosmic ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card and to them it’s just wrong that people who do bad things don’t have to pay the price. Unfortunately some Christians look at it that way too and that does a disservice to God and His message.

Forgiveness does not mean you don’t have to face the consequences of your actions, it means you want have to pay the price for what you did beyond those consequences. There is a commoon feeling among people in general that if what you have done is bad enough you should have to pay for it over and over and over again. That there is no amount of suffering that will balance the books for what you have done. They want the sinner to suffer not just once, but always, and for the rest of their lives, because that’s the only way they can see justice being done. Because to them justice means balancing the books, and eye for an eye.

But God’s Justice is a little different. God’s justice recognizes that in the sum of all things it is impossible to balance the books. We will never, no matter how hard we try, manage to achieve justice because even an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth doesn’t make things right. It just makes us feel better because revenge is sweet and since it’s sweet it is the most incidous form of comfort food. Because revenge makes us think we have justice because the books appear to have been balanced, but in reality we’ve just been given a candy that makes us feel better because we got someting out of it.

That’s why God’s justice is different, because it’s about paying the immediete unavoidable consequences of what we do, without making us the victims of revenge. Forgiveness wipes the slate clean, so that instead of falling prey to revenge, we can like Daivd, learn from our mistakes and go on to be a blessing to others.

Because we also need to realize that the victims of revenge are not just those who commit the sin, but those who seek revenge are also it’s victims. Because like comfort food revenge does not deal with the problem, it just make us feel better and distracts us from the problem, so it never gets dealt with properly. You see, forgiveness is the remedy not just for the sinner, but for those who have been sinned against as well. It purges us of the pain we feel that causes us to never be satisfied. That pain is why justice never seems enoough and revenge appears as the only answer. For both sides forgiveness is the only solution.

By now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Dennis, how did we get from you falling down a hole having more time to write, to pondering the varities of justice and revenge? Man isn’t that a bit of a stretch?”

Well, yes, I suppose it is. But that’s what happens when you give a guy time to think and to ponder. And yet it’s not that big a stretch either because the nature of justice and forgiveness is at the root of how God works. It would not be just for God to inflict pain solely for the purpose of teaching me a few things. Israel’s perils were a direct result of their choosing to violate a covenant that they made with God at Mount Sinaih, the attacks by other nations were never random.

So my current situation is not God’s doing. I don’t believe that for a second. However, just as with Israel, God is not above using my stupidity to His advantage. I didn’t see the hole, now I’m here; and so is God, and while He forgices my stupidity he’s not above taking advantage of the situation. I’m sureHe has a few things he wants to draw to my attention while He has it. The question is will I quit complaining about the inconveniences of my current situation long enough to listen to what He has to say?

I pray that I do. Until next time…

Shalom.

Home again, Home again… But no Jigs yet.

Well, after a few hours sleep in Day Surgery I’m back home once more. The disconcerting thing is I went in feeling fairly well, pain free and able to move around under my own power. Not after the surgery designed to repair my torn Achilles heel. I am feeling less than chipper, experiencing significant discomfort, some pain, and I’m about as mobile as a three-legged Galapagos tortoise. Ah well, what’s the old saying, “Short term pain for long term gain.”

I want to thank all of you who took a moment to think of me and pray for me today. As I lay on the gurney in the hallway waiting to go into the operating room, I could feel the anxiety building. Then I reminded myself that there were people in the world who were deliberately and purposefully thinking of me right at that moment. I will admit that the comfort to be found in that thought surprised me.

There’s a quote that I have used many time over the years to try to help me keep my ego in check.

“Most people would worry less about what people think of them if they could just realize how seldom they do.”

I don’t know who said it but this sentence has kept me from obsessing on people’s opinions more than a few times. As a teenager I spent a lot of time worrying what my peers thought of me and tried to “fit in” by doing things that would improve those opinions. For a time my insecurity was largely fueled by the idea that people didn’t like me at all and spent a lot of time telling other people how much I sucked. The turn around came when I finally came to grips with the reality that people didn’t think about me as much as I feared.

Then the opposing obsession took hold, “What do you mean people DON’T THINK ABOUT ME? Am I that insignificant that I’m not WORTH thinking about?” This quickly led to a new personal philosophy that stayed with me through-out most of my twenties..”I don’t care what people think about me as long as they do!” My self-esteem now centered around a fear of indifference – to me. It’s amazing how many different ways peer pressure can manifest itself – real or imagined.

With maturity I like to think I’ve struck a balance between the two. My self -esteem is now founded more in my identity in Christ than anything else. Well, most of the time anyway.There are a few individuals whose opinions I use as kind of a benchmark. Other than that I am content to simply be who I am and let the world try and cope with my opinion of it. What people think and whether they are thinking of me at all are of significantly less importance than they once were.

What happened today however, was something all together different. For a few hours it mattered to me a great deal that people were, in fact, thinking of me – and deliberately so. After they wheeled me away from Roberta’s company into the inner labyrinth of the surgery area, I felt suddenly very alone. They took me to the hallway outside the assigned operating room and left me there to gaze out the window. The anxiety rose, and fear started to set in.

Then I remembered what my good friend Brian Watson had said, “We’ll take time at 1 o’clock to stop and pray for you.” In that moment I also remembered the dozen or so others who had committed to do the same thing. I did some quick tallying and estimated that while I was lying there at least 34 people were out there, somewhere, thinking about me and my situation and lifting my name up to God in prayer.

Suddenly, the fear subsided. The anxiety, while still there, no longer took my breath away; the shaking in my hands was reduced to a barely noticeable tremor. I was comforted and encouraged by the knowledge that there were people out there who cared enough about me, who loved me enough to stop what they were doing and lift me up in prayer. I found myself praying for each one of them.

I know, it’s what prayer is all about. It’s why we are commanded in the scriptures to pray for one another. But I, like you gentle reader, are human, and the challenges we face can often overwhelm us and we find ourselves in need of a palpable reminder. Today the Spirit reminded me of that fact in just such a tangible way.

So thank you Brian, et al. Your prayers were heard, and I was greatly blessed.

May God bless each of you for your faithfulness.

Shalom.

Little Pieces of Toast

Okay, so this is it. This morning at 11 am (EST) I sign in to ‘day surgery’ at Guelph General Hospital, then at 1pm they wheel me in and start cutting. If all goes well I’ll be home in time for supper.

I had the pre-op appointment yesterday and it was full of assurances that everything was going to work out just fine, my doctor is extremely good at what he does, and I’m healthy enough there should be no difficulties. And, oh yes… due to budget cuts I can’t have a piece of toast anymore when I wake up – layoffs to follow.

That’s right! There was much apologizing for the fact that there would be no toast. Apparently, since a surgery patient can’t eat for 12 hours beforehand, it was their custom to feed them some juice and toast when they woke up to settle the grumbling stomach. When budget cuts came along the toast was the first to go. Now I just get the juice and a biscuit.

I guess everyone has ‘stuff’ with which they struggle; seemingly small stuff to you and I maybe, but it holds meaning for the people involved because it’s indicative of changes they’d rather not see. There are certainly a lot bigger problems in our health care system than supplying toast for day surgery patients, but those who work there see it as ‘just one more thing‘ that takes the joy out of their existence because it reminds them of what might follow – layoffs or whatever other darkness looms on the horizon.

We all have little pieces of toast in our lives. Things that on the surface seem small and insignificant, but we are tempted to fall on our swords to protect them because of what they represent. We cry out against the powers that be, “Come on already! I know it’s tough and we need to make changes, but can’t we at least keep the toast?

If we can keep the toast, if we can manage one small victory as the darkness encroaches, then maybe we will survive this after all. Maybe it will serve as one small glimmer of light to give us some comfort.

So as I head into the hospital today, as much as I completely dread the experience (I haven’t been under the knife since I was 17), I find myself thinking about the nurse in pre-op who felt the need to apologize for the lack of toast. I know she’s feeling a pain of her own and needs prayer and support as much as I do.

So please, gentle reader, if you are inclined to pray for me this day as I endure my ordeal, for which I am truly grateful, then please remember the toast, and also pray for those at the hospital who face an uncertain future. And when you speak to the Father, offer a word for anyone you know who is struggling to hang on to one small comfort in life, that it might help them see their way through the temporary darkness and into a brighter tomorrow.

Until I return from surgery… Shalom

And Now for Something Completely Different…

I suppose the time has come to write about my current situation, if for no other reason than a multitude of individuals who have said to me in the last few days, “I expect much blogging while you are laid up the next few weeks.”

I think that was one of the things that made me take an hiatus from blogging – the sense of having to meet expectations. I started it because I just wanted to get things down for myself, but soon I was writing for everyone but me. But that is of course the dilemma every creative thinker faces, is it not? Do I write, paint, play, sing, sculpt, or whatever else it is I consider my raison d’etre for my own satisfaction, or do I do it for those whose opinions I hold in even higher regard – my audience, though I may be loath to admit it. I suspect, like most things in my experience, the truth lies somewhere in between, consisting of x parts one and truth – x parts the other.

But to return to the subject at hand: on Friday morning (Jan 9/08) I shall report to Guelph General Hospital’s Day Surgery ward to undergo a procedure to repair the Achilles tendon on my left foot. It seems I have a knack for putting my foot in it (as my wife Roberta will confirm) and this time what I put my foot in was a hole in the floor backstage at Guelph Little Theatre. The details of exactly how it happened are largely unimportant. Let it suffice to say,”Black floor + black hole x large differential bifocals = Ouch!” If you have no idea what the bifocals have to do with it, ask someone who wears them.

And so I find myself faced with the prospect of surgery, followed by several weeks in a cast, then more time in a walking cast, and who knows how many sessions of excruciating physio-therapy. Oooh! – what fun! But then I suppose it could always be worse. There will be time to think, to write, to sort, to meditate, to vegetate, and of course, to blog.

I strongly suspect that this may well be one of those, be careful what you pray for scenarios. As the New Year unfolded I found myself offhandedly praying for more time to engage in all of the above – especially the writing. Then this happens. Powerful stuff prayer. Use at own risk!

So there you have it, the back story to where these ramblings will be coming from for the next little while. If you would like to support me in some way during my period of recovery then I ask you to click your way over to the Guelph Little Theatre website and book a few tickets for “The Curious Savage“. It is the delightful little comedy I was working on the preparation for when this happened. Yes I know, it’s a shameless plug; but if it sells out in a stampede of sympathetic consumerism it shall serve to bolster my self-esteem as I will have ‘taken one for the team.’

What is “The Curious Savage“? It is the story of three siblings, five friends, two attendants, and a woman and her bear; all drawn together by means of foolish expectations and not so foolish dreams. Yes, it is a rather cryptic description I know, but then, where’s your curiosity?

Until next time then, I covet your prayers, your well-wishes, and your contributions to the box office.

Shalom