August 15, 2010

What I Learned by Cheating

Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 3:32 pm by Mo Dardinger

This week I cheated on a commitment that I’d made. Not intentionally, but on accident. Here’s what I learned while cheating:

  • it’s okay to take care of yourself and put your own healing first
  • it’s not okay to live in clutter
  • beauty and organization are high values, ingrained in most of us
  • we can de-clutter and re-organize
  • some folks are much more loused up than the honey-lamb and I are — but without knowing God, would we be there???
  • sometimes ya gotta break the rules
  • it can be okay to distract yourself from pain for a while
  • when you go on a quest for someone, you’re expected to return and report to that someone
  • when you serve well, you are praised and rewarded
  • God still wants me to go on quests for Him, and these will be the best, most important quests

I was alone at home on Thursday evening — bored, lonely, discouraged, looking for some fun. So I flipped on the TV.

Dr. Phil was on with a messed-up woman whose craving for positive attention from men had led her into one adulterous affair after another. She’d had some bad experiences growing up, and a lack of a father in the home. (Which is roughly equivalent to what I experienced — having a father present but “not there.” A lot of us have that problem, and most of us don’t resort to affairs. That attempted solution seems understandable on one level and yet totally unthinkable on another.) At the end, Phil offered to pay for counselling for her to get the psychiatric help it was clear she needed. Her emotional healing needed to happen first. Later, she, her husband, and her latest shack-up honey could decide what was the best way forward for each of them and all of them.

From this I learned it’s okay to take care of yourself and put your own (emotional or physical) healing first. You don’t have to always put the job first, or the friends first. You can be first.

After Phil ended and before my husband arrived home, Dr. Oz started in. He was dealing with a woman who was burying her own home in clutter. It was really sad to see. Dave and I had a clutter problem a few years ago, before his brother Bob and our sister-in-law Dianna came along to get us de-cluttered. Then, when Bob brought out most of Dave’s stamp collection and when we closed down our mini-storage unit, we ended up with clutter in our lovely townhouse again. We need to re-de-clutter. Because, as I learned from watching Oz, it’s not okay to live in clutter. We aren’t doing as poorly with our things as the gal on the TV show was, but we’re beyond my “comfort level” for clutter.

As I reflect on this, I’ve realized that beauty and organization are high values, ingrained in most of us. We need to expend time and energy to press order into our homes and work spaces. We need to invest in beauty and cleanliness. It matters.

I also realized that we can de-clutter and re-organize. I was unable to help out much while I nursed my knees back to health for a month. But now that I’m over that and over my ear infection and cold, I can jump in. (The honey-lamb has been preparing boxes and stacks of clothes for me to sort through. We’re half-way organized already.)

It was entertaining, thought-provoking, and even a bit of a relief to watch the loused-up lives of the adulteress and the hoarder exposed for all to see. One assumes that they were compensated for their appearances, and that they are glad they endured the ordeal both for the money and for the better lives that will follow these appearances. The “relief” part comes from realizing that I’m not doing so badly after all. My loneliness, lack of parenting, and craving for approval hasn’t driven me to adultery. My acquisitiveness, while bad by some standards, hasn’t totally buried our couches in useless junk.

So I learned that some folks are much more loused up than the honey-lamb and I are. Upon reflection, though, we both have had abundant blessings and great opportunities lavished on us. The primary blessing is knowing the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. We grew up exposed to the Bible, and we are surrounded by genuine Christians. Without knowing God, would we be where these sadly lacking women on TV were?

Friday, the friends I met for lunch discussed a massively multiplayer game that they enjoy playing online, World of Warcraft (WoW). I’d never tried it. But when I was feeling blue that evening, I decided to give it a whirl. There’s a 10-day free trial, and that will encompass two weekends. So I downloaded it, read a little on the basics, and got underway. I invited my husband to join me. That’s when he reminded me of the “ban” on watching TV and playing Internet games. Our community life pastor had preached the previous Sunday, and he’d asked us all to back away from these and other distractions for a month. So that we can spend the time on our relationship with God and on building relationships with our family and our neighbors. I’d totally forgotten. I was cheating! On Sunday morning, I’d thought, “No problem. We already don’t watch TV or play games online.” The honey-lamb really got into the spirit of the thing. He gave up playing FreeCell on his computer and also stopped working cross sums puzzles, which he loves.

Now, I’m generally in favor of obeying any rule around. The Lord indicates that the authorities in our lives deserve our attention and obedience. This time I ignored the rule. Since it’s okay to take care of yourself and put your own healing first, that’s what I did. I figured the distraction of learning this new game (and the consequent lift to my spirits) made it okay to ignored Pastor Mark’s request. Sometimes ya gotta break the rules.

As a long-term solution, I wouldn’t recommend playing a game by yourself rather than interacting with others. But as a one-shot temporary measure it was okay. I learned that it can be okay to distract yourself from pain for a while.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy role-playing game. You set up a character, then take him or her through quests to gain experience. You acquire more armor and weapons. You learn new skills or “skill up.” When you have enough skills and experience, you rise to a higher level or “level up.” The challenges get tougher and the rewards get larger at each level. You have to make sure you’re ready for combat before you Engage! At the end of a successful quest, you and your comrades return to the one who sent you out. He receives what you have collected for him, or the report that you have vanquished his enemies. Then he rewards you.

One thing I learned while playing is that it would take a lot of time to learn to play well. Another is that it would be more fun to play it with your friends or family members, like the guys I had lunch with do. Whether I’ll play it again during the “ban” month is up in the air. Today I feel a lot less blue, and there are tons of real-life connections I need to make with friends, so it’s doubtful.

After completing the quest in WoW, I realized: when you go on a quest for someone, you’re expected to return and report to that someone. Then they evaluate your mission and give you what you deserve. When you serve well, you are praised and rewarded.

Later, something else became clear. I’ve been on several “quests” for my heavenly Father over the years. Such as writing my book, creating my Website, and teaching two classes on the End Times with my dear honey-lamb. I’m called to study the biblical prophecies and share what I learn with others. That “calling” still applies. God still wants me to go on quests for Him, and these will be the best, most important quests — not the quests that other people send me on. I have every confidence that He will thoroughly de-brief me. If I overcome, if my quest is successful, then He will reward me handsomely.

So it is for the honey-lamb, too, and for any other boon companions who join in my “quests.” First, let’s trade some of this useless clutter for a prayer mat. Then let’s skill up, level up, and Engage!

August 7, 2010

Welcome Home

Posted in Community, Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 6:33 pm by Mo Dardinger

Eight days ago I arrived in Houston from Lima, Peru. I stood at the line in Customs and Immigration. When the customs officer was satisfied with my documents and my answers, he told me, “Welcome back.” I mumbled my thanks, then trotted off to collect my baggage. “Welcome back.” It’s a nice way to greet citizens and permanent residents of your country. I wasn’t quite ready to kiss the ground, but I had definitely been looking forward to returning to the US and to my husband and friends. And to the comforts of home — air conditioning in practically every residence, business, and automobile (because we live in the desert southwest); safe water from a tap, not just a bottle; vehicles I can drive, and traffic flow that makes sense; being able to converse with everyone I meet, because they all speak English; my heating pad.

My boss was wrong that the two-day extension for some site-seeing and shopping was a mistake, that I would be ready to come home after just the work portion of the trip. I would have missed out on a lot, on many of my favorite moments of the trip. I was glad to stay the extra days. Sorry that we didn’t get to do more site-seeing, sorry I hadn’t brought more cash and exchanged more dollars for soles.

Why was the official Customs greeting, “Welcome back,” I wondered? Why not “Welcome home”? Probably because a lot of people arriving back in the States will have left loved ones behind in Mexico or Peru or wherever. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, fiances, and fiancees. So a greeting of “Welcome home” might sound discordant, might bring up memories of those left behind. Home, after all, is where the heart is.

I have a different home-coming to prepare for. It will be on a much grander scale than getting to tell a few stories at my small group or in Google Wave or over lunch. My true home awaits me. If I work hard, that is. If I stay true. If I don’t abandon my post under fire. If I remain committed to the Lord through the Great Tribulation or whatever else the enemy throws at me. A big IF. Especially given my history of failure to work hard and to stay joyful.

The home-coming ahead will make all the trials here worth facing. More than worth it. Much more than worth it.

While we were in Peru, we saw a part of the hillside community Nueva Jerusalen II. New Jerusalem with streets of dirt? Floors of bare cement? Tin roofs? That little community on the hill is making the best of what they have, using the materials at hand to build homes and community centers. But the real New Jerusalem will feature streets of pure gold, “like transparent glass.”

More importantly, the souls of those who live there will have been swept clean. No dust, no dirt, no filth of any kind will enter the City.

Our flesh that loves to sin will have been removed. Perfected bodies await us. This place of astounding beauty and exuberant joy will be reserved for the righteous, those made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, those who do deeds in keeping with their status as saints. The offer is open to all, and some few will accept the offer and render obedience.

Someday — if I do my part while I still can — there will be an ear-splitting cry of, “WELCOME HOME” that reverberates throughout heaven. And it will be for me. For insignificant Mo, who can’t even find a lunch partner most days.

The grandest Being in the Universe is making ready already for my arrival. He will not forget me or fail to care about me. He loves me. He will include me in dances and parties, in feasting, in joyous occasions without number.

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 10:31-33, ESV)

May the Day of Rejoicing hasten, and yet may I have plenty of time to earn the rewards of the heavenly realm, the rewards that will pay off forever. May I become thoroughly faithful. May I reach the “true home” that my heart so longs for.