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!

June 26, 2010

This Foolish Tourist

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 2:18 pm by Mo Dardinger

My parents used to watch the evening news on the CBS network. For a long time, Walter Cronkite was the newscaster. He signed off each evening with, “And that’s the way it is.” Until one night when he leaned too far back in his anchor chair, lost his balance, and almost fell backwards. That evening, he signed off with, “And that’s the way it could have been.” It’s one of those “could have been” moments in my life that forms the subject of this blogpost.

When my dear Dave and I signeddeer up for a cruise to Alaska — my second and his first — neither of us realized what a life-changing adventure it would be. We just tGreat Horned Owlhought we’d study some, since learning to use Logos 4 software was part and parcel of our particular cruise package. We thought we’d observe and photograph immense beauty. We thought we’d have good fellowship and good food. We thought we’d get close to some birds we don’t see where we live. We thought Dave would collect his last three states, would have visited all 50 states in his lifetime. All this we did, but so very much more we did — or maybe the right way to say it is that it was done to us!

Our cruise was 80% pleasurable, 10% boring, and 10% frightening and painful. We studied Logos all day Sunday and Monday until noon. Then we visited Juneau on Monday afternoon, Skagway on Tuesday, and Glacier Bay on Wednesday.

On Thursday, we visited Ketchikan. In Seattle, we’d seen deer up close and a great horned owl. We’d witnessed humpback whales engaged in “bubble net” group feeding outside of Juneau, which is a rare and exciting sight. We’d seen harbor seals and various gulls in Glacier Bay. Now we were hoping to see bald eagles up close and other birds and animals, perhaps even a bear.

Our first stop on the Ketchikan bus tour was uneventful. We saw a salmon ladder, though it wasn’t yet the time for salmon to be leaping upstream. I shot tons of photos, as always. (You’re more likely to get at least a few good ones if you shoot lots. And with digital photography, there’s practically no cost to shooting lots — unlike with the film cameras we grew up with.)

Then we arrived! There were both adult and juvenile bald eagles near enough to get some great pictures of them. Some even flew around in groups. (Do eagles flock?)Bald Eagle

On to our next stop. I snapped a few pictures. A couple of people from our tour were looking at something on the front left side of the parking area. So I wandered over to see what it was. Maybe another eagle, even closer? I never found out. For when I reached the spot, stepping onto the muddy ground for a closer look, my feet slipped out from under me.

I expected to plop on my backside, then get up. But to my surprise, I kept sliding. Next I expected that I would soon get hung up on a bush. But I kept sliding. It was a long slope. How would I stop sliding? What would await me at the bottom? Lots of pain, broken bones, maybe even death.

Realizing my danger at last, I began to roll over, arms facing the slope, to try to grab at bushes or trees. As I turned, I said out loud, “Lord, help me.” I am not a great saint, but the God of the Bible is a great God, full of mercy. He was certainly the only one who could help me at this point. All the folks on our tour were too far off to do me any good. A small plant appeared on my left, and I grabbed for it, but it slipped away.

area where this foolish tourist fell

area where this foolish tourist fell

Then, as I completed my desperate prayer and completed my turn, I saw a rope to my right. I grabbed it. It held. My fall was stopped. The Lord had heard and answered my prayer.

The rope was an inch or more thick and quite sturdy. The tree it was tied to had an 8-inch diameter. Strong enough to hold me as I got my feet under me and started climbing back up.

Someone called down from above to ask how I was. Though I was shaken and bruised, my arms and legs worked. And I was alive! So I called back that I was okay.

I climbed up using the rope and my legs. A strong young man reached down to help me. I asked him if he was secure, as I didn’t want to pull him down the muddy slope, too.

My legs could no longer find any purchase. Nor could my knees. The muddy ground just gave way beneath them. And I’d reached the top of the rope. Now it was up to the young man and his helpers to pull me up the rest of the way.

chief human rescuer

my chief human rescuer (in red t-shirt)

There were many involved in my rescue: Dave from my right, the young man and those holding him from straight ahead, and many angels from on high dispatched to care for this foolish tourist. Praise God for sending so many to help me. Where would I have been without them? Dead or severely injured.

We finished the tour without further excitement. Though why I can’t tell. I should have been, you would think, jumping up and down for joy, even with hurt knees. I should have collected the names and addresses of those who helped me. I should have told everyone how desperately I had prayed and how quickly God’s answer came. But I didn’t. Dave and I are passive, often too passive. And we process things slowly.

I could tell I’d have a great story to tell back home. And I knew my knees were hurt, so I should take it easy, get some prayer, and possibly seek medical attention.

My gratitude to God is real, though, just not expressed quickly or loudly. My gratitude includes the fact that the iPhone in my pocket didn’t slip out or get broken. The camera around my neck was still okay. The purse around my neck and shoulder stayed shut. My new passport in the purse was okay. I think I lost two tissues and a lipstick from my pockets — nothing huge, nothing hard to replace.

Muddy Mo

Muddy Mo at Saxman Totem Village

Back on our ship, we ate lunch and sent an email to three friends in our small group to get some prayer going. Then we had our stateroom steward bring some ice, and I rested my knees. Dave went off to do laundry while I re-watched “The Young Victoria,” a film about Queen Victoria’s youth and first year or two on the throne. My aches and pains became more evident as the afternoon wore on. It reached the point where I could no longer stand without lots on pain, particularly in my right knee. Dave had to help me hobble to the head in our stateroom. We paged our steward for a wheelchair, waited for the medical clinic to re-open, and paid them a visit.

Dave taking good care of Mo

Dave takes good care of Mo

It took a long time to get seen as there were a slew of crew members and other passengers also seeking attention. But we received excellent care from the doctor and nurses from South Africa. The x-rays showed no broken bones. They treated both knees with Deep Heat, gave me an injection for the pain and swelling, and supplied me with two kinds of pills. My left knee got a urethane brace, while my right knee was heavily bandaged. I was told to sleep with a pillow between my knees and to let Dave wheel me around as much as possible.

By evening the next day, I was greatly improved. I could walk on my own some, though with some pain. We kept using the wheelchair until we left the ship and at the airports on the way back.

Getting up from a sitting position is still more of a bother than it used to be. Soon I’ll see my primary care physician for her take on my injuries and what else may need to be done. Also soon, I hope and pray, I’ll come to a greater realization of just what “might have been” versus what “was and is” — and praise and thank the Lord more fervently for His protection of this foolish tourist.