• A Thanksgiving Blessing

    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
    Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
    The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
    The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
    Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
    Of death and birth.
    ~ T.S. Elliot

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  • Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide – 2016 Edition

    Illustration of Mother and Children Carrying Thanksgiving Dinner by Douglass Crockwell

    Such a pretty picture. Now imagine that they all hate each other.

    An oldie but a goody! BTW, if you read these and know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to family, you are one of the people I wrote The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life  for. It’s a collection of enlightening essays for thinking better, being better and growing where you’re planted. Even if where you’re planted is a, um, lacking in certain nutrients required for proper growth. (I was going to say something much meaner, but I’m trying to be a good Christian here.) The book is only $6 on Amazon. Buy an extra one for your sister. Or a whole bunch for your friends. Also, if you are one of those people who has been experiencing an increase in interpersonal verbal and emotional abuse over the last couple of weeks, you can follow me on my personal facebook page where I’m sharing other bits of advice for keeping yourself safe and sane under adverse conditions. (I swear a lot more and talk about God a lot less on my personal page though. Just so we’re all clear. I hate to have to make someone look like a jackass in front of everyone.😉 )

    So, best of luck everyone. It’s a bit wild out there, but just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll do fine. Happy Thanksgiving, peeps!

    Since I am a contrarian at heart and everyone and their brother is doing the “Let’s talk about what we’re thankful for” bit, I’m going to offer up something completely different.  Because as important as gratitude is, I also know that on Thanksgiving there are an awful lot of people for whom the answer to “what are you most grateful for?” is “that I don’t live any closer to these people.”  So for those of you going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house which had damn well better have a well stocked liquor cabinet waiting, I’ve dug through the archives to create The Upside Down World’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide:

    1. Develop an Appreciation for the Absurd: My grandmother once had to be dragged away by a horrified aunt from her very concerned inquisition into the causes of my obesity.  One of my cousins made a big deal out of being “sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk” after resolutely ignoring every smile, nod, wave or question we threw her way from the next table over at my brother’s wedding.  Where all of my other 7 siblings (but not me) stood up in the wedding. That was weird. Learning to laugh is a much better tactic for dealing with people being absurd than any other I know.

    2. Learn to Tolerate Conflict: Wishing you would have stood up for yourself is only rarely less painful than the discomfort of conflict.  The determining factor being whether you hold it together long enough to cry in private or abruptly leave the table after bursting into tears in front of everyone.  Thanksgiving probably isn’t the best time to confront your family with a list of all the things they have done to hurt you, but being able to speak up for yourself is a form of self-care everyone needs to know.

    3. Learn to Avoid Conflict: At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we need to tone it down.  Not every confrontation need to happen and not every invitation to conflict needs to be accepted.  Learn to see the difference and how to stop it before it gets started.

    4. Deliberately Look For the Good in People: Thanksgiving with relatives is the perfect place to put this idea into action.  One of my grandfathers used to corner us Continue reading

  • Hospital Bed Sketch

    Update on Shamneet

    So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been sharing the story of a 14 year old Pakistani boy named Shamneet who was kidnapped and brutally tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. He needed surgery to repair his injuries, but his family lives hand to mouth and had no way to come up with the $800 for his care. I have been collecting funds to pay his medical bills.

    We still have a ways to go, but I have some good news to report on his case. Two days ago the doctor checked on him and, alarmed at his condition, agreed to perform surgery to in exchange for a partial payment upfront and the remainder later. He wanted half up front, which we didn’t have, but I sent Atif, my friend who is helping the boy and his family, what we had and he was able to negotiate with the doctor to accept that as a down payment. Yesterday Shamneet had surgery to repair his internal injury. His blood work after surgery looks good and doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Yay!

    Now he just need surgery to repair fractures in his shoulder. Atif is currently pushing the doctor to go ahead with that surgery and the doctor is pushing Atif to make arrangements to finish paying off the bill. As I write this, there is $500 remaining on his bill.

    So if you are one of the people who have already made donations, thank you again. You quite literally helped to save a boys’ life. It would not have happened without your help. If you have not made a donation yet, now’s the time to get this done. It’s been almost 2 weeks since Shamneet was attacked which means two weeks with breaks in the bones in his shoulder. Obviously, the longer he goes without surgery, the greater the chance that this injury will result in permanent, life-long disability. Any amount you are able to offer helps. The $300 we’ve collected so far was pieced together from donations ranging from $80 all the way down to $5, so any amount helps.

    I will be updating the amount still needed as donations come in. So . . . whatcha waiting for? Let’s do this!

    Amount needed: $0! We did it!

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  • Help Needed – Please Read!

    On Monday, I share the story of a 14 year old Christian Pakistani boy who was viciously attacked and tortured by a man who had a financial dispute with the boy’s father. He is in need of surgery to repair injuries to his shoulder and his bowels, without which he will be permanently disabled and live with severe pain. Now, I know that terrible things are happening every day all over this planet. But it’s not often that we are individuals in the Western world are in a position to help a specific child in a hard to reach part of the world in their moment of crisis.

    This boy’s name is Shamneet. His family is very poor – they are living hand to mouth. Surgery to repair his injuries and medication for recovery will cost $800. So far, we’ve been able to raise just 10% of that. I totally understand that money is tight everywhere. But I have several thousand readers. All we need is for 9 more people to make an $80 donation or 18 people to make a $40 donation.

    This is a thing that we as the Body of Christ do for each other. It goes back to the earliest days of the church. If we do not do this together, there’s no magic wand that’s going to be waved to make everything all better. It really is up to us to take care of each other.

    Amount still needed: $0! We did it!

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    For those who are inclined to skepticism, please be assured that this is not a scam. I have worked with the gentleman who is arranging for Shamneet’s care on multiple projects over the past year, including acting as a go between to obtain assistance for another child through the Smile Foundation and hearing aids through the International Society of Audiologists. You can see a video which this man, Atif Jamil appears in explaining one of the projects his foundation worked on. Below are his business cards and a recent picture which you can see shows the same man as in the video I linked to. If you need further evidence, you can contact Dr. Chuck Cristo who also knows Atif and was able to perform a memorial service for victims of an earthquake in Pakistan with him. I know that scammers from developing countries are always a cause for concern, but we should not allow our fear of scammers to prevent us from supporting real people with real needs. Yes?

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    The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution

    Well, look at me! Posting for the second day in a row. I told you I’d be back!🙂

    I actually have a guest post up at Dr. Chuck Crisco’s site that I wanted to invite y’all to go check out. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart – overcoming the “us vs them” dualism of the past in order to embrace a more humane, holistic understanding of humanity as “just us”. I’m sharing the introduction below and I hope you’ll head on over to Chuck’s site to read the rest:

    The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution: “Us vs Them” or “Just Us”

    In talking with my fellow countrymen, it has become increasingly clear that there are two competing and seemingly irreconcilable mindsets at work in the conflicts being played out around us. On one side, you have people who see the world in terms of “us vs them” in which humanity is divided between those who are on our side and those who are not.  On the other are those who see the world in terms of “just us”, as in there is no “us vs them”, there is only a broad “us” which encompasses all of humanity. “Us vs them” thinkers see our differences as a cause for division, while “just us” thinkers seek to transcend our differences and recognize our deeper, shared humanity. READ ON . . .

    Also, I am still collecting money to fund necessary surgery for a 14 year old Christian Pakistani who sustained serious injuries after being kidnapped and tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. I shared the story here yesterday. If you missed it, you can read it and find the link to make a donation here. 

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    When Evil Attacks a Boy

    Sooooo . . . been a bit quiet around here, eh? Well, don’t let appearances fool you. I’ve been busy doing very important things. Like resting. Recharging. Recuperating. I’m filling the bucket up so eventually I’ll have new stuff to dump here. Promise. I’m just working on God’s time and apparently the God who has all of eternity at his fingertips doesn’t rush anything. Go figure.

    But in the meantime, he has given me little things to work on behind the scenes. One of which is working with and ministering to a rather remarkable man in Pakistan. Some of you may remember me telling you about meeting him a while back. Continue reading

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    His Eye Is On the Party Sparrow

    Last night when I sat down for my bedtime prayer/meditation, the face of the chaplain who runs the chapel at the local truck stop  came to mind very clearly and I heard God say, “I want you to go talk to Tim.” (Tim’s the name of the chaplain.) So I was like, “ok, but tomorrow’s Monday and Tim’s not going to be at the chapel.”

    God says, “don’t worry about it. I’ll arrange everything.”

    Well, alrighty then. So I continued with my prayer/meditation time wondering why God wanted me to go talk to Tim. When I was done and about to go to bed, I realized that I hadn’t gotten around to putting gas in my car that day. Long story, but there’s no cash in the house and only one card for the bank account which my husband was going to be taking to work with him in the morning. And I have a broke kid who needs to be at his own job the next day. I had just enough gas to drive to the gas station and that was it. Because I’m super responsible like that. It was around midnight, but if I didn’t go put gas in the car before going to bed, it was going to be a messy situation.

    So, I grab the card and load the dog up to be my bodyguard and headed to the truck stop. Normally I’d go to the gas station across the street, but I figured maybe Tim was pulling a late nighter or something and that was why God told me to go talk to Tim. Well, Tim wasn’t there, but there was this kid sitting on the ground outside the truck stop. He looked awfully young to be a hitchhiker, but drugs are a hell of a thing, so I ignored him. It’s not like I was going anywhere anyways. Continue reading

  • A Word About the Pakistani Church and God’s Terrible Advice

    I got serious about writing this blog about 4 years ago. And as shocking as it sounds, it was not the instant success one would imagine. Incredible, but true. So I went to God and asked in my best plaintive wail, “what should I dooooooo?” And I kid you not, every time, I got the same response: “let them come to you.” And I would be all like, “but that’s really terrible advice, God! Why are you always giving me such terrible advice?” But, seeing as there’s just only so much a person can do to control the universe, I went with it. I would do my thing and people would come.

    Well, the darndest thing started happening. Occasionally, seemingly random people would show up and announce, “I feel like I need to reach out to you.” And then I was all like, “well, I guess I’ve been expecting you. Howdy!” Cuz there’s a reason why I follow God’s advice, even when it’s really bad.

    Well, a couple of months ago, a Christian man from Pakistan showed up and started pestering me. My curiosity was piqued by his persistence and lack of come-ons, so I was like, “what the hell do you want?” (I’m sure I was much more polite than that in real life, of course.) And he was like, “I dunno. I just feel like I need to talk to you.” And I was like, “well, howdy. I guess I’ve been expecting you.”

    So the next morning I was meditating on Romans 12:2:

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    because . . . Well, I don’t know why. It’s just one of those things I do. I had just said to my husband that I suspect that the verse refers to the fact that Christianity is basically a reprogramming system for the human mind. Because not only do I do weird things like meditate on random bible verses just cuz, I think weird things about them.

    So I get up from my weird pondering to check my facebook account and there’s a message from my Pakistani guy sharing his testimony of coming to faith. He tells me that seeing the words of Romans 12:2 written on a church wall started him on his journey to Christ. Because, again, there’s a reason I follow God’s really terrible advice.

    Anyways, the reason I’m sharing all of this with you is so you will all know how cool I am. I’m not sure how well that’s going, but fortunately for us all, there’s also another, more serious reason I am sharing all of this. As some of you may know, On October 27th, Pakistan was hit by a powerful 7.5 earthquake. Nearly 400 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed.

    My Pakistani friend happens to be in a position where he can advocate for Christians and coordinate assistance for those who are in trouble. Fewer than 2% of the population of Pakistan is Christian and the persecution Christians face there can be intense. (Along with the kidnappings, murder, bombing, open discrimination and the like, I hear that the coffee shops there don’t even switch to using red paper cups during the holiday season.) So he tends to be in the thick of things.

    After the recent earthquake, my friend learned of two Christian families near Faisalabad whose homes were destroyed by the earthquakes. Six family members needed medical care, but the local government hospital initially refused to treat them because of their faith. They were eventually treated, but one of the victims, an 8 year old girl I’ll call K needs surgery on her shoulder to prevent permanent disability. Continue reading

  • Good Luck With That “Normal” Thing

    Perhaps you have heard that I have some children. Entirely more than a respectable woman ought to have, in fact. I have even heard tell that there are those who point to my old woman living in a shoe lifestyle as evidence that I may be a bit touched in the head. Sad. But true. Fortunately for me, it turns out that being a bit touched in the head is pretty much a prerequisite for good parenting, so it’s all worked out just fine.

    At any rate, two of my children are currently man-boys who are 20 and 16 and completely awesome. Not that I’m biased or anything. You’d think they were completely awesome if you met them. Although you’d probably be glad you weren’t responsible for raising them.

    So recently my 20 year old expressed his concern that I was often excessively harsh with his 16 year old brother. And that this might cause the 16 year old to think it was OK to be excessively harsh with the 5 year old. And the 5 year old has made it clear to everyone that she is the reason for the existence of the entire universe, so this constituted a threat to the well being of all that is.

    Now, the thing you need to understand about the 16 year old is that he is, at all times, right. He knows it. I know it. Everyone who knows him, knows that he’s always right. Except when he gets stuck in his own head or is being irrational. In which case, you pretty much have to drag him kicking and screaming by his hair out into the light of day to wake him up. When he was a kid, I used to give his teachers very simple, specific instructions for how to successfully correct him. Those who did not listen paid the price.

    So, I called Mr. Always Right over and said, “your brother here is concerned that I am excessively harsh with you sometimes.”

    He, of course, looked completely confused, laughed, and checked to see if we were just pulling his leg. (Always a distinct possibility in our home.) ‘”Dude, I’m going to need some examples to go on here,” was his response. He was clearly completely befuddled. As was his brother at this point.

    Now, as I have indicated, the 20 year old is male. So obviously he can be really dense. But mostly he’s incredibly sensitive to everything and everyone around him. Which means that the older he gets, the more subtle the touch required to move him. Anything more than a persistent firm nudge feels like an armed assault to this one.

    “I never talk to you the way I talk to your brother sometimes, right?” I asked the 20 year old, who looked appalled at the very idea. “You would feel terrible if I talked to you like that, but obviously your brother isn’t experiencing me as particularly harsh.”

    I could practically see it dawning on the 20 year old how different his brother actually was from him. Which, as well as they know each other, one would think he would already know. But obviously it had never occurred to the 20 year old that something as basic as our emotional responses could be completely different from one person to another. After all, our emotional responses happen pretty automatically. And we all experience the exact same emotions. So it’s very easy to assume that your normal emotional responses to the world are normal for human beings generally rather than for you particularly.

    I suspect that many, if not most, if not all of us make the error of assuming that we are normal and therefor all seemingly normal people must be pretty much like us. In fact, I was in my mid-30s when it really sank in that maybe – just maybe – I wasn’t actually normal. Me. The woman who has so many children that they’ve basically created their own subculture together. The woman who is in Mensa and married to a black guy and swears while discussing theology and doesn’t own sweats or a proper pair of athletic shoes. I actually thought I was like baseline normal. (Obviously I have some masculine tendencies.) I’ll wait until you’re done laughing to go on. . . . Continue reading