• 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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  • brickey_xi_goodsamaritan

    Rules For the Wilderness: Do What You Can

    Yesterday I shared a vision of a walled city and falling towers which you should go read if you haven’t already. In the vision, the area around the city was wilderness and in this wilderness people lived according to God’s rather than man’s ways. Over the next few days, I want to explore more about this idea of “God’s ways” and what they look like in real life. And today we’re going to start with what I said yesterday was rule #1. Which is an exaggeration. There are a bunch of other principles for living in the wilderness according to God’s ways which probably come first. But this is an important rule and pertinent for today, so I’m gonna start here:

    Do what you can for those in desperate need before you do anything else.

    Now, the amount of people in desperate need probably numbers in the billions, so “do what you can for those in desperate need before you do anything else” is far too broad a statement to be practical. So let’s narrow this down a bit. Which of the people in desperate need should you personally be concerned with? Well, highest priority goes to the person in desperate need who God, in some way, places in your path. This could be someone you know personally, someone you run into in your daily affairs or someone who is brought to your attention by others. When it comes to your attention that an individual is in desperate need, assume that God intends for you to help that person. Like actually help that person. As Pope Francis says, “you pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works.”

    It should be noted that whether the person in desperate need deserves help is irrelevant. Part of living in the wilderness, according to God’s ways, is that you assume that God is arranging all things for good. If a person in desperate need has crossed your path, assume that God intends for you to help them. Whether they deserve it or not is completely irrelevant. God works in mysterious ways. Do your part and let God worry about the rest.

    Of course, not only are the number of people in desperate need probably in the billions, the needs of any individual person who is in desperate need will frequently be far in excess of what you can meet. Which is why this rule says “do what you can”. Your job is not to meet everyone’s needs and/or fix their problems. Your job is to do what you can. Sometimes what you can do is nothing more than a smile and a kind word. Sometimes you are in a position to be the angel who meets the need entirely. But more often than not, you may not be able to do more than offer partial or even token assistance. And that’s fine. What is important isn’t that we are going around saving people or fixing their problems, although it’s lovely when we can do that. What is important is that we are doing what we can. That’s our part. In the wilderness, we aren’t responsible for anything more than our part. We do our part and trust God to do the rest.

    So now we get to the last part of the rule: before you do anything else. Remember those old Nike commercials that said “just do it”? Whoever came up with that tag line was a genius because rarely have truer lines ever been spoken. If human beings would just do all the good things they think about doing, we’d all be fit as a fiddle and well on our way to fixing every problem in existence within months. See, our brain has this little quirk; when we think about doing something, it creates the same sensation in our brains as doing it. So simply thinking about doing something makes us feel like we’ve done it. It’s true. When I’m angry, I frequently think about punching a heavy punching bag until I collapse. I visualize wailing on the thing and feel what it would feel like to move my arms and for my hands to hit the bag and have it softly bump away. And this drains my anger just like punching the bag would. The catch is that since I don’t have access to a heavy bag, I don’t get the muscles or skills that would come from actually engaging in the activity.

    It’s very much the same thing with helping those in need. We think about helping them. We think about how it’s a good thing to help them. We maybe even think about how we might carve out a few bucks or some time in order to do. We may make our plans to help them. And then we feel like we’ve actually done those things. Which is the point at which talk ourselves out of helping them. Or we just move on and assume that the need will be met somehow. After all God is in charge, right? This is why it’s so important to “just do it” when you encounter someone in desperate need. Doing the right thing or even the best you can is a great idea. But in the real world, simply doing what you can before you do anything else is what gets the job done. If God puts it on your heart to come back later and do more or better, that’s fantastic. But the reality is that once the moment has passed, we’re not going to do anything. Immediate action is the name of the game when it comes to helping those in desperate need.

    So consider this your first lesson on how to live in the God’s wilderness: do what you can to help those in desperate need before you do anything else. Now here’s your chance to practice. I’ve been sharing the story of a 14 year old Christian Pakistani boy who was kidnapped, tortured and dumped in front of his family’s home for a little over a week now. He needs surgery to repair the injuries, but his family is very poor and does not have the funds. The doctor is so alarmed over the boy’s condition that he has agreed to perform the surgery with only a partial rather than full payment up front. The total cost of the surgery is $800. So far, I have collected $235 towards the surgery. We need an additional $165 by 7:30 tonight. I will continue collecting funds until he has the full $800, but the $165 needed to get half-way is urgent. I will update the remaining need as new donations come in. Please make a donation in any amount you can. Many small donations work as well as one large donation. Now . . . go. Do what you can before you do anything else.

    Amount still needed: $0! We did it!

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  • city

    The Falling Towers of the Doomed City

    A while back a friend shared a vision she was given which I think is incredibly relevant to what is going on in the world right now. Even if you’re not a Christian and don’t believe in anything, this will be interesting to you. The person who was given this vision shared it online but has since taken it down. So I’m sharing it from memory, with her permission.

    In the vision, my friend was sitting on a hill in a wilderness overlooking a walled city. Within the city, towers were being built. But just as a tower would reach it’s full height, a giant snake would rise up and devour the tower from the top down to the bottom. Then another tower would be built in its place, taller than the last. But each time, a snake would come and devour it as it reached its full height. At first, this process happened slowly, but as she watched the rate at which the towers were rising and falling became faster and faster. Soon, the rate at which towers were rising and falling reached dizzying speeds. Chaos was taking over.

    Suddenly, the doors of the city flew open and a trickle of people began leaving the city. As they left the city, they shed their clothing at the city gates before heading out into the wilderness surrounding the city. My friend looked around and saw that all around the city there were others such as herself who had been living in the wilderness. The people leaving the city found their way to these people who taught them the secrets for living outside the city. Soon the trickle of people leaving the city became a flood and the first people to leave the city began instructing those who came behind them in how to survive outside the city walls. At the end of the vision, the city was empty and desolate. 

    This is what my friend was told that the vision meant: the city itself represents the project of human civilization. The towers represented civilizations, ideologies and empires. The snakes represented the forces which inevitably lead to the downfall of every civilization, ideology and empire in history. Today we live in a time in which these civilizations, ideologies and empires are rising and falling more quickly than ever before.

    The people leaving the city were those who had lost faith in the ability of civilizations, ideologies and empires to provide for their safety and well being. They removed their clothing as they left the city to represent the shedding of their humanly created ideas of how to live. The people who lived in the wilderness around the city are those who God had called out, trained and prepared in his ways. These are people who either left behind human ideologies or never bought into them in the first place.

    What my friend was told and shown was that we are rapidly approaching a time when people will lose their faith in the ways of this world – the reaching for power, control, greed, violence, hatred, conflict, self-protection and the like which have ordered human affairs for millennia now. At some point, the failure of any system, any ideology, any human created force will cause people to decide that they are better off abandoning their faith in these very human creations and turn back to the wilderness – God’s ways.

    Here are a few take aways which I think are important, particularly in regards to the times we live in:

    1. If you believe that there is a system of thought, a form of government, an ideology or leader who can or will put us on the right track or save us, you are fooling yourself. Every last one of those things is destined for inevitable failure. None of them will ever, ever do what you think they can do. If you’re actively involved in building one of these towers, you might as well walk away now. It’s going to come crashing down on your head soon enough.

    2. The city and the wilderness around the city are metaphors and don’t necessarily represent us losing our creature comforts and reverting to living in caves. Rather the city and wilderness represent two different ways or approaches to organizing the world. “God’s ways” are love, compassion, service, humility, patience, sacrifice, forgiveness, self-control and freedom. These stand in complete contrast to the driving forces of control, condemnation, power, hierarchies, violence, greed, intolerance, fear, dualism and the like which have shaped human affairs for millennia. (I’ll be getting into this more in the next few days, so if you aren’t already subscribed, you should go to the doo-hicky over on the right and fix that.)

    3. While it is alarming to watch these towers fall, raining their bricks and mortar down on the heads of anyone nearby, it is also necessary in order to wake people up to the reality that we are never going to be able to succeed in our project of controlling the world and each other. Many of us are going to have to realize in a visceral way that we will never get where we want to go doing what we’ve been doing. (You can read a bit more about this process here. It’s what I like to call a planet wide arsehole identification educational program.)

    4. If you are frequently disoriented, agitated, angered, despairing, frustrated or downright apoplectic over the state of the world and your fellow man, that is your spirit telling you it’s time to turn away and leave the city. Not necessarily close your eyes to what’s happening or stop speaking out entirely, but let go of your attachment to it. What will happen will happen. At this point, the die has been set for many things. The best thing you can do is put your energy into ridding yourself of your attachment to the ways of the city and orienting yourself to life in the wilderness.

    5. If you are one of the people who has been watching from the hills outside the city, don’t let yourself get too caught up in the spectacle going on in the city. Not only is it bad for your mental, spiritual and even physical health, the gates will be opening soon. There will be people coming to you who are going to need you to teach them what you know about the wilderness.

    Tomorrow: Rule #1-ish: Do what you can for someone in desperate need before you do anything else.


     

  • 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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  • faces

    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. 

  • Rainbow Face

    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

  • bird1

    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