30 November 2006

Too much thinking for one blog

How much of this was meant to be
How much the work of the Devil
How far can one man's eyes really see
In these days of toil and trouble
How much of this is failing flesh
How much a course of retribution
My, my, how loudly we plead our innocence
Long after we made our contribution

Okay, Dar just posted these lyrics from Bill Mallonee. Thanks to Forrest for introducing us to the Vigilantes of Love.

Here are my thoughts on this portion of the song. It goes along with a long, long running discussion (in my mind) about God. I don't really know if you'd call it attributes or how big is God or issues with Sovereignty or what. This song and a couple other phrases I've heard all are part of the challenge in my head to understand God. The interesting thing is that even though I cannot resolve all these thoughts or my "position" on them, they seem to keep drawing me further into God, rather than pushing me away.

How much of this was meant to be...
This makes me think of Calvinism and pre-destination. This is what if I you take it literally enough and far enough, I refer to as the micromanagement version of God. This has it's comforts that I really like. Every tiny teeny thing is powered/caused by God. Here my issues also begin...does that mean I blame him (inadvertently by assigning him this power) for really horrible evil things that occur?

How much the work of the devil...
This is where Armenianism begins to influence my idea of God, (is that right Taz? Or am I mixing it up?) This is where you do assign things to the warfare that occurs because of where we are. Then I can assign the evil things that occur to the result of the war zone and not blame God for them. This idea comforts me. Here I begin again... if you take the idea too far does that mean if something does occur that I wasn't praying enough or fill in the blank enough to make the warfare not go against me or someone else?

How much of this is failing flesh...
I think failing flesh gets mixed into the warfare thing too. Isn't some of all the things that happen the result of my own choices or the fight of the "natural man"? Is that just free will, natural order, human nature run amok? Or was every move I made pre-destined? Can I just blame some of it on the world as a deteriorating system?

Frowning providence...
I was at Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's mother) near Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K. There was an old needlepoint from their day on the wall. It has the alphabet and then a prayer stitched in the cloth. Somewhere in the prayer was a phrase about accepting things from a frowning providence with grace. It's interesting that there have been long periods of time that adhere to the first version of God so much that they see him as a frowning providence that causes awful things to happen, the comforting idea is that you can accept it as from him. It's hard for me to assign that depth of severity to God.

What about the God of the old testament who was punishing the Israelites for sin and following other Gods? We don't talk about retribution much now, except when some kooky religious figure from television gets after some activist group or says something freaky about a natural disaster.

I get an email devotional. Lately it has featured sayings of Francis Fenelon, a disenfranchised priest or teacher of the 17th century, he said, "I am awed by the good that comes from suffering. I agonize and cry when the cross is working within me. But afterwards I look back and see what God has accomplished in me. Then I'm ashamed that I bore it so poorly." He is not the first nor the last theologian to emphasize the good that comes from suffering. I agree that there is great value to be had when you have to go through "the valley of the shadow of death." I balance this idea and all of these ideas really with Romans 8:28.

I know that ultimately who God is does not change according to whichever idea is strongest in my mind or heart or which one I may chose to discard or believe. The way I balance these ideas in my head is with that same verse. God works all things for good to those who are called according to his purpose. So if he manages every minute detail, it is for my ultimate good as his child. If the warfare version is true, there is nothing he cannot change into good in some way in my life. The suffering whether it comes from ill intention or good intention always produces value within me -- IF I allow God to do a work within me through it. If I choose bitterness, then I have made the choice not to take value from the suffering.

Have I blown your mind? I do this to myself all the time over and over. Ultimately at the end of my mental gymnastics there's God and whatever is "true" about him, I know he is faithful.

26 November 2006

Thankful days

Thanksgiving was a big potluck affair with about 40 or so missionaries and their families. It was held at the international school lunchroom. Some people went to a lot of effort to decorate the tables in Thanksgiving festiveness. The food was traditional thanksgiving and very tasty. Much of it is hard to find here. Hard to find: sweet potatoes, whole turkey, crunchy onions for the top of green bean casserole. Non existent: cranberries, canned pumpkin, marshmellows. So a lot of imported food got eaten!

The most homesick I have ever felt was my first Thanksgiving away...in Belgium when I was 25 years old. That was a hard one. I'm glad I tried to get excited about what IS happening here rather than simply longing for what I cannot have.

Friday we had a All Spain meeting. A bit like a church board meeting but some details actually affect us personally. It was our first and interesting though lengthy. The group seems pretty amenable to one another and kept things positive. I felt good to be a part of it.

Things I'm thankful for at this season:
That we are more stable in life than a year ago.
That I didn't suffer from homesickness this holiday.
That I have ways, like this, that are affordable to keep up with friends.
That we got a dog this year.
That we have a really nice home here and our comfortable things around us.
That I can make myself understood here and generally I can understand the answers. This makes life so much less scary.
That we have a Spanish "church home" and a US one too.
That I have people in my life who sincerely care about me.
That our budget has held up and we're making it despite the dollar.
That we're coming home for Christmas.

I could go on....Give me one thing you're thankful for in comments!

19 November 2006

Socialized Healthcare

I know I shouldn't get political, but I'm having personal experiences with socialized healthcare and hearing stories from people who are trapped in the system. This week Kerry has been sick, sort of a flu combined with something like strep throat. We went to the socialized healthcare clinic down the street.

It was a little disturbing how much like a cattle call it was. No one organized it you just had to look at the list and see who was before you - by asking the waiting room of people. Then you just walked into the doctor's room when the person before you left. No nurses, no blood pressure check. Very perfunctory. I had to ask the doctor to look at Dar's throat a second time because I had seen an infected spot myself. She looked again then said, oh yeah, I guess there’s a small spot.

Then she couldn’t figure out how to give us a prescription since we are not in the computers for social health. We did finally get a prescription and some antibiotics and he is on the mend. I think whenever possible we will go to the private health care clinic. It’s weird here, anyone who can afford to have private insurance does and goes to different clinics.

My Spanish tutor has something wrong with her vocal chords and has to go to physical therapy or occupational therapy. She said if she wasn’t a teacher she would have to wait several years for an opening at therapy. Really crazy.

Another story I heard was our Spanish School Teacher had a son who needed an operation on his little boy bits. Something commonly done before 3 years in the US. The waiting list took him until he was 6 years old to get it done.

So if this is what happens with small stuff I'm scared about the big stuff. But it was good to know we can run down to the clinic for small stuff though. It’s handy since it is so close. Most of our friends here in corporate type jobs have private insurance so they can have control over their health care. The idea that everything is taken care of is very noble and a nice idea. What I'm seeing is that it doesn't actually work. Then you have to pay twice. Once in taxes and once in private insurance.

05 November 2006

Personality tests

We went to a retreat this weekend and we took a personality test that we'd taken maybe 12 or more years ago. It was interesting to see my weaker personality traits had changed. I'd evened out in some areas, but my strongest area remained the same. This was the lion, beaver, golden retriever, and otter test. Some of you may have taken it. In this test I am a lion, a leader type person who likes to get things done and sometimes bowls people over in that process. Animal test

A few months ago Dar came on a site that did a Myers Briggs personality type which is more analytical and in fact when I tried to find the link we used today, I ran across things like you should only take this with a professional...couldn't find our original site. But this gives you personality types like ESFJ, or INFJ. Much more technical than the cute animal one. When Dar had me take this one I was a bit hurt by the results. I was ESFJ: extroverted (surprise!), sensing, feeling, judging. Dar is INFJ Introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging. Dar is in a category that is only 1.8 percent of people, so there were some really cool famous people in his category. Mine had Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh and William J Clinton (among others). Myers Briggs test

Mine sounded silly and shallow to me at that point and there were many "recommended" jobs that I've been trying to get away from my whole life. But today I reread a file I kept of my personality type and there were some better things I could see. Some artisan qualities sounded more pleasant than my first pass at the test, also I noticed that among the jobs I abhor there were things like police detective and wilderness adventure leader. Most of the people with my personality type are actors and sports players which I found disappointing. So a little space has given me some perspective.

The thing is I noticed that the two tests yielded pretty different results. I should have more otter qualities according to the analysis of how much I want other people to be comfortable and have fun (caregiver qualities in the ESFJ), but the otter category in the first test came in tied with beaver (busy perfectionist, I'm that too.) I think the two tests conflict with one another some, but in some ways I can agree with both. Maybe I'm multiple personality.

So are personality tests like a horoscope? Do I take one and it influences who I am? But the test I took 12 years apart came out the same which I found interesting. The session at the retreat talked about moving toward balance of all areas. I can see that I go too far with trying to get everyone else taken care of and not taking care of me. But being overly caring and concerned, isn't an all bad trait. I can see that I am very task/completion oriented and while this has its flaws I'm good at getting things done. I definitely take the tests too personally and feel insulted by some aspect.

So here's a new one I found that you can take online. I'm scared to do it. What else will I find out?! The new categories are: Captain, Social Coordinator, Steward, and Navigator. It sounds like a cruise.