CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

So far so good…

Some time ago, a man fell off the Empire State Building.  As he was falling past each floor, people heard him say, “So far so good…so far so good…”

We arrived here in the D.R. Saturday night. Good flight, no problems, kinda late, but not terribly so.  Sunday was kind of a prep day and today was the first day we actually went into the field to “do stuff.”  I was still a bit anxious yesterday trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. Finally settled on working with the Medical team. They needed someone to do crowd control, and I pretty much jumped on that like the proverbial duck on a junebug.

I feel like I did some good. Nothing earth shattering, nothing life altering. But today was fine. So far so good…so far so good…

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T-minus 6 hours…and counting…

There was a very bad James Bond film in which the “something bad” was going to happen very quickly toward the end of the movie.  There was a voice coming over the loudspeaker that said, “T-minus (fill in the blank), and counting.”  Only it came out “and gown-tinggg.”  Our family has used that ever since when counting down to some event.

So here we are.  Just a few hours until wheels up on the way to the Dominican Republic.  Not sure how to feel about this, except to know that God is pretty cool, and I know He’s going to be here.  Other than that, I have no expectations.  I’m just going to let happen what will happen.

I can tell you this, Beth and I are both looking forward to a point in time where we have nothing to do for a while.  No obligations, no busy weekends, no frantic things to get caught up on.  Just a few weeks of catching our breaths after the past few months.  This trip to the D.R. is the last of the planned itinerary for a while.  It’s been frantic, it’s been good, it’s been tiring.  God willing, after next week we can just kick back for a while.  We’ll see how reality matches up with our “plans.”

Being out of country, I’m not sure how often I’m going to be able to post.  I hope to post at least a couple of times, maybe more, time will tell.

And I wanted to leave you with this.  This song speaks to me.  I hope it does to you as well.

Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love Me Anyway.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8BBCYFAYRI

Pray for us, pray for our trip.  Pray for safety, pray for God’s revealing presence. May God bless each of us.

What a difference a couple days makes!

Actually I should probably have said, “What a difference a couple months makes!”  My mother passed away in October (I hate euphemisms, but there it is), Beth and I went on a long-planned vacation in November, we had the typical Thanksgiving madness after that, and Christmas prep in December.  Absolutely no time to reflect, grieve for my mother, or to decompress.  Days off over Christmas meant travel, and then the start of the new year.  Since then, I have been stressing over this Dominican Republic trip, with the stress and difficulties mounting as the trip got nearer.

I remember in high school an incident, in which I committed a serious breach of protocol (that’s “slid-slip” for “I broke the rules”).  The teacher against whom I committed the infraction came to school the next day, and visited each home room with his three-foot oak paddle.  In those days, paddling was seen as completely justified, and getting paddled was nearly a rite of passage into manhood.

In any event, Mr. McCarthy walked into my home room and slammed the paddle down on a desk.  It sounded like a rifle shot in a very small room, and I nearly had a heart attack.  He made the pronouncement that he was going to find out who had done it, and they were going to get paddled by the end of the day.  I probably should have spoken up and gotten it out of the way, but such was not in my thought processes at the time.  What a long day that was!  I can’t remember any other time that I thought I was going to throw up for hours, that wasn’t illness related.  Needless to say, he caught up to me by the end of the day, and I indeed got paddled.  I’m not going to say that the anticipation was worse than the punishment, that was the hardest I have ever been hit in my life. (Sidenote: I totally deserved it, and Mr. McCarthy shortly after that became one of my favorite teachers ever.)  But what I will say is that the anticipation was absolutely wretched.

So it has been for the D.R. trip.  I have felt ill, I have been cranky, problems have piled up and nearly overwhelmed me (Control issue? Probably partly).  Scuba diving is a life’s pursuit for me, and I haven’t been under the water since November.  I haven’t even wanted to dive, and haven’t even felt like talking about it, thinking about it, or assisting in training new divers at the store.  The D.R. trip has pretty much consumed me.

We leave tomorrow.  The time is nearly here.  And last night I had the best night’s sleep I have had in a very long time.  I think I’ve come to terms with it, and I am almost (emphasis on the word “almost”) looking forward to it!  Beth and I get to spend time with friends that we love very much (plus!).   Beth and I will be doing this together (major plus!).  And I will, at last, be actually doing this for God (biggest plus of all).  Still not going to say, “Bring it on,” but I am ready.  And the anticipation?  It’s here, and it has shifted from a negative anticipation to the positive.  Pretty cool!  Maybe there’s something to this obedience stuff.  Huh!  The adventure continues.

Normal’s lookin’ pretty good to me.

Have you ever been so low, or so burdened with life that as the saying goes, you “have to look up to see bottom?”  I’m not talking about some sort of manic-depressive situation, I’m talking about the normal cares of life, or perhaps some specific point in time that things are just particularly difficult.  I haven’t done a scientific survey, but I suspect that most people have had several such times in their life.  I know I have.

This past weekend has been one of those times for me.  Starting on Friday and continuing through Monday was no fun at all.  Issue after issue, problem after problem, my “difficulty cup” was pretty full.  Tuesday (yesterday), however, was a change-up.  It turned out to be a pretty good day.  I was productive at work, I felt pretty good, no new problems materialized that couldn’t be handled.  All in all it was what I would characterize as a normal day, a “regular” day.  The interesting part is that I was so jazzed that one of my co-workers asked me if I was on speed.  Nope, just feel great.

It reminded me of Ebenezer Scrooge when he woke up to find that his experience with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had not actually happened; he was still in the present and had the opportunity to change.  I quote him here:

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

I don’t think that Scrooge was an extraordinary man at this point in his life, I think he was what he was supposed to be all along.  And in Dickens’ story, Scrooge lived this way the rest of his life.

What a gift that is, to live life as one is supposed to.  Joyful, generous, in love with life.  I doubt that anyone can actually live their entire life without some sort of pain, some sort of difficulty.  Maybe Scrooge’s feelings are God’s gift for making it through those times.  Maybe that’s the reward for depending on Him through the attacks, through the rough patches.  All I know is that yesterday was a great day.  Thanks, God!  “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

…and then something happened…

Recap.  My wife Beth and I are going to the Dominican Republic on 28 January for a short-term missions trip.  I am not eager to go, so bunches of anxiety about the trip.  I was looking for an easy week this week to reflect, pray, settle in.  Nope, it was not “meant…to be.”  First on Friday my boss (who is a terrific boss, BTW), handed me a project due ASAP that I would need a month to do the way I would like but due in a week.  Later that day we had to reschedule a dinner date with friends of ours, as I got a reaction to the shots mandated for the D.R. trip.  Saturday I learned that a business proposition fell through that I was really hoping would work out (pretty much wrecked Saturday).

Sunday, I was pretty much nuked on Facebook over a post that I considered a throwaway, not intended to be controversial.  It got to the point that an acquaintance from high school insulted me in a hit and run and immediately unfriended me.  No chance for dialogue, no attempt to reach out.  Clearly I’m better off, as he is a hugely negative person, bitter and sarcastic.  Sad for him, but it’s his choice, not mine.

Monday, I thought the weekend over, things will smooth out.  Think again, Clark.  An all day training and a messy (really messy) situation at work battered me emotionally and took all my time, so I had no time to work on the big project.  Tuesday I had to schedule a time to meet my sister for a doctor’s appointment at a heart/lung surgeon.  She is fifteen years older than I, and mentally handicapped.  Both our parents are gone (our mother recently so), and my wife and I are all she has.  About a month ago when the appointment was set, the referring doctor told us that we needed to meet with the new doctor to “understand JoAnne’s options.”  She is a cancer survivor, and recently had a lung biopsy.  For a month I have wondered if JoAnne would soon be gone, leaving me alone, family wise.

At the doctor appointment yesterday, we all got there at 10:15 as scheduled, and after sitting for 45 minutes were told that the doctor was running late.  After another half hour, we were shown into the examining room, and twenty minutes later the doctor came in to tell us that JoAnne shouldn’t have been scheduled to meet with him until after being seen at the Cancer Center.  What?!?? Are you kidding me??  Prior to leaving I let my feelings be known.  I didn’t blast this doctor’s office, but I highly suggested that they talk to the referring doctor’s office to find out why the referring doctor had messed up so badly.

Fantastic.  On the way back to work, I stopped at the Verizon store as I have had problems with both my work phone and my personal phone.  It was determined that the best option was a hard re-set on both phones, so that is what was done.  I lost all my apps, my ringtones, how I had the phones set up, and on and on.  So now I have to also repair that.  And yesterday evening, our oldest daughter came home for the night (not uncommon or unexpected) and promptly came down with the flu.  And we are to leave for the D.R. on Saturday!  And there is about a zero chance that Beth or I or both will not come down with this thing.

Come on!!!  At least in the NFL they get called for piling on!

Believe me, I had absolutely nothing left.

And then something happened.

I’m not entirely sure what it was.  I met with a counsellor yesterday afternoon, and discussed all the above.  I read a friend’s comment on one of my earlier blog posts which contained multiple scripture verses, many of which spoke to me.  Three friends reached out to either apologize if they had contributed to this, or to see if I was ok.  My wife has been fervently praying for me (and I assume several others have been praying as well), and Beth and I had a very nice evening together.

Whatever it is, I remember at some point almost laughing.  I talked to Beth and told her what I found amusing.  All of this stuff piling on has made me almost look forward to this “stupid” trip to the D.R.  (Can we please go now??  Can we just leave???)  Funny.

I woke up today feeling ok.  Jazzed, energized, and ready to hit the treadmill.  First time in a long time.  Good to go.  I am not going to say, “Bring it on,” because I’m just superstitious enough to think that might just happen, but for now, for today, I’m ready to go.

Proverbs 3.5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  It is enough.

Really? Come on, Really?

I remember a number of years ago that I had examined my life, and found many aspects lacking.  Whether due to a sermon, a book I was reading, I’m not sure, but I remember fervently praying, “God, make me like Christ.  Make my life like Christ’s, my thoughts, my attitudes.  Mould me, shape me, make me like Christ.”  In retrospect, perhaps I should have prayed for God to leave me alone.  I’m being facetious, but my main point is that when one prays a prayer like that, God takes you at your word.  I swear the answer I heard to that prayer was a chuckle, and then, “Ok son, hang on.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

And so it has been.  Clearly I am not even close to that goal, but believe it or not, I am light years closer than I was when I first prayed that prayer.

So I guess this weekend shouldn’t have been a surprise, but wow!  It has been a few weeks since I have had what I call a “decompression weekend.”  I was really looking forward to a relaxing couple days, reading a bit, watching a couple movies, hanging out with friends.  Believe me, that is not what I got.

On Friday, Beth and I were scheduled to meet with another couple for dinner.  However, I had gotten a two shots on Thursday (Hepatitis A and tetanus, specifically, t-dap) for the upcoming Dominican Republic trip.  Friday afternoon, I reacted to the shot(s).  I had a low grade fever and chills so bad that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an arm or leg get shaken right off my body.  Needless to say, we cancelled the dinner plans (picked them up on Saturday evening).

Saturday morning, I learned that a potential business opportunity had in all likelihood fallen through.  Being a “planner,” I had been playing with all the possibilities in my head, and having a ball.  Seeing that the opportunity might not be there was extremely disappointing.  Actually, it rocked me pretty badly.  Stunned, disappointed, frustrated, sad.  It pretty much affected the whole day (and it did indeed fall through.  Not sure why, but there it is).

Sunday?  Well, I posted on Facebook, a rather mild post regarding a really controversial topic.  It was intended by me as basically a throwaway, just a two liner to blow off a bit of steam about the topic.  But what a firestorm it started.  My Christianity was called into question, my integrity insulted, and I was absolutely pounded from multiple directions.  For any of you familiar with the game Civilization V (I am a self-confessed addict, by the way), I felt like what it must be like to play the game as Gandhi, and find out your civilization is sandwiched between Russia and Germany.  You just know it isn’t going to turn out well.  It got to the point that an aquaintence of mine from high school insulted me and immediately unfriended me.  I’m still puzzled at that one.  I have my suspicions, but whatever.  I was surprised by the vehemence of others’ opinions, and the venom in some of the responses to me.  Because I was surprised, and because I am struggling with other stuff (including the D.R. trip), it really hit hard.  Sleep came fitfully Sunday night, and in total there was precious little actual sleep by the time I needed to get up on Monday morning.

In any event, each day of the weekend was worse than the day before, and continued into Monday at work.  It was one of those days…

Which brings me back to my original point.   I have little doubt this is all due in some cosmic way, at least in part, to the D.R. trip.  I have little doubt that this is all designed to assist in knocking off my rough edges, and to mould me into a more Christ-like man.  But really?  All this does little to dispell the notion of me lying curled up on the ground, battered and beaten.  “How long, Oh, Lord?”  Wow.  This is really difficult, and I have no idea how long it’ll last.  Don’t know how to get past it, don’t know how to let it go.  It’s like a marathon, and I’ve been training for a five mile race.  2 Chron 20.12, “…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

So THAT’S it!!

Beth read an article in one of our monthly scuba magazines that talked about how good it is for people to go on vacations.  It improves one’s health, mental state, outlook on life, you name it.  And one of the surprising discoveries of the study cited by the author is that the anticipation of the vacation is as important to the whole process and outcome as is the vacation itself.  That was no surprise to me, I have loved planning our vacations for years.  I love planning the route, the timetable, what things would be cool to see, what to leave out.  I love sending for brochures, searching online for photos of wherever it is we are going.  I love reading and studying about the vacation, and I do so for months in advance.  The enjoyment I get from the planning and anticipation is as important and significant to me as the time we spend actually on the vacation.  And when we get back, I enjoy basking in the memories of the most recent vacation.  For a few weeks.  And then I start planning the next one.

But not this time.  As we were talking about the article and I had time to reflect, enlightenment came to me.  This is my major problem with the upcoming missions trip to the Dominican Republic, and here is anxiety number three!  I have had absolutely no input on this trip.  I have had no enjoyment in planning, in anticipation.  Oh, there’s been anticipation, alright, but none of it positive.  I have been dreading it because I have absolutely no idea what is going on.  The total sum of my knowledge with this trip is what type of clothing to bring, we can’t flush our toilet paper (it gets put in a basket beside the toilet.  Wonderful.), and we are leaving out of Buffalo on January 28 and returning on February 4.  That’s it!  I don’t even know who holds our tickets, I have no brochures, no ideas for sightseeing, or relaxing, or reading, or…or anything.  And I hate this!  This is not how I’m wired.  This is so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see my comfort zone.

And I am sure that is part of the point.  That I need to learn that “God is sufficient.”  That I learn what Paul learned so long ago, that I must focus, not on what I can control, or can touch, but to simply let go.  To give God the wheel, and simply go where He desires me to go, and do what He ordains for His kingdom.

The past ten years have been very difficult.  The lessons learned, the hardships, have all been nearly more than I could bear.  My soul cries out, “How long, oh Lord,” and I have no end in sight.  I recognize the truth of this, but the ache does not disappear.  I do not doubt the existence of God, nor of his goodness and love for me.  But what I am left with right now is to simply wonder how long must I lay here, broken and battered?   Will there come a season of peace, contentment?  When?  How long, oh Lord?

This trip to the D.R. is significant.  I do not know how at this point, but time will tell.  I look not for a mountaintop experience, nor do I desire such.  But for now, even with all my anxieties, fears, and doubts, I know that God is in control.  And for now, that is sufficient.

I HATE this

I have been having trouble with this D.R. trip for several weeks. A lot is baggage from the past year (that’s a blog or two in itself).  But a lot is the trip itself.  My old job was a soul killer, my new job is great.  But one thing I carried over from old job to new is that my vacation is extremely precious to me.  I need time to recoup, to rest, to energize.  That translates to me being very jealous of my time off.  I hate to waste days off on what I consider stupid stuff, I treasure it for the recovery aspect.

The D.R. trip will consume six (count ’em, six) vacation days.  Are you kidding me??  Great I need that time for me, and now I gotta use it on what is not going to be a relaxing journey.  Thus appears anxiety number one.

I hate “doing stuff.”  Beth loves going on vacation and “doing stuff,” but not me.  We used to go on vacation camping with the kids.  We would strap bicycles to the top of the car, go to the campground (often Red House, Quaker Run, or Lake Erie State Park, all in New York).  We would set up camp, I would unfold a camp lounge chair, and weld myself to it.  Beth and the girls would go for walks, bike rides, whatever.  I moved to eat, go swimming (mostly laying on the beach), eat, and go to bed.  And yes, I said “eat” twice.  But that’s it.  None of this “doing stuff.”  That has carried over.  I like thinking, I like reading, but I do not like working on the house, helping a buddy put on a roof, or changing the oil in the car.  I am perfectly content to pay someone else to do that stuff.

So here I am, looking at this stupid D.R. trip, where I am not going to relax, I am not going to refresh,  am not going to recoup.  I am going there to do stuff!!   I HATE this!!  Thus appears anxiety number two.

But I don’t get it.  This is killing me, and I don’t understand why.  I have talked about it, thought about it, worked with it, and I am still dreading this.  I’m losing sleep, my heart is racing, I’m short-tempered, and all this seems a bit out of proportion to the whole thing.  what is the problem, here!??!!

More to come…

Missionary? Not ME!!!

Just a bit of background. My wife had gone to the Dominican Republic on a short-term mission a couple of years back.  She came home refreshed, and at peace in a way I had not seen her in a long time.  She urged me to go, saying that the experience was invaluable, and that she thought it would be of tremendous benefit to me.

Understand, I am not one that relishes helping people with building, moving, rearranging, car repair, home repair, or just about anything else that one can think of to fit in this type of situation.  So when Beth suggested this, I had absolutely no qualms to inform her that such a thing was extremely unlikely.  I thought the matter closed.

Until my friend J.L. went to the D.R.  He and I are relatively close, and he knows me pretty well.  He came home jazzed, and talked the trip up, like Beth did, only more obnoxious (my observation).  It got to the point that I had to tell him to let it go, I was getting ticked, and he was pushing way too much.  So he did.

I get the feeling that he kept praying, though.  About a year ago, after a message in church,  really felt that I was supposed to commit to going to the D.R. I spoke with J.L., and he had scheduled a second trip last spring.  I told him that I was feeling God‘s leading that I should go to the D.R., and if he would commit to leading the trip, I would go the following January (January 2012).  Apparently he was a bit unhappy, as he had not relished the thoughts of going back a third time, but I told him that was my condition; “he don’t go, I don’t go.”  When he returned, he was fired up, and couldn’t wait to go again.  Crap. That angle didn’t work.

As the year went on, I forgot about it, and at the end of summer, I thought that maybe J.L. had forgotten, and whew! What a sense of relief!  He forgot, I have no idea about the sign-up dates, they are probably past, and I don’t have to go.  I thought, “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ to John until December.  Then, I can say something like, “Hey, whatever happened to the D.R. trip?”  “Oh, the sign-up dates are past?”  “Ah, man, I was gonna go, too.”

The jerk remembered.  And we signed up.  And Beth and I are going next Saturday, a week from today.  And this has been extremely difficult for me.  And this is the impetus for me to begin this blog.

To be continued…

Well, hello, there!

Well, how about that?  My first blog on my first blog site!  I will publish more information about myself in later posts, and as time goes by.  However, for now let it suffice for me to provide just a bit of information.

I have huge opinions on just about any topic imaginable.  This blog may wander around the map, as inspiration (or stupidity, depending on one’s viewpoint) appears.  My interests range from politics to religion; from scuba diving to music; from football to movies.

See?  Can’t narrow it down from that (for now).  We’ll just have to see where this adventure takes us.

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