CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “Religion and Spirituality”

Maybe I’m just easily amused.

On Sunday afternoon, they described the various jobs we could do.  I wound up working for the medical team, and volunteered for crowd control.  It fit in well with my background and experience, and I did pretty well with it, too.  I’m a pretty big guy (six-foot three, 240 lbs.), and John figured it wasn’t that I was talented, it’s just that I take up so much room in the doorway, no one could get around me even if they wanted to.  Real funny, John.

Anyhow, on Monday The Medical team set up in a small church, and we established the entrance and exit points.  I got myself set up, and was on my way to getting a rhythm going.  Debbie had written out a few phrases for me in Spanish that were quite useful, such as espera aqui (wait here).  She also taught me “basta,” (enough) which she laughingly called a magic word.

As Monday was running, an older guy came along and saw the crowd waiting to get in to see a doctor.  He started yelling at the crowd, and was pretty loud and angry.  This continued for a couple of minutes, and some in the crowd turned and looked at me and made a circle around their ear with their finger.  I guess that’s a kind of international motion for “nuts.”  This old guy saw them doing that, and in addition to yelling began using the same motion, and pointing in our direction.  I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure he was either saying that they were nuts for going in to see these foreign doctors, or else he was saying everyone inside were crazy and if you’re smart, you’ll stay away from them.  Either way, he kept at it for probably five minutes or so.  I finally got tired of listening to him, and caught his eye, and yelled at him, “BASTA!!”  Holy smoke, it is a magic word!  He shut up like someone flipped a switch.  He stood there a second, then turned and walked away, turning and yelling as he went.  Wow, that was kind of cool.

One of the things they wanted us to do at MGM was to go to a different local church almost every evening.  Very good experience, very interesting, uplifting, and educational.  Since she had first gone to the D.R., Beth had talked about one of the churches she attended, the “cowboy church.”  She was really looking forward to going back, and hoped that we would indeed go to the “cowboy church” when we were there.  Sure enough, one evening we were scheduled to do just that.  We dressed appropriately, got in the cattle trucks, and away we went.  It was about a half-hour, maybe a bit more one way on back roads and multiple turns.

About two-thirds of the way in, Beth leans over to me, and says, “Just so you’re aware, this is a pretty Pentecostal church.  Last time there were people whirling and dancing, and one woman kind of hysterically crying.”  Oh, be still my beating heart!  I believe in the worship gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I am much more comfortable worshiping in other ways.  And really, Beth, you couldn’t tell me this a half-hour ago?  I’m kind of stuck now, I’d never find my way back even if I did try to get home from here.  Great.

Once we got there and were unloading, I asked Beth, “So, what was it that you liked about the service here?”  Beth’s reply?  “Oh, I didn’t like the service at all.  I just liked the ride out.”  In all fairness, the ride was truly spectacular.  The scenery, the stars.  Unbelievable.  Orion was right overhead, and you could almost count the “seven sisters” in the Pleiades.  I truly loved the ride.  And I truly love my wife.  But at that particular moment…

I actually loved the truck rides.  That is one of the plethora of things I didn’t want to do before the trip, but even rides of an hour and twenty minutes were fine.  Just another pleasant surprise.

I remember on one ride, we went over a rather substantial river.  Not an uncommon occurrence, and often there was on either side of the bridge three or four crumbling remains of old bridges.  Apparently, when a bridge is destroyed by a hurricane, instead of rebuilding the old bridge, they just build a new one and re-route the road a hundred feet or so.  Not sure why, but there it is.

Anyhow, on this one trip, as we went over the river I leaned over to John and said that I wouldn’t mind scuba diving that river.  John said, “Um, from what I’ve heard, there are parasites in the rivers here that look for, uh, ‘crevices’ to live in and they do bad things.”  What??  I think I’ll re-think that position.  Nasty parasites.  Leave my crevices alone!

It was on another truck ride that I had my finest moment.  My sense of humor is considered by some to be, uh, “juvenile.”  I prefer to think of it as “finely tuned.”  Anyhow, potty humor and bodily functions are nearly always funny, and this trip was no exception.

We were on the way home from a fairly distant village, and I was in a good mood.  The temperature was warm and the wind as we stood in the back of the truck felt great.  I had a full water bottle, and realized that this was a great time for a prank.  I unscrewed the top, and let go with a huge fake sneeze while simultaneously snapping the water bottle up into the breeze.  John was covered in water, and having seen what I did, laughed and said what a shame that his water bottle was empty.  Unfortunately for me, the nurses behind John didn’t know it was a prank and thought I had sneezed all over everyone in the truck.  It wasn’t until the next day that I found out their mistaken impression, and had to explain myself.  I felt kind of bad, but is it wrong that I couldn’t stop laughing?  I also had to explain myself to one of the doctors that thought I snotted all over her, too.  She kind of saw the humor in the situation, but I guess the nurses and her don’t have as finely tuned a sense of humor as I do…


There have been a few times this week that I have wept. Often when we were in a village working with the residents of this beautiful country.  But not exclusively. I have been puzzling over this, trying to figure out what has moved me here.  It’s not the poverty.  I can find similar poverty easily within an hour of our home in North East, Pennsylvania.  It’s not hopelessness, because the people here are not living as if they are hopeless.  It’s not even sadness, because I suspect if I could ask them if they are sad about their lives, they would be at worst indignant that I would presume to think thus, or at best they would say, “Life is life.  What can one do about the life one lives? One would as well be sad because the sky is blue.”

Did you ever get an impossible knot in your shoelace? When that happens to me it’s usually when I’m in a hurry, and definitely it’s usually inconvenient. The thing is, you can’t hurry a knot like that; tug on one loop here, or twist the knot there and have it simply and easily come unraveled. Like it or no, a knot such as that takes time and patience to undo. Rushing will not solve the problem, it will only make the knot worse.

For years my heart has been bound up like that, twisted, snarled in the worst rat’s nest of a knot that one could imagine. It’s not that I was running from God exactly, quite the contrary.

One of the things that Jim McDonald said during our morning devotional is , “If success is important to you, you may be tempted to choose accomplishment over your relationship with God.” I haven’t sought wealth or prestige, but I have sought success in other ways. I have tried to be a Godly man. I have tried to be a good son, a good husband, a good father. I have worked hard to be an excellent policeman, detective, and now a Chief of Police. None of these are bad things, but when things didn’t go as planned, when setbacks happened, I have seen myself as a failure, and that is, I think, a natural outcome of having a success mindset. I have worked so hard to “succeed” at the Christian life, and have “failed” so often that my heart had twisted into a knot that was impossible for me to unravel.

I have felt something this week I haven’t felt in quite a while, perhaps years. Compassion. God’s compassion for people. Not trying to do something, not trying to succeed, just being open to God using me as He would for people that He loves.

And that, I think, is why I have been weeping. God has used this week to slowly, patiently, unravel that knot in my chest that until yesterday I didn’t even know was there. I doubt it is completely undone, and it will be very interesting to see how this will translate when Beth and I return to the ‘States. But I don’t want success, even success in the Christian life, to be my motivation. I just want to be in relationship with God. Fully, absolutely, completely hand in hand with Him who wants my heart more than my accomplishments.

Useful? Me? Interesting concept.

When I was very young, God always seemed near to me. It seemed to me that I just “knew” what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to go, the actions I should take. I am not talking about spiritual maturity, I don’t claim to have had that (I don’t claim to have that still). I just mean I always felt close to God, in communion with Him. I had that sense through high school, college, into police work in the Borough of North East. I felt God’s calling to go to the City of Erie Police Department.

But somewhere along the line I lost that sense of God’s presence. I knew He was there, I never doubted that. It’s just that I somehow lost a sense of intimacy with Him; I couldn’t “hear” Him like I used to. And I missed that. Perhaps it was simply a child-like faith, and perhaps as time went on and I saw more and more of what the world can be like I became disillusioned and couldn’t hear as well as before. Whatever the case, I continued to walk in God’s ways as best I knew how, even though I haven’t been the world’s best witness.

For various reasons, I have felt myself a failure in business, at church, as a father. I have felt useless for a very long time.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a very good day. We went into the barrio of the nearest town and set up in one of their local churches. It took a while, but we turned the chaos into something like order. I have worked with the medical team all week, keeping the people lined up and coming in to see the doctors (mostly) one family group at a time. It has been very rewarding, even though I have played a relatively small part in it. I’m no doctor, nurse, pharmacist. I’m a cop. I know how to establish and maintain order. I know how to use authority, and can do it with appropriate parts of humor and sternness (is that a word?).

Whatever, I was able to look around and watch the medical teams work. I watched the opticians and dentists work. I saw them helping people and I saw that they were able to do it in a relatively systematic way. And I was at least partly the reason for that. And I felt useful. And that I have not felt for a very long time. And I am so grateful to God for that. And I am so humbled to be here.

Gracias, mi Padre. Muchas gracias.

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