Does life always have to push people? Is it just some people? And if it’s some people, how the fuck do I get off the list before dying?
The church, after advertising the benefits of eternity “after you suffer for a short time,” wants to push its’ good hearted people out to do ministry work, because there’s so much shit out there in the world that needs shoveling. Pastors can’t do everything or be everywhere so they train us regular church people and hope we get it. And then get off our asses and do something, anything, to help people who need help. The problem is one of numbers. If all the members could figure out how to support the ministry by giving something, it’d go a lot further than a few giving their 10 or 15 % and most giving a dollar or nothing. If all the members could figure out some ministry to get involved with, physically being, to use a current cliche I’m sick of hearing applied to military things, boots on the ground. Because ministry isn’t just prayer (and fasting, for you masochists. Not saying I don’t, but I don’t very often. It has to be about something or someone VERY important to me). Ministry is often physical, laborious, and direct. Manna doesn’t fall from heaven to feed the hungry, just as blankets and winter clothes don’t fall from the sky to clothe and warm up the homeless (or the people whose heat went out and their landlord is a cheap shithead who doesn’t know who to hire who can correctly diagnose and fix it, the reader knows who she is). I honestly like ministry work. But who wants to hire a sweary, irritable, irritated, introverted, “complex”-brained, annoying, opinionated, hard-working, needy old crank? No, seriously, who wants to hire me?
I’ll work in the ministry if God calls and someone pays my bills. Because money doesn’t normally fall from the sky unless someone let go of a few $20s on a windy day and they blew away, or a drug dealer accidently pushes the wrong button on the airplane, and they’ll come back with guns for that. I’ve seen probably more than my share of God’s twisted old sense of humor taking care of things, in His twisted way, in His twisted time, but by and large it’s not “normal,” which is why some events are called “miracles.” A house, and $75K a year is enough. $100K if you want to help with some things I’ve let wait until God sent the provision. I’ve got an M.Div. from seminary, finished back in ’95. I went into a liberal-headed-toward-conservative school, pretty conservative in my beliefs, and I came out of a conservative school with the same basic beliefs, but knowledge of a few other really interesting beliefs to compare.
I still have a certain package of thoughts about the Bible, and honestly I think the unpackaging makes people uncomfortable when they think about employing me in ministry. But is that a bad thing?
Me in the ministry …would DEFINITELY put me well into my discomfort zone, in several ways. And it would probably put others into a discomfort zone as well. But in other arenas and for various reasons, I think I’d do well. I’m not afraid to work. I like to encourage people. A friend of mine gave me some counsel about the Bible: “It’s a sword. It’s not a club to bash people over the head with JUST truth. And it’s not a warm fuzzy blanket that covers people in JUST love and tells them they’re OK no matter what they do. It’s gotta be a careful mixture of truth AND love, or you’re not handling it right.”
Ew. Truth be told, I find it difficult to love anyone. I’m not that loveable myself. But I get we’re supposed to care because someone needs to give a damn or the whole world will just go down the crapper that much faster. So, when the food pantry asks for food, maybe give some if you have extra. Or volunteer to work there if you have a couple of hours. Or, when the neighbor’s heat goes out, invite them over if it’s cold outside, or if it’s not too bad, lend them a space heater or three. Uncomfortable yet? Church is supposed to be a little uncomfortable, easier if more people do their fair share of helping. However, in churches I’ve attended and worked in, the percentage of active members versus the total number of members is something like 13 to 20 out of 100. I think the number of people who contribute an actual regular offering as a calculated and deliberate amount related to income is probably about the same.
That being said, I can’t judge here, because I’m exactly the same. For several years, during this economic drought, I’ve given when I could and paid the bills when I couldn’t, not exactly the widow’s mite of the modern era. Not exactly a pillar of faith, am I? So it’s been, that lately what we’ve been giving is a smaller percentage than I’d prefer to give, because the bills keep rolling in and life keeps handing me shit that falls apart on the regular, a bit too frequently and quickly to keep up with and have what I’d like to be able to give, which would be more than an actual 10th. In this income bracket, I find myself on the begging side more than on the giving side, and still I stubbornly give a little here and there when I can, or when I stubbornly decide I’m going to do it, and the creditors can bite me.
Volunteering? I thought I’d get back on the music team, because it’s something I love, so I asked. I thought there would be a corner spot for me, since I was there every week for about 3 years, until the other volunteer work took me away, but the new music guy doesn’t have any use for an old guy who plays something other than a guitar or drums or piano/organ. Maybe I look too old to ask back to the singing team. Not that I even could do it, now, since they meet on a weeknight to rehearse. With my schedule shift, I’m not volunteering at church or boy scouts or anywhere, because the volunteer events occur when other people, who have a life, can do them, which means weekends or evenings, and I have weekends and want to be with my family more than just good morning, have a good day, goodbye, and then from the end of the workday until they go to sleep, helping with a little homework or whatever. I’d volunteer, but the times don’t mesh with my schedule and they don’t want me anyway. Statement of feeling, not reality, I’m well aware. Or strongly hope. Playing music, or singing, was comfortable. So again, I’m out of my comfort zone.
In my prior job, after woefully underpaying me for years, pretended everyone cared about me when I quit. And in my new job the people act exactly the same way. So, like the church wants to push people, so does work. I thought I was uncomfortable there, but then changes when Mrs M wants to move closer to her family, hooray. More discomfort. The jobless, money-less adventure, that sucked more than the current epic season. Not only am I supposed to be grateful for the every-other-week pittance, which still leaves me at below the poverty line after 10 years at this one, I’m also supposed to cheerfully accept when they shift my schedule and put me on the ass end of the day, removing all possibility of me having any life outside of work, nor being able to do any job searching in the evening while relaxing. The boss said she’d like me to finish a few more tasks every day and increase my average statistics. Which is great, right? OK, well, I’d like to be paid a few dollars more than new people fresh off the street. I’m pushed outside my comfort zone already with the deficient income, and then the push some more demanding more work for the same negligible pay. Anybody ever read Exodus 5? Well work becomes more and more like that, but I hate change and I haven’t been able to line up a bunch of interviews while encountering depression that makes me want to shell over and not even want to talk to family when I’m not at work, increasingly more demanding supervision and micromanagement, and now, people who have been fucking with my schedule.
As resistant as I was to working from home, it could have some advantages if I could figure them out. But instead of finding a comfort zone of not having to drive in to work, I now pick up the slack if the kids miss the bus, forget their homework or lunch or music or instrument. I also get to transport to morning doctor appointments, do more of the shopping, etc. Etc. Etc. And, being at home in the morning, of course I have time when the kids and Mrs M go away for school and work, to finish the dishes early instead of late, and clean and walk the dog. And handle trash. All these things I’ve been trying to encourage everyone else in the family to do, and now it feels like they do even less than they were when I wasn’t working from home.
On the plus side, I’ve been fortunate enough to harness a few manic episodes. Here and there, I’ve swept and vacuumed floors, done laundry, and done something way outside my comfort zone. We have hard water. It’s limestone. We have a water softener, but the deposits build so fast I could refute the damned old-earth scientists and their theory that cave limestone deposits formed over millions and millions of years. Bullshit. If my plumbing caked over with lime this thick WITH a water softener in a few years, those caves could easily have formed in a few hundred years. Anyway, I took a shot at the plumbing despite my phobia. After some help getting rid of the limestone deposits, ALL of my sinks are freely flowing and not spraying because of the limestone clogs. And I also cleaned the shower head in one bath, and removed and replaced the other, because the dog needs a bath that’s cheaper and less out of the bunker than going to the pet food and accessories places.
Oh. The dog. He’s another change to throw me out of my comfort zone, but he brings some comfort with him (let the tender, sensitive readers all collectively say, “awwww!” Got that out of your systems? Good, we’ll move on.) Yeah, he’s more work. The kids cried, “we want a dog!” and I went along for the ride. I get along with dogs, and figured whichever one they picked would be fine. But there’s more hair to sweep up because he sheds. The kids complain he needs a bath because he smells. So we took him for a bath and he freaked out about the other dogs in the store, and then he crapped in aisle 6 despite being taken for a walk right before going to the place, and then he cringed because he knows what happens in back rooms. And then we washed him. And we did our best to dry and brush his fur to a state of clean fluffiness, and then he walked to the front of the store, and rolled on his back on the stores carpet-y mats to restore some of the funk.
So the dog: He’s losing his hair, he hates other dogs, he doesn’t like to go to new places, his family complains that he stinks, he experiences episodes of panic, he wants to run away but he can’t, he wants to mark his territory, and he wants to be left alone. He likes treats offered for no particular reason except because we love him. But to get a treat, he’ll do tricks, sometimes. In other words, he’s just like me. So despite my lack of input in the decision except that I agreed the kids could have a dog as long as they promised to take care of it, they picked a dog to rescue who is just like me. How… the… ever.. loving… fuck…? And then, of course, they eye roll and say different kinds of things sometimes, make excuses, whatever, when I ask them to take care of the dog, but they wanted a dog. So I can make them do what I want for the dog, sometimes. I walk the dog about twice a day usually, sometimes once if I can corral one of the kids to do it, and I feed him once a day out of the two. And I do give him lots of treats for no particular reason. Because why shouldn’t the dog find his comfort zone with me?
We found the dog in an animal shelter, and I have no idea what kind of torment he faced except we know he came from Louisiana, and was briefly in Kentucky. He holds his tail high in the air, and he’s beautiful, but he sheds, so sweeping is a daily adventure in hair. I thought I was freaking out with just the human hair sticking to my damned floors… Ladies and gentlemen, another discomfort zone for me to love. I don’t want it floating in the air and getting in my food any more than my son, who always seems to be the one to find the ONE hair in any given dish. It happens maybe once in two months, and it’s on his plate, bless his heart. If it happens to me, I pull it out, set it aside for later disposal, and move on, because, it’s just a hair, for fucks sake, and I just don’t care. It won’t kill me.
That tail. I suspect little brat bastards were pulling his tail, hitting him on the back, yanking his long hair, because as soon as he was able to get over the trauma of his past life and the silent panic of us being so new, he started complaining about the hairbrush, and about us petting him sometimes, like when he’s napping by one of us and we move, he growls to let us know he’s afraid or doesn’t want us to do whatever we’re doing. He’s nipped at our friends, and two of our extended family members, because he was afraid. Hey, when you put your hand in my face and startle me, I might bite you too. Teeth are the dogs last ditch effort to tell you to fuck off. And barking. Don’t be another dog within earshot or view. Don’t be a stranger at our door. Don’t drive a UPS truck. We’re working on training him not to be so anxious, but maybe he needs some doggie valium or something.
We took him to the veterinarian, and they tortured him. I held him gently, and he could have easily bitten me, and didn’t. I’d trust that dog. He’s got a forever home with me.
I need some human valium or something, but fuck it. I’ll have a cup of hot tea, because I can’t drink alcohol and be at my job. That has to wait until 8PM on this new stupid schedule. So, lovely hot tea, I’ll try to chill, and hopefully the world, the work, the other people, the family, and all the dirt, will leave me alone for a few moments of bliss.
Oh, fuck. The kids just got home from school.
May all your prayers be answered in ways that make sense and show God’s humor mixed with mercy. May all your interpretations and application of the Bible be a proper mix of truth and love. May your stuff, and your budget, not completely fall apart at the seams. And may the events in your life leave you with a semblance of peace, because someone should have some peace. And if you rescue a dog, may it care for you, and protect and comfort you, and mirror your personality inasmuch as you love it.