Prescription for Life

In Sunday School today we talked about I Thessalonians 5:16-18, and the Pastor suggested that these three verses could be considered a “Prescription for Life”. I’m inclined to agree.

They are short verses, and seem to be literally impossible, so I think that we tend to pass over them rather quickly.

Be joyful always;

pray Continually;

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

As a programmer, I am uncomfortable with words like “always” and “continually” and “all”. Looking at the first verse, though, it doesn’t seem out of reach. What is joy, after all? We think of joy as being synonymous with happiness, but it isn’t, really. You can have a joyful expectation and anticipation of God’s power and triumph, even in the midst of unpleasant conditions, as witness Paul and Silas’ conduct in the jail in Phillipi. Hard to imagine being ‘happy’ while sitting in the stocks after a severe flogging. Inspired by the Holy Spirit to display a joyful spirit, these two prisoners were able to sing and praise God in spite of their condition.

So to be joyful always — this means that I should have ever-present in my mind the hopeful anticipatory expectation of possessing the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ. That joy ought to be the backdrop against which my life is played out. It seems to rule out fear and despair.

Pray continually. This one really challenges me, because I am far from having a regular prayer time (apart from daily prayer with the kids), and my sentence prayers are fairly sporadic. I subscribe to the Brother Lawrence Practicing the Presence of God school of thought, in that I think the only way to do this is to live your life as a conversation with God, to include him more and more in your daily tasks. I think that a major part of my struggle over these last 16 months of unemployment and self-employment comes from a lack of a steady conversation with God.

Give thanks in all circumstances. This is a hard one, especially when we have our hearts set on some thing, rather than on God. Frankly, I expected that God would answer both of my prayers regarding my consulting business, and that He would give me both the number of customers and the amount of income I requested for the month of February. Unless someone shows up with a bag o’ cash in the next hour or so, the answer seems to have been yes, with regard to customers, but no, with regard to the amount of money I requested.

Let me step out in faith, then.

Thank you, God, for NOT giving me the money I asked for as earned income during the month of February. I accept that this was not your will and I submit to that will. I can see that several good things can come out of this ‘no’ answer, and I am committed to seeking God’s glory in this situation.

I have so much for which to be thankful. God has repeatedly met our needs, and most of our wants, since I was laid off in November of 2002. Perhaps I will devote a blog entry to listing just a few of the reasons I have to be thankful.

In case you missed the last part of verse 18, this is not merely Paul’s personal suggestion for us: “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We often complain that we don’t know God’s will for our lives, usually when faced with a difficult decision or opportunity.

In many ways, these verses are the New Covenant version of Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Not a bad prescription for life.

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Weasel Wife

There are those who say you shouldn’t call your wife a weasel. Some of them have written successful marriage books, gone on extensive lecture tours, and stayed married for 40, 50, or even 60 years at a time. Perhaps a more politically-correct term is preferred, in such circumstances. How ’bout “integrity challenged partner” or “sneaky spouse” (the second substitute at least retains the alliteration)?

Judge for yourself.

Just after dinner, my 19-month youngest daughter was forcibly ejected from her chair by her three-year-old brother. They had been sharing the easy chair happily, watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie”. Suddenly David erupted with an outraged cry, “Sarah’s poopy!” He began vigorously kicking her with his left foot to accelerate her departure.

While I have many strong points, and am generally a charming and engaging fellow, I find myself entirely unable to change a poopy diaper immediately following a meal. I used the standard line, stolen from “Three Men and a Baby”:

“I’ll pay you a thousand dollars if you’ll change this diaper.”

Cagily, Kathy called my bluff. “Seriously, what will you pay?” she countered.

Momentarily off-guard, I agreed to a 10-minute cleanup spree some time this evening. Now, some husbands make a daily (or even weekly) practice of cleaning up after the evening meal, washing dishes, and generally carrying on in a way that, frankly, makes the rest of us look bad. I am not one of those husbands.

Recently, in a half-hearted attempt to lighten Kathy’s load, I have occasionally offered some limited cleanup help in the kitchen or living room, usually after the kids are in bed. To make it more palatable, I set a kitchen timer for some reasonable amount of time, like 10 minutes. Then I pitch in and help, and when Kathy works alongside me, we often can make a sizeable dent in that short timespan.

Around 10 pm I came in to the kitchen and, carefully setting the timer, began to rinse the dishes and load them into the dishwasher. Kathy joined me after a while, and we chatted amiably about the day and the various grocery purchases I had acquired.

“Boy, this is a long ten minutes!” I said to myself after what seemed like at least 30 minutes of cleanup duty. “Has the timer rung already?” I asked Kathy. (The other day the timer rang while I was putting something away in the mudroom, and I didn’t hear it — she turned it off, the crafty girl, and got another 40 seconds of work out of me before I suspected anything!)

“Hey, where IS the timer?” My gaze searched the counters frantically for the little white countdown timer, which surely by now must be showing less than 30 seconds remaining …

She had put it away.

Turned it off, and put it in the drawer, underneath some hot-pad mittens. She claims (and I nearly believe her) that it was just a reflex action, that she thought it had been left there from some earlier task, like boiling pasta. I called her a weasel, and she reset the timer to 5 more minutes and started it up again.

They say that it is never too late for good marriage counseling, even when you’ve been married for a while. Some counselors will bring the husband and wife both in at the same time, and then let just one of them talk at a time. Maybe we can find a guy that uses a little white kitchen timer …

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Time for a haircut

There comes a time in a man’s life when he just needs shorter hair. For me, that time comes about once every three weeks, when the shaggy hair on the side of my head starts (ugh!) touching my ears. If this warning sign is ignored, the hair will sometimes even get so long that it actually (shudder!) needs to be combed.

Sad to tell, we’ve reached such a point here at the green house in the woods. Kathy’s been avoiding her duties as hairdresser but I managed to extract a promise from her to cut my hair tonight. Sometimes if I am overly obnoxious about it, I get the kind of haircut that I deserve, but in general she is pretty careful.

Back in 1992, when Kathy and I first moved to Connecticut, I went out for a haircut and was apalled (appalled?) to pay $16 plus $2 for a tip! I was used to paying $3.25 for a military haircut — these civilian prices seemed excessive. We rushed out to Caldor’s (a department store) and purchased our first hair cutting kit. Over the years, we’ve bought at least 4 replacement kits (it costs nearly as much for a new blade as for a whole new kit) and saved hundreds of dollars on haircuts. Figure $16 x 12 (minimum one a month) x 12 (years of marriage) less $18 x 5 (haircutting kits) — we’ve saved $2214 just for me, not counting the kids! (I admit, I had to use the calculator although I started out trying to do it in my head. In kinder days I used to give Kathy $10 for cutting my hair, but now I just take her for granted.

Uh-oh. Tina just called, jeopardizing my whole haircut scheme — just my luck that they will talk until Kathy is too tired to cut my hair, and I’ll have to go another day as shaggy Tim. Life can be hard, sometimes.

Tomorrow I go to see my doctor, to discuss blood pressure, cyatic (ciatic? psyiatic?) nerve trouble, and for a general tuneup. How strange to have my body begin to run down — I’m noticing little aches and pains and diminishing hearing and vision. What would it have been like to be one of those long-lived guys, like Adam or Methuselah — would you spend the last 200 years or so as a geezer, or were they hale and hearty up until the last 15 or 20 years?

Serious questions, for serious people. :)

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Rainy Day Thoughts

Today was a fairly typical winter day in western Washington — cool and rainy but not excessively so. I have been feeling vaguely melancholy most of the day — it doesn’t help that I am between projects in my work, reading a rather depressing David Gemmel novel, and lack a wood stove.

Really, when it comes down to it, a wood stove would really solve all my current ills. I can just imagine the cheery flames reflecting from the bright-colored enamel surface, waves of heat filling the great room and driving away the chill and gloom that seems to seep into my very bones.

Sometimes five children can be a real handful — we notice it particularly around mealtimes, here at the Duckabush Edgren houselhold. Lately Kathy has been doing aerobics with Casey at 5:30 in the evening, and I have tended to work right up to (and sometimes through) dinner time. The kids seem to sense that no one is paying attention to them, and the chaos builds until either Kathy turns off her aerobic tape or I come out from my office to find out why we’re seemingly being attacked by a regiment of enraged orangutans.

This is a really good night to settle in early to bed with a good movie. We’re thinking of re-watching an old favorite, “The Man Who Knew Too Little” with Bill Murray.

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