Sunday, August 20, 2006

Refiners Fire

I have no idea who the original author is of the's one of those things that has been traveling around the internet for a while. But I liked it enough to post it here.


Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it could be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith,"How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Facing Adversity

I've been watching the progress of the Herrin twins since their separation surgery. This family's courage and faith have been truly inspiring. I know the pain and struggle I've had over difficult things that have come up in my own children's lives. I can't even imagine what it would be like to face a challenge like this.

When our children suffer, we suffer. How God holds us, His spirit children, all in His infinite love I will never understand. Sometimes he must shake his head in exasperation at all the knucklehead things we do and situations we get ourselves into. Other times I am sure He weeps with sorry at our pain. Yet, because of His infinite wisdom, He knows that pain is an essential part of this mortal life. So much we cannot comprehend.

Why do terrible things happen to innocents? What purpose is served? What meaning could we / should we give the pain in our lives?

I've been working really hard at developing more of a "thy will be done" attitude in my prayers. I beg the Lord to take away a hurtful situation that is happening for a family member, but in the same prayer I acknowledge that He knows what will ultimately be best for all concerned and that I do understand this fallen, mortal world is a time of suffering for a reason. I can't always see what that reason is. Of course I want painful things to be removed. Even the Savior would have had the bitter cup he faced removed had it been possible...but in the end He said "thy will be done" so that is the path I am trying to take.

I want the things that hurt me or hurt my loved ones to be taken away. You bet I do! Beyond that, when I see the pain and suffering of so many throughout the world, I want to alleviate that hurting in any way I can. I think we MUST try to make the world a better place. Yet we also must acknowledge that pain and suffering will continue, and that part of the lesson of this life is to learn from it.

I'm afraid I still have a long, long way to go....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mental illness

Reading a recent post by Matthew triggered a whole bunch of questions in my mind...

In the Sociology course I teach we address the issue that statistically there are way more psychotic people among the "lower class" strata of our society than in other segments. There are two basic theories why this is the case:

1) SOCIAL IMPACT says that the stress of living in poverty, possibly experiencing homelessness, and generally living in more dangerous / unhealthy environments creates pressure that causes some people with a predisposition to mental illness to have a major break that they might not have had if they had experienced a more supportive environment. Meanwhile, according to this theory, there are plenty of people in the middle and upper classes that are more mentally fragile, but because they have reasonably comfortable lives with access to resources, they never fully break out into what we would consider psychosis.

2) SOCIAL DRIFT theory, on the other hand, says that ALL socio-economic groups have an equal occurrence of originally becoming mentally ill, but those that do from the higher classes are more likely to "drift down" in social mobility to the lower classes due to their illness interfering with their ability to cope with life's responsibilities and the healthy folk born into lower classes have the chance to "drift up" through hard work & education, leaving behind those who were ill equipped to make that transition. End result of both sorts of social mobility is more psychotics at the bottom of the ladder.

I suspect there is some of each of these factors at play...

Still others say that there is no such thing as mental illness at all, that it's all a social construct based on certain norms being acceptable and others not but who is to really say what "normal" is?? What is considered flaming crazy in one society may be very acceptable in another. Or, different times in history within the same society will name different types of behavior as "sick" or "ok".

At what point do we think of someone as "sorta quirky" and when do they cross the line into "mental illness"? To what degree should "bad behavior" or criminal acts be excused due to a diagnosed mental illness? How much mental anguish and difficulty should we expect simply because we live in a fallen, mortal world full of adversity and when does personal angst and misery cross over to "clinical depression"?

Lots of clear answers. There is such a trend to medicalize behavior these days in order for individuals to qualify for "help". Things like "adolescent oppositional defiant disorder" used to be called being an out of control kid that needed some discipline. Alcoholism has run the gambit from being viewed as sin or weakness to being a disease. Homosexuality used to be viewed as a form of mental illness. Norms change, those in power take a new vote and suddenly it isn't anymore. Multiple Personality Disorder (now named Disocciative Identity Disorder) was once thought of as a very strange and rare thing.... the diagnostic criteria changed, a few workshops and organizations got popular and suddenly there were hundreds of cases being discovered all across the nation. Specialized units were opened in hospitals and a whole new subspecialty in treatment modalities was born. To what extent do we CREATE conceptions of mental illness in order to generate jobs/industry?

The DSM manual in all it's many incarnations tries to spell everything out clearly and tie it up with a, in my mind, is more complicated than that.

Power of Love

A dear friend of mine in Arizona sent me this story - AMAZING...just had to share it.

I try to be a good parent. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike.

Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life. This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;" Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution." But the Hoyts weren't buying it.

They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain." Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that." Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles?

Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks." That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!" And that sentence changed Dick's life.

He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. "No way," Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year. Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?" How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii.

It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together. This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century." And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape," one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago." So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like, " Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once."

Here's the video....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just a Bit of Nonsense

Here is a silly little video that my daughter-in-law, Shanoa, sent today.
It made me laugh, so I figured I'd share it.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ink Mouth

Morgan Dog, the incorrigible Basset Hound, has struck again. She is usually quite a well behaved beast. Now that she's over a year old, most of her early puppy impulse to chew is behind her. When she was little (about the size pictured here) she would chew up anything she could get to. She destroyed a scarecrow out of our garden. She ruined some nice plants I'd gotten for our pond. (She tossed the parrot feather and lilies into the yard, but really went to town with chewing up the plastic pots they were in.) She's made a mess of plastic spatulas left out by the barbecue. She even used to like to chew up aluminum pop cans. As she got older she has responded fairly well to training and is now hardly a problem at all in the area of destruction. However, she does still consider anything left on the front porch as fair game. That is clearly her turf, and she delights in chewing up any item she finds there.

Which is a problem when I have packages delivered by UPS. She has eaten college text books sent by publishers. This time, she got the package that had 3 ink cartridges from Dell which cost me $75. YIKES!

I don't know whether to be more mad at the dog, the UPS man or at Dell. I was very clear with Dell that I wanted my package sent to my PO box and I was willing to pay extra shipping fees to accomplish this. They refused, saying they ONLY ship via UPS. To me, this is just plain silly. If I want it in my box why is that a problem?? As for the UPS guy - I have a small table right by my front door expressly for that purpose - so packages can be placed there. Anything on the table is safe. But no. The UPS delivery people continue to put boxes on the floor in front of the door. As for Morgan... she's a good dog, as far as dogs go. But this is pretty frustrating.