Look Up

  For the second time in two weeks, I have found myself in a church service on a Sunday morning.  It’s hard to say how this all came about and certainly, I don’t have any idea where this new journey of sorts will lead me, but, this seeking, I guess you could call it, has been on my mind lately.

I have found an old church, a congregation that dates back to the 19th century and its current edifice has been around for nearly 100 years.  As you might expect, it is a congregation that welcomes, affirms, and condones the LGBT community.  For the month of February, the pastor’s sermons have been based on the Alice Walker novel, The Color Purple.  So, long story short, it’s very different from the churches that raised me.

  If my mind had a tendency to wander at church when I was 10 and 15 and 22, one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that my mind still wanders (and wonders) when I am at church.  I love looking up at the high, majestically high, ceilings of the sanctuary.  I think about the men who built this church.  It’s the kind of thing I think about when I visit historied, grand, ornate, towering churches.  I thought about it when I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Church of St. Mary the Virgin on my recent trip to New York.  I look at the ceilings and think how men risked, and probably sometimes lost, their lives, creating these works of art, how some probably took great pride in their efforts. This will be my legacy, they might have thought.  For others, the work might have been only a job, maybe not even a well compensated one.  I don’t know.

This morning, as I sat in my pew, occasionally looking up, I marvelled at the beauty of this church.  I thought about how its current state was the sum contribution of many people with many stories.  Some believers, some doubters, probably even some heretics.  And then I looked down, looked around me, at the other people filling the pews.  Maybe these parishioners are not all that different from the men who built this church all that time ago. Believers, doubters, heretics.  Maybe, I went so far to imagine, we all have belief, doubt and heresy in varying amounts, in all of us.

When I started this blog, a couple of years ago, I really had no idea how much I was going to talk about religion and God and Christians.  Several times, in emails and Facebook messages, people from my midwestern past have asked me what I believe about God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell.  And I usually just avoid the question because the truth is, I don’t know what I believe.

  For a long time, I thought that my questions or disbelief were a reason to keep me out of church.  Why go if you don’t believe?  But, somehow, in the last couple of months, I started wondering if maybe, those questions might have more value than I realize. And maybe a church is the best place to take one’s questions about God. Makes sense actually. 

  I don’t really know where any of this is leading.  While a part of me feels that I should know what my intentions or goals are, the louder voice tells me to just be still and listen.  So here I am, listening.  And for what feels like the first time in a little while, looking up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger, Michael Patrick Gaffney: I Hadn’t Had a Bath in 20 Years!

Ringling-Circus-clown-Emmett-Kelly-in-a-bubble-bath-1955-photo-by-Joseph-Janney-Steinmetz

My friend and frequent guest blogger Michael had a medical emergency this week. I’ll let him tell you. But even before the situation passed, so to speak, I asked him if he might want to write about it. Tonight he sent me this. I do believe that when we are processing life’s challenges, it can help to sit down and write about it. And if we decide to share what we’ve written, who knows, it might help the people who read it too. I’m glad you are feeling better, my friend. You are loved!

“I Hadn’t Had a Bath In 20 Years!”

Like most people in the world today, I’m often stressed out and always carrying around a certain amount of anxiety. I’ve tried yoga and meditation but I just don’t have the patience, I guess. But I do find my peaceful place in walking. I love to walk! I just love it! I am a self-proclaimed Power Walker. I love to walk my dog, I love to walk to the store, but most of all I love to take long walks up into the canyon where I live. I call it my church. I love to power walk up to the top of the hill, with my arms swinging back and forth like Oprah as Sophia in “The Color Purple”, and look out and watch the hawks glide past me. Tuesday was a typical day on my power walk and just as I was about start my way down I felt a slight pain in my right testicle. Hmmm…Weird. 10 minutes down the hill I started to feel a shooting pain in the middle of my back. Ouch! Really weird…By the time I arrived home I was moaning and groaning, deciding if this warranted calling 911. Instead I called a neighbor and asked her if she would take me to the E.R. A drive that should have taken us 20 minutes took over an hour in rush hour traffic. I screamed and cried and prayed out load. I took my seatbelt off at one point and got on all fours in the front seat. I couldn’t stop moving. I was like a terrified Pekingese heading to the vet. Then the nausea started, “I think I’m going to be sick”, I screamed! We were at a dead stop so I opened the car door, but it was a false alarm. But now all the people in the cars around us knew there was drama going on and kept staring, waiting for me to blow!

When we finally pulled into the Emergency Room drop off point my neighbor stopped the car and I jumped out and power walked through the front doors. There were about 20 other people sitting in the waiting area waiting to be seen. I knew enough about how these places worked, that I knew I had to act fast and not hold anything back. “Um…Hello. I’m here. What do I do?! I’m in a lot of pain. Please help me, HELP MEEEEEEE!!!” I was spinning around in circles swinging my murse around me. I think somebody must have called a code: CRAZY, because the next thing I knew I was in a wheelchair sitting at a desk with a woman asking for my I.D. Just as I pulled it out, I announced to the entire ER, “I’m going to be sick!!!” Magically, a pink bucket appeared from under her desk and onto my lap. In between retching and heaving, I apologized to the entire room, “I’m sorry everybody, I’m so sorry!” I heard giggling from the peanut gallery but I didn’t have the strength nor the quick wit to deal with a heckler in the crowd, so I let it go. Next thing I know I’m in triage and I hear one of the nurses say, “We can smell a kidney stone a mile away.” A very handsome, blue-eyed nurse named Gary tells me he is giving me a drug called Dilaudid. I feel it hit me in the back of my neck and then BAM! “That’s a Lindsay Lohan cocktail”, I mumble. “Mikey likey!”

I am wheeled to another room, given an MRI, where they confirm that I have two kidney stones, one of which is trying to make its way through my ureter to my bladder. The other is a much larger stone waiting in the wings of my kidney. I am wheeled to yet another room and as the nurse leans over me checking my I.V. I notice her name tag, which reads, Stella. Given the fact I am an actor and that I am flying high on a powerful pain-killer seven times stronger than morphine I give her my best Marlon Brando, “STELLAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” She just gives me a knowing smile and goes about her business.

An hour or so later the pain has subsided dramatically and I am discharged with a couple of prescriptions and a strainer to pee through and sent on my way.

The next couple of days were filled with intermittent bouts of pain, nausea, constipation and vomiting from the pain meds. Being in that kind of pain was very lonely and isolating. It made me think about people who deal with chronic pain, people who suffer in silence on a daily basis and how lonely they most feel.

On Thursday night, a friend suggested I try a hot bath before bed. I hadn’t had a bath in 20 years! I’m a shower only kind of guy, but thought it was worth a shot. I filled the tub and put on my New Age Essentials channel on Pandora. I laid there in that hot water and thought about the last few days and what I had gone through. I felt like a little boy again, minus the Mr. Bubble. I felt so aware of my body and my breath. I was comforted by the warm water and my breathing. I had found my peaceful place again. I dried off and went straight to bed. The next thing I knew it was 6:03am and I went to use the bathroom, and without any bells and whistles or drumroll or pain even, out popped my kidney stone. It was about the size of a small black pepper kernel. That tiny little thing had caused so much pain and suffering and brought me to my knees.

Looking back on it all, I think that that hot bath was a turning point. It was such a moment of self-preservation and being totally aware of my body and what was happening and accepting the pain and truly surrendering.

I do feel a little like a ticking time bomb now with that other stone waiting for the perfect inopportune moment to escape my kidney and send me back to the emergency room. But until then I will continue to take my power walks and my new nightly hot baths to find my peaceful place. I might even pick up a box of Mr. Bubble.