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Archive for January, 2014

Stress and strain are engineering terms. Stress is any force, pressure, torque, electrostatic potential, or thermal gradient that tries to distort an object, its surface or its components. (didn’t even look that up) Strain is the deformation of that object resulting from the stress. Motion is apt to result in both stress and strain. In elastic collisions stress does not result in permanent strain to the objects involved because the colliding objects temporarily distort and return to their original form when the deforming energy is converted to other forms, most notably heat. In other words, the strain is passed out of the system, leaving no impression on the objects. The most common example is billiard balls colliding on a pool table. Non-elastic collisions, on the other hand, permanently deform the objects involved. Tossing wet mud onto a wall where it sticks is an obvious example.

So, am I merely in the mood to convey physics concepts which are all too obvious to many who read this page? No, stress and strain have very straightforward analogy to life in the body and mind and spirit. Frequently when people say that they have so much stress in their life, they really mean both. That is, they are saying that all of the pushes and pulls that are stress are getting them down and making it hard to function, strain. I am experiencing both- changed schedule, pressures to succeed, accusations of neglect and slack-handedness, bills, desire to enjoy and play when it’s time to work and serve, and very notably, sadness at seeing someone I love degraded in her ability to serve her family as she likes to do.  You may take this for whining if you like, but it is really just the way that I have learned to deal with the stress. Somehow it’s supposed to be more noble to not talk about your troubles. Of course, there is nothing noble about self-focus and there is way too much of that in this society. Perhaps then I should keep quiet. Aaaccchh! Tangents!

So (love that word) here’s another one. My wife took about 6 hours to fix my son and me supper one day this past week. She can’t much read recipes just now, and her work is very slow and deliberate, but she so wanted to take care of her family that she worked diligently most of the day cutting up salad, baking sweet potatoes, sauteing cabbage and carrots with venison sausage, and baking cornbread so that we could eat a good meal. I about couldn’t eat for the tears. Then this morning she fixed oatmeal pancakes, a recipe that she had never done before. She laughed that it was a good thing that all of the ingredients were 1 (cup, teaspoon, etc) because she could not have made it otherwise. She still can’t say most names or understand much of what is said to her, but she can fix meals and wash dishes and she is happy to be able to do it again. I guess we’ll go grocery shopping together this afternoon.

Anyway, I have concluded that strainless stress is probably not very beneficial to this object. Afterall, if I am not changed by what pushes on me I’m apt to have to repeat that lesson until there is change. The idea of standing up to stress with dauntless courage and stone-faced lack of strain is neither where I live nor useful to my progress forward in the faith. I want to learn now so that I don’t have to repeat the lesson. Of course, the strain I am after is one that conforms me to the image of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, not a wet mud pie stuck to a wall like so much yak dung on the side of the house drying to be used for fuel to cook and heat. Though it is not particularly what I want in the sense of what is enjoyable, change for the sake of conformity to His image is good, and God is good in patiently working strain into my life through the stresses He ordains. The more pliable, that is non-resistant to strain, I am, the easier that strain will conform me without destroying the very fabric of who I am. It reminds me of Philippians 4:6-8: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I so want that peace of and with God that so surpasses comprehension that onlookers upon spying it cannot help but attribute it to a work of God. But that will involve far more stress and considerably more strain that I’m not all too sure I’m up to. I have discovered that is not for me to determine. As per Colossians 3 I need to focus above so that I may succeed below:

God’s grace is my comfort and rest

 

My strong tower in the midst of test

 

While I trust Him I shall prevail

 

Raised from the dead without fail

 

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I sure am thankful that it is God who judges me, because He is so merciful and gracious.I lost all perspective during the recent events involving my wife’s stroke. All I could see were the seemingly insurmountable frustration she had with speech, the hesitations I experienced, the pressure from well-meaning people, and the mounting bills. None of those difficulties have been overcome but I am beginning to look up rather than around me as I seek ways to move on. I wish others could give their perspective on these events since they are severely skewed by my own fears and failures, but alas, not here. So here is my last of three poems on my feelings about the events of New Years Day, 2014, and following:

Fretting has no value at all

It only leads to early demise

And turmoil with those you love

And everything that you despise

 

In quietness and trust is your rest

The peace you seek is with God

And love from those who are close to you

Whatever the nature of the test

 

It is God Who is at work in you

To work and to will His good pleasure

The path He ordains is beyond view

So stroll forward in faith at leisure

 

Your struggle and strain is of no worth

Only serves to frustrate all designs

To have peace, joy, value and mirth

Written on your life’s last lines

 

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The context of the following poem is a story that I have frequently told my students over the years about how my fifth-born child came into the world. It is a story that is as close to a miracle as I personally have ever experienced. Now I encountered a new difficulty, my wife’s stroke, and drug my feet because I both feared and did not understand; I hesitated, but in God’s goodness I do not think it made any difference, though I will always be accused of neglect.

It doesn’t always work the same

This walk of faith we’re called to tread

No miracle this time did He

No sure answer to my prayer came

 

Provision came another way

To human interventions trust

Wisdom and prudence are the must

In all of this I had no sway

 

Now I am counted as the fool

I could not see just how He led

In fear from the solution fled

For my faith was a training tool

 

What are others to learn from this?

Do they trust God or their own schemes?

Surely for others there are themes

Their faith lessons they will not miss

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I break the present silence with trepidation because as always I feel compelled to be honest and that is hard when you have also been foolish in the eyes of others. So, I will start off slowly and get around to several points in a circuitous way.

At 4 AM on New Years Day, my precious wife awoke with what I now know to be “having a stroke”. She rubbed her head both front and back, complaining of it hurting and could not recognize me speaking to her. There is so much I am not saying because it is too hard to say, and there have  been many doubts and tears. We finally arrived at the hospital for a 3 night stay. Thankfully the stroke did not effect her motor skills other than a general, temporary weakness. She walked into the ER, spoke in a limited way without slurred speech, grasp numerous nurses and doctors hands and pushed against their resistance. Instead, her language center was arrested. She could not say names, mine, her own, and to her, most notably, her children. She could not understand many instructions which led one doctor to conclude she had motor skill deficiencies because she could not follow his instructions to apply pressure against his push.

I am going to post several poems that came 2 weeks after the events described above that reveal some of my reactions to all that I saw and experienced during this time as a result of seeing my wife’s debilitation and having family push me this way and that. The reflections are obviously focused around my thoughts and struggles concerning the stroke my wife had and are therefore skewed away from the events to my feelings about the events. No one is truly objective afterall though that does not mean untruthful. My first poem is a short one that deals with the immediate “why” question, to which there is no answer other than “He is good”:

I know in my heart that God is good
His Word declares it so
From His works to show
How His providence and care
The abundance He does share
Reveal that He is kind
And powerful and involved and good

If you have not yet concluded by faith that He is good you will probably ask endlessly “Why”, or perhaps, accuse Him, when it is sin in the world that is the cause of so much pain and suffering. Oh, so its sin and not Him. Why didn’t you say so? It is because all good and ill is filtered through His providential hands, otherwise He is not truly God: “I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11) Here it is, pay careful attention, those of you who want to soften God down, “who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil'” (Zephaniah 1:12): “I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah45:6-7) Wow what a tangent! But it is not a false one because His goodness is based on His sovereignty- He is not fickle; He has purpose, much of which He has made known and yet is inscrutable by man. He is good and there is purpose in difficulty and harm we experience.

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