Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Monday, September 24, 2007

The World Stress You and Creep You

Several years ago I was in a class at ACU wherein we were given a test to help determine the level of stress we were under. As I remember it, there was a long list of thing that might be going on in someone’s life or that might have happened in the previous twelve months. Each of these items was given a point value and when you added up your score you could check it on a scale to see if you were under any stress and to what degree. I don’t remember my exact score, but I remember being through the roof. Things that happened in that twelve-month period were things like the death of an immediate family member, the birth of a daughter, a move, and a job change- not to mention every-day stuff like Abilene traffic jams. Officially I think I blew right through the “Extreme Stress” level and then something minor like a paper cut took me over the edge from “Holy crap, call an ambulance!” to the “Talk him down from that clock tower and put him in a rubber room” level.

Lately, I have been feeling the creeping effects of Too Much once again. Too Much is an old family member that so many of us share. Often we only hear from Too Much on special occasions when we get a quick call or maybe a card but lately Too Much keeps begging for an invitation to stay for an extended visit. Frankly, my somewhat Ecclesiastical view of late suggests that so little of what may be supposed to be stressful matters anyway. Maybe that will take some of the edge off. Still, here is the kind of stuff going on right now.

An immediate family member is battling cancer. Many of you may know who it is, but they wish for their battle to be personal and largely private, so let’s try to honor that. Eventually I may talk more about it, but not yet.

We are remodeling our house. I really like our contractor and all, but face it- he’s a contractor and we’re remodeling our house. I mean, come on! Seriously, he’s ahead of schedule, so that’s good. But right now we have no TV and no phone. Not bad for a vacation or if your name happens to be Gilligan, but a bit of a stressor around the house.

I basically have three jobs. I may just have to say “No” to job number four- that gig as an underwear model. No sense giving everyone else stress, too.

I am working on a project outside one of my jobs but which has a quick deadline.

I seem to have forgotten how to sleep at night which means I am operating on precious little of it during the day.

Several other items which I cannot really reveal.

Honestly, it doesn’t approach “Talk-him-down-from-the-tower” Level, but I feel as though I am signaling for that exit. Or, since I like mixed metaphors, if I’m not climbing the tower it may be because I am circling the drain.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things I Learned From M*A*S*H, Pt 4

Other Lessons From M*A*S*H

There were so many characters in the M*A*S*H series who were each worth watching the show for. Notwithstanding those already mentioned, consider:

Maxwell Klinger, the young man so desperate to go home that he tried for years to achieve that Section 8 by dressing as a woman. Interestingly, however, the dog tags he wore were the genuine article which Jamie Farr attained from time he spent in Korea as a real soldier. Klinger never hesitated to help anyone whenever he could, often putting his life on the line in spite of his self-imposed status as a coward. And yet, after all of his protestations and supposed disdain for all things to do with the Korean war, he ended up marrying a Korean local and staying to help her find family members displaced by the war.

Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, the camp chaplain was another one who was easy to admire, due in no small measure to his humanity. So often people of faith are portrayed on screens large and small to be proud humorless buffoons. Mulcahy showed himself to be both self-deprecating and wise with quotes like, “I expect you to listen to me! This isn’t one of my sermons!” He knew when to offer counseling and when to seek it- making himself vulnerable in revealing his weaknesses and downplaying his strengths. The qualities are ideal for people seeking to live out their faith.

Colonel Sherman T. Potter got to play the father figure in the later years of the M*A*S*H series and he was good at it. His ideal blend of concern and stern made him someone who could tug at your heart with just a look for a certain tone. His leadership skills were formed out of true concern for people and purpose and if you observed him at all you saw his purpose was people- not war.

Maj. Margaret “Hotlips” Houlihan developed a great deal as a character. She began as a by-the-book Army purist and eventually came to understand that legalism could get in the way of reaching those who really needed help. In no scene was this more evident than in one wherein a young soldier is brought in to the hospital on Christmas Day while the 4077 is having a party for the local orphanage. B.J., Hawkeye and Margaret soon become aware that they have no chance of saving the young soldier, but they try valiantly to postpone his death so his family will not remember Christmas as the day their Daddy died. Ultimately, they lose their battle with roughly a half-hour to go so they decide to move the clock forward and declare the time and date of death to be just after midnight on the 26th. Margaret comments on how falsifying records is a first for her but she almost seems to do so wistfully as though she regrets not having done it sooner. It is a watershed moment for her.

There are obviously other examples- not to mention that there was at least one character with Abilene ties (McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake) spoke at ACU). Any time people can thrive in a time of war it is a compelling circumstance, which brings me to one of the few things I ever liked about Hawkeye. There was a scene in an episode wherein someone offers the famous quote, “War is Hell.” Upon hearing this, Hawkeye responds with one of my all-time favorite M*A*S*H quotes (paraphrased).

“No! War is war and Hell is Hell, but they are not the same. There are no innocent victims in Hell.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Things I Learned From M*A*S*H, Pt 3

Pt 3

Cpl. Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly

It is really hard to discuss Radar without “breaking through the fourth wall” and discussing him as Gary Burghoff, the actor who played him. Perhaps it is because he seemed to grow with the series in a way that was inseparable from actor and character. Or perhaps its because there were things about Burghoff in real life that were impossible to leave out of Radar, but which seemed consistent with the character all the same.

For instance, and this may forever change the way you watch the show, Burghoff has a deformed left hand. You may never have noticed it because in most scenes Radar is holding something in that hand or it is hidden inside a long sleeve or behind some prop. To me, it seems just like Radar to “soldier” on through difficulty, working hard in the face of adversity.

Radar is probably a favorite for most M*A*S*H viewers. It is hard not to be drawn to his child-like manner and the innocence that stood in such stark contrast to his surroundings. And yet we got to see this diminutive teddy bear-toting adolescent grow before our eyes but not without hanging on to vestiges of that small-town innocence. For instance, the same young man who was so protective of his menagerie of pets disregarded his own safety to race into a mine field and rescue a young local girl who was injured by a mine as she checked the field to see if it was safe for the family ox.

In yet another example of the blurry line between Burghoff and O’Reilly, there was an episode wherein Radar had to tell the rest of the characters that their beloved CO, Lt Col. Henry Blake had been killed on his way home, having completed his tour of duty. The catch here was that only Burghoff was given that last page of the script just before he entered the set to film the scene. Everyone else’s reactions were filmed cold and unrehearsed and their emotions, including Burghoff’s, were unrehearsed and genuine.

What lessons can one learn from Radar?

A broken young man, longing for home, working through his brokenness in selfless ways to be true to his heart for others. It is evident over and over in the character of Walter Eugene “Radar” O’ Reilly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Things I Learned From M*A*S*H, Pt 2

Part Two

Charles Emerson Winchester III

Winchester was often the butt of the joke on M*A*S*H. because it was easy to do. He replaced Major Frank Burns as the anti-Hawkeye, but he and Frank were very different. Whereas Frank was a simple-minded, self-involved inferior surgeon, Charles was an excellent surgeon with a pompous demeanor. Not only that, he often proved himself to be a worthy foe for Hawkeye and B.J. in terms of wit or practical joking. His pomposity, however, may not have run as deep as one might have originally thought and little glimpses into his life chipped away at that mask.

Indeed, his placement at the 4077 began as a reaction to his arrogant bearing. His dominance and subsequent bragging over a simple game of cards with a general took him from a job in the luxurious confines of Tokyo to meatball surgery near the front. The shock of this experience would have been a great deal for anyone to endure, let alone a blue-blood Bostonian. And though he seemed to have clung to that blue blood nature as long as he could, ultimately he showed there was much more to his character.

A few glimpses of his old life showed a humanity that would have belied the image he tried to project:

He still grieved over a brother, Timmy, who died as a child. He was fiercely faithful in corresponding with his sister Honoria (does not rhyme with gonorrhea). However, one episode dealt with the tapes they sent one another and ended with Charles, listening with tears in his eyes as his sister struggled through a major speech impediment to tell him how much their correspondence meant to her.

In other episodes he could be seen reaching out to people in an effort to help them- helping an abandoned baby, trying to help a prostitute turn her life around, becoming personally connected with patients under his care often while outwardly he still projected this boorish exterior.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in an episode wherein Cpl. Klinger found out the identity of someone who had been secretly leaving gifts at a Korean orphanage under cover of night. The benefactor was none other than Charles Emerson Winchester. As Charles pleadingly explained his tradition of helping someone secretly during the Christmas season, any notion of inequality between the kid from the tough streets of Toledo and one of Boston’s elite disappeared. It’s a scene that always leaves a lump in my throat.

The lessons here are probably many- but I always loved that deep down, Charles quietly lived out concern for others without wearing this virtue on his sleeve.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6

Things I Learned From M*A*S*H

Part One

B.J. Honeycutt

I am a fan of the TV show, M*A*S*H. I always thought the show was well-written and full of interesting characters even though I have to admit that Alan Alda often drove me crazy. Still, as I said, so many of the characters had a depth not often seen in a sit-com.

Consider B.J. Honeycutt- the surgeon who so desperately resented that the war had taken him from his newborn daughter. His strong emotions boiling just beneath the surface nearly found an outlet when a woman sought a sexual relationship with him in the middle of the Korean war zone, stating her case with the notion that they needed to pursue their relationship immediately because, for them, there may be no tomorrow. B.J. declined, however, saying that he had to live for tomorrow because, for him, there is no now.

Could it be that this wise-cracking practical joker, who threw himself into saving and serving even though he hated the environment in which he did so, was onto something?

Let’s see:
Live honorably, bearing in mind that something better could break in, but in the mean-time do all you can to help others where you are.

Hmmm. Sounds like a good place to start.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If anyone tells you they have all the answers, you have the instant advantage of knowing you are dealing with either a fool or a liar.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

You know pain has little mercy and suffering’s no respecter of age, of race or position.
-Wayne Watson

It’s not that I expect it to be otherwise. After all, God only made a few promises- one of which was “in this world you will have trouble.” My apologies to Jabez disciples and makers of inspirational needlepoints and feel-good posters everywhere, but God keeps His promises. It’s not that He likes it that way, but He understands what happens in a fallen world. And I truly believe He spends more time grieving over the crap than doling out worldly trinkets.


This world sucks. In fact, it can suck the life right out of you in little sips or in giant slurps. Either way, it sucks. If you want proof, how about watching a person live their entire life in the service of others, following a healthy lifestyle (a la Daniel), losing a wife and daughter to cancer and now looking down the barrel of a similarly loaded canon with a fuse of unknown length. I guess in light of this, I wonder if I really buy the words to the song above. Sure, death is no respecter of age, race or position, but suffering seems to take up a more permanent residence with some than with others. If I knew what to pray for right now, it would probably just be that suffering would go straight to hell where it came from- or at least that it would leave him alone . But then, I don’t know what to pray. So I go back to song lyrics.

My faith is old. My heart is hard. My prayers are cold.

Still, ultimately…

Blessed be your name.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Awfully Funny

I'm sorry. I really am. I know this is inappropriate, but I thought this was hilarious. Again, I apologize through gasps of laughter. Besides, I really need to laugh today.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Which shows greater faith? Actually, to even ask the question may be so unfair as to show a lack of judgment if not a lack of faith. But as I consider things going on in and around my life it’s one I find myself asking myself when I should be sleeping or working or thinking about other things.


Is it a greater display of faith to truly believe with all your heart that God wants us to be financially blessed… or to be on the outside looking in at people who appear to have won life’s lottery but still say “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord?”

Is it a stronger faith that builds a home on a foundation of Christian virtue and teaching, keeping all other influences at bay… or to be immersed in the world around us exposing our families to people who may even shock or disgust us while we try to love them and still say “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord?”

Are we showing a faith of more substance when we share our testimony with whoever will listen, or sit on the front row at church or write books or articles about our incredible story or hang crosses in every room of our homes… or when we quietly doubt- even painfully- and still say “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord?”

Is it a greater example of faith to pray for the healing of someone who is terminally ill with full confidence that God will heal them… or to believe that God will not intervene and still say “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord?”

In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose when I wrote those questions I was probably doing so thinking I knew the answers. To be honest, I don’t really think I do. I don’t know much about much any more.


Blessed be the name of the Lord.