Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


Doctor’s Hours & the Great Physician

I’ve talked about my dad on U&U before. Maybe too much! Permit me, please to do so once more.

Dr. Peacock was a yeller and a screamer, but he was also a very gifted healer.

Playing sick was no game. To get out of school, you had to provide evidence – scientific evidence. My dad would pull out his little black bag: listen to your heart, look down your throat, peer into your ears, palpitate your stomach, tell you to take two aspirin, and send you off to school.

Case closed.

“Too sick to go to school?” Norman Rockwell

Being a doctor, of course, my dad worked crazy hours: weekends, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter – no exceptions. As a child, it seemed to me he was always making rounds. And on very rare occasions, I got to go ‘round with him and troop behind him, at the hospital like an acolyte

Be it bedside at the hospital or in the examining room at his office, Dr. Peacock gave his patients whatever time they required to heal.

He was forever coming home late. After dinner was over. After we had already gone to bed.

Healing requires a deep, deep well of patience. Healing is exhausting work – for both doctor and patient. 

In the Gospel of Luke, an incredibly patient patient approaches the Great Physician.

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight. Jesus saw her, called her over, laid hands on her and said, “Woman, you are set free.”

And what seems to be a momentous and instantaneous miracle, really took eighteen years — eighteen years of hope.

 In 1stcentury Palestine, eighteen years is half a lifetime. Imagine struggling half your life with whatever ails your body, mind or soul. For some of us that might be a stretch. For others, struggles of a lifetime come easily to mind.

A chronic illness. Depression.

Poverty. Disability. Dysfunction. 

Dislocation. Isolation.

What cripples your body and soul?  What keeps you from living to the fullest your God-given life? 

How do you hold onto hope? 

Well, just ask Jesus – the Great Physician, who worked overtime on the sabbath. Healing work does not get a day off (to the chagrin of the powers that be). But after working weekends, Jesus is just exhausted as you or I would be.

Jesus’ reputation precedes him. A wonderworker who restores sight to the blind. A wonderworker who makes the lame to walk. Wherever he went, crowds pressed in upon him just to touch the hem of his cloak.

Jesus, just say the word and I shall be healed.

He cared, of course, for all who came to him. He got to everybody the best he could but even Jesus has only twenty-four hours in a day. Just like us he needs his eight hours of sleep and three-square meals. Time to gather his thoughts. Time to recharge his spirit.

And so, what does the Great Physician prescribe? 

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.

That includes him. That includes everybody.

Sunday is the Christian sabbath (which we swapped out for Saturday, the seventh day of the week). God rested from hanging the stars and stocking the oceans. God rested on the sabbath and made it sacred.

The old Blue Laws, once upon a time, helped us to keep it holy. (Called blue, I know not why. Maybe because they made Sundays so boring?)

Once upon a time, when I was a little Roman Catholic kid, on Sundays we went to Mass. We slid into a back pew, squirmed in our seats, snoozed during the sermon, rattled off a few Hail Mary’s and nodded our heads in prayer.

Our Sunday afternoons after church were lazy and uneventful. Even my workaholic dad, Dr. Peacock put on a pair of jeans and puttered around his workbench. We read the funny papers, played board games, took cat naps. 

It was not let all mortal flesh keep silence. There were nine of us, after all, but we slowed way down. God gave us the gift of a lazy day.

Not so 21stcentury true, right? On Sundays we shop ‘til we drop. We’re glued to our devices, our smartphones and our MACS. We answer email. We return phone calls. We slip into the office.

(And by definition, I am literally required to work on the sabbath. Counting seminary, I’ve been working weekends for twenty-eight years!)

Sunday blurs into Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. You know what I mean.

Being summer, we are a little better at this but many of us schedule our vacations out the wazoo.

God created sabbath time for healing time – not busy time. So how to tell the difference? 

By following the example of the Great Physician, of course.

Pick a Sunday and give it a try. Try and see if you can keep it holy. 

If there is any truly healing work to do, you must do it, of course. But be honest, how much of that stuff you feel compelled to do is truly healing?

Otherwise, put down the newspaper. Leave the dishes in the sink. Leave the beds unmade. Go no further than your back yard. Swing in a hammock. Listen to music. Read a good book. Soak up a little silence along with the sun.

Close your eyes and listen. To the birds in the trees. The airplane overhead. The occasional breeze. Water gushing from a hose. Kids kicking soccer balls in the yard next door.

Tune into the sound of your breath. The rhythm of your beating heart.

Thank God for the life that surrounds you.

Thank God for the life within you.

And for twenty-four hours, let the world spin without you. 

Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.


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“Slow Down, You Move Too Fast”

pajamas-in-the-woods-1

In the woods and in the groove, Sabbath time.

Remember “feeling groovy?”

This aging hippie certainly does.

Groovy is that “mellow yellow” mood so celebrated in the ‘60s. Groovy could be chemically induced tripping in your friend’s, Mary Jane’s basement.

Or groovy could be musically induced,  mind melding with the vinyl grooves of your favorite LPs. (Joni Mitchell being my drug of choice!)

But the hippie dippiest way to get your groove on was by “getting back to nature”.

Not too much nature, mind you, but just enough nature to pay quick homage to Mother Earth. Planting some vegetables, growing some “herbs”, skinny-dipping in the lake.

More recently, I got back to nature again, on retreat at Shrine Mont, with the good folks of Emmanuel on High, where,  Margaret Wohler, a gifted naturalist and artist at Huntley Meadows Wildlife preserve, introduced us to the lost art of illustration.

Like  “Lost Children in the Woods” she introduced us to “The Forest Unseen”.

Drawing, she said, helps us to pay attention. It helps us to slow way down. And her “way” was drawn out with lots and lots of extra “a’s”. We each got an art kit with a sketchpad and pencils.

“All you need are five basic shapes: a circle, a dot, a line, an angle, and a curve.”, Margaret said.

“Choose a spot to sit. Jot down the location, date, time, temperature, cloud cover. Close your eyes and listen for just a minute – 60 seconds. Then open your eyes and list everything you heard: birds, honking horns, wind in the trees, screaming babies.”

“Draw the big stuff first, then the little things.”

“Stay put. Look up. Look around you. The more you stay put the more you see. The more you see, the deeper you will go. The deeper you go, the slower you will go. And the more slow you go, the more you will know — not just about what’s is front of you – -but the more you will know about what’s going on inside you.”

(At least that is what I heard Margaret say.)

And so I sat for an hour in the woods, drawing trees and rusted out, old, discarded bathtubs — meditating and feeling groovy.

Recently this Celtic Warrior Woman trained to take on the three-day Warrior Challenge in The Patriot Running Festival in Williamsburg. And seriously train I did: walking up to 37 plus miles a week for 12 weeks for the Friday 5K, Saturday 8K, and Sunday 1/2 marathon.

That Friday morning, waiting for the Amtrak train to take me south, I sat down with my sketchpad for just the second time since Shrine Mont.

Now I have sat in this Civil War era station a bazillion times, idly and obsessively checking my phone, waiting on trains that rarely arrive on time. But this time, in the most mundane of places here I was – sketchpad in lap and pencil in hand.

I looked up and noticed the enormous, glass inset doors that lead to the tracks. So gorgeous, I had never noticed just how lovely they were – with simple, geometric patterns, arches, scalloped edges, and lots of rectangles.

I can draw this!

I had an hour’s wait for my train and thought sketching the doors would be a pleasant ten-minute diversion – maybe fifteen, max. In fact, however, I got into a groove and it turned into a sixty minute, mellow, mindful meditation.

First I sketched the doors, then the windows, the lanterns, the tracks and the buildings beyond, then the trees through the glass, the travellers on their way, their rolling bags and backpacks– all framed by those lovely doors – that I had so long ignored.

On the other end, my dear, dear friend, Pam picked me up in Williamsburg. She and I have been the best of friends since our seminary days – over twenty years. Very different people, we very much enjoy each other’s company. We gossip, laugh, shop, watch chick flicks, catch up, and confess all that is going on in our divergent worlds.

And best of all, we do the latter, floating in her pool.

The weekend was pretty well planned around my three day’s walking the Patriot Running Event —  and  Pam was charioteer-ing me wherever I needed to go. (Thank you, Pam!) But between the races, the two of us planned to pack in as much playtime as we possibly could.

So before I went, I gave myself permission — that while I was indeed getting my warrior on – it was perfectly okay to opt out of any or all parts of the Warrior Challenge.

Too much “works” and not enough “grace” can make Joani – a manic, manic soul.

So all three days we floated, floated in the pool — lazy and stretched out in the sun, gazing up at blue skies, listening to the birds and the wind in the trees, listening to the murmuring of the filter motor and the rumbling of lawn mowers.

And best of all, floating with my best of friends, Pam and I talked and talked and talked. And just as lovely, we floated comfortably in silence.

So slow, so blissfully slow.

Slowing down and feeling groovy.

So I walked the 5K on Friday. Yea!!

I walked the 8K on Saturday. Yea!!

And yes, I have the medals to prove it (though one is made of plastic!).

And then on Sunday, I chose Sabbath time. Not church per se – but St Mattress in-the-Springs.

I slept in, stayed in my pajamas until 10 o’clock, drinking coffee with my friend, went to brunch at 11, came home and slipped into my swimsuit, slathered on the  SPF 100  –

And floated, floated, floated – my ½ marathon – floating in Pam’s pool.

My mania calmed.

My mood lightened.

My outlook brightened.

My spirit lifted.

My soul restored.

God, in Her Heaven, all right with my world.

Slow, slow, so slowed down.

Kicking down my cobblestones.

Feeling groovy.

Slow down, friends, don’t move too fast.  God wants you to make your morning last. And just like Her — on that seventh day —  take some sabbath time and get some rest. The world can revolve without you — at least for a little while.

Thanks be to God.

JoaniSign