Listening

On my current ear infection and related matters of life and ministry.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Last Monday I called my general practitioner seeking help for clogged up ears.  I heard the nurse on the other end inform me that the doctor’s schedule was full.  But she agreed to listen to my symptoms and possibly call in a prescription.  Later in the day, I drove across town to pick up the prescription, only to hear that it cost $100.  This was after my insurance agreed to pick up the first $25.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  I thought the gunk had mangled up the man’s words.  I was wrong.

It is hard to operate with muffled and distracted hearing.  I have been amazed as to how many tones one hears at any given time.  What has been frustrating is not so much what I can’t hear, but the fact that I can only hear part of what I am used to hearing.  For instance, I cannot hear all the tones on the piano while singing hymns.  The highest I can get, the lowest I can get, the middle–I can’t quite get.  To make matters worse, because of the clogged ears, all of my internal sounds are amplified (it’s a lot like after you’ve been flying).  So when I sing, I can REALLY hear myself, even though I am actually being quieter than usual.  During hymn singing at church, where I am used to leading the singing, I (a) can’t really hear the piano and (b) have a distorted understanding of the sounds I am making.  One of my musicians is used to guiding her accompaniment by my singing.  That’s been tough recently.

I am driving with my windows down to make sure I can hear everything.

When I walk I can hear, internally, the impact my feet are having on the pavement.  When I trimmed my beard yesterday, the sound of the vibrations of the trimmer buzzing my cheek was almost deafening.  Apparently, my clogged ears have aided the percussive impact of my snoring, so my wife says.

Today, I accompanied my wife to the obstetrician’s office today.  The midwife was so awesome.  She listened so well and answered all of our questions thoroughly.  It seemed clear that she loves her job.  She placed a jellied-up microphone on M.’s belly and we heard a heartbeat, 160/minute.  The little booger kept moving around.  Apparently, we’re having a dolphin.  We then went to the nurse who explained all that we needed to know about insurance, coverages, expenses everything.  Before we even expressed our concern about financing the beginning of a family (potentially quite expensive for clergy, we’ve heard recently), she allayed our fears and answered questions before we could even ask them.  We are really grateful for this practice and so impressed with them.

Yesterday in church, people began sharing their joys and concerns in their usual way.  But something quietly unusual took place.  One woman shared about her sister, who had lost her job earlier this year.  She spoke of listening to her sister and hearing some optimism and hope in her voice.  This parishioner just started this wave of hopeful and important prayer-sharing.  This congregation is normally a little more tight-lipped when it comes to this kind of sharing.  I began wondering if this wasn’t the beginning of a more fruitful and trusting prayer time.  I’ll have to listen carefully this coming week.

After leaving the obstetrician’s office, I drove down the hill and I hear a popping in my left ear.  It’s the clogging trying to unclog–the bacteria from the ear infection moving about.  After I left the pharmacist without my $100 prescription, I spent 3 more days trying over-the-counter stuff and just generally hoping it would go away.  Then I went to the clinic, where the fellow just looked in my ears and said…”yep, good old amoxicillin, should take care of it”.  I am on day 4 of a 10 day prescription.  When I told him about the $100 prescription he said… ‘sounds like a big pharma thing’.  Why are we trying to save an industry that pays doctors to prescribe medicines that people don’t need?  Like Usher says…let it burn.  One parishioner recently got a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Insurance covered $700.  Why we need more hearings on this is beyond me.

The Army Corps of Engineers is hosting public hearings to hear if people really do want to allow coal companies to blast the tops of mountains away, pushing debris into waterways, destroying watersheds and poisoning aquifers in order to get to coal that will be used for electricity, so that we do not have to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.  Many people are gearing up to speak at the public hearing.  I wonder if anyone is gearing up to listen at any of these hearings.

Later today, I got on the running trail for the first time in many months.  It was a great day to be out–beautiful trees, good air, not at all hot.  But the ears were bothering me.  I couldn’t hear anything that came up from behind.  And of course, cyclists and skaters don’t announce themselves anyhow.  I was quite startled by one skater, whose motion was so side-to-side that he almost side-swiped me as he passed.  I set my watch for 3 minutes to run my intervals, but the tone of the watch’s alarm is in that range of tones that I can’t hear with the clogged ears.  So I ran over the 3 minutes several times.  I then held the watch up to my left ear and then my right to hear the alarm.  Who knew that there is an undertone to my stopwatch beep.  My left ear could only hear the bottom tone.  My right could better make out the top tone.  Who knew.

On the way back to the car, the beauty of the day overtook my desire to run and I just strolled as I am want to do.  I could only hear the faintest of nature’s sounds.  Then I heard something different, something near my heart.  “Take responsibility”.  This was not an audible thing, ala Field of Dreams.  This was not even a feeling of peace or conviction or anything else.  It wasn’t even a confidence of an attitude.  It was just a message–short and sweet.  ‘Take responsibility for my life.  Stop letting M. get ready for the baby alone…YOU get ready for the baby too.  Get your house in order, physically and metaphysically.”  You get the drift.  It was just the realization that life is not passing me by, but it is going somewhere.

Behold the still, small voice.

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