The Russians Are Spying On Me (And I’m Loving It)

My Dad is a Cold War veteran.  For part of his stint, he was stationed in Germany defending the Berlin Wall (or at least cooking for those not far from it).  He was taught (perhaps like Mitt Romney) that the Russians are our true enemies.  To this day, when Dad experiences static on his cell phone, trouble sending or receiving e-mails, or his cable TV goes on the blink, he declares –

It looks like the Russians are spying on us again.

Well, today I awoke and went to the computer to see my blog stats through the night.  There I discovered that, while I was sleeping, someone from Russia was spying on me.  Some “Russkie” as Slim Pickens from “Dr. Strangelove” would say, has viewed my blog and now there’s no telling what will happen.

I’m not going to panic.  I mean, I’ve been dangerously exposed before.

– Like when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Underwood, caught me trading my baseball cards in class and took them away from me for a whole day. (I didn’t think I would ever get over that one.)

– Like when I wrote a pastoral e-mail reply to one person and clicked the “Reply All” button.

– Like last night, when I commented on a blog post that listed many ambitious worthwhile goals by writing, “You are a man on a mission.”  And the reply came back, “Actually, I am a woman on a mission.”

But now, the Russians!  That’s a different story.  What should I do?

– Should I practice hiding under my desk like in those “Duck and Cover” drills we used to do in grade school?

– Should I contact the FBI and inform them my blog is under surveillance (as if they don’t already know)?

– Should I delete the post I did on “The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilych” for fear that Tolstoy is an enemy of the state?

So much fear and trembling.  What to do?  Lord, help me.

[pause for a brief period of intensive prayer]

Okay, I know what I’ve got to do.

– I will strengthen my feeble knees and dose up on some Alexander Solzhenitsyn (one Russian author I’ve not read).

– I will reflect in blog posts on themes of faith in my favorite Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

– I will search out Russian bloggers who could be looking for “A Way With Words” without even knowing it.

If you are watching this, President Putin, beware!  You may be able to pass legislation restricting Americans from adopting Russian children, but you can’t stop this American from exercising his freedom to reach Russian children (of all ages) with words of encouragement and hope.

 

vladimir putin

(“Vladimir Putin is watching you!” from Limbic, some rights reserved)

 

Note to my Psychiatrist: 

Dear, Dr.W_____, I got your message.   No, I haven’t stopped taking my medicine.  It’s true I didn’t get much sleep last night.   But I promise you I haven’t been hearing any strange voices or seeing any unusual visions.  Trust me on this one. 

P.S.  Do you know if Communists have an equivalent of a “fatwa”?  Just wondering.

The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilyich

In the eleventh post of Christmas, I truly give to you…

the death of ivan ilych

Leo Tolstoy’s short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich is at times an excruciating book to read.  Ivan Ilyich’s callous social climbing, care-free lifestyle and heart-less unconcern for his family are difficult to bear.  When he becomes chronically ill, one almost cheers for his payback, but we are made to instead endure his unending complaints and cries for relief.  At one point in his suffering, he scolds his wife –

“For Christ’s sake let me die in peace!” he said.

She would have gone away, but just then their daughter came in and went up to say good morning. He looked at her as he had done at his wife, and in reply to her inquiry about his health said dryly that he would soon free them all of himself. They were both silent and after sitting with him for a while went away.

“Is it our fault?” Lisa said to her mother. “It’s as if we were to blame! I am sorry for papa, but why should we be tortured?”

It seems nothing can be done to relieve Ivan Ilyich’s suffering (and insufferability) and it only grows steadily worse.  As the end draws near, he spends three full days simply calling out a monosyllabic cry, “Oh!”

He is lost – alone – in his struggle.  But just when it seems he will go to his grave suffering alone, his neglected son enters the room.  He becomes aware of his son’s presence.

At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified. He asked himself, “What is the right thing?” and grew still, listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His wife came up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.

“Yes, I am making them wretched,” he thought. “They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die.” He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. “Besides, why speak? I must act,” he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said: “Take him away…sorry for him…sorry for you too….” He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand.

In his deathbed confession – to his family, and to God – Ivan Ilyich finds the grace to die in peace.  The pain is still there, but he doesn’t focus on it.  He chooses instead to take the self-less path of gratitude for those who surround him, who care for him, who make it possible for him not to die alone.

As a pastor, I have seen many people at the verge of death and I’ve seen some as they died.  Some die peacefully.  Others resist.  It isn’t always the case that those who are right with God and others die a more peaceful death.  Sometimes the suffering is still agonizing.  But it makes a big difference when we can clear our slate by asking for and accepting Christ’s forgiveness and making the most of whatever time we have remaining.

I like the way one prayer I’ve said puts it,

Give us your grace, O God, to live as those prepared to die, that we may go forth to live so that, living or dying, we may always walk with you.

How about you?  Are you ready to die so you can fully live?

(image “The Death of Ivan Ilych” from  Dottie B., some rights reserved)

*****

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you…. “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake.”

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Some of the Best Christmas Blog Posts for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress