January 1, this year, I made an early-morning trip to the grocery store
to pick up food for a make-your-own sandwich supper for the ten of us.
Our grandson, Landis, and his girlfriend Caitlyn Bell, arrived from
Phoenix the day after Christmas. I figured that with all the meals and
city plans and Christmas events, an easy dinner would be this
8:30 I was back in the car, groceries loaded and headed for home. I
caught myself at the stop sign as I turned onto Joliet Street in West
Chicago, the town where we live; David is always reminding me to watch
the rolling stops. When no other traffic is around, and I’m in a hurry,
I’m liable to ease through the signs without coming to a full pause.
“See,” he’ll say to me. “You did it again—a rolling stop.”
I’m being very kind by not mentioning that David often neglects to use
his turn signal when he’s changing lanes, but that’s another driving
I stopped completely, consciously thinking No rolling stops,
turned right, then proceeded home. After passing the intersection of
Brown Street and Joliet, however, I noticed that a police car was
tailing me closely. If I braked suddenly (which I certainly intended
not to do), he (or she, as it was in this case) would slam into my
Sure enough, the next thing I knew, a
siren was signaling behind me. I turned the corner, parked, rolled down
my window and said to the policewoman, “I honestly don’t know what I’ve
“Rolling stop,” she replied, pulling out her paper pad. “Back there at Brown and Joliet.”
Oh, drat! I knew she was right. There was no other traffic. I was hurrying to get home. To be sure: rolling stop.
noticed there was another police car behind hers and an unmarked police
car on the other side of the street. All with their lights going—I
suspected I was the first traffic violation of the New Year, and with
the whole rest of West Chicago still sleeping, these officers were all
participating in pulling over a 71-year-old (almost 72-year-old),
white-haired driving miscreant and Rules-of-the-Road violator.
way to start the New Year,” I said with a smile as I handed over my
driver’s license and insurance card. The policewoman smiled back. “I’m
not intending to give you a ticket, just a warning.”
finished her proceedings in the police car (all three lights still
rotating) and came back to give me my cards. “Well,” I said. “I guess I
have to thank you for the warning. Rolling stops are a problem for me;
my husband is always reminding me about this bad habit. And also,
thanks for not giving me a ticket.”
chatted a little bit, wished each other a Happy New Year; I waved to
the other cops and proceeded to drive home, taking care that I came to
a full and complete stop at each stop sign or red light. Lesson, for
that day, at least, learned.
However, I am well aware
that nothing much happens in our life haphazardly. Most of the time,
there is meaning beneath the meaning. I am not only guilty of rolling
stops when I’m driving, I’m guilty of rushing through my life making
rolling stops of all kinds. I was rushing in the kitchen the morning my
foot caught on a throw rug, tripping me into the open dishwasher door,
throwing me against a cabinet and dislocating my shoulder, badly
tearing my rotator cuff. Rolling stop.
My general physician
noticed a small goiter on my thyroid a couple years ago, but I rarely
pay attention to my physical self because I’ve got so much going on in
life. A pre-op exam before the shoulder surgery revealed the goiter
again; this time a new GP sent me off for a long-needle biopsy and
hooked me up with an ENT specialist, who eventually removed a nodule
the size of a tennis ball (and the rest of my thyroid, due to a
2.5-centimeter-sized papillary cancer). I am since paying a little more
attention to my body—not so many rolling stops. Turning 72 (and a lot
of time spent in the healthcare system last year) has helped me
understand that I have, for all practical purposes, received a terminal
medical diagnosis. Aging certainly is that (among many things), is it
Years ago, a
young Chinese woman joined our family for a year and a half. She was
Jeremy Mains’ Mandarin tutor and a grad student at Wheaton College. Yan
Li taught me that when the Chinese people say goodbye to one another,
they say, “Walk slowly.”
How appropriate is that for a rolling-stop addict?
The phrase in Chinese is “Man Zou.”
It’s a little like what we say to one another on parting, something
like “do well,” “take care” or “safe journey”—but I think modern
Americans would be much better off if we were reminded again and again
to “walk slowly.” Walk slowly.
Perhaps one of the
reasons the disciples inculcated the mentoring of Jesus during just the
three short years they spent with Him was the fact that they walked
everywhere together. Strolling along sheep lanes or down dusty paths,
talking as they journeyed, gave them time to listen, to hear and to
assimilate. Of course, knowing Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the
flesh, experiencing His teachings and His doings was a tremendous
model. Jesus was unforgettable. And after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit
was available to teach and guide. But I’m suspecting that those long
journeys on foot, walking together, strolling slowly gave them all an
opportunity to absorb the impact of Jesus in a way that our
technology-driven, automotive culture prohibits.
hear me in all kindness: Being too busy is not a sign of maturity or of
effectiveness or of spiritual depth or of wisdom. It is a sin—or let me
put it this way: In my life it is a sign of sinfulness. Nothing
extraordinary can take place in a life that is too busy. A mind too
full is no mind at all. A too-busy life is a sign of many things, but
of few things that are significantly impacting. Being too busy can be a
symptom of character deficiency.
In the best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,
author Susan Cain interviews research psychologist Anders Ericsson. A
question that has driven his career is: How do extraordinary achievers
get to be so great at what they do? One of his conclusions from decades
of collecting data to that question is huge amounts of hours of alone
time. Cain says, “What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields,
Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in
Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional
achievement.” Most of us are too busy to be alone, let alone to
establish deliberate practices for anything.
This is the rolling-stop addict speaking here. Perhaps we all need a
traffic cop—a lifestyle policeman—to pull us over in this New Year 2015
and give us a warning, You just rolled through the stop sign on Brown Street and Joliet.
thanks for the warning. The first thing of significance that happened
to me this year was an annoying event that held deep meaning beneath
the surface of its common meaning. If
I am going to accomplish the most important things God has for me to
accomplish in this time of life (when every birthday is a reminder of
my terminal condition), I am going to have to end this frantic
rolling-stop kind of life.
our modern American fast-paced, breathless, too-many-opportunities
environment defies walking slowly, we have to become intentional in
resisting its godless impact on our schedules. Yep! I mean what I say.
So help me out here. Can you take a moment to share how you have
learned or are learning how to walk slowly? Write me back and tell me
what practices are helping you contain a rolling-stop life.
In the meantime, Man Zou.
Karen Mains' Writer's Memoir-Writing Course
Sheri Abel’s course Experimenting With the Creative Process on the Spiritual Journey is full. That’s exciting! I told her to put my name on the list if registrations faltered, but I got bumped! Next time around.
woman who has extraordinary credentials has stepped forward to apply
her gifts to some of our Hungry Souls gaps. She and I are going to
start pulling the eight years of 24-Advent Retreat templates into
publishing formats so that others can benefit from the planning and
learning that occurred over those years of wonderful silent retreat
Heather Ann Martinez, our Mainstay Ministries
office manager, has pulled the Global Bag Project into organizational
health, and is setting up venues to show bags, display bags, sell bags.
More about this later.
The Writer’s Memoir-Mentoring Course led by me is still open. I’ve moved the final registration date to January 28. Following is the Course Description:
Writer’s Memoir Writing Course led by Karen Mains
rolled out this course two years ago as a test and was amazed with the
community that developed through conference-call work. Some eight
writers from all over the country joined in the journey, and because we
were sharing memoir work with one another, we became close and
supportive with many fruitful results.
Simply put, memoirs are personal essays that may or may not become book length. You must have a sample memoir piece written for purposes of submission when you register.
We will have TWO conference calls a month, and an editorial team,
headed by Karen Mains, will evaluate your submissions. Unlike past
years, this memoir-writing course will include a section on digital
publishing, blog-writing, self-publishing, etc. Karen will give
personal evaluation sessions to each member, and the group will act as
an evaluation team. Depending upon how many sign up and from what parts
of the country, we will try to hold an evening conference call and a
daytime conference call.
Sign up by January 28, 2015.
We will begin in February. My former literary agent said I should be
charging $600–$800 for this. I will settle for a $150 registration fee.
If you then want to make a further donation to Hungry Souls according
to your own lights, monies are needed.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: We MUST have your written memoir piece by our mid-February startup date. Final registration deadline is January 28.
Contact Karen Mains at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meeting for Misfits
in our pastoral ministry, David and I offered a “Meeting for Misfits,”
an evening of exploring why some people felt they just didn’t fit into
anything our young church was offering. The most interesting and
creative kinds of people showed up. Believe me, we created spaces where
they could use their unique contributions. One of the men, Dr. David
Larson, a resident in psychology, went on to Duke University Med
School, where Dr. Bill Wilson was offering a track on health and
spirituality. David Larson stepped from Duke to the Health & Human
Services Department of government, where he set up the measurements and
protocols that determined how spiritual practices positively affected
health. An exciting man, to say the least. Much of what David (and
colleagues) did informed the turn of the psychological community to
examining health factors rather than just pathologies.
David and I are wondering if there are some of you who have always felt
that you just don’t fit the mold. You’re kind of a quiet renegade and
march to a different drummer. We would like to have a conversation with
you. Sunday afternoons after church are a good time for us, so if you
would like to begin that dialogue, contact Karen at email@example.com and we’ll find a good mutual time.
Karen is blogging three times a week in the new year and also posting regularly on her Facebook page. Blog address is http://blog.karenmains.com.
Next week's blogs (for January 26-30) are "Where Were We? Where Are We
Now?", "Bruises on My Knees" and "Terminal Life Diagnosis."
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
“I suspected I was the
first traffic violation of the New Year, and with the whole rest of
West Chicago still sleeping, these officers were all participating in
pulling over a 71-year-old (almost 72-year-old), white-haired driving
miscreant and Rules-of-the-Road violator.”
Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande, M.D.
A book I have loved and am highly recommending is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, M.D.
last, people in the medical profession are stepping up, diagnosing
what’s ill in our health system, and proposing practical and doable
solutions. After spending almost five months in one of the top
hospitals in Chicago watching a beloved son die of an aggressive
lymphoma, I came away with extraordinary questions about treatment
protocols. The medical profession is geared to helping people get
better, but it is horrendous about knowing how to help people die well.
a practicing surgeon, addresses the medical profession’s outrageous
ineptitude when it comes to death: “Our reluctance to honestly examine
the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm and suffering
we inflict on people and has denied them the basic comforts they need
most.” Many physicians, indeed the entire system, is so determined to
preserve life that it causes incalculable suffering.
viewing the effects of chemotherapy on our son, Jeremy, I came to the
conclusion that another generation will look back on this protocol the
way our generation now looks at the past custom of bleeding the
patient: We will think of it as barbaric—the best we may have right
now, but barbaric nonetheless. At any rate, I won’t be around to see if
my predictions come true.
Gawande’s experienced voice is
gentle, humble—he includes stories of his own errors with the
dying—sensible and inspiring. The story becomes personal when he
recounts the death process of his own father, a surgeon as well, and
catches his own reluctance to introduce the difficult but imperative
discussion about approaching death.
I wish I had read this book before we took our own terrible journey into our family battle with cancer.
A few quotes from reviews about Being Mortal taken from Amazon summarize reactions to the book:
deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and
the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy,
dignity, and joy.” —Katherine Boo
“Masterful … Essential …
For more than a decade, Atul Gawande has explored the fault lines of
medicine … combining his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift
for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling. … In Being Mortal, he
turns his attention to his most important subject yet.”
This book is a New York Times Bestseller and was named by the Washington Post as one of the 10 Best Books of 2014.
a doubt, one of the most humane books I’ve read in a while. One day, if
not now, you will need to know about Gawande’s proposals. It is a
must-read for people at all stages of life.
Buy From Amazon.com