Balancing our control in God’s sacred world: cats, ticks, doctors, and Dairy Queen

A very nice cat-loving member of Grace let me know that yesterday was national hug your cat day.  Clearly someone who is NOT a cat decided that because you don’t have to know much about cats to know that hugging is not their first love-language.  Sometimes I’m not even certain they have a love language. But I did not want to disappoint my cats so I went home last night and grabbed Ringo first, the least likely to want to be wholly hugged, and hugged him tight.  He howled as if I was pulling out his claws one by one, but I believe he secretly loved it. And then I grabbed Oscar, the less aggressive but more slinky-like of the two who didn’t howl but simply kept slinkying until he was out of my grasp and under the bed.  Yes, I thought to myself, I have done my good work for God’s animal realm this day.

Ringo and Oscar


My sermon series this summer is entitled: “Rooted: A Summer of Growth”, and one of the weeks is focused on creation. How is it we are called to care, nurture, and advocate for a world we believe is saturated with God’s imagination and sacredness?  Whether it’s a whale breaching an ocean wave, or a copperhead skimming along the top of the water, or a mighty oak offering shade, or a dark earth that brings forth tomatoes and cucumbers and watermelon and fresh corn on the cob, or simply the air that we breathe that allows us to live and play and serve; we have a life-giving earth for which we are responsible.  How do we proactively take that responsibility seriously both spiritually and concretely? And we’ll consider these same kinds of questions in regard to hope, resurrection, forgiveness, generosity, community, and home. We’re going to dig deeply into what the roots of our faith are that allow us to weather strong storms, continue to stay alive in seasons of dormancy, and how we plant, nourish, and harvest within and outside ourselves, within and outside Grace, and within and outside our comfort zones.  I’m anxious to get started!

But let’s talk ticks for a minute.  I did mention a snake in my list above and I consider that being fairly generous, but then there’s ticks.  Wednesday driving to Annual Conference I felt a funny, small and floppy thing on my neck. I readjusted the rearview mirror to take a quick peek, and there it was, the body of a tick whose jaws/teeth/sucky appendages had latched firmly into my skin to begin leeching life from my being.  As any I’ve-had-ticks-a-million-times old farm girl would do, I grasped it with my fingers, pulled it out (#don’tdoitthatway), took a look to make sure I got the head, and promptly threw it out the window driving down the interstate. No harm, no foul. Until Saturday before worship. I came home from Annual Conference, changed my clothes to go to Grace, and noticed that I had a pretty decent sized lump beneath where the tick had been and a rather angry red rash.  I came to worship, we had a very nice evening of communion and prayer and the Word, and I went home to change clothes again and the rash was spreading with a couple of streaks coming down.

I took a selfie – no, not to publish in my blog snort but to send to a medical friend to ask if I should worry.  The answer was yes, get thee to an ER or urgicare of some sort. So I picked one by a Dairy Queen on Blackbob, there’s nothing a butterfinger blizzard can’t cure no matter what the medical community decides.  I walked in, and after waiting a few moments, the very nice Dr. said she did not think the way the bite and surrounding areas looked was normal and did I either keep the tick or take a picture of it? Ummmm, no, I threw it out the window onto the interstate somewhere between Lawrence and Topeka because while I believe in adopting cats and dogs, I draw the line with ticks. Then she asked whether I have thought about using any tick preventative measures if I’m going to walk my dog in the trees, bushes, and grass.  You know, long johns, turtle necks, hermetically sealed HazMat suits. O.k., she didn’t exactly say those things, more along the lines of mosquito repellent with Deet. I shared with her that I believed Deet was a chemical that could cause toxicity to affect my internal organs as well as negatively affect sight, hearing, and what little brain activity I have left. She then shared she believed Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses which are “proven as factual pathologies” are quite harmful to a quality of life as well.  Whatev – I did ask if she had a church home and would she like to come to the one I pastor. She smiled and wrote me a couple of prescriptions for antibiotics and nicely but firmly told me to take them until they are gone no matter what I might find on the internet that says they might cause brain dysfunction and death. I don’t know why she continued to assume I might try and diagnose myself?!!?

I did have a nice friend ask me how I respond when someone who hasn’t had any theological training brings me a sermon they found on the internet and suggests perhaps I could use it to make the point I was trying to make a few weeks ago but maybe not quite as effectively as what they found on the internet.  Oh my goodness, that’s simply and totally different, I confidently said. I then received a justifiable but a less than subtle eye-roll, headshake, and some kind of mumbling about how glad they were not to be my medical professional. And I DID get a Butterfinger blizzard, and it DID help the medicine go down!

Perhaps the heart of the matter is one of control.  Gee, Nanette, ya think?!!? These unbelievably strong and resilient bodies with which we have been blessed are also in their own ways unbelievably fragile.  And when we hit a situation where that becomes undeniably apparent, I/we are reminded of that fact. We can choose a response in that moment. We can choose to refuse to believe it and decide we know best and ignore what others might tell us.  We can acquiesce completely and simply decide everyone else can make decisions for us and whatever they decide is best. OR . . . we can decide to both be intentionally pro-active in personal responsibility AND listen and receive the care and medical advice from those who spend their lives trying to make our lives better and more healthy and healed with proven methods of cure.  I was told by a wise Dr. once that medicine, like nearly every other vocation is both science and art. The science is the research and knowledge and formulae and equations and anatomy and all those other things that forms the basis of diagnoses, and the art is knowing how and when and with what wisdom and intuition to use for each particular case as every human being is unique.  I pretty much love that. And as the swelling has reduced and the rash and streaks have receded and the itching has lessened, I am more than grateful for a patient Dr. snort who treated me well and with no small amount of equanimity. I may not be the first self-diagnoser she’s experienced.

I will take the antibiotics as prescribed until they are gone.  I will mostly take preventative measures for tick repellent, I will be humbly grateful for medical folks who are willing to treat people like me, and I believe a Dairy Queen by every medical facility is a campaign I can give my support!

The YouTube video below is a little amazing in the connection between humans and music and animals – watch it or skip to the end if you get tired, the last example made me laugh out loud!