Cleaning and Change

I’m 56 years old and I have braces. I’m not 6 or 10 or 13, I’m 56 and I now have braces. I feel like maybe there should be a support group. Evidently my teeth are supposed to be off-set where the top teeth meet the bottom ones, and they’re not – they’re directly over one another which means the muscles in my jaw never totally relax which means I sometimes have ongoing “banded” headaches. Is that an outcome of my desire for straight lines, 90 degree angles, and the Christ candle and the cross and the flowers in the sanctuary being in perfect alignment with the middle aisle? It’s probably all somehow related. I now have bracket bars stretching over my top teeth along each side, and “button” brackets on a bottom tooth on each side on which orthodontic elastics (baby rubber bands) are stretched to move my top teeth back to off-set position from my bottom teeth. I’ve already broken the bottom bracket off twice on the right side. Three orthodontic visits in a 9 day period. I shared with the orthodontist that either he’s incompetent or my teeth are beyond repair – you know, in case he wanted my opinion. He responded that I’m proving his point in the need for orthodontic work, my right side is off-balance and there’s too much “torque” with those teeth. I can’t get enough torque in my golf swing to hit a ball long and straight, but I have super-human torque on the right side of my jaw – go figure. Now I’m relegated to soft foods and trying only to chew on my left side. How long? 9-18 months. I asked him if anyone had been able to do it in six. He paused and said he wasn’t sure I was understanding what was happening, that you really can’t “work” to make this process go more quickly. We’ll see, I said.

There is a two-day deadline in front of me that I can affect. Our offices are supposed to be empty, including books out of bookshelves, by Thursday noon so all of the furniture can be removed for painting, re-carpeting, and I’m inheriting a desk, credenza, computer station work unit from Tracy or Walt now located toward the front. And it all matches, like it’s all one unit. I sorta love my stuff that doesn’t match – it feels like it fits me, but maybe it’s time for something different and adapting to change is a way of life that we’re challenged to move toward – braces and a new work unit? That’s a lot for me to assimilate in a short period of time. We’re painting an accent color in the front corner of the office. Guess how many opinions there have been on the appropriate color? We stayed on the blue/aqua range with either a base gray or base green moving toward the blue. After awhile they sorta all looked the same but different depending on where you were standing and whether the sun was out or not. There’s a reason I did not go into artistic interior design and development.

I’m using the deadline for emptying my office as a sign from God that it’s time to release some of the 15 years of books and periodicals and collected trinkets and valued hardhats from construction phases and various children’s sermon objects and dead plants and empty vases and broken staplers etc. into the recycling and trash receptacles that Carmen and Lydia have so subtly rolled into my office. Carmen is one of my heroines. She very gently asked yesterday when I needed to have everything done. I told her Thursday noon. She grinned and said “Thursday noon of what week?” as I was sitting at my table looking through an appointment calendar from 2003 and reading a sermon manuscript I had tucked into one of it’s creases.



It’s hard to clean and release when there are so many memories tied to things that seem empty of value to everyone but the one who knows the story. I found a stack of floppy discs that are labeled “sermons disc 1, 2 . . . from 1980’s-1990’s. My computer does not have a place for floppy discs but my tech savvy folks have showed me how to attach a retro floppy disc reader into the computer with the app that will transcribe the data and put it in the cloud in case I want to preach any of these sermons again. I’m 56, I have braces and floppy discs with sermon manuscripts from the final two decades of the last century. I reeeally feel like there should be a support group.

We have a wonderful communications intern working for us while Caitlin who was just married last Saturday, wahooooo! and is now on her honeymoon is gone. The intern is about to start her senior year of high school. I came across an ancient artifact in my clean and release program in my office that I was certain would intrigue her. It is a pre-historic iPod of sorts . . . a handheld cassette player with AM-FM radio! Seriously! The batteries were corroded but I cleaned it out at home last night and it still works!



It has a cassette in it that I must have been listening to when last it was used. It was Martin Luther King, Jr’s sermon, “A Knock at Midnight”. I know, right?!? Was I EVER not a church geek? I showed it to our intern and asked if she wanted to borrow it, she politely and a little sadly smiled and said, “no, I’m good.” How do you move from 17 to 56 in a blink of any eye?!? BTW, she already had her braces on and off, but her tolerance for my travails is admirable.

One of the sermon manuscripts I found was from early June 1989. It was written and preached immediately following the violence in Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, China. Over a million primarily college and high school students staged a pro-democracy protest for upwards of 6 weeks against state corruption, calling for increased transparency of government decision-making and an increase in civil liberties for all the nation’s citizenry. The government crackdown came immediately preceding a visit from Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and the global spotlight his visit would bring to China. Early in the morning of June 4, over 200,000 armed troops descended on the Square (interestingly, Tian’anmen translates to “gates of heavenly peace” I know, right?) and opened fire killing, detaining and imprisoning over 10,000 unarmed students. It was, at the time, one of the bloodiest oppressive government crackdowns against those seeking freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the right to name the corruptions and hold to accountability those at the top-most levels of a nation’s government. It is now referred to in China as the Tian’anmen Square “Incident” and has been widely erased from China’s recording of history. On the 20th anniversary of the “incident” in 2009, the government posted troops around the Square and did not allow international news agencies to film, photograph, or report on those seeking to commemorate the 20th anniversary with cries to free those still in prison. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of student-led protests against corruption, and the crackdown on a free press and free speech. I wonder if the response will change? Maybe student-led protests against corrupt governmental leadership is one of the things that crosses the borders of our global differences.

Time to put the elastics back on my brackets, pop together more packing boxes, and continue to clean and release my office for newness of life, or at least of a desk/credenza/computer unit. Maybe I’ll put my cassette player earphones back on and listen to some Bachman Turner Overdrive . . . not ALL the cassettes I found were serious sermons by famous preachers, and as BTO was wont to sing – “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, b-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet!”