I Was A Ghost In Two Worlds {Book Club}

I felt about every emotion as I read today’s section in  Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan.

Awed. Check.

Frustrated. Check.

Delighted. Check.

Inspired. Check.

Shocked. Check.

Tickled. Check.

Saddened. Check.

But above all, alive.

Carolyn has rounded the corner and no longer seems shocked by her life (first section we read) or wrestling as much with competence (second section). Instead, she is now able to be present in her life and to those around her. And when she (we) are able to be present, watch out–the pain and joy come flooding in.

In Chapter 15 when Carolyn talked about people’s ideas about God and how it says as much about them as it does about God, it reminded me of the way theologian Scot McKnight starts his class on Jesus. He gives “a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The results are nothing short of astounding.

“The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus’ personality, with questions such as, “Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?” and “Is he a worrier?” The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of “Is he a worrier?” it asks, “Are you a worrier?” The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.

“Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves.”

How do you see this to be true in yourself?

In that same chapter she touches on the idea of what is success, a family coat of arms, and Fletcher’s take on “Fear Not” in the Bible. So much going on. Let’s discuss.

“I hadn’t realized all this was going on in me, but I seemed to be on a roll.” I get that! “Well, in this place I feel sometimes like I really am helping people. Actual people. It’s not just an idea. I can’t help them much. I know it’s not glamorous, but sometimes I think maybe I’m doing more good swabbing up body fluids and being a friendly face here than I ever did working in the Senate.”

What draws me to this quote is the way it is so Jesus. So, go small to go significant. Instead of go big to go significant. We need to hear this message again and again, don’t we. Go small.

And then she got a jeep! This seems to be when Carolyn makes a public gesture that her “real life” is shifting (not sure she was ready to say it had shifted). When she picked the postal jeep, I found this phrase to be one to add to my permanent vocabulary: “high frequency beauty that’s beyond most people’s ability to perceive.” Isn’t that stunning? May God give us eyes to see the high frequency beauty he sees.

I loved her encounter with the “one eyed pirate”.  When he talked about Jesus coming to him when he was in a coma and said, “I can’t remember what He said, but I remember Him very clearly and I knew who He was and He just sat there on that fence and kept me company till I woke up”.  That has to be the most beautiful picture of hope I’ve read today. I thought of your local friends and as you doctor, teach, hang out in the park with kids, study language, and all the myriad of other ways we engage people; the picture of Jesus just keeping them company until they wake up spiritually gave me pause. I am so grateful for his infinite patience.

There is, of course, more to say, but I don’t want this too get too long, so I’ll end with a thought from Chapter 19. “I thought about how sometimes the only thing we can do for another person is simply pay attention to them. Then it occurred to me this might even be the best thing we could every do for anybody. Maybe the ability to confer attention on another person was not simply common courtesy, but was the fundamental act of humanity.”

The power of paying attention. Amen and amen. This may be another way of saying John 3:30. He must increase, I must decrease. The more I pay attention to you, the more I can be present. The most I focus on me, the less present, and therefore Image Bearing, I am.

(But I also know we need to focus on ourselves too. God calls us to the messy middle — focus on others and focus on ourselves.)

I’m so thankful we have another week on this book and can’t wait to continue our conversation in the comments. Until then,

Amy

P.S. Here’s the reading plan:

June 2 — Chapters 1-7
June 9 — Chapters 8-14
June 16 — Chapters 15-20
June 23 — Chapters 21-25

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10 Comments

  1. Elizabeth June 17, 2015

    Well, I got so carried away reading this week that I finished the book (but I’ll keep my comments to the assigned chapters), and am seriously considering buying the one about living in small town Alaska. Our family used to watch “Flying Wild Alaska” on Netflix and were always struck by how cross cultural it was and all the applications for cross cultural work overseas. But that’s another subject entirely!

    So it was really pretty impressive when she listed out all the reasons her Daddy couldn’t hire anyone else. That was a long list. Needing the medical training, needing more $$ than they could afford, all that, basically determined her choices for her. Which I think happens more often than we like to admit. We like to think that we are in control of our own choices, our own lives, when so much is determined by our time and place in the world, just the same as it has been for thousands of years. And yet we try to convince ourselves otherwise, in some effort to feel more in control?

    This passage:

    “‘I might’ve gotten carried away in Washington, but I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I was trying to be a success. I was raised to be successful. Now I don’t know what that means anymore.’

    Fletcher said, ‘Anybody you ask around here would think your Momma and Daddy are a success.'”

    And then Fletcher goes on to say the best thing we can do is keep showing up, and that it takes guts to care about people. And I think he’s right, and that’s what Carolyn is finding out, that you have to be awfully brave to care about the people she’s serving. And it hurts more than she could possibly have imagined before.

    Later Jacob is begging her to come back again and says, “I miss you. World domination is simply not as much fun without you.” I thought this was a funny statement, but also, shows something very true: even when we’re doing something we love, it’s not as much fun without the people we love.

    Then she says back how they always talk about wanting to be in public service so they can help people, and that at her dad’s office she really feels like she is helping people. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not a lot, but she feels it’s more than she ever did in the Senate, which is quite a statement if you ask me. After that conversation, she hangs up and bursts into tears, because she felt like she was “dying from the strain of being pulled in both directions.” I think that’s a familiar feeling — being pulled in the direction of here (Asia) and the direction of there (America).

    I did notice the thread of Langston and his demands for narcotics throughout the book. At one point she asks him if he thinks he might be getting hooked, and he seriously replies back, “No, I ain’t hooked. It says on the bottle you can take them every eight hours, but I only take them every twelve hours.” I thought that was funny (only not funny, because drug addiction is serious).

    I did enjoy the scene when Matthew showed her all his rare, exotic cars. I love when she wants the postal car and he doesn’t want her to have it, and she tells him it performs better on incline pull tests than the Land Rover, and he agrees, because “He knew who he was dealing with now. Another car nut.” I smiled at that part. And I love what she says about the postal jeep, that she likes it because it’s anti-aerodynamic, because it has beauty that no one else can see. I just love that. And I love how she wants to paint it a color that will blend in with the Smokies. Like Tennessee Camo or something.

    I so related to this: “I’ve always had to struggle mightily to be discreet, but as the minutes ticked by with just him and me sitting there, my natural curiosity won out.” I so get this! I always assumed people are as open as I am, and I tended to ask them the kinds of questions I thought were normal. Turns out, not everyone is as open as I am, and I’ve learned a little better not to interrogate people during normal conversation!

    I love her description of her times with her dad in the middle of the night hospital runs. They were so sweet to me, such a tradition of bonding. I loved it. Then she tells the story of seeing her first dead patient. I vividly remember the first time my husband came home from the hospital, after his first dead patient. It was a Friday night, and it disturbed him all weekend. It’s different in real life than in the movies, and he hadn’t expected his own reaction. Later he was able to help a new nurse dealing with his own first dead patient, assuring him it’s normal to be upset, to be disturbed, and to take a while to recover from it. Because there’s nothing like that feeling.

    Later she says “I was strange. I wasn’t fully in either Tennessee or Washingtong. But I wasn’t quite gone in either place. I was a ghost in two worlds.” Again, sort of like moving overseas, or moving back. Which is exactly the same thing as this book anyway: a crossing of cultures, and the fact that the transition is a lengthy process.

    I love the fact that she includes movies she watched in her journey to acceptance. This section had “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and the last section had “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” For some reason this makes Carolyn very real to me, as movies have big impacts on me too, and stay with me a long time after I watch them (which is why I have to be very careful what I watch).

    That section on testimony — ooooh! The explanation of why women weren’t competent witnesses, grr. “It took men thousands of years to figure out the raise-your-right-hand thing.” That was funny at least.

    And I, too, noticed the best, the only, thing we can do being paying attention to people. Paying attention can be hard — it IS a selfless act. It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of effort! Did you listen to that interview of Krista Tippett? I can’t remember who interviewed her (the reverse of normal!) but she talked a lot about listening to people and how hard that is.

    At Miss Hiawatha’s funeral, I loved the paragraph where she describes the family up front, looking like they’re casually milling around, but really being militarily orchestrated to prevent Cousin Freda from falling into the casket and messing up Hiawatha’s hair. That cracked me up. However, something I’ve noticed throughout the whole book is the inclusion of deaths. These were real people, not people she made up, and since you cannot control the time of death for people, people seemed to be continually dying in the book, especially in the last half.

    I laughed and cringed at Barlow’s stories of self-treatment, especially the one about the hemorrhoids. Eek! And then how the doctor just gives him medical equipment for the next time, and advice to clean his hands and the wound before stitching up! I wonder how legal that is — but in this case was most definitely the safest thing the doc could do!

    And at the end of the chapter, where Michael says the Lord loves a man with a broken heart (from the Psalms) and figures the Lord must really love him, because he was born already halfway there. Wow.

     

    1. ErinMP June 20, 2015

      Haha I did the same thing with the book. 😀 The druggie guy-definitely serious but that conversation did have me laughing out loud too.

      Haha. I’ve had the same “problem” with openness/interrogation. Some people actually like it–mainly I think people who didn’t always have a lot of attention so then they feel someone cares without them having to ask for it–so it can be used for good. BUT do you think we notice this trait in ourselves more now that we are in Asia? I’m only wrapping up one year in Thailand but…Thai people are not open. At all. I’ve been made really aware of how open I and American culture in general tends to be. Big cultural difference. A few Thai women helped me understand this in a really nice way, and actually made a comment that was made to me in Japan, too, that sometimes they will seek out Western women so they can be open with no shame–but it can get you (or me I should say) in trouble to be so different, too lol.

      The Michael story–oh I really like him. He is a good person.

      I grew up with people like Barlow. Ok, confession–my parents were like him for awhile. Actually I think they still are it’s just that I’m not like him, so I actually go to the doctor’s. But yeah, once for instance my dad decided it was time to pull out a 14-year-old piece of glass from my mom’s leg that had been in there since a car accident 14 years ago. So it was pretty embedded. Anyway they both got drunk and then he used a pocket knife to dig it out.

      I don’t think they were Christian at the time, by the way. I thought all of this was normal until I got older. So Barlow seemed pretty legit lol. I plan on taking my children to the doctor’s though.  See, I’m way too open lol.

       

    2. Michele Womble June 21, 2015

      I loved the part about paying attention to people, too.  Sometimes I feel like that’s the only thing I can do.  So…If it’s the “best” thing we can do, then there’s hope for me :-).

       

      I also love the part where she says she’s not quite IN either place and not quite GONE from either place.  Definitely can relate to that one.

    3. Amy Young June 21, 2015

      Elizabeth I’ve been know to “interrogate” a few people when I thought we were just chatting :). What? Not everyone hates chit-chat the way I do :)?

      What movies have helped you make sense of/record/connect your stories? For some reason, most of mine are sports movies. Most recently “McFarland, USA” with the unintended, but very real, privilege I have as an educated, Caucasian, from a stable SES family and parents who didn’t divorce and loved each other.

      1. Elizabeth June 22, 2015

        Nope, not everyone chats the way I do 🙂 To answer Erin’s question, I started realizing this long before moving overseas — in my early twenties in fact. But you’re right — I’m now in a culture where certain things are not talked about, although other things Americans wouldn’t talk about, like your age, your weight, your rent, and your salary, ARE considered public knowledge here!

        Alas, I now look back and CRINGE at the times I truly stepped over the line in conversation. Eek! But it first started to dawn on me that not everyone was like me when I would be having regular, light, surfacey ice-breaker kinds of conversation, and seemingly anything I said was too personal to answer. The kind of people who just sort of look at you and pretend they didn’t hear a word you just said? Just flat out refuse to engage, not even to tell you that’s too personal?? Um, yeah, those kind of people happened to me. That’s when I first started realizing not everyone is as open as I am!

        And to answer the movie question well, I would have to think a whole lot more. So many movies have a deep, almost haunting, impact on me, and not always for good reasons, so it would be hard to pick even a few. Although I can safely say Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, because she was always getting into so many scrapes, but there was so much wisdom sprinkled throughout. Same with Jo of Little Women. Really stayed with me because I relate to the main characters so much, in both romance and writing, in addition to always saying the wrong things!! Others might be “The Crucible” for John Proctor’s struggle to determine right from wrong and M. Night Shayamalan’s “The Village” for conservative group dynamics. And plays like “Children of Eden” and “A Man for All Seasons.” I don’t know. There are just too many, and the way things impact me changes from season to season. So I think my answer to this just depends on where I am personally and what I have just watched, LOL!

  2. ErinMP June 20, 2015

    Haha, I guess we are all having internet problems! I think I have a few more minutes and I’m being charged by the hour (I’m in a tiny border town right now getting ready to meet my compassion-sponsored child!). Quickly– loved loved loved Fletcher’s take on not worrying, and how sometimes the best we can do is just show up, and her take on just paying attention to people. I think action is often needed to, don’t get me wrong, but definitely feel like just listening to people and paying them attention and giving them dignity is deep. And I love how he words things!

    The pirate guy was awesome lol.

    Sometimes, too, you just need a Matthew. I liked how he is definitely a mountain man. I love how far he goes to impress her, though she seems a bit clueless that that is what he is doing–pulling up a tree to get her a fruit! I don’t think she notices though. But he’s a really good friend to her.

     I also like when, I think it’s Michael, tells her not to apologize for what she likes…because how often do we do that?? Reading Beth Moore’s so long insecurity…good fix for those thoughts. 🙂

     

    1. Michele Womble June 21, 2015

      oh, that’s true!  I didn’t really think about that,  not apologizing for what she likes, but I do it all the time.

    2. Amy Young June 21, 2015

      Erin, love picturing you typing fast since this is by the minute :)! Tell us about meeting your kid!

      And such a good reminder about not apologizing for what we like — I was thinking about that earlier today and then read this. Twice in one day, I’m paying attention!

  3. Michele Womble June 21, 2015

    Sorry I am LATE!  I was out of town.  Which, I know, sounds kind of lame when the book club is online, but really, I wasn’t able to.  🙂

    I loved the part where she looked into Chandler’s eyes and “they were a bottomless pit of fear and need.  ….even though it was painful to see, I couldn’t look away.”  And how she “covered” for it by commenting on how pretty the color of his eyes were.  Also with Chandler, I was so touched when “Chandler had come to us for help. He’d needed us, desperately, and we hadn’t known the right thing to do…” I have so been there.  I mean, not with the person dying soon after, but still, with them desperate but you can’t figure out how to help them.  it’s a terrible feeling.

    “Take care of people?” I said.  “I can’t take care of anybody!I just sit on a stool and watch them….”(fill in the blank).

     

    but that comes back to what Fletcher said about showing up and giving them attention.

     

    AND “Fearlessness…means a conscious decision not to indulge ourselves.”  oh yeah.

     

    and I’m still laughing about “but these were not men to be easily discouraged” (talking about trying to lead the calf down the road from the trunk of the car.

     

    “I could save somebody’s life and it wouldn’t even get covered…..” (no one will ever know most of what I’ve done here)

    and “I WANT to come back, believe me.  But there’s something about this place and what I’m doing…” 

  4. Amy Young June 21, 2015

    Michele — there are so many great lines in this book, aren’t there. And I love how you put part of them and I can picture it in my mind and I can picture all of us together nodding as you read them to us. Read on sister!

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