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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 26 - Smell Fast

When I was growing up my dad always used to say in regards to education, "make like a sponge and soak up all you can."  He saw within me the capacity for great learning.  It's said kids are the worlds greatest information receptors while simultaneously being the world's worst data interpreters. We are constantly learning and experiencing new things.  We see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  The various combinations of these "inputs" allow us to process this information in a multitude of ways.  So how do we process what we have received?  How do we interpret the information?

Although there are undoubtedly some erroneous ways to interpret what we receive and don't receive, there are some principles by which I believe we can understand what we've been given.

Principle #1.  Take control of the "inputs" on your life

Colossians 3:17

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Every sight, sound, taste, smell, and feeling should be experienced "in the Lord".  We may struggle with how these sensations are processed, but at least we can be assured of why we experience them.  I suspect as long as our actions conform to this ideal of acting in the Lord the sounds will become more soothing and the tastes will grow ever sweeter. 

Likewise, the absence of any of these sensations because of our faith in the Lord makes the remembrance of these gifts all the fonder.  Our thankful hearts allow us to see the blessings of these gifts regardless of how they are often abused by people who have their minds on selfish gains.  "in the Lord" is the catalyst to experiencing the goodness of the treasures of God given us in this word.  To experience the world through the eyes of Jesus via our five senses is more valuable than the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes or the pride in possessions.

Principle #2

2 Corinthians 10

5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Not everything we experience in this world is via our willful activity in the Lord.  We live in a fallen world and because of this will often experience spoiled goodness.  The blessings God intended us to enjoy are corrupted by man's separation from him.  Instead of life, we experience death.  Instead of his good pleasure, we receive the result of man's evil motives.  But even in the midst of this corruption we are to take captive the stink we may experience in this world and make it obedient to Christ.

For the last 26 days I have longed for the smell of fresh laundered clothes, bread, roast, candles, and coffee.  I miss the smell of grass, and roses, lavender, and rain.  My mind thirsts for these smells.  My body longs for them.  They are a promise of better things.  They are a dim reflection of the best I might hope for.  When my Father gives, he gives well.  If I can see the contrast with or without his his sensual blessings in my life, maybe I will be able, in some equitable manner, be able to appreciate the far greater beauty of his spiritual ones.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 22 - Smell fast

Unintended consequences are a funny thing.  Remember when you were young and you would cross your eyes?  You just thought it looked funny.   But eventually some smart alec would chime in with a, "If you keep doing that they will get stuck that way."  You grow up and realize that it was a silly warning.....but not being a doctor, you still harbor a faint suspicion that it could be true.  Well I am dealing with some slight anxiety about my nose.  When I remove my clip to stretch my nose, up down right left, I have these huge indentions where the nose piece was attached.  They are more like craters.  I don't consider myself to be vain but I don't want the new strange look......its different.....I like my nose the way it was thank you.

Rhinoplasty or "a nose job" is the second most common form of plastic surgery in the United States.  There are around 300,000 performed annually.  (2/3 are women, you vain creatures I think its strange to even have a discussion about noses but here we have hundreds of thousands of people yearly forking out $3,500 a pop.  I think I am going to go into business consulting......charge people about a hundred bucks who are wanting a new look, give them a $4 swimmers clip, save them $3,400, make me $96, and everyone is happy.  If they want a thinner nose....Easy.... squeeze that clip tight....leave it pain no gain ...and in a matter of weeks.....whalla.  Want a full wider nose?...shove that clip up those nostrils.  Let sit.  done.  Longer nose? ......fix to tip of nose ..... etc.... easy.

Its easy to speculate about a few  possible outcomes resulting from the decisions one makes, but its quite impossible to anticipate all outcomes in any comprehensive way.  But is it always necessary or important to think about the outcome?  Is it important to wonder what certain experiences might be like?  With my first three experiences this year I read books, prepared, prayed, and organized, all in preparation for the "experiment".  I readied myself.  With my nose experience I did none of those things.....just kind of jumped in to see what would happen.......and have enjoyed the "exploration" mightily.  The diversion is enjoyable.  I am thankful to be able to smell....and breathe.  I am constantly hoping for super senses.  But most of all I get jazzed about being able to "try" things.......In extraordinary ways.  Its fun.  And different.  I love most people's weird idiosyncracies for no other reason than the novelty.  The uniqueness.   I find myself realizing with all of these experiments that my unintended consequence are not some mysterious truths I discover at the end of the journey, but the joy of experiential discovery engaged in along the way.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 18

I don't know if this is related.....I wear my nose clip all day and when I get ready for bed at night I take it off.  I sleep like a baby.  Good sleep.  Is this simply a result of being able to breathe well?  I don't know.  Could it have something to do with the smell of my bed?  A familiarity with myself.  I don't really associate smells with my bed, although I have heard several people talk about how everyone has that unique scent and one's bedroom is the most noticeable place to pick up on it.  Maybe when I go to sleep at night I am reintroduced to myself in an important way.

This may sound like weird mumbo jumbo.  But have you ever stood in front of the mirror and looked yourself in the eye?  Sometimes the guy I see, seems a stranger.  I look at him and think, "Who are you?  What are you doing and why?  Where are you from?  Where are you going?  What do you want?"  There is an ominous disconnect.   Is it possible I really know so little about this man I see?  Its like that foreign scent someone is exposed to for the first time......not good or bad.....just alien.

Then there are other times I am all there is.  I am the sun.  All things revolve around me including God, family, and friends.  Things only have meaning through the lens which I see.   I recognize this smell well....yet its stale....and full of decay.

Finally, there is the smell of life and hope.  There are those times when the even the shadows of death only  beckon my thoughts to promises of God.  The sweaty bodies of mission workers riding back exhausted from a hard day of work.  The smell of age found with the compassion of health care providers in a retirement home.  These smells have associations for me.  Association with love.  You've probably heard of the connections smell has with memory and emotion.  I doubt anyone fully understands them but they undoubtedly exist.  So the question is......Can we smell God?  Is it possible to recognize his fragrance?  If God is love, and I can see myself through his eyes (or smell myself through his nose) it a fragrance I can distinctly recognize?  Does my life and identity pass the fragrance test?  In other words...can I smell him on me?  Self Identifying in this context is gratifying.  It recalls gratitude, mercy, and grace.

Thank you Lord for masking my scent with and through yours.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 13

Today I tried the potato, onion, and apple in that order.  To get a representative sample, I took a big ole bite out of each one .  They definitely all tasted different, although I must admit they had similar consistencies.  I did hear today that it is difficult for those who cannot smell to fall in will have to wait at least a couple more weeks.

There is a condition associated with the lack of smell.  Its called anosmia.  It can be partial or complete and can be caused by injury, illness, or congenital defect.  What if I had a slight case of anosmia all my life?  How would I know?  Its not like there is an smell test most of us take similar to seeing the E at the top of the eye chart.  What if I have been living my whole life handicapped and didn't even know it?  I used to wonder this with sports.  What if I had a defective heart ........and really was trying harder that everyone else?  As a function of my limitations......and condition......... I could be the greatest ever.  lol.

The interesting thing about not having a measurable quantity or quality associated with your sense of smell
(or a multitude of other characteristics) is it really makes those hypothetical kinds of questions silly.  We have people that spend lots of time thinking about the "what ifs", but why?  At some point we have to run with what we know.  Jesus said from those to whom much is given much is expected.   Whether I am the 5 talent man or the one talent man I have to do the best with what I have.

Each of these 40 day stretches seem to be repeating this lesson to me.  I may not be able to do everything with my limitations (fasting, blindness, poverty) but why would I think my effort was somehow the primary agent in the equation anyways?  Yes, God wants my best but my best is meaningless apart from God.  God will use all of us who recognize our feebleness, weaknesses, and limitations far more than those who know how enduring, strong, and skilled we are.

Hope you are all doing wonderful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 11- a bunch of unrelated scent oriented activities.

I went to the Dollar tree and Hobby Lobby the other day.  I was looking for scratch and sniff stickers to use for a sermon illustration.  Neither had them!  I had to resort to amazon.

I felt powerless driving back to Clemson on Wednesday without my sense of smell.  My car has been leaking oil and I couldn't smell that distinct odor.  I had to stop every so often and manually check the oil.

Today I took a big risk.  I found some old salad dressing in the back of the fridge that I would normally sniff for a first line of defense.  Instead I just had to taste......and it was yummy.  Had the first lettuce and radishes out of the garden.

I was doing a search for people with a keen sense of smell and I came across this board where they were discussing what cushy jobs might be available for super smellers.  A couple of these folks claimed to possess this great gift, but no one could come up with anything all that relevant.   Suggestions included a truffle sniffer, gas leak detector, and deodorant tester.  None of these sounded too appealing.  

Its frustrating not being able to tell when its time for me to wash my shorts.  Normally they are judged on the smell test but now I have to wing it.

These animals in order are supposedly the ones with the best sense of smell.
- Shark 
- Moth 
- Dog (esp. the Bloodhound) 
- Snake 
- Rat 
- Albatross

The clip is getting much more comfortable but still makes me sore enough for me to take it off at night.

Our sense of smell is supposed to be strongest between the ages of 30-60.  Women are usually better smellers.  Its not likely genetic.  Probably men have allowed themselves to be exposed to so many foul smells over the years that their sense has been seared.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 8

I used to make this analogy with the college students.  Imagine the best cookies you have ever had.....fresh out of the oven.  The aroma calls to you..... it lingers.  Your mouth waters.  You have your milk ready as your anticipation builds.  You know the best of ingredients have been used.  You know these cookies were baked to a perfect golden brown.  But before you take a bite you are given one last piece of information.  The master chef tells you a tiny amount of feces was added to the cookie mix.........he quickly explains that it is so small you probably wouldn't even be able to tell a difference.................................How good do those cookies seems now?  Its hard to reconcile the two, isn't it?  The bad spoils the good even when the good comes in massively larger quantities.

Smells are this way too......baking bread makes my mouth water......baking bread with a touch of spoiled milk does not.  It just takes a little leaven to work through the whole dough.  Which is in fact one of the primary concepts behind Jesus' teachings of the leaven of the Pharisees and the need for unleavened bread.....pure and undefiled.   We need lives of purity to offer to God.  It doesn't matter that we are mostly good.  You can't be mostly holy.  You either are or you are not.  When we think our 99.99% holiness is somehow acceptable its the same as thinking pure sugar is OK with a little bit of funk mixed in.  I happen to think it is possible for people to live Godly lives 99% of the time by the power of the Spirit but ......who cares?  I mean, don't get me wrong, 99% godly is better than 90% godly, but neither is worth patting ourselves on the back about.  Both still put us at God's mercy.   We still need his grace.

Sometimes we think we can cover up our stink with a whole lot of good.  It just doesn't work that way.  To enjoy the good the bad has to be taken away.  Enter Jesus' death and resurrection.

Not to change the subject but I hung out with my grandmother for her birthday today.  Even after telling her about my experiment she kept telling me how good everything smelled.  I don't know if she just forgot or she was messing with me.

And why do people ask you to take a whiff of things that smell horrible?  Its kind of a weird phenomenon.  We don't usually do that with other things.  Hey, Suzie, I accidentally stapled my hand this morning.  It about made me cry.  Come here and let me staple your hand so you can see how it feels..............Suzie:.NO WAY!!!! ..........Me: Well at least come over here and tell me if you think this smells like something died.........Suzie: OK, I'll be right over.

Fish and visitors smell in three days.”  Ben Franklin

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 7

The other day Shaun came into the church building and commented on how putrid it smelled.  I didn't notice.   Later that same day someone cut the cheese in the car.....everyone started groaning.....again, I didn't notice.  Last night I took my clip off to let my nose rest a little ....I don't want there to be any permanent deforming.  lol.  And when I took the clip off I caught a little whif of my BO.  Not strong, but it was there.

When I think of all the wonderful scents I am deprived of I forget about the unpleasant ones.  If it wasn't for my nose I could live in squalor and not even notice.  I could live in the stink and it not bother me in the least..
Is this good or bad?  I think it is decidedly bad.  Why?  Because the smells usually reflect the cleanliness and thus the sanitary quality of the environment.  Our sense of smell almost always operates in the same way our conscience does.

It is a warning signal.  If we lose our spiritual sense of smell we become like the hypocritical liars whose consciences have been seared (1 Tim 4:2).  Evil loses its unpleasantness.  Where there's smoke there's fire.  We live in a culture where we have lost the ability to recognize the rottenness of rot.   I don't know how this discernment of evil operates exactly.  I believe its informed by the Bible and empowered by the Spirit but "how" it occurs I don't really know.  I do believe it does.  Haven't you ever been in a situation that just didn't seem right?  You couldn't put your finger on why but it just didn't feel ideal?

My taste hasn't been affected but there is a drabness I feel when I can't smell.  We talk about the spice of life.....well without smell everything is a little more bland.

I had been disappointed about the lack of inquiry into my nose apparatus......Well the cure for that evidentially is to hang around older folks......which I have done extensively the last couple days.   Many of them don't care to be inquisitive and the questions have poured in.  The problem is that with this age group and this kind of experiment.....being so is not likely to resonate with them.  I have seen it on their faces.   I know my grandmother loves me unconditionally but I could tell she thought I was engaging in silliness.  You didn't eat for 40 days?  You didn't see for 40 days?  One lady even told me I might want to be careful because people might think I have a screw loose.   I am tired of the bland, drab, and dull approach to life.  I don't always want to be proper and appropriate.  Sometimes I want to be outrageous.....but in a good way.  Its time for some brightness and color.  Its time to breathe in deeply.  If it means I give it up for a short while to make the inhalation a little sweeter tomorrow.  So be it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 3

I love talking about this smell stuff for some reason.

After the flood, Noah built an altar to the Lord.  He took some of the clean animals, sacrificing them to the Lord.

Genesis 8:21

21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

It was basically a barbecue.  A barbecue with the Lord.  Do you ever wonder in what sense the aroma was pleasing to the Lord?  I doubt the God of the universe thinks of smell in terms of spices and seasonings.......maybe he likes a little lemon pepper..idk.  ....but he did like smell for some reason.  Otherwise he wouldn't have made it.   But does God like the smell of skunks and lavender equally?  There is an obvious use of smell in these Biblical passages to help us as human beings relate...We know what smells good (Baked bread) and what smells bad (pull my finger).  So God uses a concept we can relate to and understand......there are good smells and bad ones.  You don't have to be a scientist to know the difference

........Its fairly obvious the attitude of the heart was most important to him.  Their hearts smelled good.  Weird right?  Noah and his family were thankful, and that pleased the Lord.  So why the scent reference?  Why even make mention of the aroma?  Is it just for our benefit to better understand?

Well, I have a little theory on that.  Have you ever been grilling out.....steaks lets say.  The fat sizzling.  The char and smoke and wonderful smell of roasted meat.  Your mouth begins to water.....We've all been there right?

How many of you.....primed for a taste.....excited....anticipating.....stomach growling.... have taken a taste and found that wonderful T-Bone tasted like CRAP?  Really.  I haven't.  There may be extreme examples you point to but generally that steak tastes as good as it smells.  Period.

Now what does that say about our sacrificial, grateful hearts?  Maybe like grilling the steaks, God gets even more excited about what he can expect from our lives devoted to him.   Once he starts getting a little smell of our thankful hearts he anticipates what the consummation (taste) of our lives may be.  If I know God is excited about what kind of a man I may become, I am encouraged to be that man.  

We miss out on the scent imagery that is so deeply embedded in the sacrificial language of the Bible because none of us have ever sacrificed a burnt offering.  If we agree the imagery is important, how can we reinvigorate it?    Maybe when we grill out for Memorial day or the 4th. or for any reason grasp this connection....we can think of our barbecue offering.  Not burnt offering....but barbecue.  We can still today come to him with the same contrition.  We can still be grateful.  Whatever we do we ought to come to him with that type of thankfulness. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 2

I have been a little disappointed today because I have been all over the place and no one has asked me about my nose clip yet.  I had a whole bunch of vague responses on the ready.

For example:  Cashier #1: "Why do you have that thing on your nose?"  Me (earnestly): "Because I couldn't risk it."
Cashier #2: "What happened to your nose?"  Me (laughing): "Don't be silly, haha...  What happened to my nose?  ahhhhh...."
Cashier #3: "What's that on your nose?" Me (with surprise on my face as I slowly reach up to my nose):  What the.....!!!!!!!??????"

Maybe later today or tomorrow.......

Smells I missed out on the last 24 hours
1. Matt grilling steaks, chicken, and fish last night
2. My flowers in the backyard and the cool breeze
3. Firehouse subs and that smoky smell someone identified
4. My trip to the facilities
5. the Cleanliness level of my current ensemble.
6. The gas pump
7. The vinegar in the salt & vinegar chips
8. The coffee I had last night
9. the garbage
10. teen spirit.

Today I am also experimenting with a painters mask.  I may also try RD's idea of vapor rub under the nose.  The mask is definitely less painful.  I felt like I was bruising my nostrils.  Not often we get to say that eh???

Its hard to eat with a nose clip.  You can't breath.  You have to take a breath, quickly chew your food, and then breath again.  Not as easy as it sounds.  I guess all your sinus infections have taught you as much.

Well, thats all for now.  Smell you later.....

I judge people on how they smell, not how they look.
Jennifer Lopez

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 1 - Smelling

Day 1 of my smelling experiment.  I thought to get started I would do a little internet research on smells.  It seems that the olfactory system is much more important to our lives than what we may realize.  It helps us interact with the world around us.  Like taste it is the only sense that is deciphered through chemical processes.  We have two smell systems evidently.....thus two    These systems help us with memory and communication.  Interesting.  Maybe I will start remembering things more effectively or maybe I will have to communicate in different ways?  Its already been pointed out to me that I cannot hum.  Stink!!!! Well there goes about 80% of my verbal

Well if I was a little sad about not getting to "suffer" enough during my spending freeze God is making up for it with this smelling stoppage.  This sucks.  I feel like I have a cold....well maybe not that bad.  I am developing a headache though because I desperately want to BREATHE.   Yesterday I worked outside all day....planting all sort of vegetables and flowers.  Today all those smells have gone.  Disappeared.  Sianara.  I love  my ability to smell.  I know "smell" may the red headed stepchild of the senses but it needs to take a back seat no longer.  Its hard for me to imagine being more grateful for it in 39 days than I am right now.

My "nonsmelling" apparatus is a $2.50 speedo swimmers nose clip.  I have only had it on for a few hours but already my nostrils ache.  I haven't been anywhere in public yet but I need to think of some good explanations to tell folks who ask me why I'm wearing it.  I though about whipping up some anger and grumbling, "the stench of humanity"..  That would be kind of a bummer though.  I want something a little more light hearted.

Well I'll leave you with this.  Quirkiness is a spice of life.  Be silly.  In the silliness you might learn something AND have some fun.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 

 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 39

I went to my first dance recital today.  It was quite entertaining.  It was a mix of toddlers and university students, classical and hip hop.  Gabrielle, you did great!   Last week I attended a couple 4-6year old Tball games.  There were dirt piles being made in the infield and bases being stolen (literally lifted off the ground and ran off with).  I even had the privilege to coach third base one of the games.  When our team's little lead off made it to third, she preceded to start telling me about her jazz dance team......never giving a moment's concern that there was a game going on.  She never took her eyes off me as she told me her story...despite my urging her to watch the batter.

Yesterday some friends from church got together to work on/in/around the building.  We vacuumed and scrubbed, cut and mulched.  I even developed some blisters trying to muscle the crazy buffing machine with the mind of its own. While we were taking a break I begin showing some of the ladies some good yoga techniques to pop your back.  This led to the teens seeing how flexible they were.....which led to all of us in some very funny which point one of the elders wives walked in on us.........good times.

These moments had two things in common.    1. They brought me joy.  2. They were all free.

We've all heard that expression, "the best things in life are free".  Well I am inclined to agree.  I can't say that I have experienced any substantive drop off in joy this last 40 days........I have more why do I spend?  Life has been a blessing before and after my spending freeze.  Could it be that spending is a little overrated?  Could it be that the convenience money can provide has little to do with providing joy?  It can give us pleasure but not joy.  Pleasure is the worldly man's cheap attempt to buy what can only be freely received from a good Giver.   You know how Proverbs says a man's riches may ransom his life but a poor man hears no threat?  Its true.

Its nice to be reminded that some of these chains we wear have been self shackled.  Its not difficult to free ourselves.  It is difficult, once we've become addicted to the imitation, to see the genuine for what it is.  Lord fill me with joy.  Don't allow me to fall in love with money and what it can do for me.  Let me see everything as truly yours.  Thanks for letting me borrow it.  I hope I can make you proud through and by my use of it.