Today's Gospel reading is Luke 3:1-6, which includes the famous passage from Isaiah:
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
This is one of the reasons I have so much trouble with Advent. We hear this passage every blessed year, and every year I think, "Oh, yeah. That promise was made thousands of years ago, and are we even close yet?"
It doesn't help that today is Human Rights Day. I won't go into the United States' dismal current record on this -- there are enough bitter, cynical, nay-saying political blogs out there, and I don't like reading them and certainly don't want to write one -- but then again, you probably don't need me to, because you've all seen the recent story about how the U.S. locks up more people than any other country, right? We have 5% of the world's population, and 25% of its prisoners. Go, us.
It doesn't help that I live in Nevada. I love Nevada, really, but it has a generally dismal social-service record. This morning's paper included this story about the state's Mental Health Court:
Defendants in mental health court participate in a yearlong program in which the state pays for rent, therapy and medication until they are deemed capable of living outside the court's supervision. Fewer than 20 percent are arrested again.On the one hand, that's a very heartening success record, and this program actually costs less than locking people up. (To learn more about mental-health issues inside prisons, see this post at Anxiety, Addiction and Depression Treatments.) But because Nevada's mental-health services are otherwise so poor -- in the state that consistently has one of the country's highest suicide rates -- it also means that the best way to get help here, if you're severely mentally ill, is to commit a crime.
What's wrong with this picture?
Okay, I know: it's not like there's ever any lack of bad news. My thinking right now is colored by the fact that I spent most of yesterday fighting off a migraine, got no exercise, got the bad news about my friend last night, and woke up at 4:00 this morning, after roughly four-and-a-half hours of sleep. Today's one of my marathon days: church, followed by a communion service at an assisted-living facility, followed by a four-hour hospital shift. I love doing all that, but having it all on one day is exhausting even when I've had enough sleep.
So as I lay in bed, staring up into the darkness, I came up with a plan. I almost always go to the 10:30 service, because I like the music. But this morning I feel like quiet, and since I'm up so early anyway, I'm going to go to our 8:00 service, which doesn't have music. That will give me time to swim before I go to the assisted-living facility.
Because that (very small) service is monthly, this will be our Christmas celebration. Two friends from church who can actually sing are going to come along to sing Christmas carols. Yesterday, Gary baked ginger cookies, at my request, and I went to World Market and bought some cute animal ornaments; at some point today, I'm going to make up little gift packages with cookies and ornaments to give to the people at the service. That will probably make me feel better.
Then I'll shoot home, grab a quick bite to eat, and head off to the hospital. We'll see how that makes me feel: it's impossible to predict!
And if I can't sleep well tonight after all of that, I'm really in bad shape.