Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

Distraction Only Masks the Pain


A nice place to be in pain ..but it still hurts.

Blog Reader Warning: This post is not uplifting. If you are an eternal optimist, Osh Popham, or Pollyanna…stop reading now.

I am in quite a bit of pain today. My neck is so stiff I can’t turn my head. I am seriously considering going to an emergency clinic for muscle relaxants. The problem with pain is there is never a good time for it. I happen to be on vacation trying to relax, but it is pretty hard when you can’t turn your head and all you can hear is your brain screaming. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Now if you are a follower of mine on Facebook, you probably saw a different version of my vacation. You saw my smiling face as the winner of my self-inflicted Coconut Decathlon. Vacation is awesome. My smile is real. But so is my pain.

Today, when my pain was at its height, I excused myself to go float down the lazy river. I adjusted myself in the inner tube so my neck was resting as gently as it could and I prepared to distract myself to mask the pain.

First, I pretended I was baby Moses going down the Nile…being rocked gently by the water…oblivious to the alligators floating beneath. I pretended to giggle and coo at the birds and palms as they passed overhead.

Next, I became Anne of Green Gables. I relived one of my favorite moments where she lies down flat in a canoe, closes her eyes like she is dead, and launches herself down the river while reciting Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot.

As I came around the corner, I could hear the rushing falls. I pretended it was the distant sound of Niagara and I was in a barrel headed toward the edge. As the sound became intense, I crossed myself…a mighty rush covered me… but I made it out to the other side.

These tactics worked for a bit. I practiced them a lot when I lived for six grueling months with a herniated disc in my back. I learned how to put the pain in a different compartment in my head and go on living.

Sadly, this made me think of my friends back home. My dear friends and their 16-year-old son who passed away by suicide exactly one year ago today. Noah, couldn’t distract his pain any longer. And now his parents and brother…and community… are still in pain. All trying to live between the ebbs and flows of feeling the pain and distracting it.  Feeling and distracting. Feeling and distracting. Like the waves under my inner tube on the river Styx.

My pain in the neck will eventually go away (I hope). Their pain won’t ever go away completely…not the way Noah’s did. I suppose they shouldn’t expect it to.  None of us should really. Pain…whether physical, mental,  or emotional…is either felt or distracted…until it ends.  And, sadly, some pain just doesn’t ever go away.

My heart goes out to you today, my friends.