Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If We Have Food and Covering

Birds have nests, foxes have dens,
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man
You had the shoulders of a homeless man
No, You did not have a home---Rich Mullins

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
___________________________________________________


Two customers, two different experiences:

“I really need a coffee. I was up until eleven-I’m house shopping with my parents. We’re going to live in a house together. We looked at five-bedrooms and some seven-bedrooms. One of them was 3,500 square feet. I really don’t need a pool….”

*****

“My dad is about 89 or 90, something like that. He has a tumor between his heart and his bladder. We gave him some poison, from a scorpion. They said he was going to die but he’s lived three years. We grew up in Mexicali, my dad played in a salsa band. When he came home, (no air conditioning) he’d tell me to wave a piece of cardboard until he fell asleep, ‘when I fall asleep, I don’t feel nothing.’

We lived in a house with mats-we didn’t have furniture. Little house, with, (he illustrates with his hands, and I understand it to be) a thatched roof. The river had everything in it, shrimp and crab, and fish. We have a picture of me as a boy with big shrimp. Poor, what’s poor? We had everything. "

"For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.-1 Timothy 6:7,8

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Not Quite Writers' Block...

Yes, I know. I've got ideas spinning around in my head. I scribble notes. I imagine photographs. I laugh at my own jokes. I second guess myself and stop writing. I have a good idea at three a.m. and forget it by morning. So, I promise a new post before Thursday.

Do you have any ideas? Anything you'd like me to write about? Questions you'd like answered? Let me know, and check back in Thursday. I promise something new---just don't know what.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Blessing In The Wilderness-When God Leads Out

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

God blesses us not only in what He leads us into, but what He leads us out of. Lately, security has been on my mind. I seek to find financial security in my work and in my investments. I revel in a relationship that will be there through my fading years. Pray for protection and maturity for my daughter to carry her into adulthood and all the adventures that await her there. Though God blesses by these still waters, greater blessings oft come as we walk down darker roads.

As I embarked upon adulthood, a friend gave me a pamphlet which reads, in part, “…but it is likely God will keep you poor, because he wants you to have something better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that he may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.” It is from this unseen treasury that God desires we find our security.

Previously I lived with my family in a nice five-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. We went to a church where most of the dads worked, and the moms stayed at home. Getting a well paying job would have kept me there. The status quo meant moving to the desert-literally. No job came, no door opened. God dragged me out to the desert. My marriage ended, and I ended up in a small rental house on the bad side of town.

Through that whole experience of reliance, I grew in character. I grew in my trust of God for the daily things. Living in a hotel room for three weeks, hot showers were a cause of praise, not something I took for granted. Forcing me into the wilderness showed me that (quoting Lewis) my faith was built on a house of cards.

To have stayed would have meant a faith on cruise-control, never shifting to higher levels, never growing solid, never growing real. I can see a shadow of these now five years out. Outwardly, I would have felt more secure. Certainly the grass would have been greener, heck, I would have had grass. Inwardly though, I think I would have died a slow death through boredom and lack of heart. Comfort and complacency would have killed me.

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Postcard Collection-Bear Band Vacation Show

Because, when life's a bear, you need to crank up some tunes....


The Disney Gallery
New Orleans Square-
Dave Feiten, 1984

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cedar Breaks Nat'l Monument

More pics from the road trip to Utah in July. Finally. These are from Cedar Breaks, a small national park outside of Cedar City.























Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Plea For Compassion

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."


“God pulled through,” I said.

“Really, God pulled through?” My friend John said, sarcastically. As if to further say, “Duh, of course God pulled through. Doesn’t He always?”

God doesn’t always ‘pull through’ in the way that we expect or hope for. To miss this fact is to miss the heart of a person in the midst of significant struggle. God did not save my marriage or heal my friend Erik of cancer. My brothers and sisters in North Korea are still martyred daily.

Well meaning Christ loving brothers and sisters often recount the story of Job with those going through a season of trial. They remind us that God restored Job, giving him seven sons and three daughters. They quote Isaiah 61 to the hurting brother, saying that God will bring ‘beauty from ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.’ Yet we mustn't fail to recognize that Job initially lost his first children in a tornado. Acknowledging beauty from ashes means that something burned in the first place.

If we are to encourage people in their sufferings, we must be willing to meet with them on a heart level. This necessitates identifying the reality of the trial. God may not heal the marriage or allow the prisoner escape from his fetters. Remember that Jacob wrestled with God and was blessed, yet suffered a dislocated hip (to this day, the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh-Gen. 32:32).

Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” The day of rejoicing will come. Until then, let us not discount the fires that were walked through along the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Go Ahead, It'll Take the Edge Off

Hell. I was going to ride anyway.

Got home from work and popped open the browser. Didn't find the email I was hoping to find. Found one from an old friend instead.

"I am in major marital and financial crisis - divorce papers filed. I can tell you more details over the phone. Very concerned about---, as our child still needs his father in his life. ---has little or no family/friends to support him during this difficult and heart-renching time. Has he by any chance contacted you? If not, perhaps after we speak, you could try to reach out to him as he needs a stable and loyal friend right now. I feel his mental, emotional, and psychological state are very low, most likely even suicidal. Don't know where he is."

A dark, dismal, grey and windy day outside which, now, suited my mood just perfectly. I jumped on the bike and furiously road into the wind. Screaming at the wind, and the world, I roared, "Come on! Is this all you've got? A little wind? Come on! Come-On."

Last night at bible study, another friend shared that while he was at the courthouse fighting his divorce, he got a parking ticket. He said that formerly, he would have stewed about it for hours. He said at this point, he feels it's just another skirmish in the battle. He just says, "Bring it on!"

Screaming, and mashing on the pedals doesn't make for good speed or an even cadence, but it takes the edge off of a bad email---or a bad circumstance of any sort for that matter.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How My Being Republican Kills People

My being a Republican could kill people. How is it that something so important to me could be so deadly?

1) My identification with being a Republican mars my identity as a Christ follower.

To illustrate, let’s say I head over to my Dad’s house for Thanksgiving. Inevitably, I will be attacked for belonging to the same party as Sarah Palin, or George Bush. We’ll have a heated discussion about something that matters as much as the weather.

If I’m attacked, it should be because I follow Christ. I believe that without a heart changed by becoming a follower of Christ, there will be no real change in behaviour, hence no change in the social structure. Finally, failing to follow Christ results in spiritual death, and permanent separation from God.

2) I give credence to the idea that doing the right thing (being a conservative) makes you a good person.

Fact is, none of us are good people. None of us is perfect; all of us are deserving of Hell. Wearing a Republican lapel pin doesn’t make you any nicer person than belonging to the socialist party or the democrat party. Here’s the strange thing-If you are a follower of Christ, your political affiliation, ultimately, doesn’t matter. You are still fully God-approved, and a citizen of Heaven. (Granted, I’ll fight you tooth and nail regarding the earthly difference it makes).

3) My energy is focused on things that lead away from God.

The book of James says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Though my energies as a Republican are much toward this end, still I wonder how much more I could focus on learning about God, and helping orphans, widows and the poor in their distress.

I imagine my wrestling with this issue will be similar to the illustration Luther gives of the Christian balancing grace and law; like a drunk man riding a horse, you tend to always fall to one side or the other.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Clown Make-Up and Joy

Of course there was an award. The best costume of the day would win a $25.00 gift certificate.

I dress up for fun. I find the entire process enjoyable; conception to culmination, there is delight in being in-character. I'm satisfied to push a little on my personal envelope, even as I step out a little beyond my box. I know the outfit rocks. The customers love it as well. Some say they need the laugh, others just stop in their tracks.

I was delighting in the experience, finding joy in the process, until somebody said to me, "You will probably get the award." Suddenly, my focus changed to the award. For some brief moments, it became about getting the prize. When that happened, I felt joy leave, and a heaviness ensue. Now it was all about the competition and the prize. Furthermore, now it was up to others to vote me "Best Costume." The end result of the process wasn't up to me.

This end of joy can come to us just as quickly in the midst of everyday living. One moment we are finding joy in the presence of God, in the fellowship of friends, laughter, wind and Sun. Moments later, perhaps unawares, our focus changes direction, and joy is lost.

I need a new job, that shiny car, the new girls' attention, the 47-inch screen television. These become the goal. My joy is now up to somebody else, and a positive end means getting that goal met.

Joy is found in those things I can change. Joy is found in the process. Joy is found in the present. Joy is satisfied in the future. Ultimately, joy is its own reward.

"...Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sydney Meets the Kat

This time, the body was far better than the voice; and the voice had already caused him some lack of sleep. Not much information in last nights’ telephone call, a vague description and the name of a coffee bar.

Walking across the hard wood floor, his brain was still processing. Golden blonde hair cut shoulder length, blue skirt slit past the knee exposing thigh, followed by shapely legs. “Hello,” he said extending his hand, “Sydney at your service.”
Rising, she stood up to meet him. “Kat with a K. Please be seated.”

Sitting down, he was aware that the rich smell of coffee; chocolate, earthy, nutty, had receded. He was intensely aware of her perfume. Light and sweet, floating gently, hiding itself from full revelation to the senses, like the woman who sat across from him.

“You said you had some crucial information for me,” said Sydney.

“We have Veronica.”

“Damn,” thought Sydney. “Why doesn’t anyone ever kidnap Roscoe? Please explain.”

“As we speak, she is my prisoner. Foolish girl can’t bypass a pass and a drink. She lives still, bound and drugged…”As Sydney drew a breath to speak, Kat (with a K) said, “This time, against her volition.”

“Do you know how much I hate conversations with quotation marks? What do you want?” As he asked the question, he reached for the shortbread. In doing so, his hand met hers, sending electric shock up his arm, while at the same time igniting his brain at the hint of how soft and smooth she was.

Kat stared directly into his eyes. “We need you and Roscoe out of the picture for three days, beginning in two days. Then, when you return, perhaps we can meet for more than coffee.”

He’d wanted to say that Hades could freeze over before he’d enjoy her company, but Kat had got his tongue (and a few other parts) and what he said was, “That would be delightful.” Like espresso acid on a baristas’ hands, she’d already begun to seep into his soul.

Meanwhile, in a warehouse not far away….
She wasn’t sure which was worse, the dryness of her mouth when she was aching with thirst, or the spit that dripped down her neck after they’d poured the water down her throat. She made a mental note to herself not to drink with strangers. The hard, cold cement grew harder and more uncomfortable with each moment. She could not find a comfortable position. Warmth was just out of reach, and cold was ready to completely envelope her.
To be continued…..

Friday, October 16, 2009

Now That Was A Dumb PR Move

This week, Las Vegas is hosting Blog World and Media Expo, in which tons of bloggers and Tweeters will descend upon the city. In this case: What happens in Vegas....gets blogged and tweeted to the rest of the world.

Picture this: A large group of Mommy Bloggers make reservations at a hotel (I believe it was the Renaissance). These bloggers have an incredible network, a coffee klatch online. These are women who are used to networking, whether sharing recipes, raising children, increasing breast-cancer awareness---this is one well networked, large group of bloggers.

Hotels, apparently, like airlines, overbook. Which they did, and in this case told the bloggers-"No room at the inn." Thus alienating all those moms. Moms that won't be checking into any of the Renaissance Hotels the next time they take a family vacation.

Rows and Rows of Lockers

I’m not naked. On one side, a cement ramp rises at a fairly steep slant, the ramp is bordered by a handrail, a thick tube of solid steel. On the other side, rows and rows of lockers. Lockers of the type you see in high schools, or, movies about high schools. The wall of lockers extends, seemingly, forever in both directions. I race along the cement path, seeking to find my locker. I can’t find it. Or I do, and I’ve forgotten the combination. Why race to find my locker? I forgot about a test. A test I must take. To take the test though, I need to get something out of my locker.

I’m not naked, as I said before. Nakedness, the stereotype of bad dreams, would be a slight embarrassment, a minor inconvenience compared to the terror and angst this nightmare produces. I’ve had this particular nightmare, in various forms and in various degrees, going far back as the ramp and rows extend. If life puts me under significant stress, I expect the dream.

I’ve not had it yet this month though. I expect it in the midst of financial fear, a result of not selling a large piece of real estate, coupled with a bad economy, and a job that pays too little. It’s mom’s birthday month too, and I can’t pick up the phone and call her. Can’t call my sister either, she’s not talking to me. So, I expect the dream. Haven’t had it in a while though.

More concrete than the ramp that ascends along the row of lockers is my faith. A faith that’s grown in these last years, through divorce, and child-rearing, and friendships, and richness of life. Walking this path, I’m learning to “cast my anxieties on Him,” because He cares for me. I know that He whom allows the tests, gives me grace to come through the tests. If the dream comes, I shake it off, and press on.

Picture of Lego art by Nathan Sawaya, at Turtle Bay

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sasquatch Summer

Darkness looms large at age twelve. Bone chilling cold, a still, thick darkness at arms reach, and closing in. A cold hungering something living out there. It’s the reason children close their closets at night, and double lock the front doors.

It should have been a simple hike. We were at that age; talk often turned to the important things in life, girls, God, sex, Sasquatch. In the early nineteen seventies, talk of Bigfoot was everywhere.
There was no water piped to the mobile home we were camping in. The three of us set out before dusk to fill water jugs from the local spring. Three teenage boys on family vacation from junior high school. As boys do, we took our time getting to our destination. Slowed by conversation about girls and dreams, observations of bugs and slugs, we made our way to the wooden tank which housed the water. Filling jugs with water is hard work, the jugs grow heavy, and the heat and humidity grow proportionally. Boys at rest in the presence of water slow proportionally.

The sun continued to set. As often happens, the minute the sun hit the horizon, night was upon us. We set out to return to the mobile home. We couldn’t find the trail. Though we’d done this hike morning and evening for a week, still every rabbit and deer trail looked the same. We circled the wooden tank completely. No trail looked familiar; no light shone in the distance, no direction seemed the right direction to go.

As we walked around in search of the trail leading home, we grew in panic and fear. Normally, camping out on a warm summer night is every kids dream. Not when you are lost, away from parents, food and comfort, and in the presence of panic, fear, and whatever lay just beyond that small tree in the distance.

As we listened for voices from home, we heard a different sound very close at hand. A trampling through brush, then, a loud cracking of a stick. To make that much sound, a large stick must be broken. To break a large stick must take an animal of significant weight. Bigfoot was upon us.

We continued to circle, increasing in doubt and panic. Fear came upon us wave after wave, as we imagined (or didn’t?) what was stocking us. In the nick of time, we heard noise coming up toward us. The girls had come, lanterns in hand, to find us.

To this day, when I hear tales of Bigfoot, for the most part, I scoff. Yet something made those noises in the woods. An animal big enough to break large sticks. What if?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Puff the Magic Dragon

"Travers handled her declining health with bravery and generosity, showing her love to friends and family "with great dignity and without restraint." "It was, as Mary always was, honest and completely authentic," he said. "That's the way she sang, too; honestly and with complete authenticity."

Enduring, endearing. There aren't many groups that I can think of that I'd be telling my daughter Hailey, "She's with Peter, Paul and Mary. You know, they sing 'Puff, the Magic Dragon." I can't even tell you where I first heard them, or how I came to enjoy their music. It may be that I went to see them with a friend in college and got hooked. However it came about, I can still put on my 'Best Of' tape and sing along with great joy, tears in my eyes because 'Jackie Paper came no more." Timeless.

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary dead at 72.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bad Company

“Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”

Bang, bang, bang went my screen door. I opened my door to a face taut with agony, a woman I did not know. “They are rampaging my house. Call 911. I’m at 58540,” with that, she ran off.

I called 911. Truly an efficient network. They quickly routed me to the local desert police.

The wind howled; and stopped howling precisely when the screaming began. Soon thereafter, I saw a shadow through the trees, and heard my neighbor yell, “I’m here, I’m here.”

Leah’s baby was four weeks old. Leah left her home in Arizona, and had my friends pick her up in Blythe. She was finally ending it, finally leaving her husband. She’d had enough of the abuse. She was afraid for the baby.

The media, and our experience, tell us that it’s always the good woman beat up by the bad man. Dr. Laura points out that its actually more of a ballet, and less one person in the lead. She abuses and strives for control too, just differently.

Leah returned home to Arizona after three days. Left again, and went to her dad’s. Same story. Two days later, she stole his money from a drawer, caught the bus and headed home again.

We try all kinds of dances for control and power. Different steps to assuage the brokenness of our hearts. Ultimately, we’re not satisfied until we let God lead, no matter the tune the band is playing.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bodies In Motion-An Overview of Last Weekend

The Friday morning bike ride:

“I can’t go on,” Darryl said, his face bright red, his body sagging against a tree for support. I handed him the last of my water.

“I won’t have you dying on my watch,” I said. “Can you muster the strength to go on for the remaining three miles?” I coaxed him back onto his bike, after we’d walked our bikes the last half-mile. We finished with a slow and wobbly ride, cresting the final hill and descending down.

The Friday night phone call to my sister goes worse than the morning bike ride:

Trying to communicate and move forward on my mom’s estate becomes increasingly difficult.
Me: “The last conversation we had I felt you were very derogatory.”
Her: “Here are the reasons I was derogatory.”
Overall, the whole phone conversation modeled Newtons Third Law of Motion:

“Whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.”
Or, as the Beatles penned it, “I say high, you say low, You say why, and I say I don't know Oh, no…You say goodbye and I say hello.”

Saturday night date:

Dinner and a movie (Julie and Julia), and then chilled at Fridays’. The evening flew by and before we knew it, it was one o’clock in the morning. I drove home, barely making it alive---the two Cokes didn’t help stave off my fading while at the wheel.

Sunday at work:

A unique individual from another store filled in at my store on Sunday. When I met her, she told me, “You sounded taller on the phone.” Hmmm. She brought her own rubber gloves, and her own cleaning kit. To work in a coffee kiosk?

Clashing, aligning, realigning…bonking, eating, laughing; and cleaning. Bodies at rest, bodies in motion, bodies colliding, bodies reacting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zion Nat'l Park-1st Set








The hike up to The Emerald Pools during our trip in July. A long, hot hike past the first two pools, which weren't pools at all. The third stop was a pool, though hardly emerald.















Don't Shoot the Cat

Candace Donato is experiencing the first-half of his fifteen minutes of fame.
Donato, who isn't even five feet tall, is now training Mr. Bones, a seven foot long albino alligator...in the water!
So far, he can "stop."
"I place my hands over his eyes and he stops," Donato said.
The white alligator will be swimming around, and then pauses when Donato's hands cover his eyes. Mr. Bones can also "shake hands."
"They put this gator back of a Ford truck," he says, "cause they wanted to show how the bed of the truck was 'Ford tough." Alligator swung his tail roun and destroyed the bed of the truck." Such was the story I heard from a man in Memphis, while on a road trip through the south.

The same road trip took us to Kleibert's Alligator and Turtle Farm, in Hammond, La. (Britney's been there too!) The tour guide went to great depths to explain that alligators are driven purely by instinct. Killing instinct, in fact. As I remember, he then threw a gator a piece of meat. He explained the gator roll, and how they use their body of solid muscle, to spin numerous times at great speed while holding the prey in their teeth. This kills and rips their prey simultaneously.

Sigmund and Roy thought the cats were safe too.
On October 3, 2003, during a show at The Mirage, Roy Horn was bitten on the neck by a seven-year-old male tiger named Montecore. Crew members separated Horn from the tiger and rushed him to the only Level I trauma center in Nevada, University Medical Center. Horn was critically injured and sustained severe blood loss. While being taken to the hospital, Horn said, according to sources, "Don't shoot the cat!"
I'm guessing that someday soon, Mr. Donato will experience the final segment of his fifteen minutes. "According to sources, while on his way to the hospital, Donato gasped, "Don't break Bones, don't shoot Bones."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alzheimers and Attitude

Sitting across from my dad, you would simply think he’s a quiet old man. Quietly dreaming, lost in his own thought. Sometime he cusses and gets ornery. He’ll track with you when you’re talking and make an appropriate joke. Then he’ll ask you (for the 12th time in thirty minutes) if you want something to drink.

My dad has Alzheimer’s, whatever that means. I think it means different things to different people depending upon their experience. I suspect, for instance, that even if my dads’ health was normative that he’d be ornery. Perhaps at Eighty-one, he’d do nothing but sit and rest even if his mind were more alert.

The wife of my father is heading out for a short five day vacation, and I’ll be heading into town to hang out with him. It’s not with great anticipation I do this, nor with anxiety or angst. I am just not looking forward to it.

I dread the long periods of time with my father. I see them as empty and boring. I’m uncomfortable in his house. I’ll have no access to all of my stuff, my computer especially. I’ll be hemmed in-freedom restricted, life curtailed.

Mired in this mindset, a thought flickered in my mind-What does this say about me? It’s four days-out of my comfort zone, granted, but also off work, time to rest, pray and think. Time with my dad.

Time to readjust my attitude and my thinking and make a choice. I have a magnet from Newlife ministries (http://www.newlife.com/) on my fridge that says “Healing is a Choice,” followed by 10 tenets, all positive, all life affirming. Choice number 6 is “The choice to embrace your life.” So I head out today, embracing the weekend with positive expectation; albeit teeter-tottering with dread and pessimism.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Not Atwitter About Twittering

I'm out of touch with culture already as I don't watch television. Now I'm missing the Twitter boat. Everybody is doing it. God's apparently doing it. Yup. Traditionally, pilgrims visiting the Wailing Wall in Israel leave their prayer requests at the wall, verbally, vocally, or in writing. Now you can Twitter God from the privacy of your own home, or while at work, or even, gads, while driving. I'm not certain, however, that God has a Twitter account. Otherwise, wouldn't Jesus have made the Lords' Prayer less than 140 characters?

Past presidents are doing it too. Quincy Adams will start twittering soon. This could open a door to all types of Twitter notes. Mark Twain on Twitter? Ayn Rand on Twitter. Famous composers like George Frideric Handel on Twitter; nah, they're de-composing.

Finally, fellow bloggers are all up in arms because of Sponsored Tweets. You knew it'd come to this, of course-Tweeted commercials.

Don't look for me on Twitter. Takes me a day to text two sentences to my daughter. If you want to talk, you can e-mail me or call me on my cell phone (the one that doesn't take pictures or link to the Internet.)

Update: Everybody's doing it except for the Marines. "The Marine Corps on Monday issued an administrative directive saying it was banning the use of Marine network for accessing such sites as FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace. The order doesn't affect Marines' private use of such networks on personal computers outside of their jobs."

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Theology Of Suffering-God's Purpose in Pain-Part Two




"God has appointed who shall suffer. Suffering comes not by chance, or by the will of man, but by the will and appointment of God."
-John Bunyan, quoted in The Hidden Smile of God, by John Piper.

"God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves."

***

Oft times it happens suddenly; the phone call in the middle of the night, the truck crossing the median, the dive into shallow water. Immediately you are thrust into a difficult period of life, a season of struggle, a short or long period of trial.

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that life should be easy. Difficult experiences were the rarity, the intruders, and the abnormal freakish events. Historically and biblically I’ve had it all backward.

In thirty years, I’d never had a call from my friends’ mother, then, one night it came, “John didn’t want me to call until he was certain he’d live…” In short, a truck had crossed over the median and straight into his car, all family inside. John had to be extricated from the car with the “jaws of life.” All four of limbs shattered, both eyes blinded by battery acid. His wife suffered spinal injuries, one child a small concussion, the other fine. Three years later John has made great progress, but struggles daily with the damage done to him in the accident.

One of the best-known, present day stories of struggle is that of Joni Eareckson Tada, who, “26 years ago, was lying on a hospital bed in suicidal despair, depressed, discouraged, after the hot July afternoon when I took that dive into shallow water, a dive which resulted in a severe spinal cord injury, which left me paralyzed from the shoulders down, without use of my hands and my legs.”

Since God is for us, and since,
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven” ---Why trials? Like the climber with his piton (a piton acts as an anchor to protect the climber against the consequences of a fall), I need fixed concepts for my mind to hold onto. So I wrestle with trials, to grasp their purpose, to gain solid hold in a slippery chasm.

Joni lays out three key reasons for trials in our lives.

1) They are like a sheepdog leading us to God. Nobody is naturally drawn to the cross.


2) People suffering great conflict always have something to say to those who are handling lesser conflict. As Paul says in Corinthians, “Blessed be the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort …with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”


3) They increase our capacity for God.

As I wrestle with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of each difficulty that comes across my path, the pitons holding me up are rooted not in the possible answers to the why questions, but in the ultimate purpose of a God that has love, mercy and goodness as key components of His character.

Make time to watch or listen to the video, because, as Joni shows, “People with disability are gods’ best audio-visual aids to how we should handle trials.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

They've Killed Rosie!

I remember the call to this day. I remember the horror and devastation in my wife’s voice. “They’ve killed Rosie,” she said combining scream and sob into one. “They were cutting down a tree, and one of the branches…They killed Rosie.”

Rosie, as she became known, was a small bare-root that we’d received from close friends as a wedding gift. She was my first rose bush, and I’d spent hours learning how to trim her, when to trim her, and when to fertilize her. I’d raised her from the initial planting; through rain and drought, aphid attack and rust. With soap sprays and ladybugs, watering and pruning we’d watched her grow into a beautiful rose bush, producing full red blooms throughout the years.

They hadn’t killed her. Rosie was resilient. Smashed, dejected, broken she was, but still clinging to life. Rosie had survived all three of our moves, including the final one to the desert.

When I moved out, Rosie didn’t come with me. I wasn't sure where I was going, or how to move Rosie. Without loving care, Rosie’s certainly died.

I thought of Rosie today, as I looked around at my new plants. Come Spring it will be a good time to honor her resilient spirit by planting anew; a Deep Secret, Chivalry, Imperial Chrysler. Maybe even a Rambling Rosie.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reno-Things Lost

Hungry and tired, we finally find a place to eat dinner. Finally, we are seated. I set my camera bag down on a chair, which I never do. After a dinner of pulled pork, cornbread, corn and drinks (Ale for me, lemonade for Hailey), we head back up to the room where we get stuck on the life of Kat Von D (consider it cultural research; where I live everybody has a tattoo).

Visiting the bathroom, I notice my camera battery which I’d left charging before going to dinner. “Crumbs,” I scream (this version has been edited for children) and come out of the bathroom in high freaked out mode. Hailey’s up and on her feet, already realizing what I’d realized-I’d left my camera bag and all its contents on the chair in the restaurant!

We are staying at the Silver Legacy, a large casino that is connected to two other large casinos; the El Dorado and Circus Circus. By luck we had originally found our way to a barbeque place for dinner in the first place. We are now forced to find our way back through three casinos at midnight high on adrenaline. The adrenaline helps significantly, the cigarette smoke not-so-much.

Everybody from the restaurant is gone, except the cleaning staff. No, they’ve not seen a camera bag. Had it been found, it would have been turned into security, downstairs. Hole in pit of stomach gets deeper.

Hot on Haileys’ heels we run down the stairs, navigate through the slot-machines, and find the guard in the security booth. The security guard, Juan, searches the data-base. No camera bag has been turned in. Hailey crying and me in the midst of depression, (while hitting myself on the head and saying “Stupid” over and over) we head back up to the hotel room.

“Dad, you said that God always does things for a purpose.”
“Yeah, maybe somebody really needed a camera,” I say, bad attitude showing.

“Dad, we should pray.” So, we pray. Reminding myself that the camera is just a thing. People lose things much worse. Fortunately, I’d traded out the memory card, so we still had all the pictures. Time-12:00 p.m. Hole in pit of stomach feels permanent.

12:20 p.m. We are awakened by the phone ringing; Hailey answers it as I can’t discern what the heck is ringing. It’s Juan, from security. Someone has turned in my camera bag.

Time again for the casino marathon; down the stairs, through the smoke, by the slots, up the stairs, through the corridors, down the stairs. Juan isn’t there, but the other security guard knows the story. My camera bag is returned.

It’s a God thing. I’d not left my name with Juan, but my camera strap has my name on it; and there was an envelope in it addressed to me. The security desk is in Circus-Circus, but we were staying at the Legacy. The bag was turned into the Deli, across the hallway from the restaurant we’d eaten in. Mysteries all. As is the way that God watches out for his children.

Zion National Park-Things Fallen























We’d hiked the trail to Zion’s Weeping Rock; a trail that was short, but not easy as touted. Staring up, we heard a loud clanging noise to our right like a metal pipe falling onto pavement. Sure enough, there was a lady on the ground, and to her right, the pipe-metal guardrail (bottom picture) that had obviously come crashing down.

Dodging tourist traffic, we took our share of pictures and headed back down the trail, catching up to the woman, hobbling down the trail with one hand on her cane, and the other holding her husband. Taking into account her fall, her hobble, and the steep pitch of the trail I offered to go fetch a park ranger. Hailey offered to stay with the couple, Margaret and Richard. I went down the trail to find a bus driver to radio a ranger.

(Little side note here: The new bus system in Zion National Park is awesome. Used to be you had to battle thousands of cars for road space and parking space, often spinning in circles to find parking at the site you desired to visit. The new propane powered, air-conditioned shuttles run every six minutes and make continuous loops through the park. They stop frequently, within walking distance of every destination.)

Catching a bus driver, I told him of the couples plight. He laughed when I described the woman as “older,” maybe in her early sixties, about 250 Lbs.

Soon, the ranger arrived and I led her back up the trail, meeting Hailey half-way up. She had run back down the trail so that she could assure the couple that help was on the way.
We found Margaret some yards from where we’d left her. One leg quickly swelling, the second leg (recently broken) felt as if things “were shifting around” in there. We left Margaret, Richard and the ranger deciding on hospitals and ambulances as we went back down the trail.

At trails’ end, we realized that this was an answer to our prayers-not that Margaret’s leg were broken, but that we’d bless others in our travels.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Celebrating the Fourth of July

"They're having less fireworks displays this year. Good thing. Too noisy, too much traffic. It's all for kids anyway," so spoke one of my elderly customers to my eldest employee (a bit of a stick-in-the-mud himself). I must be a kid then!

Since childhood, I've rarely missed the fireworks. The most recent was after my divorce. Being single, and alone, I decided not to attend any celebration. Oddly, I'd felt more alone staying at home than partaking someplace. Prior to that, my mother had booked travel to Latvia on July Fourth. What was she thinking?

Growing up, we'd drag the dogs along to the local park, and try to hold them down and quiet them during the explosions. Yeah, placing a small childs' hand over a dogs' ear should help. While we grew older, so did the dogs. We left them at home, hoping that they'd feel safe inside the house. One year my mother turned on some classical music---soothing the beasts, she hoped.

When my Hailey was little, we dragged her along. She was worse than the dogs! The first couple of years she would close her eyes and cover her ears, all the while yelling "To loud, to loud!" It took forever (seriously, years) to get her to at least open her eyes.

I've seen fireworks displays at the high school in Prescott, Arizona, the stadium at University of Wyoming, the Chicago waterfront and with the Boston Pops on the Esplanade. Last year I drove out to the Marine Corps Combat Center for my third time. This year, I'll be driving to the local high school with Hailey. I hope I don't have to hold her ears closed all night.

"And I’m proud to be an American,where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,next to you and defend her still today.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,God bless the USA."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Taking Life For Granted

“Man, he looks like he’s had a bad night,” I thought to myself, as I pulled up next to my mechanic. I yell to him through the open car windows, “I’m finally bringin her in for a check-up.” “I’ll be right in,” he says.

As he walks toward me, Michael is talking on his cell phone, “No, she’s great. She made it through. I haven’t seen her yet today as they keep real strict visiting hours. I love you too.” Now I’m starting to realize there IS a reason he looks like he had a bad night.

“When my wife was 9, she fell off the porch and hit her forehead. She broke the skull underneath…” At this point he pauses. “One day she’s sitting and watching TV, and she starts screaming, and shaking, and crying.” He calls for the ambulance and she is transported to the emergency room. They find that she has a temperature above 104, and massive infection throughout her body. It turns out that they never knew that she had broken her skull when she fell from the porch, and now, years later, her brains’ grey matter is leaking through the crack in her skull through her sinus passage and into her body.

They put her on powerful antibiotics which need to be infused through an IV. This process takes 4-1/2 weeks. Ultimately, though, they have to operate, because, as the doctor told Michael, “Brain fluid only belongs in the brain.”

The operation involves cutting open her skull, pulling down her face, and fixing the crack in her forehead. There’s a 5% chance (yes, five) that things will go well. There is a ninety-five percent chance that she’ll go blind, lose hearing, lose feeling, be paralyzed and/or all the above.

Coming out of the surgery, Michael’s wife saw him and told him she loved him. A day later she was beginning to eat and hold full conversations with him.

My pastor is fond of thanking God for “…another day which you did not promise us.” Amen.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Burning the Journals-Musings on Being a Writer

Did you develop a writing discipline?

I wrote my first novel when I was 14. I was a big fan of Raymond Chandler, Hemingway, all those guys. I had read a wonderful book of Chandler's letters. In it he said something like you should spend four hours every day doing nothing else but writing. I took that very seriously. That became my discipline.

There must be various strains of the same disease. I've never spent four hours a day writing; heck, I barely spend four hours a day sleeping. I have been known to carry a notebook to scribble in though, and I've filled many a paper coffee cup sleeve with poetry and personal observations. Do I bleed ink though? If I was banned from ever writing again they'd have to put me in a rubber room, this I know. Of course they can't stop you from writing the story in your head.

I've filled journals since I was in high school. Which I'm thinking of burning by the way. Why would I do that? While going through the 10 boxes of paper (refrigerator boxes, not shoe boxes) I hauled out of my mom's house, I came across one of her reviews from her last employer. It was a horrible review, my mom was still working at age 70, and may have been a tad burnt out. Reading it provoked all type of bad thoughts and feelings about my mom; not necessarily balanced or rational. Gads, I thought. What will they think when they read my unedited, gut level, no-holds barred journal entries?

Four hours a day is impossible. What if I just commit to writing more? Writing about daily adventures? While writing this note, my ex-wife called to remind me the mortgage on the old house is due. Is there a story there? Hailey and her friends were over tonight for grilled-cheese and pineapple. That's the title of a children's book right there.

What do you think? What lights you up? What if you did that an hour more a day? Let's give it a shot.

Monday, May 18, 2009

San Francisco-Postcard Collection #2

As Nancy Pelosi has been so much in the news as of late....

"San Francisco Cable Car. Looking down California Street. San Francisco had its first cable car in 1873, replacing the horse car used in that period. Creator of the cable railway was Andrew Hallidie."

Mike Roberts Color Productions/Smith Novelty Co.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Your Friendship Confuses

Your friendship confuses me.
You speak healing words, but we’ve never been healed.

You send me cards and letters,
The ink bleeds,
Questions run off the page.

I do not know how to handle your hugs.
Drawing in tight reminds me of times,
Entwined, together as one.

Pushing you away forces you to stumble,
Falling backward out of my life.

Trembling, I hold you lightly.
Basking in bitter taste,
Touching sweetness,
I move forward,
Ever on the precipice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Therapy and Boxes

Overwhelmed by a sense of paralysis; purposeless and depressed, I struggled in my marriage. Every action was met with hostility; every retreat deepened and widened the crevasse between us. I sought numbness in pornography. Life had become overwhelming. I began seeing a counselor.

Looking back now, I realize I was under significant duress. Reasonable discussions with the wife were rare. Any discussion involving stressful situations such as finances, spirituality and raising our child resulted in violent language, “Blanking up the finances is an effing deal, I can’t believe I married a retarded person. What is wrong with you?” Long tirades. I handled it badly. Internalized all of it.

I don’t recall exactly what I said in that therapy session. I suppose it was something like, “How can I communicate with my wife? What can I (say, do, make, wear) to make her listen?” Hidden in there was the desire to change her behavior.

Here’s what the counselor had me do. Draw a rectangle on a piece of paper, leaving plenty of room around the rectangle. Inside the box, draw or write all the things I could control. Outside of the box, pencil in all of the things that were out of my control.

I struggled. I wanted to put things in the box such as how I made the wife feel. I didn’t control that though, did I? How she reacted? Out of my control. Finally, I realized that the only thing that I could put in the box was me, my actions, and my thoughts. Everything else was out of my control.

Initially, I internalized less of the attacks against me, and was able to gain perspective during those instances. Over time, seeing my life in term of “What’s inside my box” really has helped me focus. Belief in a sovereign God that controls ‘everything outside of my box’ so that “all things work together for good” is a strong anchor in my stress-filled life.

This week I spent some time reviewing the box analogy with Hailey, my daughter. She has two parents, both with control issues. She’s modeling that behavior too well. So I had her draw a rectangle.....

What would you put in your box? Outside of your box?

Discovering Truth-The Postcard Collection #1

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Soul Food My Mother Gave Me





One has to zigzag to walk the path into mom’s backyard. Past the pine tree, around and between the cacti, along a row of ivy, dodge the succulunts, guard yourself against more cactus, until you get into the wide expanse of the backyard. There you are greeted by the swimming pool, the ever-nesting dove, lavender, nasturtiums, fern, strawberries and oranges. All healthy, all thriving.

One of the things I’ve given up since living in the rental house, is gardening. Previously I’d had rose bushes, and vegetables, trees and cactus too. Nature or nurture, a green thumb from my mother. The gardening greened my soul. Perhaps its time again.

Driving long distances with Hailey, I often hear, “Do we HAVE to listen to talk radio?” To which I reply, “You are fortunate that I let you listen to stuff that you like. When aunt D and I were driving with my mom, the only station we listened to was the classical station.” Exposure to classical music, Opera, Broadway show tunes, Latvian ethnic, all came to me from mom. The reason I enjoy music all the time, that I’m fairly eclectic, that I’m writing this with Third Day blaring; all mom’s fault.

“A gourmet cook,” “A masterful entertainer,” “Sunset magazine embodied,” were some of the comments overheard at the memorial. While writing this, my sister called. She found a drawer full of the recipes we grew up on. Cornish game hens, stuffed bell peppers, meatloaf, mushroom soups.

Stereotypes are funny. I enjoy bringing prepared food and baked goods to parties. Prior to the actual event people will ask me if I’m a good cook. They must have some vision of the single guy making grilled cheese day after day because he can’t make anything else. I’ve been collecting recipes since high school, and have enjoyed baking and cooking since junior high.

All of these feed my soul, and were kneaded into my heart through hours spent watching my mom garden, and cook, and entertain, all while Prokofiev or Man of La Mancha played in the background.

How about you? What has your mother taught you? What key things has she worked into your life that you are thankful for?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy-The Need For a Bigger Banana

I was a skinny, shy, introverted, asthmatic, wheezy wimp of a kid. Perhaps that is why John Cybulski saw fit to terrorize me. He wasn’t a bully like bullies you hear about today; I don’t remember him stealing my lunch or locking me in the bathroom. He picked on me though. Picked on my friends. Inspired fear, somehow.

When I read this article about Obama changing the way we do foreign policy, I thought back to John Cybulski.

As I remember it, two events leveled the playing field.

Forced off of my Royce Union bicycle, he threw me down onto the grass. I probably prompted the attack-“Hey Cybulski where do the Polish keep their armies? In their sleevies!” I remember the struggle, the flying fists, the anger and frustration. No blood was drawn, no clear-cut winner established. I’d fought back though, and held my own.

The second event came at lunch time. Picture the school cafeteria, rows of benches and tables. I remember the scene exactly. I don’t remember what Cybulski did to make me so angry. Angry enough so that I temporarily lost my mind.

There he stands two tables over, chatting with his friends. There I sit, half-eaten lunch, no appetite for more. I grab hold of my leftover banana with peel, and fling it as hard as I possibly can, nailing John Cybulski dead center in the middle of his back.

I had no trouble with him after that. Ever.

As I reflect upon my childhood, I believe that Obama should focus less on breaking bread and shaking hands with the enemy, and focus more on growing bigger bananas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Tips for Excellent Customer Service

Giving form to some customer service guidelines I’ve developed in my thirty-plus years of working with the public. Currently I manage a team of baristas.

1) Acknowledge the customer. Even if you and your surroundings are on fire. You can say something to them such as, “I will be with you as soon as I finish this drop and roll. Please feel free to grab a stick and some marshmellows until I can wait on you.”

2) Remember their name and something about them. Most folks have trouble with this one, and state poor memory as an excuse. The same people have no difficulty remembering what songs got Allison, Anoop and Adam into the final spots on American Idol or what Simon Cowell said to get them there.

Corollary 1) Care. I was challenged early on that the reason I didn’t remember names was not a problem with memory, but a problem about caring.
Use memory gimmicks. I knew a girl named Bridgett that had braces. I paired her name with the bridge across her teeth, hence, Bridge-it.

3) Chat it up. You’ve got maybe two to three minutes with them. Incorporate Step 2: "How was the vacation? Did your daughter see the doctor for those ugly warts yet?"

4) Be upbeat. Remember the Cheers theme song and pretend you are Sam. People want to talk about their problems, not yours.

5) Pick up the pace. People usually have someplace else to go. Aggressively consider ways to move them out the door (or off the phone). I often see the Baristas doing one job at a time-for instance, standing idle while the machine generates expresso. Multi-tasking would mean they could help another customer during that window of time, or prep for the next customer.

6) Direct and educate. Set parameters. Teaching them to help you do your job will improve their overall time and experience. I consistently chat and direct people, “It’ll take me two minutes to steam your milk. I’ll have it for you at the end of the bar.”
7) Clarify. Find out what they want, not what they think they should want or say. “So, if I understand you correctly, you need to see a Dr. today because of the airplane in your living room?”

8) If you screw up, fix it. Buy them a drink. I often give away cups of coffee because a wait was too long, or because we messed up a drink. This moves the customer from being annoyed and never returning to-being pleasantly surprised at getting free stuff, and returning for more.

9) Do it right the first time. Integrity is important.

10) Take deep breaths. There will always be a struggle between quality and quantity. There will never be enough manpower to do the job right. Other people will consistently fudge on their responsibility to the customer, making you look bad. See numbers one through 8.


Your turn. What tips have you picked up, either as a customer or from working with people?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My New Neigbor

He loves darkness more than light. He's killed once already. I fully expect him to take another life soon. I only hope that the neighbor on the other side escapes his hunger.

I've not heard him, but I saw him today. Right outside my window. He hid when I tried to take his picture. The internet information on him describes him as anti-social, a loner, living alone, setting his own path.

My landlord will not be pleased; him having moved in under my house-my shelter being his cover.

My new neighbor. I must watch my step as I walk across my yard.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Death and Red Tape

I can feel my blood pressure escalating, and I just cussed out the gentlemen in the Arrangements Department at the mortuary. Like many Americans, my mom had her Social Security check deposited into her checking account. She had most of her bills electronically debited from the same account. So, I spent a good portion of the afternoon today making phone calls like this:

(After 3 minute wait on hold)
“Hello, this is Charlotte, how may I help you?”
“Yes, my mom passed away on the 20th. She has a home equity account that gets pulled out of her checking account. What will happen if there is no money in that account?”
“Well, Dillo, I wish I could tell you that, but I need a death certificate to give you that information.”
“Well, generally, Charlotte (How often do you get to use General Lee and the name of a southern city in the same sentence?), what would happen?”
“We’ll debt the account, and since there’s no money in there, you will be hit with millions of dollars in fees, and the mortgage payment will still be owed.”

After getting off the phone with Charlotte, I called the Mortuary. I was told: the County of Los Angeles doesn’t even think about issuing the death certificate until ten to fifteen working days (and the gentlemen put the emphasis on working days) after the burial, which will be in another two weeks. Swell, just swell.

Update: I received the death certificates two days after writing the draft for this post. On Tuesday, I went into the Wells Fargo office by my mom’s house and had them note her death. However, the Death Verification Department was closed (okay, it’s really the Deceased Processing Department, which, I think, it was also called in the movie, Soylent Green).

I went into my local branch yesterday, and had the Banker at the branch call them. Closed again. I found myself getting angry, both with the Banker, and with the entire process.

Life is full of red tape. Seeing red and being red are not the answers.

1) I must remember to be a blessing to the folks on the other end of my situation, and not a curse. My cussing them out, spitting at them and hitting them with large, leather bound manuscripts doesn’t help them through their day at all. All the folks I have to deal with have to deal with other folks in my situation, and with more red tape. I must pray more, bless more, be less self-centered.
2) Remember those going through difficult circumstances; the death of a loved one, sickness, or even normal day atrocities like the DMV. Life is hard. Give them hope, not hell.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pondering God's Purpose in Pain-Part 1

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."

This post comes out of my recent readings and experiences, coupled with the events of my mom's quick slide into death last week. If you've been alive for any length of time, you've wrestled with this question, posed by my sister. "When a dog is near death, we give it a pink fluid to drink, which kills it quickly. Shouldn't we be able to do that now?"

Seems a reasonable question, by human standards. My mom was weak with no chance for recovery; quickly her breathing grew strained, and the agony was apparent. My purpose here isn't to discuss morality or slippery slopes. My purpose is to think through this whole issue, in light of my mom's recent death, and my own inevitable mortality.

So, how does our finite, narrow perspective possibly square with the perspective of an eternal God that holds the entire universe-Earth, Milky Way and all-in the palm of His hand?

In light of the initial quote from Ecclesiastes, one purpose is to force us to come face to face with the fact that we all will die. I will die. You will die. Not likely to escape it. As my mom went from hospital, to nursing facility, to hospice, I thought through how I would respond. I even told my daughter that I wanted a room that has a window that you could look out of; and I'd want access to a laptop. Watching others struggle through sickness and death forces us to confront them head on.

In my own experience, pain and prolonged suffering force me to cry out to God, in hope for a time, or place where I am free of them. Ultimately, it is a cry for salvation, for God to deliver, and even, to bring us to the satisfaction of our hope-eternity in Heaven, in Christ's glorious presence.

Finally, one would hope that pain would be a window to cry out on behalf, not only of ourself, but for others who also are in pain. Potentially, it can bring us into a broad place where we pray for others who are themselves in hardship, brokeness and pain.

In the final analysis then, I understand the longing for the Pink Drink. Our momentary pain and longing however, "is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hailey, Please Hang Up Now

The marks of my daughter's becoming a teenager come one by one, but they seem to arrive daily. First it was the texting to both girls and BOYS in her class ("He's NOT my boyfriend.") Tonight, she forgot to bring her charger to my house, so she's using my phone. I didn't think this would be a problem, until I smelled the brownies in the oven. Which is why using a cell phone while baking brownies is now illegal in my state. Which is also why the red sirens appeared outside my window at the same time the smoke appeared in my kitchen. All of this guarantees that I'll need my charger, again, for the second time today. But maybe not; because I may never get my phone back!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Above All the Noise

From the movie, The Savages:
Jon Savage: Dad's not the one that has a problem with the Valley View. There's nothing wrong with Dad's situation. Dad's situation is fine. He's never gonna adjust to it if we keep yanking him outta there. And, actually, this upward mobility fixation of yours, it's counterproductive and, frankly, pretty selfish. Because it's not about Dad, it's about you and your guilt. That's what these places prey upon.
Wendy Savage: I happen to think it's nicer here.
Jon Savage: Of course you do, because you are the consumer they want to target. You are the guilty demographic. The landscaping, the neighborhoods of care; they're not for the residents, they're for the relatives. People like you and me who don't want to admit to what's really going on here.
Wendy Savage: Which is what, Jon?
Jon Savage: People are dying, Wendy! Right inside that beautiful building right now, it's a ***!!!* horror show! And all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping, it's just there to obscure the miserable fact that people die! And death is gaseous and gruesome and it's filled with shit and piss and rotten stink!


Above all the noise; the beeping of the instruments, the inflating and deflating of the blood pressure cuff, the alarm of the IV, we could be heard arguing.
“You’re bothering mom, so stop it. Mom, are we bothering you?”
“No, it’s better than the silence.”
As my mom lay next to us in ICU, we argued about her cat. The cat I’d let out of the house.
“You should care more about that cat. It’s mom’s cat, so you should care more about it because she cares for it.” Really, it wasn’t about the cat. It was about expectations. My sisters' expectations for me. My expectations for me. Perhaps, as John Piper says, many ‘words to the wind.’
“I can’t believe you said that. I’m still angry at you and I’m going to stay angry at you and not talk to you,” Denise said in staccato.
“So, you’re going to just keep that anger inside and let it eat you up? Rather than trying to deal with it?”
“Yes.”
In the waiting room, every chair has a bag, a coat, an umbrella on it. No place to sit, to rest, to wait. A man and a woman enter, dark complected, stretched and haggard, like someone had pulled a piece of gum at both ends, leaving the middle near breaking. We ask them if we can move some of the stuff aside so we can sit down. We’d walked into a family drama; as their loved one was fading away in the Intensive Care ward.

Two other people enter. “You should go in now. He’s doing that funny thing where he puts his hands up to his head and says, Meshugana.” One leaves, one comes in. The guy and girl sit on the couch, unfazed by our presence.
“I’d be willing to have dinner every night with mom if it would help.”
“I don’t think she wants to move. She doesn’t know the valley. Everyone’s come by to see him. Except that flippin sister of his.”
“She’d be close to Gelsons, Ventura Boulevard, lots of places to shop. I think it would be good for her.”
“She’s not used to it. She won’t drive. She won’t like it. She won’t leave the house. I can’t visit her all the time.”
The sickness or death of a loved one scratches us raw. Forced to deal with the present, sometimes past history and ongoing emotion erupt and intercede uninvited. Above all the noise we must listen for what’s important. Allowing for words to the wind, we must trust to those things that anchor our souls. As someone has said, “We fled to take hold of the hope offered to us (that we ) might be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Dancing Post

"I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making..."


"She spins and she sways to whatever song plays,Without a care in the world.And I'm sittin' here wearin' the weight of the world on my shoulders.It's been a long day and there's still work to do,She's pulling at me saying "Dad I need you!There's a ball at the castle and I've been invited and I need to practice my dancin'""Oh please, daddy, please!"

It’s a 2-1/2 hour drive each way. I know where every freeway, rest-stop, and In-N-Out is located along the way. The pre-sets on my car radio are set to country and gospel stations for each county. I know where the broadcast signals end and begin. Ebb and flow, the drive allows thinking, praying, reflecting.

Like in a Winnie-The-Pooh movie, a dark cloud hovers round my head. A seeming darkness in mood, unrelenting tightness in my chest (not changed by loosening the seat-belt). Little things; financial worries, relational issues (a sister who isn’t speaking to me, a mother who doesn’t know God), work pressures. Big picture, a lack of vision, focus, pulling forward. I’d say ‘mid-life crisis’ if these periods didn’t sporadically occur in my life. Maybe in all of our lives.

Days like this, I wonder. What could I have done differently? What if I had followed a different career path (or just A career path)? Perhaps I should have pursued riches and material gain. What if I’d had counsel along the way, an elder guide, a parent who’d invested in this process?

The music on the radio is suddenly heard. “So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms, 'cause I know something the prince never knew. Oh, I will dance with Cinderella, I don't want to miss even one song', Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight, and she’ll be gone.”

For thirteen years, a fundamental element in all my decision making is: How will this affect my being a father? Time, ethics, work choices and a million more miniscule daily decisions all run consciously or sub-consciously through this filter. And I’ve done all right.

Bend in the freeway; rise on the road, the gospel station disappears. Switch over to the country station. “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance, I hope you dance.”

As I pull into the nursing facility driveway, I continue to wrestle with each of these circumstances. Deep down though, there is a rock-solid comfort in knowing that, at least, I did wrestle. At times, prevailed. Some days, too, I chose to dance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Joshua Tree Calling

I rarely do this. I originally had plans to visit mom at the nursing facility, but those didn't work out. On the drive home from work there were some beautiful bursts of rain, clouds and color. The lighting was just awesome. I needed to let myself have a break from routine. So I took the short drive to the National Park. As hoped; excellent clouds, color and contrasts.

Barker Dam at a low point. Apparently rains during monsoon season fill it to "normal."







Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Coming King-The Emperor Has No Clothes

My employer circulated a memo this week saying that the company broadcast network will be airing the coronation tomorrow, so that any employee who wishes to view it can do so during their break or lunch. I have been informed by a number of people that Obama’s election means that the United States is now much more liked and respected around the world. That “almost everybody” that wasn’t proud to be an American the last eight years is NOW proud to be one. Obviously, they didn’t hear this speech by Hugo Chavez, who says that Obama has the “stench of Bush.”

I’ve been told that Obama will be solving the economic crisis (most likely by Tuesday), that folks will feel so secure with an Obama presidency they will immediately go out and spend money, thus invigorating the economy and restoring equilibrium. One of my customers told me that he will be glad if he has to pay more taxes, nay, delighted, because of all the benefits he’ll receive in the way of healthcare, social security, gas prices, greenhouse reductions, free Viagra, and world peace (okay, I’m making the world peace part up).

I feel a little like the child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I keep telling folks; He hasn’t done anything yet! He is a politician, not the Messiah. Where do you see this beautiful raiment?

Let’s see what he does his first 100 days in office. Will he establish and maintain laws that give dignity to life, or establish such laws as The Prevention First Act, which would greatly expand government funding of abortion laws (among other things.) Will he recognize Ahmadinejad and Hamas as terrorists, or invite them over for tea? Will personal freedoms be enlarged, or taken away? I will wait and see.

One day soon, however, a King will come who will restore the world to its proper order and who will establish justice and peace.

“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Maranatha, come quickly.

Illustration by Gustav Hjortlund from
The Little Mermaid and other fairy tales by
Hans Christian Anderson

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tid Bits and Distractions

For you my readers, and for me; Truth is, the professor of the previous post is just a distraction from everything else going on in my life. Kind of like when you hit your thumb with a hammer to take your mind off your migraine. I've been awful tired lately, distracted, and in a contemplative mood. So better to post something lighter than wade into darker, uncharted waters. Here then are some thoughts that have been whirring through my mind these last days.

Shouldn't there be a law? Playing "Hotel California" as background music in a Skilled Nursing Facility seems wrong on a number of levels.

The minister from the Latvian church stopped by to visit my mom. She says they didn't discuss 'religion,' instead they talked about his upcoming marriage. "Hey, honey, I saw the oncologist today but we didn't discuss my cancer. We talked about his trip to Bermuda instead." I wonder if there's such a thing as heavenly malpractice suits?

Apparently, the world's going to end in four years. There goes Obama's 2nd term. This past week the History Channel had a show on Nostradamus 2012. I heard from a number of folks that 126,000 years ago an eclipse occurred with cataclysmic results. It's supposed to happen again in four years. I assured all the folks that this is a bunch of hooey-the bible says there will be seven last years, and we ain't in them yet. Plus, who recorded these events 126, 000 years ago? Shouldn't we trust the God who WAS THERE and recorded it all, instead of someone who wasn't there and is just guessing?

Mom's still in the skilled nursing facility and probably will be for another six weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm pursuing qualification for a home loan. Found out that the ex ran up a bunch of credit cards that my name is on as co-signer. Oooops! Apparently it can be fixed; but it's still a pain. Mea culpa for not doing a better job of following up on all the old accounts.

There's a quick update on some of the thoughts spinning round my head. Now, back to my dreams about the professor.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mental Games, Professors, and Blondes

She is a Ph.d, and DDG*. Right, so I wasn't going to do this E-Harmony thing, but here I am. I feel rather foolish posting this, but there I go. It's that whole fear of rejection thing. All I have to do is send an email. Worst case scenario, she'll decline conversation.

I am a child of God. God is wonderfully good and wholly in control. I am wild at heart. I do not shirk dueling with the dragon because he's bigger than me, or more daunting, or hotter than me (as is the Professor). Do I not engage for fear of engagement?

My eyes glint, my nostrils flare, my adrenaline powerfully pumps when I step up to the plate. Stepping into fullness, and maleness---who I am and what I'm created to be.

When I was a teenager;shy, insecure and timid, I carried around this poem. In summary, it said you can either jump into the parade, or watch it pass by; wondering what would have happened if you had truly dared to be alive.

I'll keep you posted.

*Drop Dead Gorgeous

Friday, January 02, 2009

You Can't Do It All

On every trip, on every vacation, there are awesome things to see. Usually, time doesn't allow you to see them all. On this summers' trip to Yellowstone, I really wanted to visit the Potato Museum---that is, after I found out that such a museum existed! But time would not allow for it. Below is a partial list of things I may have missed out on:

Potatos in space: Russians launch Spudnik.

Best in Taste: Spudnuts

Best in televised live action: Cars and Mr. Potato Head---High spud chases.

And the Oscar for the Best Line About Potatoes in a film goes to:
Empire of the Sun, “You taught me that people will do anything for a potato.”

Really, it looks like fun. It's now on the list of places to visit.