Monday, September 27, 2010

Pessimism-The Tension We Live In

I see the glass as half-full—until a catastrophe hurls it sideways. As a child I read a self-help book which advised to always expect the worse and you’d never be disappointed. Ah, the lies that seep into our minds over a lifetime. As I write sunlight streams into my window, I sip black coffee from a favorite mug and listen to soul-stirring music. I sigh…this is good. Enjoying the quiet I rise to get another cup. The phone rings, it’s the ex-wife with questions about finances and child scheduling. Silence shattered, the tension we live in.

For me it was Hillary Tower; the first infatuation, the first heartbreak. I was six, she some years older, maybe eleven or twelve. Spring and summer we did gymnastics on her front lawn, ring-around-the-Rosie, skipping and laughing. Then one day she was gone. No note, no goodbye, no warning. I remember standing in the kitchen as my mother told me Hillary was gone.

I’m certain you’ve noticed the change in my Facebook status to ‘in a relationship.’ Friendship in any form is miraculous. Let’s face it-we are quirky, selfish, scarred and scared beings. When God brings another human being into the journey with us it is an amazing gift. When that gift comes into our lives through the opposite sex we brush Eden. We know Eden didn’t stay perfect for long. That is the core of my angst.

I am a man of flesh and bone. I trust my experience; I remember all the Hillary Tower episodes in my life. I look at the glass, and the catastrophe, and forget Him who holds the glass aright, Him who drives the storm.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” says the writer of Hebrews. We spend a lifetime learning lies and longer knocking them down with truth. Yes life sucks and evil reigns. Yet God is able to do ‘far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” It is to God I must look to keep from getting bogged down in my pessimism. That is the tension we live in.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Room

The dry heaves subside quickly. I splash cold water on my face and brush my teeth. Lock up the house and crank the ignition in the car. Pop in some minty-fresh gum. This is not going to be a good day.

The walk from the parking lot into the facility happens in slow-motion; only my thoughts are racing. I pull open the glass doors, heavy, difficult to open, making escape difficult. Sign my name feeling out of place in shorts and tee shirt.

Down the hallway, not chemically clean, smells assault nose and mouth; urine and sweet sick smells which my brain can’t catalogue. Try not to look into the rooms as I pass by, “Doctor my eyes have seen the years and the slow parade of fears…without crying.”

Demons and darkness mingle with deaths’ odor, breathing is a struggle. I hesitate to enter the room. Dragons less an enemy than the black void I must step into.

I cross the threshold; embittered emotions from childhood veil me in. I flail about, drowning in a pool, unable to firmly grasp anything. Soul deep I feel nothing—unsure of myself because nobody’s ever met me there. No voice to give direction, no arms to lift me up. The boy becomes teenager and runs into different arms for feeling, touch and strokes.

Another step forward another deep breath. Attune my ears to a different voice. A Voice that spoke while I drowned, calling directions, giving guidance, reaching into the darkness, affirming worth, confirming value.

I listen to that Voice now, cast myself into those arms. Raise my hands to do battle. Sweat breaks on my forehead; I recall a man without soul, a manipulator of people; hiding emptiness with a smile.

A choice I must make---we must make. Does my past own me? Am I beholden to darkness?

I step into the room and greet my father. He barely responds. I pray over him. I pray to the Father that frees from darkness, demons and guilt. I kiss my father and embrace the day with all it brings.

H/t to GB for help with the creative process

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Time For Every Purpose

Meteor fire lit up the sky, and we spoke of things burned in life’s wreckage.

And there is a time for every event under heaven—
Relationships destroyed by betrayal and boredom, livelihoods lost due to economic downturn, houses sold by short-sale and children seen on weekends.

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up.

I told him there was a delightful new woman in my life; he prays for reconciliation—at times-hungers for the arms of a woman.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Blink and you miss God’s gifts, streaking into your life in a blaze. The workday week brightens as a customer becomes friend also; heart to heart while on the clock. The five a.m. text-the baby’s born via C, and there he is on your cell phone screen.

A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;

At a baby shower on Saturday, I asked the dad when the baby was due; he said he wasn’t sure; they’d just changed the date. I’m guessing the mom knows.

Boy leaves the house for college, girl leaves college for the mission field, stones cast, arrows loosed.

a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

Dismal stories of broken marriages, I hear them too often-he is bored, he found someone else; they don’t talk, he doesn’t listen.

Lovers, misunderstood, trembling and fearful, come together and fulfill the promise; “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.”

“The conclusion, when all has been heard is; fear God and keep his commandments. For God will bring every act to judgement, everything which is hidden whether it is good or evil. "

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Neighborhood Beautification

He should have been wearing a trench coat. The knock on the door always jars me. Opening it to see my neighbor I expect the normal request to borrow money. Nope. “Do you do a lot of shopping,” he asks. In response to my confused look he counters, “I have this friend that will sell you forty dollars worth of food stamps for twenty dollars. All the neighbors are partaking.”

Cindy is in good shape for fifty-seven. She waitresses at Carrows. Her garden inspired the planting of my rose bush. She waters her garden in bikini, but sometimes in silk dress; depending on if she wants to dress up. Currently she sleeps in her backyard (her bedroom is being redone.)

Wednesday I came home to find Cindy digging a trench in front of our houses. “You missed it,” she says. “The clouds opened up and poured rain. It was raining and hailing. I’ve never seen hail like that here! Another minute and it would have been running into our houses.” I asked, “How long you lived here?” “Since 1974.” So when she says she’s never seen hail fall like it did in this flood it carries some weight. So we spend the last hours of daylight digging a trench in-case the floods returned.

Sunsets are awesome in the high desert. I step outside to catch the colors in the sky and find ‘Junior,’ the two-year old playing in front of my house, no parents in sight. “Hey dude isn’t that an awesome sunset,” I ask, pointing to the sky. Junior isn’t very articulate. I go on to spend a small chunk of time with the kid chattering on about rocks and colors in the sky. Junior now runs to greet me every time he’s outside.

Junior is a child at risk. His mom is a teenager. He’s being raised by grandma and grandpa-who are maybe forty-years old. All live next door. All four have different colored skin. I gave grandpa James a drive to work and heard more of the story. Grandma had an affair and broke up with James. Subsequently she went to jail, was released, went back to James. The teenager is hers—but I’m not sure she’s his.

Cookie came to my door one night begging me to call 911. We wave to each other now and talk about roses. Since I’ve planted my Ingrid Bergman she has decided to begin planting flowers again.

The coffee-cup saying is to ‘Bloom Where You’re Planted.’ Christ’s words are more sobering, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Time to open that front door and connect with our neighbors. God will supply the means; a call to 911, digging a ditch or raising a rose bush. It’s up to us to reach out and connect beyond that. Then to enjoy the resultant bright blooms our neighborhoods.