Monday, October 28, 2013

The Screams Of A Child

I was decompressing. It was my first hour home from work. Over Pandora I heard the screams; “Mommy, mommy, mommy.” I was jarred enough to quickly walk out the front door and round to the house behind mine. In this age especially the screams of a child cause one’s mind to race.

Coming around the corner I saw a little girl of about ten years age in a big white jacket, long brown hair and black glasses. She reminded me of the boy from the movie Christmas Story. I told her I was Mr. Dillo from next door. She said her parents weren’t home. She was locked outside. To add to her panic we were in the middle of a wind warning---the cold wind was howling at speeds up to 60 mph. Poor kid; ten years old, alone, in a new neighborhood, on the first cold day of winter-- and mom is no place to be found.

In days past perhaps I could have had her come into my house. You just shivered, right? These days I didn’t have that option. My mind raced but I had no solution. She knew her mom’s phone number. I gave her my phone to call. No answer. At that moment, Cindy, of The Eternal Yard Sale, came around the corner. She volunteered to take the girl to her house until her mom arrived.

Fortunately Natalie lives in a neighborhood where there is a loose (very) connection of neighbors that know one another. Those were fearful screams I don’t want to hear again. What if no one had come? My heart aches for that little girl. My soul aches for community that doesn’t happen enough and neighborhoods full of houses that stand alone.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nakedness of the Storyteller

“Oh, did I mention that he was a urologist?” Some people were not meant to tell jokes. A good joke, like a good story, relies on material and timing. If I have one fear of writing it is that I won’t deliver on one or both points. A good joke is succinct. It holds the audience.

There are days I hesitate, put off and delay posting. Often times it is because I’m feeling negative. It is alright to share that I feel a critical negative spirit within me. It is not my goal to have the reader leave with that same attitude.

My friend had the stereotypical dream---but the ending differs. He dreamt that he had to give a speech and that he was naked. He gave the speech and the audience was so connected with him that they never noticed that he was naked. A good story and a good joke should draw you in so that you are expectantly waiting the punch line. You shouldn’t notice the nakedness of the storyteller---unless he wants you to.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Road Signs

He reached up, pulled the cars’ visor down and sneezed. The visor was by now sun-baked, dried out plastic held together only by dust. He drove toward the ocean. He needed a break. Life was coming at him like falling Dominos. Everything cost money they didn’t have. The marriage was strained; what with the two toddlers. Not to mention that he’d broken his ankle in the accident on the loading dock.

The car bounced along making noises every time a shock engaged or a joint was put under stress. It too was held together by dust and perhaps, like the universe, God’s voice kept it from blowing apart.

It was a full day’s drive out to the coast. He wasn’t even sure why he was driving there. He’d thrown a mental dart at an imagined dart board and made the decision to go. The thought occurred to him that he could just keep driving. Then where would he end up---a crippled man in a beat up car? Not surprising to find himself thinking of escape. Maybe he could keep driving onto Loreto; Mexican waters, whale watching and no one watching over your shoulder.

So he drove squinting into the setting sun. Road signs for the canyons meant he was almost there. The car careened around the turns and gravity kept it on the road. Now and then running water off to the side of the road, a small waterfall, not what he expected but a pleasant surprise.

The main road along the coast more freeway than highway. He pulled into a lonely parking lot, got his jacket and crutches from the trunk and went out onto the sand. Decided that crutches and sand weren’t a good mix---was going to just have to hobble. Found a rock still warm from the sun and crawled up onto it. Stared out at the ocean. Such an immense body of water. The waves pounding, pounding, pounding onto the shore.

There was something about the vastness and the power that spoke to him. So much beauty and he was but a part of it. So much power under constraint. The beauty and the power; perhaps a provident hand holding it together. Not an answer but a spark of hope. Thinking on that he decides to spend some more hours staring and meditating. Then to try to find a hotel for the night and back home tomorrow. Not with answers—but a spark of hope which is what I guess he was looking for all along.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Frameworks, Strangers, Aliens and Anchors

Bible doctrine is the theology which provides a framework for my life. Some might even call that wisdom. When life slams us up against things we have no answer for (violence, death, cancer, child abuse, handicaps—fill in the box) the thing that keeps me sane is a Biblical framework with the person of Jesus Christ at its center.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…” An anchor holds a ship in place so that the storm doesn’t move it out of the harbor or even into other boats. The anchor centers and secures.

We need centering, we need securing, and we need someplace sheltered. I do anyway. Peter calls the early Christians ‘aliens.’ Earth isn’t home, they don’t belong here. At times we all feel that way. There doesn’t always seem to be a safe circle. At times I just feel like a freak. I see the world differently. I have thoughts that bounce from sane to scary. Friends and family are my closest allies yet still they can’t really know me (yes you like me but do you---like me, like me?). Where do I go for shelter?

I lean on a framework. For big picture sanity I lean on Romans chapter 8; God causes all things to work together for good, if God is for us who can be against us, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. The smaller pieces fit into smaller frameworks; I raise my daughter in a framework of releasing an adult into the world one day. My marriage is framed biblically, trying to love my wife as Christ loves the church. Outdoor exercise grants me mental and physical strength. Framework provides the context for our lives.

Chesterton makes the point that even a freestyle artist will choose a medium and a boundary (a frame if you will) for his work. Once the boundary is established the artist can render beauty for all to see. So the boundary frees rather than inhibits and the artist is free to move fully and create beauty to the utmost.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Last One Picked For P.E.

3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade I was the last chosen in P.E. To this day I can’t say it was a bad thing. I just wasn’t an athlete, wasn’t popular, wasn’t pretty. Having asthma certainly didn’t help either. Truth is I’d have rather been reading than playing sports. That’s probably why I grew up enjoying solo sports like hiking and cycling.

Are there days that I wish I had normal lungs and excellent speed. Certainly. I can ride or hike forever. The hiking I can do at a good clip if I need to though not the cycling. There are moments, riding with others, that the frustration turns to anger at things I can’t control and genes I had no choice in inheriting. Still I’m more the tortoise than the hare so I keep plodding along knowing I’ll finish—just not in record time.

I think it’s forced me to choose camaraderie over contest. If I am going to go along with you on a bike ride or a hike I won’t be racing. I try not to enter contests I can’t win. If you ride with me you ride for the shared experience. Perhaps that is God teaching you something. Sometimes it’s about ministering to that slower guy even though your time is going to suck. Still maybe your heart will improve in the process.

I suspect a greater design in all of this. Even if I used EPO or steroids I’d be the slowest guy on the course. These physical and emotional challenges force me to evaluate what’s important. My prowess doesn’t allow for pride. I have to recognize that I will always be slower. I still won’t be the first one picked. I am forced to choose quality over quantity, slogging along rather than racing. I’m better at the long race than the sprint—and that’s what life is like anyway, isn’t it?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Socialism Feeds Our Selfishness

They’ve done a nice job of brainwashing us. In the present political climate it won’t be long before you hear somebody say, “I think everybody should have healthcare.” Add that to an already established list of benefits like Social Security and Welfare. Those same people would say that everybody should be taken care of in their old age and that there should be no poor people. Nice sentiments. Social Security was established in the 1930’s. Welfare programs grew and the Aid to Dependent Children program was established in the same era circa the Great Depression. What did the American people do before that?

The Judeo-Christian concept of doing unto others was woven into the American framework. It was incumbent upon individuals and religious institutions to take care of the sick and feed the poor. These are Biblical concepts going all the way back to Moses. God has always had a heart for the poor, the orphan and the widow.

Significant need of our neighbor was great opportunity to give resources to meet our neighbors’ need. These needs allowed great opportunity to enter into the trials of people in the neighborhood and create caring community. Opportunity presented itself in ways that challenged selfishness. Sharing was normative, hoarding was looked down upon. We did unto others as we would have done to ourselves. Today we let the Government do it.

No need to feed the family next door. I can just point them to the Social Security office; maybe even pick up the forms for them on my way home from work. There was a time they’d knock on the door of neighbor or church. Now, if Ned next door can’t find work—at least he’s on the dole. Yes the opportunity still exists to enter into my neighbors’ need. It just doesn’t feel as pressing. Now there is Big Brother and Uncle Sam to help out.

As the State takes over it erodes opportunity for selfless caring community. There’s a solid government built safety net now. I can trust that and I know my neighbor can. So there’s no need for me to open my field up for his children to glean tomorrow’s lunch. They’ll get that free at school. Was there a time that the mom next door might pack an extra lunch for the neighbor kid? No more, no need. Those once occasions for selfless ministry happen less and less through government aid, pride and progress. No need to do unto others—that’s what we pay taxes for.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Development of the Soul

“And the only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul….”—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

This belief that life should be a cakewalk seems an American thing. It could be much wider-spread; perhaps the whole human race believes it. We believe it in the face of much evidence. Still we shout and stamp our feet when things don’t go as we think they should.

We rob ourselves of peace thinking this way. We shatter deep connections or never allow them to develop---connectedness with our fellow human beings and openness to the God that created us. We expect other people will be gentle and settled, that their lives, of course, are going along smoothly. It is tough to reach out to them when each of us is stamping feet and throwing tantrum. Admitting life is tough and taut with trials allows us quiet in ourselves to reach past the roar of the other.

I grumble incessantly. I’m pretty much the wimp. My soul should be better developed. Maybe those Old Testament saints fought so much for a reason; war and being whisked off being more the norm than the exception.

The fix for our mindset is to fit the complexities of existence into perspective. Wish I could say I was successful even half the time. So in all our celebrations and all our difficult circumstances the focus should be on developing the soul. For all flesh is like grass that withers but the soul is forever.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Know Thyself

In some Christian circles psychology is anathema. Words like introspection and concepts like knowing one’s self scare some. This may be because back in the sixties and seventies there was a movement toward self-discovery and finding-oneself which oft meant finding one’s personal mode of self-stimulation and self-aggrandizement. Still I propose that knowing oneself is a worthwhile study.

At a follow-up physical I asked the doctor about lowering blood pressure. We got to talking about stress and he said that some people know how to manage it and some don’t. I wonder if I fit well into the ‘don’t’ category. I do know that this week I’m feeling mellow, moody and worn. So yesterday before leaving for work I grabbed a Tom Waits CD on my way out the door.

Music is a “go-to.” I choose music to help or hinder my mood. A bad day at work will warrant Third Day, Jeremy Camp and I have a Zeppelin channel on Pandora; a good day means a praise album of sorts. So I knew Waits fit the bill on Friday. Still slightly surprised, as I suspected, running errands with Tom slowly changed my mood.

There are other “go-tos” in my life. People around me know that going hiking in The Preserve means I need significant one-to-one time with Jesus. Granted it’s not that I am wise enough yet to foresee stupidity before I commit it. Ask the wife about the last time I barked. I do know though that I will be easier to live with when I seek these outlets.

The key is recognizing when my moods and my thinking are not consistent with that person that I desire to be. When I am fuming in anger or focused on the negative or when thoughts easily derail into brokenness I know part of the process is to pray. Part of the process is to implement those anchors in my life that secure me to what matters. I seek to know myself better that I might mirror Him who knew me thoroughly from the beginning.

Friday, October 04, 2013

We Fall On You

We fall on You like Saul on the sword,

We fall for life, we fall for words,
Spoken to us in anger, spoken to us from hurt.

We fall on You when life makes no sense,
When those who do wrong get no recompense,
Their garment of violence covers them.

We fall on You when flesh rises up,
We fall with crying, we fall face first,
There is no condemnation in You.

We fall on You like deer for the brook,
We come with hunger, yearning deep thirst,
Our soul satisfied only in You.

We fall on you when our enemy—death,
Has stolen our life, has taken our breath,
You are the resurrection and the life.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Many Coloured Thanks

From the Peanuts comic strip:

Lucy: There was a real lesson to be learned from seeing Snoopy’s house burn down.
Adventure builds character…without adversity a person could never mature and face up to all of the things in life.
Charlie Brown: What things?

Lucy: More adversity!

Fall looks like a good season in the Dillo household. Mr. and Mrs. Dillo are both working full time while the teenager has a full plate with high school, boyfriend and winter dances all fully scheduled. It is good to enter into a season with breathing room.

Invariably life comes with challenges. Even as I write there is talk of a looming grocery store strike. There are also those trials that come without notice. Being able to enjoy cool fall nights resting in front of the computer watching Hulu, nestled in a blanket with Mrs. Dillo---these are good things. It is good to recognize these big and little blessings and give thanks.

It is almost a natural reflex to cry to God when things are bad, especially when there is no answer that man can supply—like a new job or antibiotics. So I am trying to be better about giving praise and thanks when things go well.

The trials will come. Peter and James note that they are variegated and multi-faceted. In this Fall season during the calm before the storms I praise God for vestiges of Spring and delight in cooler Fall days. I give thanks that good seasons too are many-coloured---like leaves in Autumn.