Zip-tied or slipped tide. (Sorry, I didn’t know what to title this one.)

My eyes welled up yesterday. I felt hijacked by a compassion stored in the fruit cellar of my heart. A nice surprise.

Over the last few years of my life I’ve been doing some soul shifting. That’s right, soul shifting, not soul surfing, or even soul shaping. Shift happens. Well…not so fast.

I didn’t slouch on the sofa waiting for life to slap me across the face. I did, however, put my will down, and backed away slowly. What seemed like striving to free myself from zip-tied hands was really fear manipulation. Every time I attempted to wrangle out of the cuffs, my wrists bore witness of the struggle. Funny, the more this happened, the more it appeared as if I brandished a razor blade on them.

Is true freedom a suicide pact of sorts? May I be bold enough to say I was afraid to live and scared to death? How dramatic!

Anyone who knows me, knows my life is full of life, yet for years (Decades? Even before my thirty something years of mid-life crisis? Since my mother’s water broke?) I settled into a fallback position of sorts. My therapist described it like sitting a hundred yards from the house in the tall grass observing my family’s goings on. It’s what I knew. It’s what I was shown, father effect you might say. Father affect more like it. My Dad had the affect too, at least that was my experience of him. I miss him and wish we could talk about the similar wounds we carry. Our heart rates seemed flatter, not flattering.

Now, my thumper is fluttering on occasion. I feel, and in the feeling comes water tension on my eyes–A vision-smearing lubrication reminding me I still have a heart, and not to be afraid of it breaking, even breaking into joy. In our family there are plenty of opportunities for both kinds of breaking. Who am I kidding? I’m fairly sure every family fractures their hearts in wringing life out in close proximity.

“Oh the humanity!”

I think that might sum up this little stream of sub consciousness micro tome.

I’m feeling more human…more humane, and by the grace of God my heart will break open more frequently. The zip ties are loosening and I’m not as afraid.

Peace and prayers peeps.

Freedom from Information Act

Information age. We’re in it. There’s still writing on the wall, many walls to be exact. We have real news, fake news, and real fake news. 2016 was full of it, and many chimed in to spin it to be in it.

I want out. Where’s the sand in which I can stick my head? Where is the place I can be informed, but not over-informed, spun to death as it were. Even my thoughts here are on this little platform are waiting to be picked up by a passing tech-train to the cyber-out-there.

I recently read a blog about using social media in a positive encouraging way. I get it, and I want you to come away with lighter hearts and a more encouraged outlook. I have to face it though, Facebook gets the better of me sometimes. I made a not-so-smart move and picked up my smart phone in the middle of a conversation. I thought Facebook had more to say than the person sitting across from me. What a putz.

If information pulls us away from a “now” moment, a connection in real time, then let us lay down our arms, turn the volume off, flip our phones over, and see the other. Simple.

At times we need to initiate the Freedom from Information Act and form a more perfect union with those in front of our actual faces.

#preachingtomeself

Stop. Put your screens down, and back away slowly. Happy Newer Year!

What Dreams May Come

I know I’m in the thick of it now…Tuesday, just before I woke, I dreamt an avalanche of parcels knocked me off my feet and buried me alive. I had a ring of sweat around my neck, and I was breathing heavily. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at the pile of Target, Amazon, and Kohl’s packages that began their takeover of the alcove of our bedroom. For a few anxious minutes I couldn’t tell what was real. Was I awake?

This past Tuesday was bookended with humbling, hilarious (In hindsight), and painful circumstances.

When walking to my van for work, I hit a patch of ice, and fell flat-backed on the concrete, sending my lunch bucket flying. Then I heard the contents splay on the driveway like a drumroll. I looked over and saw the equivalent of a bag-lady’s purse. You see, I carry no lunch in the bucket, just odd junk-drawer stuffs. Maybe a book. A brush. Lip balm. Keys. A thousand delivery notices with equal portions of pens. Toothbrush. Receipts. Wallet. Eyeliner. Not a stitch of food, unless cough drops count. I managed to peel myself off the ground and scoop the stuff back into my trash-can of a lunch pail.

I won’t mention the patch of ice was from a missing downspout from the corner of my garage. It sits leaning on the inside corner of my garage waiting to be reattached. The bent tube has been waiting since spring winds amputated it from its so-called fixed position.

That was the beginning of the day…

Fast forward to Eight O Dark. On one of my last rounds (It was like a boxing match you know), I stacked the seven parcels of odd sizes in a Jenga-type tower just outside my package car on the pavement.

Do you remember, when a child, you noticed the old men cinch up their trousers before sitting down? I never understood why they did that, unless argyle socks are something to show off. When playing on the living room floor I saw colorful socks with a pinch of hairy leg attached, and thought the view from the knees down was a world of its own.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah…

My pants were sagging a bit. Not low enough to expose anything or force a duck-waddle gait. Just hanging around, you know. The packages stood like a skyline under the streetlight. I crouched down to gather the load. That’s when I heard it. It echoed around the silent night, holy night. It seemed the seams gave way as I went low like a Sumo wrestler. If it were a scene in a movie, I could see the camera panning back and back and back as the riiiiiiiiip reverbed out into the universe.

Dramatic pause. Really. I just kinda froze for a moment, and tried to recall the made up curse words of the dad in A Christmas Story. Darn. As the cool air affirmed my demise I acquiesced to the rending of my garment. I sighed, then lifted, and hoofed the load to the doorstep. I rang the bell in a sprinters stance.

That was Tuesday, woken by a dream, and humbled by circumstance. Two more full weeks to go. Never dull. Never dull.

15 Minutes on Family

Recently I wrote that “family is our resting heart rate.”

When we’re tired of playing hide and seek we can make a run for it. We run for home base.

I was a scrapper, a wee lad with dirty finger nails and iron-on patches covering the knees of my jeans. Our house sat on the dead end of a street. The brick porch leading up to the front door was our plopping point. When my mother blew the whistle we were homed in.

There are days when I wish I could hop in a DeLorean, rap on the flux capacitor, and set off for the early seventies. All my sibs and I would fill the front porch and get snot silly and tell stories and listen to Motown or Beatles.

Then I realized that our patchwork family does the same thing today. We find the fun in our dysFUNction. We find a peace within our imperfection. It’s a safe house and God shows up to let us know there’s room to grow, but “sit on the porch a bit…look at each other, love on each other.”

Twelve Minutes on Color

It is the contrast in color which illuminates autumn. Looking at one tree’s vibrant blushing brightens my imagination and appreciation of God’s artwork in the midst of the work of transformation. When I pan back and take in a bigger frame of color against color a greater wonder fills me.

We live on hill, and from the back deck a valley of autumn’s attitude can be taken in. We moved here five years ago this month, and we are grateful for the view.

It makes me think of the possibility of unity in diversity. God must believe it too, with this big fat metaphor of fall. This one line of poetry, the tree line, gets me thankful, thankful for my eyes.

Outta time.

Twelve Minutes on Hope

Hey, I found that “Hope” chapter, because I found my beat up copy of Mere Christianity while cleaning my disaster of an office.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity on Hope.

Desire, emotions, and feeling things have been suspect of late. I doubt my feelings and pin my desires behind my back as it were, wondering if they will betray me. I put hope in that category too. Hope isn’t an emotion, but it can keep emotions somewhat awake, don’t you think?

This world, in some respects, is a mirage…emotions too, are like steam rising off the pavement after a brief hot summer day. Our culture seems to be mood dependent. Well, if I really soak myself in the cultural abyss, (oh, so dramatic!) it’s more like the Moody Blues.

I guess that’s when faith, HOPE, and love enter, and move us beyond mood dependency.

Times up. Thoughts?

Looking for Hope? Twelve minute writing.

Twelve minute run of the brain. I can’t find my copy of Mere Christianity. I wanted to read the chapter on hope. I have no hope of finding it in the next few minutes.

Often my hope is off somewhere sulking. Sometimes it is playing hide and seek. There are times when it is translucent as if I can see right through it to the hopeless state of things. An Eeyore moment has me saying short whining sentences, or answering a “How are you?” greeting with an answer like an essay question on a High School history exam.

So, now I have five minutes left to write about hope.

What I do know is everyone lives a thicker life with hope in the wings. Hope cheers us on to the next thing. Hope leads. Hope gently takes our hand. Hope see the possibilities.

I’m not a natural “hoper.” So when things get rough, or complicated, or senseless, I first sit in the mud, as it were, pointing at all the fractures.

My time is up. It’s 9:00 a.m. I found hope, it was in my breast pocket.

How is your relationship with hope these days?

Split Infinity

My body isn’t speaking to me. Last night I told it to play capture the flag with a thirty something, a twenty something, and a dozen eighteen and under caffeine like humans with legs made of rubber bands. My first brainy thought was that I could deke and juke with bare feet on wet grass.

“Hey hips, you can out maneuver these voice cracking pubescent boys and win win win,” I said.

“Hey fifty five year old, watch this…” I said.

And it was all over, one leg straight out extended to the north, and the other splayed toward the Southern Cross. I’ve never done the splits before and I wasn’t sure I could stop doing the splits now. My legs were locked as a young lad looked down on me. “Time out,” I said. “Help me up,” I begged.

As he pulled me up I could feel the sockets big and burning beneath my pride and prejudice. I thought I pulled one over on these punks, flag in hand. (Actually it was a pool noodle, which represented my condition quite nicely.) I stood like the Marlboro man, my legs a parenthesis as if I just dismounted from a two thousand mile cattle drive.

I gave the noodle to the punk and tried walking, but it most likely was seen as a wobble wanky, tippy tunky, swaggery slink. Scenarios rose in my imagination. My Forrest Gump braces from the hips down to my special shoes. My children pushing me through the Wal-Mart in a wheel chair singing The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.  I could hear random people at the park asking if they could sign my lower body cast.

God bless my wife for going into another room before spewing out laughter at my adolescent dream of being a college running back attempting to pivot and dodge with a blue noodle tucked in my Jello gut.

I eventually found my stride again, my bow legged pride again, and laughed at me self. It helped me forget all about losing my swimming trunks while tubing behind a pontoon the day before.

 

God in the Dock, Again.

“Just who do you think you are?” I demanded.

“Who do you think I am?”

“You are the God in the dock, often under investigation, especially when things go awry.”

“For example?”

“When plates under the ocean slide, causing a wave to morph into a wall of destruction on innocent people. When tornados twist through towns and suck the life out of them. When land dries up and fails to give sustaining crops to families. Anytime Mother Nature gives humanity a swift kick.”

“Natural disasters.”

“Yes. I struggle with them. Why don’t you give Mother Nature a stiff lecture ending with ‘God so loved the world?’ Sometimes it would be easier to be a deist, believing you set the world spinning and then walked out the door.”

“There are many easier ways.”

“Do tell.”

“You may not like them.”

“Well, right now I don’t really care for what you’re not telling me.”

“Atheist, agnostic, pantheist, materialist, naturalist, determinist, fatalist, spiritualist, —are these enough?”

“Are you suggesting I be a pluralist?”

“Not really. I just thought of some options, in case your free trial of deist doesn’t pan out for you.”

“Free trial. Heh, I get it. Not only do I put you on trial, I lump you in with all the other court room drama defenses of worldviews, philosophies, and spiritual leanings.”

“At least you’re trying. Please understand that I care for every person who walks these different paths. At the very least, they’re trying. I am saddened they feel I am not enough or worse, less than. I am also saddened many lose their lives needlessly, tragically.”

“Yeah, where were you when thousands were swept away, yanked away from their loved ones?”

“You are raising your voice.”

“You’re damn right I’m raising my voice.”

“Jerry, I love you.”

“What?”

“I love you.”

“Did you love them? Were you present when the lightning struck? Did you see when their lungs inhaled water rather than air?”

“I love you. I am present. I see you.”

“You’re avoiding my questions. You’re doing a Jesus redirect lawyer thing. You’re leading me.”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“I Am.”

“You’re what?”

“I am leading you. I am love, and love is leading.”

“Did love lead those people, too? The Haitian earthquake, how about that?”

“I knew each and every one of those precious creations of mine. Some left their bodies to be with me. Others already made their decision to go it alone. I am God, but I am not a dictator. I desire loyalty not slavery.”

“Wait. Wait. What about the natural destruction? What about the shifting plates? Cause and effect, was that your idea? Why didn’t you stop these events from happening?”

“Jerry, why haven’t I stopped the sun from shining or the moon from manipulating the tides? Why haven’t I sipped all the oxygen out of the atmosphere? Why haven’t I shriveled the bellies of every cloud around the globe? When my big banging voice said ‘Let there be’ there was and was and was and is and is and is. Much good came from my words, and I smiled. Don’t you smile when words come and deliver good?”

“Yes.”

“The earth is still full of My glory. Mostly its surface and underlayment are holding together nicely. Yet all things pass away. Time passages mixed with the pressure of gravity have a natural course. That course is part of My plan.”

“So, let me get this straight, are you owning the natural disasters or not?”

“Of course. In fact, as a matter of course. The course of matter over time leaves a trail of historical proportions. The story is still unfolding under the laws of nature which I established before the foundations of the earth. Remember, I know the end from the beginning, not to mention that I Am the beginning and the end.”

“I remember, but I am in the middle, a tiny phrase in a run-on sentence as it were. We humans come and go like the tides. We wash up on shore only to be pulled away by the undertow.”

“Yes, all are like the grass that fades in the noon day sun. But that’s not the whole truth. Humans are the pinnacle of all My creation. You all weren’t simply good, but very good. You are far and away more like Me than any other created good. I long for you to turn to Me and find life and meaning. That is My way, and to entertain an answer to your question, the natural disasters work together for good.”

“Okay, I know what that verse says. Romans 8:28 is the exception clause for the weak non-thinkers.”

“Let me ask you this…how long have you been struggling over this natural disaster conundrum? How often have you looked to the heavens with an attitude of ‘what are you going to do about this one God?’ Where has all your thinking led you Jerry?”

“Here. Again.”

“We’ve met here before. I don’t mind, really. I understand you completely, even when your logic breaks down and you throw me under the bus, as they say. I would prefer the argument over apathy.”

“Apathy wears off after a while and I can’t live with myself. Arguing is exhausting, and I wish you would just give it to me straight.”

“And you think natural disasters are tough. If I gave it to you straight, the whole of it, the noise would deafen you, the light would blind you, and my love would melt you. Believe me, I don’t want apathy tucking you in every night. Neither do I want you to feel you have to be in control by winning arguments. By the way, I don’t argue, I discuss with the motivation of love and the journey’s end of Truth. I field questions with the freedom to answer them or guide the questioner into the mystery of hope and trust.”

“You are leading me, aren’t you?”

“I Am.”

Army Men.

Ever since Christmas I’ve been playing with army men. On a whim, one of my daughters gave me a bag of them, and they are positioned all over my office. There is one duct-taped to the dash of my delivery truck too. Although they represent the ugly facts of war or protecting peace, I love my little green men. Yes, I am a grown man with green men. You gotta a problem with that? Actually I wondered if this fetish is problematic for this civilian who has always maintained his civility.

Maybe I am reverting back to my boyish ways. My older brother let me tag along to a backyard battlefield meticulously staged with army men, tanks, pill boxes, bridges, camouflage, foxholes, and little jeeps on top of mounds. Colonels stood calling in air strikes on fixed coordinates as they gripped their binoculars with one hand. What took probably hours of preparation was destroyed in minutes with firecrackers and M-80’s and hurled stones. Our imaginations adhered to the rules of engagement of pre-teen testosterone. When the din of the firecrackers waned, we supplied our own sound effects that often spewed spittle to be wiped off our faces with dirty forearms.

Yeah, those were the days. The days before the reality of war began seeping into our prepubescent glorification of army men that didn’t bleed, they just fell over intact to be reset for another scene of “War is heck.”

Now this 55 year old soldier wannabe sits in relative peace reminiscing, and wondering why I am so fascinated by these mannequins of conflict, these Madame Tussaud-like representations of freeze frame battle. Okay, I better get to the point quick before I start blabbering on about Lieutenant Dan or Private Ryan, or the kilted William Wallace.

War has metaphoric undertones, does it not? It has spattered the wallpaper of history so much that I walk past, often desensitized, to the next safe zone. All the news pouring into our living rooms from all the conflicts around the world become like over-exposed film (Remember having to have pictures developed?) , a whitewash of “oh, isn’t it a shame?” as a commercial or a click of a mouse tells us “move along, nothing to see here.”

But where does war begin? Oh, if that isn’t a loaded 50 caliber question. I need to walk this back a bit. Okay, a lot, because I don’t have the wherewithal to commentate, like Morley Safer in Nam. My thoughts are more base-camp, boot-camp in nature, because these little men got me thinking about my so called peace-time existence.

A friend of mine recently threw out the question “Are we ready for what’s coming?” He was referring to life from a Christian worldview. I am Christian, sometimes manifesting as a skeptic, or on really bad days as a practicing agnostic. Still, I am convinced that God exists, and Jesus Christ ultimately is my only hope. I figure if God so loved the world, he can surely love me. For that, I am truly grateful.

But these men. Green men with weapons. All denial aside, we’re in it. Yes. Call it war. Call it “That’s life.” Call it the “resistance” like Stephen Pressfield affectionately labels it. Why does the phrase “Three steps forward, two steps back” exist? Because there is an anomaly that holds us back unless we press into it. Our potential must be fought for. I believe our ultimate potential is found in God. Since Adam and Eve fell in the garden, humanity has been falling all over the place. I am human. You are human. C’est la vie. No. No C’est la vie!

My thoughts on this are not done, but one thing I do get from my army men (and God’s narrative) is that in this world there will be war of all kinds. I can’t see Jesus eating C-rations or wearing a flak jacket, but I know He knows what it’s like down here. I know He fought the good fight (The best fight ever. For us.) and was able to say, “It is finished.”

So, what are you up against? As long as gravity holds our body and spirit to this field of operation we need to resist the resistance. My army men remind me. God help me.