Exchanging Letters 3

God,

I know the difference between talking about you and engaging with you. I also know which activity is easier. A similar concept is reading about writing and actually getting butt in chair and fingers dancing on the keys.

I’ve been thinking about third person. Do you observe the world from a third person angle? Sometimes I feel as though I’ve lived my life in third person. I live a shave away from wholeness, and see myself pouring the coffee, but hear no sound thereof. I report the life around me as a proof I might just exist. I joke with my family as I scan the obituaries for my picture, then shake my head…”I’m still here!”

So there’s the parallel on how I feel you operate and my own function under the sun.

Hmmm.

There are so many ways to try to reset the dislocation of my heart, spirit, soul, spirit, with the world spinning around me. But there is a simpler way. There has to be. I hear Jesus’ words “come unto me and I will give you rest.” Peter stepped out of the boat, and Thomas was encouraged to poke around the resurrected body of the Lord. I wonder which of the disciples I take after. I lean toward doubting Thomas with a dash of the denying Peter, but long to be like the disciple Jesus loved. John.

Love, Jerry

 

Jerry,

I see you. There is a simpler way. I am the way. Your dislocated feeling is understood. I too want engagement, not a third person detached rhetoric. I want your heart. Remember that dreary rainy day way back when? The day you walked up a driveway with a package and engaged me with a question? You asked me if I loved you. I sent a breeze through a row of pine trees and whispered “yes.” I knew you and one of your favorite things…the sound of wind through thousands of needles.

I see your fear. I feel your resistance to releasing control. I know you struggle with being labeled as one of ‘those’ kind of Christians. I got you. I get you. Bring those thoughts to me like you are doing right now. I can handle them. I Am, you know. Take a deep breath.

By the way, living in third person isn’t always a bad thing. That’s how creatives are wired. They help those whose don’t know their need to stop and smell the roses to consider doing so. I sent someone Saturday night to tell you those very words to encourage you.

Love, I Am

Why Two Days Changed My Fussbudgetness.

Lucy, from the comic strip Peanuts, was often referred to as a fussbudget. Over the past few years I have become a fussbudget, my heart traipsing around the landscape of complaint, unbelief, and fear. Recently I described it to someone as brooding. I can’t seem to nail down a solid description of my state of mind. Needless to say, my silent grump grump aint helpful to those in my proximity.

Then two days, one right after the other, a couple of weeks ago, shook me out of my inward sourpuss self. May 17th two of my children decided to take a giant leap…out of an airplane. Be honest, what do you think of first when skydiving come to mind? Exactly. What if the chute doesn’t open? I don’t see this thought as pessimistic, but realistic. Planes have wings to keep humans up there in the wild blue yonder, unless some zealot or deranged person uses one as a missile of mass human destruction. My son and daughter fell to earth with hardly a thud, safe, exhilarated, and the determination to do it all over again. (They’re adults, what can I do? I know what I can do… Give them an Applebee’s gift card for their birthday next year. Yes, they jumped on our dime right into their bucket list.)

The next day my longboarding (i.e. big skateboard for riding hills, not do stunts) daughter took two of her brothers to surf a local neighborhood. She was merely 3 to 4 inches off the ground and fell to earth with a thud. She dropped and rolled, but in the dropping she sustained quite a blow to the basil part of her skull. 911 was dialed, and an hour or so later she was in a medically induced coma for a closed head injury. She had a basil fracture, broken cheek bone, but no other broken bones. There was hardly a scratch on her otherwise. Barbara and I were beside ourselves with concern as the first twenty four to thirty six hours were a roller coaster of emotions and worry as the doctors came and left with assessments.

I said short prayers to God.

Not today. No funeral today God. Help!

            Other people said the longer prayers. Lots of people said the longer prayers. Our entire family is grateful for the longer prayers, and all sorts of other support through this reality. Today our daughter is in a state of the art rehab facility called Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids Michigan. Today she is. Today she is the same captivating daughter after her chute didn’t open on that hill. Today she is a self-proclaimed “safety nerd” as she deeply regrets not wearing a helmet. She is not finished healing, but is coming along much faster than predicted.

Thank God.

That is the reason I am writing about these two days. This is why I confess to the world and God my own fractures. Just because we are human, we flake out sometimes. Come on, admit it. God went looking for Adam and Eve in their nakedness. Why would God not look for us? I know this opens up the Pandora’s Box of why many things don’t make sense, all the way from 9/11 to a weak baby chick not surviving. I, for one, need to hop off my little private, arrogant self, and admit I have a lot less control than I thought.

Today, I thank God for those who continue to hold us through prayer, presence, and embraces. Life is mysterious. God is mysterious. So, if you find yourself in a fussbudget frame of mind, that’s okay, no judgement here, but consider the possibility of coming out from hiding. God is looking for you, along with some human humans.

Prayer:

God, thank you for all the loving people in my life. You show up when they show up, whether I admit it or not. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.

 

God, Human People, and the Paralysis of Blame.

I keep telling Barbara to focus on one thing at a time while maintaining the big picture in the peripheral. I found it nearly impossible to do either separately or melded together like peanut butter and jelly. There are many many things on which to focus in this village we call home.

We attended church and I wouldn’t engage. God has been a thorn. Sorry God, I know it isn’t your fault. If it was your fault, you wouldn’t be a very desirable God now would you? What isn’t? What is the ‘it’ of ‘it’ all?

“Life is difficult,” as M. Scott Peck said. Agreed.

Some would pinpoint their fingers at the free will, free fallin’ humans who choose and choose and choose. I choose. You choose. They choose. All the bad choices in the world, of the world, and by the world. The free falling humans aren’t the first choice of blame though. The fingers point up to the Invisible God first it seems.

God. You have been lost. Not because you have run away to hide (Which is the reason that floats in the back of my mind), but because I have lost sight of you. Eye have. Even as you prove yourself over and over to me, the miracles you place in my way every day, I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch with little more than a glance into the invisible faith in and of You.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

I had a dream the other night that I was standing at an Alter. I looked up to a person holding out one hand. “Would you like to come and surrender to God?”

“Yes! Yes!” I knelt and wept uncontrollably, as I have done before without thinking of the circled pattern of my spiritual state over the years. Trust poured over me, in me, through me. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee?” I didn’t feel the need to push my fingers in His hands or thrust my hand into His side. My doubting Thomas lay sleeping within the dream. I told the dream to Barbara on the way to church. She asked me how I felt about it and I said it was just a dream. Then church. Then stubbornness. Then distrust.

God really isn’t to blame. Neither are the human people within any given church (which is another reason I have shut down in stubborn pouting). In the end, blame isn’t the ultimate cauterization of rips and tears in the soul. Blame only keeps the wounds open, even the self- inflicted kind, of which there are many.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus

Forgive. Forgiveness. Forgiven. Thank God!

Do you ever get stubborn? Do you ever lack faith and forgiveness? How have you found your way out?

Prayer Thoughts After the Philomena Movie Credits

It’s strange how a movie can lift you away from your current reality only to plop you down more solidly in your current reality. The movie wasn’t about any circumstance our family is experiencing, although I think a movie could be made about our reality, its current weight as well as its past. The movie gave me hope to live in the here and now with more authenticity and strength.

Religious experience sometimes has the same effect. I distrust my own faith; a distrust that has grown from lack of proximity and communication. I take heart in the fact that I am off my antidepressant and not depressed. But a flat-line emotional state is not the opposite of depression. It is a respite from a switchback path up a mountain. This is the level ground in which my heart rate can be stabilized before more ascension. A good life is always an upward climb. An authentic life is an immersed heart under pressure of a new altitude.

My wife feels every little stone along the path, and lets me know. I trudge along quietly like some sort of monk that has misplaced his prayer rope, the one with the knots in it. There was a man in the movie grumbling along, dissing God, and pointed out every injustice as if God was the sole owner of each. The lady he helped had a steadfast faith in her Catholic roots with a sensibility about life that flowed naturally from her heart out beyond her lips. In the end, forgiveness kept her moving up the mountain.

Forgiveness. That passive aggressive antidote for bitterness and victimhood. Passive, because it is a release of personal revenge and retribution. Aggressive, because it is the stay against the calcification of our own hearts.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus

In our current reality sometimes they do know what they do. More acutely, we do know what we do. Forgiveness often is the most stretched when it is our own selves we need to forgive. In either case, whether it is us or them who we need to forgive, forgiveness must remain a viable option in order to continue our ascent to finish well this mountain climb called life.

God, help us to forgive even as you have forgiven, amen.

Shoulders. A Poem.

They talk about chips and weight and coldness.
On my shoulders rests nothing,
it’s the tense sinews and dehydrated fibers
in them radiating down to the blades like a bread line
from the thirties, tattered and wrung by despair.

I suppose they would better slump than lay
like a plank above the chambered muscle,
stiff, stubborn, automatic, like a blink.
Should I pay attention, I will them to bow down.
They give momentary prayers to pacify.

Then back up and perpendicular they set like a beam.
It is their fall-back position, default mode,
and I ignore their stance at attention,
I refuse to return their salute.
I carry on

until an arm rests atop my neck and shoulders
and the pressure, the presence reminds me
although I experience loneliness, I am not alone.
“Leave me alone” as I squirm out from underneath,
as if that were possible.

The Gift of Restlessness

It isn’t fully received,
a rose bent over at its neck.
Thorns spaced so holding the stem
is an intentional act but not a grasping,
clenching affair.
Thumb and fingertips
lightly turn the bud bowed
in the prayer of sacrifice, red petal
winged tears glide and rest in our steps,
and we go on another walk.

Carbon Notion

Don’t explain why carbonation bubbles appear then rise to the top.
Each air pocket lifts beyond my surface tension.

I could jump inside one blip of oxygen and ride it like an escalator
to break through the high fructose corn syrup.

The trick is to catch the carbon orb’s inception at the base of the bottle.
Try to find that little nothing out of something.

It becomes a base jump, leap of faith, through a wall of glass
like a choreographed Jackie Chan scene.

Sometimes I buy some purified water, but late in a day gone flat
I will grab a club soda to tickle my imagination.

 

 

While She Was Sleeping

Her hands folded under her cheek
and covers pulled over her shoulder.
God’s grace came and lifted her away
while she was sleeping.
Such a short distance between dreams.

For Monica

A Toast to Life. When Situations Pop Up.

“Don’t move. Wait right there and when they pop up immediately slather butter on them,” I instructed Cecily a few days ago.

Butter is for melting, especially on dry toast. The butter needs to melt fast and run deep into the porous surface. This morning the butter for my toast was as hard as marble. I stood guard as the wires inside of the toaster glowed. As soon as the pieces resurrected I laid them on a plate, grabbed the stick of butter like a pencil, and rubbed the end like an eraser. The white/yellow scraps disappeared and the toast glowed all greasy. Perfecto.

Life feels like dry toast lately and the butter is frozen. Sure seems like situations are taken one crusty bite at a time and hard to swallow. In our house situations pop up like toast all the time. Often I am not there to apply the butter before the pieces cool. That’s a good thing, because I would be rubbing the frozen butter on the toast situation like a cheese grater and slivers would be everywhere. What a mess. Barbara spreads the butter while I am off working and I hear about the toast in the evening.

I am on a huge learning curve when it comes to conflict resolution or situational situations. My answer would be to avoid the stick altogether. Buy spreadable margarine for crying out loud (We only use real butter now). Or better yet, let’s have oatmeal instead.

Occasionally I engage and the butter melts and the situation is glowing like grease and easier to swallow. Most of the time Barbara is on it and her experience is evident. What I have learned can be accredited to observation and coaching from her.

The ideal would be to always have room temperature butter. Yielding yellowness on the ready to soften what pops up around here. We need a greasy grace to slather over situations.

God help us to be ready to make a toast. Cheers!

This is the way, see the melted majesty?

 

 

The Giver. A Poem.

A light breeze through the poplars whispers of a Lake Michigan shore.
Hummingbirds engaged in dog fighting over the feeder.
A lone woodpecker pokes around in the distance.
Flies hurry past sounding like Indy cars.
Crows speak in short sentences.
I breathe thankfulness.
God is a giver.
Heartbeat.

 

Painting by Wilfred McOstrich