Monday, April 04, 2011

Early April, 2:09 AM. Slow, steady rumblings in the black of early morning. Occasional flashes of light create glittering still life outside the window. Shimmering, swaying trees in view for a split second and then dark again. Persistant dripping of sorrow from the sky onto the rooftop, icy white pellets shrink in the cleansing...renewal. Time passes making the memories clearer, more distinct, someone gone, too soon.
Missed. Mourned. Hurt for those left behind. Pain.
Kind responses to the posting of this loss. Hopes those here and related can somehow feel the comfort, the care, the compassion, even though the loss never really goes away. Kindness from strangers. Kindness from friends.
Years and years since since last seen. Occasional thoughts of her coercing a smile to lips, encouraging crinkled skin at the outer edge of eyes, a glisten, a spark. Remembering the laughter, the energy, the stories, the life...
Asking why so withdrawn, why so alone, why the choice for so long to be separate. An occasion to call to question choices, about self, about time, about others, about wasting what's meant to be shared. Apprecitated. Respected. A privilege. Precious. It matters.
When someone hurts, we all must.
"I don't have to hear it, if I don't want to
I can drown this out, pull the curtains down on you
It's a heavy world, it's too much for me to care
If I close my eyes, it's not there

With my headphones on, with my headphones on
With my headphones on, with my headphones on"
                                 --(headphones/jars of clay)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two weeks ago I awoke from a dream. 
I was driving to work, the sun was bright, green grass all around, steady warm breeze, car steadily moving north down a dirt road. The way was blocked by an estranged friend of mine who was being pushed in a wheelchair by someone with a full beard, mustache, reflective sunglasses and wearing fatigues who I didn't know. I came to a stop as they slowly moved forward, knowing I was behind them, my friend knowing it was me and that I was going to work but neither said a word to me, neither really looked at me, instead they were both focused on the waves of tall grass moving across this immense field. Sporting a handgun, my buddy was shooting at gophers. Continuing to wait would cause me to be late for work. Forcing my way around them was possible but it was also being pushy and risking hurting someone or getting stuck. I knew I would have to speak to them but I didn't want to feeling I had tried previously to patch things up between us and it was my estranged friend's responsibility to speak to me this time. He remained silent and determined to seek gophers. My thought was, is this what he's come to for meals and entertainment? Shooting Gophers?
In this realm this friend of mine has been going through hardships. Like many, he lost his job and has been unsuccessful finding a new one. He's been struggling in other areas that compound the job loss. I don't envy him and probably would not deal with it as well as he seems to. Quite some time ago I remarked about concerns for this friend. He was not answering his phone, only texts or facebook. He had started to sell personal items online. Some form of my words got back to him and a text arrived from accusing me of saying things that were less than favorable toward  him. I honestly, to this day, don't know the specifics of what I am supposed to have said but I tried to assure him via text that anything that I may have said was out of concern and not meant to harm or demean him. Though I don't know what I did wrong, he has the perception that I did or said something and that's what really matters. So I try to figure out how to make this right. In an era where we do little communication more than a sentence or two texting or tweeting I don't know if correcting things like this can be done?
It's been a long time since I've done anything social or had a conversation of any substance. I recall standing in a parking lot when the weather was warm last year sharing ideas about God, sexuality, accountability, disappointments, victories, books, movies (more than oh I like that it was good, or oh I didn't like that it was awful). That was months ago. So many things have happened since then.
Earthquakes, tornadoes, tidal waves, nuclear reactor core breeches, people have left this life and gone to the next, birthdays, lay offs, hirings, a new year...
While dreaming I understood that I would have to begin the conversation even though I believed I'd already done my part. It wasn't understood that I had and that made the difference. Though it felt like giving in I had to question what was really important, my pride or the greater good. Waking, I realized the same thing. How does one do that when the written word is difficult enough to communicate effectively, clearly? Now that it's dwindled to nothing more than short sentences, symbols, and tweets it seems doomed to failure. Perhaps it is doomed to failure until we rise above it all, take time from our "busy" schedules and talk with one another again, face to face instead of distanced by space and rectangular brightly glowing pieces of glass. At the very least answering the phone when it rings. I'm beginning to understand that if someone takes the time to call these days, instead of text or tweet, they really do want to speak with you. And what a shame if we don't take the time to appreciate that and instead ask why aren't they texting? It may very well be time to start answering the phone again when someone calls.
Perhaps then I won't be haunted by gophers being executed by a guy being pushed down a dusty, bumpy, dirt road in a wheelchair. 
What it comes down to is sometimes it is important to apologize even if you don't know exactly what you are apologizing for other than you've somehow hurt someone and that's really enough. 

"I search for shelter near the mines we swept
I guess forgiveness hasn't happened yet
There are no words that I can say to you
To turn this careless sky from black to blue
So I'm asking you

Is it safe, is it safe to land?
'Cause I'm not going far on an empty heart
Is it safe, is it safe to land?
'Cause the long fall back to earth is the hardest part" (safe to land-jars of clay)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Just Where Was I Going With This?

It's difficult, working the overnight shift, for me to really get quiet and listen. I read a devotion earlier and have already forgotten what it was about. After that I started to read from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 14. I do recall that is about spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues and prophecy and the difference between them. How speaking in tongues is for one's own spiritual edification but prophecy is for the edification of all present.

Every ten to fifteen minutes I am interrupted by having to quietly walk down the hall where the boys rooms are and carefully shine a flashlight into each room. I am looking to make certain a few things. First to verify that each boy is in his own room where he belongs and hasn't snuck out and gone somewhere. Second, to make certain none of the boys have hurt themselves. Some of the boys are prone to self-harming behaviors such as cutting, asphyxiation, biting, hitting themselves, repeatedly hitting the wall. So I have to watch for that overnight. Third, it's not uncommon for the boys who live here to have been sexually active at an early age, typically forced onto them by someone they know. A parent, a sibling, a cousin, aunt or uncle, someone the parent is dating... Sadly it happens and the boys then will often turn to each other because as awful as it has been, there is often something of these acts of violence against them that either felt good and they want to replicate or they are able to bully, control, force someone else into something that was forced onto them. They are able to be in control, harming someone else. It becomes about power. So the bed checks are to keep the boys safe and protected. To be honest, it's selfish of me to even think of these checks as an interruption considering the idea is to keep the boys safe, prevent them from becoming victims (again) or abusers.

But I do use the minutes between checks to try and listen, read, learn and grow spiritually. Tonight I've been reading about how pornography has potentially effected the male population especially so that many males may not see the importance of building healthy relationships with women because they can turn to a fictional presentation of what sex "should" be. How waiting to marry makes it more likely that women will often feel obligated to compromise their virtue for fear waiting will end a relationship. How men don't feel the need to court and are often not taught or expected to treat women in any special way. It's been a common theme today for some reason as earlier on my drive into work the radio aired a sermon on this and how we need to teach our children to respect others. Teach them to forgo things the world teaches us to seek out and take now.

I don't want to become complacent or even comfortable where I am. I want to keep myself apart from these damaging practices no matter what I may have been part of in years past. I know that alone I am destined to fail but I also know that there are very personal things that are difficult to bring to light. Uncomfortable for the confessor and even the councelor. Often maybe even more so for the councelor. A burden. Something not asked for. Something not welcome. Private, personal, awkward...risky. But I think that's where we need to go and we need to be ready to listen and be supportive. To pray for each other. To build each other up. To lift each other up. To not try and do this life thing alone.

It all got a bit to much for me when I started reading how in the Church the normal expectation is that a man be married and if he's not by the time he's in his 30's he'd better have good reason to not be. I stopped reading at the point, recalling I am in my 40's, single...for what I consider valid reasons if not altogether good reasons. I know people wonder, guess, assume. I can't blame them. Nor do I want to get into long explanations with everyone.

So thinking on these things I decide to put it to rest for the night and go back to the original article before I went off on the trail to enlightenment. The original article being: 5 Health Reasons to NOT Quit Drinking Coffee.

There's something I'm willing to discuss for a while.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Skunks gnawing on dry cat food, dead opossums, moles getting chased through the snow by outdoor cats. These are things that have been happening for the past three weeks that make me really hope that winter is done and over with sooner rather than later. And I'm hoping this icy snow that we had counts as the Lion beginning to the month of March so we can have Lamb weather until (shudder) next winter.
I can't complain, and I won't, because I'm working. I've got a home. I've got clothing and food. I can, and am, work(ing) on my health. Things seem to matter again: how others are treated, how responsible I am with what I have, how what I have can and does effect others, how it all effects me, what do I really need, what can I and maybe should I do without, why when I feel so distant from the Creator do I go to Him so often with requests, with thanks, with question, with concerns, with appreciation, how can I live so that the Wonder is always on display, and why do I mostly fail to do so? Do I spend too much time trying to figure this stuff out and wind up getting little to nothing done?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm being challenged by the Body of Christ in ways I had forgotten are a challenge to me. Previously I had noted how I was trying to plug in and volunteer at the church I attend on Sundays. Now I am being asked to help with transportation of people who do not have rides to church. My first response was hesitency and apprehension. Why? It's what I wanted, or at least what I said I wanted.

The more I think about it the more I begin to wonder if maybe it's simply the recognition by someone that I'm craving and my volunteering is born of extremely selfish and self indulgent motives. Why would I volunteer and then, the very thing I offer up, my first instinct is to turn from when I'm asked to help? It makes no sense unless I'm offering my service without sincerity or for wrong motives. I will be doing this service as there is another man in church that does the van ministry alone and it's something they want two people to work together on so I will be paired with him. When this solution was offered my apprehension left and I'm looking forward to doing it. So I have to wonder is it selfish motives or am I developing some sort of neurosis or phobia. Does my hesitation stem from doubting my own ability to do this.

I have had the same doubt when I discovered that the schedule for children's Sunday School includes me doing the story in the weeks ahead. This makes no sense as my favorite part of my current job was to read aloud to the boys at night. Plus, this was another thing that I offered to do. What could possibly be causing my apprehension and doubt? These are not new things to me. In college I drove a van around campus picking up students who needed rides. Reading aloud is one of my favorite things to do because I'm pretty good at it. Where is this apprehension being born? I spend a good part of my life dwelling in this apprehension that tells me I cannot do things, that I will fail, that I'm not good enough.

And really, apart from Jesus, I suppose I am not good enough. It is only through Him that I really can do these things and do them well. Even in these opportunities I have to give God the glory, know that it is only by Grace that these things I do mean anything. The worth of these activities does not come from me. It comes from being in service of the Creator, the Savior, our God.

On my own I have failed repeatedly and miserably. I have hurt others, let them down, lied, tried to take credit for things that I deserve no credit for. I want to love God simply because He is. He is God. And that's enough. Not the for the things He's does for me, not for the things He allows me to do, not for the times he's allowed me to take credit for the things I couldn't have done apart from Him. I want to love God simply because he is. (This bares repeating) And do the things I know I should, not to get credit or to be noticed or recognized but to please the Father.

I drive the church van, therefore He Is.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A while ago I thought I'd like to volunteer time at the church I've been attending. I really enjoy it there and have been wanting to give back something. I called one Sunday afternoon with my schedule in hand to let them know that I was available the first half of the week.

The voice on the other end sounded older and I mentioned that I'd like to offer my time and services. My idea was driving people to doctor's appointments, picking up kids in the van for youth group, those kinds of things. Wondering how the church would make use of my services was actually kind of exciting.
The voice on the other end of the phone then said, "Do you have a phone book? Yes? Let me give you the name of our custodian.?"
My heart sank. This was NOT what I had in mind as far as volunteering to help. I listened and heard the custodian's name but I didn't commit it to memory. I thanked him for the information and then said goodbye and hung up. Initially I was disappointed. Cleaning toilets was not something I wanted to do, nor was I willing to do it. I moped around for a while before the dawning realization that I was being an arrogant jerk. What on earth made me think that I am above helping out with cleaning the sanctuary? Sadly I have done nothing to rectify this.
Several weeks later the man who had given me the information asked if I'd called. I said no because I hadn't. Then a week later I met the guy who does the custodial duties. He's a really nice guy and I remain an arrogant jerk. It's difficult and saddening to see who I really am or can be.  It's even worse to recognize it and do nothing about it. I have so much yet to work on, and only a lifetime to do it. Without Grace, Mercy and the Love of THE Heavenly Father I'll never come near. Grant me a true heart of service. Break my current heart and heal it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I've been on hiatus for an extended period. Much of that time I've done very little and can account for almost nothing. There were things that I had in mind to do such as write, clean house, prepare for the winter months, spend time at my sister's house up north, find a different job, be more involved in church, read, get caught up with people I know...  That's just a partial list and looking at it I see something insurmountable. Sometimes a person has to just dig right in and do the things s/he doesn't want to and see what the outcome will be.

This hiatus was not something that I anticipated or planned. Somehow I allowed a sense of being overwhelmed to fling me into a state of mental paralysis. I can recall very clearly the moment it hit. I found myself wandering aimlessly around the supermarket. There wasn't anything in particular that I needed or even wanted. The purpose was to distract from the things that have been pressing to be dealt with. I found myself in the stationary aisle looking at pencils. Not registering the different kinds of pencils, the different designs, just stopping and looking at the pencils. I didn't even need pencils. A sense of deep sorrow washed over me from the top of my head to the bottoms of my now leaden feet. My arms dangled at my sides unwilling to lift. Tears began to form in my eyes clouding the rows and rows of pencils before me. I remember thinking, "I'm just going to stay right here. I'm going to sit down right here, right now and just stay right here. I don't have to be anywhere, I don't have to go anywhere and this is where I want to be right now at this moment and for all the moments to come.". It didn't matter if people looked at me oddly or asked if I needed anything. My response was going to be, "No thank you. I'm really fine and this is where I want to be right now. But I do appreciate your asking, I really do. Thanks." It would be a matter of time before the manager would approach me and I'd already decided once that happened I'd breathe deep, thank them for their concern and get up and leave, probably drive around with no specific destination or reason. It was about 1 am when this occurred nearly 2 months ago and it's only now that I can begin to see it for what it has been and continues to be, though less intense.

I did not sit down by the pencils that day though it seemed as if it took all of my might to snap out of it and shuffle on and out of the store. I don't recall the specifics of anything else I did in the store. The rest of the time I was there is just a blur of aimless, pointless meandering. I have to guess that part of it was an underlying hope that someone, anyone would notice that at that time I was in crisis. No one did. No one would unless I said something or did something crazy like sit down in the pencil aisle and tell anyone that asked that I'm alright and I'm right where I want to be and don't want to be anywhere else right now. Even though that wasn't true.

Is it really that difficult to communicate need, to ask for help, to take the risk that someone might not get it and think strangely of someone? I mean honestly, wouldn't it be much easier to simply go to someone trusted and say, "I am hurting right now and I don't know what to do?". "I feel trapped and am afraid for what's to come, or that nothing is to come and things will stay like this forever.". So frail and so much worry about what someone may think. Something about pride and falling...

So little trust in the Goodness in others. But I do believe It's there and most people are excited to share It. They just need someone to go to them and ask for help and risk the sense of being strong and allowing our pride to falter and seek God in those around us. God is all around and working through others all the time, often the other person not being aware of exactly what they are doing but God using them anyway. It's often that still small voice that we miss, or take for granted, or simply don't recognize. We don't allow for miracles anymore. We've even lost the sense of Grace and Forgiveness and that's why only "crazy" people are willing to ask for help. Somehow we've become so limited. But there is Trust and Faith. It's Spark hasn't extinguished, thank God.

And so I hope to be back for a while and carrying on with whatever it is I am doing or am supposed to be doing. And hopefully I will not only make myself available to others in need but be able to look to those around who are eager and simply waiting for someone to ask for their help.

Mercy truly does live here.