Friday, December 21, 2007

A Tiny, Momentary Mercy

Her hand slipped easily into mine. It was the first thing of hers that I noticed was human. Until then she was a beggar, the symbol of those poor we were supposed to ignore for the moment. But her hand, palm pressed into mine and fingers around that soft part of my hand between my thumb and forefinger, was hard to dismiss. Now my attention was off my work, bringing home the images of Mozambican life. Startled, I looked down to see her little African face looking back up at me.

The other children moved into my path and walked backwards in step with me, their eyes fixed on mine and one hand palm up. We had our orders. "Don't give even one of them money, there will be a mob around you in 15 seconds." Some of them were wearing burlap for clothes. I could read the print that named the corn mix that was once relief food for a local distribution center. They flooded around us wherever we went, constantly underfoot.

But not her. She was quietly happy to be my companion, and so as the others begged, she and I walked along hand in hand. Many of these children are prostitutes at an obscene age. And this might have been her story for all I know. I judged her to be about eight years old. 

I told myself, "giving any of these kids money will not help them. Parents or pimps or both will take whatever I give them..." We satisfied ourselves with the plan that we would give money to relief organizations instead of beggars. A good plan I suppose. 

I moved my hand out of hers to set up the camera for the next shot. The other children tried to get in front of the camera as they always seem to do in the third world. I don't have any recollection of what, exactly, I was filming, but I can almost certainly reconstruct the scene of the street and faces around me. It was 1992. 15 years ago. Memory is funny that way. 

We picked up our equipment and kept walking, and there was her warm hand again. This time though, it was not a shock to feel that hand there. It was not foreign. This same event repeated two or three more times after setting shots. We, at last, set up a shot that took our attention for longer than usual. We stopped the camera, folded the tripod and started walking. 

I remember looking all around me, in the sea of faces that had become our entourage. My hand stayed empty from that moment forward. Even the next day as we continued our work, I fully expected my friend to appear at my side to put her hand in mine, but it never happened. As it turned out, she had never spoken to me. She never asked me for anything. We exchanged smiles a few times as we walked, and I remember her pushing some of the other children away as they tried to move too close to her grip on me. 

The cynical side of me says she was working me for money. I don't know. It doesn't matter really, because though I never saw her again, she's never really left me. I don't dwell on the story, but now as I sit here in the thick of the Christmas season, she's a powerful reminder that the streets are full of poor around the world. Christ was indeed prophetic when he said they'd be with us always. He said it to defend the woman who poured perfume on his head and washed his feet with her tears, if I'm not mistaken. 

An undeniable reminder, that story, to worship Him in spite of the world's trouble. And here we are celebrating his birth, and life. I suppose, after all, the little miracle that comes even in the warmth of a friendly little African hand is mercy overflowing. There is no guilt or sorrow in that. Christ will be glorified even with the poor before us... and for that matter, far away from us. May His blessed birth, lowly and humble, be our call to pass on His mercies in far more abundance than we receive them.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Black Dog is Better For You (or, the value of sipping relationships regardless of your first impression)

The Chinese consider dog a delicacy. This fact is not unknown, anyone who's been to China discovers it, either through anecdote or by seeing it firsthand as the skinned Lassies hang in the market. What most people don't know is that there's a hierarchy of value for which color dog is most desirable. Dog with black fur is considered to offer supposedly the best flavor and the most benefit to the consumer (the black fur is believed to provide protection from the cold in the winter). Seems oddly superstitious, of course, this "you are what you eat" worldview.

Fresh coffee is both a scent and a flavor, I've decided. There are times after buying a bag of newly roasted espresso beans that I'll just inhale the aroma. Brewing it creates a different pleasure, and while it used to be that a good drip was just the thing. The other day, I found myself at a new level of coffee snobbery that bordered the superstitious.

Blaise, who doesn't drink coffee, was moving out and we were going through the closets, basement and kitchen to stock him up on the castoffs of items we thought he could use. Melinda came across several coffee cups of various sizes and colors. Red, blue, purple and one promotional collectible from our church, maroon printing on gray ceramic. I was so happy to relieve our cupboards of those cups and along the five hour drive to Monterey to deliver Blaise's final truckload of loot, I realized why.

The scent and flavor of coffee is exclusively found in earth tone shades of brown. It's possible that I believe this due to years of conditioning my brain as I drink. I can't enjoy coffee sipped out of a cup that is anything but some shade along the beige continuum. I think that if I were blindfolded and asked to drink the same coffee out of two cups, one red and one off-white, I would never fail to identify the better coffee as coming from the off-white cup. I've not been able to finish French roast from a promotional blue cup, or Hazelnut creme from purple ceramic.

We've been using glass mugs of late at our house. I must admit that neither ceramic nor beige pigment compare to the sight of swirling creme and java, or even better a dab of Baileys in those mugs. 

How is it then that thousands of holiday mugs and trade-show cups are still made in these primary colors? Obviously the non coffee-drinking population of Marketing executives have pushed this tasteless merchandising on us. 

But along that drive to Monterey, I also had to ask myself, why was it that I even made these judgements about coffee containers. Can books really be judged by their covers? Can a good wine be discovered because of the coolness of the label alone? Is black dog really better than yellow or spotted? 

At the end of the day, or in my case, first thing in the morning when I'm most likely to drink my coffee, maybe it is superstition that informs this powerful conviction. And if there, why not as I meet people and develop relationships. My brain is conditioned to see the world and everything in it a certain way. Coffee is coffee, after all. The same pot won't pour sweet or sour from a single drip. My eyes inform my tongue. A good caution, I think, as I encounter those I will eventually come to love. Perhaps I should develop a taste for blue ceramic before refusing to drink at all. I might otherwise miss the heady scent that liquifies into hot steamy satisfaction. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Last Few Volts at Night

Batteries get sleepy. They don't die really. They just doze a little and curl up, yawning, the deep kind of yawn with watery eyes and two or three gasps there at the end. Then they sort of stare, glossy-eyed across the room. The conversation gets fuzzy, someone asks a question and they give that cute little NiCad head movement and say, "huh?"

Don't even bother repeating. It's best to just turn off the phone or iPod or whatever is occupied by those polarized little bricks and plug it in.

Tynan gets "tired leg" when his batteries go. His head flops to one side, the black dense Taiwanese hair bobbing up and down then up again. It never stays down. He has a way of leaving his jaw slack when his batteries are low, and then the leg. It hurts him, he says. I don't ever remember getting "tired leg", but I'm sure it's tied to the drip drip drip of energy that falls away at the end of the day. Then it hurts. 

Tynan is so much better than he used to be. I mean now he deftly climbs the play equipment at school and scrabbles over rocks at low tide. There was a time there not too long ago... once he fell over onto his face. His hands didn't even rise. His coordination was damaged from lack of stimulation at an early age, and so it was his front teeth that broke his fall. Darned hands. So I guess tired leg isn't so bad. 

Tonight I will put him to bed and watch as his eyes close, but not all the way. He scares Devon, who once looked over at Tynan in the car and seeing the whites of his eyes under the fast-asleep eyelids, covered his own face in horror and said, "Geez he looks creepy".

Tynan is the battery boy. Powered by them and suffering from their nightly demise. He's a dreamy one when he wakes up, but he fights for the last few volts at night. It is clear that you better find his charger if you want to finish that last sentence. 

Friday, November 30, 2007

All Along, There it Was, a Gift We May Have Never Opened...

Blaise left this morning to live in Monterey. 

As I drove to the restaurant last night for his farewell dinner with just our family, what's left of it here in Grass Valley, I called Melinda to tell her I would be there in five minutes. Mei An was crying in the background because Devon pushed her as she sat down at the table. I asked to talk with her. Through her light tears, she said "hi dad". I told her to save me a seat so she and I could sit next to each other. A few sentences later I was driving alone again in the truck to the restaurant. 

Now there are a lot of things that go through my mind when I talk to a person on the phone. With Mei An, I'm imagining how hard it is for her to keep the chatter going, she is always trying to hang up. I envisioned her giving the phone back to Melinda and saying, excitedly, "Dad is going to sit right here... next to me..." She is smiling in my vision of this perfect scene. She feels empowered against Devon who has just been tweaked by my request to be with her for the evening. 

This morning as Melinda and I lay in bed waiting for the sleep to ebb away from us and start up the day, I was reminded of how she saved my life down there by the creek. My side hurt, the part of me that still somehow has an ache from the crush point. I have this ringing in my ears, constantly, and it is especially loud now in the mornings. But the thing that was in my mind was that I'm alive. Really alive! That's a gift. 

John and I talked about it last night, he called the accident a "near miss". I told him, "I have thought that, but don't anymore. It wasn't a miss. It was a direct hit..." I'm not sure either of us is right. Our black and white minds want to see things as either/or. In this case if I say that the log didn't kill me, it must have been a miss. But the log did kill me, it didn't miss, and I am living now. So it wasn't successful (a direct hit), nor a miss (not by any means) but it was something else, and I'm o.k. not really understanding what that is.

This morning as I talked about my aching side and ringing ears, I told Melinda that I'm so grateful. I almost left this world through death, and felt palatably the bliss that is on the other side of the membrane between the worlds. But by this gift, undeserved, I get to have both. Heaven isn't going away. It will always be there. It's not like saying, "Well we better go visit rural China before westernization ruins it..." Nothing will ruin Heaven. It will always be there. So it is a privilege to feel the pain in my side. A joy to hear the ringing. "Tinnitus" they call it. Just as it is a joy to have had these past 23 or so months while Heaven remains unchanged. I felt light again as I thought of it. I have the chance to sit next to my six year old daughter in the face of annoyance from her older brother. I have the chance to go on one day and finish the journey begun and interrupted toward Heaven.

A few tears. They remind me too that I'm alive. It occurred to me as I lay there, that I never did get the details of what really happened after I hung up with Mei An. So I asked Melinda. With one beat, I could see her put the story back in from memory, she said, "As Mei An was handing me the phone she said, 'Ty - an move'". That was it. I shouldn't have asked. The tyranny she had experience moments ago she was exacting on the next in line. I laughed hard enough to change the source of my tears. 

As I talked with Melinda I was imagining the family going on without me. The events and stories about them, the relationships and longings and more... would have happened in my absence. But not this time. I sat next to Mei An and across from my family shortly thereafter, and then this morning I was there to hear it told. 

Neither moment would I miss for the world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ungrateful Machine.

So I tried to do something new today. It was this laptop's fault. I didn't want to do it, but there was this little window in the top center of the screen that begged to be smiled at. A camera. Or lens from what I can tell. And there it sat completely unaware that it wanted a smile and so I did it. I reached down with the mouse, clicked on the little red button, and well there it is. Me smiling like an idiot at the screen in my office as if the humming, glowing thing cared that I was watching its cyclops glassy stare. That's not so new, me staring at the computer screen intently. I suppose the least it could do was say, "Cheese", or something equally inappropriate. There wasn't even time today for the snapshot in the first place...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cold Sun

It's bone chilling cold tonight. Clear sky, nearly full moon, what's left over from last night. And only the memories of the summer. The sun runs away south this time of year.

I remember asking my dear friend and physicist, John, how it was that an icy glass of water seemed to "radiate" the cold. I mean, if you put your hand there, near it but not touching, you feel cold reaching out to your skin.

He thought for a moment, not because it was a hard question for him, but so he could frame the answer in a way that my mortal mind might grasp. Then he said, "It doesn't exactly radiate the cold, instead it steals the heat from your hand." The sensation of heat transferring from my hand to the glass leaves my nerves feeling the cold, as though it was projected from the ice.

During the day, there is my retreated summer's sun. Some call it a cold sun, as though its temporary distance has made it any less scorching. But it does feel like the freezing air is pressed onto my face. "Radiated", what a wrong word that is in this case. Instead, my warmth is pulled from me, drawn south. "Stolen", as John said.

As soon as it goes, I miss the warmth that was once mine. A breath into the night air makes it appear visible. My body's heat floats out and up and dissipates into blackness. I can't help but wonder if it has made any difference, this old body that has borrowed the heat from the sun itself.

If the cold sun is taking from me, did it get all it wanted? Is it satisfied? Or will it be my joy and wonder to give until, at last, it returns from the equator with its laughter all full of blues and pinks?

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Story About the Necessity of Grace.

1992. November in northern Kenya was cool and dry. Our plane landed on the dirt runway after having earlier flown over the plains of light brown grass. Here and there we saw rings in the grass, dirt circles scarred into the land. They were where homes of the tribal peoples once stood. Probably Masai, made of dung, sticks and thorn bushes, these people are nomadic, so as their food sources move, so do they. Rains and heat cannot remove their footprints as seen from this Otter, the bush plane that moved people and supplies to relief zones.

We were staying in a UN camp near Lake Turkana, on the Sudanese border. Though it was a tent encampment, there were very few luxuries spared. We had hot showers (wood fired water hand hoisted from recycled fuel drums by local villagers to a bag above small shacks with cement floors.) and hot meals, (some of the best lasagna I've ever had, and grilled seafood in an indoor/outdoor mess tent).

But it was 1992. And it was November. The evening we arrived was the same day of the US presidential election. The results came in as the party was beginning to rev up. The UN employees who were there to feed and support relief efforts in the Sudan where southern Christians were murdering and being murdered by the northern Muslims. At the time, I couldn't understand why Christians were murdering anyone. I began slowly to understand that "Christians" had little to do with the faith I knew.

Clinton won the election that night. We woke to the sounds of revelers at around 2am. There was also the sounds of the crack of gunfire. Those days of hard travel tied to video journalism were taxing and I remember not laying awake long. The next morning, the camp was a ghost town. There were a handful of people at breakfast, and word traveled quickly to us that most everyone was hung over after celebrating the liberation of the US from the Republican party.

The gunfire we heard was not celebratory. It was a tribal feud involving cattle. A "Christian" Sudanese who was outfitted with an automatic weapon to counter the attacks of the North also had a dispute with a Turkanese who allegedly stole some cattle from him. That night, he and several others apparently came across the border into Kenya, killed his rival and recovered his livestock.

It seemed surreal at the time. Now I know it was a minor scrape, considering the genocide that has plagued many parts of the African continent without our awareness. Our work the next few days carried on as usual, interviews on the ground with the client we were serving, an air relief organization with a UN contract, and various sorties in the air for footage of their equipment doing the unenviable job of serving desperate remote distribution points.

The US was never rescued by the then new president. The hunger problem in the Sudan is still there, some of it has migrated to other places, and there are more circles in the dirt now, where my eyes saw living villages. The stench of death even with supplies flying into the distribution camps will always be with me. My short trip is nothing to the years of support some people offer. And yet it is perspective.

Not of how lucky or blessed we are, though we are. The perspective is of Grace and the necessity of our sin. It is necessary, of course, because of who we are, born rebellious. It is necessary because of our continued choices that are imperfect and corrupt. National leaders in those places in Africa of course could solve much of it, but for their own appetites. As is true of each one of us.

We are necessary evils. May God bring us to our knees more and more often to remember it. We are here and therefore are necessary. And yet we are born of sin. So what to do but beg for mercy, forgiveness and look for Grace. That's the point. Right here, each one of us is a Story. Will we be told after we're gone? Only if we create a human grace among our fellow travelers. Today, I am one for grace. Tomorrow I will likely sin again. May forgiveness be even more prolific than world hunger...

Monday, November 19, 2007

May it come, the dawn.

I saw the mists in the forest deep. Seeing them as they were, was the prize. The reward. Yes they shrouded the massive redwoods so that I could only see bark and low limbs. And I knew instinctively that above that gray scarf that wrapped itself below the underarms of the tree's limbs, there was green. The coastal redwoods, if they could, they would know that they belong. They are accepted as they are. And though that ever-moving cloth of damp may shroud the sight of those mighty princes and princesses of the trees, their beauty goes without saying. They stand assured. They are their own reward.

Whether I was there or not, they would be. Whether I could do anything for them or not is immaterial. I can only hope that I will see them again, perhaps someday in the sun where backlit dewdrops will push prism light to my clothes and skin. The sun, pressing through the shroud, the fabric dew, misty fog retreating and revealing the greatness that they are. Ancient beings, we all of us are. And yet the damp wetness of our bark so oft creates doubt that we will stand any longer.

Hold on to that thing. That rewarding thing that is and was and is to come. Visitors to the grove or NOT, seeing us, appreciating us for what we are in our imperfect splendor, or NOT. That is the thing. That is the one sure thing. The warm light at tree-top is more perfect and more powerful than the tiny, minuscule droplets of water that, gathered, obscure our beauty. It is the sun that turns the gray of a million droplets into the full spectrum of refracted light, the promise, the rainbow. In that dawn, each needle will hang a single rainbow-maker, where the visitor will marvel at perfection in total.

May it come, the dawn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hollow Where it Used to be

Why is it when you take something made of flesh out of your body, you're not just hollow there? I mean, it's odd, but over time, your body just sort of fills in. For a while there is a cavity. But it doesn't last long. What fills in doesn't do any good really. Just tissue. What was there had some reason for being, in general it made me feel better. The tissue is just filler and there's nothing you can do, or hope for that would turn it into the thing that you once had. All I can do is hope I don't cave in.

I know that after it was taken I could sort of remember what it felt like, back when that part of my body was where it used to be. "Nature abhors a vacuum", is another way to say it. And though I'll miss those things that I came with, I won't know it over time... unless of course there is scar tissue or "adhesions". Which I suppose is inevitable. There's something in there that just won't leave me alone. Guess I'll have it checked. Another CT Scan in a few weeks and I'll know more.

I've had enough of them to know how it goes. Laying on my back, the IV in my arm hooked up to the clear vial of contrast. They'll ask if I'm ready, then I'll watch as the plunger presses it down and feel the hot flush race through my body to all my extremities... ALL of them. Like being bathed inside out in a warm bath.

And if I were hollow in there, like a chocolate Easter bunny, I suppose I'd fill up with contrast. Maybe I'd cave in when it drained out.

The adhesions or whatever they are, hurt when I sit a certain way. Sometimes they hurt when I think about the accident, the defining moment that changed me forever. I know one thing, I don't want to medicate the pain forever. So I'll always live with it if necessary. And pray God to make the best of what's left of me...or what's bettered of me. Defining moments are like that. They take and give, and sometimes not in proportion. I know I'm hollow where it used to be, the thing I was made with. Fortunately, for all of us, when our bodies heal, we can make the best...while being made the best of.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peace. Peace to the Earth

There is peace on the earth. The iconic image that hangs in my room is called Peace, Peace to the Earth. Like some liturgical element that we've come to count on within the context of a Sunday morning. The Latin phrase that adorns the icon is something like: M N Y M N P Y. Which to my lizard like mind says "many men pee". It is the perfect thing really. The ridiculous, the sublime. Humans are binary that way. Both magnificent and desperate beings. We come from the earth, to the earth we return.

Maybe that's what really matters after all. The peace we return to the earth, we carried it all along. Sublime. Latin letters. Then there's the ridiculous, the eye catching a glint of gold overlay on the iconic art that says "men pee". We are both spiritual and physical. Both lizard and king.

Once I was reading the Nicene Creed in church, that favorite chunk of liturgy that can stand alone should the pastor show up without a sermon. Sometimes the Gospel reading or Psalms are the lynch pin of the service, but usually through some wise interpretation. The Creed, however, stands alone nicely. It is fully explained. There's no need for deep interpretation. You either believe it or you don't. Sublime. But there's this part, "He has spoken through the prophets..." Beautiful. Whether it was lack of sleep or a daydream, or something else, I don't know, I read it, and it came out of my lips, "He has spoken through the gophers..."

Needless to say, I couldn't finish the rest of the creed. Tears formed and my body lurched and gasped to try and hold back the laughter. Even now, years later, we get there and a smile forms on my face as I read it. Prophets...Gophers. The two words look kind of alike. And there it is again. We are, all of us, borne of both spirit and dirt. Both prophet and gopher. Maybe it wasn't the lack of sleep that revealed it, perhaps the Holy Spirit made me see it because there wasn't enough laughter in church that morning. Or maybe it's to remember that it's better to be a gopher considering the words of a prophet than the other way round.

In the end, it is peace to the earth that we can, at our best, hope to bring. Though it does not originate in our hearts, it can live there for a time. Until, that is, we're through with it. When we, at our best, return to the earth from which we came. And lay there at last the ridiculous. "Many men pee". "He has spoken through the gophers".

May some laughter in your liturgy of your life hold back the darkness, or even better, make it possible to deposit it once and for all where it some forest deep. Peace. Peace to the Earth.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Corner of Canal and Bourbon Streets

New Orleans... hmmmm. Can't decide if I like it or not. Definitely not at first. Something very charming about the French Quarter. Wandering the streets among the whores and transvestites (and normal people too) just gave me the feeling that there was something very spirited about this place. I really like the brashness of their sin, it's just so unapologetic. The zydeco music works like an anti anxiety drug, like verced.

It lifts you up and over the smell of vomit and cigarette smoke, the dirty street, the sound of a bottle dropping and breaking, the guy asking me to shine my shoes, and then telling me he can tell me what city and state I bought them in... the woman walking toward me smiling... I smile back (shocked) and then mouths, "Hi", which I can't hear, but read loudly enough... the neon, the French balconies, the elbows and plastic plants draped over them, the blues on one side and zydeco swirling on the other... plastic beer cups in the open... beads in the forever-mardi gras shops... "topless and bottomless"... up and over.

I could have stayed and gotten caught up in it. Like believing a movie is real. Like seeing yourself in the story... in the scene. During the scary parts, saying to yourself, "It's just a movie." But there was an urgency also in me. An urge. To remember where I had come from last year. And how it is I'm still here... Always seems to come up.

It defines me now. The log. My flat left lung that couldn't have taken in cigarette smoke if I'd lit one up. The waiting through a good day then a bad one. And the result, me here somehow, for whatever reason, still alive. Glad for it, and glad for the quiet of this hotel room, that womb-like bed that will swallow me into sleep in just a minute.

Glad to be here, yes. Glad when the time will come for me to go back through the membrane. And uncertain why I cannot remember all the time, cannot live in the urgency of the memory that music much sweeter than zydeco, more spirited, will lure me to my heart's desire... to Christ, glowing brighter than neon. Passing the streets with others who mouth "Hi" and smile...but who stop and share a decade or two in the time it takes for one human heart to beat.

That's what finally walked me back to the hotel on the corner of Canal and Bourbon Streets. It was just a movie..... It was just a movie..... was

Monday, September 17, 2007

Good Shepherd Sunday

This weekend was really significant in unexpected ways. Christopher's message was oddly heart twisting... the lost sheep, the lost coin were the readings (Good Shepherd Sunday). It included his review of the scandal of Mother Teresa's memoirs and the truth that God will do whatever he needs to in order to get our attention to get us to repent and come to Him again. again. again. again. Teresa of Avila, revered saint, felt abandoned and forgotten. It makes her that much more a saint, more real and relevant.

There is a complication with the two parables of the sheep and the coin, they, neither of them have a choice. The "finders" come for them and snatch them. And it is not so with God. Our choice plays a part.

Mei An was indeed found by us, and snatched without her choosing. The Chinese gov't saw fit to do what they do best - predestine their people. And she has come to us... a queen, royalty for sure, in the making. And I will try to show her the deep magic that is in her life, that in spite of abandonment, she has been found, and her throne will be returned to her.

Christopher's message reminded me that I was plucked from the creek bed and carried on Christ's shoulders, feet held together, for those forty days before I went home again. And now I'm, as you have pointed out, made to worship in the royal courts and to ask Christ to accept me into his life not the other way 'round

So it's what I did at communion yesterday, I pleaded with Christ to accept me. And I stood up, both the same and changed. The rest of Christopher's sermon rambled... not even one of his best. Just something there just for me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mumbling out loud

Every once in a while, I get a notice from and decide to go in there and update my personal information. It's been about two years so I decided to go in and drop a line, here's what I wrote:

I'm living in Grass Valley, CA. And the living part is a bonus. In 2006, I was crushed by a tree, lost several internal organs and happily, survived. My wife Melinda is the one who raced for help and saved my life. Then it was a couple months of trauma treatment in Roseville, CA.

What a ride, to get that close to the other side of the membrane that separates this world from the next, and receive the gift of full recovery...just what DOES a spleen do anyway? One of my kids is about to be married, and two others are entering first grade. Five total.

It's a funny thing, a social network. You just seem to be mumbling to yourself in the hopes of being overheard by people with whom you have only an arbitrary connection, something that time hasn't totally erased. We had more hair, less flab and all the answers. Now that we know what to do with ourselves, we float around these virtual walls and look for each other's graffiti. Funny, huh? May you make the most of it, and experience the joy that awaits you who crave your destination.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From St. Teresa of Avila

Be brave and walk through the country of your own wild heart.
Be gentle and know that you know nothing.
Be mindful and remember that every moment can be a prayer
Balancing ecstasy with clear thinking,
Self-control with self-abandon.
Be still.
Keep walking.
What a spectacular kingdom you have entered!
Crossing the moat between this world and that,
Walking on water if you have to,
Because this is your rightful place.
That is your Beloved reclining in the innermost chamber,
Waiting for you,
Offering wine from a bottle with your crest on the label.
Rest if you have to,
But don't go to sleep.
Head straight for His arms
When you have grown still on purpose,
While everything around you is asking for your chaos,
You will find the doors between every room of this interior castle
Thrown open,
The path to your True Love unobstructed after all.
No one else controls access to this perfect place.
Give yourself your own unconditional permission to go there.
Absolve yourself of missing the mark again and again.
Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for his
Dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single
Most beautiful place in all of creation.
Waste no time.
Enter the center of your soul.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Trees

I'm sitting on the couch in my living room, the windows open. it is dark. the air is dry and warm, left over from the day. I can hear the creek below the house. Mei An and Tynan are in bed.

We're just getting the first few tree frogs in the warm spring nights...

I still smell of barbeque smoke, the browning butter that came up off the big shrimp I cooked in the bbq wok... and zucchini spears and portabello mushrooms marinated in a teryaki sauce...

A favorite of Mei An's, the Shrimp... and Tynan who loves so much the little tail-less pink moons browned in butter. He always seems to go for where the tail was, the skinny section, first. He says it is "cwunchy."

I have missed writing like this, sitting in peace, on the couch and saying what I "see".
the air outside is just how I like it. We might as well be in San Diego, the desert ocean, beach that doesn't sweat...the air is dry, the leaves of the trees now are supple, a maiden's palm, delicate and smooth.

The maples are my favorite for that. The tips of the pines have become pale green, new growth. The ponderosas that surround the house, sentries in the wind, are deep green all the way up, until the tip.

They are said to grow 12 inches on average every year. The one outside my window is nearly 70' tall. that's an old tree. When we cut 35 trees to clear the land and use the money to adopt Mei An, I insisted on leaving that one.

Now with the big incense cedars, they are almost my favorite things outside my window. My all time favorite though is the lone Madrone tree outside my bedroom window. Its orange bark almost glows in the right light and the tropical-looking leaves are so opposite all the other trees. It will begin dropping them any time now, when all the other trees are greening, the Madrone, a sort of evergreen, will molt into summer and in the fall it will look most healthy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Brilliant nothings

tis all the more reason to keep quiet
as the good book says, a fool who says nothing is thought wise
all the more reason to look and nod knowingly
and furrow the brow
the fool, wise enough to know to keep silent

all the more reason to sip once more from the glass
and dab a little cheese on the cracker
and glance up at the ceiling tiles
or out the window, wistfully
when they pry
asking for tidbits

tis all the more reason to sigh
and tap a finger against the glass
and penetrate in silence, their gaze
until through complete and utter discomfort
of awkward shuffling
they speak or leave and think the fool a genius

it is reason enough to arrive and leave without a word
and keep shallow, folly-filled opinions safe from their grasp

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A letter to Ken

My friend Ken asked me to explain what I meant when I said, "prayer has its own reward".

I like some parts of this reply, and want to refer back to it when the Heresy trial begins.

One of the most powerful aspects of prayer is that God wants us to come to Him, so in our coming, we've done the greatest thing we can do. In fact it should be enough.

When people tell me they prayed for me, I say, "and God answered your prayers". They think I mean because I was healed, which is true. God may have been moved by the pleas of his children. "He understands how his children feel, God will listen to you", goes the Nickel Creek song.

But I really mean, that God answered their prayers the second they prayed. God's intentions were met at that moment. They came and He abided with them. Answered prayer. Done. In full. Now even if I died that next day, I believe that God's objective was met, that his child who prayed for me entered in. And God met him there. In that light it must befuddle God (if that's possible) that we complain when we didn't get what we asked for, no matter how hard we prayed...

The deal is, we are so results oriented. The extreme for me was when in a Baptist church I once layed eyes on a brochure that read: "When Southern Baptists Pray...God Works". Now I just have to believe that their good 'ol American work ethic there just got the better of them. Like a bunch of railroad workers whipping God, in shackles, into pounding the spikes in faster. Or the picture I get is a board room, and the chairman, a pompous man, looks over his glasses and says, "Now God, we talked in the last meeting about the results we need for this month's numbers... by the looks of things, you've not quite met your quota..."

I realize I'm over-simplifying it, and yes God does change things on our behalf if we but ask. But people often chuck their faith because they view God as ignoring them. "How could God be good if..." that old argument. God is ultimately good because He's placed realities that are for our benefit. Like the one we often overlook. Choice. God is ultimately in "control", right? He's got to have choice to be able to be supreme. If He doesn't, we're more powerful than He is. So God had choice. He's made us in His image, maybe that's why we have choice too. But it is clear that we do. I can choose to eat the candy and get sick, or not to and enjoy restful sleep. Choices have consequences. Lots of choices have more consequences. Some of those exponential bad choices have such deep consequences that things like genocide happen..

Now when I choose something, does God know what the outcome will be? Hmmmmm. Interesting. That would mean that God can't help but to know the outcome... All outcomes come racing at Him and He's at their mercy, after all, they will be what they will be. So why pray? If God knows, and He's powerless to His knowledge, He can't help but know the ending, we are Predestined, right? (Oh now there's a sticky wicket). Or there's the view that God is moving every atom in the universe at once. Maybe that's true. He could, you know. I don't think that's quite it, though. He clearly gave us choice, meaning we move at least the atoms we're responsible for, in the way we want to. When I choose to break a commandment, if it were God moving the atoms, it would be God who was worshipping an idol; and just how does God take His own name in vane, then forbid it in the Ten Commandments? Doesn't seem right. Can God do or be evil? Seems to me (at Melinda's prompting for this paradox) that the answer is yes. Does He? It's a pretty sound argument that the answer would be there, "no, God chooses not to...every time". Otherwise, we are once again more powerful than God.

I don't pretend to know the rules of Heaven, or the physics of eternity. But it seems to me that God must, something like, CHOOSE to not know certain things. (after all I believe He is all powerful and the only way to have true power over a thing is to be able to accept or deny it). I believe that while I was there on the creek, I was indeed for a time, fateless as Christopher likes to say. So that said, I was allowed to have a choice that God chose not to have. Doesn't make me a god or anything like one, just a person with that choice. So God's "will" if you'll allow, was to let me choose. Just like His will is to let Ken Buchanan choose to accept or deny His existence. God must have chosen to not choose that for you. So why pray?

I think the fall of man has prompted something like a deliberate unknowing in the mind of God. Not that I really know, I am but pondscum. Isn't it possible that God chooses to leave us all fateless and from time to time, when prompted, perhaps coersed, or maybe even out of love - interveines on our behalf? That would be truly a miracle wouldn't it? God deciding to go against His nature to know it all, so that when we in our best moments come to Him, He can slide into his nature (like an Italian suit) and touch us for our own good. It's not even a theory, so don't read it as one. It's a fiction that might in some small way be more informative than facts we wish we had.

However we view it, one thing is certain. God wants us. Craves our attention. Will do the outlandish to get us to come and abide with Him. He already has it all. Why isn't He satisfied that we merely exist? I think it's because love is meaningless unless it has a substrate. (like the wind is invisible unless it has smoke or trees to move). So our response to God is the substrate in which Love moves. Suddenly I realize that it's not about what I want God to do for me. Will my company make it financially? I've been praying for God to act in the thousands of potential customers out there. I peek up from my desk to see it the web counter is ticking. And God is delighted that He can see, for once, the smoke move - because I've come to talk. He loves me. I can't get that. I keep thinking prayer always has the word "request" as part of it. Prayer is our pausing to be filled, to be moved by the invisible wind of Love.

How can you hate a God like that? He gives me a choice (even though He could choose me to oblivion), to return to Him out of my suffering and lack, (though one touch could but restore me), so that in the end, I will be moved by my experience of abiding with Him. Too often I duck in to pray get through the list and blast out and wonder when God will act. He acted while I was babbling, He's just too polite to interrupt me and say, "eh, hem. You are blessed". We seek these emotional experiences or the definitive answer to prayer, and it drives us batty when some teenie aspect of it "comes true". Maybe the thing that happens could actually be explained by medical science or is a bonafide coincidence. It wouldn't matter to God. His work was done by the time you said "Amen". He gets us a second time if we're smart enough to thank Him for the "teenie" thing.

So I don't know if I've answered anything. I actually hope I didn't, because I don't have answers. This little experiment is all about choice, knowledge and prayer. The whole thing gets real wobbly on the topic of wisdom. And I don't even want to know about homosexuals in the ministry or coffee hour politics. These things are far too weighty for me.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

making sense out of the ends

There's a study that was done that showed people could make actual sense out of scrambled words and read them as long as the first and last consonents were correct. Like this:

Atfer mnay yaers , Ireasl geav geart patires.

Seems like that's all I have these days, the ends. The middle, where I spent all my time, is jumbled and random. Each situation in my life references the mess before and the one after, which helps to make sense of the whole sentance. Annoying little picture, really. I half expect at least one word to be spelled correctly all the way through. But I don't get that luxury.

I know how the story ends, essentially. It goes a lot like it did last year at this time. A lifting, and leaving. Exhiliaration. I know pretty much how it began. Not that I remember, but the letters of that event are familiar enough. So it has context.

We are completely broke, and owe money to just about everyone we know. A few jumbled letters. Then Mei An begins to get an odd eye twitch and we suddenly owe some people we didn't know before. And our checks bounce, while we try to raise money for an idea that may or may not succeed. That's how risk is. Jumbled and random, with a few ends that look right. We're one step ahead of foreclosure and our cars are falling apart, but still running. I live in the exact place I want to, a small house for a large family, but we all love each other deeply. Chaos and order, both hanging on to each other like frightened monkeys.

I'm learning to be thankful for the parts that make sense of the things that remain mysterious. If I look too hard, too closely, I see the mess and miss the meaning. Funny that. What I should be doing is reading quickly past it all, glancing at the sentance so that I see that "After many years, Israel gave great parties." Only see context and ends. The mess in the middle, taken for what it is, happens to be indiscernable no matter how hard I look at it. So next time, maybe I can chalk it up to a curiousity and nothing more.

What I should be more interested in is the actual sentance. And the day I read: "Mtsier Duroos, it's teim to ceom to hvean", better be the day I sell everything and give it to the poor...which may be my own children. The that's all I can be thankful for, the rest is just a mess.