117. Prodigality

  • Prodigals, we are all prodigal here. Each one of us has cashed out our inheritance and figuratively run off to Vegas for wine, women, and song. Vegas might have been a strip club in West Virginia or a bar in Hagerstown or a neighbor’s open window or a forbidden website.  Each of us is broken spiritually if not broke materially. The Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15 is preceded by the lost sheep and lost coin parables. In each of those brief parables the owner/loser rejoices when the sheep or coin is found. Jesus then says that the same reaction will occur in heaven over the repentance of one sinner.

In Luke 15:11 Jesus extends this theme to interpersonal relationships, going beyond a coin or a sheep.  A father had two sons, as you know. One takes his inheritance and cashes out. (Let’s call him Billy.)  He squanders all his money. Famine grips the distant country where he went, and Billy hires on as a pigherder, if there is such a job. I imagine the modern equivalent would be running a septic tank truck and emptying out port-a-potties.  Not exactly son-in-law credentials. Billy has lots of time on his stinky hands and hungry belly. He gets envious of the pigs’ situation.  Finally he comes to his senses, not his sensuality. He ran through his sensuality to get into the pigherding business, remember?

We don’t know what the state of his heart was back with his family, but we can deduce that he was impatient and greedy for his share of family wealth. We can deduce that money and fulfilling his desires were more important than his relationships with his father and his brother and any obligation that he owed to the rest of his family/community. When Billy detached, it was all about him, all about now. And back in those times you just didn’t pack it up and leave your family, clan, tribe, or your people.  I can imagine that the folks in his life, friends and elders, cautioned him not to do this foolish thing. It would be like a young man today saying he was going to Iran or North Korea to make a fresh start. But Billy listened only to Billy.

From his lowest point in life, full of pig envy, Billy repents and turns back to his father. He admits that he sinned against his father on earth and his father in heaven. He determines to tell his father this and to seek employment under his father because, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He is going to present in his sin, probably still covered in pig excrement stench, and accept his consequences. Secular justice would say, “Hey, you made your pig bed, now lie in it.” We could call it a tragedy, a shame, an ironic twist of fate.

But Jesus is telling the story. His father is so filled with compassion for his repentant son that he rushes to hug and kiss him. The son did not have time to bathe or get a change of clothes. He must certainly have stunk. Jesus does not mention Billy’s hygiene or attire. He focuses on the father’s rejoicing at the foundness of his son, not on the lostness of his son.  Justice yields to mercy, and mercy yields to grace in one heartbeat.  No criticism or lecturing occurs. Instead the father calls for a robe and a party.

It’s the same way for each of us. If we focus on our sin and separation, we will continue tending pigs, covered in the excrement of our sins. We will ruminate on our guilt and do earthly thinking about supernatural issues.

Justice is a sense of fair play before the law, the administering of deserved punishment or reward.  In this story we see justice in the equal distribution of the inheritance. We see justice in the prodigal son squandering his inheritance.  We sense a cry for justice from the other brother who is offended by the unexpected return of the “dead” brother.

We also see mercy in action. Mercy is the withholding of a deserved punishment. The appropriate punishment would have been to tell Billy “tough luck, kid, you suck”. Justice would have been served, but Jesus teaches us about the quality of mercy, which Shakespeare called “twice blessed” because it blesses the giver and the recipient.  By withholding harsh treatment of his son Billy, the father exercised his option for mercy.

Finally we see grace demonstrated. Grace is the giving of some good but undeserved thing. In this case it is a hug, a kiss, a robe and a party. It is rejoicing instead of condemnation, ministry rather than murder.

I think it is pretty clear that Jesus wanted His listeners to take away a clear picture of God’s love and the process of forgiveness from this parable. In very few words He tells us a full lesson about sin, pride, repentance, forgiveness, justice, mercy and grace. And what can we take away from this story, my Bloggywogs? Faith, believing without seeing evidence or proof. Billy did not see his redemptive reception, but he did believe in his father’s noble character and set out to be under his authority again. Hope, even when we are covered in excrement we can long for a forgotten promise to be fulfilled: that we are not utterly desolate . Love, especially when we cannot do the calculus to figure out how on earth we merit any love, we can surrender our hate, envy, pride and bitterness, which afterall are the obstacles to love. Prodigals, go home.

116. Grace

You probably saw this coming, right? Justice, mercy, and…grace: Unearned merit or favor, a gift. Who gives what could not be requested without any expectation of repayment? Do you, Blognog? Have you ever given an action or a gift to someone that had no strings attached, something like an irrevocable trust fund? Have you ever received such an extraordinary gift under such circumstances? Grace in its purest form is rarer than honest politicians. Hear me out, please.

In Les Miserables there is a grace-filled interaction between the thief Valjean and Bishop Myriel. The thief had stolen silverware from the bishop, but rather than press charges and further destroy the thief’s life, the bishop tells the police that the silverware was a gift, and then he adds a pair of precious silver candlesticks. In this one act the Bishop demonstrates mercy with Valjean and overrides the requirements of justice. However, he does not stop with mercy. He knows that forgiving the thief will not prevent the police from arresting Valjean, so he gives away more to save the thief from endless incarceration. Clearly this man demonstrated grace to someone in active rebellion. Such grace is so amazing that the police and Valjean were confused.

No one deserves grace, and still it is given. In 1984 my wife and I lost our second daughter at birth. It was the singular most devastating event in my life. I had just turned 28, and a few days later the overdue baby was coerced into a brief, oxygenless, ten minute life. The irony was that she could not live outside the womb and eventually would have died in utero as well. Diaphragmatic hernia caused the lungs to be undeveloped. Death waited on both sides of the birth canal. The grief we experienced was nearly psychotic at times. Dreams of crying babies were haunting at night. In the daylight the empty crib was unbearable to look at, and yet we stood and stared helplessly at it until we mustered the strength to clear the nursery before it became a shrine to our grief. That experience was like cutting out your own abdominal tumor and stitching yourself up without anesthesia… delivering yourself of the dead thing. We walked alone in an emotional fog for a year, I think, unable to get pregnant again and unable to see joy’s light shine through on any horizon.

We could, however, build a house, which we set our minds to doing in 1985. The day we moved in, August 1, my father died. It was not a shock that he died at age 68, as he had never taken good care of himself. It did make the world feel so sad, though. Especially for my four year old daughter Erin, who had lost a sister and a grandfather in the space of 1/4 of her innocent little life. You wonder about the scars you can’t see. I still wonder about the effects these deaths had on her young psyche. You don’t have to get hit by lightning too many times to fear it happening again. I guess once is enough for most folks. But we were not superstitious. Those rainsoaked losses broke through my pride and watered my faith.

In 1986, after a cleverly named surgery, we were pregnant again. High risk this time. We took nothing for granted. Our doctors were different and the hospital had to be. Our post mortem experience had been unspeakable at the previous hospital two and a half years ago. The new attending nurse was our friend, an ebullient OBGYN nurse who had lost a baby in 1984 also. That’s how we met. She and her husband had conceived in the meantime and she was excited for us to be blessed again. Little did we know that her two year old daughter would be killed in a car wreck that she caused in another year. Ironies abound in life, huh?  But that day we welcomed joy back into our lives… while she had no idea that in less than a year she would cause the death of her child, the injury of her son, the near destruction of her self, and the obliteration of her marriage. [Taste that metallic iron flavor that blood gives off. Have you never experienced that taste? Suck on a rusty nail until it dissolves in your mouth and then you’ll know what irony tastes like.]

The time had come for delivery. Not only was our third daughter delivered in perfect health, but we were delivered out of darkness and anguish that had lasted two years. It was not hard to name our child. Grace was our only choice; for she was a gift from a loving God, no question. Like the scene from Narnia when the Ice Queen is defeated, our Arctic landscape melted just five days prior to Christmas. She came home in a large red stocking and we posed her under the tree; for truly, she was a gift.

On a higher plane that is invisible except to the spiritually sighted, grace is the most excruciatingly expensive gift of all history. It is free to receive but immeasurably costly to give. Christians believe that God the father sacrificed his only son, Jesus, in order to pay the price of our sins. God satisfied the requirements of His own Justice system with the life of His son in order to forgive sinful human beings from what they deserved– damnation. Once that debt was cancelled, the treasure of eternal life, the irrevocable trust fund– reunification with the Father– was available at no fee. And it still is, with no expiration date or special fine print conditions.

I did not deserve another life, my daughter’s or my own. And now as Grace is giving birth to my first granddaughter, I don’t deserve her either. Many parental sacrifices have been made for my daughters and now my granddaughter, but none compare even faintly with the sacrifice of the first Parent, God the father. Fortunately, He does not ask such a sacrifice in return, just our heartfelt thanks and obedience.

115. Mercy

It’s like this– you screwed up, failed, did wrong, acted like an animal. You are not proud of your immoral or illegal behaviors. You are not bragging about them. In fact, you are hoping somehow to find a time machine and go back to that very moment in time where you could magically undo the wrongdoing. But you can’t. You’re stuck; guilty. You have something like moral or legal credit card debt. You have no money or anything to pledge against the debt. It’s astronomical. And the person you owe is looking into your fear-filled eyes. You imagine the worst– jail time, a beating, a bankruptcy, unending shame…and you hear instead, “I forgive the debt. It is cancelled.”

Mercy, as Shakespeare once said so beautifully, is twice blessed. It blesses the giver and the receiver. Whereas Justice in the previous post was about extracting punishment or payment of some kind in order to settle the debt, mercy is about letting punishment or payment go. Whew, we could use a lot more mercy in our lives, not in movies and books, mind you, but in real situations and relationships. If you have ever cancelled a debt owed to you, then you can attest to the sense of decency you feel as a result of forgiving another person for a debt or a hurt. However, if you have received mercy from another person, you never forget it. Shakespeare compared it to the rain.

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It  droppeth as the gentle rain from  heaven
Upon  the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him  that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd  monarch better than his crown.”

Sounds to me like the gift of mercy is gently God-given first. Then, if you practice mercy in this life and this world, it makes you better, stronger and more impressive than a king’s crown, especially if you are a mover and shaker. Your acts of mercy will resonate louder and longer than the common guy’s mercy. Think about it:: if you pardon a death row inmate, he still dies. But if your state’s governor pardons him, he lives. Mercy is potentiated as it is practiced at higher levels of society.

Merci in French means “thanks”, and I think it’s the appropriate response to the gift of  mercy. “Oh, thank you, my bondsman! You forgave and took away my debt.”

When I think of examples in my life of being forgiven, for some reason I recall my landlord in Vienna, Virginia. His name was Nick Starr, and he was very kind to me and my young bride. When winter came that year, 1979, he told me over the phone that he’d been meaning to build storm windows for the little house we rented from him. He asked me to count and measure the windows. I did (mis) count and (mis) measure the windows. Then one Sunday afternoon we built the frames at his lovely home in Oakton. I remember so well that his wife served pasta for lunch and spoke of when they had been stationed in Switzerland, I believe. He worked for the CIA, folks…shhhh. This is just between you and me, Bloggoiters. We built 13 window frames and primed them. Nick was going to glaze the glass in later.

Sure enough a week later he arrived on a brisk Saturday morning with a load of windows. We began the work of trying to fit the storms into the frames I had sort of measured. It was agonizing. Not a single one fit. Each needed to be shaved down a bit here or there. And then there was the 13th window that had no frame. Boy, did I feel stupid and small and useless. I waited for the blast that did not come as he looked for the 13th frame for the window he held in his hands. He kindly sighed and said, “We all make mistakes.” I thought to myself, ‘He didn’t drop the bomb on me. He just stayed on task and solved the problem, no drama.’ I felt off balance with the unexpected treatment.

Later that year Nick replaced the back steps off the glass porch. Again, I “helped”.   by holding the dumb end of the tape and the other end of boards that he sawed. When he was putting the steps together and securing them to the porch wall, Nick opened a new quart of stain. As he turned to get a brush, the can toppled and every drop of stain soaked into the dirt. “Ohhhhh, daggonit!!!” and maybe another expletive or two were uttered. I waited for the explosion of rage that did not come. It was over. His few words and gutteral sounds evaporated into the air much like the stain had been absorbed by the dirt a minute ago. Gone. I suppose this was another example of forgiving oneself, another slice of mercy pie. In any event I am recalling something that impressed me 34 years ago. But wait, there’s an irony or two ahead.

In 1993 Nick was one of the victims of a terrorist shooting at the gates of the CIA. Two folks were killed. He was one of three injured. The shooter, Aimal Qazi, was a nut case from Pakistan, who fled there after the shooting. Incidentally, he used an AK 47 that he “legally” purchased at a gun store in Reston, Virginia. Which might make a thoughtful person wonder out loud, “How can someone who enters the U.S.A. illegally on forged documents legally buy a semiautomatic weapon of mass destruction? Oh, wait… cuz the NRA says you can and the Commonwealth of Virginia is complicit with such stupidity.

It took the FBI four years to track and arrest Qazi. It took another five years to prosecute and execute him. Meanwhile, I suppose, Nick retired from the Agency and moved away to New England. How do I know these things?  I was watching the morning news on the day of Qazi’s execution and Nick was interviewed from New Hampshire or Vermont. Boom! I hadn’t seen the man in all the years since 1980…22 years… and it clicked in my head. The interviewer wanted to know if Qazi should be granted mercy.

The short answer was “NO”. The longer version may have had something in it about not granting anyone else mercy. Qazi extracted justice in his own mind. In the drama that he ignited, he received jutice on a global level. A merciful man refused him mercy, which speaks to the wickedness of the offender not to the mercy of the merciful man. Back in New England Nick struggled with the consequences of his injuries. In Pakistan Qazi’s supporters built a mosque in his name. In the name of Mercy, No Thanks.

114. IN Justice

It might be easier to define what justice is by relating what it is not. Seeing someone badly mistreat another human being or animal or a feature of nature usually evokes an emotional response in the witness. Call this response to injustice empathy. Then, if the witness cares to correct the situation, to stop or reverse the mistreatment, that is justice, I think. It’s an attempt to correct the hurt, and I think it is one of the most difficult tasks any one of us faces… to make the wrong right.

Our judicial system is so bulky, top heavy, slow, and inherently in favor of the wealthy that I don’t know how we can hold any faith in it. The blind lady with the scales is supposed to weigh out evidence and then render an unbiased judgment. But what sort of weighing is involved in a plea agreement reached while an under-represented scared guy sits in jail, threatened that he’ll never see his kids again if he does not sign off on a “deal” that gets him out of jail briefly only to guarantee him more time in prison? The court appointed attorney from Legal Services has no investment in the case. He gets paid minimally and gets community service points for under representing the guy without resources. The prosecutor gets a sure fire conviction with minimal effort. Probation gets another customer to squeeze like an illegal alien. The judge reduces court room traffic and has one easy case for a change. It’s win-win-win-win-lose operation but not to be confused with justice. This is not a hypothetical; instead it’s a story of a friend of mine.

On top of this above referenced juris prudence slam dunk, the convicted dad lost visitation to his children, even though he was sentenced to probation and no hard jail time. At no time in the proceedings was the charged guy proven to be an unfit father, yet his parental rights were taken. Why? No money for a lawyer because he had to work to pay off probation, court costs, fines, child support, etc. Who will hire a convicted felon? No one. How can he get out of this hole he dug for himself? Only by the grace of God and the intervention of folks who believe in… well, justice.

The person I generally reference above was convicted of a cyber sex crime. He admitted to that, responding to the lure of a police officer pretending to be a teenaged girl who wanted sex. He did not stop the conversation dead in its tracks, where it should have ended. I have not seen the text. I don’t believe it is still available for future viewing, which creates a second question of justice at the appeal level or for later expunging. However, the punishment handed down was of equivalent weight as the three dimensional, corporal crime of sex with a living, breathing minor. Not only that, as if that is not enough, this man was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Registry (not the Cyber Sex Offenders’ Registry)  and remains there to this day. There is no footnote that explains the details of his case. A viewer of the website can only conclude that this guy is a hardcore ten year offender, guilty of unimaginable crimes against a flesh and blood girl. And to top it all off, our WonderGuy Governor Tom Corbett, who has unnatural relationships with fracking companies in Pennsylvania, just managed to upgrade ten year offenders to 15 year offenders. How’s that for justice? Usually there is something known as grandfathering where you play by the rules that were in place when you were convicted. Hey, who cares? These are sex offenders after all, right? Scum of the earth. Give them another 50% punishment. Hell, he agreed he was guilty back at the start with the plea deal. Wow, how can I get such a blind deal, where I sign on for x years of a sentence, only to have the sentence increase by 50%?  Would you like a mortgage where you have 5 years paid off on a ten year loan and the bank says, “By the way, you need to keep paying another ten years because we said so” ? I didn’t think so.

Injustice sneaks into the conversation when folks react rather than thoughtfully respond to hurts, whether these are real or perceived. Injustice sneaks in when we consider the otherness of the criminal, if he is even a criminal to begin with. The higher the fear, the greater the controls we put in place to protect ourselves. But along the way, while we install new metal detectors and security systems, it seems that something like proportionality gets lost. Why are little kids forced through metal detectors? Why are dark skinned folks more likely to be searched?  Why is it so hard to tax a fracking company and make them comply with the law and so easy to add another layer of punishment to a sex offender? Oh yeah, the money thing. Sex offenders have no lobbyists and no money. And they cannot vote. Hmmmm. Justice… If you have to take it from someone else in order to have it for yourself, that’s not justice.

113. Unexpected Time Like Wisdom

Things have been exceedingly busy since the new year began. A waiting list is growing in my practice. It’s not that I say, “You are on a waiting list” like the Washington Redskins told wannabe ticket holders for twenty years, sad humans who dreamt of natural disasters that would only befall Redskins’ season ticket holders. It’s more like, “I can’t get to you for two weeks.” I’m okay with that, but if the gap gets any longer, I’m afraid I will forget too much. You know, if a client is speaking about conflict with Shelia, and you can’t recall if she is a sister, spouse, mother, dog, parrot or coworker…well, you are too busy.

So cancellations are a welcome surprise today. Looking at 7 hours of fixed attention and thinking… ahhh, melt into only 4, brings a sigh of relief. Ahhh. Or two. What to do with this gift?  A workaholic would run into working faster and harder, looking for ways to work more. That’s not me. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I could take a nap, but that would not work well where I am at the moment. I can blog, yes, by God! That’s the ticket.

Instead of merely wasting my time I can document wasting my time. If you’ve ever read a badly written memoir or the memoir of a badly lived life, you have read documentation of wasted time. In fact, you could write your memoir and call it “My Wasted Life Reading Memoirs of Lives Wasted”. Not likely to become a best seller or even a seller, but there you go. I read Keith Richards’ and Eric Clapton’s autobiographies. In their cases Wasted takes on another meaning. I’m not complaining. I liked one more and one less after reading their stories. Here’s the darnedest thing: my wife bought me Clapton’s story and my daughter bought me RIchards’ story without knowing that I already had a copy. I find that freakish. Was their gift of a memoir of a wasted rock legend wasted due to duplication? I think there is some cosmic conundrum here that I can’t unravel. Anyone want the hardback Life by Keith Richards?

What is waste, really?  Empty time is not the enemy, is it?  I had a guy recently tell me that for two weeks he unplugged from social media and his phone. He reported, “I found a lot of time.” Now I found this an illogical outcome.

“You still only get 24 hours in a day; so what was this extra time?”  He conceded that he found productivity in time that had previously been lost, squandered on fluffy pursuits of social chit chat marshmallows.

“So, by unplugging from hyper-attention and multitasking, you actually became more productive?”

He thought a moment, then said, ” I guess it’s more about prioritizing my time and choosing what to do, planning what I want to do instead of simply reacting to my texts and tweets. I felt like my life was a video game.”

“That makes sense. By detaching from the video game of life, you engaged more organically and purposefully in real life. You were proactive, playing offense.”

“Yeah, and the funny thing was that I was calmer and felt more connected with the folks  who truly matter to me. My wife was amazed that I put my phone down and talked with her over dinner, you know, with eye contact and timely responses.”

“Have you heard of the rectum off switch option on the new I-phone?” I asked.

“No, what’s that about?”

“Well, it’s this option where your wife shoves your phone up your butt and turns it on mute. Makes it hard to talk like that.”

Chuckle, chuckle, guffaw. “I can see where that would have a ready market appeal. Why do we do this– put real life on hold while we focus on the annoying urgent?”

“I suppose the squeaky wheel still gets the grease, even if this is an Industrial Age reference.”

“Hmmm, I’m gonna think about this.”

“Oh, please do. Don’t post it on Facebook or tweet it out. Just sit and think about your thinking. Linger on it. Sleep on it. There is nothing to be gained by racing forward with your cognitions as if you were Bell inventing the telephone or Edison the light bulb. Just honor the cognitive strings and neural pathways. No need to set them on fire.”

“Yeah, that’s me. I get going and my thoughts race. Then I don’t sleep. The next day I am grumpy or irritable because I can’t catch up to where I think I ought to be. My mind gets ahead of my body and my feelings and tries to zoom into next week or a year from now. It’s so hard to capture these thoughts and corral them. They are like wild mustangs running across a desert… Man, I need a helicopter to keep up with them.”

“I get that, but even a rocket propelled grenade won’t catch them.”

“So what do you suggest? Drugs?”

“No, although a sedative might help you. I was thinking of waiting for your thoughts to come to you, you know, as if you were waiting at their watering hole, calmly and quietly waiting, relaxed, with even your breathing trained to blend in with the rhythm of the air around you. Practice patience in the shade of a cactus. Lure them with food placed nearer and nearer to where you want them to be. Do the horse whisperer thing, showing your thoughts that you are in charge but not a threat.”

“Yeah, I like that. I don’t know why I’ve always felt like I had to outrun them. Sometimes I just sit at the computer and write manically, trying to contain the uncontainable, and I’m left in their dusty fumes like the Coyote in the cartoons. So waiting patiently and confidently…sounds wise to me, Doc.”

“Yeah, let’s go with that for a while. You might find something pleasantly unexpected in your corrals, something calmer and more genuine… very much like wisdom.”

112. The Newness of Forgiveness

It’s a gorgeous day here in central Pa. with the snow melting quickly off the south side of my house. Low slung sunlight pours in, reflecting off the snowpack, and my raised rancher luxuriates in it like a cat made of bricks and sticks, if you can imagine such a boxy thing purring contentedly. It’s like that. Only been ten days or so since the first snowfall of this winter and I’m already pulling for spring. A white Christmas and New Year’s Eve, okay. Maybe even a February weekend–snowed in romantically with balsam candles and red wine and…you can fill in the rest. Oh Bloggert! Get your mind out of the gutter!

My industrious wife has been busy decorating and cleaning, which is great. I appreciate  a clean house and getting things done. I scrubbed a few vents and fixed a lamp my self. Not exactly a day in the coal mines, but it will have to do. Ran the open-mouthed shark treadmill for two miles. (You have to make it dramatic or die of boredom running on a stationary revolving belt in your basement.) Actually, I walked a lot of the distance. Still, it all counts in the war against triglycerides, which are triangular shaped pieces of angry sugar in your blood, well, under a microscope that has a poetic lens setting. I fight back with niacin, red yeast rice, and a prescription that I need to pick up at Wal Mart. No sugarcube on a tricycle is going to bury me.

So, what to ponder, dissect, deconstruct? Here’s something. While I was cleaning things in our bathtub, I noticed the drain was slow. I took the cover off the drain, the Swiss cheese strainer thing, and discovered a bunch of slimy gunk and tangled hair. I did what I could with a screwdriver and went to get the Drano. No luck. I passed this computer twice and then thought, ‘ I bet there’s a recipe on-line for home made drain declogger.’ And you know what?  Of course there was. Two parts– one part baking soda and two parts vinegar, in that order. It worked like a seventh grade science project, the kind I never did in junior high. The only issue is the lingering vinegar smell. Better than bleach, I suppose. Intriguing. I wonder what would happen if I put a whole box of baking soda in the pipe and poured a gallon of vinegar in behind it? And lit a match…to a really long fuse so I had time to run out of the house. Why don’t you try this, blog nation, and have your next of kin post the results.

Cleaning your house, filing year end paperwork, losing weight, getting more sleep or exercise, finally divorcing the “Thing”, all resolutions are so robust in early January. Gyms are bursting with slovenly folks trying to undo gluttony’s effects. Others are refinancing their homes or talking with lawyers and counselors and financial planners about their divorce. It’s the urge to purge and renew oneself. Plastic surgeons are booked up. Everyone is after the newness of new, renewal, anew, newly acquired novelty. Infants symbolize this fresh start, and to some degree we want baby skin, innocence, purity of mind and body, and maybe someone to suckle us. Again, Bloggerts, I am warning you with your filthy imaginations to not read between the lines. It’s just white space there.

Having four clearly delineated seasons forces the newness theme. Spring really is news after the long silent sleep of winter. Hibernating animals get this 100 day nap, and they  don’t miss much. When the bear comes out of its den or the groundhog emerges from his hole, they are ready to do life completely. They aren’t looking for a gym or making resolutions  to change. Survival is the top of their priority mountain. I don’t think that they ponder so much as they follow their noses and other senses to continue their existence. Fat is good, more is better.  New? No, I think animals just live in the Now, which is not a bad idea. Living in the Now is to be New every moment. No big plans and little memory beyond instinct. Hmmm, how can humans get some of that eternal nowness? How can we shed the old skin and remain fresh and tender as a baby’s cheek?

Let me offer you some tonic of forgiveness. Rub it all over but especially rub it into your scalp. The balm of forgiveness shreds old grudges, loosening old scaly skin. It allows for fresh new growth to occur within hours of application. It cleans out the garbage in your attic better than baking soda and vinegar cleans your pipes. Out goes the slimy crud ball of greasy residue. Rub it on your chest and breathe easier as fear and worry lift. Life’s water can soon circulate and gurgulate  through your arteries again. Soon your soul’s skin will be silky tender as a baby’s powdered butt.

Maybe your life is not flowing so well and you feel a bit emotionally constipated and sludgy. Maybe the very word FORGIVE gives you the heebie jeebies. Why not take a look with me at your circulatory system. Are you crudded up with anger and bitterness? Perhaps you could take one part repentant humility and two parts active reconciliaction, which is the action of reconciling. Like the vinegar flush in the pipe declogger mix, seeking to repair damaged and broken relationships must be accompanied with actions that push the clog through and reopen relationships. Simple things can then return to their simplicity. You can give again as you once did, unburdened of the emotional weight of guilt and shame. Letting go relaxes the fist of future retribution or current anguish. Cancel the debt of the other as you cancel your own debt. Imbibe this basic concoction, weary blog rats.  And you will find a newness, a renewal of relationships with others and with yourself.  Forgive.

On the other hand you can live beneath the frozen snowpack and hibernate with the creatures who do not repent, forgive, or reconcile…until what? Spring? Moving your unpacked toxic baggage into another season is just going to keep you hostage on a  treadmill. Let go. Why hold on to clogs in your arteries? Because someone owes you an apology or some material repayment? So you choke yourself to force compliance from others. Release your hostages; set the captives free. Have a year of jubilee on me.