350. Wizardry

funny drunk people, dumpaday (37)Here we are, just you and me, blog drunks. Truly, though this same message is out there for anyone to read, it’s just the two of us at the space bar now, Joe. The lights are low. Pandora plays the old classics softly behind the screen.  “Bartender, set up another post for me and my friend. Make mine a double.”

Why do you come back?  I ask you, why? Surely there are better things to do with your time than hang out with an old rambling dude self-named for a Mexican lunch special.  If I were you, I would not hang out with me. Can’t stay away, huh? Have you no self respect? The guy behind the cyber screen is troubled. Remember the Wizard of Oz? He was just a lost illusionist. He was the same guy in the carnival wagon in Kansas before the tornado hit. You knew that, right?  A good man but a bad wizard. I’ll appropriate that description. I’m a bad, bad wizard, Joe.

If Harry Potter called me out to a wizard magic dust off, I’d lose. Snap!  No question. But if that little jerk knows what’s good for him, he won’t or I’ll skewer him syllabically. Oh, but misery loves company, eh my drunken friend. What’s that? I’m miserable? No, I was sitting here with you, dude, nursing your pouty pout. You came to me. I did not come to you. Oh yeah. You logged in to my synapses not vice versa.

This muddling reminds me of a lady who came to see me because her coworkers told her I could help her. She had a short fuse; hated people; broke into panic without any warning; and was generally an endearing but totally frustrating smartass. From the first session she let me know that she did not like me and that I sucked.

“Is that all you can say, ‘How do you feel about that?’ C’mon. That’s pretty lame.”

“Yeah,  so it seems. You are really angry.”

“Oh, ya think?!! Nice, blame me because you can. And I’m paying you for this. Thanks.”

“Wait a second. You called me, remember? I didn’t call you and plant issues in your brain.”

“I just called to get my coworkers off my back. They told me how wonderful you were. Wrong.”

Laughing, “Definitely wrong. I suck.”

“Okay, laugh it up, you smug bastard.”

“I can’t help it. You keep  punching at who you think I am. I am amazed at the difference between your image of me and who I think I am.”

“Oh, sure. I know how therapy works: you get me to believe I have deep problems that need sixty sessions to fix, and then I have to come back week after week. Meanwhile you can’t see me cuz you’re on a cruise in the Mediterranean.”

“Actually it’s up to you to reschedule, which I’m thinking you’re not going to do. And I cruise the Caribbean.”

With utter contempt, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? If I never rescheduled. But I’m not gonna give you the satisfaction.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to, but I’ll be back in two weeks, same time, same day. You’re not getting rid of me that easy.”

“I’m not trying to get rid of you.”

And so it went. Tina would crack a bit and then defend the crack.

“Damn you! I told you stuff last week that I should never have shared. I haven’t told anyone that crap in 40 years. And now you have the control. I hate you.”

“You know as well as I do that I can’t do anything with your confidential information. It is toxic, for sure. How about leaving it here with me. Think of me as a toxic waste dump.”

Laughing, “That won’t be too hard.”

Laughing back, “I gave you a beach ball to hit. I thought you would.”

“See, there you go again being the smartest guy in the room.”

“Uh, unless you have a gender swap secret, I am the only guy in the room.”

Guffawing, “Okay, no. I mean I am not a dude, which leaves you. God, I don’t know how your wife puts up with you.”

“I don’t either. She is a saint.”

“Don’t agree with me when I slam you. That takes all the fun out of it.”

“I’m just rollin’ with the punches.”

Slowly this very angry oyster opened and flushed out her septic secrets. One day she told me she was pissed off at me.

“Well, that’s not news. You’ve been busting my butt since we met.”

“You took away my sarcasm. I used to be really good at it, but I can’t pull it off anymore since you told me it was passive aggressive back biting anger. God! You take all the fun out of life.”

“I am a party pooper, loser, pathetic guy in a sweater.”

“That’s all true, but… uh, I’m only gonna say this once… (sotto voce) you are good at this.”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.”

“I’m not gonna say it again.”

“I thought I heard you say I was good at this. Is that right?”

“Yes, smartass.”

“I prefer intelligent donkey.”

“You would”, chuckling.

We worked faithfully and Tina got better. The super-guarded angry woman began taking risks, telling folks no, and making herself vulnerable. She revisited old guilt inducing memories and reconfigured responsibilities. Some bad folks had hurt her and convinced her adolescent self that it was her fault, always her fault.

Somewhere along the therapy journey she found herself, the part she loved and did not blame. That was a glorious day. Eventually this dark, angry female funnel cloud came in smiling and weeping tears of joy.

“I can’t believe how happy I am. I never would have believed it was possible. I pushed back the curtains at home. I don’t care if some pervert looks in my house. No one is going to steal my joy again.”

“That’s awesome. I am very happy for you.”

Then in her inimitable fork tongued way, “You really are good at this, but I’m still praying for your poor wife. I don’t know how she puts up with you.”

“I don’t either.”

Image result for woman walking into the sunset picture


193. even the shadow of the leper

Sunday’s message at church was from Mark 1:40, where Jesus healed a leper. I’ve never met a leper or seen anyone with horrible skin diseases, but I can imagine the disfiguration that comes from leprosy. I recall the movie Ben Hur and the valley where the lepers lived as their skin fell off. But you can know things your whole life and not really know them at the core. How many times have I heard a Scripture and thought to myself, “Oh, sure, the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4. Sure, I know that one”… only to have a gifted pastor break open my calcified mind and find a fresh spring flowing there? How could that Samaritan woman have five divorces and not be adulterous, cuz adultery was punishable by public stoning, right, and she’s still breathing? Hmmm. Maybe something else is going on…. It happened again today. For some reason the message was a fork in my eye and a tattoo needle beating on my brain like a hummingbird’s wing.

Our Pastor Interimus is Don Baker. He focused on human touch, and how critical it is for human well being to be touched by other humans. He mentioned how kids love to touch things, even break things, and how we guard valuables against errant touch. But in the Gospel of Mark a leper approaches Jesus, a rabbi. It is the most unclean member of that society, covered in open leprous sores, approaching the cleanest, God himself in human skin. According to the laws and customs of that time, “even the shadow of the leper” could make one ceremonially unclean. That’s some intense mojo attributed to leprosy. As far as I can Google search, leprosy is communicated via sneezes and armadillos not through touch. I know you must think I am pulling your on-line leg, but check my facts on this one. I have earned your incredulity, I know, but this is true; trust me. No? Then at least trust Wikipedia.

Anyway, since we don’t have lepers in our little town, we had to generalize to the various outcasts who don’t touch us because we avoid touching them– the mentally ill, the poor, the foreign, the imprisoned, GLBT. These are the very folks God told us to provide for, along with widows and orphans.  They are our untouchables, our pariahs. And how are we doing with this gift of  human touch?  Not well, I’m afraid to report. I don’t cringe when a mentally ill person’s shadow falls on me. I’m not that superstitious…but that is a very vague form of touch. For it to occur implies there is a geographic closeness between us. On the other hand, I don’t approach these folks openly and lovingly. We don’t touch one another. I think it’s awkward or unnecessary. I speculate, “Someone in church or government will comfort them. I contribute to those institutions, so I’m indirectly good. I have indirectly fulfilled my duty… like paying someone to take my place in war.” The thing is that Jesus did not merely tolerate the leper; He directly embraced the man, and His touch healed the leper. He did not send the leper to the Salvation Army or the United Way or County Welfare.

Later in Sunday School we expanded the analysis of Mark’s passage. As we read deeper, we saw a trade going on, very similar to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus trades places with the leper who came in from beyond the camp or city for healing. Because the healed leper could not restrain from telling others of his miraculous healing, Jesus was then overwhelmed by healing seekers and had to leave the city limits. In a short time frame Jesus became an outcast, and a threat to the order of Jerusalem and Jewish life. He had this way of turning things and people’s minds upside down. If  you’ve ever baked a pineapple upside down cake, then you’ve had the odd experience of flipping a perfectly placid cake surface over onto a wildly juicy, fruity layer that drips invitingly. Jesus did this without a cake or pineapple. He did the same thing to the woman at the well, and she ran off to tell everyone what happened to her:  Jesus had reset her, right side up.

It is an odd thing that when we are hurting, we isolate ourselves from others. We lay low and lick our wounds. Survival is all that concerns us then, and in our isolation we validate our own pariah-ness. Then, when relief or healing comes, we can’t restrain ourselves; we have to shout out our victory. How to bridge the gap between hiding from pain and embracing the cure? Somehow that leper knew who Jesus was and found Him. The leper was proactive, but the woman at the well did not know about Jesus. They merely met at Jacob’s well at noon. She was reactive and defensive until Jesus broke through her resistance by telling her of her five husbands. This outcast woman ran into her village to tell others about Jesus being the Messiah, His words being living water.  So whether you seek Jesus or He seeks you, the outcome can be the same if you will abandon your isolation.

Have you ever been the leper?  The outcast? The hated one? It’s not fun being the only gay guy on the football team, the only Black person in the county, the only Jew in Tehran, the only Muslim in Brooklyn, the only white guy in Camden, the only lesbian at the beauty pageant, the only woman in the submarine, etc. How about the only sane one on the psych ward, the only native in a sea of migrants, the only migrant in a sea of natives, or the only insane one on a sane ward? Your “only-ness” is indicative of your isolation and helplessness. Everyone needs help; everyone needs a savior.  How crazy is it that someone who is all would trade places with you in your empty nothingness? And yet that is what Jesus does for addicts, adulterers, sex offenders, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, used car salesmen, bankers, teachers, pilots, preachers, plumbers, bar owners, managers, and you. His crazy love is no crazier than running away from a leper’s shadow.