407. Not… now… Forever…Granpa Wine

Image result for champagne and shrimp picturesThings run their course for one reason or another. What we enjoy and anticipate doing wears off over time. That’s the human condition. We get bored of the same thing over and over no matter how good it is. Call it sedition. Shrimp and champagne were great yesterday but not so soon again today. Steak and beer? Sure. Ice cream and pretzels. Not again. Not right now. Still, some things are eternal.

[My first draft was about this being my last entry, but as I wrote about my feelings, they changed. Like Otis Redding singing, “Stop this pain in my heart”, the more I said and wrote about quitting, the less I wanted to quit. Too much desire on this side of the keyboard to stop, but enough static to think about it.]

Springsteen is great, but not again right now. Santana too. My ears are sound burned, perhaps because my mind is unspunked. Put the records away for now. Marvin, Clapton, Hendrix, give me a rest, just for now. Hmmm, you know Johnny Cash sounded so good near his death. Eternity sang harmony with his rough hewn voice, sanding away any false sentiments. Potent as formaldehyde with a whiskey chaser.

Smoked a pack a day back in the day. Never again. Nicotine is anxiety’s best bad friend.Image result for loose cigarette picturesThirty five years ago my pregnant wife asked me to smoke outside where it was 5o degrees below zero. I smoked one and concluded that the entire habit was stupid. It was one of my top ten decisions in life, below following God, marrying my wife, and having kids, doing therapy, oh, and quitting teaching.

Image result for green pepper plant picturesGardening was once a tender joy for me, watching a pepper plant stand tall and bear fruit once filled me with wonder. I still like gardening, but not as much. The fertile magic diminished as the work increased. Other good things came knocking on the same door, but the man behind it grew tired.

Golf was a cool thing briefly. Maybe I’ll go back to it when I’m retired for the second time. Oh what a fight, though, just to be average. Like chess, you can learn a lot about a buddy over 18 holes. How men handle failure tells you a lot about their character. Golf rewards the man who has efficiently done the least work.Image result for golf pictures

I had a phase when I liked to play with tiles, finding wholeness in broken things. There is untapped potential in a good dumpster, my friends. Finding mosaic beauty is a noble cause. The whole gives meaning to each disparate piece. My writing is similarly mosaic, lacking meaning in the particulars. If you fuzz your mind, you might find some value in the whole. Then again you might find nothing more than rubbish. I guess it depends on what you went looking for.

Image result for artistic mosaic tiles images

Used to run seriously. Seriously, I was slow but steady for 3, 5 or 7 miles. Felt so good and alive to find that runner’s zone of zen outside myself. A body in space obeying gravity and healthy guidelines. But the joints jabbered in pain and my back joined in the chorus.

Then I drew and did water color cards, little pictures that held a  wordless story I somehow needed to tell. When I stopped that practice, I realized it was my way of unloading daily anxiety onto paper with lines and shapes and colors. Each card was a 90 minute journey away from the lion’s jaws.Image result for watercolor paintings

Hunting tickled something in me I did not know was there till it was gone. Primal, visceral, powerful, and essential. You need a license, though, and some planning. After you pull the trigger, it’s all work. Unlikely to go there again.

Chess has always been a faithful friend, however, always fun. Look out retirement village. I’ll be check mating till my foolscap matures into full blown dementia.

Now it’s ballroom dancing with my bride. Maybe the best of all endeavors I’ve ever sampled. The zen of twoness puts a smile on my face when we mirror one another successfully. Mates, take my worn down soles advice: dance with your woman while you both can still move.

Image result for wine bottle picturesBrewing beer or making wine has that same sort of appeal for me, though I’ve never done either. On the way to work this morning I began to ruminate about making figurative “Grandpa Wine”. I was talking to my beloved granddaughter by phone yesterday, promising to nibble her toes off in my dinosaur voice, which she loves to rebuke in her three year old squeal. “No, Granpa. Don’t eat me!”

“Why not?”

“I made my bed.”

“Oh, I’m so proud of you. Good girl.”

“I made mommy and daddy’s bed too.”

“Whoa! You sure are a good big sister.”

“I uh, I uh, uh I want you to be a dinosaur again and chase me.”

“Aarrrgggh.”

“Weeeeee. No, Granpa. don’t eat me.”


Image result for grandpa with granddaughter pictures

“I can’t, Honey, you are holding mommy’s phone. Just give it to her if you get scared.”

“Okay, be a dinosaur again. EEEEh!!

These little moments are super sugar-saturated grapes that drop from life’s vine

Only to be squeezed into wonderful Granpa wine

Sweet whispered breaths and wisps of hair

Giggles and laughs, smiles and smirks we share

All go into the batch

We jump around and flop

on all these things And  try to catch

every dropImage result for wine stomping pictures

Explosions of joy spring out of her soul

While to keep up I crawl

She sings and poses

Bows in the kitchen to pick up imaginary roses

Heavy and plump these grapes on the vineImage result for grape vine pictures

Only to be squeezed into Granpa wine.

Funnel the juice in magnum bottles to the max

Seal with crisp Corks covered in wax

And store horizontally for a long,long timeImage result for wine cellar pictures

Break out a bottle on Thanksgiving

To toast our fun loving and living

Share old times as your eyes shine

And a familiar warmth runs up your spine

Image result for smiling three year old girl face

So, Leah,

Before my funeral bells chime

Sip and savor this Granpa wine

Note the bouquet of wild berries and stale Cheetos

And just a hint of nibbled off toes.

It must age as the flavors unfold,

But Granpa wine will never grow old.

 

 

 

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404. Born to be Mild

Joel has been on the lam for the past three weeks or so. Could be a month. It’s been a social and intellectual drought in his absence. However, time is sketchy. At our age time is measured in sinus infections and colonoscopies. The sky won’t rain; the chickens won’t lay; and the cows will not come home. I don’t really want the cows to come home, mind you, but that leads right into one of Joel’s favorite movies, City Slickers.Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

If you recall, several rather impotent midlife crisis New York men go out west to a real working ranch to find and flex their manhood. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Billy Crystal transforms from some sort of fragile wimpy dud Dad insurance salesman into a true cowboy hero. He brings in the herd after the real cowboy leader (Jack Palance) dies. Crystal observes, “What did you expect?  He ate bacon three meals a day.” Let this be a warning to you lard inhaling bacon lovers. Do you want this epithet on your tombstone? “Killed by nitrates seared in salty pork fat.”Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

Similarly noted in Coffee Nation, “Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” That virile (or is it viral?) spirit led our mild mannered Joel out of Turtle Town onto a world class motorcycle trip into the Ozarks with several other biker dudes from around the world. You see, he recently purchased a three wheeled Spyder motorcycle, which is worthy of much envy. But our local roads could not contain nor constrain his Steppenwolf heart that beats beneath a sharp new leather vest, bursting with high test testosterone.Image result for steppenwolf band pictures

“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway

Lookin for adventure and whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

I like smoke and lightning  heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind and this feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen  Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Like a true nature’s child  we were born, born to be mild

We can climb so high  never want to die.

Born to be mild.”

Before he left for his journey, I managed to wheedle him into a napkin will, where it was clearly stated in his inky hand, that in the event of his untimely death on the Tail of the Dragon trail, I would receive the Spyder, if it survived unscathed. I had the napkin notarized by Shirley, who calls me various men’s names and occasionally gets the right one. I was torn, however, between wanting to hear Joel’s road warrior tales and driving my new Spyder cycle. Come on, you would too.Image result for spyder motorcycles images

So, Joel has returned intact with a certain swagger that comes from deep immersion in the hot springs of masculinity. His jaw seems more square and his posture post modern, beyond framing. He announced in  his purple checked shirt that he had to leave for a meeting in Shippensburg, and thus he could not attend Coffee Nation. Wow! Just Wow! We moved out to the noisy sidewalk to do our suddenly less important business, but Peter Fonda’s stunt double remained inside, finishing something epic on his Ipad.  Eventually he emerged and put on that leather vest, a funky helmet and away he road on that Spyder, like Harry Potter… into a world we mortals could only imagine.Image result for pictures of faces of abandonment

I was left without any tales of Brave Joelysses or my much coveted Spyder cycle. I felt robbed twice, as if someone stole my wallet from the guy who stole my wallet. It hurt in an abstract sort of way if you thought about it long enough. Somewhere Shakespeare’s lines on mercy seemed reversed–

“Envy is twice cursed. Like gasoline stinks on the pumper and the pumped.

It curses he who covets and he who is immersed.

Leaving both as empty as a wheel barrow dumped.”Image result for gas pump picturesUnlike Billy Crystal Joel did not return with a calf named Norman. That would have been special, by Golly. Norman on the back seat roaring through Turtle Town.Image result for cow on a motorcycle picturesBut he did return with a huge mildewed heart. Being mild is okay, my blog warts. It allows for a comfortable move forward, while remaining grounded, safe, and homogenous. The highest state of mild is “to become the dew of mildness, also known as mildew.” Wild is for crazy risk takers who don’t wear helmets. In salsa sales mild is by far the leader, not medium or hot. Know why? You can always increase the kick of mild, but you cannot unwild the hot stuff. A jalapeno without a fever is a fake pepper and will never become a gastronomical dictator.

And that is Joel. For sixty some years he has been building up to this zippiness. Aging well like old amontillado wine. He is enjoying life uncorked now since accepting Social Security and AARP benefits. Rockin it, too.Image result for amontilladoAnd I am trying really hard not to be envious, but I am failing miserably. He has taken on mythic stature in his semi-demi-god retirement. Image result for zeus on a harley davidson images Could it be that the Sermon on the Mount passed over the mild because their inheritance was too materialistic?  “Blessed are the mild, for they shall inherit the cool cycle, hang with Motor head dudes, tame the Dragon Trail in the Ozarks, and walk as giants among measly mortals.”

Image result for walter mitty imagesTom Petty told us “If you never slow down, you never grow old”, which is a nice lyric but a very hard trick to pull off into your seventies and eighties.

In any event… I guess it’s okay to have Joel back on his Spyder. He’s the man, the myth, a giant among dwarves. All the men of Coffee Nation stood a little taller that day as he gunned the Spyder and whirled away dervishly.

“You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus,

But you stepped down and you sang to us.”

So Joan Baez glorified Bob Dylan, and so we salute you, Joel. Born to be mild.

Image result for mild mannered man pictures

 

 

 

366. Breathtaking

Walls of snow line the streets of Turtle Town. For some reason, lack of funds maybe, the Boro did not remove the snow as it usually does with an army of heavy equipment and dump trucks large enough to rival a Baltic nation’s. So it sits like instant mix mashed potatoes piled alongside the black macadam roads and alleys of our humble, shepherds pie kind of town. The rising temperatures help with the less than meager removal effort, which is actually counterproductive because this week is Ice Fest, a downtown merchants group idea featuring ice sculptures placed along two blocks of Main Street. Yep, frozen water sculptures in the middle of winter; and here the temps are warming up, threatening the entire enterprise. One year, oh fifteen years ago maybe, it rained the whole week of Ice Fest, which resulted in Slush Fest. The finely carved figures were turned into watery gargoyles and grotesques. Needless to say, it was not a breathtaking experience.

Which got me thinking:  what takes your or my breath away, Blog Breathers? Is it a tragic moment or a spectacular vista that pulls your breath out of you? Incredible beauty or incomprehensible grace? A letter from the IRS? Seeing your ex- with a new partner? Seeing yourself naked?

Breath is the essence of life. If a baby does not breathe at birth, no oxygen flows and brain damage begins. For adults it’s about three minutes, I believe, before brain damage commences. So whatever takes our breath away must connect deeply to our slice of humanity, for better or worse, way down in the brain stem where our automatic survival instincts and reflexes reside. Breath was tenuous 25 years ago for my then infant daughter. The die was cast. Which die? half a pair of dice or a metal form? Instead of the facts, your perspective will answer this question

Last night at the winery my lovely daughter was singing at her best. Lo and behold, her first grade teacher showed up, pushing her walker slowly across the floor as her husband steadied her gait. “I saw it on Facebook. I had to come,” she exclaimed. “I might have to leave before you are through because I’m older than dirt. Don’t let that distract you, Jessi. I just can’t stay out late any more. Do me a favor and let one rip full throttle, Angel, okay?”

Now I am used to my daughter performing at a high level, her lush voice paddling through rushing rapids and cute chutes of tricky syllables like a skillful kayaker in white water. I don’t get as anxious or rapturous at her gigs as I once did. The new and exciting have become the familiar and comfortable, a steady joyous cadence nontheless.

Lois sat next to me very comfortably like family should, oozing kindness, appreciation, and joy. Some disease was trying to take her breath away. She was having none of it. Instead she ordered red wine and sipped optimistically. She chatted up the connections, remembering twenty years ago when our precious daughter was the only girl in her first grade class. Having been an outcast at the parochial kindergarten the previous year, we had been anxious about how Jess would fare in a public school classroom. Lois was the Answer to our prayers. After a few weeks Jess came home with a big cardboard star covered with decorative stickers and positive adjectives. She was Star of the Week. That star hung in her bedroom for years, radiating love and acceptance over her as she slept, breathing quietly as a happy puppy curled against its mother.

I spent a morning in that classroom twenty years ago. It was so filled with love and acceptance. I recall that all ten kids played musical chairs at one point. Lois would hug the kid who wound up chairless. After a while I started to wonder if her hugs were more desirable to the kids than a silly chair without her in it. That day I saw more love and validation in an hour than I recall having seen in a lifetime around schools. I almost forgot to breathe because a big balloon of gratitude clogged my airway briefly.

At 9 pm Jess started singing. Lois lit up, put her hand to her mouth repeatedly as she gasped. “She’s beautiful!” “Oh dear God she is precious!!” “What a voice.!!!” Tears dribbled over her cheeks. She reached across me to grasp my wife’s hand. Deep down in her brain stem, I believe Lois wanted to jump and dance exuberantly as the musical kayak shot through her veins and all across the rivulets of her frame. “I love that song.” “I’m so proud of her.” Oxygen flowed; feet tapped; hands clapped; heads nodded; smiles spread; and warmth expanded solar plexuses. Another minor musical miracle occurred.

God is good.

Just like in the old musical chairs protocol, Lois had to hug Jess as she finished her set. She didn’t, no, couldn’t leave until Jess sang Carol King’s “I Feel the Earth Move”, full throated and beaming with joy. Music is her oxygen. Surely she would die without it.

Goodnights were shared and broad plans made for the next time. I felt the residual glow left behind from Lois and Don linger in the empty chairs beside me. I was sure now that those kids slipped out of musical chairs on purpose. Love and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder. And what power the beholder exercises over the loved one.

 

 

275. The expansion of love

Empty Chair/Empty Net /John 21

 

Do you have room at your earthly table for those in need? I have observed over and over that many churched folks like to keep their dinner table just the way it is—Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Bill, Aunt Sarah, the kids. If the table seats 8, then 8 is the magic number and homeostasis sets in, which means there is an internal balance to keep things just as they are. Equilibrium was the title of my last post… it seems like a positive that is achieved by negatives cancelling one another out for a sum of zero. That is control not love.

Now it is wonderful to have close family ties, to huddle up in a comfortable and secure manner every Sunday afternoon or evening. Many families do this, and God bless them.

My concern is that when your family is huddled up, is there room for another? Or is the newcomer, the stranger, the foreigner only shown your backs?  Do you practice hospitality by opening your self and your home to others?

I believe that many folks hold a mistaken and sometimes pathological belief about love—that it is a finite thing. In other words, love is diminished if given to too many others. To control and conserve the love, it is parceled out to immediate family only. In-laws are treated with a watered down love that depends on the immediate family spouse. In a similar way I’ve known a few parents who chose not to have a second child because they could not conceive of sharing their parental love with another being, as if loving a second child would dilute their love for the first child. And then I knew a man who said he had all the friends he needed for life—3, and unless one died, he did not need another. In this view, love is a fixed amount like a law of physics. No expansion is permissible.

There is a difference between being content with who is in your life and barring the door against anyone else, as if someone late to the party is an intruder.

And what if you have no room at your table? Is it okay to add a leaf and grow the table?

Can you extend your table or add another table to your intimate gatherings? A good hearted brother told me once that his wife was uncomfortable with sharing their home, their table. Consequently they were not hospitable outside their family boundary line. I responded that I didn’t think Jesus called us to comfort. I know He promised to comfort us in our pain and mourning. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. The brother told me that I was stepping on his toes. I agreed that maybe his toes needed to be stepped on.  God does not call us to comfort and happiness. He calls us to serve Him, to be holy, and to worship Him. Happiness and comfort may come later, but if you seek those first, you miss the point of it all.

I explain it like this. When we wanted to see dolphins in Tampa Bay, the boat captain explained that in order to see dolphins, he needed to bring the boat up to a certain speed that attracted the dolphins. Once we achieved that speed, lo and behold dolphins appeared next to our boat, jumping and winking at us. It was a magical moment I’ll never forget. My take away lesson was this:  if you go directly at dolphins or happiness, i.e., take the shortcut, you’ll ram them and ruin the mission. If, on the other hand, you go forward in faith and pursue holiness, dolphins and happiness will show up. It’s not magic but miracle.

I met my buddy Dave in Honduras 12 years ago. We clicked and just enjoyed each other’s company. Once back in town, we continued to develop our friendship by meeting each other’s families and spending time together. Over the past years we have vacationed with Dave and his wife’s family on several occasions. They have room at the table and I have been blessed by their hospitality. It’s this way with most of our church family: we spend time in one another’s homes for prayer, fellowship, comfort, and material help.

Are there empty chairs at your table?  Maybe you are a widower who is alone, recalling your deceased husband’s presence. Maybe you are a single guy who craves the presence of a soul mate across the table. Or you are a childless couple who desperately want a child to care for. The empty chair can be filled with grief over a divorced spouse or a broken family relationship.  Whatever or whoever you believe should be in the empty chair, consider this:  invite Jesus to your table. Make Him the first guest, your primary relationship. And knowing that His spirit resides in all believers, invite someone new to your table, someone in need of comfort or companionship or joy.

Once you make room for Jesus, you will find that people show up and fill that precious place.

Now let’s pause and go to John 21.

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathaneel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord!” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

The disciples ate breakfast with Jesus, finally recognizing Him. Then Jesus reinstated Peter, telling Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The disciples had fished all night in futility. Not one fish did they catch. But once Jesus appeared, they brought a bounty to shore, 153 fish in all.

What do these two themes have to do with one another? Well, empty chairs and empty nets share emptiness, a void, an unmet need. In John 21 Jesus feeds his disciples and commands that they feed others. At your dinner tables you can also cast your nets in a different direction if you hear Jesus telling you to do so.  If you put Jesus in that empty chair, He will bring His blessing to you. It may not be a spouse, but it could be a friend. It may not be a child, but it could be an opportunity to minister to someone else’s child.

When you invite Jesus to your table, you are inviting the source of love, the multiplier of fish and loaves. He did not conserve or control love and limit the distribution of love. Instead, He gave all He had, bled out, so that we might love as He did. Though you are tired and despondent, cast your nets once more. Though you have a void at your dinner table or you feel smugly self-sufficient, invite Jesus to your table so that He may feed you too. Finally, listen to your Lord and be reinstated as Peter was, to feed the precious flock of Jesus.Image result for shepherd with sheep flock pictures

 

 

 

 

246. MORE AMORE

It had to happen. All good things must come to an end, and here we are again, home in Turtle Town, south central PA. It’s not a bad gig, mind you. I  have a good life, a great family, work I enjoy, The Coffee Nation Summit, a solid church family, friends, purpose and meaning. So what’s the rub? Well, my mind keeps savoring those Tucson memories while our Mid-Atlantic sucky weather presents its cold, wet, ugly smeary face against my window panes like a slobbering Rottweiler puppy. I suppose it’s the same sort of vibration that nudged the settled folks of the American Colonies to ramble over the Appalachian Mountains way back when. Curiosity, maybe?  A growth spurt? Not boredom, really, as much as a palpable desire for change moves in me. “You know this is good. I wonder if there is something even better; not perfect, mind you, just more.”

One of my granddaughter Leah’s first words that she learned to demonstrate with sign language was “more”.  She put her little hands together and eventually said the word “more” for food she liked at first. Now it’s for books to be read again or songs to be sung again or floppy falls on an air mattress after singing “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”.  She calls for more when she’s delighted, and I suppose that is what her grandfather (me) is doing. I’d like more warmth, more sun, more empty space, more wild edge, which is what I experienced in Arizona, and more Little Leah.  This East Coast life is good, but I think I’ve found better… for me, bloglets. I am speaking strictly for me. Unlike a toddler, I can count the high cost of pursuing more then, by employing less now. Streamline, offload, get lean for the journey. Sell and divest. (Forget Bill Clinton, “INHAAAAALE”. Deep breath here as I consider this late middle age bungee jump.) The thrill of diving freely is ironically tethered to the securely anchored diving board from which I bounce. That’s nonnegotiable responsibility. It’s faith. You can’t launch effectively from an unstable place. So I guess the implication is that because we have firm enough ground beneath us here, we can roll out west and thrive once again.

“Amore” means love in Italian. It was the title of one of Dean Martin’s three most popular songs. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Well, I’m signing up for more amore.  That’s it. You know, if you’ve been to a decent concert, at the end of a good show the crowd often chants, “More, more, more” until the sheepish performers return and play their encore. So “more” seems to produce good results, depending on circumstances and context. Is it selfish? I guess so, but we don’t typically think of explorers or adventurers as merely selfish folks.  Or the guy who takes a pay cut to get to a team that contends for a world championship…he’s risking a bunch for a higher valued thing… the mountaintop experience. “Sir Edmund Hillary, you sir, are an egotistical cad!!” No, he climbed Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, my blog sherpas, in 1953. That’s impressive. He followed his heart’s desire after counting the costs and then paying them in full. The man was a beekeeper in New Zealand, for goodness sake. That’s  a pretty humble occupation and an unlikely though stable place from which to launch.

Every so often my wife and I have the deep meaning conversation about why we’re married and what’s in our future. It’s easier to explain past known reasons for getting married and staying married than it is to project the same into the unknown future. Fortunately, so far we have had a similar enough view and set of expectations of our future that it’s still one shared future script written like our kids’ names in chalk on the driveway. What do we want? More amore. Not the pizza pie and moony variety of love, but a mature, settled, wise love that can weather decline, or cancer, or dementia and ultimately death. In a sense we  have crossed the Appalachians and have rolled across the plains in our marriage. There have been many rivers and rough spots. Places to celebrate and to forget. But we’re determined to keep rolling.

Get this: in Arizona you get a driver’s license once, and it’s good for 50 years. Not sure why, but my daughter does not have to get hers renewed until 2060. Which freaks the TSA folks out at the airports not located in Arizona. “This can’t be right.” Just one more reason to live there– you’ll always be 26 on your license if you go now. If I get one soon, I won’t need another till I’m 108 years old. Now that’s what I call a good deal. I’ll be a centenarian though I don’t think I’ll check off the “organ donor” box. Who would want a hundred year old kidney? What’s that like?  A Honda with 300,000 miles on it? Then again, if it’s been cleaning happy blood for a century, it might be good enough for light local traffic. Beats dialysis anyway.

Ah, the closing thought? Let me defer to John Lennon’s “Mind Games” minus all the karmic wheel stuff…

“Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender you got to let it go

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower you got to let it grow”.

More Amore, my dear fellow life travelers, as the waves of time roll over us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Empathically

Today my wife needed to swap cars, which is no big deal. She wanted to go to Lowe’s for some hardware needs and my 2000 Honda CRV is more suitable for messy loads than is her 2010 Honda Civic. I didn’t think a thing of it until I was driving into town, leaning down to see out of her mirrors. I thought about adjusting them, but why? She would need them reset by the end of the day, 10 miles later in my commute. The same thought skated across my frozen pond mind regarding her seat. I could stretch out a bit, but why?  Her legs are not that much longer, and, as I zoned along Route 30, I fell into a brief reverie…they were part of the initial attraction I had for her. I like long legs, which means I like tall women by default. Truly, though, it was her gorgeous smile and chocolate mahogany eyes that sizzled my soul like fajita meat. And they still light me up 38 years later, though I don’t think she would believe me on this point. Maybe my soul is refried beans now, reheated in a microwave, or just a warm flour tortilla.

 yeah, maybe just Velveeta with taquitos.

I started thinking about her car being her space and wondering how she interpreted my vehicle. Ooooh. My car is not clean and neat. It has stuff that resides in it– a glove, a five month old magazine, an order for bloodwork that I never had done, and a layer of dust particles. My car is a noisy five speed that requires more work than her quiet automatic. But there it is– because my car is dirty and nearing its blue book value death, it ironically has more value today!  I like pulling a positive out of a negative! My cd player skips a bit, which is fine since I rarely use it. I listen to crappy local radio stations if I listen to anything. My steering wheel has an old leather cover that is sort of sticky with age and the sweat of twelve years in it. Yeah, and the front left disc brake makes a chirping noise lately, so I must get it into Danny’s Garage.  Oh, and when the weather is nasty, it’s my expendable car that gets used in snow and ice and heavy rain. All wheel drive, baby. One more keeper quality.

Now Sara’s car is definitely cleaner.  Not only does her cd player not skip, but it plays on beautifully. And this morning it played a Christian praise disc that made me think further about her heart for God. She often listens to inspirational music or radio stations. And she grows spiritually. Each song I listened to made me think and feel as I imagined she did… in a sort of strange melding that is empathy. I was in her car and slipping slightly into her skin, so to speak. In doing so, I realized that my skin is pretty thick and coarse, like pigskin. And hers is soft and supple like a calf’s. And I think that’s okay when each is in its proper context. Still, there was a little thought bubble growing above me in her Civic that led to minor guilt twinges. Would she be as charmed in my old vehicle and even consider what it’s like to have thick rough skin that feels like boiled beef tongue? Probably not. A rubbery hard heart is not such a spiritual thing. It’s just a hardened muscle that keeps you alive, whereas a soft heart can give life to others in compassion. A soft heart can bend and blend; a hard heart is just a rough ride.

I could use a lot more time in my wife’s car, not just because it gets better gas mileage. Looking through her eyes and feeling her feelings might just reset my psychological odometer and stretch out my skin, allowing me to be exquisitely sensitive at times.

“The transformation from neurosis to personality health is indeed a wonderful process” says John Sanford.  I’m thinking he’s right when he adds, “Love comes into the man’s life to vanquish his loneliness.”  Almost 40 years ago she came into my life and loneliness left for extended periods of time. Not sure it has been vanquished. As I drive her car today, I know he is not around in this car and hope he’s not in the old dusty one either.

10. therefore

Image result for god picturesFinding God is an inescapable task, even for those who deny God, they have found Him and sent Him into the myth box or the library of fairy tales or the laboratory of science. Those who have lost God know where and when they lost Him. Some of us have simply misplaced God, put Him in the wrong priority level. We know He is around here somewhere.

As a little kid, knowing God helps hold back the onslaught of super complicated reality and all the questions that demand answers. Knowing God holds the barking fears at bay until the child can deal with them one at a time. The problem comes when unexplainable bad things overwhelm the kid and life’s problems outrun the explanations he can understand. The foundation is exploded before it’s even built.

It’s Good Friday in town and the streets are nearly empty. No school or court today. Free parking because Rod the ticket man is off with all the Boro employees. Even Leonard the gas man is home and out of uniform. Quiet. Some folks are finding God, but I imagine most are finding stuff to do–shopping, cleaning, planting flowers, traveling, trout fishing, golfing, drinking beer, baking cakes, walking aimlessly with heavy back packs, hallucinating, waiting for good news, getting hair cuts.

As a teenager knowing God helps counterbalance the power shifts with your parents. When you are so mad or disappointed with your mom or dad, you still have a parent to listen to you. Even orphans can have this parent. Teens are learning to think for themselves and tend toward the idealistic. They hate to hear about moderation and mostly good adults. Somehow they believe that it is possible to be 100% pure and good and kind to everyone. They are optimistic about human nature though they have not witnessed a representative sample of it yet. God and Jesus and Grandma are pure and holy, they reason, so it’s possible for them and their friends and family to be the same…if they all just try harder. Every generation does this dance with idealism.

As young adults you finally figure out that grandma was a good actress; and your closest, purest friend is in an abusive relationship; and your drinking water has some nasty chemicals in it because a trusted protection system failed. Human error all around. God and Jesus remain pure and good and holy, but everyone else sucks to some degree. And you wonder about this great divide between God and mankind. Ah, but it will be completely different when you have kids.

Weddings are perfect opportunities to deny the ugly reality that marriage can be. Weddings are staged and scripted for months, and then marriage happens spontaneously. Wedding snapshots are perfect, and then reality begins gnawing at the edges. Dreams don’t have to die, but they do need to be adjusted, postponed, financed, or reframed. Usually there is a crisis point where one must choose between the ideal dream and the real person snoring next to them. So often we choose the unmitigated dream and sever the imperfect relationship.

But our grandkids will get it right, we hope, as we call for a new deck of cards. Getting it right is the myth, though. Mankind has never gotten it right, which is why we need to be finding God.

Image result for seeking god pictures Take the leap of faith, my Godbloggets.