349. Legalism

I don’t have time for all this, I guess, but I make time for what I enjoy… coffee shop chatter, chess, blogging. I realize it’s low hanging fruit, but I enjoy these apples.  I don’t need an island in the Caribbean, unless you happen to have one you want to get rid of. I mean, I’ll take it off your hands if you’re sick of the steel drums and rum. I’ll take my turn. However, I’d just move my mindlessness to a new scene and start training those East Indians in Western Mindlessness Seminars. I’d open a coffee nation noodling institute and seek funding from the U.N. My theme song would be sung daily by my 2 year old granddaughter, “Let There be Peace on Earth”… and let it begin with me. Her sweet whispery little baby bird voice kills me. I suspect all grandfathers feel this way about their grandkids. Hope so anyway.Amazing.: Grandkids are the ultimate proof of God’s grace. We don’t deserve them and can’t earn them.

I guess what I’m saying is that I am content. Full. Satisfied. Sure, I want to keep on living, but if God unplugs my USB cord today, I have no regrets that won’t be addressed in heaven. I’m sure there is a customer service desk in the lobby area.

“Welcome to heaven. I’m Peter. How may I help you?”

“I want to see a manager.”

“Mr. Burrito, it’s heaven. There are no managers. There are only angels and the Lord in the center of a cosmic Rose Petal Auditorium filled with incense burning, praise and worshipping throngs of billions of saved souls. Would you like to make an appointment with Him?”

“Yes, but I thought the spiritual world was all post time and space continuums, you know, no lines. This sounds like a Grateful Dead concert. How long must I wait?”

“Well, here in heaven a thousand years are like a moment, and a moment can be a thousand years.”

“So, next Tuesday at 11 a.m.? How’s that?”

“When the spirit moves across the still waters of your soul’s ocean, you will have your heart’s desires in little ripples upon the distant shore of peace.”

“Pete, do you offer interpreters?  I am just not getting this spiritual talk. Maybe my fleshy head is still stuck on my spirit body. Does that ever happen?”

“Yes, more often than one might think. Remarkably often, pastors have this issue where they keep worrying about their congregational needs back on earth. It takes a really long time for them to turn off their obligatum.”

“Uh, okay that makes sense except for the obligatum thing. What is that?”

“Oh, sorry, it’s Latin for holy guilt.”

“No kidding. I guess I had mine taken out with my adenoids.”

“Likely, yes, um, if you had one to begin with. Not all humans have an obligatum. Antisocials seem not to. Were you by any chance a Catholic child?”

“Yes, right up till I wasn’t.”

“Precisely. You could have burned up your obligatum through overuse. Very common with our Catholic brothers. Like an overactive thyroid. If you don’t treat it, you lose it. Poof!”

“So you are telling me that many pastors can’t get out of their own guilt even when they are walking or skipping about in Paradise?”

“Or zooming. A lot of pastors had to drive Dodge Darts and Priuses on earth, so they like zooming with the top down in heaven. It’s a big adjustment for them, bless their hearts.”

“Wait. That’s code in the south for ‘this guy is the village idiot’. You know, ‘Look at Mervin, he’s feeding the dead pigeon his bologna sandwich, bless his heart.”

“I assure you, Mr. Burrito, there is no double standard or code here in heaven. God loves us all the same.”

“Even lawyers?”

“Even, uh, have you seen the botanical gardens yet? They are a sight to behold!”

“No, I want a lawyer. I demand to see my lawyer, Joel. Where is he?”

“He is… uh… indisposed at this moment.”

“He’s in the bathroom? I thought that was all done with once you got the spiritual rigging in place.”

“I don’t wish to be indelicate, Mr. Burrito.”

“Okay, Pete, but you need to butterfly this spiritual shrimp for me. I’m getting suspicious. I mean, all my life I’ve looked forward to heaven and bliss and eternal grooving, and I’ve only been here five minutes or five thousand years and I’m getting nothing but double talk from you. I could get this treatment on earth for free.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. B. If you’d like to fill out a complaint form, I’m obligated to provide you with one within ten business days. Would you like to continue?”

“No.  When folks are not honest with me they start to look like Hillary Clinton, Pete. I want my lawyer and I want him now. I know my rights. I get a free phone call too. And no pants suits.”

“Sir, you have not been charged with any crime. Please, control yourself. You are in heaven for goodness sakes! You don’t need that kind of sassy attitude here.”

Snatching Pete up by his collar, “I want to know what you did with Joel.”

The Angels Gabriel, Michael, and Ludicrous swoop down.

“Burrito, we have you surrounded. Here’s what you’re gonna do. Put Peter down. Eat a Snickers. Then we’ll talk. You seem to be having a hangry attack. Most souls don’t experience hunger or anger in heaven, but you are anomalous.”

“Fellas, I simply asked Pete here where the lawyers are. And he has been reluctant to tell me. Offered me a complaint form instead of prompt service. You people need to get your act together.”

Gabriel, “Burrito, Joel didn’t make it.”

“What?!! I gave his eulogy just last year. I took a whack in the head with an aluminum badminton racket for him, and now you’re saying he’s not here?”

Michael, “Burrito, there are no lawyers in heaven.”

“But, but, I don’t understand. Joel was a nice guy. He dressed well in tweed and the occasional snappy tie. He was well groomed. Liked cats. Was a bowling champion in sixth grade. Played the tuba. What do you people want?!!”

Ludicrous, “The Lord requires obedience not sacrifice. No man is saved by the Law.”

“Well, okay. That’s all I needed to hear. I need a minute to grieve, though.”

Peter, “Mr. B, Joel is not down there, if that is what has you worried.”

“Well if not Here and not there, then where oh where can my attorney be?”

Gabriel, “He’s in Legal Limbo. It’s not quite as nice as heaven. They live in condos and share a pool. It’s a cash bar and no free lunches there.”

All, “God is merciful.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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186. the lull latte

Image result for christmas landscapeIt’s a quiet Christmas morning. Frozen outside, a weak sun cannot melt the ice spots on our deck. Inside, the wood pellet stove fan’s whir is interrupted by the augur pushing more pellets into the hopper to burn. My bare ankles detect a chill at floor level just above the ridge of my new slippers. I adjust the stove’s setting a click higher as a sneeze sounds upstairs where my oldest daughter and wife sip tea and read books silently.  My youngest daughter sleeps behind me on a recliner after a tough night of coughing and sipping robitussin. And I, I want to memorialize gratitude on the blank document before me.

The grand baby Leah was off all  night as well. She had a wet sort of cough and a stuffy nose. At ten months of age she can’t have medications willy nilly, nor can she sleep with her binky in her mouth while snuffling through a stuffed nose. Something had to give last night, and that was her parents’ right to sleep. They held her upright and sat in a steamy bathroom on and off to ease her discomfort. As Grace cheerfully said this morning, “If anyone else prevented you from sleeping all night, you’d be upset and cranky. But when it’s your own baby, well, it doesn’t matter.” Simple truth: love sacrifices.

Several times over the past two days I have gazed at my granddaughter’s sparkling angelic face and smiled a joyous smile back at  her. She pulls her binky out of her four tooth grin and offers it to me with an outstretched little baby girl arm. Each time I think but don’t say, “Grace, thank you for not going right to work and delaying these moments for years or forever. What a great gift you have given us. As parents we did not have a choice. We  had to work up to, during, and after delivery. We lived on the edge, often upset and cranky with each other and with our station in life.  We could not be as resilient as  you. Thank you for this joy born of faith.”

“Thank you Stu for working without complaint or measuring to provide Grace and Leah this ideal time together. Thank you for who you are and who you choose to be in a world that clamors to divide your attention and loyalties. Thank you for loving God, my daughter, and my granddaughter so deeply.”

Grace, baby Leah and hubby Stu drove over to Stu’s good family this morning. Fortunately they live only three miles away so we don’t have custody cravings and clashes. They are good people, those Gallaghers. I want to thank them for putting family ahead of stuff, and for putting faith first in their family. Days like today are rich dividends paid on those investments. Not big material gains but subtle relational ones, for all the gifts exchanged mean nothing compared to the laughs, the smiles, the hugs and the love of family. “Thank you Dan and Joann for holding cracked family systems together and re-bonding the fractures. Thanks for  parenting again as grandparents. You are twice blessed.”

 

This year we really dialed it back on the gift giving, not because we had to. It was more a question of stewardship and priorities. We lack nothing. It’s an odd contradiction when you must really concentrate and take inventory to come up with a gift wish. After a few searching moments, I said, ” I could use a belt.” My wife bought me two. I’m full, Blogelves. Anything more and I will overflow in wasteful luxury. What I wanted was abundantly present before and around me– my faithful wife, my three fabulous daughters, my amazing son-in-law, and my precious granddaughter. All in harmonious peace.  Friends visited during the day, then we all went to church, opened presents and played a tough game of chess and later Scrabble. (I lost both… happily.) It’s all good.

So in the quiet of today comes the lull, the slow and easy break from the breakneck life we live. It’s the root of lullabye, a repeated lu-lu-lu sound that soothes children to sleep. I imagine Mary and Joseph lulling baby Jesus back to sleep in the brutal world they inhabited. Soothing sounds from a loving mother, better than robitussin and vodka, and before you know it the babe is rhythmically breathing, a little bird in its downy nest, a little lamb on its mother’s warm, fuzzy belly. The lull is a safe and satisfied place to be, a drainage ditch off the bayou of joy. You can bed down in the sweet long grass there like a fawn, safe and blessed. A pause in the struggle of survival. Today tastes like victory, like tiramisu and cheesecake with rich creamy coffee. It’s playing the X on a triple word space overlapping a double word line in a  seven letter word play fifty point bonus. Yeah, like that.

Yesterday at the coffee shop the coffee was free. I said to Andrea, “This must be what heaven is like.” She did not disagree. I told her I would initiate a pay it forward program all day long for coffee. She was unimpressed with my antilargesseness.  But it’s all good in the lull, the moment between inhale and exhale as oxygen hooks up on dates with blood cells in your lungs. Sure, there is more stress coming tomorrow. The world will erupt again in chaotic activity and conflicts of all sorts because this was too small or that was too large. Our first world problems will seep up to street level like sewer gases. But for the moment I’ll have the lull latte. Thank you.