544. Legends of the Fall

Image result for s curve concrete sidewalk picturesWe were joyously walking down the curving concrete sidewalk that sloped down and away toward the Harvest Restaurant at Hershey Hotel. Brunch on my birthday. How nice. I carried my 20 month old grandson Max at the front of the party. My bride was behind me with granddaughter Leah, age 5 yakkety yakking to Grandma about Barbies and kindergarten politics. Grace, Jess and Zach brought up the rear on this chilly, blustery brunch hour. That’s when it happened.

Related imageIn a flash I stepped slightly off the left side of the curving sidewalk and lost my balance with my precious little buddy in my arms.  We lurched forward awkwardly. I thought I’d recover with my cat like reflexes, but not this time. My momentum was potentiated by the slope and Max’s forward leaning weight. I splayed out forward, trying to keep Max’s noggin from slamming into the concrete. Thinking about that second now, I see myself as a wide receiver trying to drop the caught football safely out of bounds. I could not break my fall with Max in both arms, so I extended and tossed him to the dormant grass to my left. Then my right elbow hit; the rest of my body torqued in unfamiliar ways; and I rolled into a full somersault. In the midst of all this kinetic activity, my brain tumbled into itself like an Idaho baking potato falling into an abandoned missile silo. Bad.Related image

As adrenaline raced to all parts of my falling body in preparation for a hard landing, I thought several thoughts. First, Max must land softly. Second, this reminds me of my seizure 15 years ago. That was not good. Third, pull up and out, don’t fade to black. Fourth, what if I never wake up from this moment?  It was a good run. Give my knees to the needy and give my love to Rose. Fifth, is anyone else seeing this?  If so, could I reach an out of court settlement for real and/or imagined injuries? Where is Joel when I need him?Image result for fallen man pictures

One second later I was facing my worried family who had rushed to help me out of my wild eyed gymnastic crouch. Grandma comforted Max who gently reached out to rub my arm and back. What a sweetheart! I checked my knee and elbows. No broken parts or blood, though I felt swelling erupting in the right elbow. “Yeah, yeah. Okay.” I stared at the perfectly unblemished sidewalk. How did that happen? No matter. Just ride out the adrenaline rush. Humor is always a good tool for defusing any situation.Image result for brad pitt legends of the fall images

I asked Zach, as an entertainment trivia ringer, if he knew Brad Pitt’s early work in movies?

“You mean Legends of the Fall?” he responded.

“Exactly! We have a winner.”

Later on he asked if I was familiar with Alicia Keyes’ work.

“Of course, in fact your mother-in-law and Grace went to see her here at the Giant Center back in high school. There is a funny outlaw story connected to that experience.”

“So you know her break out hit, “I Keep on Falling… in and out of love with you.”

“Well done, sir.”Related image

“How about ‘I Fall to Pieces‘, by Patsy Cline?”

“Then there’s Dylan’s ‘A Hard Brain is Gonna Fall‘.”

“I believe that’s ‘A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall.”

“Don’t forget ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone‘.”Image result for temptations images

“Technically that’s the Temptations, not the Rolling Stones.”

“I was just about to say that one. Uh, uh, Tom Petty, ‘Free Falling‘.”

“Elvis, ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You‘.”

‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again‘, Dionne Warwick.”

“Impressive. That’s an oldie, Burt Bacharach most likely.”

“I’ll  see your oldie and raise you with ‘When I Fall in Love’, Nat Cole.”Image result for nat cole pictures

“‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?‘, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Boom!

“Stop the madness! Have I passed the cognitive function test, Doctor? I need to know if I have a concussion.”

“Please sit down, Mr. Burrito, on this arm chair. What you have is not a concussion but a a butt cushion.”

“One more pun and I will gouge your eyes out with a plastic spoon.”

“Your threats are harmless, sir. I think you’re tripping again. Gouge out my eyes and I will market them as white olives, sir. Also known as mozzarella balls.”

“Did you know Malcolm X said, ‘A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything‘?”Image result for malcolm x pictures

“That’s deep, but I stand for anything, even the national anthem of Croatia, and fall for nothing. Here’s a sweet one, ‘Into each life some rain must fall.'”

“Okay, I am weary of this tomfoolery, young Berkie. You have matched me weird for weird. Now, let us duel for a final victory round.”

“It’s a four part final Jeopardy question. Capiche?”

“Capiche.”

“Fallen Angel….”

“Fallen arches…”

“Fallen late night t.v. host…”

“Fallen Waters…”

“Okay, Lucifer is the Fallen Angel.”

“Judges say, Okay.”

“Fallen Arches, the medical term is pes planus.”

“Judges say, wow kid. Nice work.”

“Fallen late night t.v. host… Jimmy Fallon.”

“Judges say, okay. dilly dilly. That was a ringer to make everyone feel smart.”

“Finally, Fallen Waters, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic house in Acme, Pa. “Fallingwater terraces “Technically, it’s called Fallingwaters.”

“Okay, close enough. Let’s not sticklerhood get between old friends, shall we?”

“But Jimmy Fall on. His name is a soft a like fallow or foul ball, not fall on.”

“Listen, like salty pretzels I’ve had about all I want to have from you.”

“What are you gonna do, Bro?”

“Quote Jimmy Cliff lyrics, ‘the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all….'”

So as sure as the sun will shine 
I’m gonna get my share now of what’s mine 
And then the harder they come 
The harder they’ll fall, one and all 
Ooh the harder they come 
The harder they’ll fall, one and all

“Oh, mahn, I deed not see that one combin’.”

“Me neither, Bro. It’s like a crack in the sidewalk, ya mahn.”

“Yah, Bro. Like a pocket full of posies, mahn, we all fall down.”Image result for bob marley pictures

 

 

 

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387. Little ChrisT.

Woke up to a stunning Facebook message this morning. I saw the death notice of a man I so admired and respected, and whose occasional company I enjoyed greatly. His crisp, clarion voice of true authority; and sharp, sincere gunshot laughs; his strong smile; eyes that led like a long dock out into deep waters…gone? Dead? Impossible!!  He’s ten years younger than I am and in better shape. Let me reread this. I rubbed my eyes and wiped sleep off my face, but the words on the page remained unchanged. “We are devastated by his loss”, Keri wrote. I am in that gutshot we. Something like an earthquake rattled the shelves in my mind. Containers of fond familiarity and jars of pickled reassurance smashed on the rocks of reality below. Waves of shock and confusion hit. Sorrow for his wonderful wife, his kids, his son’s upcoming wedding… all swirled together into a melted mental muddle. As I stared at my monitor, it kept ringing with replies to Keri’s post from friends and loved ones. “Boink, boink, boink”, sounds of life echoing back from a well of sorrow to news of his death. What? How? Why? Too much to process. 51. Spring Gardening. ER??

No, no. Restart, reboot. It can’t be true. Surely this is one of those elaborate Eastern European scams from Slovenia you hear about on the news. I had a false obituary posted on line a few years ago that led to Ancestry . com or something.  That’s it. Just restart your computer and update your malware, that’ll do it. Good as new….

No matter, Chris is, was, and will forever be a man of God. The only question is this: Is the rest of Chris T. Little in heaven now? A big chunk was already there. “He is surely with Jesus now… cuz he always was”, a soundless voice fluttered across my mind, like a dusty butterfly… “he always was”. As I stared at his name, Little Christ kept imprinting on my brain. Pastor Chris T. Little was a Little Christ in our community. Like Jesus he was deeply loved by many but also deeply depreciated by folks who should have known better. And there are always the folks with one footprint in each camp, watching which way the winds of popularity blow. No matter. Chris loved you all because he forgave you all and trusted Jesus to do the math. He did not waste time on bitterness, jealousy, or pretense. His words “I don’t have  time for that”, echo in my memory. That’s one thing I loved about him:  he spoke the unvarnished truth. Unfortunately, many folks like their truth the same as their hot dogs–slathered in sweet relish. Chris, however, spoke the mustard seed truth. That’s what mattered to him.

When I first met Chris, I noticed our extreme differences. I never imagined that we would call one another friend one day. He was a Navy engineer and a United Brethren pastor. Those of you who know me know that I am not an institution, authority-loving sort of guy. I am a former English teacher and a current professional counselor. Okay, and I’m a rebel. I backed into God while covered in the excrement of my own sin not out of my own proactive glorious righteousness. But Chris never asked me to give a faith doctrine defense in order to stand next to him. No time for such nonsense– like Jesus.

Chris and I consulted on some shared cases. Ours was a two pronged approach– his side was spirit led; my prong was more secular, mental health led. Still, we respected one another and were good teammates, serving God in different and unequal ways. He was the quarterback. I blocked.

One epic case we shared over nearly three long, tough years. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the details, so I’ll keep them confidential as they should remain so. However, Chris stood tall and immovable against Satan’s powers and principalities. His voice thundered with the Holy Spirit as he claimed the truth of the Scriptures and refuted the lies and deceptions of Lucifer’s minions. In the process a soul was rescued from the bloody battleground between heaven and hell. As each brain curdling encounter ended victoriously, he’d smile and laugh at the incredible happenings we had witnessed. “Well that was fun, huh?”

We talked a lot back then. I never would have managed to come through that extraordinary experience without him. Like any friend I’ve lost in my life, I wish I’d talked more often, but there was no urgency, or so I believed. But there is urgency if you do not take your next breath or day of life for granted, or believe it’s an automatic that you will awake in the morning. Once he said out loud what we both were thinking, “You think God is gonna ask us to do this again now that we’re trained?” My answer?  “I sure hope not.” And yet, compared to being comfortably alone versus uncomfortably present with my departed friend,  I would gladly take the discomfort option all day long.

I pray that his mission, though cut short, was still complete. Chris T. Little was a good and great man. Yet he was a humble servant of Jesus Christ.  A Little Christ who led and fed many souls at the altar of God, one mustard seed at a time. Mother Teresa was a Little Christ.  St. Paul. Martin Luther King too. They revealed the majesty of our Supreme Savior in how they lived their humble lives amid a forest of mustard trees.

Dying in one’s own garden seems poetic as well. Planting requires effort up front and patient faith in the future crop. Although Chris is no longer with us, his crop will be a hundred hundred fold.  John 12: 24 tells us, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Until we meet again, my Little Christ friend, in a forest of mustard trees. Be with God.