Saturday, July 10, 2021

Rednecks in Heat Waves

God loves rednecks and I can prove it. Our central AC breathed it's last early in this most recent and newsworthy heatwave. We're cheap and at the moment broke, but mostly cheap so some of our fellow rednecks gave us a couple beat up window units they had lying around like ordinary rednecks do. They were literally stacked between the broken down car and the chicken coop. We were thrilled! The first unit was installed right away and, to fill the gap left from it being the wrong unit for the window, I cut a proper size piece of dirty, weathered plywood from the nearest scrap pile (I have several right now just to make sure we're not mistaken for HOA types). My fortune was so good that a single cut yielded the perfect board and our new-to-us AC is now securely roaring the last hours of it's marginally efficient life away cooling our living room to a chilly eighty five degrees or so. 

"But what of the second unit," you ask? Why, I installed it improperly in a window on the opposite side of our house this very day! And when I went looking for the correct size board to make up the difference, I stumbled across the trashy plywood scrap I had saved from installing the other unit and, guess what?! Perfect fit with no cuts! Now we're enjoying the cool breeze and death rattle of cheap AC units in stereo! Life is good! The last part of this story is that I realized I could remove a panel from the ugly, crooked, broken, central AC on our roof and make it suck huge volumes of fresh night air into the house when it's cooler outside than our window units can accomplish inside.

I feel like we just won a championship game against the heat and I should thank some people while the cameras are on me. Thank you to my redneck friends who kept trash knowing someone like me would be stoked to call it my own one day. Thank you to my redneck wife who shamelessly cheered me on every time I solved a problem related to doing things wrong in the first place and who couldn't be happier to use someone else's trash to death with me for the thrill of a barely adequate, cool breeze. She even contributed the solution of stuffing the small whole in the board with cotton swabs so it no longer serves as a mosquito portal. And, of course, thanks to the God who has the foresight to arrange who I marry, who my friends are, what trashy board I grab at random and how I cut it to get an accidently perfect two-fer on the installation. Take that, you oppressive heat wave!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Hello Stranger

Hello stranger. Please hear me true.

I know you not, but need not know you

To give you passage into my heart

Of my own nature you are a part.

A fellow human and likewise equal

To call things good or call them evil,

To call one, "friend" or call one, "foe"

To lean on more than what we know.

I'm confident you can relate

However different each one's stake.

May common interest yield truer aim.

I'll strive to hear you. Please do the same.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Night Run

In it's essence, a blind person's sense of distance is exclusively connected to the metered effort required to move through it. The bathroom is ten steps from the bedroom. The dinner table is twenty steps from bedroom. Therefore the dinner table is farther than the bathroom. This works until assisted travel is introduced. The next town is reached by walking to the car which is twenty steps away like the table. Therefore the next town is the same distance away as the table. The difference is you can only reach the next town by sitting in the car for a certain time, as if the space around you needs time to change rather you needing time to move through it. In this way, space becomes an increasingly fluid but not irrational concept to the blind person even though the sighted person knows otherwise.

As I run around my country neighborhood in the pitch black, I feel that sense of warped space. I am the sighted and the blind person at once and my mind is on high alert without the usual indicators of distance. I feel the texture and tilt of the road with each foot strike. When I know it's safe, I close my eyes so that not even the distant porch light or the faint glimmer of the setting, crescent moon aid my sense of progress or direction. The feel of the center ridge of the road beneath my feat says I'm on the right track. The effort of each leg pushing forward and exchanging balance in quick succession says I'm moving forward. Where is a mystery that my senses are trusting to my memory. It's thrilling... and short lived. A few steps in row unexpectedly miss the feeling of the center ridge and my sense of place on the road is gone. My eyes open and the few porch lights along the way give just enough light to guide me home.

Much of faith is the same. The Kingdom of Christ is closer than the dinner table. I just cant walk to it. My feet know what to feel for but they don't always knot how to find the trail when they lose it, and it can happen so quickly. Sometimes, even with my eyes open, it's dark enough that only my memory of seeing makes me able to recognize a trustworthy path from shadowy fragments. The rhythmic shift of my balance confirms progress and direction that natural sight can't reliably indicate. I miss a step and my eyes widen. A porch light leads me home, left on by someone who's already there and waiting for me to arrive - the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Way of All the Earth

We go the way of all the earth.
Round and round.
Return to ground.

We ache for hope and ache with hurt.
Why, oh why?
Look to the sky.

Such wonder rises from the dirt.
Alas. Alas.
This too shall pass.

Yet so eternal is its worth.
Amen. Amen.
To life again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Dear Longest Friend

I remember when I felt I was myself and mine alone.

It was important.

I imagined the world’s boundaries were mine to overthrow.

I was the constant.

I cherished paradigms and codes so freshly set in stone

I was ignorant.

The only thing I really knew was how to never leave you,

And even that was marginal.

I was so unaware how the Divine is infinitely shrewd.

Through you, he is so tactical,

And patiently he crushed so many of my sacred truths,

A cage I thought was practical.

So often it’s the case that only when enough life lies behind us

Can we see the path he’s made.

Just now I’ve started seeing how much of me has already turned to dust,

How much needed laid to waste.

To welcome every scrape that comes from you, I’ve learned to trust,

What it removes is much more than replaced.

It could sound like a lament if heard without time’s thankful understanding.

How much is found when we finally lose ourselves.

How much of me has come from you, my friend, beyond all quantifying,

So much more good than harm to tell.

There is no line to draw, no place to mark our thorough intertwining,

And no wish to find where my defenses fell.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Arizona Alligators

The unmistakable image of a large, fast moving alligator surfacing a few feet in front of me bypassed every controlled thought as my whole body tensed in unison and lunged several steps away from the waters edge. Then my rational thoughts made me laugh out loud as instinct yielded and I turned around to watch the mistaken log splash and bob downstream in the flood waters of the Verde River behind my Arizona home. The pounding in my ears quieted. The quivering muscles in my limbs steadied and I marveled at how irrational my reaction was and how little that matters at first to our instinctual mind, or at least to mine. Perhaps yours would do better at distinguishing an inanimate chunk of dead wood from a living, breathing terror of dinosaur proportions.

Wild, Arizona alligators are only real when they "escape" from homes that kept them as ill fated pets. That may not change whether they'll tear your limbs off in a bad situation but it does change our comfort level getting into our favorite watering holes. Same as Jaws didn't really keep people out of the ocean, even combined with some real attacks. These represent the successful transition from instinctual to rational.

But perhaps more often than we realize, we fail to make that transition. Lately, my wife and I have been working through some relational baggage in the family. The people have changed but some of our now instinctual responses to them have not. As a result of some obsolete sense of self preservation, we find ourselves in fight-or-flight every time a relational log floats by. The good news is we know the alligator isn't real and perseverance will retrain our instincts.

The same is true on the societal level. Perseverance of truthful reasoning is the necessity of being more than merely instinctual creatures chronically fooled by appearances. There's always plenty to keep us irrationally distant from each other, resistant to the unifying truth because of some political or religious 'gator it moves us closer to. Don't fear it. Time always shows those things to be merely ill fated pets you shouldn't keep anymore, and likely shouldn't have had in the first place. They'll end up in the zoo or the Everglades and you can meet at the local watering hole in peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Self Talk

I blame God that we talk to ourselves. I've avoided blaming him for other things in spite of his all-knowingness and ultimate creatorship, but this one's inescapably on him. For five days, he simply spoke things into existence as he had in mind and by his own account "it was good". Then the later part of day six rolls around and what's he do? Stops to talk to himself about what's next! And that next thing of course was, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,...", complete with self talk.

Lest we wrongly imagine effortless agreement to God's self talk, consider the following. 1) The disparity between Christ's interests and the Father's interests when it came to crucifixion. 2) The internal conflict of Christ represented in statements like, "How long am I going to put up with you?" 3) The many times throughout the Bible a Spirit-led person (a.k.a. God-led person) like Abraham or Moses appealed to God's alternate sensibilities to fend off his destroying some certain people group. Love it or leave it, here lies your assurance that God can relate to the internal conflict of being a parent or long suffering friend.

Some additional value to that exercise? Ever feel like there's more than one person in your head. Not only can God relate, he's just like you! Or you're just like him. Whichever seems more proper to the majority vote of your personalities. It's good to be able to see his likeness in even the crazy guy ranting to himself as he paces. I know that crossed a line but here's another thing. Scripture teaches us that spiritual nature abhors a vacuum just like physical nature. Christ is the eternal vessel for the Father and the Spirit. And you have the choice of being a vessel for Christ or you have his assurance you'll house things more similar to the crazy guy. Think of it as complicated real life version of those nesting, Russian dolls.

So self talk away. And realize that, through his Spirit in us and Christ's intercession for us, God's day six conversation never stopped and never will. Through his own self talk, we benefit from God modeling his own instruction to pray at all times with all kinds of prayer. When our attention is on him, following his example abundantly includes our own internal conflicts and conversations. Now go redeem that self talk. You're not any crazier than the God who made you.