Friday, February 9, 2018

Et Tu Lady Macbeth?

"Come, you spirits. Make thick my blood; Stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose!" - Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

You're on your own to figure out what compunctious means. Could be another one of those words Shakespeare made up to say what there wasn't a word for yet. What I do know is it's more than fun listening to my sweet-hearted daughter trying to embrace her evil side well enough to deliver such a soul chilling line in this year's Shakespeare co-op. This morning, I caught her on the couch with that distant, nearly teary thoughtfulness in her eyes and I stopped to ask where her mind was at.
"I was just thinking about how God gave us the knowledge of good and evil."

Not exactly what I was ready for.

She continued, "It's good to know Him with the knowledge of both so that good means something."

Since I couldn't keep up with intellectual rigor of the conversation, I did the fatherly thing and said, "I'm proud of you" and walked away before it became obvious I was out of my league.

I felt my feet come back underneath me a little later as she was struggling to give into her dark side for Lady Macbeth. Now this I can help with!
"Remember that time when you where really angry at your brothers for calling you a name?"


"How did you feel?"

"Angry," she answered patiently wondering how I could say she felt angry and then ask how she felt in nearly the same breath.

"Did you have any thoughts of wanting to do something to them?"

Can't you just picture Satan wearing my skin and masquerading as a real dad right now? With a slightly evil edge to her sweet-hearted laugh she slid her pointer finger across her throat with the sound effect of a juicy cut and finished with the necessary tongue hanging out of the mouth and to the side.

"Now you're Lady Macbeth," I said and her smile broadened.

Before you worry about me creating a junior sociopath, my wife and I encouraged her take the role against her objections by focusing on the good character that the play promotes through the victory of prince Malcolm in the end. The greater the bad guy, the greater the good guy who beats them, right? And there it is again, "It's good to know Him with the knowledge of both so that good means something."

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Ring Box

“I hate this shelf,” the ring box said, “this dark and lonely place.”
As once again the door slid shut that sealed his daily fate;
It opened oft but never long and mirrors glimpsed above
To accent lights and window glass that showed the treasures off.

But, yet again the door would shut and yet again the dark.
But yet again a jealous soul and yet another mark
Upon a box already black, another mark unseen
Another foolish hope to mourn, another shuttered dream.

“What luck,” he quipped in bitterness “to be the box beneath.
I curse the mirror on the wall whose glimpses that I see
Of treasures I will never hold and lights that never bathe
A lowly box, an empty soul, a shadow yet to fade.

“Is something wrong?” the ring would doubt herself more every day.
“A million eyes have stared and yet a million looked away.”
A few would ask and fewer still would ask to see her close
So that the fear of even being known began to grow.

“What flaws must rest within my gems. What dross within my gold.
What warmth there is upon a hand to make my place feel cold.
My place beside these gems and rings that hands have whisked away
With smiles beaming brightly as the lights of my display.

How foolish I should hope that there is yet a hand for me
Or even that, upon one, it would care that I am seen.
Invisible in plainest sight, this light and lonely place,
Relentlessly esposing what I must so lack in grace.”

Then came the most discerning eye that longest on her stayed,
That made her wish for dimmer lights perhaps her flaws to fade.
Away from such a cold embrace, such calculated stare,
A piercing focus seeing past the surface and the glare.

Then out she came before the eye that withered all her pride,
That scrutinized her every cut from every single side.
“Yes. It will do,” the critic spoke with tone that matched the eyes.
A price was paid. A box was pulled. The ring was put inside.

“I can’t believe it!” cried the box. “Not only am I free
But how long I have loved that ring they placed inside of me.
How many fools have passed her by but better has that been
That I of all the boxes hold her beauty here within.”

And safe she finally felt when hidden in that velvet shell.
That steely case where darkness hid the flaws she knew too well,
That shelter from the storm outside that every threat be quelled,
That shield securely fit around the band so few had held.

And jubilant the box now felt to travel in the light,
Renewed of heart and purpose with his treasure safe inside.
What things he saw along the way! What grandeur they did pass!
How marvelous his prize must be! How far above his class!

The nicks and dings he gathered on the way, he proudly bore,
The injuries he’d taken on behalf of what was stored
Within his care until they reached the place where she was meant
To be revealed as worth the price that on her had been spent.

She bid him, “Please! Don’t open up to such discerning eyes!”
He bid her, “Know you not that you have not a flaw to hide?”
She bid him, “How can you be sure of what those eyes have planned?”
He bid her, “There’s a crown upon the head above this hand.”

“A crown!” she gasped. “You must be wrong. So many passed me by.
So long I cringed beneath the gaze of every critics eye.”
“No imperfection stayed their hands,” the box laughed with surprise.
“It is the King and no one else who could afford your price.”

Friday, January 26, 2018

Missile Defenseless System

After the false alarm in Hawaii, I'm waiting for the guy who looks around when he comes out of his bunker twenty years from now and says, "Wow! Things recovered really fast! Wait... What?!" Yes, I know I recycled that joke but I'm just so proud of it.

But seriously, have you ever been in a situation where sudden death seemed eminent? It's a life changer. Well, it is for at least the hour it takes the adrenaline rush to wear off. I'm gauging that by how long it took me to decide there was nothing better to do than go back out riding after a 40mph van flung me off my bike in Phoenix years ago. I remember the moment when I realized I couldn't get out of the way in time. The instant I realized it, my mind moved on to other things like, "Crap! I was really looking forward to a Filiberto's burrito! I really wanted to get married, too. I can't believe how warm it is tonight!"

The bible says we're waiting for the current heavens and earth to be catastrophically destroyed by fire and replaced with the new and eternal version God has in mind. I also can't wait to see the guy who's in his bunker when that happens. Maybe that's part of the biblical reference to those "escaping through the flames."

But seriously, again, we could really take a lesson from the Hawaii scare. When you're certain your earthly goods are about to burn, depreciation happens fast. The van that hit me happened to have "Jesus saves" smudged with a two-fingered line into the dirt on the rear window. Since the irony is obvious, I'll move on to say the driver wasn't excited that I noticed as the policeman quizzed him about more pressing "ironies". Let's at least correct the one where we say we're living for the Kingdom while we're collecting as much as we can for the fire. It's worth repeating the story that when Rockefeller died, his accountant was asked how much he left. He answered, "All of it."
Put it where it lasts. To the Kingdom.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Principal Payments

"Neurotics build castles in the sky.
Psychotics live in them.
Psychologists collect the rent." - Jerome Lawrence

As I was taking care of my budget the other day, I was keenly aware of how much my giving cut into what I was able to pay toward the principal on my house. When I spoke up about it, my wife immediately framed our giving as making a different kind of principal payment. Being a homeowner with a mortgage really is a matter of principal, literally and philosophically. Literally, the principal owner of "my" house will take control of it if I quite making the payments. I'm only the homeowner philosophically until I pay ALL the principal.

Back to my wife's point, one of Christ's teachings, The Parable of the Talents, was about him making a principal investment in three different guys. The one who returned the principal without even paying the interest it should have earned lost the metaphorical house, a place in Christ's kingdom. The other two faithful homeowners who made their interest payments without any fuss got the house and then some. I'm not sure the bank that holds my current mortgage will be that generous but I am very much the neurotic/psychotic living primarily for my castle in the sky.

So here's the equation that I struggle with. The more I spend on interest here, the less I spend on principle there. I'm convinced you can get in for free but you buy the house, in large part with what you spend your money on this side of the kingdom. And more money spent on interest paid to my bank is less money spent on the things God tabulates to our credit when we enter his economy. Did I just say credit? Maybe I'll at least get a good card with a high limit. Then I can throw a serious - I mean proper and responsible of course - party for the angels that had my back through all the mayhem here along with the cloud of witnesses that encouraged them not let that stupid bicycle stunt accident be any worse. Basically, I'm saying I may have to rent a place for a while.

I think I just identified professional clergy as the psychologists. Not saying that's bad. They need a job, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Meaning of Life

“Are you cool?” the obviously cool person I had never met asked from the other end of the phone.

“Uhhh, I don’t know. That’s not really up to me, is it?” I asked sealing my uncoolness.

This phone call started off as a missionary effort by friends of the family to help me connect in the town we were moving to. Now it was a lesson to the poor, cool kid on the other end about why nerds stay nerdy.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!”

Being a church-raised nerd who was taught that nearly everything was infinitely significant, this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes threw me off for a long time. It didn’t seem to line up with live right, go to heaven and get rewarded for everything. Then on a field trip, I watched one of my orchestra friends have a mental breakdown in our hotel room when he realized he had lost track of the day, eaten meat on the sabbath (or something like that) and was now apparently destined for hell. There was no consoling him until he called his parents who explained that there was some simple ritual to make things right again. Phweew. That was close.

And really, really weird. I would even say, "Meaningless!" I didn’t even know you had to do that stuff to stay out of hell and it seemed easy enough to right the wrong I was still unconvinced I should worry about it quite that much. I mean, our orchestra performance is tomorrow and If you can’t pull it together I’ll be second chair viola and I’m not ready for that!

I know the meaning of life is something a little larger than I have the mind for on my own. I also know the things I don’t understand, like my friend’s meltdown and being cool on purpose, are comparatively meaningless to me, lagging far behind more meaningful things like dinner with my family, staring into the world of my aquariums or the euphoria of passing out in my own bed after a twelve hour night shift. The teacher in Ecclesiastes also says, “A man can do no better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” Seems good to me.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Writing Prompt: Why I Write

This is my answer to a recent writing prompt: Why I Write.

As a socially awkward high-schooler, I fell in love with writing when an entire English class laughed at my whimsical use of five, disparate spelling words in the same sentence, a feat I could never accomplish at a conversational pace. Suddenly, I was more witty than weird, at least enough to divert some attention from my coke bottle glasses, mullet and Hawaiian shirt with bright yellow Velcro in place of the buttons. After that, I discovered angst ridden poetry as a way to vent the emotional casualties of still being socially clueless even if I was witty. I knew the world would read it one day and realize what a great and influential intellect I was. Now it reminds me what a great and influential intellect I wasn’t. All because those words are still there to read, to transcend the time that’s passed and to allow me to meditate on them again. Writing helps me understand myself and share it with others who grew up thinking wits would make a bigger difference, when In the end, it was actually the Velcro, Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chasing Rainbows

"Can I touch it?!" my three year old daughter asked excitedly looking back at me from the brilliant, double-decker rainbow that glowed against the dark clouds behind it.
"Give it a try," I encouraged her in a moment of inspiration as iridescent raindrops continued to fall lightly around us through the bright sunshine overhead. No one else spoke up to ruin the innocent wonder as she went to the end of the driveway to get closer to it.
"I still can't reach it. Can I go to the street?" she sought permission to go the forbidden distance.
"Just no further than the street," I let her go and she lit up again with new hope. She reached the edge of the street, reached as high as she could, jumped up and down a little and then looked back at me.
"I need up!" she declared. "Can I ride on your shoulders?"
She reached as high as she could from my shoulders and with a better view of things made the observation, "It's over their, behind their house."
We crossed the street to the end of the world and she made a final effort reaching as far toward it as her short arms and my balance would allow.
"I can't reach it," she conceded the end of the chase while still reveling in the glory of the rainbow and being on dads shoulders on the other side of the street. The pursuit had already taken her higher and farther than usual.
"That's my friends house! Can they touch it?" her enthusiasm picked up again realizing they were closer to the rainbow than we were.
"Maybe they can," I enjoyed sharing the thrilling idea that someone else might be able to reach what we couldn't as we walked back to the house with our attention back on the iridescent rain.

We've chased moons and airplanes the same way. Will we ever catch one? Probably not. Are they worth chasing? Absolutely.