Monday, January 31, 2011

so much in the now that tomorrow isn't there

I have a clear memory that is either 39 or 40 years old this week. I was sitting at the lunch table in my home in Clarkdale, Arizona. I was most likely eating what I called a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich. My parents were with me and trying to explain something to me.
“Tomorrow is the first day of February,” my mother told me. I was unimpressed. “Do you know what that means?”
I didn’t
“Your birthday is in February,” she explained.
Tomorrow would be the first day of February. My birthday was is February. My mind made the obvious conclusion.
“So…” I said. “Tomorrow is my birthday!” And I burst into a huge smile.
“No, no,” my mother then explained how my birthday was on the 28th. I didn’t get what the big deal was about tomorrow being the first day of February of tomorrow wasn’t my birthday. The next morning I was doing what I did most mornings, sitting on the floor in front of the heater. My mother walked by and wished me a happy first day of February.
This was not only the mentality of my four year old mind. I have been like this all my life. I rarely concern myself with what is in the future and only concentrate on the next moment.
(I also have a bad habit of dwelling in the past but I’m trying to overcome that.)
This kind of thinking is helpful when I’m driving down the Cajon pass in rush hour and have to concentrate on a hundred vehicles changing lands and going different speeds. It was perfect helping Prajna when Sarah was born in an emergency at home. People boast about living in the moment. I think it can be helpful but I’ve also suffered from it. I spent four years of college living in the moment until the moment I graduated and then wondered what to do. I don’t plan for the future well and while I do consider the consequences of my actions I almost never think about the costs of my inaction.
Most of the time I just don’t make long term plans. The most I usually do is try to plan out a weekly breakfast menu.
So a few days ago Prajna turned in her two week notice for her job. We will go back to being a family with a stay at home parent which was always our desire. Out income will be significantly reduced but so will our expenses. I am trying not to worry. I would like to think this is because I trust God and not because I’m so flippant. But this is always how we have managed in our marriage. We have relied on God and obeyed without being concerned with the possible problems. That had brought us to where we are so far with is living in a small home with five great kids and always enough to eat. No complaints. No great long term plans. Full ahead.

Monday, January 24, 2011

the Joke Tsar

I worked for a land surveyor firm for nearly four years. Aside from the physical strength needed there was a lot of skill required including the physical skill of hitting the top of an 18 inch pipe enough times so it sinks into the ground. Math skills were also needed some simple, and some very complex.
What I didn’t have in skill and strength I tried to make up for in good attitude. One of my proudest accomplishments happened while on the job one morning. But it didn’t involve the work involved.
We drove down to Canyon Lake in Riverside County just about every day. We were able to pick up our favorite radio morning show out of San Diego through its translator signal in Temecula. Without a doubt the Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw morning show is the best radio morning show I have ever heard. They are now on 100.7 Jack FM in San Diego and I listen to their podcasts at work. There are all kinds of regular games and bits they do. When they did ‘Stump the Joke Tsar’ a week ago I was reminded of that morning at work years ago.
Stump the Joke Tsar is simple enough; you call up with a joke. If Dave, the host knows it you hang up in shame. If he doesn’t know it and if the joke is funny, you win. In the summer of 2006 we were driving to the construction site listening to the radio when that contest began. I remarked that I had just read a joke in a book at the library that was pretty funny. Maybe I could call up with it. The work chief encouraged me to so I did.
The thing with radio contests is that there may be ten or twenty incoming lines into the studio with thousands of listeners trying to get through. If you have ever tried to be caller number one at a radio station you will know that your chances are not good. But I got through. I told the joke right away to Emily, who screens the calls and she put me on hold. We turned down the radio in the work truck until we could park. I got out so the rest of the crew could listen and I heard the show on hold.
The bit had been on for a few minutes and Dave, the host, the Joke Tsar, was becoming annoyed. The jokes had to be funny and none of them had been so far. This was the funniest crew I had ever heard. Dabbling in radio years before, I greatly respected folks on the radio and the idea of disappointing them scared me. Soon Dave was shouting the punchlines to the jokes before they were done and disconnecting the callers one after another. He reminded the listeners that he and Shelly and Chainsaw and the rest of the crew were hoping to lose. He was angry and disappointed so far, then suddenly I was off hold and his voice was clear.
“David, in Lake Elsinore, go ahead,” said the Joke Tsar. Another member of the show repeated: “Hello, Dave!”
“Okay, “I said as clear as I could. “Why is diarrhea hereditary?”
Dave didn’t shout at me and disconnect me. He repeated me question and then I repeated it back to him. Chris Boyer, his editor and show know-it-all said some kind of answer that I didn’t understand so I waited a second.
Dave’s voice was now relaxed and cheerful. “I don’t know,” he said. “Why is diarrhea hereditary?”
Dave not knowing was not enough; he had to say it was funny. Here it was.
I replied, “It runs in your genes.” (jeans)
Instantly there was laughter. And then they played a sound effect I had never heard. Bells clanged with an explosion a Tarzan yodel and a voice repeating “winner…winner…winner.”
They congratulated me and told me I won Eddie Money tickets. I got on the phone with Emily again and told her that I couldn’t take the tickets because I was moving that weekend. It didn’t matter though. She was a little surprised and we said goodbye.
The construction guys asked me about the Eddie Money tickets too. But they understood me too because they were fans of the show. The tickets didn’t matter. I had made the host of the best morning show in on the biggest cities in the state laugh. And that day it didn’t matter that I tended to destroy sledgehammers before driving a half dozen pipes. That was the day that I had stumped the Joke Tsar.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Sanctity of Life Sunday is this Sunday, January 23rd. While there are several issues that I believe strongly in, many of them I think have grey areas and room for compromise. But I can't see abortion as anything more that the murder of an innocent child. I understand that if it were made illegal that it would continue illegally and that there are several serious issues relating to abortion including poverty, teen pregnancy, and other problems that I have no solution for.
Several years ago an idea stuck in my head until I finally wrote it down. It asks the question, what if children knew what their mother did to them and then waited at the door to heaven for them. I have passed the story around and had positive and negative reactions. The story is not biblically sound in the way that if someone has died they are either eternally with God or eternally without Him. There is no waiting room.
The story is fiction and only speculates, what if? It only gives a glimpse of what that waiting area might be like. The story is emotional and somewhat inflammatory.
Because of the controversial nature of the story I did not link it to Facebook. I have only linked this entry. If anyone wants to read The Waiting Ones they may, it is the blog entry just before this one. If anyone wants to share the story this week for Sanctity of Life Sunday they may. Keep in mind it is not pleasant. But if you have strong feelings either way about this issue, I would welcome your comments.

The Waiting Ones


It wasn’t a waiting room at all, but they all patiently waited. It was a comfortable place. Indeed it had been made just for them; just for their wait. Behind them was a wall. The wall’s mirror finish wasn’t intended to create the illusion of space. For the room already appeared infinitely vast. One end of the wall went off in one direction while the other end met with a perpendicular wall forming a corner. This other wall had no mirror finish. This wall was a bright white and even emitted a bright glow that created harsh shadows of the Waiting Ones. And here in this corner, gently lined up and patiently waiting, the uncounted millions waited. And as time went on, more arrived.
Although they had no names, they were able to recognize each other. Like passengers on a long sea voyage, soon everyone knew each other’s face. Each boy and girl knew why they were there. Each knew that all the others were there for the same reason. But this was not something that any Waiting One would ponder on. They knew why they were there, but they did not think about it.
One boy had been waiting for a long time. He knew that some had only just arrived, and that just a few had been here longer than him. He found himself very close to the bright wall. But it didn’t trouble him to remember that he had not always been waiting right there. The boy raised his head and looked down the long line that waited.
“I think I will not wait any longer,” he said. Then he stepped out of line. With resolve and growing awareness, he went to the great bright wall where there was a humble wooden door. Once there, the boy didn’t have to wait any more. She came.
She reached the door and looked at him. She studied him carefully and finally admitted, “I don’t think I know you.”
“I am your son,” he replied.
She shook her head. “I had no children,” she said. Then her eyes grew large and she opened her mouth slowly. No sound came out.
“I am your son,” he replied softly.
Now she sank to her knees staring up into his face. As she looked, there was no way of knowing how old he really was. He could have been almost any age, but he looked complete and perfect: An unblemished youth who now looked very sorrowful. He reached down and brought her to her feet.
“Come,” he said. “It’s time.”
He opened the door and they both went silently through.
The others didn’t hear what was spoken and continued to patiently wait.
Two of the waiters spoke.
“He’s not waiting any more,” a girl said to the boy near her.
“Who?” the boy said.
The girl glanced around. “I don’t know,” she replied. They were about to continue waiting when they heard a sound. It was an anguished wailing. The agonized cry grew louder. She looked around and saw some of the others wailing while others were not. The boy next to her looked around too. Then he tilted his head back and began a most mournful howl laced with a pain of death.
The girl did not cry out. She looked down the line of Waiting Ones and saw a man approaching. He was trying to cover his ears, but couldn’t seem to do it. With a terror stricken face, he thrashed his arms wildly about as if trying to ward of a swarm of attacking wasps.
As the cries and wails continued to assault him, the girl looked about and saw how few were actually weeping. She noticed that the rest just looked at him. She turned to look at him too. Pity came over her and she felt sorry to see him so tormented.
Someone stood at the old door. It was not one of them. He had the appearance of an old man. The first man suddenly noticed him and cried out.
“Dad! Make them stop!”
The old man spoke. Even though his voice was soft and broken, he could be heard above the cries. “I’m sorry son,” he said. “I cannot stop them. You know who they are.”
“No! Who are they?” the other shouted.
“You, a doctor, You sent them here,” the old man said with a tone of finality. Then without a word, he gestured and led the other through the door.
But now the wailing did not stop. It was growing to a strength that could have shook the very earth. The girl gazed down the line and saw a woman approaching. At sight of her, the girl threw back her head and screamed.
As the woman came to the door, two children waited for her. These two were different from the waiters. Instead of innocence, their faces held a sad wisdom. The woman was looking at the crying children with an expression of such horror that she reacted in shock to the two at the door.
“What’s wrong with them?” she asked. “Who did this to them?”
“They have been abandoned,” the first child said. “This is the sound of a child who has been lost.”
“I was a crusader for rights,” the woman said. “I spent my whole life fighting for children’s rights.”
“You wanted to see that no one interfered with a woman’s right to choose?” the first child asked.
“Yes...yes. I just don’t know why all these children are here,” the woman said in a weak voice. “Who did this to them?”
“It was important to see that children were wanted?” the first child questioned. “So they were sure to grow up with love?”
“Yes,” the woman answered. “It’s unethical to bring a child into an already overpopulated world where they may only live a little while...and suffer their whole life.”
Now the second child spoke. “So those who cannot be assured a good life must be killed.”
“No!” now the woman’s voice grew strong. “Terminating a pregnancy is not killing! It’s only a mass of tissue...not a life.” Then she turned to the screaming children. “Can’t they please stop! Why are they doing that? Who did that to them?”
The first child spoke. “I was aborted because my mother did not want to overpopulate the world.”
The woman shrank back. “Where am I?” she whispered.
The first child continued. “I wish I could have lived. I would have written some wonderful music.”
Now the second child spoke. “My mother did not want me. I was born in a dirty bedroom with the television on. My mother tried to nurse me but gave up because I was pre-mature and sick. She shook me out of frustration. Finally she went back to her drugs. I died three days old in a garbage bin and was never found.”
The Waiting One’s wailing lament continued. The woman looked to them, and then back to the second child.
“I was given a chance to live,” the child said. “I breathed real air. I felt the sunlight. My days of life were painful and I never knew happiness. But at least I knew life.”
The two children then took the speechless woman through the door. It closed. The wailing stopped.
When the girl stopped wailing, she felt something. There was a familiarity somewhere. Someone who had once been a part of her was near. Someone who had helped create her was coming. Suddenly she realized that her wait was finished. She went and stood by the door.
The woman walked along with her eyes down. Then she stopped and slowly lifted her eyes to look at the girl. Instantly tears began to flow down her face.
The girl looked at her.
“Mama?” she asked.
“Oh, my baby,” sobbed the woman. “Will you forgive me?”
“Yes Mama,” the girl said. They fell into an embrace.
“Oh, thank you Jesus!” the woman cried again and again.
“Thank you, Mama,” the girl said. “Thank you for accepting him. It’s time to go see him now.” Arm in arm, they went through the door.
The boy who was near her was aware that something wonderful had happened, but he couldn’t remember now. Instead he looked at a new figure approaching. This time it was from along the brilliant white wall. Another Waiting One.
The new little one looked puzzled. “What happened?” he asked. “Where is my mother?”
The first boy sensed that something horrible had happened and that there was about to be a great sadness.
The new little boy looked around. “Mommy?” he whispered. “You’ve gone away? Where did you go...” Then his face changed. He drew in a shallow breath and his lips began trembling.
Some others went up to him and put their arms around him. The child let out a shocked cry of pain. He cried as if the pain were killing him. The others stood around and for a moment remembered why they were there. After a while, the boy’s cries subsided to sobs of misery.
“She...she...” he choked out not being able to say it.
“We know,” the others said. They patted him and stroked his head.
Then the new boy took his place at the wall and waited.

Monday, January 10, 2011

there is no making sense of it

There are grieving families today. In Redlands, the town just down the freeway from me two young men were murdered in a shooting. In Arizona a mentally ill young man shot and killed six people and seriously wounded several others. I think our normal reaction is to try to make sense of these tragedies and part of that is assigning blame. Already there are people blaming gun lobbies and immigration policy and disagreeable rhetoric from leaders and media.
People are franticly looking for a cause or blame is a scramble for safety. If only it really were the fault of just one or two things that kids are murdering kids. We could just blot this out and be done with it and then breathe a sigh of relief. If only.
I will not use this blog to proselytize about firearms or politics. Yes, guns got into the wrong hands and yes keeping guns out of the hands of mentally unbalanced people, criminals and gang members would prevent deaths. That is not my cause. There are plenty of voices on both sides of that.
The problem is that there is evil in the world. If you are going to believe in God you must acknowledge that there is an adversary. Selfishness, pride, fear and hate are its tools. When a tragedy like this happens most of us are reminded of it. But let’s also not forget the slow subtlety that can work on us. Little lies I may tell, anger or lust in my heart, and lots of other very little things slowly separate me from God.
I don’t like writing about sin. I would rather blog about amusing stories from my past. But I don’t want to go on doing anything until I confess that I am a sinner just like every other person reading this or not reading this. In the same way people try to get their minds wrapped around a tragedy I try to wrap my mind around God. But God is too big to wrap my mind around so I end up creating my own version of God and that is idolatry. While I cannot ever fully understand God I can know him more every day through reading His Word, prayer and learning more about Him.
We cannot ever fully understand the tragedies either. While we cannot isolate ourselves and live in denial, we can grow closer to God every day.
I am posting a link to a site. Tenth dot ministries is a great place to start your day.
If this blog was too much of a rant, visit Tenth dot every day instead.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

fish and faith

When I was a little kid I thought that when you turned down the volume on the radio you were twisting a stick into the mouth of the man speaking inside it and that compelled him to talk quieter. I thought that if you got pulled over by the police for speeding that you could and maybe should have your car taken away right then and there. Once when my grandparents were visiting we were planning on going fishing and having a picnic after. I had what I believed was the greatest idea in the world. We would catch a fish and then eat it for lunch. My grandma said we had better pack sandwiches too. She was right.
My young mind like many young minds had no grey areas. Things were either right or wrong. In addition to this perhaps from my upbringing I believed that the best could happen and things would always work out and fall into place. God would provide a nice trout.
When Jesus told us that we need to become like little children I think that he meant this trusting young heart that believed that everything was okay. Now when my prayers for a real fire engine were never answered my faith did not crumble. And when I prayed for a local man to live and he died I knew that he was up in heaven so that was good too. When we get older and more worldly and educated we begin to create our own worlds and along with them our own ideas about how God ought to be. Cheerful agnostics believe the universe is innocent until proven guilty and what ever is true for you is cool. At least atheists solidly believe in something albeit a lie. And then some professed Christians build their own god and their own way to heaven. Maybe they do this for fear of others reactions or maybe they just want to feel good themselves.
But the fact is that Jesus said that he is the only way right there in John 14:6. If you want to question the validity of The Bible then why accept any of it?
As children we would have accepted it. We wouldn’t have had room for grey areas or idolatry. We would have accepted God’s love without question.
Whether or not we would have followed God’s commands is another thing. Children are selfish. That’s why we need shepherding. For this I thank God for the parents and youth and children’s pastors that I know.
This is the blog that came to me on this first day of the year. It is not a whimsical telling of a childhood story. It’s a bit confrontational. I don’t resolve to be more like this or not. But this is the core and the worldview of everything I write.