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A Tree in Winter

23 Feb

He needed someone to listen to him. You could tell.  He was desperate, his blood shot eyes, his greasy hair, his unshaven face.  He had been puking all morning long in our bathroom. He should go home, I told peter.  But He didn’t want to go home.  No, instead he sucked up energy from those of us near him – the sympathetic kind that you give to a burned out soul.  I didn’t mind coddling him.  He had a hell of a week.  He and his fiancé finally broke it off.  The ring is off of her finger.  Her naked finger; his broken soul.

He’s 38, wears bright, ill matching colors and a fedora cap.  He writes and plays reggae music in that I’m a white Christian kid kind of way.  Yet, despite the strangeness of his idiosyncrasies, they are charming – at a distance.  You can tell he wants to be accepted so desperately, aching to be loved wholly.  He was so close.  So damn close.

I feel sorry for him.  I tell him so when he sits down across the breakfast table from me.  Not in those words.  I don’t like telling someone exactly that.  I usually say something more like I’m so sorry this is happening.  And then I wait.  He unfolds his story.  Very briefly.  Very cleaned up.  Very I’m okay, see.  He is talking something, but he is not convincing. He says to me,“We talked last night, it was pretty rough. But by the end of it we decided that there must be some other purpose then marriage for our relationship.  So that helped me understand why this happened.”

He has his bandage now, I think to myself, he has his understanding.  Now he thinks he’ll be okay, meanwhile he’s puking in our bathroom and looking like his broken heart is eating him from the inside out.   You’re not okay, so don’t pretend that finding a quick answer will suddenly enable you to pack up your emotional baggage and move on from this relationship.

I reach out my hand across the table in a swift move just before he gets up to leave.  I need to tell him something.  Something honest.  Something that I know from experience.  He stops and looks at me, bare and broken, like a tree in winter. I say, “Don’t  look so quickly to find an answer.  Sometimes it takes a long time for us to understand something.  And that understanding may not ever come through any answer.”  He smiles a half smile and says something about how he knows that God is always  interested in the process and less of the destination and he walks away.  Another christianese rote answer, I think to myself.

For the last two days I’ve been considering this conversation.  It frustrates me.  Not in the beat your fist on the table kind of way, but in the how do you solve this kind of way.  I guess I feel like the Church is enabling this band-aid, quick-fix-it mentality.  I should know.  I had it or maybe I still have it.  Whatever pain you are in, there is a quick answer, three steps, four words to say, five scriptures to repeat and boom you’re okay. And if it doesn’t work the first time, then try, try again – meaning pray harder.  And most of all, never, never show weakness.  Never admit that you’re losing it. Or if you do admit anything, say that you’re “struggling” and then add a quick recovery line of, “but God is helping me.”

It’s unfortunate, but true.  I imagine God is wondering when we will stop saving ourselves through our own means, our own made up answers, our own church endorsed 12 step programs and learn to be comfortable admitting defeat.  Or in my case, admitting the worst of all, disbelief.

I don’t know how to reconcile what I’m about to say with what I have struggled with so I won’t.  I’ll just say it.  (See how I still look for an answer to my baggage).  Ironic that Job is the first book of the Bible ever written.  The oldest story on earth is about human suffering.  Human hurting, losing it all.  I mean, even Christ ended up dying.  Sometimes I feel that way about my faith.  Having it all, so beautiful, so perfect, so right, and then it fails, forsakes me, right when I need it the most.

Yet, despite all those unanswered questions.  Despite, despite, despite. I believe somehow, though would you mind forgiving this unbelief.  Slowly, dreadfully slowly, I believe again, for no logical reason, against all odds my faith did not curse God and die.  Like Christ, I experience my own personal resurrection.

I know that pain can hold open the door for disbelief.  I’ve experienced it.  Though I wonder, maybe it’s better to have that door open and know that you can survive it – the disbelief, the questions, the clenched fist, than never having the guts to open the door to begin with because you’re too busy slapping your band aid on.  I think many are too scared that their Faith won’t make it out alive if they dare to ask the questions they’re really craving to ask.  Maybe our Faith would be stronger if we allowed ourselves to stay on the cross long enough to ask, “Why did You forsake me?”

I’m asking uncomfortable questions as a result of disbelief in my life and though I am walking through a dark night (in terms of my faith), somehow I am beginning to see the morning; though not through answers, but through time.  Through silence.  Through listening.  Through love.  Through Resurrection.

I know I’m not finished with my learning, or even with this dissatisfaction,  but I’m holding on in a I’m glad we’re friends again type of way.

Express 4

22 Feb

Feb. 22, 2008

Class, the theme of our lesson today is how to listen. Today has been a day of listening – and also, working in the kitchen. Which, is, in my house, the epicenter of listening, as well as talking – mostly around the breakfast table.

I spent the entire day in the kitchen. Our house is being used for a three day workshop called “the art of Hearing God.” So while our lower level is filled with eager listeners in every available space possible, I’m cornered in the kitchen, next to the gas heater, keeping warm and keeping out of the way. I’m also directing people to the coffee carafe, keeping the tea kettle hot, and stirring the huge pot of chicken soup that we’ll be serving for lunch today.

We had an hour break for lunch. I ate a quick salad, and then started my never ending process of keeping the kitchen clean, directing people to the bathroom, or to the phone, or to whatever it is they might need. There’s always something that somebody needs here. Sometimes I want to call this place the HOUSE of NEEDS instead of the HOUSE OF PEACE. I’m learning to be gracious towards peoples needs.

People need all sorts of things. Information is the one thing that tends to drive me crazy. Especially those who request unnecessary information. Especially something like, “excuse me, but my friend and I were wondering if you were expecting.” NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant if you are not absolutely sure that she is, and especially if you don’t even know her from adam. And then especially if you want her to pour you hot coffee. Even if she is wearing a shirt that looks like a pregnant shirt. She could be, perhaps, bloated from her period and doesn’t want anything clinging to her. In that case, she is definitely not “expecting.” What she is expecting is an apology for your stupid-ass-ness.

See how I’m learning to be gracious.

(that’s all i could share of this days “850” with the myspace world)

Express 3

21 Feb

Feb. 21, 2008

Last night as I lay in bed, my mind racing in typical midnight fashion, I wished desperately to turn off the faucet of my verbal outpouring. My mind doesn’t shut up as well as my mouth does. Sometimes, I think that I stay so busy during the day in order to block out all of this thinking. Maybe it’s why I avoid going to bed at a decent time. The night hours are so noisy and overwhelmed with my thoughts. Thoughts that I don’t always like, or want to acknowledge, or that are absolutely fabricated by my skewed world view; trying to sleep only reinforces my perceived madness. Peter, my little deep thinker, who complicates the simplest idea all through out the day, seems to fall asleep within seconds at night, it seems he’s done all his roughest thinking already. This, his ease of achieving rich, instant sleep, irritates me. He, in his throes of deepest sleep and then me suffering with restless leg syndrome, tossing from side to side, and add to that my leaky faucet of my brain drip, drip, dripping away. I try and concentrate on my breathing. Slow, deep methodical breathes. In and out. I concentrate on the muscles in my face. Are they tense? Yes. I relax. I un-furrow my brow. I let my mouth ease out of a tight line. I allow my shoulders to drop back. Think green, think shalom, think rest, think quiet…no, no, dammit, stop it, don’t think anything at all. Just breathe. In and out. You see how it goes. I’m a gerbil running in my cerebral rat wheel.

Sometimes, I count sheep. This has helped a few times. I imagine fluffy, little, white cartoon sheep smiling at me as they leap over their brown log fence into safe pasture. I am their good shepherd and my responsibility is to make sure each one is accounted for. One and two and three little sheep…four and five…wait, two sheep leapt over at the same time. That’s not good. Now I need to reorganize the sheep. This starts to get tedious. The sheep in my head won’t jump over the fence in single fashion. My undisciplined sheep. My undisciplined mind. At this point, I give up reaching sleep and I just let my mind run, eventually I get so bored with my thoughts even I fall asleep.

Then they haunt me in my dreams. Can’t you thoughts just leave me alone! I don’t mess with you, now you don’t mess with me. Right? Wrong. My thoughts don’t play fair. So there they are in my dreams, like the neighbors annoying dog with incessant nighttime barking. My thoughts unfold themselves in a dream as a daughter that I have, named Adeline, who I can’t seem to find anywhere. The name Adeline, I learn, means noble. Is my psyche telling me I can’t find my nobility? Or in the next dream I have a beautiful, infant daughter, who smiles at me in the most charming way. I’m enchanted by her and so proud of her, but when I go to buckle her in her car seat, I allow someone else to sit with her in the car, even though I desire to be with her. But because I feel I am not polished looking like the people in the car I don’t make a fuss. What does this mean? Am I afraid of good things, and do I let other people have better things, even though rightfully their mine, because I don’t feel I deserve it, or because I’m not good enough? If so, why am I punishing myself? And did I even know I was doing this? No, I didn’t, because I don’t think about stuff like this.

I used to put a lot of faith in my dreams. I valued them. I handled each one with unique care. I felt each one was a special message for me, and that I could gain understanding of myself and even God through my dreams. However, after a while I let much of that go. I think I grew weary of deciphering messages. I also grew weary of people who deciphered messages, particularly, in the Church, they tend to be creepy and out of whack. I do not want to be like them. I am NOT like them. So I reject them and I reject this part of myself. Why does everything need to be in code? I shake my ignorant fist at the sky. I don’t need to understand the depths of my psyche. And for that matter if God wants to speak to me, He should do it in a way that isn’t so complicated or strange. So I let go. I let it go. I let them go. I let Him go. I stop chasing my thoughts. Ignorance, is, after all, bliss. And I am ready to have mine.

But bliss only lasts so long. Perhaps, in my case, only during the day, but at night, knowledge pounds on my heart. I began to ask the questions that my busy mind doesn’t have time for during the day. As soon as you stop chasing your thoughts, they start chasing you. Like a dog after a criminal and your doing your best to hide your trail.

I once heard someone say that our conscience is another word for that tiny small voice that resembles and sounds just like God’s. God is our conscience? What? In running from my thoughts, my conscience, my knowledge of right and wrong am I running from God?

I am praying more – more directly, more honestly, more authentically. And I’ve noticed as I allow the vulnerability of these thoughts that I have pushed down for the last few years to pour out of my heart to God’s ears as prayers, I’m starting to feel more in touch with myself and also, more in touch with God.

Maybe tonight I will stop counting sheep, and just let my running verbal faucet pour into a well of prayers for God’s ears.

Silent night, Holy night.


21 Feb

I started writing more often. Just thoughts and ideas. Peter has been encouraging me to post them. So I am doing it. My ideal is to write 850 words every day (Ree L. has inspired me). I may not post everything that I write each day, as it may not all be readable, but I’ll try. There won’t be pictures, and it won’t be properly edited, but it will be honest. So all you critical readers who don’t like blogs without pictures or you left brainers who edit while you read blogs, just relax, okay, and enjoy getting to know me.


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