Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Hot Afternoon of Soul

Afternoon.I feel as drained as a ghost town bathtub, cobwebs growing from the rusting faucet. Yes, a black tarantula makes its way across my mind, after a numbing week at work. Or did I make myself numb? I look for signs of life in the abandoned buildings of my spirit. The rope ties lack horses. The dust settles on the old player piano. The bar glasses no longer clear, but are caked with passing yellow dirt. Even tumble weeds on longer roll down the streets, too much effort.

This will pass, I say under my breath, my weariness for doing work and recovering from a period of creative explosion. The weekend will combine rest, playing with an alive 3 year-old, being with my love and worshipping God. Poetry arises in the living of life, even when the space has crimped dry. But for now, on a city bus heading home, the ground of my being cracks like misfitting puzzle pieces baked by a scorching day. Though, as I make my through this alley way, I fear not as I listen for the still voice that is with me.

Strange, these desert towns that arise periodically like seasonal dirt devils. I have no idea why the train of my life stopped here for the afternoon. The hot dry wind breaks for no reason. The broken door swaying in the breeze, slamming in timed interval. The crashing sound creating a sort of clock. This is the high noon of the soul.

One of the many dangers of the high noon of the soul is thinking that we are more than just tourists to the ghost town. We start to look at the abandoned building for answers. When the bus comes to pick us up, we miss it. There are other rattlesnakes roaming. Thinking that this stop, human as it is, should be beyond Christians. No, we all stop here from time to time. The wilderness’s wilds wrench even those closest to Jesus. High noon will pass. The morning will come. For now, feel the dry sun and be with the desert until the bus comes.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Man Fully Alive - Sunday Service

Greetings all,

I agree to do a Sunday Service for the folks at's Christianity Thread - All are welcome! thread due to the urgings of Ruby. I choose to structure it like a service, though I am aware many who venture here are a various beliefs and non-beliefs that I will mix up the sources. 

The Service takes inspiration from Irenaeus of Lyons words, "Man Fully Alive is the Glory of God." His meaning is that when we are in midst of love, we are fully alive.  The Testimony is my story about kindness of a nurse when we found out Tito's condition and the need for his surgery. 

Call to Worship - Jalaluddin Rumi Mystical Muslim Poet

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”


Dave Matthews - Christmas song

Amazing  Grace - Soweto Gospel Choir

For the sermon I chose a Brit who is one of the most profound Christian thinkers and a great preacher, Samuel Wells. Dr Sam Wells currently serves as the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Sermon- Sam Wells You Must Be Mad PDF Here

This from one of his last sermons as the head of Duke Chapel. His theme is how we are busy making a world without love. It is for the Baccalaureate Service in 2012. He geared it for non-Christians and you can either read it or see it on YouTube Video down below. The sermon starts at 27.30 so you don't have to wade through the whole service. 
Mark 14:3-­‐9
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Testimony - A Story—A Nurse Stays With Us

How to respond when a surgeon uses the words brain, surgery, and baby in same sentence? Especially the doctor is referring to our baby. The son we have been waiting for, planning for, and love so much, our baby, our son. Now, my mind runs through possible dark futures, going nowhere. The gerbil wheel of nightmares spin round, round, and around. 
We carefully listen to the surgeon on a late winter’s day in Seattle. We journeyed here from Spokane after months of questions and smashing into concrete medical barriers. We generated this trip after finding little help in Spokane. My son’s first winter has been mild with little snow but heavy with a downfall of worry and speculation. 
A spinning cloud overwhelms me, as the doctor’s voice fills the room. He is a good man. His booming voice quietly informs us about our son’s malformed sphenoid bone. The doctor, shaped by decades of giving such harsh news of hope, tells us our seven-month-old’s eye socket has a large gap, a large enough gap to allow his brain to push out his left eye. 
There is help. It involves scalpels, our son’s scalp, a large surgical team of more the ten people, our son’s brain and an all day operation. The doctor seeks our permission. We have to make our minds as what to do despite our terror. Our baby plays with his hands as we play at finding answers to his future.
We now have an answer to several months long mysterious questions circling. What is wrong, we know. The doctor awaits our answer. 
Surgery or no surgery? 
Confidence means being with faith. Looking at the doctor, faith’s meaning clearly comes through in his demeanor. His team has done this operation frequently, but, still, it is my son to be cut open. Questions and fear oppressed. I, in this moment, fear losing control. I fear throwing up. I fear. I fear for my son. I fear for his future. 
I fear death, but not my own. 
We are just beginning to get to know our son. He sits on my wife’s lap in a burnt orange onesie. He soiled the baby blue one he had on earlier. Both were gifts from friends which my son has yet to meet. 
He grips Tolo teething interlocking links, which he shakes for the noise. He alertly watches the doctor without understanding. Wonder defines his life. He sees the world through his curious eyes, the left protruding a quarter of an inch further than his right. Shaken, the bright primary colored links rattle and bring him joy. 
Being alive delights him. We listen to the doctor who will be linked to our future. I understand the doctor’s words; my son, just learning to speak words, does not. A vocabulary of “mama,” “book” and “no” does not have that large of reach. Our words may also lack the reach.
Jesus, then, reaches into my life. I look into my son’s blue eyes; his left one being pushed out by his developing brain and I find Jesus there. The blood of my son’s brain makes his eye pulsate, which anyone can notice if they pay attention. I pause to breathe and listen. I look into my wife’s blue eyes, the same shade as my son’s. I pray, pray for his future, pray for guidance, pray to my God, and find Jesus. 
Ludwig Wittgenstein, the master of logic, wrote, “To pray is to think about the meaning of life.”⁠1 
So, then to pray about a particular situation is to ask about the meaning of life within the situation. An eternity passes in a few seconds as I strive to fully comprehend. We look at our son. What now? Out of my emotional whirlwind, a voice, “I am here.” 
“Here I am,” I answer to myself. I steady myself, and ask the questions needing to be asked. His eye socket was distorted by his condition; Neurofibromatosis type 1. Months of asking questions, of hitting brick wall of mystery, of fear, of the unknown evaporate here. We have an answer and are given a game plan to help my son. They want to cut him open and fix the damage that he was born with. 
We think. We pray. Yes, we will return with our son after he turns one. Yes, we declare. 
Then comes the flood of things to remember. The our son’s future surgeon, surrounded by cadre of doctors looking at our son, gives the timeline, and this cacophony of details crescendo with a description of the incision. A zigzag on top of his head to hide the scar with his future brown hair.  There are risks. He explains. A neurosurgeon will realign the brain to its proper place, while he, the facial cranial specialist builds, shapes and positions an eye socket out of harvested skull bone graft and titanium mesh bands. 
The team reassures us that it has done hundreds of such procedures, some comfort but still this is our son; it will be his surgery. Fear makes me repeat myself. 
Just the beginning. Many more surgeries might follow, making my son’s future uncertain, like all children. As the procedure is explained, our seven-month old drops his pacifier from his mouth. Quickly and without fanfare, the nurse picks up it, washes it, and returns it. She breathes life into the nostrils of the moment and point to the reality of Love, God’s Love, and God. 
I find my self-composure, and grace reveals love, again. Our baby smiles at the nurse. The procedure will be in four to five months, around his first birthday. The team wants our baby to grow stronger. He will be in critical care unit for a day or two if all goes well, and then four to five days of recovery if all goes well. If all goes well, what a strange expression. 
We will be with him through this time, giving the only gifts we can, our presence and our prayers. Our only gift. I notice our kind nurse, hip glasses and long dark hair. She could be in a coffee house listening to progressive jazz. 
The teams’greatest concern is to protect his brain and his left eye. I am blind in one eye, the same left eye, ironically. We are racing to save my son from a similar fate. We will have to continue to watch his eyes in the next few months, continue to makes sure he will see the world right. He looks into my wife’s eyes and smiles for a second, before he cries. He is hungry and wants to nurse. 
The doctors leave us in the care of the nurse. The moments pass over us in silence. My wife nurses and caresses his head. Words cannot speak. Tears can. My wife cries. I cry. 
Our nurse hears. Our nurse understands. Our nurse holds my wife’s left hand as my wife’s right cradles the baby’s head. He suckles with joy. When he is done, he plays with the interlocking links, red linking to blue linking to green linking to purple linking to yellow. The nurse gives us no words, but her presence. Her being with us heals and gives us hope. 
The presence of the nurse seemed on the periphery. What did she do for us? Pick up a binky and held my wife’s hand. The doctors answered medical questions. The medical choice was ours, as were the tears. Yet, her quiet and kind presence gave us the strength to endure. We needed simple human connection along with solutions. She provided for us by being with us, and gave us strength by simply listening, and noticing the smallest shifts in the room. Her value defies words. Somehow Jesus was with us through her.
We pack up our belongings. 
Our son goes into a carseat for safety. 
Diaper bag, backpacks, car seats, we carry a lot. 
It is long way back home. Her kindness went a long way.

Prayers and poems

Again and Again - Rainer Maria Rilke

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Closing Song Ginny Owens Be Thou My Vision

Blessings-  THANKS

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lamenting the Loss of Cool

When we were approached by the 141st Air Refueling Wing and Make a Wish about making our son, Tito, their Pilot of the Day at Fairchild Air Force Base, I was apprehensive. I have nothing against the Air Force philosophically. Like many males, I think being a pilot would be cool. I fear because I knew the truth.

See, I have been fooling my son into thinking he has a cool dad. And, yes, it’s been hard work (yes, I got my dorkiness, thank you), but I have been pulling it off until now. My son would hang around around pilots, firemen, safety technicians, bulldozer drivers and so many genuine cool people. What chance did I have? So ended the dream. The best I could hope for now would be “use to be cool” Dad. More likely, the gig was up. Tito would realize his dad was terribly and always a dork. I was praying to avoid dorky dad for a few more years. Oh, well… such is life.

So, off we went, my wife as beautiful as always, dorky dad carting the camera (think Chevy Chase only not as graceful) and my son in his brand-new flight suit. Mjr. Higgins had dropped off the flight suit earlier in the week. Already, Tito at 4 years old had bettered his dad in coolness. Yeah, I know, pretty easy to do. (Really, I got my dorkiness, thank you) Tito is so cool in his flight suit.

We were met at the front gate by Higgins, Leslie of Make a Wish and Cpt Miguel, a real life pilot. They had the whole day planned for my son. Safety demonstrations, touring a large plane, seeing Fairchild’s construction equipment up close, touring a Blackhawk Helicopter, lunch, playing in a flight simulator, touring the base’s fire department and finally, a ceremony to present him with his wings. Higgins and Miguel worried if they planned too much for my son and about tiring him. They might have planned too much, as both Higgins and Miguel surely looked pooped at the end of the day. My son, however, still looked as though he could go on another five hours, which he did. Operating and flying sophisticate equipment is one thing, chasing a fully alive 4-year-old is quite another. I had my dorky dad revenge.

My 4-year-old being so excited around cool and awesome equipment, and cooler and more awesome people would rev up for days after. Tito had so much fun sitting in a Blackhawk, bulldozer, refueling air planes, fire trucks and playing in flight simulator. Higgins and Miguel ran like a marathon trying to keep up. I captured it all on my digital camera. If I now had to play the dorky dad, I decided to play it to the hilt.

The day was filled with so many lifetime memories, and even I got some great photos. My family does extend an apology for my son crashing the flight simulator. Tito just loves pushing strange red buttons. A special thanks to the fireman that drew the short straw and was Sparky at the Fire Station. That Dalmatian costume really looked hot, and we appreciate your dehydration in the line of duty. We also understand your future accident (accident, wink, wink) of leaving the Sparky costume in the plane of your next practice fire. It would be a darn same.

I know that gratitude is a spiritual practice. Saying thank you is hard for us humans. It means for us that we are weak, but the truth is that we do need each other. Throughout the day Tito’s comrades of 141st warmly embraced him as did everyone at Fairchild AFB, from the fireman to the civil engineers. They even tolerated the bumbling old dad getting in the way. If you see any of these people going about town, salute them as they are the coolest people around. Truly, America’s finest.

I knew it was only a matter of time before my son figured out his father was an uncool buffoon. If he had to learn it soon or later, I am glad he learned it from such cool pilots. My family is eternally grateful and my ego will get over it.