You Don’t Have to Change Your Mind

This is different, but at least it will be unpopular.

You don’t have to change your mind.

Instead of shifting your attention from one thing to another like a raccoon with a hatful of shiny objects:

STOP THINKING YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN OBSESSION ALL THE TIME.

That’s right. I said it.

Instead of committing your life to something because the cool kids ‘like’ its page on Flackbook; why not sit quietly sometimes and think about important ideas? Have a conversation about something besides carnal pleasures.  [Don’t get mad because I used the word ‘carnal‘ properly.  The word means “related to the needs of the physical, temporal; rather than the spiritual”.]

You know what I mean…

“I need a latte.”  The hell heck you do.  Have a cup of strong, black Folger’s.

“Your HAIR! What are you using on it?”  Shampoo.

“Have you seen the new [shirtless hairless effeminate male pin-up] movie?”  Why?  So we can argue about whether, evil or soft-smooth-hands-that-have-never-done-a-day’s-work are more attractive?

“I LOVE [fried chicken sandwiches].  They are AMAZING!”  They are poison.  Whether the founder attends church or not.

“Should I get [another] tattoo?”  No, start chain smoking.  Dumbass.

Put down the game controller.

And the freaking phone.

Your mind is starving to death.  If you think [chocolate milk with a shot of coffee] is amazing, your life is too darn small.  If you are amazed by that, it’s because so few really great things have crossed your consciousness.  Amazing isn’t a synonym for pleasant.

You don’t need to be obsessed with something.

All the time.

It’s okay to be interested in a variety of things.

You don’t have to be “passionate about something” or “have a passion for” it.

You can just do your thing.

Read good books.  Eat what’s served.  Go interesting places.  Have hobbies.  Try new things.  Like them or don’t.

Do your best in high school.

If your parents are letting you pick your path, find some post-secondary training of some kind.

Get a job.  Don’t be idle.  There is honor in work.  Whether it is the paycheck kind or the building the family blessing kind.

You can do any kind of work.  You don’t have to get famous for it.

It’s only bacon.  Bring it home.

I think you should work just a little bit more than you play.  Believe me or don’t, but if you haven’t worn yourself out with work, you will not enjoy the play as much as you would if you did.

Just live.

The passion of Christ, refers to his journey to the cross to be poured out as an offering for us.  His commitment to do what His Father desired.

Are you ready for that definition of passion?

Good.  Because Jesus, too, did a regular job, hung out with his family, attended worship regularly, and obeyed the law of the land.  He’d never heard of [chocolate milk with a shot of coffee] or [fried chicken sandwiches].

The passion will find you.  Though it will not know where to look, if you are always running from one silly, trivial, shiny thing to another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Weren’t Hypocrites When They Got Here

A common objection to the Gospel of Christ is:

CHURCH IS FULL OF HYPOCRITES.

I wish there were another word, because this one makes me thing of Cockroaches.  Don’t ask me why. It has since I was little.

I digress.

Cockroaches.  I mean, hypocrites.

Yes, the church is full of them.  Because, as with every place you go, your business there is not necessarily about your “business”.  Meaning, say, you are a hiker.  And your dry cleaner is a hiker. When you go into the dry cleaners, he knows you’re there to pick up your pants.  You do business for years without ever finding out that you have the interest in common.  Unless you see him on the trail. Because you aren’t there to discuss your hobbies, you are there to do business.

When you are in church, you are there to worship, God, fellowship with others, be equipped to live out your faith.

Not air your dirty laundry.

We are ordinary human beings, no more able to attain to our ideals, than to leap off the roof and fly.

When someone objects to consorting with people who are not living what they believe, they are rejecting the man in the mirror.

Who does Jesus love more?  The guy who never makes a mistake?  Or the guy who can own his @#$%?  The sinner?  Or the guy who thinks he isn’t one?

The Bible is conclusive.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  He died for our sins.  Not our excuses, not our rationalizations,or good reasons.  My children will put me in an early grave telling me the ‘good reasons’ they don’t need to do what I say, the way I say to freaking do it. How God must feel when we do the same to Him?

The church is called the Body of Christ.  The body, at least where I live, is sick.  It’s members are plagued.  Living lives of pain and degradation, while showing up every Sunday and making fashionable, interesting, competitive, Christian chatter.

We’re shaving, showing up, and shmiling.  Sitting the pew.  Dying on the inside.

I’m an oddball.  My business is usually out there.  I’m constitutionally unable to act fine when I’m crumbling. Dealing with stuff head on.    People don’t like that.

2013 sucked. I found out about a lot of hurting people.

A.  Lot.

Not just the messy public ones.

Lots of men.  Who are supposed to be initiators, protectors, leaders.

Lots of kids.  Who we’re supposed to be loving and teaching the way to go.

We didn’t start out as hypocrites, but somewhere along the line, we forgot Jesus, like Billy Joel, preferred the sinners for dinner companions.*

That the prodigal’s dad was waiting for him to come home.  To party.

That the prodigal guy was sick of his sin.  A real hypocrite isn’t.

At our house, we don’t act like it didn’t happen.  If I yelled at Mickey, I yelled.  If I threw a book, I threw it.  If they told me they hated me, I said, “I know, but we’re talking about chores, right now.”

I get the impression that isn’t what’s going on around the community.

Kids are feeling like it’s burdensome and uncool to do what Jesus did.  Act out of love for the Father and others.  All the time.

Hypocrite?  That’s God’s call.

Sinner.  Yeah.*

The fault line is under pressure.  The tremors are coming.

We are about to get shook.

Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something at First Sight

At the end of the major street that split the subdivision, was a lake.  Next to the lake, were ball parks, a playground with picnic areas, a golf course and a sailing club.  When school was out, ball was on.  So, being healthy 15 and 16 year-old girls, we climbed in Mikayla’s massive family wagon (In my new color block top that had the tie on the side.) and headed down to the ball park.

All the usual suspects were there.  And someone new to me.

He was taking our dollar at the gate and selling the cokes.  Red hair, exceptional medium build.  Eyes.  Eyes forever. My heart still squeezes.

We hadn’t even been seated in the bleachers for five minutes, when someone told Mikayla he wanted to talk to me.

Being so young and so unused to that kind of attention, I didn’t leap right up and run over.

The game had barely gotten underway, but Mikayla was soooooo boy-crazy, she wouldn’t even leave me alone.  So it was get up the nerve or be gnawed to death by Mik, I had my choice.  I went with getting up and walking over there.

I went to the concession stand and waited quietly; while a BUNCH of our friends bought candy, interspersed with people who weren’t nosy; they wanted a snack.

Then some people came and needed to pay their dollars to get in.

Then he had to go unlock something.

Finally, he was free to chat a bit.

I stood there in the shade of the concession stand.  Our eyes met and held.  It felt promise-y and comfortable as broken in jeans.  Not silly or self-conscious.  Seen.

We’d barely started to talk, when Mikayla had to leave.

When we got in the car, she jabbered away in her usual style.  Completely unaware.  You didn’t tell her anything remotely confidential.

His family was moving.

That week.

I guess they must have.

That was 1982.

 

 

 

With Miles to Go Before I….Sleep

While we waited at the light just before the post office, a ’78 Z-28 turned left in front of us and cruised up Washington Pike.  I startled, then sighed, “Mike drove one of those…”

“Mike, who?”

Another sigh.

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then why’d you bring it up? You can’t just do that.”

“Surely, I’ve told you about Mike.”

In the small hours this morning, I remembered Mike, again.

It was Valentine’s Day, but for my friend and I, just Wednesday.  We were taking a walk.  We paid no attention to the Z-28.  We couldn’t drive and the car didn’t belong to anyone we knew in the neighborhood.

The he must have been lost, because he passed us four times, before he stopped.

“Do you know where Joy Miller lives?”  We gave him directions and he took off.

Then he came back.  He hadn’t needed directions.

We managed not to faint as he introduced himself and asked for my number.  He was a junior and I was still in junior high, a freshman.

Valentine's Day 1982

Valentine’s Day 1982

He called a couple of days later.

We talked on the phone.  He made me laugh.  Somehow, I made him laugh, too.

“NO, you can’t date, you’re too young,” and it was true. I’d barely had my 15th birthday.

I had to tell him I couldn’t go anywhere with him.

Several calls and several nights later, after the house was quiet, the tap on my bedroom window was not a surprise.

I climbed on a chair, and opened the high window and there he stood.  Looking up.  Tennis shorts. Expensive haircut. Halston 1-12 thickened the warmth that radiated up to me.  Glad for the window, he’d never know I was trembling so I could barely stand.

We talked for a long time.  As I watched him walk back up the driveway, a strange feeling passed over me I’d never felt before.

Several nights later, we’d agreed again on the same signal.  This time, he was more persuasive or I was bolder, but I wasn’t trembling when I slid open the door, went to the gate, and let myself out.  Or him in.  Who really cares?

We talked for just a minute.  He stepped closer.  He had not come there to chat.  We could do that on the phone.

He took my face in his hands.

And he kissed me.

For an hour.

When my knees went weak, he put his arms around me.

And he kissed me.

I forgot I didn’t know how.

His hands never traveled.

Not so it’d matter.

For another hour.

“Go back in the house and go to bed,” he whispered.

And he kissed me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Feelin’ It

For today’s performance, the role of the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come will be play by a Discouraged Mother.

I’m not feeling the holiday. After lots of big words and big plans and big urging to others last month,(To which I am not even going to link, in my shame) I don’t feel like Christmas. Decorating, baking, dressing, partying, worshipping, shopping, wrapping, hiding, traditioning– none of it.

There is a reason.

For several consecutive weeks, I have shuttled people to various activities, set aside my own agenda. GOT. @#$%. DONE.  For other people.

Not me. Not Mickey(okay, a little). Or the boy(we just enjoy our roles as sub-ordinates).

There is only one answer left.

They, in turn, have attended rehearsals, concerts, parties, plays, home tours, ultimate frisbee get-togethers, visits in others’ homes. Thank God, I have someone to enjoy life for me, so I can spend my time gassing up the car and buying foods they are interested in. (Not foods they find boring. Yes, you heard me.  Boring.). It’s important that I make it happen for them without regard for the running of a househole and continued access to hot and cold running water indoors or lights & heat.

There is an alternative.  I can have all the household help I can stand to delegate to if I am willing to be talked to like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoes.  I can have excellent scores on schoolwork if I drive them like a balking team of oxen–constantly alert and steering every second to prevent a stampede.

It would be handy and convenient to blame Facebo*k.  But.  Like alcohol, it doesn’t create problems.  It magnifies them.

It is proving precious difficult to get excited about the first Christmas at full salary in the last four years.

It’s not my deep concern about their character.  I wish it were.

It’s just freaking pragmatism.  I just don’t warm to the idea of spending my holiday time, money and imagination on people who clearly feel they are above me.  Just as the clerk at gas station doesn’t buy me a gift that represents an appreciable percentage of her household income, you and I wouldn’t send expensive personal gifts to say, I don’t know…Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.  Not only do they not need what we can afford, they might think we were weird and put us on a security watch list.

It gets worse.  They are delightful to others.  On a regular basis, teachers and people they volunteer with give me all manner of glowing feedback about how responsible, respectful and reliable they are.  And how good looking.

Really?  Really.  REALLY!?!

So?  It’s personal?

I actually don’t think so.  I’m pretty sure it’s a phase.  Perhaps one designed by God himself to make sure a mom was ready to let her chicks leave the nest.  If that’s the case, it’s working well, per design. The timing is unfortunate.

I’ve drafted a letter to Santa. He sees them when they are sleeping and awake, knows when they’re bad or good.

He. Knows.

He’s cleared me to stick with the bag of crew socks &  10-pack of Juicy Fruit, their father received when he was 15; and the Forever in Blue Jeans Cologne & $5 bill I received when I was 15.

Hmmm.  Fifteen.

Yep, totally a phase.

How do you stir up your holiday spirit when it’s low?

Sneaking a merry-go-round break with Bro.

 

 

Halloween

She knew she had to work hard.  Not just any freshman was going to be able to hang with that crowd or keep Mike Mathis as a boyfriend unless she showed she belonged there.

Mom was gone to a work function and dad was…  Well, who cared where he was?  His new wife must care.  In his new life.  On the other side of the continent.  By the time Mom got home, she would have changed buses and might just be stepping off at the stop before Cannington Enclave, where the domestics would be stepping on.

She smeared her 14 year-old lips Cherry red. Deep black liner and accidentally perfect purple shadow formed the backdrop for false eyelashes. The hair she couldn’t appreciate shined perfectly, tragically, black, and down to her shoulder blades.  A tight black blouse with princess seams making curves where God had not, topped jeans that wouldn’t have been too tight when school started, but were tonight.  Because she was still growing, just a little.  There was a peaked cap and a long black cape of crushed velvet on the outside lined with satin of the darkest red.  In her black nails, she held a flat, corn broom stolen from the custodian’s closet. Her thrill, though, was the shoes.  Boots.  Laced up, pointed toe black leather in the foot, fabric in the barrel, a kitten heel gave the illusion of height without making her feel she’d fall down.  She had some walking to do tonight.

A check of the mirror pleased her.  A perfectly wicked witch.

The mirror lied.  It didn’t even mention the sadness behind the smile.  Or the beautiful, impatient, woman-in-waiting.

Mike had been anxious to take their relationship to the next level. He told her he’d have to be single rather than continue to be attracted to her like he was.  They had an agreement.  If she dressed as an angel she wanted to wait.  If she dressed as a witch…  She didn’t.

In the purple dusk, cape swirling, hair flying, boots clacking on the pavement; she could have been a character in a movie.  The bus was no joke tonight.  The usual cast of down and outers was seedy. The exhausted working poor were collected in a transport bin and dozing or reading or looking at her.  For the first time, her eyes were opened.  This, was no place for a little girl.

No one knew where she was.  She was dressed to magnetize and her mother thought he drove to pick her up and he thought her mom was dropping her at the gate house.

She felt very, very “vincible”.  Visible.  It was a two-edged sword.  Wanting so desperately to be seen, then realizing you are.  Not just by whom you would like to be seen, but by whom you did not choose.  She felt sick.

There was no escape.  She could only ride it out.  Enclave was the first stop on the other side of  the long, harrow corridor of urban decay dividing the city between the exclusive suburb and the middle class midtown.

When she rose from her seat for the first Enclave stop, she noted that a man and a woman also rose.  The woman she knew from taking this route since she’d been seeing Mike.  The man, she’d never seen, but then, she wasn’t in the habit of noticing men she wasn’t aiming her powers at.

Both of them made the stop with her, yet she forgot them immediately, as she focused on the evening before her.  A Halloween party.  The biggest moment in her relationship with Mike Mathis, National Merit Scholar, President of the Chess Club.  Valedictorian.

Tonight would change everything.

At last, she could no longer miss the looks.  Appreciation from boys who were there with other girls.  Jealousy from girls who were there with other boys.  And something strange from Mike’s Mom.  It didn’t look like the friendship she’d thought they had.

Mike didn’t look at her at all.  He really didn’t speak much.  To her.  He passed out refreshments.  Made sure everyone was comfortable.  Answered the door.  Passed out candy.  He was a great host.  A great guy.

She gazed silently out the breakfast room window, through her reflection to the waterfront. The last line of deep purple light was about to disappear behind a shimmering lake.

“It won’t be long now ’til we can be alone,” came the whisper.

She hadn’t seen or felt his approach.  She lifted her eyes to the reflection of his.  Drank it in with her heart.  Trying to buoy this heaviness.

“Why don’t you walk with me to carry this bag to the can?”

“How could I possibly resist helping you serve your guests?”

An intelligent man knows when he’s been chastened.

“I wanted to show you the dock.  It’s the same way.  Bad planning by the architect.”

She raised her face to see every change in his smile.  His eyes.

“I’ve seen it in the daytime.  What more could I possibly learn in the dark?”

“It’s an entirely new experience in the dark. I promise.”

Throwing a laugh over her shoulder, she ducked for the kitchen door, her boots leaving black scuffs and her hair a flying ebony stain in the thick party air.

In a minute, the cabana on the dock was swaying unsteadily.  She could sense it in the mirror dimly reflecting the half light.

She did love him.  He was smart.  And, God, was he good-looking.

She waited.

“The reflection of the moon on the water is a result of refraction.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Our ability to see things we aren’t facing always is.”

“What?  I don’t think that’s right.”

“You know, I love you.”

“Of course, I dressed as a witch.”

“What do you mean? Glenda, the good witch?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re an angel.”

“No, I’m not.  I’m a witch.”

“Well, the wings and the halo make that a tough sell.  Not to mention the Clarence from A Wonderful Life that’s followed us everywhere all night.  Why didn’t you tell me you were bringing your uncle? Mom’s way bent.”

“Mike, You’re scaring me.  I am a witch with a broom.  Red lips, black nails.  I don’t have an uncle.”

He reached for the light and turned her shoulders to face the mirror.

 

In the mirror’s reflection, she saw herself.  A witch with terror streaming down her cheeks.

Behind Mike, through the screen she could see the man from the bus.

Who had wings.

“Mike, I am a witch.  I have no uncle. That is a man who got off the bus at the stop with me.”

“You are an angel. And I talked to him myself before he left.”

And he kissed her.

 

~Happy Halloween.  Since we don’t have a big celebration to share for #Blogtober, I hope I gave you a scare.  One way or another.~

 

 

 

 

 

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