Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This man, John Lyons,  was the guest speaker during the church sermon on Sunday at the church we've been going to since January, Grace Fellowship United Methodist.   Most of the sermon revolved around this "Two Roads" talk that he has done hundreds of times, but was new to us. I couldn't find any videos on that, but really, it was this last part that got us thinking.
As we drove away, we were headed towards his parents house to pick up my oldest son, and whom we spoke of during the drive.  Along our walk that evening, we drew more parallels: parallels between this "Gamble" Lynch speaks of God making with people, and the relationships we have with the people around us, primarily my son.
My son is a great, wonderful, imaginative child.  He is also a challenge to deal with.  Both my sons are, really, and bless the heart of this man who has chosen to be with me, regardless, and help me raise them, despite the fact that they are not of his flesh.  Sometimes, the pressure is a lot for this man to handle.  He wonders what he has to do to get through to him, to them, to get them to understand and finally get the discipline and wisdom he is trying to impart to them.
We've struggled with it a little bit, how best to approach these boys.  We came to the conclusion at some point that we are both trying to "right the wrongs of our youth", but they are both opposite ends of the spectrum.  His parents didn't punish or guide enough, so he wants to push them harder; mine I saw as too demanding and critical, without softness and light encouragement.  So I try to love them with freedom and he tries to rein them in with restrictions.  It is amazing actually that we never argue, especially not in front of them.
This sermon, though, gave us some new insights on how we could use God's love for us as an example of how to deal with these children.  I guess I am more a New Testament parent, and he is more the Old Testament type, and we can throw that back at our parents and see how they were the opposite as we see ourselves, but the real question is: in view of this New Testament Gamble, does it change our approach to parenting?  Should we offer love and grace without significant consequences? 
Things to ponder over the next few months....

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Watch this:

Then read this:

Welcome to my Wednesday morning.  The juxtaposition makes Hollywood seem like an evil place to me.  How much of her reputed $150M self worth does she give to charitable causes?

Monday, August 01, 2011

I've drifted off the map a little bit over here.  Been busy doing a whole lot of nothing, nothing more than rearranging.  I've been out walking, running, working, dreaming, studying, planning, and sometimes just drifting.  Mostly at night.
I never thought I was really one for the pool.  I must have liked pools somewhat growing up, considering we were typically found at one in the suburban summertime.  All the kids on the family it seemed did time on the neighborhood swim team, but my time seemed to last the longest.  Looking back on it, I am not sure why, because it's not like pools appeal to me that much.  Especially as I have gotten older, and bathing suits have become less kind to me, and especially when it seems like it always someone else's idea.  Usually my kids are the ones dragging me out there, and I go because they want to, meanwhile thinking of all the other things I could be doing, like catching up on my reading or housework, etc.
So I expected that when my kids left with their dad this summer for an extended vacation, I wouldn't be in the pool much.  Having a pool in the backyard is a novelty for all of us, but I felt a bit Shania when I saw it for the first time - "that don't impress me much".  I didn't think I would find myself in there without someone dragging me to it.
Lately, though, I am have once again realized I had a false idea of things.   I have found myself in the pool at least five times more a week than I expected, and it feels really nice to be in there by myself.  It feels good to be in there with my love, as well, but sometimes he is a distraction to the best part of pools, I think - the silence that surrounds you underwater.  A lot of nights have found me floating under a tableau of silky clouds and stars, alone and unprompted.
When I am out there, I hear nothing but my own thoughts, maybe the gentle sloshing of water.  I find it so liberating to lay there without any effort at all....to have the weight of the water and the bouyancy of my chest hold me up. I used to think keeping my toes above water was the trick to floating, but now I see it is only the pulse points of my wrist that need to be exposed to the sky to be able to lay effortless without losing the surface of the water along my sides or my face.
I lay spread-eagled, completely surrendering to nature's glory.  The stars seem so far away and mysterious, the clouds so soft and so fast, of delicate design, and the trees bend and dance in the wind.  Birds fly from house to fence to power lines, swift moving masters of the air.  If we humans control this earth, no one has told the birds yet.  I can't help feeling insignificant and small, the way I feel standing before the mountains.  "You can ask the mountain," Antje Duvekot sings in Long Way, "but the mountain doesn't care".
The mountains, the stars, the sky, even the birds...been here longer than us, and might outlast us all, if we don't kill them all first.
These are the kind of thoughts I have out there in my very own water-bed, and these thoughts are all connected to other thoughts, thoughts stringing up like leaves on a vine, connected but yet individual.
I think of the water and the earth and the sky and their ever stretching life spans, and I think about what we have done to them.  Chemical plants leaking into bays and killing life and the lifestyles that life supported.  Oil spills in the Yellowstone River.  Strip mining.  DDT. Agent Orange.  Monsanto. BP.  How can individuals even come close to standing against corporate power and pollution, how insignificant is one man up against money and greed and powerful environmental dangers.  Fuel dependency, carbon emissions, water shortages.    The fate of humanity, the fate of the mountain that doesn't care, the fate of the ocean and even the stars - will they still twinkle if there is no one there to see them?
I think about people.  People I love, people who annoy me, people who have come and gone in my life, people I want to see more of and people I am not sure I want to see again.  People of my past, people of his past, people of my children's past and future and present.  Everywhere in my thoughts, these people appear, and sometimes I push them down because I am not sure I want to think about people, but somehow we can't get away from them.  Everywhere and in every thought, there are people.  To care about the earth is to care about people, even if people don't always care about the earth.
Thinking about other people is really always as much of a puzzle as say, man's purpose and the fate of this planet.  We are more connected that we have ever been before, but we have yet to use this connection to really deepen our understanding of our mutual human condition, at least not in the way I see it.  You can Google anyone, or stalk them on Facebook, but it is an ineffectual means of gaining true understanding.
In this documentary we watched recently, Google Me!, this man googled himself and then met several people across the world that shared his last name.  We watched most of the movie, then stopped for dinner and discussed the various people, but they seemed so unconnected and dissimiliar.  And that is part of what makes life so rich, really - the variety and intensity of individualism. Yet, when we watched the last part after eating, I realized it was the best part - where all these distinct individuals with little in common got together in the same place and had a mutual experience that deepened their understanding of self, others, and maybe the meaning of relationships and family.  In that sense, Google, the internet, technology, may be a means for us to advance in some cohesive fashion that allows us to effect positive change on the world.
The movie reminded me of that sense, the sense of disconnection and scattered thoughts, but all streaming down the same mind vine.  It reminded me of that sense of floating, arms lifted upward, in silent supplication with the universe, and the sensation that I was like a puppet strung from the sky, connected to the greater dimension and yet tied to this human existence that we all have in common, in which the search for the meaning is still our common destination.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"They are just things," he has said to me, "I don't know why you get so upset about them."  I know that, on the surface, but its the deeper meaning of the objects he doesn't seem to get, or wants me not to look at, when he uses that argument with me.
I'm doing better with the things around me, or maybe they have just been disappearing more and being replaced with my things, or our things, so the past is less likely to bother me now.  Maybe lately I have just been thinking of other things.
There is this person I know.  She has been struggling with some inner demon.  It is easy to look in from the outside and say, gee, that is really messed up, but none of us really know what it is like on the inside.  She sees things the rest of us do not see.
Lately, she had a freak out about something that seems so minor, really.  It was nothing more than an object, basically wood and string put together in ways that veil us from the rest of the world..  That, though, combined with some other triggers, set wheels in motion in her mind that led to a confrontation between her and her husband, with one of my best friends, between my friend and I perhaps, everyone jumping at the sound of her gun.
I decided this time I was going to hold my ground, I was not going to be sympathetic about the pink elephants that danced around her mind.  It is easy to be selfish, and want to draw lines between friends and family.  In the end, though, I struck a different tone.  Maybe I wanted to see if she would admit to me what she had done, and for me to set her straight in her mind with gentle persuasion instead of anger.  I still did not understand or agree with her point of view, but I could see the hurt she was covering up inside over this exterior of toughness and I wondered....if you want to remove this thorn in her side, you have to start at the source.
Even though we didn't support her position, we did support the removal of the plank from her eye, and so, the one from her house.  To that end, this morning we stopped by to pick this object up, this simple thing that had triggered this most recent flare up.  Curtain rod and valence now sit in our garage, waiting to be returned to their rightful owner.
About a half hour later, we were on our way to meet up with another couple to pick up some other objects.  These particular objects had held sway over my man's heart for a long time.   These objects, basically wood and string put together, help connect us to the rest of the world.  His uncle, his father, they used bows to bring down game to eat, and then passed down this ability to a young boy who was impressed by this, and he learned it so well that he set several records in competition.  It was a huge part of his youth.  The whole family was involved for some time, and later just himself, and now all the memories of archery are also connected with the memories of family, and of this uncle who passed away just a couple of years ago.
I remember my man talking about his connection to these objects, but I was not expecting his reaction to them, especially to the one his uncle had let him use during his youth.  I had never seen him react to something so strongly, and I realized in that moment something special had happened, some kind of transcendence I had been waiting to happen for him.
Also, it made me think about things.  About the places certain objects belong in our hearts, about how sometimes taking them away, and sometimes bringing them back, helps change our emotional landscape and the way we think about...well...things.
Somewhere behind these thoughts, I am sure, you could play another object of wood and string, a scratchy violin tune that pulls our heartstrings and makes us feel something...undefined...something kind of sad, kind of nostalgic, kind of yearning and missing and hoping for things to change and fade and yet always remain alive in our memory.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

We come into this world naked.  As babes in the garden, new in the world, we walk without clothes with our father by our side.  He's with us in this world, when we are young and before we have any shame.  Then we awaken, sharp with knowledge, and begin hiding ourselves from Him and from each other.  And so it is in the story between man and woman, "the cage that's been handed down the line" as Springsteen says.
Fourteen months in and we have our first fight.  Or quasi-fight, anyways, really it was just kind of sudden sharp annoyance on my part.  A shopping adventure with the children gone awry, I was tense, he said something and I bit his head off.  A few minutes later, I was sweeping up a mess the dog made in our absence, another stress, and he came into the kitchen.  I didn't want to feel the distance between us, so I apologized and gave him a hug.  His body stiffened, and he tried to explain his point of view to me, but I stood firm on mine, and there I was with the sharp words again.  No resolution, and I walked the dustpan out to the garage, dump it, then stand there for a few moments in the driveway, sad, watching the young boys and girls play in the yard across the street.
The girl across the street is coming into sexual maturity, and the boys are flocking around.  J swears she is having sex with at least one of them, but I disagree.  I think she is awfully young, and he reminds me of how early innocence is lost.  But I think she is sweet and I want her to stay a babe forever, close to her family, walk next to her father without any guilt in her heart.  Tonight they are playing Duck Duck Goose, a childrens game, but when it is the boys turn to be chased, they taunt back with some slang words that make me wonder if J was right.
I don't really know who was right or wrong tonight, you could make a case for either side, but after that, we walked carefully and quietly around each other.  "Walk softly and carry a big stick" - what President said that?  I was busy, he was busy, we were doing our own things.  I laid in the bed and waited with a book for him to come to me at the end of the day, only to find him slipping into the covers and off to sleep with nary a word.  Not even our customary...goodnight...love you...arm out to the side...a space next to his heart for my head to lay...touching each other...limb to limb.
I watched him fall asleep for a while and then begin snoring.  I had been comfortable, but now I am somewhat frustrated and can't imagine sleeping.  I go out into the dark night, one, two, three dogs walked in circles around the neighborhood, at first hot and fast, telling my side angrily to the dark night in my mind.  Then I stop feeling justified and hard and start softening, feeling sorry, longing to be close again.  By the third walk, I have worked towards forgiveness and lightness of being again, and shower and then lay down next to him.
He is naked upon the sheets, and my gaze takes in all of him, the wonderfulness of his skin and thigh and bone.  I am all adoring of him still, so long into this and the sight of him fills me with such rapture.  Usually his arm would be flung around me; it is wrapped around a pillow instead and I can't get close, I have no arm to hold me, no shoulder to stroke.  I long for his touch, a sign he still loves me, even when I fail, even when I am not perfect or sweet or fun to be around.
All night it seems I watch him.  I hardly sleep, in tune with his movements, waiting for a chance to get close, to amend the seperation between us.  The chance does not come until very early in the morning, when his alarm goes off for us to get started on our busy day.  He wakes, and I tell him how I missed him so, how I was sad and sorry, how I longed to be close to him last night, the things I wished we would have said last night.  He doesn't say much in response, just holds me in his arms for longer than I expect, stroking my side in affection and comfort.
Later in the day, we are driving, and I tell him about my walk last night.   The stars were twinkling in the dark blue sky, Orion the hunter and his arrow pointing the way, a breeze flowing through the spring air, and people restless in the night.  It was late on a Friday night for action in this sleepy working class neighborhood, but there were men outside cleaning off their grills, sitting in chairs with a beer, or standing near their cars with cigarettes or cell phones, each one flickering a glance over my chest before turning their eye, making me wonder if men were really all we thought they were, or if my bra just wasn't doing the trick last night.  Or perhaps it was doing tricks of its own.  The young girls and boys of the night were restless, traveling in packs, girls giggling in the night, disappearing into parks, boys teasing them from across the street.  And so the dance begins, the dance we find ourselves struggling with, the one that makes us stand before each other with trepidation in the dark, neither one of us knowing what to say to make things right.
Later, I talk to him more about how I felt, so alone and missing him, how I felt cast out, and he says it was just my perception.  "I was there the whole time," he said.  "All that was just inside your mind.  You could have reached over to me at any time."
And then it makes me wonder just how God works,if Adam or Eve had come to talk to him about their banishment, if there was ever an offering of amends or an attempt to make it right.  Or maybe that is what we humans have been trying to do ever since, when really, He is always there, just waiting and loving us the same, no matter how pitifully we fail at being perfect.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I've often contemplated the function of beauty.  In my past musings, I have dreamed beauty away as inconsequential, a passing fancy, a temporary state that exists simply as a basis of initial attraction. I didn't want to believe in the meaning of beauty, because to say that it has purpose, and then to admit that it has gone, is to say that the motivation fades as well.  I want my love to be like Shakespeare envisioned, one whose strength does not diminish, though "rosy lips and cheeks within [Time's] compass come".  If love, and our motivation to both give and receive it, is based mostly on aesthetics, then it can't stand the test of time.
I had this friend who was an artist to some degree.  He talked about the perfect girl as being someone who might not be exactly perfect, but who would be so beautiful that any of her imperfections could be forgiven.  I am not sure if that is too tall of an order to fill.  Our debate on this led to no agreed upon conclusions, and when our friendship took a walk, I wanted to continue to stand on my side of the fence about it.
That was some years ago, and I was still convinced of my stance, up until the other night.  I was running at night in my new neighborhood, something I have been doing regularly now, although not nearly enough to stop the midlife growth of girth.  I looked up from the sidewalk and a sight caught my breath in my throat, and caused a feeling inside me.  A want, a desire, an exultant joy, an imagined bliss.  It was no mere mortal that turned my eye, but the sight of the water falling across the water from the fountain in the middle of a lake across the street, the little bridge that crossed into a neighborhood with landscape lights shining on well designed front yard gardens and smartly painted front doors.
This bridge leads to a place I call "Seventh Heaven", a name based on one of the main streets there.  I have been getting to know that area in nighttime explorations, and I know that inside those streets, there is a little misty hill that has a strange path leading up to a sundial with uniquely carved stones in it; that halfway through, there is an ivory colored curvy line of a water structure in which glacier cold water flows in a tunnel parallel to the street.  That one of the walking paths leads into a wood in which a hand crafted cart bridge crosses a little creek before the path randomly ends in a field bordered with white fences.  I love to go to this place, but I only allow myself the pleasure as a reward for working really hard on my tedious little two mile route around the house.  Mostly because when I go out there, I lose track of time, and spend longer than I have on a weeknight wandering past the huge houses in the dark, houses with art delicately balanced on high vaulted walls that can be seen from tall windows from the street.
And I know now, I know when I see this view of the lake and the bridge from this vantage point on my weekday route, I know the true function of beauty.  And I see and hear examples to fit my new theory all over the place.
It is to inspire.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Come to the edge, he said. They said:
We are afraid. Come to the edge, he
said. They came. He pushed them,
And they flew..."
- Guillaume Apollinaire 


I've always been an adoring fan of the two principles of self preservation in relationships: independence and individualism.  In the past in this blog, I have talked about my struggle to preserve my Self, to be true to who I was.  I have talked about how I did not understand women who lost themselves to relationships with family and their spouse.  I've invested my emotional energy in developing a safety net of good girlfriends, because of perhaps some residual anger and mistrust of men from either my youth or my upbringing.
At the same time, over the past years, I've been developing a deeper understanding of God and what He wants from us. To that end, I found myself this past Sunday sitting in a pew of a church I have been regularly attending.  There was a different minister leading this week's sermon, and at first it was really hard to settle in.  I really enjoy Jim Leggett's preaching, and this new guy was a lot more high strung and animated.  I am not even sure I agree with all the things he said, but it has made me think a lot since then on the meaning of this week's message.
The basic point of the sermon was centered around Galatians 3, where Paul is arguing with the people of that area about some perceptions.  The essence of the scripture, and the sermon regarding it, is that salvation is available through grace alone, and not through good works.  Paul challenges the people to ask themselves if their righteousness originates from obedience to the Law, or to belief in the Spirit.  The concepts both Paul and this minister expanded upon are enough to chew on for a bit.  However, it was certain key phrases the minister used that caused my mind to compare what he was saying about our relationship with God to our relationships with other people.
Specifically, it was the mention of the fear of losing one's individuality as they enter deeper into a relationship with God, that this fear was a common human feeling, that crossed mental hairs with a similar thought I had been rolling around in my noggin.  This one has to do with my relationship with the one I love, and how it impacts my relationships with those fore-mentioned girlfriends that previously I depended on for my emotional security.
My friends and I talk a lot less than we used to.  Mostly this is because they are busy - they were always busy.  I was used to being the one doing most of the calling, but lately I haven't been calling as much.  I've come to depend on my man for being my best friend, the one I turn to with the daily ups and downs and examinations from every angle of each thought that comes to me.
A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with one of these girlfriends, catching up, and she, although supportive, questioned some aspects of my compatibility with my mate.  Mostly this was in regards to sort of a freedom from constraints kind of vein..  Basically, she questioned if my wild spirit could be satisfied with the subdued lifestyle of the morally upright.  I felt a bit like she was pointing out our differences as a reason it might not work, or also suggesting that in order for it to, I would have to give up some of my identity.
And yet, I see myself doing that very thing, or feel it, feel us moving from being two separate individuals into a unified One.  It is that feeling of a loss of distinction between bodies and souls, and the beginning of true intimacy, when the other starts to feel like an extension of one's physical self, and when words become less important because you already know what the other one is thinking.  It is the time in a relationship when you go from sharing in each other's individual pursuits to forming your own together.
Take, for instance, the birds.  I have always been scared of birds, particularly of being close to them, touching them, holding them.  Either they are small and fragile enough that I can hurt them, even by accident, or they are big and fierce enough to hurt me.  I had no use for birds.  This man, though, he spoke of the birds with awe, and points them out all the time, and because of him, I started to look for them.  I started to watch the sky.  And then over time, I got more curious, and more trusting, and more ambitious about it.  We got the binoculars, and the camera out, and we watch for them and try to identify them.  Then I started to find places we could go check them out at, and different ways we could interact with them, and it became like our thing that we do.  In the past month, I have held on my hand one of the heaviest birds, the Great Horned Owl, and one of the smallest, the hummingbird.  Because of his encouragement, I volunteered to hold the small birds in my hand after a bird banding, before they realized they were free and took off in flight.  This was an act of courage on my part, but I have faith that this man would not lead me into danger, and therefore when he says, go ahead, hold the bird, it will be okay, I was willing to trust that.  And I think about the vanilla sky, about jumping off the edge because I have that much trust that this love will hold me up.
And I see myself changing in this, developing, losing some of me to some of us and it's scary, so I relate to what the minister is saying about how it feels to give yourself completely to God.  He talks about how it is possible through faith to close our eyes to this fear and wholly succumb our talents to the glory of God in pursuit of this relationship, how faith the size of a mustard seed can bloom into this complete trust that God has got us covered.  It is having faith in the sanctification of sin through Christ's sacrifice and not trying to create our safety nets of good works that gets us the golden ticket in the end.  It's letting go of those wilder parts of ourselves, not because we have to be good and perfect to be with God, but because when we do, the better parts of ourselves have room to grow.
That morning on the way to church, this man of mine had dropped me and the children off at the youth building, then gone to park the car.  We agreed on our plan to meet up on our way into the church.  As I left the youth building, I was scouting around in the parking lot for him.  I did not see him, but I saw a bench in the shade under the tree in my path to the church that would be a perfect place to meet.  The only problem was, there was a man on it, a stranger.  I worried about texting my man and telling him to meet me there, I worried over sitting next to this strange man in the meanwhile, I worried that I had already passed him or that somehow we would be lost to each other.  As I neared the bench, though, I was startled and amused to realize that the man on the bench was no stranger, but this love of mine.  He was already there waiting.
And I think maybe this is what the minister was saying, what Paul was telling the Galatians.  We don't need to worry ourselves with the details on how to be exactly like God wants us, to follow the exact formula for how to be in His graces.  When we get closer, we will realize He is there already, just waiting for us to catch up.