Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mona who?

I thought I would write tonight. You know, it's dark, damp, windy, threatening. They polished up the tornado sirens today because there's some huge monster storm coming this way in the dead of night. We'll probably all be dispersed across the east coast by noon tomorrow. I could write a killer (no joke intended) blog about that.

But I decided to go with art. Sometimes you can write art. If you are really good. And I'm not. So instead of trying to write art I decided to show it to you. Here it ... I mean she ... is.

Simply Elle. Eat your heart out, da Vinci.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Good is ... good

It sounds redundant but it is not. Good is good. And feeling good is VERY good.

It is hard to believe that 3 months ago today was my last day as a pastor at FBCB. 3 months? How could that be? So many of the days since then are just a blur. Some bring pleasant memories. Some ... not so much. Honestly for the first week I felt a sense of relief. Relief that I could concentrate on the things that were going wrong in my body. I had been living in denial for about 6 months and I could not ignore or hide it anymore. Once again the old adrenal system just crashed. I had promised myself near the end of 2001 that I would never allow that to happen again. Turns out I lied. The feeling of relief was accompanied by decreased symptoms. I thought it was over with all that easily. Wrong. The next 6 weeks saw the bottom falling out again. I made a deal with myself to forget the past, not worry about the future, and simply experience the day. It was usually nearing noon before I could stay vertical. Part of my personalized "deal" was that I would be showered and dressed every day before the morning ended. That sounds so insane, doesn't it? It wasn't. My body didn't work. Well, I could force it to work like I had been doing but that wouldn't do any long-term good. So I decided to let the flesh and blood have its way. I was out of bed at the usual time only to relocate to a horizontal position on what we lovingly call our "date chair." Bailey usually joined me under a down comforter. No music. No tv. No books. Just more sleep and rest. It was not fun.

The next stage was just kind of ... blah. It wasn't so important that I stay horizontal and that made my other issues stand out more clearly. My vision drove me crazy. Everything was often fuzzy through both eyes by mid-afternoon. If I closed my eyes for a nap or simply became more active than usual my left eye saw the world as being pale. Colors were not vivid. Everything took on a whiteish hue. Just through one eye. My right eye was normal. Strange, very strange. Dizzyness and I became close friends. I was an expert stumbler. My muscles would decide to spasm all on their own. Debbie says it was the worst at night. I would not know but I have no reason not to believe her. Sometimes my hands would tremble but I could keep other people from noticing it. Energy? Nada.

The third stage played on my brain. I started "shoulding" all over myself. You ever play that game? I thought of all of the ways I should have acted and all of the decisions I should have made to stay well. Don't ever "should" on yourself.

And then suddenly, sometime early last week, I felt ok. Really ok. I noticed it but decided to ignore it lest I do something stupid to mess it up. And another day or so down the line I felt good. GOOD. Not just alright but GOOD. Laughing came easily. I actually wanted to eat. Going outside sounded like fun. Playing with my granddaughter became a delight again instead of something that scared me because I was afraid I would accidently drop her or something. Quiet moments were no longer fearful moments. They were rewards for behaving. I had already read about 50% of the bible the youth group gave me on my last Sunday and it was covered in yellow high-lighter. I started going back over those verses and praying them to God. One dumb eye is still reminding me every day of the price of living stupid ... living outside the perfect will of The Father even when you think you are doing it as a kindness to Him. How ridiculous. How prideful. I have to get it checked out because I am really tired of it.

That's when I truly remembered. He loves me. I hadn't actually forgotten the truth of that statement. I had just stopped living in the constant awareness of it. Abba ... Abba is my everything. I would die for Him. My doctor had told me to keep on living the way I was living and that was exactly what I would do. And I realized that was not what He (Abba) wanted me to do. So under His watchful gaze and loving care I slowed down. I lay down. I calmed down. And He had begun raising me back up.

What is next? Don't know. Don't have to know. Just have to keep hearing Abba. And avoid EVER living stupid again. Jesus died to save the world. That means I don't have to.

Thank you, Abba. Good is ... good.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blazing Inferno's

It is Sunday afternoon. Cloudy. Cool. Muddy. Damp. My car, Emma, is unhappy because she sits in the driveway instead of in the garage. My dog is unhappy because I will not let her outside to chase squirrels in the swamp known as my backyard. Some would call this a God forsaken day. But God does not forsake days. Days forsake God.

Sunday afternoon.

I sit propped up on a comfy chair, feet resting on a matching ottoman, clothed in sweats. Most of me is hidden under a soft down comforter. The house is quiet. That is all well and good but what really makes the difference in my today stands in the corner upon a base of stone. She is one of the reasons why I bought this house. She is a wood burning stove. She has no name. After all, she isn't a car. But if I were to name her it would be Ashley. Most of the time she sits alone and filled with ashes, memories of cozyness gone by. However, on days like today she is filled with light, heat, flame. She brings me cheer and I like being cheerful.

I read the news a few minutes ago. Another child was kidnapped recently. Fortunately it all ended happily with him escaping his captor. A rogue country is hell bound on creating a nuclear bomb. Nobody knows yet how that story will end. A professional football player collapsed and died last night at a hospital 20 miles from my house. He had just played in a charity game to benefit his brother who had received a heart transplant. Irony does not begin to define what happened to that family. Tornado's tore up part of Arkansas last night. There were no deaths reported but 27 people were injured to varying degrees.

It seems that outside the doors of my house the world is not a safe place. Of course it was in this house that I once broke a toe, recovered from severe bouts of adrenaline exhaustion, picked my golden retriever up for a final trip to the vet, watched my wife struggle for breath as asthma gripped her lungs with nearly life robbing fury, covered my son with a cold cloth as a migrane left him screaming in pain, prayed over the sleeping body of my youngest child after he made a really bad traffic decision that could have ended his life, and watched my (now very happily married) daughter go through the painful ups and downs of adolesence and dating life.

Perhaps it is not that safe in here either?

I cannot fix yesterday. I cannot dictate tomorrow. All I can do is sit by my blazing inferno and look heavenward for the smile of my Father. He has a name but I did not give it to Him. Actually He has many names. He seems to like it best when I call Him "Abba." It is not a complicated name. It means "daddy," or "Papa." Others call him "Jehovah," the great "I Am" or a variety of other biblical titles. Some simply call Him God.

When I was a boy I would travel with my parents to their childhood home in Arkansas. It was a yearly event. They looked forward to taking my brother and I there to show us to their friends and relatives. I guess we were trophy kids. When we would arrive we were greeted with hugs and kisses. One special aunt always had strawberrys waiting for us. The beds were fluffy and covered with warm blankets. But what I really remember was the trip down. We would leave our home in Detroit when my dad got off of work and drive all night. I did not know it then but now I find that Mapquest says it is 721.32 miles from our driveway to grandma's. Dad really had to want to get there badly to make a trip like that in one night. Mom didn't have a drivers license in those days. We would leave the very southern tip of Illinois and enter the bootheel of Missouri. If my brother and I were awake this was the sign that we should strap in and hold on for dear life because the closer my dad got to his home the faster he would drive. It was all 2 lane roads in those days and my dad liked big cars with big engines. I only recall a policeman catching him once. You can't radar what you can't see and dad surely drove faster than the human eye could keep up with on those straight, dark roads. All he wanted to do was to get home.

That is a pretty good picture of life. The closer you are to getting "home" the faster time seems to move. The scenery does not impress you as much anymore. You are focused on that city limit sign in the distance. I suppose these are deep thoughts for a dreary Sunday afternoon sitting by a beagle and a wood burning stove. I hope you do not mind. I don't mean to confuse or depress you. I love my stove. I love the journey I am on. I love my beagle and even my muddy back yard.

But you know what I really love? I really love my Abba. Sometimes when it is very quiet ... like it is this afternoon ... I hear my heart calling His name. I wait quietly hoping He will answer. Psalm 42 says it well. "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life." When I look at my world and all that goes on around me the breakers knock me off my feet. I cannot stand. Not on my own. But my Abba ... my precious Abba. He commands His steadfast love by day and sings a song over me at night.

And I know it's all going to be alright. No matter what. No matter who. No matter. I feel Abba's love. I hear Abba's song.

So. Take that, world.