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The elements of atmosphere

January 19, 2017

I’ve never understood the weather

or how it is that a day of brilliant sun

can suddenly swirl with violent storms

The birds go silent as

thunder vibrates the atmosphere and

lightning streaks across the darkened canopy

When the ground shakes under an angry sky

there isn’t always time to take cover

and wouldn’t you know it

I’ve left my umbrella

on the floorboard of my car

and I’m not sure where I parked

What I really don’t understand

is how the person next to me

squints behind dark glasses and

slathers on sunscreen

while I drip the fury of the heavens

all over the kitchen floor

I suppose I should have seen this coming

but I didn’t

The sky was so bright when I woke up

that I couldn’t fathom

the blackness of the afternoon to come

I’m a little embarrassed about that

and also about ruining the suede

on your shoes when you stopped

to hug me and tell me

you liked the rainbow over my head

I didn’t have the heart to tell you

that the rainbow is only visible

from the sunny side

and I haven’t seen it yet today.

 

 

How did that get there?

January 4, 2017

I have some interesting living area furniture.  And by interesting, I mean that it’s been far too loved by decades of spitting up babies, grimy toddlers, grungy preteens, dirty-footed teenagers, sharp-clawed cats, and Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog as well as his greyhound Dingbat Brigade predecessors.  We won’t even discuss the fact that it was last in style sometime in the mid ’80s. It has served us well, but we’ve already had to drag one hopeless piece to the curb, and another probably isn’t far behind. But for now, it’s what keeps us from sitting on the floor.

As I was thinking about what we could do with what we have, my thoughts turned to a well-worn little table thingy that we first used as a TV stand (remember when small TVs were the size of dorm fridges?), and then used as a coffee table. Except it would better be described as a Fruit Roll-Up table, or a dirty sock table, or a bobby pin table, or a what-is-that-and-who-spilled-it table, because it’s really not seen much coffee in its years. It’s not fancy. But it’s still pretty sturdy.

The wheels started turning.

Maybe I could paint that table. I bet I could paint it. But hand painted furniture often ends up looking all rescued, in all the wrong ways. Except people are painting a lot of furniture these days and it looks great. Maybe I could paint furniture that looks great, or at least better than it does now. But what if it doesn’t? What if I make an ok-ish piece of wood furniture into a truly terrible eyesore?  Wait—what about that chalk paint stuff people rave about? I see a lot of nice furniture painted with that. Of course, it wasn’t painted by me, and my furniture painting skills or lack thereof might actually be the issue. But I could start smaller because we’ve got those wooden bar stools that I keep thinking would look so much fun if they were red. I could try chalk painting one of them and if it turns out terribly, I could stop and quietly put things away and pretend nothing happened here, nothing at all.

And then I started googling chalk paint, and the next thing you know there was this:

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It’s not perfect, but it’s not too bad for a first attempt with no real guidance.

I decided to try me another bar stool, one with a slightly more complicated design, and maybe experiment with a different technique. Chalk paint is cool because you don’t have to sand or prime, but you do have to clean the surface because nothing wants to stick to where your greasy orange Cheetos fingers surreptitiously wiped, except maybe staticky cat hair. So I popped another bar stool up on the table and started washing.

Here’s the thing: until I started scrubbing at that stool, I would have sworn it was pretty clean. But when was the last time I picked it up and really scrubbed at the lower legs on it? When was the last time I considered that maybe the color of the wood should be a little lighter? When did I last actually look at the underside of the seat?

Funny how you can think something is in pretty good shape until you go to spruce it up, confident in how little effort it’s going to take, and then you discover just how much dirt has been hiding in plain site.

Selah.

 

Driven without sound

November 28, 2016

“Sometimes, quiet is violent.”

-Car Radio, twenty one pilots

.

“I miss my words.”

-Sparky

This is my 1200th post. What in tarnation does anyone write 1200 posts about? And after that many posts, why am I still using a preposition to end a sentence with?

I’m about a month away from hitting the eight year mark from the inception of this blog. I wonder how many words I’ve used here on these pages? Maybe there was a limit. Maybe I used them all up, and that is why I’m now sitting in silence, missing my words.

It’s a nice idea, this business of using up my word quota. It’s all neat and tidy. It’s total pish posh, too. But we like neat and tidy answers even when they’re pish posh.

  1. Problem
  2. Answer
  3. Let’s shake hands and go for ice cream now

See how easy that is?

Pish posh, wish wash, polly wolly mish mosh.

Sometimes quiet really is violent. It leaves space for thoughts to roll around in my mind and get wedged into uncomfortable places. It echoes so loud it hurts my ears from the inside, and that is why I make that face, in case you were wondering.

I used to be driven to write. I still am, to be honest. The difference is that I used to have words to actually set to paper or screen.

  1. Drive to write
  2. Words to write
  3. Write

There.  See how neat and tidy that is? It works beautifully. When it works.

But when it doesn’t work…

  1. Drive to write
  2. Sit in front of screen for hours, unable to think of any words or any reason to use words
  3.  …

Not so neat and tidy. It makes my chest ache, and it’s really hard to laugh when your chest aches.

And I really like to laugh.

I’ve tried harder. I’ve prayed harder. I’ve lectured myself harder. I’ve even given up harder, because sometimes you gotta just stop the madness and back off.

This is just one little blog in a giant sea of blogs. You never know what you’ll find here. There’s a lot about Jesus, and a fair amount just about life and Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog and squirrel crimes and other general nonsense that gets cooked up in my noggin. But somewhere along the way I got this wild idea that my voice is important, and that I was given this ability to express my quirky thoughts for a reason.

There’s a sense of responsibility that comes with that. A responsibility for, and a responsibility to. I can’t help but take it seriously, even when I’m being a dork.

And somehow, I think the Sparky Nation, if any of you are left out there, knows that.

“There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think”

-Car Radio, twenty one pilots

 

The sound foundation

November 19, 2016

I’ve heard it said that

the eyes are the windows to the soul

and I think this is probably true

I don’t know what the ears are

but I love that when the eyes are closed

the ears are still open

Your ears hear me always

When nobody else is listening

your razor ears never miss a thing

When I am shivering soundlessly

you hear every word I’m not saying

every decibel-less word I’m screaming

every choked syllable lodged in my throat

You never mistake my quiet for silence

When I sing for you

the notes arc through space like falling stars

and you catch every one

and call them beautiful

even if they’re wet with tears

even if they’re sticky with blood

even if they’re fragile and broken

Your ears hear with grace

that which would repel any sane eye

But I think the best thing

is that in the middle of it all

the good

the bad

the outrageously ugly

your ears hear the laughter

that is yet to come.

Ballet of breath

November 9, 2016

The line was long but still I waited

I had other things to do but nothing better

Some folks chatted to pass the time

But I was lost in the breath of the wind

 

I avoided eye contact with the ground

I pretended I couldn’t see the fractures beneath my feet

Maps of history and maps of conjecture

I closed my eyes and the breeze kissed my face

 

Stolen songs swirled around me

I wondered if anyone else could hear them

I wondered if anyone was missing them

Or if they knew the wind remembered every note

 

A barking dog interrupted the melodies

As barking dogs are wont to do

The chatting folks heard neither dog nor music

But the wind and I heard it all

 

This ain’t no Six Flags

November 7, 2016

I gotta tell ya, it’s been a few of months of the crazy.

I left my retail job in early June, after six years at da panty sto’. In late June we were finally led to a new church home, after a year and a half of home-churching and “shopping”. Life rolled at breakneck speed through the summer, and in late August my life was turned upside down and I spent nine days in the hospital.  Three weeks after I left the hospital I had my feet on the ground in Brazil for a ministry trip with Randy Clark and Global Awakening, and three weeks after that I was back in Florida, trying to block out the chaos of an increasingly vicious political climate ramping up to the impending elections.

I won’t lie…about every ten minutes I feel like I’ve got whiplash. I no sooner get my feet back under me again, take a deep breath, and the ground beneath my feet takes a hard lurch to the right.

It’s a lot to process in a short period of time. What does it mean for me to no longer be working the job that brought both blessing and inconvenience for six years of my life? What does it mean to have a new church home and to be the new kid on the block in a new church family, still unsure where or how I fit?  What does it mean to now live life with a scar over a little computer implanted in my chest that is in charge of jolting me if my electrical wiring starts doing a bad boogie (I’m praying it remains underutilized…as in never!)? What does it mean for this capable, independent person to be dependent on others for transportation anywhere and everywhere…and to not know for certain if I’ll be released to drive again? What does it mean to have even more pieces of my heart strung across Brazil as I’m praying that my spiritual investments there will bear lasting, transforming fruit, and what does it mean to have my heart broken by some of what I experienced while I was in that beautiful country? What does it mean to live in a nation that has left me uneasy about every possible option for new governmental leadership?

I’m not saying I feel anxious over these things, although sometimes they’re really hard. It was late December of last year when He started talking to me about doing a new thing. Isaiah 43:19 nipped at my heels like a sheepdog. I keep wondering if this is really what He meant, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. He can leverage this or anything else for my good and His glory. I don’t have to be comfortable with it for it to be good.

This is where I am so deeply grateful for the past years where He has taught me that His presence isn’t something to achieve, but something that’s always with me, waiting to be called up to tangible reality wherever I am. I needed it in that hospital room.  I needed it in Brazil. I need it anytime I give two seconds’ worth of attention to any kind of media, social or conventional.

His presence is key to everything. It ushers in the kingdom. It manifests His power. It transforms atmospheres. It holds us in perfect peace when the world has gone maniacally crazy. I think one of the most amazing things I’ve learned is that because He is always in me, I can quiet myself and become aware of Him in an instant, without working myself into it. I have the potential to be held in the power of His presence at any moment…and when I’m held there, those around me sense that I’m carrying something unusual…even the people who have never met Him. Oh, that I would remember this every moment of every day!

So yeah…it’s been a few months of the crazy. I wouldn’t have purposefully chosen it, but it’s what I’ve got, and He’s been present in it all, and He’s shown me that it’s worth the battle to be present to His presence. Even in the crazy, because He’s there, too.

Might need Jesus to get me a neck brace and some Dramamine, though, at least until the crazy decides to chill out a little.

The practice of perspective

October 17, 2016

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A week ago at this moment I was on an all-night flight from Brazil to the US. I was tired enough from my three-week trip that I actually slept for about three hours on the flight, which may be a record for me. I’m starting to wonder if I need to check into those tranquilizer darts they make to take down elephants.

Stepping off the plane in Sao Paulo was like taking a deep breath after holding it for a month.  It was my 3rd/4th trips to Brazil with Global Awakening, and after the crazy month I’d had (wild story here if you haven’t read it), it felt like the first normal thing I’d done in a long time.

Yes, I know.  Flying to Brazil to do three weeks of intense ministry isn’t normal for most people.  But it was the first time in weeks that I felt like me, like I was doing something that was normal for me. And I loved doing it.

But…now I’m home.  And to be honest, I don’t know what normal looks like anymore. I’m trying hard to resist trying to force it look like it looked before I drove myself to the hospital on August 26. I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s a gift to be alive, and any grief over unexpected and undesired changes must be tempered with that reality.

It’s better to be alive than to have a chest without a tender scar.

It’s better to be alive than to be able to take a decongestant if my sinuses get stuffy.

It’s better to be alive than to be free of taking a medication that wants to eat my stomach, and also free of the alarm I set for twice a day so I never forget to take it.

It’s better to be alive than to be free of lumpy little tiny computers implanted in my chest.

It’s better to be alive than to be able to drive.

That last one really bites.

I’m used to going where I need to go, when I want to go there. I am accustomed to being unlimited by distance if it’s drivable. Road trips are common for me, mostly solo. My van is known by close friends as my “prayer closet on wheels”, and I often keep up with preachers and speakers by listening to podcasts while on the go.

But there’s a law in Florida that says that if you lose consciousness due to an event like the one I had, you can’t drive for six months.  Which I did.  You can’t really go into a lethal heart rhythm without eventually losing consciousness, because your brain stops getting blood flow. The reality is that I don’t yet know if I’ll ever be cleared to drive again. I have a little over four months left of the six month legal requirement (on the assumption that what happened in August doesn’t happen again or my device doesn’t fire, because that would re-set the clock), but it’s not just about the law. It’s also about the recommendation of physicians who look at my specific case.  And more than that, I have to have the peace of heaven over this. No matter how much I want to drive, I must have peace that I would not be a danger to anyone if I got behind the wheel.  And those things are all unknown right now.

The scar on my chest will toughen up, and it should be 7-10 years before the device has to be replaced.

I can use essential oils if I get stuffy, or better yet, I can learn a new level of living in divine health where I don’t get a stuffy head, even in the middle of this other attack on my physical well-being.

It’s possible that I won’t need the stomach-eating medication for more than a few months, since it’s really just to help my body/heart find stability after all the trauma it’s been through.

The lumpy little computer doesn’t stick out all that much, and I’m praying that its primary job will be to testify to God’s goodness in healing me, rather than tracking a goofy electrical dysfunction from the pit of hell, which needs to go back where it came from. It’s always more fun to track heaven than hell anyway.

Maybe one day in the not too distant future I’ll really get to debate whether I would prefer the Honda CVR or a Toyota RAV4. Or I could hire me a Jeeves or a Hoke.  Probably a Jeeves, because I suspect I’m more Bertie Wooster than Miss Daisy.

Perspective is powerful stuff.  Lack of it can be powerfully damaging. I don’t want to be caught up in what I can’t do, although sometimes it’s so in my face that it’s hard not to choke on it. I want to glean every gift hidden in this mess. I don’t want to miss a lesson that could teach me something that upgrades my thinking or my maturity. I want to live in unreasonable hope and outrageous joy, undaunted by opposition.  After all, I’m alive.  In spite of blatant attempts from hell to render me otherwise, I am very much alive, and gratefully so.

I have to admit, however…some days I feel like a third grader tackling a master’s level course.