Interdependence Day

Independence Day was fun.  I loved a mind-blowing encounter when Will Smith claws out of his jettisoned fighter jet seat in the desert to stomp, smash talk over to an alien craft to reach the craft and hit the alien in the “face?”, light up his cigar and unload the swag.

All by himself.  Alone, out in the desert.

We love this American Ideal in the first pathfinders, mountain men, cowboys, and single moms making a go against overwhelming odds.

Happy Fourth of July.  Independence Day!

Except, the original Independence Day was a frightening set of promises given by men to each other.  They amazingly displayed interdependence by charting the course of a not-yet-birthed country with ideals binding us together even now.  Some died.  Many lost everything.  They made themselves targets.

What would become These United States declared its independence from England and a tyrannical king.  That is the independence, and some of that swag belongs to each and every American.

But the “swag” that keeps us winning, growing, failing and learning together is that interdependence.  We do so together.

Shivering men sneaked up on Hessian Mercenaries on a freezing Christmas Night, some barefooted, almost none with sufficient clothing depended on each other crossing the Delaware.

Each fought for the man next to him.

No other American said it better than Martin Luther King, We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Alabama 1963.  

Will Smith ejected from a fighter built by tens of thousands, bankrolled by hundreds of millions, after he was trained for more than a million dollars by thousands, and backed by thousands of people helping him track the alien.  Interdependence is still how we do it.

Do not miss this.  We stand independent, not under any king’s or tyrant’s thumb.  Independence.

But we will continue, we hand this dream to our children, we flourish as we admit and hold up our interdependence, our faith that together we overcome.  I would add, with a profound dependence on God and His enduring Providence.

When Will pulled out the cigar and lit up, we all together, celebrated that silly moment because we learned to celebrate together, Yorktown, Appomattox, The Battle of Midway impossible without the courageous sacrifice of torpedo bombers, and 130,000 others resting deep beneath white crosses and stars of David in ten countries … who all died not knowing the outcome of the battles where they gave their lives, for the man or woman next to them.  Then for you.  For me.

Interdependence fuels our Independence, or we vanish from the face of this earth as lesser civilizations did.

It is raining, hailing, storming

We have a pond in wet years, and a deep depression in dry years.  On three occasions in fifteen years, we went from mud hole or dry depression to full to overflowing in a few days.  This time, unlike the other two, we have had three feet of water flowing over the dam off and on for five days.

It has some unexpected benefits.  The pond below us was covered in duckweed a week ago, and now every bit of green has been washed over that dam by turbid brown water.

I only mention that because we have been glued to storm watch channels with a bag packed to go down into the basement for three of the last seven nights.  I only mention that because, to this moment, we have gotten off terribly fortunate.  We have watched on the news as houses slid into roaring rivers, tornadoes have ripped apart homes and lives, hail has destroyed cars and roofs, and — we breathed sighs of relief.  It was not us.

There is something terribly, amazingly human there.

In WW2, the Germans bombed London.  They rained down water line busting bombs, and then rained down incendiary bombs.  They calculated to the millions how London would be a demoralized wasteland for years.  Malcolm Gladwell chronicled the profoundly different effect that they reaped.  Many, many more people “survived” the bombings, lived through “near misses”, and were so surprised at their resilience, that they fought fires, volunteered to rebuild and defend in countless ways.

The bombings enraged London, but did not defeat them.  The bombings stiffened their resolve.

Countless people face terrible flooding and worse tonight, and I have a small prayer.  That those who survive, that those who come through, that those who are terribly close to near misses are surprised by their resilience.  There may be no one to be angry at, except God, but there will be many who wake up bone weary tomorrow — yet, undefeated.  A strange, unasked for gift.

I am in a hotel

And last night I was in another hotel.

No, I was teaching until 9:30.  Wait, that was the other two nights.  Oh, all three.

Was I in a hotel last night?  No, that was two weeks ago.  St. Petersburg.  No, Austin.

Spring break was last week, right?  Oh, yes, grandkids, allergies arriving to tell me my allergy shots are not working quite that well.

Did I remove that fallen tree in the front of the cabin?  I think so, yes.  The unfinished one is on the back of our property.  Yes, I got the one in front.

I talked to my brother Buck and his  beloved Carole, into the night, tore myself away in the morning to go to SXSW.  Three weeks, no, two Fridays ago.

Beau has a solid idea, the financing for Tokata seems almost doable, Brandon might get this job he wants, Kourtney has overcome her last huge setback, Fred and Frieda may get past his infidelity, Pat may close this round of funding, Jill’s artwork is getting helps from unexpected places, and yes, I still enjoy teaching.

Maybe, just maybe I do not shirk from hotels, because if I turn off the phone…..

The swirls diminish just a tiny bit, leaving the possibility of silence, just the possibility.

On Bowing Down

We got to keep Duke (“6 almost 7″) and Veda (4, “Shouldn’t you already know that?”) for two weekends.  Jill charted two endurance courses: meals, swimming, shopping, splash pad #1, playground, Monsters Inc. twice since they transformed Life.Church for At The Movies on that theme, maybe sleeping, church, coffee shops, splash pad #2, naps and home.

I think I love having them until I compare myself to Mimi, who is juiced beyond belief.  I make funny games, listen to them gossip, pontificate on arcane minutiae, and become self-aware.   Twice Duke replayed the “You are not allowed to touch my privates” speech.  Then, maybe ten minutes later, he called me to the restroom to wipe his bottom after going #2.

Tempted to replay that I should not touch him, Mimi’s look-of-death froze the thought in inaction.  True self-awareness awaits further work.

Somewhere in a blur of making blueberry pancakes (thirteen grain); Duke asked, “When did you bow down to Mimi?”

He caught my blank face.

Duke, “You DID bow down to Mimi, right?”

I now looked at Mimi, my wife and girlfriend, and she realized Duke had seen photos in our little digital photo frame over by the toys, and in those photos, a somewhat grainy Colt knelt before Claire one night at the Botanical Gardens.  He was asking her to marry him.

She said “Yes”, ergo Duke, Nova and Veda.

So I told him I bowed down to Mimi at the North Pole on the map of the world in the old Dallas Love Terminal, and she said “Yes”.  Yes.  I bowed down to her.

I thought later I should add, “And when she met my family and still kept me, and when your dad was born, and when her first horse died and we lost a baby between the boys, and when I served in ministry and we always had more month than money.”

Then I thought to add, “And this morning because she loves you, worked two days to prepare this weekend, enriches my life, keeps up with a zillion people, paints beautifully, cares for animals, and is funny, witty and reads.”

Now I have to wait until he returns with his mom and dad, and I should bow down more often, and say so.

 

hearse thief

Medical schools starting two centuries ago faced a continuing need: corpses.  They needed recently healthy corpses.  They needed the pregnant, children, old or diseased and mostly: fresh corpses.

Dying as a pauper in London or New York made a fair wager — your corpse passed to a dissection class before a grave.  Medical schools harvested no corpses. Needing plausible deniability, there arose a trade providing corpses, and these men were bizarrely titled Resurrection Men, spitting on Christians’ hope of resurrection.

If caught, they faced grave robbing charges.  Or worse, if police suspected he hurried anyone from this life to help doctors-in-training learn surgery — he faced death — and of course, a final turn ‘through’ medical school.

Grave robbers.  Hearse thieves.  Everyone — murderers, thieves, prostitutes — looked down on them and feared, desperately feared passing through their hands.

Christians were offended at such a title for these men.  This ‘resurrection’ horrifically twisted hope in Christ.

But God has, if anything, a profound sense of humor, and a deep, deep sense of irony.

So Jesus hiked from the north country through valleys southward.  At evening, He climbed up from the road to tiny Nain.  Maybe Nain was built on Shunem’s ruins or nearby.  And in tiny Nain where birth and death were bookends for few surprises, everyone could recite a time when God let a town woman push the great Prophet Elisha to attempt, to ask the impossible.  All these centuries later, every child and agnostic knew the story.  Elisha promised her a son.  She bore him, and on a hot day in harvest he died.  She rode hellbent for leather straight to Mt. Carmel where prophets commune with God.

And she answered the Prophet’s servant pointedly asking, “Is all well with you?”

“Yes!”

“Is all well with your husband?”

“Yes.”

“Is all well with your child?”

And she lied, or she believed more than a cooling corpse waiting in the Prophet’s room she built for him.  “All is well!”

It shook him.  Such faith.  Such hope.  Elisha rushed from the mountain to spend an afternoon begging God to relent and resurrect the child.  God gave him back.

Centuries ago.  Where legends live.

So, Jesus walking into Shunem/Nain stopped a funeral for an only son: a widow’s final hope.  And disregarding all civility Jesus touched the hearse to talk to — the dead boy.

Who responded.  Jesus helped him from the hearse, gave him back to his mother, and everyone paraded back into town, leaving a bewildered hearse driver scratching his head.  The first victim of The Hearse Thief, doing a dress rehearsal for Himself soon enough, and all of us soon enough.

If Jesus wept at a later funeral, He surely smiled at this one, and God, as usual, had a laugh on any who call hearse thieves by such an exalted, holy title as Resurrection Man.

Special Consideration

I deserve special consideration.  At least, I think I do.

Honestly, it’s in my script.  I was born in America when only a fraction of my friends went to war.  A baby boomer; I attended school in a rich district, where being white got me benefits blacks schools did not get.  My church brought in Oxford scholars. I had an IQ to enjoy accelerated classes, was a doctor’s kid.  Nothing I earned.  All came unasked, undeserved.

I sensed I was called by God to serve Him, so I got to do that for years, with pay, and believed down deep, I got special considerations.  Get out of Jail Free cards.

The problem with special consideration, though, is that it has nothing to do with me.

Years ago, Jill and I boarded a Delta flight and were happily surprised to find the Captain was Darl Henderson.  We had been to his house often, eaten, and skied behind his boat while serving as a youth minister in Coral Gables.  I would never have known he flew C130s in Vietnam so close to the action that he got combat pay, if I had not wandered down a hallway to a bathroom (two were in use!) and seen photos on a wall.  He was quiet like that.

Darl was kind.  We found our seats and buckled in.  As we ignored the safety talk, a stewardess asked Jill and me to move to First Class and take new seats — at the Captain’s request.

We ate with real silver ware, a meal we only dreamed about in “last” class, and were too excited to sleep in the huge chairs while Darl flew.  Special Consideration.

I think I deserve special consideration, irrespective of any fact that I ever deserved any of it that has come before.

Between our two boys, Jill miscarried in the same month that her horse died.  We were devastated.  We fell from special consideration, but no more than the one in five pregnancies that abort universally.  Even there, at a prayer service where Mildred told us she had born two children full term to lose both, Charles Burnside quietly gave us a check — covering all our out-of-pocket costs to the odd dollar amount we would be billed for!  How could he know?

At the core of my faith, I believe, I hope, that beyond a special consideration of salvation, God in Christ plans for me, that He builds on, extends that special consideration.  And He does; just like 50,000+ names on a black scar of granite in a hill on The Mall; just like the 168 who died in the Murrah Building blast; or teens murdered in classrooms in schools across the country or on our highways.

You see, we denigrate the term, squandering it on temporary dwellings: bodily and material.  We denigrate it as we fear it: God’s special consideration means Heaven, with Him.  I want that, but fear it might be today, so, like Freud said, I binge on trivia and seek winnings, upgrades, great prices on steals, and so on.

I fear the ultimate upgrade, the last special consideration.  Not Darl.  Somewhere flying over battles covered in the Evening News collecting bullet holes in the fuselage except around his seat, he quietly found true special consideration.  Like God in Christ, Special Consideration is meant to push us to be creative in making it happen for others.

 

 

Why I Know so Little

As a young scholar I said trite things like, “We learned about Calvinism today,” and “I studied relativity last week”.

It turns out that Calvin’s voluminous Institutes inspired commentaries, opinions, and reactions to fill hundreds of thousands of papers, books and ministries.  It also seems that papers and experiments pursuing all Einstein laid out amount to untold billions of dollars.   Trillions if you count weapons.

I barely caught an introduction.

It helps, though, if someone reduces it for me, so I pass a short quiz or pay for a short course and skip the quiz.  In a world influenced by academia: I “learned it”.

We memorize Kubler Ross’ stages and think we know death.  We say amazing silliness like, “I got married last night!”  No, you took a first, possibly easiest step in a journey of a thousand miles and you don’t “know” marriage until you come to the end of yourself and your failings and she somehow, amazingly decides to travel on with you.

“I bought a house last week.”  So, you paid cash?

“We were in New York last month.  I love New York!”  Yes, you love the tiniest sliver, and even those who love her a lifetime cannot live a thousandth of the City.

In seminary, I was thrilled to “learn” the word for “know” is the same as a husband and wife enjoying their most intimate times together that they share with none others.  You scratch the surface of that knowing in a decade or so.

I need humility, and out of that a bent to life long learning: in this life and the next.  I know that.