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.

Jodie, on the occasion of your surgery

I cannot begin to tell you how emotional it was when, as an infant, you were diagnosed with diabetes, and then the worst  brittle diabetes.  Your mom wept for days.  She wept sticking you repeatedly to find your blood sugar level.

I was in the hospital last week.  They pricked my fingers three times a day.  I used all my fingers on one hand.  Did you celebrate your 10,000th prick?

Then they told your parents your life expectancy was 12 years … possibly.  So we heard story after story in the night, in the morning, in the bathroom, in the bedroom when everyone in the family — including pets — took turns awaking for no particular reason (God must laugh when we say silly things); to walk in, check you, and find you had cratered.

Your family created a “new normal”.  Jodie cratered.  Jodie’s out cold — and we must calmly, intentionally work our way out of this.

This latest series of debilitating headaches, leading you through a new, bewildering forest of conflicting diagnoses, crashing and ascending hopes — has drained all of you.  Draining Jill and me ten hours away is a lot less than your mom and dad.  That draining, doesn’t even include the bills. . . .

So, next week you return to Houston, to Ben Taub where your grandfather loved his traning as a physician to remove your outsized pinneal gland.  Being twice as old as doctors said was even possible, helps me pray that you lick this thing and flourish.

Pain and Beauty

I teach creativity and imagination.  I know, why assign such topics to someone deficient in both?  Go figure.  Eat your heart out, etc.

I require some students to write reports on creators they choose from Daniel Boorstin’s The Creators.  Amazing book, and improbable to be equaled in a generation as he was the Librarian of Congress tapping an astonishing group of researchers to help research and tell the stories.  He achieved lucid, clear, salient story telling at its best.

So questions about creative people lurk in the literature.  Are they more avant-garde, anti social-conformity, rule busting people?  Are they more broken, prone to mind and mood altering substances?  Are they more gifted?

Sixty years ago Guilford showed a scatter graph supporting his “intelligent enough” theory of creativity.   IQ correlates positively with creativity up to @ an IQ of 85, and then any correlation vanishes.  Hmmm.

Creatives come from all manner of socioeconomic, religious and family backgrounds.

Now some research suggests we are “happier” in the left side of our brains, and “sadder” in the right side; and many associate creativity with that right side, although, in truth, when you’re in the creativity “zone”, your brain draws on the left and then the right side some — 300 times a second.

Also, remembering sadness, pain, or loss is easier than joy or happiness: which begs a question.

Do creatives know they live out their lives with more pain, or that creativity is born of pain?  Do we all sense that, and avoid or seek creativity based on a desire or fear of pain?

If you interviewed King David, The Rolling Stones, U2, Coldplay, Hip Hop Kings, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, Rich Mullins, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci — how do you see them answering, “What percentage of your life have you been “happy” or “joyous”?

Even if their answers suggest beauty is born of pain, art is born of suffering — why seek to create, to innovate, to make art?  That provokes two hard questions for me.

One, did God know His stunning creation, and the people who he made the crowning aspect of that creation would bring Him unfathomable pain?  Why create anyway?

Why do some of the most haunting, intense, overwhelming things of beauty; why do they push us to that pain in the throat, choked tears, impossible to swallow, quivering smile that mimics stunning moments of worship for believers?

Have we been wired for far more than we dare create, hope for, or desire?

Buck, Kaden, Texas Football

My dad was not as religious as most Texans.  Don’t get me wrong, he was Baptist, loved God, was a deacon, and he and mom served as medical missionaries on every continent but Antarctica.

But on Friday nights, he was unlikely to be watching High School Football.  Friday night football gets more Texans to pray than any hurricane and some wars.  It is arguably Texas’ state religion.

My grandparents cheered for Temple High, but the gene skipped dad, which points up a failing.  He did not see my older brother, Buck, play much in Junior High, JV, or Varsity.  Buck had two stats that held until the end of South Park High, I think.   1) His punts had the longest hang time, which Buck kicked barefoot.  2) Buck was the leading tackler on special teams: he hung the ball in the air long enough to get down and nail the poor sucker who caught it and failed to signal “fair catch”.

He lamented seeing mom in the stands, without dad, who was saving lives in the emergency room or surgery.  Life saving, true, but as important?  That judgment is above my pay grade.

Things that befall us shape us, one way or another.  Since Kafka, many become angry, or wounded at their dads’ failings — okay — probably long before Franz wrote his heart breaking stories that his dad never read.  It broke Kafka.  He had no sons.

The story is Buck was recruited by Darrel Royal and told he could kick, but not attack.  Buck rabidly cheers for Texas, but never played under such panty-waist limitations.

Dad is long gone, Buck had two boys, made enough mistakes to know fathers need grace, and Hunter and Leigh now have their strapping son, Kaden.  Kaden plays football.

Buck has traveled with Carole from their mountain hideout in Mora, New Mexico to see Kaden play ball a few times.

Buck and Carole dropped the bombshell last week.  They’re selling the house in the mountains, and moving back to Central Texas.  Carole said simply, “Buck wants to watch Kaden play ball.”

Buck thinks we choose in what direction things that befall us shape us.