Monday, August 28, 2006

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE, a poem (by me)

Life is the path my body chose,
when born back on the day
I entered this human time zone
and started to find my way.

Yet every night I practice death,
and every time I nap.
And every time I commit a sin
and fall in Satan's trap.

It's like walking up a mountain trail,
steeper steeper as I go
with the weight of my humanity
causing me to travel slow.

And when the sweet wind brushes by
kissing my skin with whispers sweet
I get a whiff of God's true promise
urging a change of path for my feet.

I change as if blind and tapping
a red tipped cane of love
and try so hard oh try to stay
the course so dearly paid by blood.

And failing this daily I tire
and once again drift away
to practice the nightly petit morte
until my final day.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

DYING A LITTLE EVERY DAY

My dad went on medical hospice this week. The nurses and volunteers are leaving pamphlets around my mom entitled "It's time to let them know it's OK to leave". Or some such. I, quite frankly, am quite put off by highly skilled and sensitive strangers telling us what we can obviously see for ourselves and have every right to deny.

My dad is not a Christian. My mom and I are. The obvious observation: YOU'VE HAD ALL THIS TIME, WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN WITNESSING TO HIM 24/7 FOR THE LAST, WHO KNOWS HOW MANY YEARS!!!!! Well, she said quietly, folding her hands politely in her lap, you'd have to know the fellow to understand. It's not like it hasn't been tried. With disastrous results. But before you form a negative opinion based on this, consider, as I have:

My dad survived the depression. He grew up in what we would consider today, poverty. But my late aunt, his sister, told me many many times of stories of how happy their life was then. How their mom would pack up picnics and they'd go out and play for hours with nature as their toys. My dad told me of the great fun he had with his Uncle Art. How on Halloween they'd go to farmers' houses and push the outhouse back a few feet, then wait for the farmer to come out in the dark and AHHHHHHH! Wicked fun, yes, but as much fun as anyone could have now on Nintendo, and with fresh air involved. Aunt Vera also told me of times that my dad would take her beatings, without a word between them. She is waiting for him in heaven and I'm jealous, because I miss her and I miss him and have for the last few years.

My dad is a WWII hero. As a child, I would tell people about how my dad was a "freighter pilot" in the war. He was actually a fighter pilot. He flew missions over France and Germany. He earned a purple heart and was sent right back out again. He didn't have enough recorded kills to enter his name in the official annals, but he was still a hero. On one mission he felt a sudden "WHOOSH" upward of his plane. When he landed, the crew found an artillerly shell stuck up, unexploded, in the middle of the plane's body. Another time, his plane was in for service, so he took his lieutenant's plane up. The seat was such that it caused him to have to hunch over to fly. In the dogfight, he felt a rush of wind at the back of his neck. When he landed, he felt unearned sweat at his neck. When he rubbed his hand across, a gush of blood covered his hand. A bullet had grazed his neck. If he had been sitting upright, he would have been killed. That's what got him the purple heart. He flew in the Battle of the Bulge. Every time his group went up, only half would return, until it was down to just he and his best buddy. They both went to their CO and requested to stop. Each feared the other would be killed in the next sortie. So they were given leave. They headed to the French Riviera for R & R. The pilot got lost and took them over the Italian Alps into enemy gunfire. They managed to turn around and head back for some much needed rest. I have the key to his hotel room in Nice.

Years after his gift to our country's freedom, in the midst of battling his Parkinsons disease and macular degeneration, he turned to my mom, his lifetime sweetheart, and asked "How does it feel to be married to a murderer?". This question comes from the horrific experiences he lived through in WWII. Experiences he has never fully shared with us, because he says they're too hideous. For many years, I made it a practice to call my dad on Veterans Day and thank him. Because he is one of the reasons I have such a cushy, blessed and comfy life.

Now he's dying. He wasn't a perfect dad. He was a royal pain in the ass to my mom and me so much of the time. Because of his obsession with excellence. If it wasn't perfect, it had to be thrown out. I learned from him the benefits of being an autodidact. I watched him read book upon book, and then try and try to create from what he'd read. Sometimes with failure and many times with brilliant success. He showed me that fearlessness pays. More than it doesn't.

My folks lived in Hawaii for several years (I was born there) and my dad fell in love with tree ferns and orchids. Back in Reseda, he built a greenhouse to grow them. And they would die. I can't remember how many tree ferns he went through. The orchids didn't die, but they wouldn't bloom. For years. My dad fed them. He misted them. I think he even played music for them. And they would not bloom. Until one day, he walked into the green house and I heard him yelling. I asked him what he was saying. Being too young to know, he didn't tell me till years later. He had cussed them out. Said "You either grow or I'm throwing you in the trash". Within a month they exploded with blooms and bloomed for years afterward.

My dad's dying. I don't know what I will do without him. He always fixed everything. He always knew what to do. He was my hero. He's been dying by inches from the evil Parkinsons disease for more than 10 years. Now he has esophogeal cancer added to his dance card. And every day of his life he wakes up and does as much as he can. If he complains, it is with humor. He is walking this hideous path with more grace and dignity and humor than any Christian man I have ever known. But my dad's dying. And I'm not handling it well at all.

Friday, August 18, 2006

WHAT A WEEK...

Quotidian Grace's post yesterday about Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian, along with petty grief in my life from my son's school and it's profoundly mean spiritied parent association leadership has drained me of energy and spirit. Oh, yeah and then there's the continuing challenge of my dad's cancer, my not being able to get up to my mom to help often enough, plus his Parkinsons, going blind, etc. etc. Yet there is good news this week too. The blessing of employment for me, in an apparently exact answer to prayer (though not the nature of work I wish for, but everything else), Praise God!! Like someone said to me once, long ago, you gotta take the sweet with the bittah...

I'm led to set down another miracle that happened to me. Yet another car miracle. And they don't stop here.

This one happened in my early 30's. I'd been away from the church for about 5 years and living quite the secular life. I had my own business doing bookkeeping and accounting for individual clients and on motion pictures in the entertainment industry.

One morning, I was driving to a client's office on Sunset Boulevard. I always drove through Trousdale Estates from Coldwater Canyon in the San Fernando Valley. It's a winding and pretty drive. Plus you miss freeway traffic and street traffic, if you leave early enough. And I always did.

I came out from the short cross on San Vicente to Sunset, past the old Hamburger Hamlet, and as I drove onto Sunset I saw an unusual action playing out in front of me. Way, way down the street, a sports car was driving at extremely high speed, back and forth, across the street. Huge plumes of smoke billowed out from under it as it careened at at least 80 m.p.h., back and forth, back and forth. I was transfixed.

My first thought, "They're filming a movie on Sunset". I looked for the road blockades always present with filming on a street like this. There weren't any. And the car was moving towards me. I'd been driving slowly down Sunset all this time, thinking that it must be a movie and I would be stopped by a blockade and police any time to wait till they got the shot. There was no movie.

This was a real car, driving a real 80 or more m.p.h. back and forth across the street. Real smoke billowing out from under it. Coming right toward me. Now I could see it was a Datsun 240Z. I pulled my, brand new happened to be, Mazda 626 to the right side of the road. There was no street close by to turn off to. I was trying to take off my seat belt and climb over to the sidewalk side of the car to get out. The car was closing on me, fast. It had stopped going back and forth across the street and had changed to a head on trajectory with me.

I saw that it was aimed right at my passenger door. I could not undo the seat belt in time. It was going to hit my door straight on. I then felt the same calm that I had felt on the freeway at 16 when my Toyota died in the 3rd lane. I knew that I had to hit the horn. But at the exactly right moment. My hand rose and poised over the horn and, like when I was 16, I experienced a slowing of time. As the 240Z was about to hit my passenger door, with me just on the other side, I knew it was time. I slammed on the horn. I can still see the man's face in the eyes of my memory. He was a man of about 60. Extremely red faced with no expression in his eyes. At the exact moment I hit the horn, his eyes opened, he looked directly at me and his hand came up on the wheel and turned it. He missed my car by maybe an inch.

I started my car up and drove to my client's buildling at 9000 Sunset Blvd. I parked and when I got out of the car, the calm left me and my legs turned to jelly. I went up to the office and started to work. It calmed me to work. I was the only one there, so I enjoyed 5 minutes of a good cry before I started to work.

The company's receptionist came in about 45 minutes later. She came into my office and said "You can't believe what I saw coming in here this morning".

"What's that, Rhonda?", I asked.

"On Sunset, there was a 240Z sitting up on top of a station wagon. An ambulance was taking a body away, all covered up. Obviously THAT guy didn't make it."

I realized that instead of crashing into me, he had crashed into an empty station wagon. I knew then as I know now that God was still watching over me, even though I was living an apostate life. Amazingly, I continued in my apostasy for another almost 20 years. (our time).

My mother told me today about a Bible study friend whose brother, a former Christian, died last week, an atheist. Or more likely, agnostic. Because you can't blame God for bad stuff if you don't believe in God, after all. My mom and her friend wondered if you get to heaven if you are a lapsed Christian. Thinking of this experience above, I lean toward God's mercy, here and hereafter. But, bottom line, I'm not really sure either. We can only have faith in this. Belief requires physical proof, and I now question belief more profoundly than faith. Proof is easy to manufacture. And lie about.

Sometimes it's all a head scratcher. Even when you know what you should believe. And have faith in what you can't believe.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ANOTHER MIRACLE

Something about me and cars calls the Lord powerfully to lend His hand.....It's definitely on my list of questions for when I meet Him in person....

This one happened when I was on tour with Covenant Players in Tacoma Washington. I had spent the evening at a friend's house and had been given our touring van for my transport. It was midnight when I left to go back to our host's home.

If you've no experience with cities built around bodies of water, let me enlighten you. All the streets in a city built around a body of water are built in relation to that body of water. Except Seattle (another story). Which means that they do NOT lie in logical north/south, east/west directions. Check out some city maps.

Unfortunately I had not written down directions to and from our host's home. I had driven to my friend's house in the daylight and now it was dark. I got lost. Really, really lost. I realized this about 5 minutes out on my drive home.

Fortunately there was a full tank of gas in the van. Sitting at a red light, after about 3 fruitless turns, I prayed. "O.K., God, I'd like to get home safe and sound. I have no idea where I am. I have a full tank of gas. I'm just going to drive and when I feel it's time to turn, I'm going to turn. Please guide my turns and get me home safe. I'm perfectly happy driving around all night if need be. Thanks and amen".

The light turned green and I started out. Without looking at street signs (which at that point were meaningless anyway) I just made turns when I felt like it. I was happy, relaxed and calm. After about 5 minutes I actually recognized where I was and 2 minutes later was parked in front of our housing. 20 minutes later, sound asleep, after a grateful "Thanks" prayer.

To this day I still have trouble claiming the promise of Jesus and calling on it in times of trouble. I pass harsh judgements on what would be considered "trouble". At 21, my troubles had yet to escalate to what they are today, over 30 years later. Yet, when things do get truly nasty, I will remember this time and the relaxed, confident and loving feeling I had when I made this prayer. And I can then do it again.