YOU REMEMBER THINGS LIKE THAT

We’d left her at the hospital… she was desperately needing rest. Life had been moving at warp speed for a few weeks, milestones in life coming at us like waves on the beach during surf season in the Pacific. You remember things like that.

She’d graduated with her masters degree three weeks before that trip to the hospital. She’d been working full-time as an RN at the same hospital where she lay as I penned this post. Her youngest sister graduated from high school the week before and we’d thrown her a graduation party that conveniently landed on the day of her eighteenth birthday the night before.

Life is funny like that; we can live our lives with subtle changes and then in a matter of what seems like days, everything changes… permanently.

Our youngest graduated from a private school that she’d attended for fifteen years, counting the couple years of pre-Kindergarten. She can’t remember her life without that school. I remember her learning Bible verses as a pre-schooler. I thought they’d raised the bar way too high when she was required to memorize the 23rd Psalm in Kindergarten.

Now she’s done. Our youngest will go to the second school in her life; college. A birthday/graduation party last night for the youngest, and a trip to the hospital today for the oldest.

We didn’t know she was going to have a boy, that was a surprise, the baby wasn’t. She had to have a C-section, due to the baby being breach, but he’s healthy and she’s recovering.

Braxton Michael Siemion            June 4th 2016

Braxton Michael Siemion
June 4th 2016

We left her, her husband, and the addition to our family resting at the hospital, I suspected a metaphorical wrestling match over the boy’s name was in the works. My wife and middle daughter were out shopping for baby boy’s clothes. The exhausted youngest went home with me. She slept. I pondered… and wrote.

I felt happy, relieved, tired… and once it began to sink in, a touch of sadness. I flipped on the house music, the seventies station thumped out songs from my youth as I pondered the newest chapter in our lives.

As I thought and processed emotions, I glimpsed it, I grasped it… and when I turned back around to get my bearings… the door was closed. That chapter of our lives is finished forever.

Like all my writing, that last chapter too had flaws, it wasn’t perfect. It isn’t for any of us. I thought about this day, but I never could grasp the reality of it… just like I couldn’t fully grasp the baby in our oldest baby’s arms. Just like thinking about her being a momma, but not fully grasping it until living the reality of seeing a mother’s love in her eyes.

June 3rd, 1998, it was a cool day, oddly cool for Arizona. You remember things like that. The baby born that day, via a C-section too, is an aunt today.

June 4th, 2016, it’s hot, record heat. You remember things like that… even after the door has been closed on a chapter of your life.

I prayed for God to guide and bless that boy every single day, and chapter, of his life. May he remember things like that.

THE HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS

Our skirmishes aren’t as famous as the Hatfields and McCoys, but they’re just as real. It’s a battle of boundaries, territory, the fight over property. The type of conflict can vary, but what sometimes begins as a fight for justice can get twisted, fueled and escalated by frustration and pride.

Hatfields and McCoys

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Seems you can take anything good and decent, no matter how big, how grand, and even a pinch of pride can poison the whole kit and caboodle.

We were neighbors. Not particularly close, we just sorta tolerated one another. But as the old saying goes, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”. That’s what happened with the Hatfields and McCoys.

It went from being mildly annoyed, to all out war. I should never have allowed them to cross my property line… that’s what I get for being a nice guy.

After they stayed for a season, I couldn’t get them to leave. I tried to gently persuade them, but they refused. In fact, to add insult to injury, they invited their family to join them at my house! That’s when things began to get ugly.

I began to throw rocks at them every time I saw them. It rattled them a bit, but they didn’t leave. I guess to get even with me, they began to defecate even more right in front of our front door. There would be no turning back.

I put spikes up, but they nested between them. I put up more, but the trespassing pigeons just moved up the roof. I spent hours and days putting up chicken wire. They moved to the other side of the roof. I put spikes there, no dice. I put up chicken wire while the flying rats watched me from my chimney. They just nestled beside the new chicken wire.

I read up on my enemy, but none of the recommendations worked. The only thing I hadn’t tried was eliminating them… permanently. Like Solomon said, there’s a season for everything, and it was hunting season at my house.

I bought the most powerful pump pellet gun and hollow point pellets to send my uninvited enemy to the big bird bath in the sky.

I was a decent shot with my brother’s BB guns as a kid, and with my rifles and pistols as an adult… somehow that didn’t translate into pumping pigeons full of lead. With each missed shot over the next three or four months, my frustration and hatred grew. They became so accustomed to me shooting at them, I had to sneak up on them… just to watch them fly away… bird laughing.

It was just before sunset. I’d flanked the trespassers and surprised them as they began to fly away again. I shot. He fluttered and fell… and so did my stomach, hatred, and frustration.

Although they carry diseases and do property damage, the justification didn’t bring me joy.

Not every prudent action we take in life makes us happy. And I’m reminded it should be about perspective… without pride.

Our skirmished aren’t as famous as the Hatfields and McCoys, but they’re just as real.

BOOK COVERS

The eyeball test isn’t so different than playing Russian roulette, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose when it comes to guessing what’s inside book covers.

I didn’t know I’d judged her, but that’s exactly what I’d done, in a good way, finally. She’s probably in her mid-seventies, tall, medium length, tired auburn hair, done in a bun that she’s probably been sportin’ since the 60’s, dark brown glasses to match.

book covers

image courtesy of goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com

She’s the only person in the gym with jeans on, and a street blouse for comfort. She looks like someone from church. The elderly gal is hard to miss, and not just for being tall; she struggles to walk and has two canes to keep her from losing the battle with gravity.

My heart and respect went out to her for fighting through her flesh and not giving in. I felt like I knew her without having ever having talked to her in the year or so that I’d been seeing her, but that all changed a few weeks ago.

The handicapped woman called from behind me, “How much longer are you going to be?” in the middle of my set, about half way through my reps, and with a snide snap in her voice.

I’ve been in gyms my entire life and savvy gym etiquette pretty well, I guess she doesn’t. I didn’t stop, I politely answered, “About five more minutes.”

The handicapped gal made as loud a “Huff”! as she could muster to let me and anyone within earshot know how put off she was that the world didn’t find her at the center of it.

* * * * *

I could feel the short elderly lady behind me in the express lane at the grocery store the day before Mother’s Day. I could sense her impatience and her basket nipping at my heels. I struggled to be polite.

I hate it when the express line moves slower than the regular ones, makes me feel like a fool, and it only gets worse when you’re getting bumped and crowded.

My patience meter had just about expired by the time the checkout gal grabbed and scanned the roses and card. “Oh! What beautiful flowers!” the woman fast on my heels managed. It sounded like she was chewing on her tongue. She’d had a stroke.

Although it was difficult to understand her, she asked about my children, even told me I looked too young to have girls that age, all the while her eyes sparkled with love and life.

I’m almost always wrong when it comes to judging book covers.

I think how we see others has a lot to do with how we see ourselves; too often we see ourselves as fine classic literature bound in fine leather and a lot of other folks as paperbacks.

You can tear the front and back book covers off, but that doesn’t change the Words inside… and when our time is done here that’s exactly what happens to all of us.

It’s only God in us that is beautiful… the book covers only fool the fools.

BUMPER STICKERS

Bumper stickers are still popular, have been since I was a kid. Not sure why someone would want to deface their possession, pride and joy, or plain ole transportation. Then again, I shouldn’t be too judgmental, I once drew on my white, short-haired hound dog, but that was a long time ago… plus he didn’t have bumpers.

Some bumper stickers are meant to be funny, others are intended to inspire, support, and encourage. While I don’t participate in pasting stickers on my truck’s bumper, that doesn’t mean I don’t read the ones on other people’s.

bumper stickers

image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

I have to admit, I find reading bumper stickers fairly amusing, most of the time. A few clever ones I’ve read; “I bet Jesus would have used His turn signals”. Or how ’bout, “Sometimes I wrestle with my demons – sometimes we just snuggle”.

One of my favorite classic bumper stickers, I think from the seventies; “Guns cause crime like flies cause garbage.” I also didn’t mind the old yellow circle with the simple smile and the “Have A Nice Day” below it.

Then of course, due to our freedom of speech and bumper stickers, are the other ones, the obnoxious ones. Not so much the silly rainbows or the names of the person’s favorite band, but the rude ones, the vulgar and profanity-laced ones that get under my skin.

I figure that they’re young people, which is almost always synonymous with lacking wisdom; was for me too, still is sometimes.

Of all the bumper stickers that I dislike, there is one type that strikes a chord deep inside, and that pitch brings the blood inside my fallen flesh to a boil. Those stickers are the ones of political persuasion. When I spot certain ones, even though I know these people exist, I double take and strain to see what they look like, almost as if their hair was on fire.

First glance at the bumper sticker and my instinct holds them responsible for tearing down the great American way of life… by removing and mocking God. In that instant, I’ve fallen into the same trap as the bumper sticker brandishing bourgeois; controlled by emotion as opposed to the fearless faith in God Almighty.

The thing about bumper stickers is that each and every one of them reflect and reveal the folk’s perspective on life. People want to tell others, strangers, who they are and what they believe. Some Christians do it with the fish or church stickers.

We all believe in something. We put our faith in what we hope or believe will save us.

After I rein in my emotions, my perspective changes. Those political bumper stickers represent people who trust and believe in other humans for their security… Even after having been lied to by every single one of the people they put their faith in. They, their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have believed the same lies.

That is the mark of desperation, insanity, and not knowing God…

Maybe I should put that on a bumper sticker.

SOMEONE IN THEIR PLACE

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a Christian say how they “put someone in their place”, I’d have a herd of piggy banks, pockets, and a sore back. My ears are just as full and weary from hearing it.

someone in their place

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The “Holier than thou” attitude is melting, but just when I thought it was going the ways of the dinosaurs, it reared its ugly face again… and this time in my own backyard.

My wife has a friend who is a single mom and has had her fair share of struggles. She was surprised when she found out what church we went to, didn’t seem to square with what she knew about my wife and what she had experienced at the church we attend.

When people are hurting they go to different places to find help and answers. My wife’s friend is no different. Instead of searching the honky tonks and bars she decided she’d seek answers and solace at the house of God.

Her son was a little guy at the time so she loaded him up and off to church they went. I don’t know if my wife’s friend even remembers what she heard in the sermon that day. What she does remember is a conversation she had with a stranger, a church member.

The man didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t greet her or her little boy with a “Hi, how are you today?” Nor did he tell her that he was glad she decided to join them. The man told her that the service was not the place for her little boy to be.

My wife’s friend decided that if that church didn’t want her son to be there, then they didn’t want her either… she never went back.

My wife’s friend’s son is in college now and as far as I know that day in church when he was a tyke was the last time he or his mom attended church.

She went to church seeking the comfort that only comes from knowing our Father. What she discovered was a legalist disguised as a Christian.

I don’t know who the man was, but I know the type. They’re always the ones to share with other legalists how they put a sinner in their place, “And I told her ______”… fill in the blanks, we’ve all heard it.

In all the fullness and blindness in that man, he can’t begin to grasp the words of Christ, words he quotes to put someone in their place.

My wife told her friend that she was sorry anyone would ever treat her like that and assured her that wasn’t the norm. She also told her that she is welcome to come with us anytime. I think she might.

Folks don’t want or need to know about the broken rules… until after they learn of the love and broken heart of Jesus Christ.

Putting someone in their place should be smack dab in the middle of His and His chosen’s grace… not on the spot and out the door. Telling them is God’s job… ours is showing them Him.