A CLEAN ROOM

It’s a rarity, but sure enough, before my very eyes, there was a clean room. What was left was in its proper place and orderly… but it wasn’t always like that.

Wars were waged over that room. I was sometimes on the front line, but it was usually my wife doing battle with our youngest in the clean bedroom battles.

Over the years I’d pitch in to help our youngest get back into a clean room status, but it never lasted more than a couple blinks.

There were plenty of frustrations on both sides, a fair amount of tears too, but mostly from my daughter, a few from my wife, but none from yours truly. Not a hint of inclement eye weather… back then…

For the last two-plus months, we’ve been pushing our youngest to clean up the room that looked like a stranger happened by and tossed a hand grenade.

I offered to help like I did when she was younger, but she pushed back, turned me down flat, told me she’d have it cleaned in time.

I used to wear the crown of procrastination but found in time that it was too cumbersome to be under. I withdrew as the king of procrastination. In fact, I became the spokesperson for anybody that participated in the art of waiting till the last minute to get things done.

I shared my insight on said subject with my daughter, but could see I was having about as much impact on her as a tear in the rain.

I get it… I know first hand the power of genetics; headstrong, stubborn, learning the pot is hot by grabbing a handful of it, rather that grasping the truth in the honest words shared by someone who cares.

As the war of a clean room waged by us on our daughter approached its eighteenth anniversary, tensions were high. Emotions were becoming so deep we were swimming in them.

Finally, two days before D-day, she started to do her hand washables. “Better late than never.” I thought.

There were still the bombs of threats fired from our side and the typical sarcastic responses from a young adult in the days between high school and college.

Come Friday she was still trudging through the wreckage. On Sunday, D-day, the youngest called in a backup; her sister who’s famous for her organizational skills.

By Sunday evening the long war was finally over, the fighting in the early stages of transforming into memories.

I stood at the bedroom door that up till that day was always purposefully closed. I gazed in, almost shocked. Not so much by a clean room, but the feeling of it.

a clean room

a clean room

We were victorious… It was a clean room… but she was gone.

I thought of Solomon, “To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven”… including the battle of a clean room.

Something is always gained… and lost… with the coming and goings of the seasons…

GET YOUR MIND RIGHT

“You just gotta get your mind right,” the older kids told us. Sometimes before, sometimes after their stories of how they mustered the courage to face their Goliath. It was never a real giant or fire-breathing dragon, but they were tales of survival all the same.

“You just gotta get your mind right”, some bragged, others tried to encourage, to pass along some wisdom to those they called “still wet behind the ears”… whatever that means…

Personally, it took me a long time to figure out how to get my mind right. Even with the best advice, it takes some real life bumps and bruises to put some feet on the old adage, “You just gotta get your mind right.”

Later, I heard men who have done time in prison use that phrase, usually with a far away look in their eyes. That look in their eyes helped keep me in the “Bending the rules” column, instead of the “Flat out breakin’ ’em”, one.

I didn’t do it on the way into the “death tube”, but it didn’t take long to do some fast catchin’ up once I was inside. It was one of those scenarios that if you don’t get your mind right in short order, you’ll make a complete spectacle of yourself, and miss being diagnosed.

It was called an “M.R.I. tube”. What X-rays are to busted bones, M.R.I.’s are to ripped ligaments and soft tissue. The original M.R.I. tubes were designed for Pygmys, so as the table slides into the tube it folds your shoulders up like how we used to fold paper airplanes as kids.

Get your mind right

image courtesy of www.pinterest.com

It’s no easy task to lie there, stuck, with no way out, in a dark tube, with the sound of hammering rocks in your head. You have a choice; you can just get your mind right, or scream like George Jetson calling for his wife to “Stop this crazy thing. HELP – JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANE!!!”

That’s where I perfected the art of “speed praying”. I’ve done more than my fair share of time in the “death tube”, and every time inside I thought about my brothers. Them, and my dad’s tiny tool box mounted under the bed and behind the cab of that old 60′ Ford pick-up.

I was limber and my brothers wanted to show off my talents. As the youngest, I was more than happy to be the center of attention. Till, once inside, they slammed and locked the tool box door. I screamed like a girl. I didn’t even care.

When my wife booked our flights to the island in the Pacific, I thought about scuba diving again… and about “You just gotta get your mind right”. Flying for close to six hours over water can flat out rattle you.

But now, I know a thing or two about how to get your mind right. I considered the verse, “A man plans his steps, but God directs his path…” Then I “speed prayed” over the Pacific…

Just kiddin’… about the “speed” part, but not the “praying” one. That’s the real Truth about how to get your mind right…

TO BE GENTLE

Kids are like bulls in a china shop and struggle to grasp the world of physics. “Don’t slam the door!” we’d get yelled at… but it takes time to learn to be gentle.

It gets a whole lot easier to learn to be gentle and the effects of physics when you have to start paying out of your own anorexic wallet.

“You gotta let it out slow… real gentle like,” my oldest brother said. He was trying to teach me that some things in life required finesse, a degree of gentleness.

A ten-year-old mind trying to coordinate gentle between a gas pedal and a clutch is kinda like trying to teach a coyote to play nice with bunny rabbits.

After stalling our dad’s old orange Chevy work truck, it lurching like a bull from a chute several times, I did my own figuring; less gentleness, more ruthless action.

To be gentle

image courtesy of moment car.com

The next time I dumped that clutch, I made sure I pinned that ol’ gas pedal to the mat like an Olympic wrestler. That was the second time my lack of gentleness darn near killed my middle brother Bobby. That time it was accidental.

The time I shot Bobby with my oldest brother Dean’s slingshot wasn’t. That rock dropped him like Goliath… then again, he’d never gone out of his way to be gentle…

I tried to communicate a little better than the generation before us. I’d give details about the consequences of not being gentle with things. “Don’t slam the doors, it’s hard on the jamb, causes drywall cracks, wears out the hardware, breaks the bond of the glue on the applied moldings,” I explained. They just looked at me like I was speaking French…

They got older and drove their vehicles up the rolled curb of our driveway, kinda like they did speed bumps in parking lots; like they weren’t even there.

“You gotta slow down, crawl over them, eventually, if you don’t, you’ll trash your front end and I’ll have to get it fixed,” I warned. All three of them, make that four, including their mom, still hit the rolled curbs like Big Foot does the monster truck ramps.

It’s easy to tell others how to be gentle, the advantages of it, and the disadvantages of being harsh.

Back then I never stopped to consider their perspective… or mine for that matter. I wasn’t gentle. I never learned how to be gentle. I only figured out how to save myself grief physically from the laws of physics.

It never dawned on me that gentleness starts on the inside and when it’s just about not breaking things physically on the outside, it’s legalism…

My girls saw a hypocrite. I could tell them how to be gentle physically, but all I showed them was how to be harsh spiritually.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…” (Gal. 5:22 KJV).

Many of us know too well the love, grace, mercy and gentleness, extended to us daily by our Father… and yet we struggle to pass those free gifts on to others.

I’m reminded that it’s only in Him that we can truly learn to be gentle.

POETIC JUSTICE

I’ve heard it called “poetic justice”, even turned the phrase myself on occasion, but it’s hard to find the poetic when it feels like the unwritten laws of nature are getting even with you for past trespasses.

image courtesy of askthemoneycoach.com

image courtesy of askthemoneycoach.com

Some folks refer to it as “karma”. Others throw out the old “what comes around goes around” adage, like it was scientific fact. Billy Shakespeare called it “a pound of flesh”, which is exactly what it felt like I was givin’ the searing concrete gas station parking lot… on bended knees.

Back in ’79’ or ’80’, my buddy Kelly’s dad had a Plymouth Duster with a “340 V-8”; it was even painted onto the back of both rear fenders. The car was fast, really fast, but it didn’t have wings.

image courtesy of bringatrailer.com

image courtesy of bringatrailer.com

The once sleepy little town of Lake Havasu City, born by the damming up of the Colorado River, is nestled into the foothills where the steep run off created deep washes and ravines. So many that it would be impossible to build bridges over all of them.

They just smoothed the dirt a bit, slapped some asphalt down and called it a road. They did, however, pop for some bright yellow triangle shaped signs and stuck them along side the road on each side of the dip to warn travelers of the “dip ahead”.

On occasion, Kelly would earn the right to “take the ol’ man’s car out”, and he took it out alright… and up.

I rode with Kelly and a carload of other teenagers that know how to make a small town less boring and everything innocent life threatening.

Kelly called it “dip jumpin'”, and we flew through the air in his dad’s Duster just like Bo and Luke did in the General Lee on Dukes of Hazard.

That feeling of anxiety and expectation in your guts and bowels right before takeoff is unforgettable. So are the relief and gratification of not dying after the Duster finally quit bouncing off the earth.

No one was the wiser of our reckless “dip jumpin'”, until Kelly’s dad, out of town on business, put two and two together, but couldn’t put the pieces of his front end together that were scattered like Humpty Dumpty.

Now, “dip jumpin'” Kelly’s dad’s car wasn’t my idea, but in hindsight, it could be that the universe holds me guilty as an accessory.

Our youngest daughter used to hit curbs in my car like Chicken Little does the panic button. I’ve had the fiberglass front spoiler fixed time and again.

I never gave much thought to the air dam behind it that it was attached to. I hadn’t given much thought to Kelly’s dad’s Duster in decades either. Not until after I’d limped my car into Yuma, halfway between Phoenix and San Diego.

I’m fairly certain God didn’t punish us for trying to fly like Evil Knievel and angels. It could be that it’s just a fallen world and folks lack wisdom, especially teenagers.

I do believe that God takes bad things and makes them beautiful. He calls it redemption.

Since wisdom has great value… maybe so does poetic justice.

YOU DROPPED A BOMB ON ME

There was a song that bounced it’s way up the charts back in the eighties by a group called The Gap Band. They had a few big hits, but I think their biggest, and my favorite, was titled, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”.(click here for a trip back in time)

you dropped a bomb on me

image courtesy amoeba.com

I don’t go out of my way to listen to that song these days, although I should, but I’m still astounded how our brains work and amazed at how an old song from decades back can be prompted by something not remotely related, like say… a little birdy.

It’s a rare occasion when I expose my skin to the vicious rays of the sun. And when I do, it’s not for long. Some of us have to learn the art of moderation the hard way. That’s what makes the unfolding events what the bookies call, “A long shot.”

I was taking in some sun, watching the birds, and the time, pondering the possibility of hummingbirds having bird ADD. They were eating, but seemed to be constantly distracted and couldn’t resist a little horseplay… or whatever birds call it. Maybe bird foolery.

The world of the sky in nature looks like orchestrated chaos. The crows, the blackbirds, the birds of brilliant color, and the wrens, they all dance across the sky like shooting stars.

There’s just something about looking up… I think it’s designed by God. The simple physiological act of raising our chins from slumping, it somehow lifts our spirits as well.

But even on a good day, things can go south… and not just for the winter. We’ve all had those days, the ones where things seem to be cruising along just fine, and then calamity, of varying degrees, gets dropped on us.

The bombs come, but how we deal with them, I think, has everything to do with how long the shelling continues, at least the way we perceive it spiritually.

All of us, at one time or another, have scanned the sky, pondering our difficulties, and have, maybe not verbally, but at least in thought, told God, “You dropped a bomb on me”. I’d also bet that it’s not a few of us that have even shook our fist at the Almighty.

There are big bombs and miniature bombs, but all of them can have an effect on us when we feel like we’re the target. It’s about perspective.

The older I get the more my perspective parallels The Serenity Prayer; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve had bombs dropped on me my entire life, just like all of us, and I used to seethe with anger and hatred.

The bird reminded me with a ghastly test… he dropped his bomb from his rear cargo door about ten feet up. I nodded, giving him kudos for his pinpoint accuracy.

I also sang him a song as I was heading to clean his bomb off of my shoulder, “You dropped a bomb on, (Duh-duh-duh-duh, baby) You dropped a bomb on me.”