Squelching heat out on the porch - it has been a long day in the sun. Men and women fan themselves with whatever makeshift hat or paper they can make suitable for the job.
Play the instrumental beginning (first 1.3 minutes) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnXLVTi_m_M) Summertime by Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald. Summertime - heat. Not long ago, I was having a conversation with someone on the difficulties facing the western world today. She said, are you kidding? Post Depression, WWII, Racism, Vietnam: her perspective was right. Her view was seasoned with 80 years of age and circumstances.
I LOVE this song because it whisks the fresh air of nostalgia and life like a breath through the keys of social media. Politics - lots of division on both sides of the table. Religion - lots of division on who is in and out. Technology - lots of division on globalization. It depends upon your perspective, your age and circumstances. The heat gets turned up as the ebbs and flow of life sweat expectations down your spine.
The sweat on the front is down shirts and dresses; this is the song of summer. It is the indescribable mystery of love that sweeps through sun-drenched porches of wood and nails past the problems of the day. It is the language of humanity where music calls - and the generations of thousands of years melt into a single melody where everyone understands it's song.
It was a fundraiser I attended. It was a usual crowd of philanthropically minded men and women dressed beautifully and with the thought of blending music with education. The setting was stunning, the clothes exquisite, the music melodic, speeches engaging, stories inspiring and yet, I couldn't describe one single detail. This particular fundraiser blended with other ones that came before and others yet to come but a subtle non-verbal communication between an older man and woman lingered in my memory as a sweet perfume. There was something intangible and indescribably intimate between them. We were gathered at tables of 10-12 and the light introductory chat was what you would expect at an event such as this. An hour into a multi-course meal, I wandered closer into the investment of other peoples' lives.
The husband started choking - not the type that involved the Heimlich maneuver but one that nonetheless necessitated removing himself from the table. It is what the wife didn't do that caught my attention. She didn't jump to her feet and try to fix it, she didn't raise her voice in concern; it was her quiet subtlety that spoke to me. It was as if I was privy to a private and intimate conversation.
Where I am overflowing with words, she had none. It didn't feel like the "silent treatment" or a "lukewarm" response where little things just didn't matter. No, my intuition told me it was something else ... respect.
"There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice." F Scott Fitzgerald
I have written before about my parent's divorce but now after three plus years of writing and a deepening of my roots into the ground of faith, I see love through a different, more mature lens. It is agape - the rich and melodic song that satisfies the soul. It is not without tears but it sustains and refreshes the deepest part of a person in the heat of day on a sun-drenched summers' afternoon.
It was an explosive ending to a long story and one many kids bounce back from - divorce. My parents ended the relationship in much the way I always knew it to be - filled with dramatic emotion, heated words, dishes flying, closed doors for loving, a roller-coaster of feelings sweeping through open doors and windows as an air gasket on a loud tea kettle beneath a heated burner. I was a shy, awkward kid of fifteen. I did what most kids did in a generation before helicopter parents were invented, I stuffed any and all feelings down deep where only trap doors existed; sub-consciously, choosing to forget the roots of pain and disappointment.
Life would soon take a dramatic turn - i would have a step-father six months later but that first day I met him, he swept in on a scary day and brought me home. His love for my mom was abundant. So much so that I gave him a copy of a song by Singer/Songwriter, Kenny Rogers, Lady as a tangible expression of an intangible emotion. It was rare for me to dig deep into that locked cellar door to be vulnerable and real with someone I barely knew but I was relatively new on the journey and this felt decidedly real.
My mother was his - his to cherish; he never seemed to tire of her walking into an empty room, saying "have you ever seen anything so beautiful." That is always how I remembered them.
Thirty years later, he had every reason to survive the neck surgery but had an insurance policy of sacrificial words, just in case. "I want you to love again" he told my mother because he didn't want her to "to do" life alone. His life ended abruptly weeks later in a tender expression of love. And, she eventually found love again.
A rare white flower in a field of color.
There was fallout from the explosion. People were hurt; love was soured, emotions were broken and trampled. It was a highway of sub-conscious chaos and a wrinkled up map where kids had to be "quick on their feet" to keep moving forward. More emotions stuffed behind the cellar door. Then came a new high school, college, work, marriage, kids.
A game of jacks on the floor.
A dabble of red (his blood) and a bunch of fragmented metal pieces (lives), Christ enters the story for those courageous enough to enter the church doors of a relationship between your heart and his through the truth of His word. The doors creak open slowly at first among the wooden pews of grace and mercy until the chipped exterior paint gets worn and tattered and finally, a person is ready to listen. For some, the waiting may be a 40 year desert and for others a quick and responsive move.
It's fragrance is soft and sweet: it's sound is the embrace of arms whose shoulders have been strengthened through life's weights.
I want to rest in this place, if only to breathe in slowly - the window's light. God enters here.
When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Termanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11
The symbol of the cross - vertically and horizontally is an example of Christ in the midst. Depth and width demonstrated without words; it was in the subtlety of what the friends did not do that day. It was the non-verbal cues of a companionship marked by love, demonstrated by example through the scriptures.
I am guilty of being impatient. I don't want to carefully sift through the silver and gold jacks; just a quick swift swoosh, a pile of jacks and a quick catch of the ball after it's bounce and the game is finished. God, on the other hand, has strength through the quiet and subtle waiting. Refining gold and silver within us, taking pristine precision and care through the intricacy of lives, weaving people and himself though the blood of the cross. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." and they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 22:34.
A worship song turned prayer - I hope that I search for the giver of gifts rather than the gifts themselves. I don't like the pain part - just the redemption and neat and tidy story part.
The movie version of our lives needs a scapegoat; it is the "bad guy" character to every story that completes the fairy tale chapter. Have you ever played the "good guy", the "victim", the "martyr"; these are just a few of the sub-titles to the stories we write.
I am no exception. In the divorce, it was easier to align nobly and proudly with a narrative that my father was the ills of all trouble or when my husband moved several hours away for a lucrative job, a postponement of how I contributed to the loneliness in the marriage was negated. Taking ownership for the pain - courage to open the tightly closed cellar door in order for God to breathe life and "wait quietly" in the suffering.
This past spring, I had the opportunity to begin to change my sub-conscious judgements of my biological father through the washing of God's perspective of love. It was lemonade made from lemons on a hot summer's day.
To be honest, my step-father's example of authentic love helped me to have a reservoir of love to pour into my own biological father's cup. It wasn't in God's design for my parents to divorce but in the midst of the story, He was still there... He is in yours too.
I think it was the words not spoken that articulated a new narrative. Because of a myriad of steps, I was to pick my father up from LAX. If you have never been to the Los Angeles International Airport, it is a city within itself and the perimeter of commute traffic during the 4-6 pm time slot acts as a type of moat to get there.
My father was due to board the plane in Sacramento at around 4pm for less than an hour's flight to Los Angeles. The driving distance was about 6 plus hours. Having two 1/2 brothers about the ages of my own son, their work schedules in the film industry made it impossible for them to pick up dad. That started my waiting.
Taking into consideration the variable of traffic and maneuvering unfamiliar highways, I exited the freeway toward LAX around 4pm, about the same time the flight was scheduled to depart. My father's phone call set in motion a series of waiting.
With a diversion, I stumbled upon a nice neighborhood to get something to eat and browse before entering the LAX spin cycle. Once at the airport terminal, I discovered the seating in baggage claim, where my father would eventually exit the plane, was sparse and drafty. Using a make-shift dog-blanket from my car as a jacket, I found a wire bench and with a borrowed pen from a security card, settled in and began the wait.
Hours 1, 2 and 3 went by quickly. Hours 4, 5 and 6 moved slower. When I thought my patience had run dry, a woman sat down beside me. It wasn't long before she told me of her "near death experience" and how she changed her life toward Mission's work as a result over 30 years before. The conversation seemed tailor-made for me; it offered just the amount of water on a sun-drenched evening in a cold airport terminal.
And then, just past midnight, a frail man with a cap and small bag arrived at LAX. Nervous at first, my judgements were transformed into a rejoicing over a shared story of perseverance. That set the tone for a memorable weekend. It was less about me and more about understanding who my father is through a lens of faith. We read about ancient mythological stories of heroes and heroines but God tweaks perspectives into tales of redemption - conquering giants - our own. This is dad.
Faith does that - turning judgements upside down which causes us to search, not through our own understanding, but through a lens of love.
How much does God love you? With outstretched arms on a cross, Jesus replies, this much.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come alongside him and eat with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20
We, as a culture, has lost the value of grieving well. Avoiding disappointment, the masks are perfected because we are afraid of feeling.
What is buried behind your trapped cellar door?
God longs to breathe life ...
into us and through us
for the sake of
I pray my vulnerability invites you into your own intimate conversation with a living God.
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.