Saturday, July 27, 2013

Birthday Serenity

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,

Grace... it's the gift that you don't have to earn. It's the thing you can never get on your own. Grace is the blessing that cannot be bought or sold, only freely given and received.
Serenity... the gift of peace with yourself. Calling a truce with your own flaws and faults. I acknowledge all that I am today, and embrace the person God created me to be... the person I choose to be.
So much of life is beyond my grasp and control. Circumstances. Situations. The choices other people make or don't make. In spite of all my best efforts, my health can still fail me. Neurons misfire. Chemicals flood or dry up. Rogue cells can grow into tumors, no matter how many green vegetables I eat.
I cannot change natural law... natural consequences. To embrace that, I must release my hold on this. Pick up one end of the stick, and you  must pick up the other. I can choose how much of myself I share with you, but I cannot change the way you react to what you see.

Courage to change the things
which should be changed,

Courage is the triumph of love over fear. It is the act of will that says, " I will try to do what I know is right, no matter the cost or consequence." Courage is not satisfied with half-measures and good intentions. It is action. It is force. Courage sees the potential for good in the world, and refuses to accept past failure as destiny.

and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

The fool shakes his fist at the clouds,
While the sage is building a shelter for the village...

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,

Ashamed of yesterday,
Afraid of tomorrow,
I will be left paralyzed...
blind to the magnificent possibilities of today.
I cannot redeem what has been lost, or control what is to come,
I can only accept the grace of Now,
The gift of God that is this moment
My moment
To fill with love or fear
With life, or living death.

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

And when the obstacles come, as they must
May I see them for what they are...
Life passing by
Water flowing along the sides of the ship of my life,
Events and circumstances.
Time and space,
The river of life whose channel I navigate
As each eddy and current presses me this way or that
As branches and garbage float in my path
Sand bars
Wind and ice
Each showing me more about the river and my own little part in it.
They are my teachers
Guiding me toward safe harbor

Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,

"Thy will be done," he prayed. Not because he accepted the injustice and cruelty of this world, but because he knew that only open eyes can see what is and what is not. How many times have I looked at the world through the filter of my own desire?, my own interpretations? How often have I seen what I wanted to see, choosing to ignore whatever did not fit into the framework of my own imagination? To see the world as Jesus did is to look through God's eyes, not our own. It is to accept each creature as a being with integrity and flaws. It is to respect... to look again and again... always searching the heart, not the surface... always seeking the truth of what is, never settling for the smoky reality of what I believe might be.
And finally, seeing through God's eyes means honoring the choices that other people make. God has the power to bend any creature to his will, but chooses to allow us the freedom to act according to our own conscience instead. God grants us that dignity... we are free to be who we are. If I am to embrace the world as God does, I can do no less.

Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,

And it is that surrender, that submitting to things as they are that is the hardest part, isn't it? To accept that all things are as they should be feels weak somehow. Complacent. The sick are sick because that is God's will? The poor? The suffering? Is there nothing to be done?
There is a lot to be done. But change requires two things: serenity and courage. It requires the serenity to accept the truth of things as they are, and the courage to seek and obey God's guidance as you work to make the wrong things right.
So I surrender to God's will, I accept the things I cannot change, but I never surrender to the fear and death that keep me from serving my Creator and the creation of which I am a steward.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

And what is it to be happy? It is to live at peace with yourself, with creation, with your Creator. To be happy is to live in love with the world, and see it through the courageous eyes of one who is not afraid of the truth. To be happy in this word, or any world, is to embrace a spirit of gratitude for the lessons of the past, for the possibilities of the future, and for opportunity of the present.
I'm 53 years old today. And I am blessed. I have people who love me. I have a life that has come close to ending more times than I can count. I have lost most of my worldly wealth, but in that loss, I have become as rich as anyone. I continue to grow. I continue to learn. I continue to run. And I thank God for all that I have.
It's a hard lesson... but after half a century and then some... I believe that I'm learning to be happy.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon and George

Two frightened men met on the street that night.
Each alert
To a threat
That wasn't there.
One wanted a safe neighborhood.
The other wanted a snack.
Two innocent men
Taught to be afraid

Ships that should have passed in the night
Set on a collision course by
Faulty guidance,
Each saw only the shadow of a hull
Not the passenger on board.

Familiar silhouette in an unfamiliar place,
The swing of the hips
The roll of the shoulders
Hands full
Head covered
Everything he knew about strangers told him
The boy was Trouble.

Raised on tales of lynch mobs
And tow chains
Fire hoses and burning crosses
He heard the footsteps
And knew what they meant.
Fight or run. Live or die.
No lynchings tonight.
Not this time.

Crouching in the dark
Stalking the stalker
Did he hear his own frightened young heart,
Or just the angry blood roaring in his ears?

Stepping carefully
His target lost,
Was there a moment when he wished
He had listened to warnings to wait?

And as they rolled on the ground
One driven by outrage
The other over-matched and in pain,
Did their eyes ever meet?
Did they ever get the chance to see
How very afraid the other man was
On that dark, dirty street?

Did time stop?
After the explosion?
As one lay bleeding into the other?
Before  the heart squeezed into silence?
Did they learn the truth, even then?
As one light went out?
And the other slipped into shadow forever?

Two frightened men met on the street that night.
Each alert
To a threat
That wasn't there.
By their own imaginations.
Two innocent men
Taught to be afraid.

May God have mercy
On their teachers' souls.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Learning to Be... Alone

Lonely. In many ways, it's the most frightening word in the English language. Alone with my troubles. Alone with my thoughts. Just me and the man in the mirror. He hasn't always been my favorite companion.

We talk a lot about self-esteem in this world. Some people consider this a very bad sign: an indication of a people who are no longer interested in anything but themselves. Yet, the more we do to protect our self-esteem, the less comfortable we seem to become with whoever it is that we are. For many, and often for me, the prospect of sitting quietly with no music, no video, no book to read, no screen to lose myself into is downright terrifying. We say, "I'm bored," but I wonder if what we really mean is "I'm scared."

Scared of "lonely." Scared of the empty space that surrounds us. Will I be able to fill it? What if I can't?

I slept late this morning. 8:00 when I opened my eyes to see the sunshine and blue sky through my blinds. "What will I do with this beautiful day," I thought, breathing the cool morning air. "I need a playmate."

And now that I've showered and had my coffee and peanut butter toast, I wonder, "Why?" Why not a beautiful day with myself? Why is my first impulse to look for another? What do I want from them?

As you might guess, my shrink and I have spent more than a little time on these questions. Reflecting back on my life, I discover that I've been looking for something from other people for as long as I can remember. The little boy who sang for the grown-ups in church. The Boy Scout racing toward the Eagle badge his dad wanted for him, then suddenly turning away from that goal for the love of a pretty girl. The would-be preacher who heard his first applause and knew that the church would never be able to compete with a standing ovation in a darkened theatre. Lovers pursued, sometimes caught, always lost. Careers embraced and discarded.  What was I looking for?

And now, I am alone. No, not really alone. I have friends who love me. Mom, who will stick by me no matter what. Colleagues who respect me. A reasonably good reputation in my community. I have a safe place to live, a working vehicle, and food in the pantry. I am richer in people and things than most of the humans on the planet. And yet, I find an empty place inside me where Bob should be.

I have a theory: a question, really. It's a puzzle I've never taken the time to solve, or even really consider because I have always sought out someone else who would do it for me. I think I have spent my life looking for someone to tell me who I am.

Who am I? Absurd. 53 years old and trying to find myself. It feels like a task I should have taken care of when I was 17. Now here I am, well past mid-life crisis time, and I don't have anyone telling me the answer. No wife. No mentor. No audience. I have friends, some dear old friends, but these days, they seem as curious as I am. It's as if we're all waiting to find out who I'll turn out to be.

I want to run home. Run to my mother. Run to Martha. Run to rehearsal or the gym or church and beg someone to give me the answer. Find a friend. Find a lover. But then, there is another part of me that knows where that strategy has led me. I don't think I can ask anyone to tell me who Bob is any more.

I dream of a day when I can tell the world who I am. When I can tell myself, rather. The world will make up its own mind. People hear the story they think is true. My story has always come from the people who tell me what I wish were true. This is hard to put into words. It has to be hard for a reader to follow.

I guess I'm wondering if my Self is someone I need to discover, or someone I need to choose. Michelangelo was said to be able to see a figure in a block of marble. He just chipped away everything that wasn't the statue he saw. When I've chipped away everything that isn't Bob, will I find an empty space that needs to be filled, or will I find something I've been creating for years without realizing it?

I have no idea what's inside the marble of my life. But I guess it's time to start tapping away at the things I am not. And this is one project I'm going to have to do alone.

I'm not sure I can afford to get this wrong many more times...


Saturday, July 06, 2013


Something is lost the first time a relationship requires forgiveness... something you can never get back again.

It is harder to lose a true friend than to lose a lover... a true friend is so much more rare.

A little melancholy never hurt anybody.

Isn't it surprising: that disappointed feeling you get when you look out the window and realize that the rain has stopped?

There are two true things in the universe, and three that never fail:
The road to Hell really is paved with good intentions;
No good deed ever does go unpunished;
A fool and his money were never really that close to begin with.

Where do you get the nerve to say what Jesus meant when you don't have the guts to do what Jesus did?

There are way too many cords and cables in my house... that's an important metaphor for something, but I have to admit it eludes me at the moment.

God knows us for who we really are... maybe that's why we can't look Him in the eye.

Pulling up to someone's house and honking your horn is almost never the best way to call them to the door.

There is no substitute for knowing why you get up in the morning, what you really want from love, or how to make a really good omelette.

I have always preferred romance over reason... romance just seems better designed somehow...

There is nothing quite as liberating as the moment you stop trying to talk yourself into doing something.

Sometimes I am filled with shame and the terribly damaging things I have said and done while positive I was right.

I would trade it all if I could be a rock'n'roll star.

Pity the ones who have let life beat the foolishness out of them.

Blessed are the dreamers, for they shall break their hearts against the universe... and God's love will flow out around their feet.

I would rather fail in love than prosper in fear.