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Monday, January 31, 2011

What's in a name?

(This post is a continuation of the previous thread. i do that from time to time. Cuz i don't have the time or space to say what i want to say and let's face it, you probably wouldn't read anything that long anyhow :)

There was this girl. Nice girl, came from a lousy family but she tried real hard. Just wasn't given a lot of direction, you might say. So she kept screwing up, chased the wrong boys, hung out with a bad crowd, she was going nowhere fast. No job, no education, no real future. She finds ways to cope, you know what i mean?

Then she met this guy. The guy. He's rich, successful, classy, totally out of her league. Heck, he's out of anyone she knows' league. He's friggin' perfect. And for some reason, totally into her. At first she's terrified that if he finds out what she's really like, where she's been, about that trip to the clinic, he'll drop her like yesterday's tampon. But he's not going anywhere and you can't hide forever. Slowly, painfully, her whole ugly past comes out. Eventually he meets her crazy family. Even that isn't enough to turn him off. He asks for her hand, she accepts.

So the day comes. She's in a room with her friends, but she's completely alone. She's in a white dress, looking in a mirror. She feels like a fraud. She looks like a princess but she knows who's underneath. In a few minutes, that poor girl from the street is going to belong to someone amazing. She'll have a new home, a new family, security, love, things she always wanted but never dreamed would come. And all she has to do, is accept it. She can't earn it. She doesn't deserve it. It's all because He loves her. He will change her station. He is providing the home, the future, the security. He even bought the dress. The symbol of purity that covers her. In every way, His love for her is completely changing who she is and who she will be. And to show the world that- He will give her a new name. His name.

This is the moment we Christians live in. We're still in the world, surrounded by our friends but not the same. We have been married, adopted into a new family, a new home with wealth beyond our imagining. We have been made spotless, bathed and covered in a purity not our own. Because of Jesus' love we belong, we're wanted, we are changed.

We are new.

Agent Smith knows that too. But he knows that if he can keep reminding you of what you were, the son of Ander, son of man, he can keep you down. If he can keep hitting you with disappointments, false comforts; if he can keep dredging up your past, smothering you with guilt, responsibility, duty, false religiosity, he can pummel you into submission. The son of your parents cannot stand up to him. The daughter of your mother cannot break the cycle of failure. All your cleverness, all your strength, all your resources will fail to get you off those tracks. Will fail to save your marriage. Will fail to protect your kids. Will fail to ward off depression, addiction, bitterness or loneliness. You will be run down by car after car. It's inevitable.

Unless someone else lifts our head. Someone else gives us strength, wisdom, purity and a new name. Unless someone else gives us the faith to remember and believe that...

"My name... is Neo!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The sins of the father...

"You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson... "

Ah, the light at the end of the tunnel. Agent Smith sees it. He knows that you cannot rise above what you are. He knows you are just the product of genes and environment. A child ignored and neglected seeks out his own comfort and raises children who feel ignored and neglected who become seekers of comfort and neglect children of their own. Children of divorce, divorce. Children born out of wedlock become single parents. A parent injects their fears and false securities into the mold whether intentionally or not and the next batch is poisoned before leaving the nest. Lather, rinse, repeat.

"Nay!" say thee. "I am a ship, not a caboose! I choose my own destiny!" Good for you! Go forth and sail proud. But why, pray tell, in so many ports do people recognize you. "Would have known you anywhere," they chuckle, "you're your mother's daughter." Or do they grab your chin and burr, "Yew have the look of yer mutha." "Your old man was the same way at that age," they say with a shake of the head or a knowing smirk because they know the old man better than you. And one day, sitting on a lonely beach, the ship smashed against the rocks, holding a bottle with a note in your grandmother's handwriting, you look back and with the telescope of hindsight, you can plot out how you followed an invisible path that couldn't have been more rigid had it been two tracks made of steel. Oh sure, some of the details were different enough to cloud the journey, beer instead of vodka, porn for adultery, career instead of civic duty but the gutter outside the old port bar has tasted those tears before. They just fell from your father's eyes.

If you haven't reached that port yet, just wait, you'll get there.

Agent Smith knows this. He barely needs to hold your head to the tracks. You don't have the strength to fight fate. You couldn't win even if you knew what to do.

Except, you do fight. You roll forward and with a strength you shouldn't possess you push and through clenched teeth you tell him,

"My name... is Neo. "

But what's in a name? i'll tell you later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There is no spoon

Way back in the olden, golden days, when television had three channels and a random assortment of UHF signals that may or may not tune in depending on where you stood in the room and how you held your hands or whether mom was running the blender, there was a sitcom called "Taxi." Upon said sitcom was a character, played by the great Christopher Lloyd, called Reverend Jim "Iggy" Ignatowski. Jim was a child of the sixties, which means he was born somewhere in the late forties, went to schoolthrough the fifties and woke up one day from a flashback of the original Mouseketeers in a condemned building with an Ordination from the Church of Peace and a fingerpainted thesis to find himself in the seventies. Jim was on a voyage, in the sense that a raft with no rudder, sail or oar set adrift on the ocean without sight of land, is on a voyage, of self-discovery. Meaning, he was always discovering things about himself. "Jim," his fellow taxi drivers would exclaim, "I didn't know you played the piano!" "Jim, I didn't know you spoke French!" To which Jim might reply in wonderment...
"Neither did I."
i think i now know how Jim felt in those
moments. "Dad, I didn't know you could paint."
"Neither did I."
But apparently i can. i had always looked at painting as an easy way to ruin a good drawing. Now i see it as a separate entity all together. It's not just coloring in the spaces defined by the pencil. It's breathing life into nothingness. It's calling forth something that wasn't there before. But it took a new point of view to see it.
You can see it to the left, just a blur of color. Those darks, the obscene red and garish yellow. What the heck is going on? You might say it just looks like a mess and that's okay. Cause that's what i thought too.
Except that Mynnie who was sitting across the room said, "that looks great!" i wondered about her eyesight a bit but then i decided to step back and see what she was seeing. And there it was...
A spoon, from whence was none. i was just too close to it to see it and i knew what i was painting!
i was told about a family last night. The husband has had a brain tumor removed and is undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. His wife, wanting to leave him alone, decided to remove the snow that builds up on the roof between the addition and the main house herself. Instead of using the ladder like he always does though, she climbed out of a window onto the roof. And fell thirty feet. Concussion, broken wrists, broken leg, broken pelvis. She's now in a nursing home where she's looking forward to a long and painful therapy. Something else happened to the husband that i missed because he's in the ICU at the hospital. i don't know who their children are staying with in the mean time. If anyone's life looks to be a mess of the garish and obscene right now it's them. Suffering is like that. When you're in the storm, your reality is very small. You're not planning next week. You're surviving right now.
And there are storms all the time and of all kinds. And it may seem like God is sleeping. And you may be tempted, quite rightly, to yell out, "Master! Don't you care if we drown?!"
That would be a limited perspective though. With time to mull it over, you may remember that, of course he cares, he's God and loves you perfectly. He's also the master of the storm and if he's sleeping it's because he's not worried about it. He can pull back and see this maddening swirl from a different perspective. He can see how it fits into the whole. He can not only see the spoon but the cup and the chili.
And it's going to be delicious.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Where'd you get that tan?

Having a blog would be such a boon to my my myopic memory if i wasn't so adverse to living in the past. i was just about to launch on a retrospective of two thousand and ten when i realized... i have no idea what happened in two thousand and ten. So i let my mind wander back a bit... there was a new years eve party, i remember that. Couldn't have been that good a party then. There was a Christmas. i remember the big gift of the year being a big surprise, even to those of us who thought we knew what it was. (see last post for sorry tale) i remember Happ looking at me kind of funny when i made him read from the Bible to start Christmas day. Which, honestly, he should have seen coming after making a snide comment to me earlier in the month about how no one mentions Jesus during Christmas. That's what you get for being right.

Okay, so i've made it one week back into the Ten. Going a little further i see a totaled mynnie-van and a mynnie with yet new injuries to her already battered body. i see a best buddy battling a surprise cancer. Said battling looking mostly like sitting uncomfortably and waiting for other people to decide his fate for him. Lots of fun there. i see me nearly setting fire to a development. i see a father in intensive care with hoses and pipes leading to all major orifices and a family hoping for the best and worrying about the worst. i see me losing my job. And we're only into July!

So i'm thinking, wow, the last half of the year bit hard. i really don't remember anything all that bad ... in comparison... in the first half of the year. What did happen in the first half; how did i start it off? i decide to go back and peruse last year's blog-eggs. And there, second entry for the year in February is a post about my church closing. That's when two things hit me.
  1. My memory apparently reaches some kind of limit at six months or six events. And...
  2. Twenty-ten sucked.
Oh sure. The Silver Lining Society will certainly point out that all of these things led to a deeper awareness of God's provision and peace. And after all, hasn't losing my church forced me to ponder next steps? Hasn't losing my job brought more freedom and less stress (job related stress)? Didn't Pop come home after all? Isn't Ballisticat's prognosis hopeful and chemo going well? And wouldn't you say that Mynnie is far from as squished as she would have been had she hit the tree on the driver's side of the van? Not to mention the cool, new van, the Starship Mynnieprize. And wouldn't you say that this whole sorry tale of airsoft guns has taught Rascal a valuable lesson about how materialism does not equal peace, fulfillment or joy? Besides, he has a working gun now. Not the one he asked for, but it works.

Yes. Yes, you could say all of that and more. And still even be right.

And twenty ten still sucked. Just cause God brings you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death doesn't mean that it was like a vacation in Maui. It's still the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My skin may have a healthy, bronze glow but it came from passing through the fire, sometimes literally and not from sitting on a beach.

Now don't get me wrong. i'm not complaining. i'd rather go through the war with God than bask on a beach without Him. He is my treasure, my companion, my vacation and my joy. If here we are, almost a year later and i still have no church home, still have no job and no prospects of a writing/art career, if i glare as Cialis ads instead of laugh at them, if Monster Airsoft still hasn't returned my last angry letter or my money, i still have my Hope.

i said my second post in the Ten was about losing my church. As it turns out, my first one was about discovering that i am a hoper. i guess, as i tentatively stretch out one toe into the cataract that is twenty'leven, i should be thankful that my hope is not wishful thinking. Not denial. Not an inability to deal with my problems. It's not whistling through the graveyard. My hope is no paper tiger. It has been tested and found true. And it has a great tan!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Allow six to eight disappointments for delivery

There are people in this life that know what they want. Plan how to get it and then, go get it. Three step process. Identify. Strategize. Execute. Epilogue: sit back and enjoy fruit of labor.

And then there's us Frickens. On the rare occasion that we Frickens know what we want, it is usually out of reach, out of bounds, or out of stock. Take the typical case of one Rascal Fricken.

Rascal is twelve. Rascal loves his first person shooter video games. Rascal incessantly stalks around the house making machine gun noises with his lips. Yes, we are worried about Rascal. Rascal decided that nerf guns and paintball markers weren't doing it for him. He wanted an airsoft rifle. For the uninitiated, Airsoft are 12mm plastic beebee guns that often are the same size, weight and feel of the original military rifle they are based upon. They are used by military fanboys to simulate the combat they will hopefully never see but idolize just the same. Rascal doesn't have anyone to simulate combat with so i guess he just wants a more realistic toy for when he stalks around the house and make machine gun noises with his lips.

Regardless the validity of the dream, Rascal wanted an Airsoft gun. Rascal plotted, scrimped, saved and strategized. He located the particular gun he wanted and could afford, found a website and brought it to me. i warned him to do research on the website and the gun. He claimed to have done both. The purchase was made and the cold, hard, calicifying lesson in reality began.

When i was a kid, if you ordered something, you knew how long it was going to take to get it. Allow six to eight weeks for delivery. That was the mantra. That's why it was funny when Wile E. Coyote put an order form in the mailbox, stood there for fifteen seconds and got his ACME Little Giant Flying Saucer Kit without leaving the mailbox. Nowadays, kids don't laugh at that. Cuz that's actually the way it is. You click a mouse and the Ups guy is knocking on your door. This is the age of On Demand, OnStar and instant mashed potatoes.

Or, at least that's usually how it is. Apparently Monster is still using that old Speedy Delivery guy on the bicycle from Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. Have you ever been trapped in a house with a twelve year old who is waiting for the one thing he thinks is going to make his life complete? One of these days i'm going to have to try waterboarding so i can see if there's a comparison. It's like taking a trip to Grandma's that's five weeks long. i have no idea how people used to travel by ship. It's amazing any children survived after the first month of "Are we there yet?"

One week of "Do you think it will come today?" shy of an infanticide, it arrived. i'm not sure who was more relieved. After some assembly being required Rascal took his new toy outside and perforated the box it had come in with a thousand 12mm holes. And he was happy.

For approximately six hours. That's when the trigger broke. The next day the cleaning rod snapped and the simulated M203 grenade launcher under the barrel quit cocking. It became obvious to me that twelve year olds caught in the first blush of young lust are not to be trusted to do good research. So i wrote the company. The company rather bluntly directed me to their fine print. i wrote the company a slightly angrier letter. They agreed to credit us to another purchase from their stock. We sent the rifle back to them, yes, in the perforated box, i thought it a fitting show of our affection. About a month later the company responded with, not a letter to me, but a forwarded, inter-office memo from one schmuck in their warehouse to another schmuck in their warehouse about how he fixed the trigger and it should work as long as "no one tries to pull the trigger while the safety's on." i didn't complain too much about the sarcasm as this is exactly what my older boy had done. But i reminded them of the other malfunctions and waited another month.

Eventually they got around to telling me that they would give me the credit after all because one of their warehouse schmucks dropped the rifle and it broke in half. No foolin', that's what they said. Never mind that i had told them i didn't want the original gun back anyhow. By now, Christmas was approaching. The cost difference between the gun Rascal had bought and the "quality" guns was another c-note so Mum and i told Rascal that maybe if he picked out another, better grade gun, he might get some Christmas money to help. Rascal was in the dream factory now. A whole new arsenal had opened up to him. He chose a space-age looking Austrian job with picatinny rails for future scopes and grenade launchers. He made his selection and when his head was turned the elves went to work ordering it. Having some experience with how these schmucks operate, i kept a close tab on the status of our order. The order was confirmed on the seventh of December. On the fifteenth, they notified us that the item we had ordered, which was in stock on the seventh, really wasn't in stock but had to be ordered by them. We could expect it in 3-5 business days. Ten days later, on Christmas Eve, through a series of unfortunate events, we finally held the box in our hands. Something told me i should open it but it was Christmas Eve and i had a chance to have all of the gifts wrapped by midday for the first time in my life. i wrapped the gun without opening it.

Rascal has been a pretty good sport about it all. Especially when he opened it up on Christmas day, the day he had now been looking forward to since September. The day where dreams seem possible. Even if those dreams only involve more realistic Austrian designed focuses for machine gun noises made with your lips. He saved it for last.
The very last present.
It was a gun.
It worked.
It hasn't broke yet.
It's not the one we ordered. Coincidentally, it's a model that's fifty dollars cheaper than the one we ordered and doesn't work with the scope that his Grandma picked up for it. But one good thing came out of it all. i haven't been asked in over a week, "Do you think it will come today?" Well, not by Rascal anyway.

It's a shame that it wasn't a real gun though. That would have come in handy for getting our money back.