Sunday, February 28, 2010

When the Path is Dark

I wrote this shortly after the Haiti earthquake.
When the path is dark and the trail is crooked it is hard to walk straight without tripping. Many times trials have come, and dragged me along with his companions’ grief, sadness, and despair…. Here again I am at one of those times. The TV screen flashes images that scream accusing me again, that God deserted his creation and more personally me. Feelings, emotions fill the room strangling a faith that only a few days earlier was secure.
From my early youth I was taught the traditional Christian message. That God is just, completely righteous, perfect in every way, everlasting in his love, all powerful, and who is completely faithful. It was never a debate in my mind that I was a sinner, as I demonstrated regularly the opposite of God’s traits. I had no trouble with the teaching that my sin separated me from this righteous God. The Christian teaching that taught, God provided a way to remove my sin, and this I accepted. Intellectually, I understood He took upon himself the penalty for my sin, but an intellectual understanding is hollow, and in that hollow place, dance the demons that major in fear. It took some time before I could believe that it all applied to me and accept that the Father was rather warmhearted toward me.
I came to a place where the taught tradition became my personal faith; where I depend on the creator to be all that the scriptures say He is. On more than one occasion it has been necessary to choose faith in God and his goodness even though my feelings were telling me the complete opposite. Here we are, one more time where feelings are just not reliable.
These are times where old messages, old convictions, come and steer me along this bumpy path called faith. Memories of past struggles help pick me up and put me back on the straight path.
At times I get a bit peeved at our creator by His way of faith but I am thankful that he is fond of me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toe Nails, Piercings, and Man Purses

Normal everyday things now and then strike me as downright curious. You know those little things on the end of our feet? They are certainly peculiar, and almost funny. Have you ever been to the beach and walked around looking at people’s toes? They are all so different there are long toes, fat toes, short nailed toes, pretty painted toes, ugly man toes, and toes with giant corns sticking out of them.
Regular things done in excess can also be weird. Have you ever had someone say to you, “What are you looking at?” That happened to me the other day. I said, “Oh, sorry, nothing, nothing.” What I wanted to say was, “I was starring in awe and wonder, trying to figure out why someone would take a perfectly good set of lips and let someone poke holes in them.”
I am pretty sure people do this mostly because they want to be looked at. So, it kind of bugs me when I stare and they react with “What are you starring at?” I have recently concluded they like being starred at, just not by me.
My friend Abe, you all remember him? He first gave me the idea that people who do such things want attention. When Abe and I are in the vicinity of someone that has gone over the edge in their weirdness; he will start talking to them about their weirdness. He might say something like, “Hey, when you are eating rice, do you have any trouble keeping from spitting rice across the room with that barbell in you lip? One time I listened to Abe have a 10 minute conversation about hair dyes, techniques to apply, and the best hair dye brands with a kid who had bright green hair. Abe says to me, these people who do these behaviors have a need to be significant. So, when I talk to them I am giving them a small piece of significance. Well, I figured Abe’s words made pretty good sense.
The above principle does not always apply to people acting and looking weird. One day I was in line at the pizza place and a giant of a man was standing next to me holding a purse. Now I should probably say, when this occurred, I might not have fully understood the principle: “When you don’t understand something you might be miles ahead to just keep quite.” But, of course I thought I understood this poor man’s position exactly. I figured this man was whipped and his girl friend or wife was in the bathroom and had told him to hold her purse.
So, in an effort to show mercy and kindness to him, I casually open a dialogue. “Don’t you hate it when your woman wants you to hold her purse? I refused to do that a long time ago. You might think about taking a similar tact. I am just trying to help, next time you might end up in a more embarrassing situation than a pizza place holding who knows what.”
“Mr. this is not a purse it is a _ _ _ _ _. It is a man’s bag. “
I think the word he used to describe the bag was French. I don’t care what name he gave it. That did not change the fact it looked like a woman’s purse to me.
“Oh, I didn’t know there was such a thing. Sorry!” I meekly turned and walked to the other side of the waiting area hoping he would not follow me. I checked to see if the huge man was self controlled and apparently he was. I didn’t get the stuffing kicked out of me that night. Whew!
Just being friendly has brought trouble my way on more than one occasion. In those times I surprise myself with what comes tumbling across my lips. I will think, ‘Grayquill did you actually say that?”
“Of, course you did, if you would listen to me now and then instead of just willy-nilly saying everything that pops into your head maybe you would be in less trouble.”
“Oh, so you think you can do better? Why don’t you do the talking from now on? “
“Hey, I try to. But, when I know it is better just to be quiet, the silence seems to kill you and you just take over with blah, blah, blah, blah… and then we are both in trouble. I would appreciate it if you would just take a nap when we are in the company of a person. I’ll tell you what - you talk all you want when we are in the car alone or in the shower, or alone fishing, but when we are in the presence of people why don’t you just let me do the talking?”
“You know you are real a pain sometimes. Are you done now? Have you sufficiently shamed me? Or do you need to continue?”
“I am done.”
Is there a lesson here? Yip! Why wouldn’t there be…”If you talk to yourself, try not to answer yourself in public. People will just think you are weird.”
Well that certainly was a big mess…crazy people talking to themselves, feet and toes, man purses, piercings, and blah, blah, blah….. Sorry for wasting your time.
But seriously, people are very odd sometimes. There is an area in our city called Capital Hill, it is known for its weirdness. A full day of entertainment can happen, just sitting at a sidewalk cafĂ© watching the sea of humanity stroll by. That statement drips of judgments and biases – “I am better than them.” - Does that pretty much cover it?
I am as sick about that as you are.
Growing up, two dominate messages followed me into adulthood. One was: Anyone different, had something wrong with them and I needed to be afraid of them. The second was: Anyone different was probably a heathen, not nice, and probably out to get me.
Even though I am still a little afraid of anyone different I have found underneath the tattoos, the piercings is a person who sometimes feels lonely just like I do, is afraid just like I am sometimes, talks to himself just like I do on my blog, and probably is trying to figure out this thing called life much the same as I am.
A quote from Steve Brown might serve well for our lesson - “I am just a beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread” That might be a good starting point.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This and that

This morning the sun is out and there is not a cloud in sight. It was a bit chilly, so I built a fire in the wood stove. I think sometimes that old stove is my best friend. It never argues, never complains, makes almost no demands of me, and always keeps me warm - although sometimes it is a bit high maintenance; every hour or so it wants to be fed. But I only need to clean out its litter box once a year, okay, maybe more than once a year but it is still a whole lot better than a cat.
It is an amazing thing (at least to me) a few winters back I was out of firewood and a big hemlock had blown down through my garage, across my yard and a good distance into my neighbor’s yard. When I cut it up, the diameter of the last two rounds were too large for my chain saw and its 20 inch bar, and that was cutting from both sides. I did finally get it cut through and it measured 42 inches across. It was a big tree, at least by my estimation. Are you still reading? Are you still there? I thought maybe those last few line may have put you to sleep.
All that next winter I burned that tree in my old wood stove. When spring finally came I emptied the stoves litter box of ash, can you believe it that whole tree fit into a single 5 gallon bucket. Pretty amazing - don't you think?
Yesterday, my friend, Abe and I went on a short hike up near Snoqualmie Pass. Abe has two yellow labs – you have met them before Max Aswell and Buster. Well of course they had to go along. I like his dogs okay but Abe insists they ride in the cab with us. He does have an extended cab but those dogs are still entirely to close. I know they are to close because upon exiting the truck the black sweat shirt I was wearing had dried dog slobber on my shoulder and left arm and although I couldn’t see it I am pretty sure my left ear was also covered in Buster slobber. Eight month old Buster felt it was necessary to lick my ear about every 10 to 15 miles along the way. Grrr…
I think Abe must actually be a better friend than that wood stove, for me to put up with that. The dog slobber is not a new experience for me - it is just something that is required if I want to be Abe's friend. The sweat shirt has already been washed so I guess a little dog slobber is a small price to pay for having a great friend.
Is there a lesson here? Of course there is: Always wash the slobbered up clothes before showering then no slobber will be tracked into the house.
We can talk about dog hair another time. Thanks for stopping by and reading to the end.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl, Fishing and a Compliment

Can a person even be an American and skip the Superbowl? I don’t think so. I don’t follow professional sports much. In fact, I had to ask twice this week who was playing who and I already forgot who is playing the Saints.
Football does savor a soft spot in me though. It was 1965 maybe 66, I am not really sure. My oldest Brother RC was just back from Vietnam. The summer months sped by with him picking up my brother and me every Saturday morning in his new silver Mustang –sweet! The routine was always the same my younger brother, M, and I would dig the worms, make the sandwiches and take turns riding shotgun. The hour plus drive to Mt. Index, the left hand turn off Highway 2 brought us to the river, our river at least it felt that way. We fished all morning, maybe panned for a little gold, and after lunch, about 1:00 my brother RC would take a nap in the sun. M and I would meander up and down the river looking for periwinkles. The worms were long gone and fishing for 8 inch trout at age 12 was mighty important work. I don’t recall catching that many fish but I do remember RC letting me drive that new Mustang on those gravel roads. I remember him teaching me how to pan for gold, I remember getting knocked on my butt shooting his shotgun but most of all I remember he liked me. No, he never let me take the Mustang out of 1st gear – he wasn’t crazy.
Summer ended, school started and Saturday brought watching college football with RC. I don’t remember much else about that age but having a brother eight years older is about like having a god in the house. You see, anything he did, I wanted to be right there with him.
This brother had a soft spot in his heart for me; at least I still like thinking he did. He gave me my first job job as a helper building houses. The first compliment I can remember receiving came from him. I laugh now because his boss had told him he liked working with me because I had the good sense to hold a board. Usually it was just me and my brother siding houses in a large housing development. But, then one day we moved to an apartment complex and I was assigned to work with the boss. Six inch beveled siding, an entry way, and the boss held up a board. Without being told I held the other end. Pretty insignificant but he thought that I had good sense and told my brother who then told me. At fourteen with buck teeth, skinnier than a rail, pimples all over may face, and every subject at school a struggle especially if much reading was required…a simple compliment was something I laid in bed at night recalling with delight.

The lesson of a compliment is an important thing. I hope you will look for an opportunity this week to see the good in a young person, then tell him/her. It may be the first compliment they will remember receiving, your words have more power than you might think.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Great Liberal Brother

It has been said that, I am so conservative I make Rush Limbaugh look like a communist. In contrast I have a brother who is so liberal one would think Ted Kennedy was actually a Republican when lined up next to my brother’s ideals.
Now, I will be the first to say that maybe the above statements are a bit of an exaggeration at least the part about how liberal my brother is because if truth be told using my brother as the liberal standard I am pretty sure Barbara Boxer might actually be head of the Republican Party. All that said, I take great comfort in this – I know without a doubt my liberal brother would die for me if it was necessary. Of course why wouldn’t he? He is a liberal.
Brother, I so appreciate the love, but now that the subject is out in the open, I guess you should know, if it became necessary for me to lay down my life for you? Hmmm…I think we got a problem. After all you’re a liberal and we all know my left side is my weak side.
With the contrast deeper than the great Grand Canyon between us; can you imagine what it might be like if we were stuck in the same house together for five days? Last spring it actually happened. I will let your imaginations enjoy a time of free wonderment about how those five days went.
Before getting to the crux of this writing I need to mention one more item on the subject. “Brother I am sorry you have lived your life so sadly wrong – it must really suck to be you. – Side note: having your own blog has its advantages – I love that it is so one sided (my side) such a great feeling of power. Ahh…. spoken like a true conservative.
Recently, I sent my Flaming Liberal brother one of those forwarded emails that we all get by the thousands – just to bug him. Of course I deleted all the forwarded data so it looked like my own – I know it is a bit shameful but I am not ashamed, we conservatives think nothing of maligning or defrauding our fellow man if it serves in strengthening our wealth and power – don’t believe me? Just ask a liberal he will tell you it’s true. I would post it here but it is simply dull, dry and boring compared to my brother’s brilliant response. His response was near genius…thankfully it came just short of labeling him as one of those smart people I so detest.
BTW - I have my brother’s permission to share his response. Arkansas Patti, Dianne, and Betty… this one is for you. May I suggest sipping a little champagne while you sit back and enjoy a rare liberal moment of brilliance. Let the good time liberal smiles begin.
I think that the reason I am Liberal rather than Conservative, is that Conservative ideas just don't work anymore in a society as complex, interdependent, and large as ours is.
Grover Norquist is a leading thinker in the conservative movement. (If you say so brother, I never heard of him. I would have been more impressed if it was George Will, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh) He has been quoted as saying, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Norquist favors the elimination of numerous federal organizations including the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration, Education Department and the National Endowment for the Arts.
If we follow this line of reason what happens? Let me imagine your day today.

I expect that this morning when you awoke, you reached over and flicked a light switch, and the lights came you expected. This happened because in 1937, under Pres. Roosevelt, the Bonneville Power Administration was established. A Federal organization which has been mandated with providing consistent electricity generation and transmission in the NW since that time. After showering with water delivered to you by your local government, which manages water delivery and waste management. You then went downstairs and perhaps while eating breakfast turned on the TV and marveled at the destruction from the recent earthquake in Haiti. Estimates are that perhaps 500,000 died. It was magnitude 7.0 I wonder if you thought of the earthquake in Seattle in 1965, a magnitude 6.5 to 6.75. The total damage from that quake was $800, 000. Three people died from falling debris.
What was the difference? A little something called Universal Building Codes, which have been mandated by local governments in the US since 1906 and became national in scope under the Clinton Administration.
After breakfast you got in your car and drove to work on the Interstate Hwy System, maintained by Federal dollars. Along the way you may have stopped for gas. You didn't worry about the quality of the fuel you put in your car, because you realized it was checked by a government agency. Then you arrived at work. You worked all day and suffered no injuries, partially due to OSHA mandated work rules. Since today was payday, you were very thankful for your paycheck, from n organization financed by local, state, and federal tax dollars.
On the way home you may have swung by to say hi to Mom and Dad, who are living independently rather than depending on you and me, partially because of the Social Security Act of 1935, again implemented under Roosevelt. You probably asked about their health, and Mom probably told you about their recent Dr. visits, which were paid by Medicare, established under President Johnson in 1965.
After leaving their home you drove home. I wonder if you thought about how great it is, that one we both love, is doing well thanks to a long stint in drug rehab at a local agency, which receives funding from state and federal sources as well as private donations. While continuing your drive you probably turned on your radio and listened to Rush Limbaugh. I'm sure he came in loud and clear on your radio, thanks in no small part to the FCC which assigns radio frequencies and insures that transmissions are consistent. You may have called your daughter on your cell phone too. Again, made possible in part by regulation of the FCC. Did she tell you how much fun she is having at that State Funded University she is attending? I love it every time she posts on FB. I think she is in NYC this weekend. I am sure she had a safe flight, thanks to the FAA and the TSA.
Upon arriving home you made yourself dinner. The food you ate was safe and nutritious thanks to standards imposed by the Federal Gov't. I wonder if you thought about that night your house burned? And how there was an insurance company that paid for the reconstruction. Did you consider how remarkable that is? BTW, Insurance companies are regulated by insurance commissions in each state, to insure that coverage paid for, is available.
So after that long, productive day, in which your life was very good, thanks in no small part to liberal government programs you sat down and wrote a rant about how bad liberals are. Liberals who championed, fought for and continue work to protect all of the things you enjoy on a daily basis.
THAT is why I am a liberal.
Well he sur nuf shet mah mouth dint he? I’ll be stay’in away from that bob war fence from now on. Nur wut we’s gotta admit here is that that there brother of mine is purty gosh darn smert, who wulda thunk a liberal could be so smert. I din’t reckon there were anyones gud nuff to be aktlly smert in the hole bunch but this jest proves et if there’s one that’s not ignert in that there hole wud pile there could be hope for this great nation yit.

Update: And once again proving "What is beyond our control is within our influence" here is my brother's new blog Blue Ridge Wandering