Chronicles in Ordinary Time 26: Four Decades…


Today was my 40th Rebirth-day. Four decades in this walk of faith, a walk called Christian. My life has a soundtrack, as it is with many others. I think my life began in high school—Senior English—when ‘Captain Bob’ played for us the soundtrack to “Man of La Mancha:”

“I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined – -to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha.”

Church and faith were never a part of my upbringing. My parents, according to legend, were active in the church until their early adulthood. I was told once that my Dad was a lay preacher at some point in his early adulthood. Something drove my parents away from The Church. I was in my twenties when I first walked into a church sanctuary.

Listening to the story of Don Quixote was my first real lesson in the concept that one could live for something beyond one’s own life. I found the album during my first months at Oregon State University, and listened to my bootleg recording for years. In those years I learned to spot Christians from great distances, and to avoid them. My only real knowledge of what they had to say was that they said too much. We had ‘coffee houses’ in college; they had little to do with coffee, and much to do with folk songs. I could always tell when the Christians were about to sing, because they always had to explain the meaning of their songs; as if the song were so poorly crafted that it could not tell its own story…

I remember lying on my bed, for hours in the dim, listening to the songs of Judy Collins, Rod McKuen, and so many others. Dreary songs that matched my newfound understanding of just how crappy the world has become. Rescued by the Draft Lottery from a possibly short life in Vietnam, I lived among war protesters, dopers and murder. A young girl who lived two floors below me, was murdered one night; as it turned out several months later, she was murdered by a high-school aged kid whose emotional development didn’t match his intellect. She was murdered because she wouldn’t have sex with him…

In my third year of college, having transferred to University of Oregon, I was introduced to the concept that the Creator of the Universe had entered life in the form of Jesus Christ. At some point I made the connection that this incarnation was similar to when I picked up a rock, and found a bunch of wriggly creatures trying to escape the light. Unpleasant little creatures; what would it take for me to love those creatures enough that I would give up my life as a human to become a wriggly creature, so that I could share what I knew about Life with them… Multiply this by Infinity, and one comes close to the story of Jesus.

February 26th marks my ‘official’ entrance into the Kingdom, but it’s really the date that I audibly accepted the concept that I was willing to accept the Creator’s presence in my life. The journey of my acceptance into Faith took years.

the universe in his hands_1

Having come to an understanding of the concept that one could be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good,” I decided I wouldn’t walk that path. Many believers walk the high road that parallels the ‘Valley of the Shadow.’ I decided to find a path along the wall of that valley. Similar, I suppose, to my scaling the banks of the Sandy River as a young boy, looking for the ‘right’ place to fish. I never fell; I came close many times. I was carried downstream by the current one time, because I had stepped further out into the river, again looking for that ‘right’ place; my grandfather running alongside the river, trying to reach me with his pole…

You know what I’ve put myself through
All those empty dreams I chased
And when my body lies in the ruins
Of the life that nearly ruined me
Will You pick up the pieces
That were pure and true
And breathe Your life into them
And set them free?
And when You start this world over
Again from scratch
Will You make me anew
Out of the stuff that lasts?
Stuff that’s purer than gold is
And clearer than glass could ever be
Can I be with You?

A slight paraphrase of the Rich Mullins song. This life has nearly ruined me. Thirty years of pain, once again increasing, as I battle neuropathy. My balance is shot, my endurance is shot, my hands are beginning to shake enough that more and more of my art has to be digital…I can hold onto a mouse, and move it with my wrist, when my fingers won’t hold still. The computer at the school where I teach a digital art class has a stationary mouse with a track ball; there are days when I have trouble convincing my fingers to locate the correct place to grab a file. Empty dreams I’ve chased…

I’ve learned that this life, this long and short time here, is merely an eyeblink in the timelessness of Eternity. I’ve learned that I’m not a body with a soul, but a soul with a body.

Maybe the reason for the pain
Is so we would pray for strength
And maybe the reason for the strength
Is so that we would not lose hope
And maybe the reason for all hope
Is so that we could face the world
And the reason for the world
Is to make us long for Home
Well I know you’re past the point of broken
Surrounded by your fear
I know your feet are tired and weary
from the road that you walked down here
But just keep your eyes on Heaven
and know that you are not alone
Remember the reason for the world
No ear has heard, No eye has seen
Not even in your wildest dreams
A beauty that awaits beyond this world
When you look into the eyes of grace
and hear the voice of mercy say
Child, welcome to the reason for the world

Thank you, Matthew West, for putting words together that I haven’t been able to…

the universe in his hands_2





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