Chronicles in Ordinary Time 74: Life is filled with surprises…

p25From the soon-to-be-published, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

 Jim is a little dismayed…when he left for work this morning, his wife, Della had knee-length hair. At lunch he went out and bought her a pair of elegant hair-combs as a dearly-purchased present. Life is filled with surprises…

My birthday today. 63 is a surprising number. Not that I didn’t expect to reach this number, it’s just that it seems so soon; or so sudden. My brain is still somewhere in my 40’s. The last six years have tumbled all of my plans; and have made it difficult to make new ones…

In 2008 I worked with Medical Teams International in two different parts of the world. First in New Orleans, working on Katrina Recovery; and a few months later in Oaxaca, Mexico. While in New Orleans I watched an exhausted young couple coordinate the efforts of dozens of volunteers, sent out to various places, repairing damaged houses. Earlier in my life, I was a contractor; followed by 14 years in the Bureau of Buildings in Portland. I realized that I could give that couple a break; I knew how to do what they were doing. I just needed to figure out how I’d deal with the finances. I had a belt custom-made when I returned home, as a reminder of my desire to serve… Standing in my room in Oaxaca, overwhelmed with the foreign-ness of the nighttime activity happening on the street below, I realized that I might have found my purpose for the years ahead—using my experience in construction to help others around the world.

Six months later I started seeing neurologists, concerned about two numb areas, one at the bottom of each foot. Six months after that, I lost most of the sensation in my skin, over most of my body. While working with our church in building some homes in a village on the Baja Peninsula, I discovered that working with sharp things wasn’t very smart. I was able to draw blood without feeling it. A similar trip the following year, after the lack of sensation in my skin had covered the rest of my body; I was convinced that I was done with construction. I still have most of my tools; I haven’t found the self-discipline to get rid of them. Now, standing on my feet and walking around for a couple of hours exhausts me. My hands shake when I draw; I have difficulty with finger movement; so now I draw at large scale, and mostly work with digital versions of my drawings. There was a period in my life when I expected to become a ‘famous illustrator’. Life is filled with surprises…

And yet I still find hope… Not hope that the neuropathy will heal; not hope that I won’t have wheels in my future. Nor hope that I’ll still become a famous illustrator. Hope that things will work out OK.

It’s hard to explain hope; I believe that my hope is a gift of the Creator. I have two old guys in my life at present, 10-20 years older than myself. Neither of them has much in the way of hope; both expect to die soon, their dreams for the future unfulfilled. They are both angry. I’d be angry, too. Some days I am angry.

When I asked the Creator into my life in 1973, I determined not to become Religious. I found Religious people to be annoying; they had opinions about my life that had very little basis in fact. I have come to realize that the opinions weren’t far off the mark, because humans are remarkably similar; but they were rude in their presumption. There is nothing in my life that causes me to deserve Heaven, or to have earned a place in Heaven. We don’t spend Eternity with the Creator because we are good people. We spend Eternity in Heaven [whatever that may be] simply because that is what the Creator intended from the beginning of Creation. This idea messes with the minds of a lot of Religious people, and they have all sorts of verses from the Bible that justify their opinions, ‘proving’ me wrong. I learned a long time ago that there is no point in arguing Scripture with these folk. Scripture can justify nearly everything, if one is good at it.
There were two thieves hanging on a cross, next to Jesus. One of the thieves mocked Jesus.
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

No “Spiritual Laws,” no going to church, no being a good person, no not-doing a list of things that good people aren’t supposed to do. Just, ‘remember me.’ And a promise from the Creator of the Universe, come to earth in the form of Jesus. Most of the people who are most critical of non-Religious people are well-intentioned, although it often doesn’t seem that way. They just never learned to play well with other children…

I see life in America, and life in the Church in an odd way. A dear friend recently described it as a “Specialized Uniqueness.” I have to limit it to America, because I’ve seen very little of the world. I have friends in various places in the world, doing mission-work among people who’ve never really heard of Jesus. The majority of the world has never heard of Jesus, or have heard a very peculiar version of Jesus. To the uninitiated, it seems like missionaries are trying to ‘win points in Heaven’. From my experience, these are people who have found a way to make sense of life, and they truly want to share the experience with others, out of love and compassion. A compassion that isn’t found very often in this world. And yes, it often comes with a ‘yardstick’. To me, that ‘yardstick’ tends to make a lot of sense. But it can’t be forced. Jesus never forced anyone to do anything; and He was fairly intolerant of those who did. Somehow this part tends to get overlooked. He spent most of His time hanging around with the people that the Religious people couldn’t stand. Jesus liked to party.

I’m not big on parties. I don’t like drawing attention to myself [how I ever believed that I could be a ‘famous illustrator’ while not drawing attention to myself I’m not sure I’ll ever understand]. Maybe when I get Home I’ll enjoy parties…

 the universe in his hands_1


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One Response to “Chronicles in Ordinary Time 74: Life is filled with surprises…”

  1. in567 Says:

    Reblogged this on dear fcb.


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