Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grace and Me Standing Quarterless at the Vending Machine of Words

Hi there.

I apologize to you; I have no idea what I'm going to say. I have no message. Just some life I'm living, so I'll witter on about that for a few minutes to keep this blog updated.

This afternoon my brother D. called. Our other brother, R., was taken to the hospital yesterday too weak to stand on his own and with a high fever and irregular heart rhythym.

Later, my wife called one of R.'s doctors who told her his condition and that because they couldn't yet locate the source of the infection (they were running tests) they were unable to treat it beyond giving him a beta blocker for his heart rhythym.

Irregular heart rhythym? Ah, now he's playing on my turf. I had atrial fibrillation for about a year with occasional episodes of ventricular tachycardia. That means I, too, had an irregular heart rhythym until two months ago when I went up to Stanford and underwent a procedure wherein the doctors stopped my heart then shocked it back into life--rebooting it, so to speak, into a normal sinus rhythym.

I called and spoke to R. on the phone about 9 p.m. He was groggy but coherent and seemed in good spirits, given his condition.

My wife, the ever-lovely Sturdy Wench, offered to ride down with me tomorrow if I wanted to see R., and I gratefully accepted her blessing. She keeps me sane around my family and supports me when I'm around them.

This is a time I will need God's grace in unsmall amounts. Given my past and present problematic relationship with R., I'm afraid this won't be an easy visit for me or for him.

R. is the brother with whom I've had the worst relationship of all my sibs. He's seven years older than I am, so when I was growing up, we were often bitterly antagonistic. I hated him until the mid 1990s when our relationship began to thaw and later I moved back to LA and lived with him for several months. We got along fairly well by then, even though I still saw him as a provincial, overbearing control freak (which he is) and he saw me as a stupid, fumble-fingered, ungrateful child turning his back on his family (which I am, minus the stupid and clumsy.) Eh, so we have a ways to go.

There's some more I could tell, but I'll stop here. I refuse to scare away anyone who takes the time to read this blog.

Dear Reader, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family and you make merry in your hearts, loving and being loved. Peace and grace to you this season.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grace and walking away from the mouse fart


So, now that I'm awake, what now?

First off, a realization: What had imprisoned me, and will do so again the moment I allow it, is my own fear. That's all. Just fear. Something that seems so overwhelming, yet also so small, thin and inconsequential.

How many of us fear someone, some situation, some circumstance or thing, only to discover when we're tossed into it, that our fear was papier-mache? Tinfoil, shadow and Popsicle sticks?

LOL! We were afraid of nothing but shadows and smoke!

Years ago I worked as a tech support agent for ACT!, a powerful contact management software application. I was a grunt, a first-tier support, the guy who's on the front lines, taking calls every eight minutes on the corporate 800 line. After a time, my boss called me into his cube and said he was moving me to the 900 number support line. This means the caller is now paying $3/minute to talk to me, and so only the better techs are on this line. No caller is going to want to spend $9 while the agent frantically surfs the company support knowledge base or runs off to find a second-tier tech to ask.

But me? On the 900 line? Man, I freaked out! What the hell was my boss thining? I can't do 900 support, I don't know the program well enough yet, my research skills are crap, I can't, I don't, I haven't, etc., etc.

The next morning comes way too fast and it's my time to die on the 900 line. 8:00...no calls yet. Whew! 8:01, no calls yet. 8:02, no calls yet. 8:03, 8:04, 8:05, hey I might survive this day, I might--8:06 RIIING! SHIT! My sphincter slams shut and I wonder how hard it is to collect unemployment as I clear my throat and stab the TALK button on my phone. "Thanks for calling ACT! support, this is Ken, how can I help you today?"

I breezed through the call. It was cake, I don't remember who or what it was, (probably blown index files or something) just that I answered the caller's questions quickly and without hesitation.

Damn, maybe I can do this!

And maybe I could, and definitely I did. In fact, I was on 900 support for the next year or so until I was promoted to the internal Help Desk at the company.

All that fear and anxiety, none of it worth a mouse fart.

I don't know if fear is a habit I can completely give up in a few minutes or a few months. Maybe not even a few years. But God hasn't called me to be fearless next year or next week. Rather, He calls me to trust Him a half-percent more than I trust in my fear. He calls me to be fearless only in my trust of Him, and that's problematic for me, given some of the issues plaguing our relatiosnhip. But, if I can set aside my fear of Him not being Him, then I think we'll go places together.

Like maybe off this dunghill and out into the sunrise....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Grace of No More

Pardon the brevity of this entry. The irony of this, given what I'm about to write, does not escape me.

Imagine if you will you have woken from sleep to find you are imprisoned. Bent over, knees to chin, spine twisted, arms and legs pressed into your body almost to their breaking point, your chest compressed so you cannot breathe, your own body heat threatening to roast you unless lack of oxygen kills you first.

This is how I felt 15 minutes ago.

This feeling came like an arrow from a clear sky. No warning, no line of thought going on noticeably in my head pointing to this realization.

I woke up in jail.

Not just in any jail--my jail, a cell I built for one inhabitant: Me.

And not just any cell, but one designed to force me to live small, to live inoffensively, to limit and to punish myself so much more greatly than my family could that their hearts could not help but be moved by my efforts and my plight to compassion, and then to love me.

As a result of living an insufficient, immature, cramped, stunted and trifling life, I have also been living unsuccessful and unsuccessfully.

I don't want to live like this any more. I want out. I want out and I want out now. My parents are dead, I can never win their approval. My siblings are so focused on material success their love for me comes with a price tag--the expectation I will perform for that love, like a circus dog jumping for a treat, to earn their love and approval.

Screw them and their clown suits and their love-at-a-price.

What I see as a spark of life right now within me I want to become a blaze.

I want to push the walls of my cell apart, stand up for the first time, breathe freely, see sunlight and feel it on my skin.

This is where I need grace. This is where I must have grace or I die. There is no half-way here, no diet grace, no compromise. This is where I need the quickening of the Holy Spirit and the power of the hand of God, to shatter down my walls as He did at Jericho, as He did in the Reaving of Hell during His three days in the tomb.

Or I will die in my own prison.

I will die small.

I'm telling you this because someone else needs to know this about me. I need to tell you this so I have no more excuses to hide, to dissemble, to put on a dog-and-pony show to distract you from asking me the hard question and thus forcing me to answer honestly.

I'm telling you this so I admit my need for grace. Admit it to you, to myself, and most importantly, to God.

Okay, God; now it's Your turn.