Friday, April 27, 2007

Back to the Future

Somethings just need to be left alone, like beehives, sizzling coals, government employees, construction areas littered with non-English speaking men on their smoke break, cactus, scabs, ceiling insulation, and the past. Sometimes, yes sometimes, it just needs to remain where it belongs, behind you.

We seem to be in the rehashing generation. Everyone needs to talk things out, clear the air, vent their frustrations, release their tention, right the wrongs, and get closure.

I think those are excellent ideas. Here's how I'd do it:

- Need to talk? Get a plant. They'll actually appreciate it.
- Clear the air? Open windows are good for such things.
- Vent your frustrations? Punching bags don't feel the blows, people do.
- Release tension? $65 for an hour massage will be worth the money.
- Right some wrongs? Put your energy into helping someone else.
- Get closure? Leave it alone. Closure just happens.

Don't stand with your eyes on the past, turn your focus back to the future.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Fisherman

Wrote a letter to Larry Huntsperger, author of "The Fisherman," recently. (He graciously responded the next day.) This is an amazing book about Peter and his grandest adventure as the best friend of Jesus. The book is out of print as of December, but still available on Amazon. And a journey each of us should be willing to grab our nets, pack a few dry clothes, and climb onto the boat to experience. You may discover how much of Peter you really are.
Here is the email and my own Peter experience.

Mr. Huntsperger,

It was my favorite aisle. Somewhat dark. Secluded. And the book selection excellent. I saved that aisle during my visit to the library to the very end. It was so secluded, like my own private book collection. Row stacked on row stacked on row, I knew the profile of nearly all of these books. After years, their sharp chins and pointed noses were familiar, like the recognizable drawings of Albert Hitchcock and his potbelly.
So there I was, walking that special spot in the universe, when a new book walked up to the line, turned sideways, and waited for acknowledgment. The color of it's complexion caught my eye. "I don't remember you. Who are you? Where did you come from?" I picked it up and met, "The Fisherman."
I wouldn't say it was kismet or even fate. But I read the first paragraph in Chapter One and couldn't put it down. I tried but it stuck, no chewing gum or Karo syrup needed. It just wouldn't budge. Finally, I tore it's talons from clutching my hand and I set it back down. But I needed to read this. I HAD to read this. I stood in my secret garden for a few moments, holding that book yet again, knowing it had to come home with me.
That was perhaps one of the best decisions I made that year, whatever year it was. I LOVED your book. Adored it. I read it and cried and skimmed the words with my mouth open. Sometimes I even added a few head nods. It was a very interactive experience.
Afterwards, I talked about it to everyone. I went to Mardel's, took every copy they had (about three), which was all I could afford, and asked if they'd be ordering more. I even got a copy into the hands of Larry Payton, the owner of Celebrity Attractions and producer of the national stage production, "The Rock and The Rabbi," about Peter and Jesus. The play is one of the best I've ever seen, absolutely amazing, and it reminded me of your book. I told Mr. Payton about it who agreed to read it. A week later, he sent word that he loved it and had passed it on to his wife to read next.
Anytime I've met someone struggling to understand Jesus, I said, "I know this book you should read. If I get you a copy will you read it?"
My father, also a pastor, read it and wept. He said it was incredible and kept my last copy for far too long. I staged a coup and took it back.
I don't know why I'm writing you now. It's been a few years since I read your book, but I still love it. Today, in the midst of deciding to either follow God's voice no matter the destination or sit in my quiet cubicle life and despair, I thought of something in your book, of an imagery I haven't been able to forget.
There was Peter and his crew, tired from fishing all night, and with nothing to show for it. Jesus told them to cast the net one more time. Just one more time Peter. Don't ask questions. Don't explain the tide or the temperature or the lay of the sea. Don't grumble about all the effort you've already exhausted, your unending knowledge of fishing, or your half truths. Just cast the net. And in exasperation, he did.
Suddenly, the waters moved. The surface erupted. And the fish crawled over each other, anxious, willing, excitably even, trying to get into that net. As if they were saying, "I want the honor of following my Creator's voice, even to death. Give that honor to me!"
I've never forgotten that scene. And I realized today, that's what I want. I want the honor of following my Creator's voice, even while I die to myself. So today I searched for you on the web and found one of your friend's on myspace. I know him only as Mr. Jackson. He directed me to your website and email.

So thanks. That's all I wanted to say. You're writing moved me. It did more than that, actually, It affected me. It gave me a vision of a Savior I want to know in perfect clarity. What you did has enriched my faith. And I'm quite grateful. Wordy. But grateful.

Tara Lynn Thompson

P.S. You can visit my blog, if you are ever interested, and read today's blog. I didn't mention the book. But it inspired me to write, "My resignation letter". Thanks. My blog is

P.S.S. I'm going to read your book again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My resignation letter

Stop trying. Just stop. This very moment, quit.
I've been a fighter my entire life. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try harder again, and again, and again. And just keep trying. And put more effort into it. Give it all you've got. Don't back off or back down. Don't let up or let go. You'll succeed if you put your back into it, your arms into it, your legs and your core and your pinky toe.
That's me.
And somewhere along the way, some mile marker I never noticed, the successes stopped. The wins decreased. The victories didn't come.
I gave it a little more.
Still nothing.
I gave it all I had.
I muscled up more strength.
No, was the answer. A resounding, unyielding, immovable, unshakable, unintimidated no.
It hasn't been easy to swallow for a fighter, retired too early to the bench. I just needed to train harder, eat more protein, get my second wind.
Today, strapped with this no answer for far too long, I came upon a note. It was double-stitched with flowers around it. And it was hanging on a bathroom wall. It said something very similar to this, or this exactly, "Be still and know that I am God." And underneath was a little geographical location, Psalm 46:10.
Be still. Do nothing. Relax. Don't move. Let go.
I read the entire Psalm and reread it again. I realized what I was reading was my own resignation letter. So here it is, the Psalm, written in my own hand.
Ladies and gentleman, I'm quitting. And here it is, in my words, in black and white, Psalm 46

"God is our fallout shelter and heavy-weight, a primed warrior when trouble comes knockin.
So we're not going to fear. Not going to do that. Even if the earth starts doing a jig and the mountains topple into the ocean like in Superman I;
Though the waters start howling like a disgruntled and mammoth sized sea urchin and even the mountains freak out.
Then we'll see Fantasy Island, although it isn't a fantasy, with it's beautiful waters crisp and cool and giggling. God has a place here, above the peaceful streets, where He's on call 24/7. Ready to respond with a simple prayer, instead of the Bat signal, which can be costly and difficult to operate, not to mention inconvenient and somewhat gangly.
There are other places, sin cities, where people snarl and try to pick your pocket. They talk a lot of smack, as if the earth will obey. But it takes orders from no one except God.
And He's ready to battle it out, always and forever for us. He's like Rocky, but without the calcium deposits, and His speech is easier to understand. Plus He has a mighty posse of angels you don't want to tussle with.
So open your eyes! God is amazing! He's superfantastic! He's an active environmentalist, a peacekeeper, and likes to bend weapons in half with his bare hands.
Take a knee. Take a chill. Step back and relax and take a look. He's there, all around you, above everything, high on that hill at Fantasy Island.
And He's ready to rumble."

Effective immediately.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The wiles of Wal-Mart

I walked slowly. Down the aisle, toward the shampoo, I limped and stepped, limped and stepped. If nothing else, it gave me character. But mostly, it just kept my ankle from throbbing and my back quiet.
So I limped and stepped, limped and stepped, walking into Wal-Mart during the frenzy hour. If there's one thing I hate, it's celery. If there's two things, it's celery and driving on empty. But somewhere on that list, probably between popcorn kernals stuck in my teeth and biting into aluminum foil, is going to Wal-Mart during the frenzy hour. I'd prefer to starve. Or do without toilet paper. Or just skip whatever necessity has propelled me there.
To me, it's a wasteland of shredded nerves. Everyone's anxious. Everyone's in a hurry. Babies are crying (they feel my pain). Moms are wickedly verbal or exasperatingly silent. Men are gumbling. Cell phones are ringing. People are yammering. No one is happy to be there.
Hit Wal-Mart at 2 a.m., completely different atmosphere. It's a nest of curious people and odd conversations. But at 5:30 p.m., when the school bell has just sounded, it's just screaming kids running for the playground.
But I went anyway. I had big priorities to fill. I wanted a new notebook. And darn it if I wasn't out of baking soda. So I went, limping and stepping, limping and stepping.
The place looked pretty much the same. No roller coaster had been installed since my last visit. I didn't see a traveling circus inside. Just people. Just aisles of goods. Just individual agendas rushing about trying to reach a goal.
And there was me, walking like the film reel was stuck, moving as if the focal point of a Matrix sequence. I did my Tara two-step to the stationary section, a shuffle to the toothbrushes, then I made my long track across the country to the north shore of produce. All of it I did slowly, moving to my own rhythm, not stopping to smell the roses because they were out of season, though I saw a nice fake arrangement of vines near the sewing needles.
It occurred to me, about the time I was surveying the bottles of olive oil, that this frazzled mess of a place, this hub of my disdain, didn't seem to bother me at all. Of all the times I should be loathing my presence here, I didn't loathe it. I didn't even seem to mind. Hurrying was out of the question. It was pointless to try. So I moved like the weary ship among familiar waters, though turbulence lapped at every edge.
Miraculously, I was unfazed.
The shocking truth hit me, somewhere between the Long Island of the new spring line and the Rockies glittering in the jewel cases, nothing had changed. Nothing in this madman of a convenience store had changed. Nothing but me.
It was my own hairbrained rushing, my own need to grab the goods and go, that made the event so detestable. All along, it was me.
I pondered this awhile. Besides, it took me forever to limp and step from the pharmaceuticals to the checkout lane, from the parking lot to my parking spot on the west coast. I had time to kill.
So often, more than I'd care to admit, when someone asks how I've been, I reply with, "Busy." And if they press me further, I might add, "It's just been crazy lately. Just crazy." I can't figure out what the blue blazes I'm talking about. WHAT'S been crazy? Life? It must be. Because I'm consistent with my answer. There is NEVER a moment I'm not busy, not moving, not trying to obtain a goal, an errand, a location, a particular achievement I've set for myself that day - be it baking soda or bedlam.
In all that scurring about, when, if ever, do I actually stop? When do I calm the noise? And if I don't, how can God EVER get my attention?
I've not been so jazzed with Him lately. I've been in pain, my schedule got rearranged, and dang it if God didn't allow SuperVideo to charge me late fees. Truth is, everything suddenly came to a halt. No more moving. No more achievement. No more. I sat, I stared, I waited for the nothingness to end. But what I wasn't doing was stopping. I wasn't listening. And I had left God with no other choice. The rug I was standing on got pulled. And I fell.
I read a prayer recently that has been jingling around in my brain like a pop lid stuck in the can. Initially uttered by Sir Francis Drake and later repeated by missionary Jeanie Curryer, here is the prayer,
"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little. When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord."
I finally reached my vehicle, parked in that spacious lot, with no sense to rush into traffic at all. In fact, I felt completely and utterly at peace. Instead, I sat there, reclined, and enjoyed the scenery.
Finally, perhaps the first time in ages, I stopped.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from The Sound of Music

- Having trouble sleeping? Count raindrops on roses.
- Needing some new clothes? Try window shopping. Drapes are everywhere.
- CSI on rerun and craving a mystery? Solve a problem like Maria.
- Feeling lonely? Grow Edelweiss. Every morning it greets you.
- Ending a delicate relationship and don't know what to say? So long, farewell, auf Weidersehen, good-bye.
- Depressed? Tie a brown paper package with string.
- Low on cell phone minutes? Buy a whistle. Give your friends their own signal.
- Don't know where to start? Start at the very beginning. It's a very good place to start.
- Want variation in your workout? Run and sing, clicking your heels together periodically.
- Sudden case of amnesia? Go with "me." It's a name I call myself.
- Thinking about dating? Wait a year or two.
- Feeling bad about yourself? Have confidence in sunshine.
- Hearing ringing in your ears? It's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall.
- Want in the Guinness Book of World Records? Climb every mountain.
- Lost in the woods? Follow every byway, every path you know.
- Need a light? Wait for fate to turn the light on.
- Trying to get out of a ticket? Remind the officer somewhere in your youth or childhood you must have done something good.
- Want to start a new business? Get a loan. Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.
- Planning a Halloween party and need a good location? The hills are alive. That's pretty freaky. I'd check that out first.
- Someone make you mad? Call them a flibbertijibbet.
- Want to know who's gossiping about you? A prince on the bridge of a castle moat heard, men in the midst of a table d'hote heard, and one little girl in a pale pink coat heard.
- Looking for a higher education? When you read you begin with A-B-C.
- Need a man? Join a convent.