Which way? God Knows

This morning as I sat in contemplation, I began to think of the choices that people make during their lives. In the tradition that I came out of, people spent their lives trying to “discern” God’s will for them. We would fret and fume about making the so-called ‘right’ choices. We certainly did not want to make a wrong one and risk at the very least God’s blessing. And, at the worst, God’s condemnation. It was a nasty way to live. Always on the edge. Not quite knowing. Waiting for some Damascus road experience so that we could move forward with some degree of certainty.
As I reflected on this, the following began to form in my mind.

Many paths there are that we may choose.
Where do they lead?
God knows.
Which shall I choose? The one with rich, green grass?
What about the one flag’d gray?
Perhaps, the one of rut and mud?
God knows.
“Choose any,” a voice did say.
“For upon all I will with you stay.”

I think it doesn’t really matter. Follow you heart.
For God will be present and will bless wherever we roam.

Celebrating the Life of My Mother-in-Law

woman of valorThis is what I had the honor to share at my mother-in-law’s Memorial Service on Saturday.


We’re here today to celebrate the life of Irene (Mickie) Taylor. And, what a life to celebrate! Ninety-nine years of love and caring. As I began to reflect on her life, I was drawn to portions of Prov. 31. I’d like to paraphrase these portions beginning at verse 10, “She wears strength and beauty and she laughs at the future.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom and the learning of kindness is on her tongue. Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”

The ‘she’ that the writer was speaking of is Eshet Chayil. Those two Hebrew words are the first 2 words of verse 10. They have been translated many ways. Some translations say a “worthy woman.” Others, an “excellent wife.” Still others, a “wife of noble character.” While these may indeed characterize Mickie to an extent, there is another way to interpret Eshet Chayil. A “Woman of Valour.”

The word valour carries with it a kind of macho, male connotation. However, several synonyms show this to be an appropriate description of Mickie. Some of these synonyms are pluck, courage, bold, spirited. Anyone who knew her knows these words can surely describe her. I’d like to take a look at some other Women of Valour whose lives reveal some of these characteristics.

There was a woman who lived in what is now Iran. For whatever reason, her father-in-law thought it would be a good idea to pack up the family and move. So, they traveled to a place in the vicinity of Northern Syria. After a while her husband came to her and said, “God spoke to me and told me to pick up stakes and head south.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that by now this woman was beginning to wonder what was going on. But, she listened to her husband, they packed up all of their belongings and moved on. This woman’s name was Sarai. And, she was definitely in a trying relationship. After all, she had been perfectly comfortable in Ur of the Chaldean’s. Then just as she was settling in at Harran, her husband is hearing voices and the family was on the move…again.

After some time in this new land, Canaan, there was a famine. So, the family moved to Egypt where there was food. Her husband, Avram, made another not so grounded decision. He told Sarai that she had to tell everyone that she was his sister. He was afraid that, because of her beauty, someone might kill him in order have her. Well, that didn’t work out so great. Pharaoh found out about her and took her into his harem. God came along and bailed Avram out and Sarai was returned to him. The famine ended and Sarai and Avram went back to Canaan. Some time later God came to Avram and made a covenant with him to make him a Father of Nations, so God changed Avram’s name to Abraham. God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Abraham and Sarah moved around in Canaan because they had no land of their own. At one point they stayed in a certain place where there was a king named Abi-melek. Abraham apparently didn’t remember the trip to Egypt. He again told his wife to say she was his sister. Maybe Abraham thought that since things worked out so well before, they’d work well again. The story repeats that Sarah was taken into Abi-melek’s harem. Bad things happened and God came to the rescue. This was the second time that Abraham had placed Sarah, his wife, in harm’s way. And, the second time she followed his lead. That says a lot about Sarah’s character. Mmm, maybe not so much about Abraham’s.

Finally, Sarah became pregnant. She bore a son and he was named Isaac. Isaac was adored by his mother. After all, she was 90 years old! And, Isaac was her first born. What joy she experienced! When Isaac was older, however, Abraham said that he heard from God that he was to sacrifice this beautiful son that had been promised. How much he told Sarah about this, we don’t know for sure. But, the next thing we hear about Sarah was of her death.

Sarah surely had many trials being married to a difficult man. Yet, she persevered. She showed real ‘pluck’ throughout her life with Abraham.

For most of her married life, Mickie, too, had to show that same pluck. Every day she and Gene would get up and she would drive them to work. After a full day at Flexo Products, she would drive to Columbia Gas and pick Gene up. She would then drive across the street to a pub where she would wait in the car while he ‘unwound’ from his day. They would drive home where she then prepared a meal for the family. It was hard. She persevered through many trials. However, when asked what had attracted her to Gene, she said that he was kind. She was able to see the very best in people. That integrity and inner strength of character allowed her to not only be tolerant, but to be extremely gracious. And, that grace spilled over on to all of us who knew her. Truly, like Sarah, Mickie was Eshet Chayil.

Another woman lived at a time when her people had been deported far from their homeland. Her name was Esther. Through a number of events, this woman was noticed by Xerxes, the king of Persia. He took her into his harem. There, Esther became Xerxes’ favorite. As the story progressed we find that Esther’s uncle, a guy named Mordecai, uncovered a plot to assassinate Xerxes. He told Esther, who informed the king, giving credit to her uncle. We see here a glimpse of Esther’s commitment to her family and her people.

A little later a man named Haman rose up in the court of Xerxes. He enjoyed the honor and adulation of everyone who was subordinate to him. Mordecai, however, refused to honor him. It became known that Mordecai was a Jew. So, Haman petitioned the king have all of the Jews throughout the realm put to death. When Mordecai heard of this, he went to Esther and asked her to intervene. Now, it’s important to understand, that at that time anyone who entered the presence of the king without permission did so on pain of death. This held even more strictly for a woman. Yet, Esther prepared herself and, taking her life in her hands, she entered the inner court. Xerxes saw her, and “he was pleased.” Esther asked the king to come to a banquet that she was holding to honor Haman. (A wisdom that we aren’t privy to til this point.) On the second night of banqueting, Xerxes asked Esther what he could do for her, up to half his kingdom. She answered, saying that her petition was for the king to spare her people. She told him that she was a Jew and that Haman had orders to kill all of the Jews. The king reversed his decree and had Haman killed instead.

Esther was willing to forfeit her life for her family and her people. Regardless of any obstacles, she was truly courageous. Mickie absolutely would do anything for her family. She saw herself as the glue that held them together. No sacrifice was too costly. No discomfort too extreme. And, she could be very adamant about that. I remember once when Hope and I were dating, I brought up the possibility of Hope graduating from high school early so that we could get married. Mickie, in no uncertain, (and I might add colorful), terms let me know that was never going to happen. I’m sure many of you can relate a time when she drew a line and said, “No further!” Discussion over! Esther was definitely Eshet Chayil. Mickie was Eshet Chayil.

Finally, I want to tell you a story about a young woman. She was about 14 years old. She had been brought up and trained to be a good Jewish wife. All of her expectations and dreams revolved around this future. After all, in a very patriarchal culture, her options were limited. She lived in a time when a woman was little more than property. First to her father; then to her husband. These roles were strictly enforced by religion and culture. One day a man showed up saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” He explained to her that she was going to give birth to a son. Wait a minute! She wasn’t officially married. In fact, she had a fiancé who would be oh so ticked about his virgin wife becoming pregnant. Not only that, her family would be publicly shamed. They had promised Joseph a virgin. Not only would she not be that, she would bring an illegitimate child t, too. This young woman, brought up in a strict, religious home knew the repercussions of all of this…stoning to death. Yet, her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled”.

We don’t usually contemplate this. Mary’s response could have sealed her death. But, she trusted this messenger. No, she trusted God who sent this messenger. Mary’s response caused her to later praise God saying,

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is HIS name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary Lou mentioned to me that Mickie was as ‘born again’ as anyone she ever knew. I don’t think that Mickie would put it that way. She would simply say that “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled”. Her faith in God never wavered. She loved the fellowship of saints. She loved the opportunity to worship God in spirit and truth. Mary was Eshet Chayil. Mickie was Eshet Chayil.

There are many more women who were Eshet Chayil that I can’t say a lot about. There was Deborah who helped lead her people in their struggle with the Canaanites. Tamar, who was cheated by Judah and who boldly confronted him for the birthrights of her sons. One of whom, Perez, was an ancestor of Jesus. Ruth, who was also called Eshet Chayil, whose boldness continued the lineage of Jesus. Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Junius the apostle. Lydia, the first convert to Christ in Europe. Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Paul’s true son in the faith Timothy.

I could go beyond the Bible and cite Joan of Arc, Marie Currie, Mother Theresa and many, many other Eshet Chayil who have formed us, protected us, nurtured us and passed on faith, courage, integrity and strength of character.

Eric S. Kingston shares:

A woman of valor makes the world change

Her strength is the content that guides through the days

Defined by her actions that bring light to all dreams

Valor is something that’s defined by her deeds.

Her valor is golden, sparkled and gray

She stands up to the challenge no matter the way

It can’t be held back or defined by her age

Yes, a woman of valor makes the world change.

For valor’s not held by the young or the old

But by the deeds of the heart that give and unfold

It’s merit and honor that hold no disguise

Like the creation of being in the blessed Holy One’s eyes.

For valor is the color of the song of her soul

As she changes, creates and turns light into gold

Divine is Her Presence, be it joyous or sad

— A Woman of Valor —

May offer little, but it will be all that she has.

For only her heart will know the depths of her soul

That nurtures and blossoms and forever unfolds

And holds in its essence new life and new gain

Yes, A woman of valor makes the world change

A woman of valor makes the world change

A woman of valor makes the world change.

There is no doubt that Irene has taken her place as Eshet Chayil.

Wednesday Musings Reprise

I was going back through some old posts. I came upon this one from one of my Musings on Wednesday posts. Originally posted in October 2013, it seemed appropriate for today. Considering the struggles that I’ve been dealing with, this offers a glimmer of hope.

I love sitting in the stillness of the morning. Outside there are the sounds of crickets and the occasional acorn falling on a nearby rooftop. A candle, the scent of cinnamon, burns and fills the room with autumn. My thoughts wander here and there. They touch memories and sensations within me; without me. In the core of my being, my heart, I sense God’s presence. Peace. Be still, O my soul.

riverI allow the Muse to guide me. ‘Where shall we go? To what far off land or sea or star?’ Perhaps, we’ll simply drift on a river as it meanders through green fields. We listen to the sound of the water flowing gently over a bed of small rocks and pebbles. It tells tales of aeons past. It knows the fish and the fowl by name. Ancient people traveled along its banks; floated on its back. Never tiring, it bends and winds its way from its source to the Great Sea. There its life mingles with that of the Other in brackish love-making in which it is embraced, consumed by this One. Is this not the way of it? We travel the path before us. Touching and being touched we grow and we learn. From our beginning, our source, we are destined to live, laugh, cry…love. If fortune smiles upon us, another may join in our journey. A companion, a friend…a lover. However, our path and theirs are not the same. Even though we walk together I have my own quest. And, you have yours. Joyful as our time spent together may be, one day our ways must diverge. You will be joined to Another. Embraced by the One who is the true Source. And, I…I will flow into the Great Sea.

Frustrated with Where This Road has Taken Me

frustratedLast week I wrote in my journal for the first time in nearly 4 months. I think that’s the longest I’ve gone in 3 years. I don’t know why I stayed away so long. I enjoy putting words to paper. It gives me a safe place to share my thoughts. Somewhere that I can vent my anger and frustration and communicate with God and my soul.

I also noticed that I have found my frustration with my job, again. For at least the last half-year I’ve experienced a lot of ambivalence toward it. I mean, I haven’t been happy doing it. But, well, I really haven’t given a shit about it, either. I get up; I go to work; I come home. In the words of the famous sage, Garfield, “Big, fat, hairy deal.”

I found myself spending way too much time imbibing in my favorite adult beverage. Yeah, the pain and frustration diminished. But, so did my health.

So, what’s different now? I’m not sure, actually. I suppose part of it has to do with the season of my life. I’m pushing 60 and, looking back, I can’t see all that much that’s been positive. Yeah, there have been moments. The birth of my kids and watching them grow into incredible people. I’ve experienced some joy, (re. a little here; a little there), making music. But, by and large my life has been one bad decision after another. Shame, anger, frustration…these have all been my closest companions. Now, sitting at the cusp of another decade on this big, blue marble dancing in space, I’m not sure that I know who I am or what I’m doing here.

Some may simply blow this off as some kind of ‘mid-life crisis.’ Maybe it is; maybe not. I’ve been in the same industry, doing roughly the same thing, for 45 years. And, it was not my first choice for a career. I entered it as a convenience since my dad was in the same industry and opened some doors for me. My true love was making music. And, while my parents bought me my first guitar, they also made it very clear that playing would only ever a be a hobby. There was simply no future in music. So, it basically became a hobby. Because, you know, you’ve got to make everyone else happy.

As I entered into high school my interest in Christian ministry was piqued. I decided to go to Malone College in Canton, Ohio to begin walking the path to the pastorate. However, a month before I was to leave, I decided to go into the workforce. I had been working all that summer, had a new car and some money in my pocket. So, why bother with college? (Another bad decision.)

So, why am I sharing this? Well, I think that I’m not alone. I think that there are a lot of folks out there that experience depression, frustration, anger and regret because their lives have been something less than they expected. As teens and young adults we had great aspirations. I had the great fortune to grow up in one of the most idealistic times in history, the 1960’s. We witnessed, and were a part of, tectonic shifts in western culture. We were going to lead the world into a new reality that encompassed equality and justice. We fought against the horrific debacle that was Viet Nam. We pulled at the scaffolding that held up the political machines that oppressed African-Americans, women and other marginalized people. The so-called ‘establishment’ was vulnerable and we went after that vulnerability.

Since then, however, I’ve watched nearly all of those who stood with me for justice and equality join in the very establishment that we worked to get past. They have embraced the same white, privileged, patriarchal way of life that has placed it’s heel on the necks of the marginalized.

So, here I am. Looking back at lost purpose, missed opportunities and many, many bad decisions. I guess that I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. Or else, I wouldn’t be writing things like this. Things to stir up shit. Things to make complacent people think about their own place in the cultural cosmos.

What do you think? Has your life been what you once dreamed it would be? What suggestions do you have for moving forward? Or, am I a total loon that has missed the point? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The Only Constant is Change

Well, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? The winter seems to have put me into hibernation mode. Also, my mornings, the time when I normally write, were taken up with the Ignatian Exercises. So, I’ve found it very difficult to take time to collect my thoughts and get them written down.

Yesterday, however, something changed. For the past couple of years I have worked from about 5:30 A.M. until about 3 P.M. This has worked well for me. The traffic is light at both times. I am a morning person, so I have the most productivity early. Plus, I get out of work early enough to have a life. But, these hours have left me precious little time to be creative for myself. By the time I get home I’m usually pretty spent.

This week, however, I started a new venture at work. More on that later. One of the consequences of this is that my boss changed my hours to conform more to the rest of this new department. Now, I don’t deal well with change initially. Especially, when it’s sprung on me like this. I was pretty pissed about it. Doesn’t he realize that I do my best work in the early hours? Besides, why is he messing with me anyway?

I know myself well enough, though, that I knew I would eventually cool down and that rational part of my brain would prevail. (But, sometimes I think it would be fun to just turn my amygdala loose!) As the day wore on I realized that the later starting time, 7:30, would allow me to have substantial quiet time to begin my day. And, it would leave extra time to think, reflect and write. Also, the later ending for the day would allow less time for me to fritter away and get into trouble.

I have been praying for quite awhile that God would help me to see a way to get back to writing and to be more productive in the evening. This new arrangement may go a long way to seeing that prayer answered.

So, with that being said, I hope to be back here a little more regularly. Hopefully, one or two posts per week to get started. We’ll see. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken the time to do this. It may take awhile until I’m back up and running at full speed.

I want to thank all of you who have continued to encourage me during this time. You are all good friends. And, I look forward to rolling out some new features over the next few months. Blessings!

More Musings on a Wednesday Morning

4.1.1The journey begins. No one said that it would be easy. Rocks; boulders; deep crevasses impede forward motion. Yet, forward we must go. For, to retreat…to backtrack…is futility itself. Clambering over obstacles. Vaulting over lacerations  in the earth, deep and unhealed that no salve can sooth. Forward, ever forward.

Yet above, you know, that place where God dwells insulated from the mundane…the “everyday.” The place where mere mortals press onward. Forward, ever forward.

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child.” But, I am no longer a child. I am enveloped by the ‘NOW!’ Beneath azure skies where the gods dance I am enshrouded by the nebulous mist of incense filling the temple of my heart. NOW! Pressing me forward, ever forward.

Attentive to the sound of my breath; my heart playing rhythms reaching out to the life that surrounds me. Searching for intimacy. Where are you, my Soul? Come! Take my hand as we leap, dance and run forward, ever forward.

In those days darkness will draw near. The sound of flies buzzing in my ears. I will lie down to rest. Sleep! Blesséd sleep! Yet, the journey does not end. For even now…I must press on forward, ever forward.

Remembering Grandpa Tom

TomThis past weekend I got to know my paternal grandfather a little bit. I never did meet him before he died in 1959. I was just a wee lad and he lived in another state. My dad never talked about him much. He and my dad’s stepmother had divorced and Tom left dad with her. I don’t think dad ever really forgave him for that. The story was that Tom was an alcoholic and pretty much not good for anything. At least, that’s the version I was told.

I have spent much of the last month since dad’s passing sifting through papers, photos and other bits and pieces of his and mom’s life. This past weekend I finally got to the boxes of pictures and old letters. Scribbled on the lid of one box, with black magic marker, was “Tom.” In that box I found a treasure. There were photos of a young child in clothes that would definitely get him beaten up if he wore them today. Tom was born in 1897, so the styles, especially the dress styles, were…well, something to behold. Think of Ron Weasley at the Hogwarts’ Yule ball in The Goblet of Fire. There were a few family photos showing Tom with his parents and siblings. All of these image revealed the family standing rigid and straight-faced as if the camera was a firing squad. Then, I found a couple pictures with Tom and his first wife, Mary. That marriage did not last long. His second wife was named Goldie. My dad came into this life as the consummation of this union. Unfortunately, Goldie passed from tuberculosis when dad was just 6 years old. I don’t think that Tom ever really recovered from that. It seems that the loss of his beloved Goldie was the beginning of his downward spiral into the maelstrom of alcohol and forgetfulness. Tom did remarry, I think for Bill’s sake, but as I wrote above, that did not last nor end well.

Tom relocated to Florida where he pretty much fell off the grid. Perhaps, he thought that the further he could run from his past the better he would feel. He found employment on various farms helping to harvest citrus and other fruit and vegetables. These years have been erased…at least for me. Perhaps one of Tom’s siblings kept some information that has been passed on. But, I really don’t have any contact with any of  them. What I did find, however, was a stack of old letters and other correspondence from the last few years of Tom’s life. Most of the letters were written by Tom to one of his sisters in Ohio. These letters, dated between 1956 and 1959, revealed a man who was lost and reaching out to the only people who could connect him to a happier existence.

Tom was a simple man. The letters were penciled on small note pad type paper. The hand that drew the characters was not steady. Maybe from drinking. Maybe from handling something as foreign as a writing instrument. It was obvious that his education was not a high priority when he grew up. The spelling and grammar were at a grade school level. He was ‘shure’ glad when the ‘wether’ was nice and his ‘cocial security’ check arrived. The content was simple. He asked about his sister’s life and condition. And, he replied with reports of his health and the current weather conditions. I found out that my dad had been writing to him, as Tom wrote that he had received letters from Billy. Funny, Dad never mentioned that. From these letters I learned that Tom had to have a leg amputated 4 inches below the knee. He considered the repercussions that the ‘wooden leg’ he was getting would have on his life. I don’t know why the leg was removed. I think that the cause was a work related injury because he mentioned disability checks. But, that’s only conjecture. In letters dated form 1958 I learned that Tom had throat cancer. His frustration at getting straight answers from doctors was quite evident. (I guess some things never change.) At one point he wrote that he was convinced that he did not have cancer, but a ‘toomer.’ And for that, he was getting ‘treetment’.

In all of the letters there was an almost desperate longing for relationship. Although he put on the façade of someone who was independent and was taking care of himself, he ended the letters with pleas for his sister to answer the letter quickly. Or, he wrote for his sister to tell Perl, his brother, or Billy to please answer his letters. It was as if he was shouting, “Sis! Please tell someone…anyone…to talk to me, listen to me…touch me!” As the summer of 1959 unfolded, Tom’s health took a turn for the worse. I found a couple of letters from Tom’s doctor stating that there was nothing more that they could do for him. The best treatment they had was simply palliative, or comfort care. Late that summer my family and I were in Maine on vacation. It was there that dad received the call that Tom had passed.

We packed and returned home.

Tom’s sister made all of the arrangements to have Tom returned to Ohio where he finally found peace lying next to his mother in a small cemetery on a hill in the countryside.

I still don’t know Tom. I’ve learned a little about him. But, just like the word ‘tree’ is not actually a tree, these mementos are not actually the real man. There is so much that I don’t know about my adopted family. People I will never know…places and events that have long since escaped memory. I have few ties with the past…the legacy of humanity. I have embraced my place as one grafted into this family tree. Thomas Lester Helbert is the name of my branch.

Remembering the Class of ’73

This past weekend was our city celebrated Homecoming. There was the requisite high school football game on Friday night. On Saturday people gathered for a parade and other activities. Sunday morning the local Kiwanis club served their pancake breakfast to the hungry masses. This year, however, there was an additional event. It was the 40 year reunion of the Avon Lake High School class of 1973.

Forty years since a group of people, many of whom had grown up together, walked onto the football field dressed in maroon and gold caps and gowns.  Forty years since we sat anxiously awaiting the proclamation that we were free to go out and seek our fortunes. Forty years had flowed by since we hugged and slapped each other on the back. Forty years in which many of us had raised families and watched our children graduate from high school. Forty years that had passed by in a heartbeat.

We had a fairly good turnout for the event. Classmates came in from all over the world to attend. One good friend of mine had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur. Another from Atlanta, GA. Still others from New York, North Carolina and Chicago. I was surprised at how many of us still lived here and had never connected. Yeah, there are a few folks that I see from time to time at the local stores. But, out of all the people from our class, I can count on my fingers the number that I have seen and talked with. On that day in June of 1973 we all walked away from one another with our diplomas and our dreams.

The next day my wife and I told our daughter about the reunion. She responded that she probably would not attend any of hers. She said that she really didn’t have too many friends in her class, so why bother. I have to admit that I had shared a bit of apprehension about that myself. I don’t have too many fond memories of my years in high school. It was a time of transition and change. Awkward young teens growing and developing into young adults. New experiences and responsibilities strive with childhood security and comfort. There is a desire to fit in and be accepted. Yet, there is also, the need to explore individuality. For many this makes one’s image a matter of great importance. What to wear and who to hang out with are things obsessed about. Add to all of this raging hormones and a dash of teenage angst and the whole high school experience can become something altogether forgettable.

At the reunion, however, I found a group of people who had grown and matured. The lines that had defined us had long since dissolved. Where once there were jocks and freaks; greasers and bandies, now there were just people working day to day making a living the best that they can. I saw people that I had loved and cared about secretly, because they weren’t ‘cool.’ Now we were all free to embrace and affirm one another. Businesses, bills, children, responsibilities, and aging parents have worn the rough edges like waves battering granite cliffs. The years have produced lines of erosion etched into our faces. These things have leveled the playing field. We were, at last, equal. Equally worthy of honor and respect. Equal in our quest for immortality through the next generations that we have brought into existence. That night I saw classmates, peers, sisters and brothers.

The most difficult part of the evening was remembering those who could not be with us. The folks that planned the event set up a special table with the name tags of those who have passed on. I’m sure that everyone else felt as I did. We’re simply not old enough to be feeling our mortality like this. The really hard part was realizing that many of these people had passed through the veil in their youth. Seeing some of the name tags ripped open memories that I had thought were healed. I guess they will never completely heal. And, that’s a good thing. Our memories keep us in to connect us with the realities that we once lived. The guys in auto-shop and the math/science geeks are all part of what has made us who we are. Our memories continue to shape us even as our original experiences did. So, we raise our glasses in gladness and hope. To the class of ’73…God bless and Godspeed.

What are some of your memories of school?

Tumbling into tumblr.

tumblrIn July I was introduced to tumblr. Mostly, because Rachel Held Evans started a blog there. (Ok, I pay attention to what she does cuz she’s successful and I’m not.) Many young folks have migrated there because Facebook has become the hallowed grounds of the Old and Unknowing. I don’t understand how young folks don’t get that wherever they go, the old and infirm are sure to follow.

Anyway, I’ve become addicted. I never thought that social media could grab me and drag me in…but, tumblr. has. CRAP! The tumbr. world is diverse. There are people posting images, poems, short prose and quotes. Some of the blogs are designed to enable writers and artists to share their work and to learn from one another. Some of these allow others to submit their work for online publication. Others simply offer tips and encouragement. And, actually, much of the art, photography and writing is quite good.

There is another side to tumblr., however. Many of those who blog there, perhaps most of them, are young adults. This particular medium offers them a venue where they can explore and expand on the conflicts that they experience as they journey, the best that they can, from the safe world of childhood to the unpredictable world of adulthood. I think that part of the allure of tumblr. is that it allows people to post pretty much anything and everything. Someone may post an image of a forest stream one minute. In the next, they show the scars where they have cut themselves. Another may post kittens and unicorns followed by images that suggest drug abuse. The whole universe of teen angst is on display for the world to see. Shocking? Yeah, some of it is. And, I think that’s the purpose for much of it. Through images and words that press against social morés, many of these people are clearly seeking attention. This is nothing new. Young adults seek to find an identity that they can live with. By drawing attention to themselves they can test and find that which will, in some way, make them ‘acceptable.’ There are others, though, that seem to be stuck. For them depression and sadness have led to self-harm and other self-destructive behavior. These are the people that I can empathize with.

I am, as one friend puts it, “a sensitive musician.” He usually says it as a kind of fun pejorative. But, he’s right. In a brain dominance test many years ago, I was the group’s ‘space cadet’ because I live in the right side of my brain. As a young person I felt misunderstood and marginalized by family and friends. I experienced deep depression and sadness. At times I fell so far into myself that I didn’t realize that I had just scratched the skin off of the tops of my hands so that they bled. I found some solace in drugs and alcohol. Yet, this only seemed to help for a short while. I have always had a sense of unworthiness. Unworthy to receive good things…including love. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there is a person who can love without condition. This person understands the alienation and pain that I know so well because he experienced it himself. Yeshua ben Yosef…Jesus son of Joseph…is that person. Am I well now? Hardly. I still deal with depression, self-loathing and some self-destructive activities. But, I am not alone. And, I have a relationship with Someone whom I am confident ‘gets’ me. More than that, however, I have a connectedness with others who, like me, have hope for the future. Perhaps, this is why I’m so drawn to the young people who inhabit the tumblr. universe. They are me. We are a community of hurting misfits. We think and reflect deeply about our world and how we can be a significant part of it. We desire to be understood, yet, in a way we take pride in knowing that we can’t be understood. We refuse to be categorized, preferring instead an enigmatic life. But, we appreciate your presence more than you can ever know. We receive life from you when you notice us. The God who I follow has fashioned us to be a community. We are all interrelated in ways that my puny, little brain cannot ever hope to fathom. I can only share my small spark of life with those who need it. tumblr. is a place where I can do that.