A Damaged Donor…

life cradle

It started with bad timing. My hands griped the wheel with white knuckles as I zoomed in and around traffic. Engine roaring as a lane would open up so that I could get one more car length closer to my destination, then brakes straining as traffic would grow sluggish, not to a stop but still too slow.

I checked the rearview, not for cars behind me but to see if my precious cargo was traveling well. Two humble boxes, the contents of which could save lives… if I got them delivered in time.

It started with a mistimed harvest and a broken cooling system. If my delivery got to hot it would be useless and it could potentially mean tragedy. So, I mashed the gas and mashed the brakes alternatively as I tried to get south on I 35, a task that is stressful no matter the occasion. From the middle lane I saw a Minivan to my left, if I could just edge up the little Hybrid ahead of me I could pop into the left lane and zoom away. I drew closer to the Hybrid (I hate tailgaters I really do but this was an emergency) and saw the Minivan’s front bumper come even with my back wheel… just a little father… brake lights… the Hybrid was upset at and decided to tap his brakes. As I stomp the brake pedal my hand reaches back to catch the cargo that was sliding forward with inertia. I stopped the car and the cargo just before they ended in a devastating crash.

By the time the Hybrid accelerated (well accelerated for a Hybrid) the van had passed me so I jumped in the fast lane in hopes of a clear path and higher speeds. My hopes were dashed as I saw the sticker family on the back window of the Minivan getting closer as it was keeping a constant 2 mph under than the posted speed limit which is truly more like 12 under for the left lane. The Hybrid was now pulling away and I could feel the smug attitude of the driver from the posture of the care (sometimes you can just tell.) I knew I shouldn’t be mad at the Minivan driver, she was probably just a stick figure mom, driving a stick figure kid to the Dr. or maybe a stick figure dog to the Vet… but still, left lane for passing not getting passed…

Just as I was shaking my head at how sometimes my lack of patience leads to folly I saw an opening in the far right lane. I zoomed over (obviously pausing in the middle land and using my turn indicator in case any law enforcers are reading) and saw a clear path all the way to my exit. From there I knew there were four lights before my left turn onto a side street that had to cross to busy streets after a stop sign…

Nervous beads of sweat dripped from my forehead as if I could feel the heat that was ruining my precious delivery. I was blessed to catch 75% of the lights green and have no traffic to contend on my cross streets. I was only blocks away.

I knew I was only two blocks and a right turn away now… my tension grew inversely to the proximity of my destination. I was imagining an overheated and useless delivery, I could see the disappointment on the faces of my recipients. I’d never let them down before and this would be a new experience. Visions of me leaving the building with my head hanging down clouded my view of the roads.

Almost in tears with worry I finally pulled in to the parking lot, I rushed to the door loaded with my two containers. The smile that Kelly the receptionist usually greeted me with quickly faded. Her eyes widened and then narrowed with question as she took in my sweaty face.

“They took it out too soon and our cooler broke,” was all I could say.

Like a spring Kelly was out of her chair, “Quick let’s get it to the back and see what the damage is.”

She lead me bursting through the double doors and I saw the team waiting for me, I was shaking, so mad at myself even though circumstances were beyond my control.

My eyes locked onto those of the team leader Jackie, “Is it bad?”

Looking down with shame I could barely say, “I haven’t looked.”

“O.k. Bob don’t get down, let’s look at what we’re dealing with.” Jackie carefully opened one of the boxes and looked inside, her brow scrunched and her shoulders dropped.

“Oh no,” I thought, “It’s ruined.”

Jackie reached into the container and pulled out a sample. With horror I watched as she popped it into her mouth and began to chew….

“Not bad,” she smiled, “A little wilted and bitey, but arugula is supposed to have a peppery taste. Besides, any produce you bring us that we can’t hand out goes to a pig farmer who gives us ham every year so nothing you bring goes to waste.”

I was so relieved that my leafy vegetables hadn’t been ruined by getting picked early and sitting in the sun and then a hot room with no ac. I had delivered late but not too late and my humble and meager 50lbs of arugula would go on to feed some hungry families from the food bank.

Oh gosh, I’m sorry did I make you feel like I was delivering an organ for donation? Well, maybe I meant too, maybe food deliveries don’t come with the urgency of say, a new heart, but food saves lives just the same. The urgency of this delivery sort of did bring that fact to the front of my consciousness on this particular trip.

The USDA indicates that as many as 1 in 6 people in the US are “food insecure” which means they don’t have access at all times to enough food for the household. Because I’ve gone hungry before (o.k. it was because I spent my food money on beer, but still) and because I’m trying to change my selfishness through giving and because I work at a place with lots of land and labor I decided that I would try to start a farm to grow vegetables for food banks.

The food bank I frequent was used to me bringing a truckload (ok Grand Cherokee load) of vegetables and melons. Our biggest delivery was 500 lbs of onions, and 497 lbs of watermelon came in second. So, the other issue I was having over the arugula was size of donation. It was only 50 lbs and I was almost too ashamed to deliver it, like, what good would 50lbs of wilted peppery lettuce do?

When I saw the faces of the volunteers and employees and even some of the recipients I knew that 50lbs though small, meant another day between a family and hunger for a few folks at least. And each pound adds up. So far we’ve provided over 3700 lbs of food to our local food bank. The men who are doing the work are so happy to be able to give, and most of them are on a journey of recovery just like I am. It’s amazing to see the growth of the garden and how it’s like a physical manifestation of their spiritual and moral growth. (OUR spiritual and moral growth; I’m on the same path)

When I worry about how small a contribution I can make I remember a story of a boy and some starfish, and most of all I remember Mark 12 and I quit worrying about how much I can give as long as it’s all I can.

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

 

And I do try to remember that no act and no amount of giving can make me worthy of Grace, but rather I do these things as a celebration of God’s love.

Thanks and just a warning, I have like… at least 6 cloud poems in my head so watch out! God bless.

Dark Places

dark places

They went alone to the dark places

Pain tempered hope

Adding strength to their faces

Looking up through

The midnight Shadows

Empty alone

No site of fellows

 

 

Even as they took

First steps toward the light

No one to share Grace

To share Hope’s delight

 

Then something new appears

From a tangled web

A change

A goodbye to tears

Each face

Turns towards the other

Finding a new space

 

Where footsteps

Sound

Together

Found

Hands to hold

A partner a friend

Lovers to tend

To a new story told

 

 

Ok so it’s been a while! Lots shaking up in my life, job expanding to about 4 times what it was and the buds of a new career starting to blossom also so… super busy! I’m glad that my first trip back to poetry had sort of something to do with clouds though right? I have so much in my head and so much in my heart that just rattles around waiting to find a page. It is amazing to have friends who understand the dark places and know the way back to the light… sometimes it’s hard to find my way and a hand to lead me is always nice.

When I feel myself starting back towards my isolation (which for me is a dark path) I remember Eccleisastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
I’ve got some funny/borderline blasphemous stuff upcoming… it all started because I did an outlaw christian bible study and I’m feeling like a gunslinger 🙂 Thanks y’all and God bless

Shimmering City Skies

suncity

Tiny city under big shimmering sky

Underneath rushing roads more travelled by

Hurry run rush

Never stop to hear the hush

The sound of the sun sinking low

Travelers tightly grip

The illusion of control

Sanity slowly slips

As onward  cars will roll

But some blessed, some few

See the quiet view

A reminder of

the one above

Who steers this world with love

 

Take time to enjoy a pretty view y’all. On Sunday I was Baptised, I did it as a reaffirmation of who I want to be and of the devotion of The Father and His Son who have brought so much healing to my life. On the Saturday evening before I had taken my kids out for a pre Father’s day diner and saw this view of the city and the shimmering sunset spoke to me about the Glory of God’s Grace. I am ugly with sin…. but through Jesus God sees me beautiful. God bless and thanks for reading 🙂

1 John 4:18

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The One who fears is not made perfect in love.”

*Also, even though there are clouds in the picture there is nothing in the poem about clouds so I still haven’t met my quota for the year….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding From Jekyll

jeckel

Some people like hanging out here… they’re comfortable and they see friends. I’m not and I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see the smiling faces, the handshakes that linger as only handshakes of old friends do. I love to see people content to just sit near each other and not talk, or talk just to repeat, “Uhhh huu,” to each other over and again. Countless wrinkles around countless eyes, wrinkles from a hard life now turned up with a smile of friendship. I see it all, and that’s part of the problem. I see it all.

I don’t just see what’s happening, I see what could happen…. always, the man walking in with a cane who puts no weight on it… a potential weapon that might fool the minimal security here at the VA hospital but not me. That man with the cane can move just fine and has a dangerous grace about his posture. With my back to the wall I can see everyone coming in through the automatic glass doors, young, old, happy, angry, male… female… some on walkers, some in chairs. We’ve all been a little chewed up by the military (ours or someone else’s) and some of us bear the scars (outside or inside) a little better than others.

I think I’m somewhere between totally broken down and doing just fine. Maybe it depends on the day? This day I had to come and wait to get some bloodwork done and talk to a physical therapist about some exercises I can do for the physical brokenness. For the spiritual breaks I seek other help. The VA does try, the first thing you hear when you call them up is a kind voice asking if you are thinking of hurting yourself and who to call if you are, operators are standing by….

Spiritually I turn to God, I just recently met him, met him and His Son. Funny thing is I always knew they were there, but didn’t know them until I was introduced a few months ago. That was one of the most painful and most joyful moments of my life, death and rebirth I guess will do that to you. At any rate God’s got my spirit, even if I have to spend some nights on my knees clutching my cross tightly to my chest. So tight that blood drips down to the carpet as I pray, the points piercing my palms as I try to forget the stigma of my ways. I pray that God would take over, because I know the mess I make when I’m in control.

Draped in the armor of His love, that’s how I leave my place, a cross around my neck cross on my hand on a silver ring that once was lost but now was found. Scripture on a steel ring and on a leather band around my wrist. Simple shiny cross around my neck on a plain black leather cord. I wear it all on the outside, with pride, with humility to offer myself as a sacrifice to God’s grace.

Today the crosses would cause some trouble. Like I said before I see everything, the young woman pushing her dad’s chair, his shoulders slumped in defeat, eyes weary and sad to be a burden, young woman’s eyes determined but sad to see her dad depleted. I see the guy pacing, back and forth, he’s about 55, 5’10”, and even through his heavy cotton duck coat he looked to be a lean 180. I see him pace back and forth, casting glances at me out of the corner of his eye, looking away when I meet his gaze. I see him sweating in his heavy jacket. A big, heavy, concealing, jacket worn on a 95 degree Texas day.

One of his furtive glances sticks and eye contact is made, his aimless wandering turns to a determined walk right in my direction. His eyes never left mine and he approaches my seat against the wall. With a stiff back and a little rasp in his voice words erupt from his mouth, “I see you wear all those crosses, I’m gonna ask you something.”

His body stiff and his actions jerky, his body language was influencing me, I felt myself getting angry with this man I didn’t even know, I take a calming breath before responding, “Ask away my friend.” I force a smile and try to make it real, I ease my posture and unclench my fists to make my body tell my mind there is no threat.

The man sits down to my left, his jacket is unzipped but he’s using his right hand to keep it closed over his red t-shirt, “Do you call yourself a Christian?”

The question startles me to a moment of silence, “Um… yes, but it’s really new to me.”

“What does that mean?” he barks as he leans closer to me, his posture reminding me of a coiled spring.

I pause for another breath and gather my response, “Well to be honest I got tired of being who I was and finally asked God to help me…”

“God or Jesus,” he interrupts me with a shine in his eyes, a little foam of saliva gathers at the corners of his mouth, “do you claim to follow Jesus?”

I try to stay relaxed but my body is on high alert, I don’t know exactly how to answer him. “I’m Bob. what’s your name brother?”

It was almost as if I slapped him to ask, “I’m Ryan” he says quickly going back to his earlier track, “Do you follow Jesus.”

I’m given a brief moment to think as the intercom announces, “now serving number of 49”… I know my ticket reads, “67,” but I see Ryan glance at his, I hope I might get out of this uncomfortable conversation. No luck, his wrinkled ticket reads, “70.”

“Like I said Ryan I’m really new, I hope I’m following Jesus.”

“How do you know, what books do you study?”

“I have this app on my phone, a Bible app, it gives me lessons and chapters to read. I just started one called “The bible in one year. Where I..”

“Old testament or new testament!” again he can’t wait for me to finish, it was more a rushed accusation than a question.

I barely have time to tell him that it’s a little of both before he’s back at it voice rasping with the quiet anger of one who doesn’t want to be overheard, “You’re in the new testament, you follow Paul, you’re not a Christian, you’re a Paulean!” as quiet as he started he hits “Paulean” with a crescendo of triumph and as he finished his left hand pounded the table next to him.

I jump a little and I can feel the monster inside, pulling for control, for a chance to be let off the chain. In Inhale….pause…. exhale. I feel the energy drain from my body with by breathing.  “What does it mean to be Paulean brother? I haven’t heard of it before.”

“Do you know the Tanakh? The Mosaic Law? Are women allowed to preach in your church?”

He’s erratic but I feel like he’s knowledgeable, I think I know at least that he’s probably trying to catch me in something Paul said about women teaching in Corinthians…  my curiosity somehow calms me though, “No I don’t know what that is. Women give lessons in my church though.”

His left hand shoots up extending his index finger like a “#1” and his eyes are wide in triumph, “Exactly what I thought, you don’t follow the law! You think you don’t have to follow the law because of Jesus, but you still have to live by the old testament.”

I know that right now no matter what I answer with he will use against me. A part of me just wants to pacify him and go along so that he’ll leave me alone and I can calm down. The other side of my monster just hates the conflict and will do anything to avoid it. But I really believe that God is moving things for me to learn tough lessons, and this is probably one. I feel like I am supposed to have this conversation. I decide I might deflect some of his anger with questions, “Where do you go to church? Are you in a Bible study?”

With a brief shake of his head he addresses the question, “I don’t need that. I study on my own.”

“Well I thought that in order to interpret God’s will from scripture we had to read together with other people so we could interpret…”

Again his left hand shot up, “Interpret?!?! You can’t interpret God’s word, it is as it’s written!”

The loudspeaker stops his verbal assault, “67 please come to the window.” Relieved to be out of the conversation I excuse myself. I get to the window and the nice lady just needs to verify my name and DOB. No relief.

I stand there a moment… as I decide what to do my mind goes back to the dark day I realized I how badly I needed God. I was looking into beautiful blue eyes tearing up as she realized I had another side, a hidden dark side.  I was hit in the face with the fact that I was living two lives, one a hero and one a monster… I had decided that I would never cause harm again and that God was my only hope. As soon as these thoughts pop in my head the idea that there is a lesson here moves my feet back to the chair next to him.

I know I have to go finish my conversation.

He’s craning his neck looking to see if I’ll come back as I walk around the chairs to my previous seat. I expected to see him relax when I sat back down on his right…

His face flashes read, even his ears, “I’m gonna show you!” His eyes glossy and wide look down into the left inside of his coat, his right hand reaches across slips inside….

My body is electric, with chills on my skin every option goes through my mind.

The minute I see the cold blue steel emerge from his jacket I reach with my right hand to his elbow, pushing it to extension so that his hand can’t draw the gun. I quickly step over his body to put my full weight on his elbow trapping the arm against his body, his exclamation is cut short as the claw of my left hand closes around his throat. His left arm is restricted against the arm of his chair but I still feel it clawing at my shoulder.  I press hard against his trachea and just wait for his eyes to flutter and glaze.

That’s what I would have done had I seen a gun, that and three other scenarios played out in my head before I see nothing more dangerous than a pamphlet come out of his coat pocket.  He unfolds the pamphlet as I try to remove the image of his body squirming while light fades from his eyes.

For one who came so close to death his voice is very animated now. He looks at his pamphlet and points a weathered finger accusingly into the page, “See, Jesus never said we are free from the law, it was Paul, you say you follow Jesus, but you don’t really study the books, the first books of the old testament….”

I almost can’t hear what he is saying, I feel nauseous as my brain tries to recover from my imagined fears. Now my face is red and the back of my neck is hot and sweaty.

Ryan looks at me, “Hey, are you listening?”

“Yea, I’m trying to understand you. Like I said I’m so new to scripture…”

Looking back at his paper Ryan begins again, “It’s all so simple, we aren’t free from the law,” he opens his left hand and smacks the page with the back of it. “It’s all here, you can’t keep on sinning.”

“Ryan brother, that’s the whole reason I’m trying to follow Jesus, I’m tired, I’m tired of doing these things that feel like it’s another person controlling me. I’m tired of lying to cover up the things that other person does. I’m tired of being angry, I’m tired of hating myself… I don’t have any answers but I sure hope and pray for a God who gives grace more than vengeance…”

Ryan looks at me again…. I’m embarrassed as I realize he’s watching the tears well up and roll down my cheeks. His body looks like a balloon loosing air as his shoulders slump and he leans forward. His face now relaxes, “Bob? Your name’s Bob right? Hey, God’s got you, I just want you to be careful…” He jumps a little as the speaker screeches, “Number 70, please to the window…”

Tucking his paper back into his inside coat pocket he gets up and walks to the window just as an orderly comes to take me to talk to the physical therapist. Ryan looks back at me as I start to follow the orderly, he looks back and gives a small smile.

 

 

 

O.k. so all that actually happened, no kidding. Of course the guy’s name wasn’t really Ryan but the conversation and where my hyper active brain went when he reached his hand into his coat were real. There was something just a little off with him, really, but God still used him to get something out of me and a lesson into me.

I often look back and feel like I was another person when I did those horrible things in my past. So much of what I did goes against so much of who I really am.

I don’t understand my own capacity to cause harm… when I’m really spiraling I remember what ‘Ryan’ told me… “Hey God’s got you…”

Sometimes I feel like a man broken in two, sometimes I feel like I’ve been two different people, but both still broken. But I work on trusting God to fill in those broken places.

 

Psalm 34:18

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The Man I work for…

sunrise promise

Riding off into the sunrise

Heading toward the day’s surprise

Working for men so broken

Hurts hidden if left unspoken

 

Cages contain

Consequences

Of choices remain

Just a history of pain

 

Incurred

Caused

Lives ended

Lives paused

 

Such

Dark deeds

Done in passion

Or greed

 

I arrive

With

Judgement suspended

With

Grace extended

By the Man I work for

Put here to teach

To reach a place of forgiveness for crimes for wrongs for pains received, self deceived, pain progression, passion, obsession. Pain perceived pain given, pain as a means of living, the cycle goes on the pain is spread.

Until

hearts stop

and forgive instead

 

 

Well… that might be the darkest poem I’ve ever written about a sunrise…. dark but hopeful.

Maybe that’s why sunrises remind me of my work.

Work with men who look to needles, alcohol, pills, to drown pain. Men who have done such dark things to be able to keep drowning the pain. Men who have done such dark things while they were drowning. Sometimes it is a challenge for me to forgive them, even when they are earnestly seeking God’s grace. I find it easy to suspend judgement and to work closely trying to help the guys get a better future.  I know that God will forgive just as he has forgiven me. Maybe I don’t feel like I have the right to forgive them, because they haven’t harmed me. Maybe that’s why I have trouble forgiving myself, because all the harm I had done to others I don’t have the right to forgive myself. It’s something I struggle with.

The really funny thing is that when someone has done me wrong I forgive easily. The harm that was done to me still makes me angry, but I have forgiven my abuser and pray for him often.

The guys I work with have shown me about healing and recovery and about the sunrise and promise of new beginnings, and truly they are helping me as much if not more than I am helping them….

 

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Dark Sun

dark sun

 

Dark Clouds of Night

Foreboding sight

Through this dark lense

My vision sends

Fearful view

My sight askew

Dark  filter makes perception

untrue

But even in Darkness the light shines

through

with this Dark vision

Start

Unfiltered life

Rise above past strife

See beauty clear

See life without fear

Sun so dark through pain’s perception

Unfiltered

Becomes beauty’s perfection

bright sun

Ok… admittedly this is obviously another cloud poem, but when I was playing with the filter on my phone I noticed how this bright sun in the middle of the clouds over this pasture looked almost like midnight with a bright moon.  (ok I probably have well over 1000 pictures of the sun in the clouds but I should get credit for not writing a poem for each one right?)

The brightness of the light almost looks crystallized and cold and in the dark version and it just reminded me of my view of the world when I refused to feel anything. The light was always there waiting for me, I just couldn’t see it for what it was.

The unfiltered light has an intensity that could only burn from truth (well as true as a digitized image taken on the third latest i-phone can be).

Truth is such an amazing healer, and like many remedies there is sometimes more pain before there is relief… In my case the truth shed light on that dark lense in my heart, His light is so intense that it shattered the lense (and broke me down to nothing). And now hopefully, His light can grow in me to provide a beacon for other broken and dark souls.

I was healed as in

Matthew 4:16

..the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

And hopefully I can light a path for others

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven

#WELCOME HOMELESS

How did I get there? That was the question, I never thought I’d find myself in a situation like this. Standing at a street light holding my sign… needing the help of strangers. I tried to stay positive I pushed the corners of my mouth up into a semblance of a smile and did my best imitation of a human.

Before walking out to my spot I had found a friend who had found a nice church group by the South 1st Street Bridge, he swallowed down a bite of the taco they gave him, “Hey man, go get some, they’re giving it away, no hassle and they’re not preaching at you.”

I went and got in line and they had so much food, enough to feed everyone, “What would you like?” asked a smiling face at the taco truck. Something in her eyes, the giving, she looked at me like I was human, and seeing all that food, I broke down.

I tried to hold it together but some tears rolled down my cheeks. “Do you have bacon and cheese?”

She looked deeper in my face and then carefully looked around, she slipped two tacos in my hands, “Now go get some coffee sir, it’ll help take the chill off.” She held my gaze for a brief moment, I couldn’t respond, for fear of sobbing right there for the heart of this woman. I looked away and focused on my feet so that I could force out a, “God bless you ma’am.” before the emotion could hijack my words.

Some folks were gathering near a table so I took my hot coffee and tacos (well what was left of them as I had wolfed through all of one and was trying to savor the second) over to see what was going on.

There was a man talking about homelessness and how God could help people to get out of homelessness. He was talking about a book he wrote and he was really into it. It was nice to see his passion and someone who cared so much. I listened to him for a while but then I knew I needed to get to my spot so I could take advantage of the rush hour traffic and get at more people.

IMG_1336

So there I was, college education, even a master’s but at a the corner of Caesar Chavez and South 1st, with my sign, at least my belly was full and the warmth of the coffee would probably hold on until the sun came up and warmed us all. I started on one side of the street and had a little bit of success with the folks stopped at the light but I realized that I could reach more by standing in the median. I tried to hold my sign high, and with pride, and like I said the corners of my mouth pushed up in the brightest smile I could muster and forced eye contact with the drivers.

So many drivers just looked away, pretended they couldn’t see me, but I noticed their quick glances, sideways looks at something (not someone) they didn’t want to believe was real. Others would at least smile and wave, and the warmth I felt was from more than the coffee, those smiles, those waves, made me feel human at least, it felt good to be noticed.

But the good ones, the ones I really needed were those that rolled windows down to exchange a “hello” at least or a “good morning.” Those quick kind words were worth more to me than any money I could hope to get, but the transactions that passed through those open windows were also very much what I needed.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, there were some honks, some middle fingers, some scowling dirty looks, as if I was there by choice, as if I didn’t have to be there by the street, cars rushing by depending on the kindness of strangers. One man decided to go past mere gestures or looks.

It was right after I was chatting with four twenty something girls, they had all the windows down and music was pumping to the outside world. I looked inside and saw all four girls dancing, I started grooving to their music and walked up. They giggled and laughed as they saw me dance up to the car. Some good mornings passed and they asked what I was doing, “Stop light dance party,” I replied as I reached back in time to my high school days of doing the wave.

“That’s so cool that you’re so happy,” came through the music from the back seat as they laughed and then a quick transaction through the window right before the light turned green.

The next car slowed despite the green light and the dark tinted window of the shiny new truck rolled down. The first thing out the window was anger, “What the #$%# do you think you’re doing?”

“Sir?” I was a little startled by the sudden shift in moods.

“Bothering people, out here begging for help…. it’s disgusting.”

The traffic was backing up behind him, for some reason it made me nervous that traffic was getting held up. “I’m sorry sir, I understand, may God bless you on your journey.” Cars were starting to honk behind him.

“God bless me? I go to church for my blessing! #$#^  you, you piece of trash, get off the street!” I had to jump back quickly away from the car as he squealed off. The cars behind went past as sluggishly as I was recovering from the verbal assault.

A little shaken but still needing people the corners of my mouth were a little heavier as I lifted them to what hopefully looked like a smile. Honestly though, it wasn’t long before a real smile was there because so many folks stopped and smiled and waved and gave what they could through their windows, sometimes just a kind word, but those who witnessed what the man had said were extra kind.

Then after the light changed again and a fresh batch of strangers was before me it was back to the routine. Eye contact, smile, lift sign, wave… sometimes smiles and waves returned sometimes not… sometimes more cursing, sometimes just indifference.

After a couple hours traffic thinned and I knew it was time to take my sign and leave. I walked back to where the tacos were and several people thanked me for being there, my friend who told me about the tacos in the first place especially, “Thanks man, it means a lot that you all came out here for us.”

You see I wasn’t panhandling for money, but for awareness. My sign a tool of the young folks on social media a hashtag… indicating #WELCOME HOMELESS.

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The man I heard talk was Alan Graham who founded Community First Village to help people get themselves out of homelessness. This event was attended by volunteers, formerly homeless folks, as well as some folks still trying to work out of homelessness.

 

The transactions that occurred through the windows were me handing little business cards detailing the book that Alan had just written about the need we all have to be connected to God, as well as some stories of homelessness and recovery. The conversations you just read were all real, even the angry man, and honestly my heart broke for him. Regardless of his opinion, that much anger makes me worry for a person and I pray for him. Part of me wanted to curse back at him and meet his anger with some vengeful and eloquent cursing of my own (I am a talented and creative cusser from my time in the Army: recovering cusser of course) but something about his anger moved me to grace rather than anger. For all those who didn’t understand our message I hope they find what can help them find some joy.

At any rate the story isn’t exactly over there, I decided that I wanted to continue spreading the message. I was at the Lady Bird Lake running trail already, and I wasn’t ready to go to work yet.

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I ran the trail with my sign. I ran past most of the folks who participated and they all cheered, I ran past the corner I had occupied, and throughout the whole trail I got smiles, thumbs up, and peace signs (there may have been some who wanted to flip the bird but they didn’t have a car to protect them from real life). I was thinking along the trail about homelessness and the times I’ve been less than a paycheck away from losing my place, the times I’ve slept in my truck because of choices  I’d made (the same sort of choices that put me a week out of getting kicked out of apartments) and was too embarrassed to ask family for help.

I thought about the angry people and how pleased I was that I responded in grace and not anger, then I was nearly done with my run and I saw my vehicle parked. Heat flashed on the back of my neck…. I realized I still don’t know anything.

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I walked up to my jeep that cost more than lots of people will see in a few years if not decades of working, the jeep that would take me back to my heated and air conditioned apartment for a hot shower before going to my challenging, rewarding, and well paying job. I realized that it was easy for me to respond to anger with grace because I wasn’t hungry and in desperate need of food or shelter, because I hadn’t faced the same anger and rejection every morning as I tried to survive the streets of the city. I once again was faced with my hypocrisy.  I was a tourist of homelessness, I was trying to help, but I still hadn’t really experienced anything.

I got a new respect for my friends out at the Community First Village and a greater respect for Alan who started the whole thing. I still haven’t read his book, but it’s on my list, I’ve gotta get through “The Shack” and then I’ll be nose deep in Welcome Homeless.

So, hypocrite? Yes, did I make a huge difference? No, but neither of those aspects of this day will stop me from trying. The only false thing about this story was that my smile was forced, the entire time I was out there I was so filled with the love I have for God and His gift of confidence to me to get out and try that I was beaming and probably almost glowing with joy.

The bible verses that really stick to me on these times are obvious,

John 21:17– Feed my sheep.

and

Matthew 25:40– Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.

Water Under the Bridge

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Under the bridge the water will flow                                                                                                   Like pains that the heart learned to let go

Above the bridge                                                                                                                                          Sunflare                                                                                                                                                           Brilliantly it glows

Shining guidance                                                                                                                                        to repair                                                                                                                                                           Resiliency in shadows

Water under the bridge                                                                                                                               letting go of shame                                                                                                                               Toward a new sunset                                                                                                                                    walking free from blame

Bright future and dark past hanging in the air                                                                                  Stuck                                                                                                                                                             Held fast between hope and despair

In each moment, each breath

There hangs a choice, a question                                                                                                        a test

Go back? Upstream?                                                                                                                              Back to familiar pains, relief

Or let go?  To the light?                                                                                                                                  Forward, feeling joy  even through  grief

To stop

To start

Another chance to  view

To stop

To start

As something made brand new

 

O.k. so even though there are clouds in this photo you will be thankful to see not a single stanza or rhyme about clouds so  showing my range right? (I did tinker with a little bit of cloudy present between future and past, clouds like pain, never meant to last… sorry I couldn’t help it!)

At any rate when I saw this sunset after dropping off my kids at their mom’s it made me think of the thousands of choices we have every day…. then the thousands of wrong choices I’ve made…. and the tens of right choices (nearly tens)…

Every moment of our life is a chance and I really love that thought because it means I don’t have to be defined by the wrong I’ve done, I can start writing a new definition with every passing breath.

The one big choice we can make is defined by 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!

I wonder should I have a distinction between my poems and me talking about my poems… I was hoping that the poetry would sort of let you know when it’s over, even though I don’t let it speak for itself. Either way thanks for stopping by, there are so may broken people out there (one is in here… in my head) but there is so much healing available. Don’t be afraid to be broken, because then you can be built back up!

 

Broke Down Blossom

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Blossom down                                                                                                                                   Landing on                                                                                                                                         Forgotten ground

Just like love lost                                                                                                                                      A heart tossed

Aside                                                                                                                                                   Shoved by                                                                                                                                             Pride

Hearts held back                                                                                                                                     Hearts weak hearts slack

A small room, where damage lives                                                                                                       A small piece that I could never give

Like a blossom dropped from the dozen                                                                                         Like a piece stopped, held frozen

But in it danger dwells                                                                                                                              And the need only swells

I grasp at the stems

Desperate for  control                                                                                                                       Fists clenching my soul

Bloody briars sting my skin                                                                                                           Exposing liar’s sin within

I am the weak the broken flower

Need takes over, stealing power

I give in                                                                                                                                                       She gave up

In love she left

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The blossom on the floor

 

I can’t tell if that poem is happy or sad… both maybe?

I think I have always worshiped women… The statement by itself sounds amazing I suppose, who wouldn’t want to be worshiped? Well, it’s how that worship is put into practice that is the problem. I loose myself… I pour myself into the worship… only I hold a tiny little bit back.

That tiny little bit is the part of my heart/mind that clings to my victim attitude, that holds to old habits, and that whispers in my ear at night, “You’re gonna loose her.”

 

Fear made me worry, worry turned to anxiety, anxiety turned to acting out, and soon I had created the exact situation I feared so much…

Welp, I’m done doing that, (o.k. I’m getting ready to start being done…) I’m working on a true and pure love, a love that can only come from/through God and it feels pretty peaceful. How?

Million dollar question baby!

Probably the biggest thing is to trust God. I’ve seen some amazing movement in my life and I had a revelation that was/is mind blowing the other day. I’ll share it with you sometime (look at me building suspense!) when I can think of how to tell the story without sounding bat *poopie crazy. (I’m also trying not to curse these days, which requires heroic effort and vocabularic control)

For now I try to remember what love should be and the following helps me to stay focused on exactly that.

1 John 4:18-19

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
 We love because he first loved us.
*I’m also trying not to curse these days, which requires heroic effort and vocabularic control

My Version of Humble….

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As you may have been relieved to notice I haven’t posted much lately. Nope, not so much as a hacked out haiku about a flippin’ fluffy white cloud, or a prosaic personal story about growth, redemption, or what an ahole I’ve been (or am being)… etc.

For any interested it’s because I’m learning a new skill; web development… Yep as a huge fan of Spider-Man growing up it was bound to happen (see what I did there?). It is so amazing to be a man of a certain age trying to learn something brand new. Frustration and Satisfaction frequently  trade places.

It does remind me though, of my teaching days when I just couldn’t get why a kid just couldn’t get what I was teaching. If only back then I would have been trying to learn something new. You see I’ve never heard teachers gravitating toward a subject he or she hated or even one that didn’t come naturally to us. So, it is easy to forget the frustration and difficulty of learning something new.

But I digress, so you have not been assaulted by my alliteration lately because rather than write poetry or prose I have been writing in languages new and unique; html, css, javascript, js node… and  a few others. (and y’all… there’s no spell check!)

I have, however, still been making time for some quick (if questionable) witticisms on facebook and one theme I began was “Stayin’ Humble.” Where I describe a recent or current success and then back it up with a silly slip, facetious failure, or foolish faux pas (whoa, the alliteration can build up and then come rushing out, if you don’t have an outlet!)

Today one occurred to me that relates exactly to new learning and really any journey and it relates to my Bible app

(which I have meaning to tell y’all about because I love it!) So I decided to take a moment to put some words down and hit the old publish button (was that redundant?) and see what y’all thought.

My hubris to humble (yup) post for today was as follows (or close to as follows)

“Yesterday while redoing some of my old assignments I’m realizing that I’m actually getting pretty good at web development, it’s easy sometimes to get lost in the moment of trying to keep up with all the new learning and then forget to look back to where you started so you can appreciate the journey thus far. It gave me some reassurance to my process. So, I’m feeling pretty good about that, but then today I realized that the Online Bible Study I’ve been doing on vanity for the past 4 days is for women, so Stayin’ Humble (although feeling really beautiful on the inside for some reason).”

So, like I said I thought I was writing about my progress in class, but probably also really writing about my progress in recovery (whoa…. subconscious life learning and reflection… BAM!) In the case of my recovery (and really everywhere else) I don’t have to search for ways to be humble because my real humility comes from knowing that all of the good in my life comes from God, and the knowledge that when I try to work my gifts I mess up, (like accidentally jamming my pinky up my nose while washing my face) but when I get out of God’s way amazing things can happen.

Like the scripture on the ring that I always wear now….

 

I can do all things through Christ who is my strength. Phillipians 4:15

 

*The above image is from the youversion bible app, download the app at youversion.com or from the app store or wherever you android users get stuff for your phones…