What an awesome pilot whose actions saved the lives of everyone on US Airways flight 1549 when they struck multiple geese and had to land in the Hudson river. It has since been called the Miracle on the Hudson.
Miracle? Maybe. Or just incredibly well trained and experienced pilots. A pilot is trained to know the systems of his/her aircraft. A pilot uses checklists and procedures for every operation and action.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger used those procedures and the checklist, along with all that training and experience to save the lives of all 155 souls, passenger and crew, onboard.
Checklists are incredibly important. Early in their training, pilots learn the acronym RTFM, or RTFC, which stands for Read The F#&!’n Manual or Checklist. Those who choose not to use the checklist(s) eventually auger in.
Recently, I have drifted away from my checklists and forgotten many of the tools in my mental toolbox. I have been spiraling out of control. But a recent reminder has given me a clear path back. I had given myself a reminder through an app on my phone. I set an alarm. When it went off, I realized I needed to start regaining control again through the use of a tried and true method.
So, I firmly believe a good checklist is an invaluable tool to navigate the challenges of life. In particular, using a checklist is a powerful way to deal with the effects of depression.
Here is a simple checklist I use to help myself avoid the pitfalls of depression. Try making your own. Keep it where you can find it; the fridge, nightstand, or right here on your phone.
1. Get up and get outside. 2. How do you feel? 3. If you are tired or down, did you actually get enough sleep? Depression will attack your energy level and your ability to simply get out of bed. 4. Eat healthy. 5. Pray 6. What are you thankful for? 7. Communicate with someone positive in your life. Anyone! Reaching out the first time is the toughest, but it gets the day going in the right direction. 8. Be kind. Giving hope, peace, love, and joy to others will bring the same to your heart. 9. Read. Use a positive source. No fiction. 10. On second thought, maybe fiction is better. 11. Open your heart and soul to God. 12. Breathe. Just breathe. Slow, calm, cleansing breath. In that breath remind yourself, you are loved, you have purpose, and you are not alone.
What does your checklist look like?
I love using aviation analogies. With all the demons that have chased me in my lifelong struggle with clinical depression, flying was the one time and place I could escape it all, find peace without looking over my shoulder.
Nothing compares to floating above the clouds or watching the the incredible horizon slowly changing colors as the sun begins to rise. Ask any pilot where they want to be the most. If you can’t become a pilot or prefer to keep your feet on the ground, that’s ok. But using a checklist still works for anyone trying to keep their demons at bay and their life in order.
GET UP, GET OUT, & GO SPREAD KINDNESS!
We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
Here are a couple of songs I love that always remind me of flying and to use my checklist!
Now some say life Will beat you down Yeah, break your heart Steal your crown
So I started out For God knows where I guess I’ll know When I get there
I’m learning to fly Around the clouds But what goes up Must come down
I’m learning to fly (I’m learning to fly) But I ain’t got wings Coming down Is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly (I’m learning to fly) Around the clouds But what goes up (I’m learning to fly) Must come down
“Into the distance, a ribbon of black Stretched to the point of no turning back A flight of fancy on a wind swept field Standing alone my senses reeled A fatal attraction is holding me fast How can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Ice is forming on the tips of my wings Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything No navigator to find my way home Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension that’s learning to fly Condition grounded but determined to try Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Friction lock, set Mixtures, rich Propellers, fully forward Flaps, set – 10 degrees Engine gauges and suction, check
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air Across the clouds I see my shadow fly Out of the corner of my watering eye A dream unthreatened by the morning light Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There’s no sensation to compare with this Suspended animation, a state of bliss Can’t keep my mind from the circling sky Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I”
We are all connected. We are all human. We are all imperfect. We all need love. We all need purpose. And, regardless what one might think, we all need each other. That is who we are. That is what God intended when he/she made us.
Here we are in 2022. Doesn’t it seem like we are more disconnected than ever? We are certainly more divided, angry, and sad.
It is time the pendulum began swinging back toward togetherness. It is time we begin to push back against the hate, the diminishing of our civil rights, and the false narratives that echoe across our country. It is time for love and kindness to be the headline.
But that means action. So, Kindness Warriors, it is time for us to fight even harder against the forces of hate and division.
Get up! Get out! Go spread kindness everywhere. Go change lives and change minds. Be there for each other!
This song turns 50 this year and hit #1 on the Billboard hot 100 on this day in 1972. What a great song to start a revolution of love and kindness! Plus, Bill Withers is awesome! Btw, he was born on July 4th. So I would say this is definitely his month.
Be love. Be Kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack!
“Sometimes in our lives We all have pain We all have sorrow
But if we are wise We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me When you’re not strong And I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”
“Please swallow your pride If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill Those of your needs that you won’t let show
You just call on me brother when you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me When you’re not strong And I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
You just call on me brother When you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand We all need somebody to lean on
If there is a load you have to bear That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road I’ll share your load If you just call me”
“We like to think we are rational beings who occasionally have an emotion and flick it away,” and carry on being rational. But rather, she says: “We are emotional, feeling beings; who, on rare occasions, think.” Brené Brown
Let me start with a small introduction on Sisyphus.
“Sisyphus was a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large rock up on a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly till eternity. Honestly, when I read about his story, I didn’t quite understand what was so special about it that it is referred by so many people until I read some excerpts from Albert Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’
Camus imagined Sisyphus smiling while pushing the rock and embracing his situation without thinking of the past or the future. His take on Sisyphus’ situation was unique and somehow the whole view of Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill changed for me.
Sisyphus was unstoppable, he pushed the rock unabated every time it rolled down. He refused to surrender to gravity.
Pushing the rock was Sisyphus’ purpose, and no matter how evil he was, he is still remembered for his labor towards his purpose. Without the rock, or the effort, he wouldn’t ’t have been a topic of anyone’s discussion.”
As Mindy drove me home from another neck procedure the other day, I realized a powerful truth. The universe is out of balance and can only be corrected with a cheeseburger and fries…
Those who know me well won’t be surprised by what I tell you next. When I feel lost and can’t find the answers any other way, I often turn to film for inspiration or clues to help me find a path forward. I don’t always strike gold with this process. But who can deny that a great movie can stir our emotions, give us hope, make us angry, or make us laugh. Sometimes moving to couch potato mode and turning on one of my favorite movies simply serves as a distraction from all the battles raging in my head, or the ones causing so much physical pain. Getting out of my head for 2 hours can occasionally be just what I needed to find the light switch.
While attempting to regain universal balance with my burger and fries, I began rewatching the HBO miniseries, Chernobyl. It is scary how close we came to virtually destroying the whole planet.
This time around, I zeroed in on a couple of quotes from Valery Lagasov that became a partial theme to where I believe our universe has begun to unravel. Testifying in court during the final episode, Legasov says,
“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.”
“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.”
It occurs to me, that cost is being paid by all of us. That quote has been proundly banging around in my head all week.
When my brother and I were kids we fought all the time. One day, we were both in our room with Lego spread all over the green playroom carpet. Usually, playing with Lego was an activity that brought peace and collaboration for Kelly and I. He liked to build the Lego City and Town sets, including a gas station, “Main Street,” police station, hospital, and my brother’s personal favorite, the fire station. I preferred all the Lego Space sets.
So, we spent time together, helped each other find pieces from our giant tubs of mixed sets, and got along quite well. We had enough base plates to cover the whole floor in our bedroom. I usually even had enough to make a deep space outpost on our top bunk bed. At the end of the build day, we would take a few leftover road base plates and officially connect his earthly community with my galactic expanse. Too bad you can’t just hop on I-20 to get to the moon, or Tatooine!
But that day, not even Lego could keep the peace. After listening to us yelling at each other and hearing things being thrown across the room our mom burst into the room and instructed us to immediately get dressed and get in the car. She was unusually much more fierce and direct. Kelly and I both felt like we had finally pushed mom over the edge. She didn’t speak in the car. She wouldn’t even tell us where we were going. We began to wonder if we were ever going home again or if she was gonna just drop us off at an orphanage.
As we both looked out the car windows, wondering our fate. We didn’t speak either. But we did both realize we might be stuck together, come what may. So we had already called a truce by the time we arrived at our demise.
Our mother calmly got us out of the car, walked us into the theater, and sat us down to watch E.T.
Kelly and I didn’t fight the rest of the weekend. More importantly, we were shown an alternative to the endless arguing. We were all inspired by that movie. Kelly and I spent a considerable amount of time riding our bikes together trying to fly after that. We also managed to keep the peace on Lego build days after that. One more thing, even though Kelly and I had plenty more fights, I believe that day gave us one more lesson and gift. We began to respect each other just a little bit more. We started seeing each other as brothers and not just two kids stuck with each other. It gave us a small but important brick in the foundation of our relationship, in our moral development, and in how to treat other people, even brothers.
On another day, many years after that, I was unknowingly suffering from one of the darkest depressions of my life. I turned to a movie for an escape. I sat in the apartment I shared with my best friend, Rusty, and watched An Officer And A Gentleman. I joined the Navy the next morning.
That is another story altogether. And, it was not a well thought out decision that was highly influenced by my undiagnosed depression, not so much the movie. But my point is I have continually found solace and hope in film, and music.
These days, as I turn inward for answers, I am immediately hit with pain, chronic and debilitating pain. I believed there would be an end to it. But the slow and steady revealing of the truth tells me it is going to be there for the rest of my life. All I can do is manage it, medicate it, and pray it doesn’t blind me to everything good in my life. But, it’s my pain. It’s my giant ball to keep pushing up that mountain every day. I own it. As strange as it sounds, I take comfort in knowing that.
“In my dream I was drowning sorrows When my sorrows, they learned to swim” -U2
So I turn outward, looking for hope. Lately, it seems easier to deal with my personal struggle with pain than it is to deal with the pain of a broken and divided society. We are all connected. That is how God created us. Yet, many of us seem hell bent on denying that. Too many who claim themselves as believers of a loving and just God have chosen to oppose or even deny their brothers and sisters the very thing that, at least in my core beliefs, proves God exists, love. There are wolves among us.
That brings me to a question, or maybe more of a paradox. So riddle me this…
If God is love, then are christians who villainize a christian for providing another christian christ-like love and support, actually christian?
My dark place and the demons who dwell there…
I have witnessed so called christians, leaders of our former church, completely betray and abandon my own family because one of us chose to extend love and support to a youth member who desperately needed love and support. People who I thought of as friends, even family at that church lied, made horrible accusations and ultimately forced us out because they didn’t like the optics. Why? Because the mother of the youth involved made a completely false allegation. And why did she do that? Because she found out her daughter was seeking help elsewhere for her depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies.
Lives shattered without anyone asking about the truth or looking for some context to the allegation that clearly refutes it. Moreover it proves that a member of my family was helping, providing love and support, being a trusted and dependable friend to a troubled teenager in need. That youth was absolutely not getting any support from her own family, especially her mother.
Apparently, if you extend and express love, as God would have us do, it must be done with very specific language and be accompanied by several disclaimers in the event anyone who should happen to read those words, does so with ZERO context or understanding. And then they decide to make horrible and disgusting assumptions that the select few words they read were just the opposite of their meaning and intent. Where do these fucking people get off?
What gives anyone the right to decide the intent of someone else’s love and kindness is inappropriate and not geniune? Why is it so easy for a faithful servant of God to be crushed for trying to do the right thing? I have never been more heartbroken, betrayed, or angered by anyone in my life.
We have received love and support from those true friends who know all the details, including the ones church leadership has chosen to ignore because they would have to then acknowledge they were wrong, so very wrong. What a bunch of hypocrites who speak of togetherness, honesty, love, and justice, but don’t practice it. Again, why? Because those people care more about optics than the truth.
When we joined Broadway Baptist Church in 2016, my wife and I thought we had finally found a place to call home. And for six years, that is exactly what we did. We raised our children there. We built our lives around our church.
We are no longer members there. We fought this horrible accusation and resulting church action as best we could. But we couldn’t control the narrative. People will believe the sky is red if that makes them more comfortable. I guess it is easier to keep calling it red, even when everyone knows its blue. That way you can never be wrong.
Having our dearest friends and allies within the church support us just wasn’t enough. So, now we are gone, like we were never even there.
Nothing changed and everyone went back to business as usual. Proving that no matter how much you might believe in God, no matter how righteous your actions, YOUR WORDS, and your sacrifices to do “God’s work,” every church is ultimately only as truly committed to the tenets of Christianity as the people in it, especially the leadership. And how could the mother of this desperate girl behave so selfishly and cruelly? Yet, no one has asked for any accountability from her or the folks who lied and judged. I reached out to so many people for help at that place, including the deacons.
By the way, if ANYONE has a problem with what I am saying, then reach out to me. Defend the actions and assumptions of the Sr. Pastor, Family and Youth Minister, Church Business Administrator, and the mother if you think they deserve it. Explain to me why I am wrong if you think so. Tell me! What am I missing here? I really want to know how anyone can justify what they did because so far, not a single person has even tried. Cowards.
I am at the crossroads. My core belief system has been turned upside-down by the betrayal of people I thought were honest, loving, and kind. I would rather be focusing on the larger societal issues we have right now, but I am still trying to get past the failures of those I once called friends.
As I said, we have been given love and support from many people. But besides expressing their own frustrations to the leadership with how this was handled, nothing else came of it.
Yes, I am still very angry and yes this hurts. Not because I care about what people might think of my attitude or my increasing usage of profanity. 🤬 It hurts every day because of the pain it caused and continues to cause my wife and kids.
Healing is a slow process and I doubt any of us will ever want to join another church again. We don’t need to show up on Sundays and listen to a disingenuous man tell us to come together and be love, always be love, with his fingers crossed under his robe or an asterisk and footnote in the worship guide. I just wish I knew how empty his words were when compared to his actions before we put so much faith and trust in him as well as the other leaders who have betrayed God in this way. Ugh, I feel the bitterness oozing out of my pores. Yet, I can’t seem to be done with it. Everyone else is though.
Organized Religion Anonymous. Hi, my name is Christopher and I am a recovering Baptist.
I struggle now with every relationship I have. I love the dear friends we made from Broadway who remain close. But I struggle with accepting that anyone who would continue to go there, tolerate what has been done with absolutely no accountability. They go there and listen to those hypocrites lead Sunday worship, knowing full well what they have done to my family.
I struggle with my conscience because I know it isn’t that simple. I hurt and become consumed with guilt for even thinking like that. I love them, all of them. This happened to us, not them. They have their own lives, their own very important reasons for not pushing harder to force the leadership into accountability, or show them the door. How can that be fair of me? How can I possibly be frustrated with anyone except those few who did this to us? Because it hurts.
In moments of clarity, I blame and feel angry toward the appropriate people. I am forever thankful for our loving friends who continue to help us get through this. But my mind is anything but clear these days. This boulder keeps rolling me down. I simply cannot accept and live with this. I cannot let this go.
Lord, I am trying. Lord, perhaps I am failing you? Oh Lord, I need your guidance. It is too dark and I am too tired. Let the wind carry us. Let the wind carry this pain away. Let the wind prevail.
I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but our society, our country, our world is falling apart and receiving injections of hate everyday. I suppose I have succumbed to it as well. I have been unable to maintain focus on kindness. I feel like God has tested me and I have failed.
I look to myself to fight the demons of my depression and the physical health issues that have gone on for years now, but only gotten worse, not better. I have been unable to work since February and finally was forced to file for Social Security Disability a few weeks ago. I am praying that is approved and the process doesn’t take years to complete. Still, I am alive. I hurt all the time and feel like puking mutiple times a day but I am still here.
I look outward for inspiration and find myself angry with the world, especially the folks who hurt my family. The heartbreak of living among humans is still by far more difficult than my health issues. I can’t even be happy among my friends anymore. I love them. I appreciate them, especially with all the love and support we have received in the last year. But the pain is just so overwhelming. I am losing the ability to keep it all separated and I hate myself for that.
Every post, every story I write is an opportunity to express a simple truth.
We are all connected.
Yet, I have never been so conflicted with this mantra as I am right now. The meaning is lost at the moment. Have I been wrong all this time? Maybe the sky truly is red. Maybe blue is my own lifelong delusion.
There is a silver lining. There always is, but only when the light is trapped behind the dark clouds. I suppose that is also the grace God gives us each and every day. Not alot. Not too little. Just enough to see us make it til’ dawn.
Throughout this exhausting and horrible experience, we, our family, have remained together and our love has only been strengthened. So that is where I put my faith these days.
Back to it now. Back to pushing that giant boulder up the mountain. I know it will come crashing down again if and when I get close to the peak.
The little hope that is left in me would say this:
None of us can push that thing all the way to the top on our own. We all seem to be pushing our own boulders. Until we finally realize that we ARE all connected and that is how God made us, we are all doomed to the same fate as Sisyphus.
So I will say it, even if I don’t fully believe it right now…
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
I have been watching movies and listening to all kinds of music lately, looking for that hope and redemption. I am still looking for answers to heal my broken heart and ripped soul. Plus, I’m all out of duct tape.
I haven’t been able to write in months but last weekend I found some of that inspiration in, well, a movie about music. I finally found just enough light to see a path forward, like driving under streetlights on a Saturday night to find clarity and peace. I should have known Elvis could get the job done. TCB. We went to see the film as a family and what do ya know… I am finally writing again.
Now I must find a way to believe what I write. It used to be automatic. Maybe that has been the reason for not writing in these last few months. How can I write about love and kindness when I can’t believe my own words? Oh wait. Is that fiction? Am I now a fiction writer?
Love and kindness rocks! But, they are also both very big and heavy rocks!
“We must learn to embrace our purpose(the rock) in life. And once we accept it as the objective of our being, we should give it everything it takes to achieve it. Sisyphus teaches us to never give in to circumstantial disappointments or try to escape from the failures, rather accept failures the same way we accept our achievements.
And most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down till we fulfill our potential.”
I promise to keep trying. I promise to keep looking for the grace. But friends, I just don’t know it to be true anymore. Regardless, I am not gonna shutup because what I have to say might make some of you uncomfortable. That isn’t who I am. If you made it this far in the story, you already know that.
We need to try harder. We need to come together. We need to take our hands off the 3rd rail and reach out to each other instead. I think Elvis might agree. I know God does.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Aren’t we?
Life is better with a soundtrack.
The following playlist includes the music that helped inspire the words of this post.
The sun came up today, as it did yesterday and will again tomorrow. We have faith in that. It is a reliable constant that has never failed us. It’s Sunday in DFW. It is getting hot. As I sit here in my car, I notice the life around me. Lots of cars on the road. A nearly full city bus just drove by. There are several cars in the drive thru at Jack in the Box and Panda Express. Bees are circling the trash can in the parking lot where I am waiting. I am enjoying the bright sun, the blue sky and the scattered clouds, always a beautiful palette. There is something captivating about the sky and clouds. I bet I have taken a thousand pictures or more of the sky. The sky is both a constant and ever changing at the same time.
With the exception of a select few talented and dare I say lucky space travelers, we can always count on the sky over us, along with the sun and moon and the stars.
As I sit here appreciating the clouds and the bees and all these other little details around me that seem normal, peaceful, and ordinary, I see a man on the bridge that crosses the highway. He seems ancient, just skin and bone. His skin is darkened by all the sun his face has seen. His back is bowed and he moves ever so slowly but seemingly so deliberate, as if he had a mission that has taken his whole life and he was nearing the end. This man, the man on the bridge, the bridge man is wearing a paper surgical mask and holding a sign that says Peace and God Bless You on a torn piece of cardboard.
I wonder what Bridge Man sees when he looks around. I wonder if he appreciates the sky and the bees and the seemingly normal things around both of us. I wonder how different his perspective is from my own about the same surroundings. I wonder what he thinks about the troubled times we live in. He obviously knows about the pandemic. Does he know about the civil unrest? Does he care? He appears homeless and destitute. I think if I was in his shoes the world wouldn’t matter so much as what I would do for my next meal and where I might sleep tonight.
Does Bridge Man have any family or friends? How did he get here? Does he have a mental health issue? Is he struggling with alcohol or drug abuse? I watched as bridge man slowly disappeared beyond the apex of the bridge.
The man I was waiting for finally made it out to the car. His name is John. I met John recently at a new job and got to know him a bit. It turns out, John is a two-time felon who has only been out of his 2nd prison term for a few months. He lives in a sort of halfway house for men. I have been there and it is really quite nice. It is a two-story house with lots of shade and a pool in the back. So, John has a place to stay as he tries to get his life together. But he doesn’t have a car and he has a limited education. John is taking courses to become a HVAC technician. A few weeks after I met him, the new company I work for let him go because he didn’t clear the background check. He is now working at Jack in the Box. John is a little rough around the edges. He has had a hard life. He has even been shot twice in the face so he has a few mangled teeth. I give John a ride to class on Mondays and occasionally a ride home from work. It seemed like the least I could do. Once you are down, it’s very hard to get back up. John is trying.
With all the protests, I was reminded of an interaction with one of my riders last fall. I think it was shortly after Atatiana Jefferson was killed. It was raining, late on a Saturday night and I was picking up someone named Henry. All of the sudden the back door of my car opened and in flew someone from the rain with his hoody tightly pulled around his head. The second he got the door closed he ripped the hoody back, threw his hands up, and with a big disarming smile said “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” There was nothing remarkable enough about the trip for me to write about Henry at the time. At least I didn’t think so then. But I remembered him because of the way he made his entrance to the car and we did have a short conversation about race, white privilege, and both wondered if it would ever get better. I remember asking him that question. His answer was, “Only if we keep the conversation going and not the bullets.”
I miss those little interactions with my passengers. No matter how terrible the world seemed on the news, I could always get in my car, flip on the Uber/Lyft apps and meet new people who never failed to restore my faith in humanity.
What do these stories say about our society? How many homeless before we change the way we provide for our citizenry? How can someone truly get a second chance in a society that is already almost impossible for poor people who haven’t committed any crimes? How many black lives must be lost before we truly address police brutality and systemic racism? Could we finally be ALL in to address the racial injustices of our beloved America
I certainly don’t have the answers. In my life journey, I have learned this much:
There is Grace in everything.
Each of those men reminded me about what matters in life and how I wish to live it. We are all connected in this world. Many of us fall through the cracks of society, become invisible. But those lost to the shadows have needs, feel love and sorrow.
We turn away from them daily, often without even thinking about it. Those of us who make mistakes and pay for those mistakes according to our justice system never stop paying for them in our society.
Maybe now, with this perfect storm of a pandemic, a racist and corrupt president exacerbating societal fault lines, and finally knowing just how many black lives needed to end through police brutality, maybe now we can truly change. Maybe now is the time we have all been waiting for. I am not foolish enough to think we will achieve world peace and equality tomorrow but maybe we can finally move our country toward a more perfect union.
As dark and frightening as the world may seem, it is easy to lose sight of God’s loving hands. We see less clearly with so much darkness in the world. I see way too many fellow Christians supporting and defending, vehemently defending rhetoric and actions that are anything but Christlike. When in truth, we should be setting a higher example and lighting the path to peace and justice and belonging; like Streetlights on a Saturday night guiding us home. This battle for what many are calling the soul of our nation often pushes my anger in the direction of hate. Thinking of those 3 stories of men, how could I be so vain and self-righteous?
And that is what reminded me once again, that there is grace in everything, everywhere. And through God’s grace we shall prevail.
Grace is all around us. It becomes harder to see and feel, to witness, when we carry hate and anger and fear in our hearts. But, nevertheless, it is there, Grace. When you open your heart and your eyes to see it, to feel it, to witness it you will know God’s love.
This is a daily gift from God. Imagine a set of rose colored eye glasses that have a unique power to see beautiful surroundings that are otherwise invisible. The surroundings are always there but without those glasses you cannot see how incredibly beautiful your surroundings truly are. Faith, love, and kindness are the filters through which we can truly see, feel, and witness the beauty of God’s Grace.
I see it all the time now. Although, it took me more than forty years to find my rose-colored glasses and I still misplace them from time to time. Lately, I seem to forget them more often. We are in challenging times that can leave us all in a state of anger, hopelessness, fear, and despair. Lately I seem to get sidetracked and off message.
There are definitely things to be angry about. There is nothing wrong with anger. There are many wrongs that need to be righted. With all that this nation and the world is dealing with, it is easy to become the very thing we are fighting against, hate.
I have been listening to songs from the sixties and early seventies. I have been listening to the lyrics of songs like Blowin’ In The Wind, For What It’s Worth, and Change Is Gonna Come; songs written 50 and 60 years ago but seem like they could have been written yesterday. One of my favorite songwriters is Neil Young. I have always loved his song Heart Of Gold. I read the lyrics again, like one might read the Bible, searching for a deeper meaning, a lesson. I found one. It is this,
On this often difficult and sometimes painful journey of life, we all find ourselves searching for a heart of gold. I think what those lyrics mean for me is an internal quest. Perhaps that is what Young meant. Of my attempts and my own failings, I am constantly looking for that heart of gold within me. Life continues to challenge that quest. Life can make me cynical and angry, sad and hopeless. But If I keep searching for goodness and purpose within my own heart, God will take care of the rest.
I wonder if Bridge Man, John, and Henry are looking for their heart of gold. How about you?
I wrote this post below on March 4, 2019, not long after I had a heart attack and received 2 stents. I got a third a few months later. Now, as I write this update to the story, my father is in the hospital in Carson City. He and his wife live in Reno, but they chose the Carson hospital because they thought they would receive greater care for his heart issue. My dad is currently in his procedure now; Angiogram to see what is happening. I found it remarkable when Debby (my father’s wife) told me the Doc who is performing the procedure used to actually play backup guitar for Bob Seger. Well, there you have it. God’s grace through healing hands and, well, Rock-n-Roll! This will make more sense toward the end.
I am praying for good news. In the mean time, I am sharing this post again for Pop. He too, is tired and worn, but still running against the wind...
The Longest Trip.
Lord, I’m tired. I wonder, Lord, if you might give me shelter from the storm. The wind is blowing and I’m getting older. The wind is blowing and I am still running against it, as I have always done. But I’m tired and worn. I need some help. I need some hope. I just can’t shake this and I have lost a step or two…
Lately, I have been struggling. I have been questioning. I have been confused. There are days, more lately, where I find myself trying to reconcile God’s will with my own. I feel like I can’t find that balance. There is this nagging fear that I am failing, going nowhere, no matter how hard I try. There have been too many days where I forgot what it feels like, to feel good. Sometimes it feels like pushing on the ocean. Buts its just running against the wind, and I am not failing. And, I am not forsaken.
I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t found my voice again. At least until now. But this has taken me weeks to write. I have been in a bit of a fog, feeling weak, feeling like I have been knocked down and I am still coming to my senses. I feel incredibly mortal, fragile. And, that will pass. But nothing comes easy. There is a cost to everything.
We all struggle. If you look around and think about it, every person you know has struggles. That’s life. We all get knocked down. We all deal with difficult times. We are all still running against the wind. At least now that we’re older, we know we are stronger together. And, we are stronger through God’s grace.
Still, I am struggling.
Sunday, March 4th, 2019
Last night I picked up Steve and Susan from DFW airport. We hit it off before we got out of the terminal area. I am very glad too, because it was a 2 hour trip down just southwest of Waco. They live in McGregor, TX. I actually took them to the municipal airport where they have a hangar that keeps their 1961 Beechcraft Bonanza. Their car happened to be there as well.
Steve and I swapped flying stories. I have a little flight time in the same make and model as his Bonzana. Stock photo below.
They haven’t lived in Texas very long; less than a year. I asked Steve what brought him to Texas and he answered, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Seriously? I asked. Apparently, they watched the show Fixer Upper and decided Waco seemed like a nice place to live. It definitely has a lower cost of living than their previous home of 30 years, in Seattle.
Originally, they planned a retirement in the Caribbean, spending all their time on a catamaran. But their son was diagnosed with cancer. He is good now. But they say the next 5 years are the greatest risk of it returning. Steve and Susan decided to stay landside in case their son needed help. He lives in Houston.
So they came down and met the Gaineses. Joanna helped them find a house in McGregor. Their house in a Seattle suburb sold for $450 per square foot. Their new home in Texas cost $97 per sq. foot. They doubled the size for less money. Susan said they love being here and wish they had come to Texas 20 years ago.
As we continued to talk about aviation we started getting into the history of both our families. It turns out, Steve’s dad flew F4U-4 Corsairs in WWII. He was based in Guadalcanal, Henderson Field for a bit as well as the carriers, Lexington and Enterprise. While it was a completely different ship and in the 1970’s my father was an air traffic controller on the nuclear version of the Enterprise, CVN65. Besides the F4U-4 Corsair, Steve’s father also flew Wildcats and Bearcats off the deck of a carrier. My favorite aircraft of all time is the F4U corsair and it just happens to be Steve’s dad’s favorite as well. Especially since he flew them in combat, dogfighting Japanese Zeroes.
Dropping Steve and Susan off at McGregor airport was a real treat. It has been a while since I have been on an airfield. I enjoyed following the taxi lane to his hanger. It definitely brought back some memories.
Dropping them off completed the longest trip thus far in my 2 and a 1/2 years of driving Uber and Lyft. I think it was 123 miles. We had such a great time talking along the way, they offered to take me to dinner in Waco at their favorite burger place called Freddy’s. I had to gracefully decline and get back up to DFW. But it sure was a nice gesture. Steve and Susan, you guys are true kindness Warriors. Correction, Kindness Aviators!
Talking about our experience flying brought back so many memories. Thinking back on those days, I was so confident, so ambitious. I didn’t play by anyone elses rules. I thought I could do anything. But I was always running. I was running to or from something. Heartache, depression, loneliness, who knows exactly. But when I flew, I was at peace. Up there with the deep blue sky and the lofty clouds, I had no fears. My demons were left on the ground below. Up there it was just me and God.
Now, here I am, ragged and worn, still trying to re-engage. Still trying to find that place of grace that seems lost. I am running on fumes with no end in sight. But, I am still running.
Bob Seger was in town Saturday at the Ford Center in Frisco. I think his song, Against the Wind represents it best.
I know I am not alone. We are all struggling. We all keep running against the wind. It’s what we do. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.
Hi welcome to Chic-fil-A. Can I have a name for the order?
The sun is setting here in Arlington, TX. A sunny but chilly day has melted away most of the ice and snow from our biggest winter event of the season. That’s just another weekday for northerners. Our landscape has lost the bright white in favor of our usual pale yellows, greys and dull January landscapes. Texas weather changes so much, many of the live oaks only lose about half their leaves trying to figure out if its winter or summer. The Pin Oaks seem to know what time of year it is. But the Live Oaks each have their own fall schedule, it seems.
Welcome to Taco Bueno, one moment please.
Not much light left now. Just the yellow and orange Western horizon. There is a feeling of peace and, perhaps a little introspective melancholia in the car as the three of us listen to the music and wait for food orders in the drive thru. Katie is at a retreat. Ben home. Mindy, Leia, and I are collecting the food. It’s Saturday night. Everyone gets what they want.
What is it about Saturday night that always brings out the 80s?
Our trip to Taco Bueno was for Ben, my son. He always orders the same thing, a cheese quesadilla and a bean burrito, with plenty of hot sauce. We recognized the voice of the man who took our order because he never gets our order right. Seriously, never. Tonight was no different. I guess you could say it worked out. This time we ended up with 2 extra tacos. Bonus for me.
My wife, Mindy, and I have been feeling an enormous amount of stress and mental fatigue lately. Neither of us have slept well. We have both been anxious all day. Somehow, taking a little drive with our daughter, Leia, to get food helped us. Just being together in the car, going to a few familiar places and listening to music as the sun went down helped take some of the stress away. Nothing grand. But simple and peaceful, together.
After the food run, we settled in to watch the latest Ghostbusters movie. It was wonderful. There were some brilliant lines and nods to the original from the 80s. The music, effects, and general feel of the movie were like the original as well. I felt transported away from 2022. We laughed, alot. We shared a few hours together. It was good.
The upside of dealing with a shitty world is it makes you truly appreciate some of the most basic but definitely blessed parts of life. It reminds me how very important it is to really be in the now. It reminds me that no matter how much people can be hurtful and cruel, there are always others who are kind and loving. Spend less time with the former and more time with the latter.
There are many battles ahead. There are people who continue to do harm. And we will fight those battles. But tonight, tonight we have let it all go, even if just for a little while. That little drive took us to a better place. It allowed us to travel on a safer, kinder, more peaceful path. There was a light, several really, that shined down on us to say, we are together and so much better for it.
Don’t let the darkness take over. Remember you are not alone. Open your heart to the grace we receive each day and the loving reminders all along your path that life is beautiful. Keep going, even when you are weary, and you will find little bits of hope and joy along your journey. Just as, one by one, you pass under streetlights on a Saturday night.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack. And, Saturday night that soundtrack is all about the 80s!.
Thinking about those important little moments, I am reminded of a woman I met from my Uber experiences that showed me the importance of now. Here is a #peopleprofiles edition of StreetLights On A Saturday Night from August 26th, 2019.
StreetLights On A Saturday Night
And, with her permission…
Janet was 22 when she met Chris. She was a senior at UCLA; While Chris was a first year law student at Loyola. Janet described it as love at first site. She said Chris swept her off her feet. They moved in together just 3 months after they met. They were officially engaged a month later. The engagement last a couple of years because they wanted to wait until Chris was finished with law school. Janet is a California native who grew up in San Diego. Chris is from the Houston, Texas area. They both felt like they were in one of those happily ever after stories, Janet described with a smile. “He was this tall Texan, quick witted, and very charming.” She said.
Chris was welcomed into Janet’s family immediately and he found an attorney position in San Diego. Janet had been working as a waitress while in school back in L.A. But by the time they moved to San Diego, She was pregnant with their first of two daughters, Hannah. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of their other daughter. There is only so much I can learn about someone in a 30 minute car ride!
Janet elected not to work but to spend as much time as she could as a full time mom. Chris was making a good salary, and they were fortunate because Chris’s parents paid off his student loans (contingent upon his finishing law school ). “We were living perfect lives.” Janet stated in a melancholy tone. Chris began working long hours. He also began to drink alcohol more frequently and spent many nights out with some of his colleagues. Things really started to change when Chris got a DUI. His attitude and temperament began to change. He was under more stress at work and became distant to Janet. When she tried to address it with him, he became defensive and hostile, insisting he was working very hard to support their family, so he was entitled to blow off steam. Things get really bad when Janet discovered Chris had also been using cocaine. Ultimately, she had reached her limit and upon confronting Chris, He again became angry. This time with abuse language directed at Janet, and the kids. Janet described the scene as heartbreaking and horrific. Both the girls were crying and Janet was overwhelmed. She immediately told Chris to leave that night, to move out. And, so he did. He first moved to a hotel, then to a friend’s from work, and finally into a small apartment. Chris continued to spiral down. His work declined and he was unable to reliably do anything. Janet made the decision to file for divorce six months after he left. He had only spent a limited time with the girls during that period; and when he showed up one day to pick them up, Janet could easily tell he had been drinking and refused to let them go.
Janet was heartbroken and confused. She just couldn’t understand how he would be willing to throw it all away, their marriage, their children, a great career. Janet made a phone call to Chris’s mother in Houston telling them she was concerned Chris might end up dead. She said she made one more call that night, to Chris. She had to leave a voicemail saying she was begging him to go back to Texas, go back to his parents, and get help. In the meantime, Janet had to start working. Fortunately, Janet had the support of her family. “My family saved us.” She said graciously. Chris was able to somehow avoid being fired and managed to take an unpaid leave of absence on the condition that he seek help with his addictions and get clean. He did as Janet asked and moved back in with his parents in Texas.
Janet continued to move forward with the divorce but she would occasionally call Chris to check on him. If nothing else, He was still the father of her two daughters and she hoped he would eventually take a more active role in their lives once he got clean. Chris did get the help he needed. He slowly began to face his demons. At some point, Janet was talking with him and began to hear a familiar voice, the voice of the man she fell in love with. This changed nothing. She was still firm on divorce. One day, few months ago, Chris called her. This call was an apology. This call was Chris realizing their relationship was over and he knows it was his fault. Janet said he accepted her request and would be staying in Houston for awhile longer. He then, according to Janet, began joking around on the phone, making fun of himself. He ended the call with talking to both of his daughters. He told them he would be back in San Diego to visit them but would be living Houston near Mammaw and Papaw (guessing on the spelling)
Janet said that phone called put a crack, “a very small crack” in her current expectations of what the future looked like for she and her daughters. So, she started talking with Chris more on the phone. She had not discussed with him the anger and disappointment she had. She did not ask him why he did what he did. But, she began feeling the smallest amount of hope. She began to think that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance this could have a happy ending. Still, when she started thinking of all the painful things he said, his behavior, his addictions, she knew if there ever was a chance they would get back together, it would take a long time. Last month, Chris was killed in a car accident. He was sober. The girl who crashed into him was not.
When I picked Janet up from Terminal C at the airport, she was standing alone and at the end of the curb. She had texted me through the Uber app to let me know she was in a blue coat. When I pulled up and got out to greet her; to put her bag in the back of my car, she had this melancholy look about her. Janet has long flowing dark red hair and very fair skin. She is about the same height as me, 5 foot 8”. I mention this only because she did not appear to want a picture for this story and I didn’t ask. As I introduced myself, she said Christopher is her husband’s name too. I told her he must be an awesome guy to have a name like that. She just gave me a tiny smile with surprising sadness. Once I confirmed our destination, we began talking as if we knew each other; as if we were longtime friends.
Upon hearing this heartbreaking story, I was surprised to hear Janet speak of hope. Well, maybe not that surprised. She spoke of being at peace. She spoke of letting go. She spoke of the incredible resilience both of her daughters have expressed. She was meeting her sister-in-law in Dallas to drive down to Houston together for the final service for Chris. The girls were already down there at their grandparent’s house. She told me that she believed in God and she believed he has plans for her, and her daughters, but He had called Chris home.
We sat for a few moments outside her sister-in-law’s house as we finished our conversation. When I told her I write about some of the people I meet in my travels as an Uber/Lyft driver, and that I would like to share her story, she seemed surprised. “I don’t know. This doesn’t seem like a happy story. I think your readers will be disappointed.” She quipped. I told her that her story offers hope. It offers a small bit of light in a very dark place. She told me she would let me write about her, with one condition; she wanted to pass along some wisdom.
“Live for today. Make each day count. We are not promised there is a tomorrow.”
Very wise words, indeed.
Be kind to all you know. Be kind to all you see. Be loving. Be accepting. Be joyful. Be hopeful. Be at peace, my friends.
Thank you Janet
This next song, while not from the 80s, was the selection for the original post.
For Janet and Chris
Here is more 80s on the StreetLights On A Saturday Night Spotify playlist.
Slippery little devil. It has taken some time to write this one. Joy keeps getting away. Last year on the 6th of January, I sat down on the couch in front of the TV. Joy slipped under the couch and was gone for months. It showed up again later, playing cards with my kids. But was gone again the next day.
If you see it trying to slip off the side of your screen, stay focused on it. If you can keep an eye on just one of its 3 little letters, it can’t get away. It cant get out of your grasp. Take your eye off it though, and it’s gone.
Anyway, I couldnt very well finish this post without it, so please excuse the delay.
Sunday, January 16th, 2022
Like I mentioned, it has taken some time to finish this post. In fact, I started writing this part of my current series, All My Empty Spaces, before all the others. This perhaps has been the most difficult post for me to write in a long time. Given all that is happening and all that weighs heavy on my heart and soul, I began to suspect I might never finish it.
Joy. A small word. Just 3 little letters. J. O. Y. And yet, so difficult to discuss. Maybe joy should have been a longer word. Something like Hakuna Matata. Oh wait, that one is taken. My point is 3 letters doesn’t seem sufficient for a word that is so complex, so important. It may seem simple. But anyone who hasn’t been stuck on an island for the last 20 years knows that joy is becoming more and more difficult to find and hold on to. These days my personal search for joy has led me to speak more 4 letter words than anything else.
I am not a theologian, pastor, or even all that well versed on the bible. I am just a humble servant of God, follower of Christ. Again, I try to follow the simple code, the example that Christ has given, be love, be kind.
I claim no moral high ground, but I stand my ground. I claim no intellectual superiority, but I continually learn, continually teach, and I have little patience or compassion for stupidity and dishonesty.
So, it finally happened today. I suppose I reached a point of despair that gave me the push I needed to complete my thoughts on joy. Ironic, isn’t it. The last 2 days have been extraordinarily difficult. My body has been fighting my mind. I have tried to get up, get out, and get going. But my body has made it very clear, it is on strike. “Hey pal, where do you think you are going? Lay your ass back down!” Every movement requires everything in the tank. This morning in the shower I could barely even stay upright. My continued physical health obstacles don’t make my mental health any better. My depressive brothers and sisters will understand this easily, but I already start the day out with a deficit. Meaning it takes more work, more effort to reach the same state of mental awareness and mental ability as everyone else on any given day. Oh, I don’t want or need any pity. I have come to accept and appreciate my wiring for what it is. Believe it or not, I think chronic depressives have some unique qualities, powers if you will, if they can learn to control them. Empathy is one of those powers.
But here is the rub, I have recently begun to realize that my struggle with joy isn’t just directly linked to my depression or my chronic fatigue. It isn’t completely tied to the pain I endure or the guilt that comes with constantly feeling like a burden. See I can overcome all of that. I can find joy in depression. I can find joy in the most extreme physical challenges. And, I have. Just last night, I sat on the couch and played a game with my family. Have any of you played the online games through Jackbox.TV? The game is played through your computer or a gaming system like the PS4. So you watch the TV and it prompts you through a series of questions or challenges you must answer or complete via your personal device like your phone or tablet. Occasionally you get to choose which answer you like the best from the other players which makes for some hilarious moments. My children are all well versed and talented in the art of sarcasm, so this game never fails to entertain.
In that moment, I felt joy. It was wonderful. In the middle of the game, my body started going nuts like it often does. I was simply sitting on the couch with this very laptop in front of me, playing this game, and I began to sweat. I broke into an all out sweatfest. My head and face started dripping of the stuff. It was soaking through my shirt. My pain level started to spike and my head became hot, achy, and dizzy. I knew I needed to head to bed, get some meds in me. But it didn’t take away the joy I felt by sharing some precious moments with my loved ones. I wouldn’t let it.
Do you ever wonder if the tiniest moments of joy, perhaps from a memory of a loved one that passed away are the most valuable, the most precious? Does joy that is derived from great pain become more precious than the joy one might find on an average day? I mean, I have had some of the most profound moments of joy during or just after some of the most painful or challenging moments of life. Its like that little bit of joy just became priceless. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting a joy barter system where you get incredible, powerful joy simply by enduring great pain. Yeah, that’s not a thing, at all. But I am saying that when you endure pain or loss, or life challenges, you develop a greater appreciation for the joyous experiences.
Back to the rub. The biggest challenge to find and keep joy is people. Because people suck.
⚠️ CONTENT WARNING ⚠️
CONTAINS anger, frustration, judgy mcjudgerson, some explicit language, occasional bad grammar… well probably more than occasional, if I am being honest. Oh, truthiness, pessimism and optimism in the same sentence, bad humor, and more anger.
There is a war on. It’s a war on truth. It’s a war on civility and mutual respect. Those waging it have no ability or inclination to give any of it. Have you noticed how widespread the phenomenon of never being wrong is? Well, I guess that means it isn’t so much a phenomenon as it is just a nom. Or would it be nomenon? I should maybe look that up but I am in complete free style rant mode write now (get it?) and don’t want to stop. It doesn’t matter anyway because I am probably not using the word correctly in the first place. My word skills aren’t very phenomenal. Maybe I should have used the plural participle in the first sentence?
Well, see? We are already off the tracks. So, hold onto your butts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride from here on. But seriously, trying to talk sense into those “never wrong” folks is like feeding my dog her allergy med hidden in peanut butter and then she sneezes, leaving tiny little globs of peanut butter truthiness and little bits of medicine in the carpet, on the walls, my fresh clean shirt, and my incredibly handsome face. Her words, not mine…
Yes, the dog.
Ok. Time to change the mood lighting from bright and colorful crazy Christopher rant disco ball lazer show to a little more serious and focused. Let’s say a darkened room with a tactical red or green underlight, like in the cockpit of an airplane, or the bridge of a warship.
This war on truth, civility, and mutual respect is becoming more brutal everyday. It continues to spread and mutate just as Covid 19 has. And like the January 6th, 2021 attack and insurrection on the Capitol, it is championed by the most extreme idiology of hate, but it sucks in mobs of people who wouldn’t otherwise cross a certain line. Those people, at first, are innocent (kind of). They are very misguided and naive, but now they have succumbed to those darker forces. Now they are culpable. And now because they couldn’t possibly be wrong, they are no different than the ones who were telling the lies and calling the shots in the first place.
That leaves us with noone in the middle to hold onto both sides of our torn society. It squashes peace and hope. It conditions love. And it leaves no oxygen for joy. Kindness and “love thy neighbor” become weaponized or signs of weakness. Christianity has been usurped. Much the same in other religions but as a Christian myself I am focusing my concerns within that demographic. The never wrong effect has found its way into more than just our politics or ideology. It has begun to affect our basic sense of care for each other regardless of our beliefs. We are just meaner and less willing to see each other as good people. If someone does something we don’t like, now we just go for the nuclear option instead of trying to work it out. It’s crazy!
I became naive enough to believe there were places, organizations, and churches that could rise above this. I felt like my own church was saying and doing the true work of a loving, inclusive, kind, and just God. I still do. But like any other church or body of organized religion, it is comprised of people. People are messy, self-serving creatures. And that truth has yielded its ugly head where I have lived, prayed, communed, and connected with God for the last 6 years.
Besides being disappointed by a few folks at my church, there is also a crisis in this country that kills joy.
Patriotic Depression and the search for joy in a deplorable world.
This Christian nationalism bullshit has truly broken me. I care deeply about the health of our nation. And it has never been more in peril. January 6th, 2021 was a day many of us watched in horror as the mob attacked the Capitol. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I knew something like that was inevitable, but horrifying nonetheless.
Saturday, January 22nd, 2022
The anniversary of the insurrection was just a few weeks ago. Since then, I have been having the strangest dreams. Last night, for example, I dreamt I was at Willie Nelson’s funeral and it came under attack by the Captiol mob. That idiot with the horns on his head, waving a confederate flag was leading it.
First of all, the idea Willie Nelson’s death is scary and sad enough. So, long live Willie! But seriously, don’t you Trump loving idiots go after Willie! And stay out of my dreams!This is what can suck the joy right out of the day before the day even starts.
“You have a republic, if you can keep it.”
That has been a popular Ben Franklin quote as our nation struggles to find a path forward. But in full context, Franklin then said, “All it might take is a man on a fast horse (no, not that man) perpetuating a lie to lose it. Ok, I am going to France until the Constitutional ink is dry. Peace out.”
I might be paraphrasing…
We still feel the need to be better off than others. We still have have this burning desire to punish freeloaders, to hurt, imprison and starve other human beings for simply crossing a border without permission in an attempt to reach safety. We let greed and power rule our morality. Christianity has been infected, poisoned with that greed. And, we are never ever wrong or obligated to apologize to each other.
In the United States in particular, Jesus carries a cross in one hand and an assault rifle in the other. We apparently all get to choose which version of Christ we want. Yeah, I’ll take the 3rd Jesus on the right; the white one with the MAGA hat and lots of contempt for anyone who doesn’t look like me.
Stay angry, good people.
I am reading “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk by John Pavlovitz. He speaks very well about the current crisis of the Christian faith and of the troubled state of our nation. His words resonate with me and have helped me through this dark period. He has given me the focus I need to keep finding joy. I still lose it all the time anyway.
So about joy…
I am trying to fill these empty spaces with those connected heart and soul fillers of peace, hope, love, and joy. But more than my own demons, fellow Christians seem intent on keeping those empty spaces from being filled with anything that might give voice to my questioning their actions, or more importantly the motives behind their actions.
I know the calendar says we just started a new year. As a follower of Christ I have always felt more like Easter marks the start of a new chapter. Spring comes along with the resurrection so it just seems like a more natural transition. Not like January 1st in the dead of winter. Plus these days, January feels more like insurrection, not resurrection.
I have always been skeptical of organized religion. I have always believed in God and have reaffirmed my faith in Christ many times throughout my life. But Christianity is a huge let down, even in places I thought were immune to the hypocrisy and hate. Maybe its just me. Maybe I have given people way too much credit for doing the right thing. Because even now and even a place I have truly loved has offered more of the same hypocritical betrayal. Godly words on a wall inside what is supposed to be a place of love are only worth the actions of those who walk those halls. These days, people fail the tenets of Christianity and do so in the name of Christianity. Proving yet again, organized religion is a joke.
We no longer care enough about each other to standby and support each other in truly difficult times. We are hollow shells walking around hollowed hallowed halls with banners of hope peace love and joy but when tested, those are just slogans on a shirt, written on a wall and not in our hearts. We have become a society championed by hate. And, hate infects us all.
“Fools” said I, “You do not know Silence like a cancer grows Hear my words that I might teach you Take my arms that I might reach you” But my words, like silent raindrops fell And echoed in the wells of silenceAnd the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made And the sign flashed out its warning In the words that it was forming Then the sign said, “The words on the prophets are written on the subway walls In tenement halls” And whispered in the sound of silence
Think of our shared belief in God and in each other as a large 4 engine aircraft. The engines are named hope, peace, love and joy. The fuel comes from a mixture of kindness, compassion, truthfulness, respect, civility, and the simple understanding that we are ALL connected. We are ALL on this big plane together. But if we can’t produce enough fuel to feed those engines, one by one they start losing power and shutting down. That also means the other engines have to work even harder to keep us flying. It doesn’t matter which engines you wish to use for this analogy because whether you have lost hope, or joy, you, we, are still losing altitude.
Tuesday January 25th, 2022
I have continued to struggle with joy. I have continued to fill those empty spaces with anger, sorrow, disappointment, and confusion. I used to get those booster shots of faith in humanity by driving Uber and Lyft. Meeting people and hearing their stories was always a reminder that people are inherently good. The last two years have been a true struggle trying to find and hold joy. That, as it turns out, isn’t from my personal challenges. It certainly isn’t because I have lost faith in God. It is because I keep getting disappointed by people. Now, more than ever, I am forced to deal with lies, hatefulness, and incredibly selfish people. I am forced to confront those “never wrong” folks.
Oh, how I desperately long for a society that acts like the family it claims to value so much.
And yet, once again, God has seen fit to remind me that not all people are bad. Every time I fall down, doubt myself, or doubt the goodness in people, God smacks me on the back of the head and says, ‘Stop doing that!” He just did it again.
I have seen something I guess I didn’t expect. With the enormous stress and pain my family has endured recently, my negativity has peaked. I have felt bitter and wounded. I have watched people I love struggle with unecessary pain inflicted by others, the never wrongers. But my focus has shifted from anger and negativity. In the midst of all this drama, I have been shown a better path. I see good people rising up and trying harder to spread love and kindness in the face of those who have become misled by hate and fear, and self-serving actions. I see good people, stronger than me, practicing a little Kindness Kung-Fu, you might say. And that gives me hope. It brings peace. It amplifies love. And I am joyous again. Just like that. Have you ever noticed God gives us grace every day? He gives us just enough to make it through, so long as we open our hearts to it.
645pm, Wednesday January 26th, 2022.
As I sit in my car outside my church, waiting for my daughter to finish her Wednesday night youth meeting, I am finally listening to a song my friend, John shared earlier today. He is quite good at finding the right song for the moment. Today’s troubles are more significant than most by an order of magnitude. Yet, I am strangely at peace in this moment. I am hopeful. I love my friends and family. And I am experiencing a rare kind of joy. I am overwhelmed, not in the pain and frustration my family has gone through recently, but in the response of others. I am reminded we are all connected and kindness is important, even when we work through conflict with others. I, myself have been a self-serving knucklehead at times and someone kind stood before me and showed me I can be better than that. I can DO better than that. I don’t think people are totally bad. In fact, most are good but still capable of doing bad things, making bad decisions. I know I have.
I sat with friends this week. I was given comfort. It felt like rain in the desert. And, even in the midst of all the “people made” pain I have been in, I have once again found joy.
All this to say I have been letting the wrong voices fill my head and heart. In case any of you didn’t know this, I write as a form of therapy. I write to find understanding and wisdom in the universe that I couldn’t otherwise tap into. When I have my most success in this theraputic process, the light comes on and my own inner voice says, duh!
Find your joy. Better yet, create joy. If people steal that joy, take it right back and leave those negative influences behind. I know that seems simple. But my struggle is proof that it’s a challenge. Look at it this way, if you are passionate about anything that involves people, count on being let down, repeatedly. It turns out, I am passionate about everything, so I am constantly challenged. But, oh man, when the joy kicks in, its that supercharged warm and fuzzy stuff. The occasional disappointments are worth it. Because as it turns out, God made all of us. So we are all very connected. Better to get along and stay engaged, as families are supposed to do.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.
One last bit of music that has brought me joy lately. Below that is a link to a playlist I used as I developed this post. Peace be with you, my friends. Joy too.
It was just after midnight when Ricardo brought the snacks consisting graham crackers, peanut butter, diet shasta, and a plastic sealed turkey and cheese on white (made by Goodyear). It was remarkably delicious, given it was the first thing I had to eat since breakfast; which comprised of powedered eggs, 1 slice of bread with butter and oatmeal (made by Elmer’s). Ricardo also brought pain meds, dilaudid to be specific. Before he arrived, I had spent 4 hours lying in my bed, helpless and hurting.
This was night 3 of what would end up as 7 nights, 9 days at the luxurious Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth. I think I managed to count every hole in the ceiling tiles and memorized every scratch in the floor. Your mind really starts to conspire against you when you are stuck in a 120 sq. ft. bare grey cold dark room with only the small light from beneath the door and muffled sounds of people passing by in the hallway outside to connect you to anyone or anything. I might as well have been in space, stuck in a capsule all by myself, but with HBO.
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare “This is Major Tom to Ground Control I’m stepping through the door And I’m floating in a most peculiar way And the stars look very different today For here Am I sitting in a tin can Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do”
During the worst of it, I would count down the minutes and seconds until I could hit that button and request more pain meds.
Dexamethasone, cipro, levaquin, vancomicin, Zofran, robaxin, lovenox, dilaudid, and norco were among the littany of drugs that passed through my veins during that horrific experience. I should own stock in pharmaceuticals. When you have become as familiar with hospitals as I have, you have to laugh at some of the operational policies or obstacles. For instance, Harris Methodist ER is dilaudid free. Upstairs in the hospital they are fentanyl free. I am allergic to morphine. It was a fun time educating the doctors on chronic pain management, especially when coupled with other serious health conditions that only exacerbate the pain while in hell (any hospital visit after the first 30 seconds).
If you want to know what moderate to severe chronic pain feels like, I always tell people to take their left hand and using your thumb and pointer finger, gently squeeze your neck just below the base of your skull. Good, now put just enough pressure on that grip so that your neck is depressed about 3/4 of an inch. Ok, next take your other hand and using the same fingers put roughly the same pressure on the front of your neck just below your jaw. Don’t squeeze so hard you choke yourself, stupid. Great! Now hold that position and amount of pressure for 6 years. During that time, you will need to once a day poke yourself in random places all over your body with a thumb tack. After the 3rd year, please increase that poke to at least 3 times a day with each episode lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Remember, you must maintain the pressure on your neck. Yes, I know. Now your arms are burning and your hands are cramped and swollen. You begin developing trigger finger in every finger on both hands; surprisingly, not your thumbs. But now, both hands become unable to fully close or fully open. Sometimes you have to use one hand to pop open the fingers of your other hand because it is too painful to simply open your hand on its own.
Sometimes I wonder which came first, the depressed chicken or the chronically painful egg.
My body and mind have waged war against me for decades now. But in that darkest moment of isolation and pain, in that tiny cold and dark space, confined to my brick hospital bed, I began to think the only peace would be simply opening the IVs in my hands. I had one in each hand so I began considering which side would be more effective.
Ricardo may have saved my life that night. It wasn’t the pain meds or the rubber turkey sandwich. It was simply when he opened the door and let the light of the hallway into the room. It was simply Ricardo greeting me. I was nowhere near reality in that moment, just a surreal flight of agony, feeling the darkness overtaking the smallest little pixel of hope, of life. Hell, I wasn’t even the room.
It was the winter solstice of my soul and it was the moment I went numb. Then the door opened and a kind man came in to check on me, to help me. The following nights got progressively easier. They became more bearable. The overwhelming pain finally began to subside like a retreating tide. We weren’t meant to be alone. Isolation is the biggest threat to peace of body and soul. Take care of yourselves. Make your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being the absolute priority. If you don’t, you won’t be of much help to others. Peace in any form starts from within.
Peace is surprisingly difficult and dangerous to achieve. Perhaps that is why we have all developed a tolerance to the lack of it. That word, peace, means something unique for each of us. What does peace look like for you? How can you find it in your own life?
Portions of this post were written a year ago. Other portions, like this paragraph were/are being written tonight, Christmas eve, while I am sitting in the front balcony row of Broadway Baptist Church letting the music and the soothing energy wash away all the conflict within me. Right here, right now, I am at peace. I wasn’t looking forward to service. Too much anxiety and frustration dominated my mind. But this moment of peace is just enough to keep my emotional fits from hitting the proverbial shan. It wasn’t the Christmas miracle I have been waiting for, been hoping for. But, it was just enough grace to get me through the night. Not too much, not to little.
Its all connected. Love, hope, joy, peace, faith. Just like the little trains made of wooden letter blocks. It all goes together. I write these words often. I say them often. It’s a little practice in the power of positive affirmation. And, it works. Take a ride on the peace train and find all the warm and fuzzies as you gaze out at the changing scenery of life from your train window. Choo choo!
Now I’ve been happy lately Thinking about the good things to come And I believe it could be Something good has begun Oh, I’ve been smiling lately Dreaming about the world as one And I believe it could be Someday it’s going to come’Cause I’m on the edge of darkness There ride the Peace Train Oh, Peace Train take this country Come take me home again
I have a confession. I cry less than I used to. I have started filling the open spaces in me with anger, resentment, and even vengence. Crying has always been for sorrow or joy. I have had little room for either in an anger driven state of mind. I am trying so hard to change that. I am desperate to change that. It may be working. I am crying right now. For sorrow and for joy. I have tears today for peace. Peace for you. Peace for me. Peace for us. Peace for eternity.
As I sit here in the darkened sanctuary on this Christmas eve, I am finally talking to God. I am finally listening to God again. I am finally seeing his amazing grace again.
I am a pllot. Or at least I once was. I took my first flight lesson when I was 16. I had my commerical pilot’s license by the time I was 18. That experience gave me a few skills that have been very useful in all aspects of my life, including and especially managing my depression.
Aviation is loaded with acronyms. One of the most familiar to pilots is RTFM, which stands for read the fuckin’ manual. In other words, know your airplane and know the procedures.
Flying taught me how to proceduralize and troubleshoot my life. Needless to say, I have lots of lists. Flying taught me to remain cool under pressure. Flying brought me peace. It brought me closer to God and a much better view of this beautiful planet we share. It took me away from all the chaos and conflict down below. That’s a true realization. We desire peace but actively harm each other and destoy it.
Flying was one of the only times in my life where I found peace, both within and without, but always up high.
I sat upon the clouds watching the world, finding peace only where my demons could not reach.
Gods beautiful creation. Being up there, in the sky was the only time I ever felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I felt complete and all my troubles were lost in the tiny objects below me.
Even after long and difficult flights when I was so tired my eyes burned, taxiing in after landing was always bittersweet.
Let me dance about the sky. Let me burst in and out of the clouds and rest ever so gently above them.
I still occasionally catch a scent that reminds me of the cockpit; the smell of electric devices in a small space, the combo of fuel, oil, carb heat and leather seats with wool covers.
These days you can’t ask to stick your head in the cockpit without getting someone nervous about your intentions. But if any pilot ever catches you taking in a deep breathe through the nose while even close to the controls, they won’t think it strange. Because they know, we know, it smells like home. That is, unless your copilot had Whataburger for lunch.
Flying never failed me, never let me down, ever. Not even that time I flew Robert J. in his Piper Archer to Cleveland, Tennessee, with him picking his nose the whole 7 hours and 52 minutes of flight time, breaking only for fuel in Pine Bluff. Rob was in the Christian music industry and going to Tennessee for a few months for work. He wanted to fly his own plane there but invited me to drop him and return his plane to Fort Worth. He wasn’t sure when or from where he would be heading home. I was solo for the flight back and loved every second of it.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
J.J. Abrams’ movies often have a trademark characteristic or style. He uses an emotional yet calm and soothing piece of music to score actions and images that are chaotic, even violent. While the imagery can hurt, and the intensity becomes almost unbearable to all senses but sound, its the music that carries us though. That is how I might define my life on certain days. The music carried me through the pain and destruction until, yes, finally, morning has truly broken and God has recreated the day. We are reborn each day. Maybe this day will be better. Maybe this day, those who wish harm to me and mine will relent, repent, and fucking relax. Maybe this day my hands won’t just hurt. Maybe this day my hands will hurt from healing.
“Say it’s here where our pieces fall in place Any rain softly kisses us on the face Anywhere means we’re running We can sleep and see ’em coming Where we drift and call it dreaming We can weep and call it singingWhere we pray when our hearts are strong enough We can bow, ’cause our music’s warmer than blood Where we see enough to follow We can hear when we are hollow Where we keep the light we’re given We can lose and call it livingWhere the sun isn’t only sinking fast Every night knows how long it’s supposed to last Where the time of our lives is all we have And we get a chance to say Before we ease away For all the love you’ve left behind You can have mine…“
December 25, 2021
I think it should be said that while those of us who believe in and follow Christ are celebrating these glorious pillars of God, hope, love, joy, and definitely peace on earth, it should be said that we must include everyone in that dream, not just, ESPECIALLY not just Christians. Otherwise peace truly is impossible.
Peace also means loving thy neighbor, even if they make false accusations against you. Even if they purposely hurt you. Even if they do harm to those you love. Even if they are booger eating morons with the IQ of an empty can of bean dip. Yep, I said it. Stupid hateful people need peace too. They need it especially. We don’t hurt each other instinctively. We just don’t. We are all completely connected. So, hurting each other only hurts us too. We must show kindness and sue for peace. Yes, we must be angry at times. We must fight harmful elements of this life. But the fight is always and only for the dream of peace.
So, kindness warriors. Walk softly, but carry a big stick. Practice a little kindness kung fu. And when your enemy is stopped, they are your enemy no more. They are your brother and sister, your mother, your daughter, your best friend. Just like that. Put down the staff and open your arms with love. It really can be that easy. Seriously. Stop the hate. Share. The. Love. Make. The. Peace. Fill the empty spaces not with those things I seem to be struggling with, but with warm and fuzzy, gooey, sappy, funny, extraordinary, love.
Let it fill you up. Let it drip onto your shoes. Its ok. I love the scene in Ghostbusters 2 when the guys convert their packs to spray that love stuff, positively charged emotional slime. Everybody at the end (spoiler alert) is hugging and saying I love you. Doesn’t that seem like a great plan? Doesn’t that seem like the right kind of Christmas miracle?
We can do better for each other.
I want thank you for all the lessons, love, and daily grace you have given me. I want to thank you for the incredible people you have put in my life; My friends, my family, my children and my wife.
You showed me how to fight depression. You gave me a clear mission to help others, to be a light in the darkness.
Lord, from that moment under the streetlight across from my house, so many years ago, when I was just 12 years old but filled with so much curiosity, but also so much darkness and pain, from that moment you have continued to flicker that light to let me know you are there. I have never doubted your existence since then.
Perhaps I have questioned your motives from time to time. But to be fair, tell me one person who hasn’t. You are the boss, so what you say goes. You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I get that loud and clear, Dude. Is it ok if I call you Dude? It’s totally out of love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Man, Aretha sure could drive home a message, don’t you think?
My soul is weary, Lord. I have no peace and my hope of finding it is waning.
“Speak, O Lord. Your servant is listening.”
Whether you are working toward world peace or the peace of reconcilliation, whether you are coming to terms with your past or looking for peace in your present, remember the peace process always and forever starts by making peace with yourself. So go easy, my friends. Breathe deeply and let it go. Be at peace within and you will come to peace without.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack
For a playlist of the music found in this post along with a few other songs I listened to while working on the writing, checkout this link to Spotify.
Have you noticed lately that noone is ever wrong anymore? People just never make mistakes and their opinion is always the correct one. I know this phenomenon has been around for a long time. Ego, narcissism, misplaced anger. We have all become so fucking smart that we can never be wrong about anything, especially when talking about politics, religion, or other people. 🤔😉 But this incredible mass generation of geniuses really became epic around the time of the internet, the world wide webs, the information superhighway, and Fox news.
Chris, what the hell does this have to do with hope? We thought you were gonna tell us a story of hope, positivity, kindness, and other warm and fuzzy stuff. Well….
Let’s just see where this takes us.
Hope IS actually my favorite subject to write about. And, I have met so many incredible people over the years with these amazing life stories of hope. When I drove Uber/Lyft, this was an almost daily occurrence. That in turn, supercharged my own hope. In fact, that experience gave me enough hope and faith to get me through some of the darkest and most challenging moments of my life.
God gave that to me. And I made full use of it. I also, well, my family and I also found our beloved Broadway Baptist Church around the same time. Another gift from God. We became a part of a bigger family of love, acceptance, and support. I honestly never thought I would find a church that didn’t have me running for the door 15 minutes into the service. But Broadway, and the good people of Broadway have been a huge part of our lives, our children’s lives. That was God sending angels, a bunch of them, to help us through difficult times, to teach us to be better people ourselves, to inspire us, to concentrate on a life of service and kindness. Broadway gave us hope.
I haven’t written much about hope lately, because I seem to have lost mine. At least, I have lost hope in certain things, like the overall goodness of people. It has also become clear that hope just isn’t as easy as I thought it was. Hope is actually tough. Hope takes guts. Without action in pursuit of it, turns out, hope is just another 4 letter word. Stress is another four letter word.
Just go with it…
Still looking for that Christmas miracle.
Stress is playing a central role in life at the moment. Does anyone else feel that way? Stress just likes to steal the show, be the center of attention. Stress sucks. Stress is a hope killer.
My wife and I have been married 19 years. We have seen plenty of stress, obstacles, and dark times. But we have shared some beautiful moments too, miracles even. This year, like several others in the last decade, we are in some rough waters. We have had a number of what I call Christmas miracles over these last few years and I am praying, hoping for yet another. But this time is a little different. This year my hopes are in other people, and that scares the crap out of me. What I mean is, the miracles Mindy and I have received in the past were with God’s intervention but also a result of us vigorously pursuing our hope, our goals, our reconcilliation, or our combined efforts to improve our family life. This year, we are placing our hopes in the goodness of other people. This year I am scared there will be no Christmas miracle because this year, and the last few years, people have really let us down.
For example, a good friend of mine is going through an incredibly stressful ordeal right now. My friend has been doing what she does best, supporting and helping others. Not long ago, someone made a false allegation against my friend and it has had devastating effects.
My friend, she is always so selfless, a true servant of God, especially in situations where no one else seems to care. Now, she is basically cut off from her true calling, because someone either misunderstood or was bothered by my friend helping a particular individual. Sorry to be vague with this story but its a live one so, best not to go into detail.
This is the kind of crap that keeps diminishing my faith in people. At this point, I have also begun to lose hope my friend will ever fully recover from this, nor her husband and children who are also impacted by the attack on her character and good name.
I am losing hope that we will ever get back to working out our differences with each other peacefully. It seems like everyone just jumps to quick assumptions and judgements. Then, they go telling other people their version/opinion of the whole thing and we are off to the races. You end up with a whole network of people being given lies and deception, or at the very least, a tiny sliver of information without any context.
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”-Joseph Goebbels.
Yuk. I hate quoting evil people, but Joe has a point.
I feel like every time I get my hope recharged, something happens and destroys it. Lately, it has been people, not places or things.
God never gives you more than you can handle. So God keeps going “I think he can handle a little more.” And the angels all said “God! What are you doing? You’re out of your mind!” -Tig Notaro
So how do I break the pattern? How do I get that focus on hope again? How do I fill the empty space where my supercharged hope used to be. Because right now, it’s gone.
My life used to be a series of mistakes, regrets, and failures. Now, I realize my life is a series of lessons, valuable experiences, and miracles. In the most recent years, I have come to understand my life isn’t about me at all. It is about all those souls around me and that gives me eternal purpose and yes, hope. If I can keep my demons in their cage and remember that purpose, I can keep the light of hope in front of me. I can actively pursue it. After all, God has given me so much. I can’t let people destroy that. My life is full of grace. But I still fight it some days. We all do. We all do.
Grace is that moment when God’s will syncs with your will. You might then think perhaps you have never experienced it. But you have, every day. If you didn’t see it or feel it, you haven’t opened your heart to it. But it is given to you nonetheless. So how is something given to you a product of God’s will and your own? Simple, God is the one who gave it to you. Don’t overthink it. Just allow it to be. Open your heart, allow God’s love and you will find grace wherever you go, whatever you do, every day.
If you want to be in sync with the universe, just let it happen. Stop pushing on the ocean and realize that your life isn’t filled with a single thing you “have to” do but millions of experiences you ‘get to” do. And those people who let you down might just be the ones who need your kindness and hope the most.
Did you ever see that movie “For Love Of The Game” with Kevin Costner? He plays an aging pitcher in his last baseball game. The plot moves back and forth from the game to his life leading up to it. It’s a love story to be sure. But it is about the love of baseball as much as a romance between two people. It’s a great movie.
Anyway, when Costner is on the mound, he has this routine where he says “clear the mechanism” and all the noise goes silent while he gets laser focused on the next pitch. As the game goes on and he is in more and more pain, giving his last efforts ever on the baseball field at a possible perfect game, his routine starts to fail him. “Clear the mechanism.” And the crowd is muted but only for a second, as his focus fails him. “Clear. The. Mechanism.” Still can’t zero in. He does it one more time and manages to hurl another fastball over the plate but the batter makes contact and sends it low near 2nd base where the 2nd baseman quickly snags it and throws the batter out at first. This was so very close to a hit and ruining Costner’s perfect game. But now he has the whole team playing their absolute best to get that perfect game. He has the whole team and everyone watching the game full of this amazing hope.
I won’t give away the ending but it is worth the time to watch this movie.
I am having trouble clearing the mechanism these days. There just seem to be too many distractions, too much pain, and way too much disappointment. I need to find my way back. I need to focus on hope, remind myself of all those redemptive stories. I need to trust in people again. I need to get back to Church. I need to let the anger go. I need to reach out to those who seem the least interested in my hand and keep trying, for their sake and mine.
I need to realize that I get to do all of this.
Clear. The. Mechanism.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
I think I may have listened to Southern Cross more times than any other song, ever. Something about it always gives me hope, makes me smile, and I can feel the warm salty air on my face. I can see the sun setting over the ocean with orange, yellow, purple, and pink. I always find myself beginning to heal my broken heart and weary soul. For me, the woman they sing of is a metaphor for the incredible but often very destructive moments in my life that I am trying to move past, sail away from. It is about the healing power of the universe.
“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way. Cause the truth you might be running from is so small. But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day. So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dying. And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain. I have my ship and all her flags are a flying. She is all that I have left and music is her name.”
I have a messy mind and my writing is a process of cleaning up the mess. -Judy Blume
I know I have used that quote before but I love it. And, it truly describes my own mind and process. Actually thinking of putting it in everything I write.
When I was twelve or possibly thirteen, I asked God to prove he was real. I wanted to know if God actually existed. And if he did, I had a whole lot of questions and gripes, or as my twelve-year-old self would describe it, a buttload of questions.
Yeah, I know everyone questions the existence of God and we all have our own idea of what the answer is. For me, the answer was simply, yes. Yes, God does exist. And that night under a flickering streetlight across from my house, that hot summer night in Texas, God responded to my plea for attention and my need to verify his existence. Right when I cried out was when that streetlight flickered, went out, and came back on constant.
That moment in my early adolescence was also the first time I believe I suffered a significant depressive episode. I certainly didn’t know it at the time. In fact, I didn’t have a true understanding and awareness of my lifelong pattern of depression, tracing back to that time, until I was 46 and suffering what was by far the darkest and most destructive depression of my life. God answered me and revealed his presence when I was young, and he saved me again in 2017. In fact, I now have an awareness and understanding of my wiring because God cleared the fog and revealed not only the lifelong destructive patterns but also his presence, His grace through every moment of it.
I have depression. I have been challenged with disease and physical pain. I have been close enough to death through my own despair, to have accepted it. I have cried as I knew I was seconds away from death only to find a moment, a flash of joy that turned into an avalanche of love washing over me. In that instant, I could see joy in the pain, because one cannot exist without the other.
For me, streetlights represent hope. A metaphor. And occasionally when one flickers as I go by, its God reminding me He is with me, always. So, when I began to recover from my worst depressive period in late 2017, I also found this new purpose in life. I found a different path. I was driving Uber and Lyft full time then. My driving and interactions with so many people became a conduit for my writing and for me to find ways to reach out to people in need of a safe space. I became someone to actually see them behind their mask to let them know that while depression is a lonely battle, they are not alone. Someone else has seen and felt the way they do and can give them validation, courage, and hope.
This adventure of mine became a way to renew my faith in God and people daily. I still had plenty of my own battles to fight but that faith in people kept me fighting. Becoming fully aware of my disease and learning how to control it didn’t just make it go away. I still and forever will, battle depression. But now I have power over it. Now I can help others do the same.
One of my empty spaces is where my faith used to be, or at least how I defined my faith. The last few years, even after this incredible journey of grace, I found myself questioning my faith. I have finally realized, I wasn’t questioning my faith in God, I just stopped talking to God. Instead, my faith in people is really what has taken a big hit. Humans, what a bunch of fucking idiots. I wonder how we got this far. Will we find redemption? Can we stop putting it off until tomorrow? Driving used to restore my faith in humanity. All it usually took was just one rider who I could connect with to get the lights back on.
My Driving experience came to an end on March 18, 2020. Covid dominated everything we did. I am someone who has chronic health issues meaning I was a high risk individual. I simply risked dying if I continued to drive at that time. Coincidentally, that is when my faith began to crumbIe.
I have spent years trying to cultivate a life of kindness and service. There has always been this inner conflict, this battle in my soul to live a life of love and kindness while constantly mitigating anger and frustration with hateful stupid people. That’s kinda hilarious, don’t you think? It’s like I want to beat someone for being a bully while screaming “be kind” in their face. That isn’t what I was going for when I chose to focus on kindness in my life. Nevertheless, I have finally come to terms with who I am in this regard.
I believe in love and kindness as the way we should all treat each other. I also believe sometimes, in order to bring love to one, you must fight another. I am not a cynic. I am a realist. It is hard to imagine a kind and joyful life when there are monsters roaming the land. So, be kind. Be love. And when absolutely necessary, be a tough ruthless motherfucker. I don’t think that’s hypocritical.
I prefer to think of it as kindness Kung Fu.
Letting my anger out used to be a practice in failure. Now I realize I can be kind, find joy, and be seriously combative at the same time (when the situation calls for it). My faith in God is as strong as it has ever been. My faith in people is what has caused one of the empty spaces in me. It has created this void. When I try to fill it with joy, it’s like water pouring into and through a colander. It never holds the joy. It never restores my faith, in people. It just flows through the empty space.
I am not ok. Filled with anxiety, depression, self-pity and self-loathing. I am angry and disappointed. I am tired. I have spent the last 3 years fighting one health issue after another. Staph infections, heart attack, surgery, and 6 hospitalizations in 2019 alone. Here is the real kicker, in the middle of Covid, I became ill with West Nile Virus. that was another 9 days in the hospital. West Nile has left mr with a few lingering symptoms including enormous chronic fatigue and chronic stomach issues. But I have continued to find a way to live and be of service in this life. I realized I cannot remain silent, even if I am not feeling the warm and fuzzies.
So, here we are. How is your faith these days? Are you like me, struggling to hold that faith in other people? I have spent way too much time thinking about this stuff, which is why I finally decided to start writing about it. I need to find a way to start filling those empty spaces with the right ingredients again. Will you help me? Here are some of my rants and ramblings as I work to restore my faith.
Do things happen for a reason? I don’t mean like the reason the chicken got ran over by a car. I mean fate. Do you believe in God? If so, is everything part of his plan? Did God know I would be here hammering these words out with thumbs rata tat tapping on the tiny keboard of my trusty Samsung Galaxy on a late Saturday night? (I finished this post on the laptop in case you were wondering.)
Has God commanded everything? each breath we take? If so, then…. Perhaps we need not bother to take out the trash. It was God’s plan for me to sit my ass down on the couch and watch Criminal Minds instead.
Active or passive? Do prayers work? Do more prayers garner more support from the almighty? Better yet, maybe there is a reward system. Like those little tkckets that pour out of the skeeball machine at Chuck’s house when you score the middle hole, you can rack up prayer points. Careful though. If you don’t have enough proper prayers when you try to cash in, you get the Godly intervention equivalent of one glow stick, a plastic spider, and a couple of tootsie rolls. If you want God to let you have the lava lamp answer to prayer, you are gonna need A TON of prayer power.
A good example of a beneficiary — George Bailey. He got over $10 grand, and his own personal angel for the night.
So yeah, prayers do work. And as far as my faith in people? That is a work in progress. But I am trying.
Next up. I need to find some hope to fill another empty space. In the mean time…
Try not to be imprisoned by the way it could have been.
I hope you are feelin’ alright. I’m not feelin’ too good myself. But I am getting there.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.
Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene Every night I have the strangest dreams Imprisoned by the way it could have been Left here on my own or so it seems I’ve got to leave before I start to scream For someone’s locked the door and took the key
Feeling alright I’m not feeling too good myself Feeling alright I’m not feeling that good myself
Boy you sure took me for one big ride And even now I sit and I wonder why That when I think of you I stop myself from crying I just can’t waste my time I must keep trying I’ve got to stop believing in all your lies ‘Cause there’s too much to do before I die
Feeling alright I’m not feeling too good myself Feeling alright I’m not feeling that good myself
Don’t you get too lost in all I say But at the time you know, I really felt that way But that was then and now you know it’s today I can’t get set so I guess I’m here to stay Till someone comes along and takes my place With a different name oh and a different face
Feeling alright I’m not feeling that good myself Feeling alright I’m not feeling that good myself