Heart Space –
This morning at worship service with my mom I bumped into an old friend and asked him how things were going. His birthday was a few weeks ago and he said that he was going to celebrate with a trip but had encountered some heart problems and wasn’t able to go.
I’ve reflected on the short conversation several times today. It is Advent season. A time of joy and celebration but our hearts are heavy with the passing of my dad. As we sat in church this morning, visited a home improvement store (which my dad loved to do), did some work around the house our hearts just haven’t been in it.
We know this is the path we must travel and one day much of the pain will dissipate but right now, this evening, it is not the time. Our broken hearts still ache and space which my dad filled is empty. There is no template for mourning, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. We take it one day at a time, one moment, one tear and laugh as the memories, experiences, and love flood us and fill us.
Yesterday afternoon I loaded the pick-up truck with the household garbage we keep in a covered area outside. I placed two bins in the back and another bag shut the tailgate and headed to the Refuse and Recycling Center. When I arrived I hopped out the cab, walked to the back, let the tailgate down and something furry jumped out at me! That’s not what happened but it’s what looked like was happening when the deceased mouse (pictured) plopped down on the tailgate when it lowered. “Whoa!” I screamed, initiating a strange look from another person who was throwing away garbage also.
As I looked closer I saw that it was a dead rat. I emptied the bin and discovered he was trapped by a hole in the bottom of the trashcan. He had wiggled his entire body out with the exception of his hips and hind feet. He died trying to escape the trash he willingly entered into. I used a piece of wood to pry him out of the hole and a thick piece of plastic to grab him and toss him in the dumpster.
As I drove away I thought about the choices each of us makes; good and bad, right and wrong, positive or negative. I tell the men I work with; “The choices you make today determine the man you will be tomorrow.” I also speak with them about how there are some choices which drastically impact them and those they love and care about. “Once you make certain decisions you forfeit the ability to be a good man to those who need you be that the most.”
Each of our actions has consequences. We must be careful not get stuck by the choices we make.
Pauses and Spaces –
I worked with a dad today who struggles with addiction issues. He kept repeating the Twelve Step oft heard phrase; “Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray.” It is the addict’s response if they’re tempted to drink, use drugs, get angry, make poor decisions. They are to take a breath and then breathe a word of prayer for peace and guidance.
I use the phrase; “The space in between.” Life is made up of experiences. We’re blind to most of them because we’ve become used to them, take them for granted. There are times however when an experience happens and our choice of what to do or not do, how to react, make the wrong, right or better choice could greatly impact our lives and the ones we hold dear. It is in the space between what happens to us and our choice of how to respond where our future is forged.
Whether; “pause and pray” or “the space between,” we choose to shape the experiences of our lives or be shaped by them.
Good and Bad –
Earlier this week a link to an old style entertainment wrestling video appeared in my Facebook feed. I recognized the wrestler and I admit succumbing to the temptation to click on the link. Watching it I was taken back to my childhood and enjoying these entertainment wrestling shows. My parents weren’t fans so my brother and I made sure they weren’t aware of what we were filling our brains with on the boom tube.
These wrestlers were incredible. They wore flashy clothes, had muscles everywhere, took a beating, kept on going and most of the time the good guy won the match. One of the reasons I liked wrestling as a kid was because you knew who the good and bad guys were by the way the dressed, talked, wrestled (good guys never cheated) and behaved in and outside of the ring. As a kid these were real life heroes and villains fighting for right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice every Saturday. Back then I didn’t know it was a lot more entertainment than wrestling. As I grew up I came to realize it was athletic acting, a male dominated, sports soap opera.
Someone asked me a few days ago who they should vote for in the upcoming presidential race. “Both candidates have tremendous flaws! As a Christian, how should we vote?” I shook my head and simply said; “I think you should pray.” “About who to vote for?” they asked. “No,’ I replied, ‘I’m not sure as a Christian you can, with a Holy conscience, vote for either one. But you can pray.”
The older I get the harder to tell who the good and bad people are anymore. Our world is so full of mixed signals, compromise and confusion. I don’t think its going to get any better. Prayer, humility, serenity of spirit is what it takes to survive and hope in times and seasons such as these.