Monday, January 27, 2014

Engineering a moment

I saw the question on facebook last night which is the biggest the fraud the Grammies, the pro bowl or wwe wrestling? All that were on tv last night.
As much as each of these expressions of entertainment try to create moments, some successed and some fail. I personally watched the Grammies and I thought there were some great moments but I am not sure those are the kind of moments that have a lasting personal impact on most of us.

Can we tell when a moment (a permanent snapshot of time) happens in life? Can we anticipate, create, or even manipulate one of these to take place? We love stories of moments, especially when they have happy endings. But in our own lives do we notice when these moments are taking place?

I think we miss out on moments quite a bit because of our agendas, plans, frustrations, goals, and own ideals. I have missed many special times in life because I was frustrated about really dumb stuff. I have sacrificed for things that have absolutely no long term value.
In Corinthians it talks about Love and one of the things it says is If I do not have love I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. It is very easy for me to be so me focused that I miss out on love and become that proverbial clanging cymbals.

In my own experience when I am not so focused on me and more on a sacrificial love I see moments in life occur.

In a strange turns of events yesterday I told two men I loved them. I am not a touchy feely person by any stretch of the imagination. I don't enjoy that (like most men) and feel weird when that kind of emotion swells up.

The first experience was of a friend who was leaving to pursue different interests. It was sad but joy for him as he moves on. He was a friend who we didn't always see eye to eye but someone I have great respect for. We had been through the proverbial fire together and had grown together through that. At the end of our time together my son who was with me asked if I was crying. I had a tear or two come but nothing major, but I wasn't going to admit it to Ayden. This had been a planned moment. And not really a life defining or even in the big scheme of life important moment.

As the day went on yesterday, I did a number of other tasks and in the middle of the afternoon I received a text from one of my neighbors to come and visit him. My wife wasn't thrilled because I had been gone all day and to be honest I was tired and ready for a nap. But he doesn't usually ask me to come over unless it is important and I sensed that it was so I went.

When I went to his door his wife greeted me and my neighbor was no where in sight. I thought this was strange because he knew I was coming and he always greets me. His wife explained he was in the bedroom and wanted to see me in there. Again strange.

Usually in life we don't allow others to see us in vulnerable positions, we don't want people to us in these situations.

As I went into the bedroom there was my neighbor laying in bed not feeling well at all. He told me he went to the doctors on Friday for a possible herniated disc in his back. The tests and mri led to a different conclusion he had cancer.

The doctors had an idea of what it was and they had told him it was treatable but not cure able. I was in shock, in total surprise. My neighbor is in his mid 40s, we spend a ton of time together. We both have a love for baseball, God, and had many other common interests.

We spent about 15 minutes together after my initial shock I realized that this was a moment. It wasn't engineered, planned, rather this was a raw emotional response. There is a few things that will stick with me as we sat crying on his bed with his dog sitting there with us. He said "Ben we have talked about heaven many times, I may experience it quicker than I would have thought."

We held hand and prayed together. I was shaken. I am not sure what the future holds, but that moment was a time where a man fears for his life, and was scared of the journey.

We embraced and told each other we loved each other, and I left crying and I wasn't going to control it.

The moments of life we remember mostly are not engineered, planned, or even desired. They are the moments were raw emotion supersedes everything. We can't control the response.

These moments come at the most inopportune times,  they come at times where we have a choice to do our tasks, live our lives, or put it on hold and be with those who need us.

This friendship doesn't just stop at this moment, rather it continues a journey of us walking together.

I didn't think these would be the moments I would experience in my late 30s, but I don't think we pick and choose what happens to us.

It is easy to assign clich├ęs and simple answers to life issues, but sometimes the thing that is needed from us is just show up and live the moments with others.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

walls and barriers

Death- The road and circumstances surrounding death is much different in movies than in real life. Usually when death occurs in movies it is neatly tied up, final forgiveness apologies mended relationships happen. There is a peace or overcoming struggle before death occurs. A death that doesn't have those things occur would leave us helpless and sad.
Calvin was 47 when he died last week. I can't say that Calvin and I were friends, but Calvin wanted to be. We met over a year ago at a storage auction through a mutual friend. From that first day we talked quite a bit. We had some adventures together, one night I went to look at some guitars in Lake Station and Calvin came with told me he would protect me if anything happen and patted his side. Im not sure if he was allowed to carry but I was pretty sure I would be somewhat safe with a big guy like Calvin having some sort of weapon.
Calvin told stories about life in the good ole days of storage buying. Back when the companies gave people the units for free just to get rid of the stuff. One day we went to breakfast and he brought his wife with. He was one of the few people who referred to me as preacher. He introduced me to his wife with that title. That day they both shared their journey of faith, they loved being a part of a small church. They had inquired about Liberty but quickly didn't like the idea of going to a big church.
They hadn't been part of a church for a while due to some funny business by the former pastor.
But that had not squashed their faith, or their love for Jesus. They desired community.
Even after explaining what I did numerous times Calvin continued to think I worked with teenagers. he had all sorts of ideas for things the teens of our church should do with him. He wanted to take them to an archery range, he wanted them to come over and fish at his pond, he wanted to do a picnic. I didn't have a heart to tell them there is no way I can even ask the youth pastor is he will bring his kids to spend time with a big burley southern guy who smokes and uses all sorts of foul language. But Calvins heart for people shown through. Calvin was very intrigued by spiritual topics, he would ask me many questions and he loved watching the Bible on the history channel. He would call me on Monday mornings after the last episode had aired and ask me various questions. He had also expressed desire to start a Bible study at his house.
Calvin also had a great idea of taking a group of us on a storage auction tour through Kentucky and Tennessee. His mother lived in Tennessee and he wanted to bring us down there and visit with her along with going to auctions. I'm pretty sure it would have been an experience of a lifetime, but there wasn't anyway I was going to take the time to go with him and leave all of my responsibilities.
As I stated at the beginning Calvin wanted a friendship, I wasn't sure I had time, the energy, or even what would happen. So I began building walls and barriers. I built them because I wasn't sure what the outcome of this friendship would become.
He got on my nerves because he was unemployed, out of money, and always wanted to me to sell things for him online. He had unrealistic expectations of the value of things, and I got sick of it. He was trying to make money to buy his medicine but didn't have the money. I really didn't want to get involved with him, I had tried to sell a few things for him on craigslist and had been a little annoyed. It was because of this annoyance that I stopped taking his phone calls. I wouldn't call him back for days and only begrudgingly.
As I have a lot about it this week I ask myself why? Why was I so annoyed? Why was I so selfish? What was I scared was going to be the end result of this friendship? Was I worried I was going to be taken advantage of?
What ever the reason the barrier and the walls were built.
His death has hit me harder than most deaths I have experienced. His death left issues of unsettledness is my own life and thoughts. He had his quirkiness and his own issues, but no more than anyone else. He wasn't going to take advantage of me, he wasn't going to do anything to me, yet I was worried. I was overly concerned to the point of ending a friendship that wasn't needed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You can't pay for this

For 48 hours total freedom, as the powers to be told everyone in the general northern Indiana region you can't leave your house. (at least not by car).
For parts of 3 days almost all of us had total freedom. We could do whatever or nothing as long as it was confined to our house. For many this was a total different way of life, no schedule, no meetings, plans canceled. A time for relaxation, and family time.
If life is a script that is to be followed freedom can seem extremely intimidating and almost paralyzing. But if life is about community and relationships nothing changes. Nothing changes when freedom from tasks and responsibilities but it does give opportunities for community.
Three years ago in February we encountered a similar situation, snowed in no plows complete boredom. The second night of this hibernation period I received a text lets play cards tonight. Even though we can't drive we can still walk. That night started a weekly pine creek experience. That experience has led to conversations, experiences, and friendship through circumstances.
This time around it took a matter of 2 hours before I received the text lets play cards today. None of us were doing anything else. except my poor neighbor who works for a heating and cooling company his boss came and plowed him out so he could work.
The walk Monday afternoon through my neighborhood was freezing at best. I don't think I have ever been so cold, but the afternoon was well worth the walk. Stale Christmas popcorn, beers flowing (im not a drinker and also had to walk the furthest) and laughter over all sorts of stupid stuff made for a great afternoon.
Community can not and does not ever stop. In my down time over the past few week I read Orange is the new black. A great true story of a women incarcerated and the story of community in prison, I also watched the last season of the office over a few nights while Kyle couldn't get comfortable and was getting up every 30 minutes. We all long to have relationships at work like they do in the office, being with people that are as quirky as can be but loving them and being accepted by them anyway.
Community happens whether we realize it or not. As I think through our new part of the neighborhood community has happened through catching feral cats, shooting rabid raccoons, and tasting the culinary delights of one who just became the head pastry chief of Northwestern. All of those moments could have been lost because of time and keeping schedules.
Moments like this week happen because of built in relationships, they happen because time was carved out previously. This happens because someone wasn't satisfied with a status quo neighborhood.
As Sunday and Monday continued to be long Scott who had begun feeding the feral cat, texted and asked Jill if he should bring it into his garage. He had built an outdoor structure to keep the cat warm was worried for this little cat. He asked us for some kitty litter and went out to catch it in the huge snow drift.
Scott hasn't had a good experience with the neighbors previous to us. He had gotten so mad at them he had built a fence that was backwards as if to give them the middle finger. But because of our joint experience with the cats we have built a great relationship, one that goes with not asking for milk on a snowy day but rather kitty litter.
As Tuesday came it seemed so much warmer. (I guess it was in reality). As many of us began digging ourselves out it became clear the snowblower people and the shovel people. As a shovel person it wasn't bad at all until the plows came through and pilled ice snow dirt mix at the end of our driveways. As we all dug out the next doors drive had a half hearted attempt to get to the mailbox. This is a mom and daughter who live there as the husband/dad has taken a job away from them. The daughter is college age and the mother is not in good health, I was thinking my back is pretty sore but it would be pretty bad for them if the mother has a health issue and can not get out.
Randy is a great example, he is a manly man in the neighborhood. No shirt and kerchief on in the summer. Always washing his cars, snowblowing, and generally making his house clean are his hobbies. He had helped this neighbor that is between us a few times this winter. This time Randy started attacking the end of the driveway and I had the privilidge of joining him when my drive was done. We had been at work for about ten minutes when the daughter hurried out was a little sheepish and apologetic. She explained how she had tried to get a plow service to come do her yard and had been told it would be awhile. As the three of us continued to work she was over the top appreciative and insisted she pay us.
As we continued the shoveling I felt sorry for this girl. You can't pay for this, there isn't enough money at the same time we do it for free. That is what community is about, you can't pay for it. It can not be paid for, it can't be forced, it happens. It happens when people get 48 hours of free time and decide I can't stay in my house by myself. It happens when people give up their time and use energy reserved for other things to invest in relationships.
You know it is happening when a neighbor trusts you enough to ask for your opinion. It happens when an atheist consistently asks spiritual questions.
Community doesn't look forward to taking off snow days. Rather it comes alive.