Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cul de sacs of life and the insane at the wheel

Ecclesiastes has always been one of my favorite books of scripture. I read it entirely differently now than I was taught to read it. Before, I was taught to read it as the "before" in the testimony of Solomon. The "after" was the last couple of verses.

I read it now as all "after," meaning, the thoughts are those of an enlightened man, not some fool with a bad attitude and whom hasn't "met Jesus." The Solomon of the fist chapter had already encountered God in a very real way. But his observations about life were precise.

Now, on this side of my personal rabbit hole experience (as in Alice and the rabbit hole) I identify with Solomon much better. I feel the beat of his heart like never before.

Some of my favorite (and previously confusing) verses are from the end of the first chapter:

16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

This is the cul de sac I was speaking of. When you, one day, come to your senses and see the madness, you start to think and follow the truth like a torch. It first takes you out of the labyrinth with a great hope that the truth will set you free. But before long, you find yourself going against the flow of humanity more and more and the path becomes more lonely . . . until you reach the cul de sac . . . as I think Solomon did.

For me, there is no hope of that Christian utopia that I had always dreamt of. There is only confusion and further isolation.

You look over at the open ended freeway and you see the "Jesus Bus" full of happy people smiling and laughing and enjoying each others' company . . . but . . . the mad hatter is at the wheel.

I know the hatter is there because I've been listening to the Christian radio station this week (my binoculars into my Evangelical past) and the things I hear are truly mad. The sky is falling because Obama (the Muslim) is in power, Jesus is almost here, we are all going to die or be raptured any minute . . . Bush was our saint . . . Iraqi war was a good thing . . . please give a donation . . . global warming is part of the conspiracy . . . please give a donation . . . if you are one of those rare people who really do love God . . . then give a donation because God is behind this radio station . . . God told me these words this morning. And, just last night I heard a discussion with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention that "America got off course during the 60s. Before that we had a decent Christian country." He has no clue about history or culture. I wouldn't trade today's America for the one of the 1950s for anything.

I guess I feel this cul de sac more acutely this morning because of my animation, which I shared last time. I worked pretty darn hard on that. I wanted to see what it was like to peel back the layers of facade and pretending and see what a truly honest conversation between a post-evangelical and the evangelical pastor. I shared that video clip with several of my friends. The response . . . total silence. Nothing. Silence is the form of communication I hate the most because it carries no meaning. But my sense is, until I know better, that the shock of it made them speechless.

I see myself alone, in the cul de sac.

I use to get great comfort in imonk. I know others have brought this up on the forum (or at least in private e-mails) but I sense a change in course since the loss of Michael. Now, it seems to be more orthodox and "establishment." That is only to be expected. I mean, a blog can only take on the thoughts and personality of those who are writing it.

But I went back and re-read some of Mike's book. Maybe my memory had deceived me. As I read my late friends words I did sense that attitude of Jesus out of the establishment box. He seems to be open to people coming to terms with Jesus outside the bus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rational Christianity . . . Does it Exist Anymore?

I met a new Christian today and for a flighting moment, I thought that just maybe we could be on the same page. Then, once again, I felt like I am on my page alone . . . at least here in my neck of the woods if not the whole world.

You see, the dude is a recent Harvard graduate and we had a very interesting talk about Cambridge, MA and the Harvard campus scene (I've only visited there once).

I knew he was a Christian and we talked about some mutual acquaintances at Harvard.

But then he threw me a curve. He is involved with a very fundamentalist, charismatic church. The church practices speaking in tongues in their morning worship services, and faith healings are a corner stone to their ministry.

I wanted to write a long essay someday about my views of this brand of Christianity, so I can try and make sense of it. However, I just don't have the time right now. Actually, I shouldn't be even blogging right now as I have too much to do.

When I share my hesitation with charismatic Christianity, many of my Christian friends, and including Denise, see me as just being critical and judging other believers. But I have a lot of history with that branch of Evangelicalism. When I was involved with charismatic groups in college, it was the most intellectually and emotionally dishonest time of my life. I started seeing supernatural miracles every day, crosses in the clouds, bugs that spoke prophecy to me and etc. I will come back to this in another post, which I was working on before I got so busy. In that post I wanted discuss the thought (based on a comment that HUG said) who is really the insane and who is sane?

But, in brief, here is my position I see human intellect, reason or logic (however you want to frame it) as a wonderful gift from God. However, it is not perfect so we can't know all truth 100% of the time but we can know most of it most of the time. So faith is not the opposite to reason nor is faith a spiritual counterpart to worldly reason. Knowledge is wonderful. Knowing as much as the world as we can is our calling.

I also know that our perceptions and emotions are also corruptible. We are all prone to playing games with ourselves an others on a psychological level. Self-deception is very common and we can't trust our own hearts. If I hear voices coming from bugs, then am I not insane and completely out of touch with reality? I never really heard voices from bugs, but I lied, like I think everyone in our group was doing, in order to impress my charismatic brothers and sisters.

Additionally, when you look at the world dualistically, you think that only things that go against the laws of nature are of God. In my view, all of nature is of God. Everything this side of nothing is a miracle. So 'supernatural miracles are not necessary for my faith.

Now God certainly can work outside the wonderful laws of nature, which He has made. But they better be "Biblical-grade" miracles if you want me to believe that it is more likely they are real than me just imagining it. I mean, people should be raised from the dead. Arms should re grow. People should speak languages, fluently, that they have never studied.

So, is there any place left for rational Christianity? The Great Randi is my hero. He is a (secular) rationalist and skeptic. He has a million dollar award for any supernatural act. No one has take the prize so far.

So, it quickly became an oxymoron for me. A Harvard graduate in the most irrational brand of Evangelicalism. I can't even discuss my skepticism outside my own head without being perceived as "nonspiritual," critical, etc. Is there rational Christianity practiced anywhere anymore? If reason has no purpose then I may as well become a new age pantheistic.

The Dog Days of Summer

I wish I could write more here. I have so much I want to say. However, we've had a long string of guests and urgent things to be done that I've barely had time to sleep. I see no end in sight but when I can, I will be back.

I was thinking this morning about what is the Gospel. I think another defining part of Evangelicalism is the narrowness of the Gospel. The Evangelicals see the Gospel as knife-edged, meaning that it is only a tract and a decision for Jesus. The broader Gospel, which I know subscribe to, is broad. It is about bringing redemption to all parts of life on this earth.

I wish I could say more and hopefully will be back to do so . . . but for now, I'm late for work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Time for Laughter

Even Solomon says that there is a time of laughter as well as crying . . . and he wasn't bipolar.

I know that I've posted recently of pain but I must post now of laughter.

Last night was a perfect Friday night. After a very hard week at work I came home changed clothes, grabbed a cupful of delicious smoked sockeye salmon (which I made last weekend). Then I jumped on my bike and peddled across our island (through an old growth forest, over a small mountain pass) into our little fishing village. You couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. A dry 78 degrees and not a cloud (unlike the photo above) to be seen anywhere.

Once in town I met my wife and a group of our best friends (and here our "friend well" is quite shallow). In town we joined a growing crowd of about two hundred people as they clustered around the rim of the beautiful Cap Sante Harbor (pictured above) which sits in the center of our village. There we listened to a wonderful and talented "Beatles" band. I had a cold beer. Denise and I danced.

On a perfectly clear day, you can see snow-capped mountains in a 320 degree circle around our island (with a small gap for the Straits of Juan De Fuca). Last night, without a cloud, you could see 270 degrees of mountains. A slight haze blocked a few of the more distant ones, such as some in British Columbia. The glaciers on the towering Mount Baker nearby glistened with a reddish hue reflecting the sun's slow descent through some high altitude smoke from forest fires in our region.

As I stood, looking over the blue waters of semitransparent glass, the smooth lines of the rows of sail boats and the band singing in close proximity to John, Paul, George and Ringo, I thought how good times are. All five of my kids are healthy and doing okay. There's not major crises. While we are not rich, we have no bills which we can not pay. Our marriage is good right now.

Contrast always makes for better perceptions. I let my mind wonder back just about 15 years ago. It was one of the lowest points of my life. I felt that I was laying in a slimy gutter right outside of the gates of Dante's most inward and downward hell. It was far worst than death. The details are too many to list here but to say almost all the good that I see now, was bad then. It wasn't just a matter of perspective or attitude . . . but circumstances made the hell very real.

Now at this point is where I become philosophical. You see, if this was the typical Evangelical story I would add how those horrible times were the result of my own sin. That I repented, straightened out life and now am reaping the glorious benefits of that faithfulness. But this story does pay out that way at all.

You see, at the time of my personal horrors I was most attuned to doing everything "according to God's will" . . . or at least I thought. My God then, was the typical Evangelical God . . . an extreme micro-manager. I thought that He had a will for which shirt I should wear each day. I did everything I knew of to do exactly as He wanted. Yet, soon, we found ourselves in this terrible circumstances of financial failure, marital crisis and me in a true, major depression. Looking back, in other words, I had done nothing wrong. Yet, our Job-like experience was s sign to many of our Christian friends to abandon us. We didn't fit the paradigm so our plight made them very uncomfortable . . . some how it had to have been our fault.

How to I make sense of things now? I agree with Solomon. There is a season to life, not a fatalistic season but an alignment of circumstances, that can bring times of tears and times of joy. It is often beyond our control and it is usually of no "grand design" to teach us something. But lesson can be learned from it. For example, I would never choose a house contractor on the one merit that he was a "good Christian." Luther said he would rather be operated on by a Turk (meaning Muslim) doctor than a Christian butcher.

But I stood precariously last night, yet trying not to let my un-sured footing dampen the joy I was feeling in the moment. That shadow is the knowledge that while I laughed and danced that there are people near and far that were in that slimy ditch just outside Dante's cellar. That shouldn't take away from my joy. But I do feel for them and I don't blame them as I know how painful it is to be blamed. I mean, when I was at my lowest point, it didn't make me feel any worse knowing that others were in that place of joy . . . as long as they didn't take credit for it and rub it in my face (as a couple of people did).

I also know that there will be dark seasons again in this journey of life. I wish that I still believed in that old paradigm that my sin or lack up determined which season I was due for. I'm not saying that circumstances is left completely up to chance. I worked very hard to get out of that ditch and some of my efforts contributed to my ascension, however neither our will nor our actions ever guarantee that the season of laughter will be perpetual . . . at least here on this earth.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blessed are the Artists

One of my favorite sins (and I say this from a place of candor . . . not proudly) is envy. Only a little of my envy is of material things. Okay . . . I would like to have a large sail boat with lots of teak decking . . . and a old, stone house on Italy's Amalfi coast would be nice. Maybe I could moor my boat nearby.

Some of my envy comes in the area physical characteristics in others. For example I catch myself thinking if, only I was tall or handsome like him, or smart as him, or with his/her personality.

But my most common target of envy is the artistic ability of others.

We are having a huge art festival on our island this week. I walked through town last night and looked at the work. It literally took my breath away. Colors, textures and media were put together in ways that would never have thought of, but the right combination was like two notes in harmony. It resonated with something within me, and I'm sure within all humans who gaze upon them with open eyes.

When I see the visual arts (and not the junk art, crap in a can etc) I am moved in the same way as beautiful music. Something screaming that God is there because something inside these people, the artists, is ringing in harmony with that God and I can see it, while I can't see Him directly.

Pythagoras has observed the unity between mathematics and music. He gave that unity as evidence of a higher realm. I think there is the same unity with the visual arts. A type of harmony of colors and textures to speaks to our natural selves.

I envy those with talents in other art forms as well. I wish I had the voice of some of the great singers so I could cry out in a beautiful vocal what I feel in my heart.

I also envy those great writers who can take threads of words and weave them in a way that reaches the part of the reader that no other form could reach. Something so visceral that we walk away from that novel speechless. Oh, what a gift to have!

There is something amiss in the our present socio-economical hierarchies. I think in the new earth, the artists will live in the big houses on the hills. The Donald Trumps will clean their gutters. But there at the top of our ladder would be the painters, sculptors, singers, photographers, dancers and writers. Sure a few of them reach the top here in this earth but far many more great talents are "starving artisans" who come to these street fairs hoping to make enough money to pay their gas home. What a shame. If I were wealthy I would have bought everything I saw . . . and paid them ten times the asking price.

I ask God, if it fits into his big scheme of things, that in my new body I will be such endowed. My voice will sing out like an angels or I will be able to weave colors or words in a way to express what we all feel inside. But again, maybe in the new earth and the new heaven . . .we will all be artisans. One can only dream.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Christian Radio--A Peep Hole into the Past--and Gordon Lightfoot

I was fifteen when I fell in love for the first time. Everyone told me I was too young to be in love and that it was “only puppy love.” But it was pretty doggone severe. I quickly went head over heels.

My best friend, Bill, had been trying to set me up with Teresa for a long time. She was his girlfriend Jan’s best friend. I wasn’t interested at first. Teresa was only thirteen . . . plus Bill’s girlfriend . . . well . . . was sort of ugly.

Finally Bill one day saw the writing on the wall and said, “Mike . . . you got to meet Teresa, she is really beautiful . . . a heck of lot prettier than Jan.”

Well I did meet her at a Halloween party and was in love before the night was over. I moved quickly. By the second date I was using the “I love you” phrase. By the end of the month I was talking marriage (remember I was fifteen and she was thirteen). Like I’ve said before, I’ve always had the tendency to feel things deeply.

But the strangest thing happened, which I totally didn’t expect . . . I fell out of love with her just as fast as I had fallen into it. It perplexed me. She was still as pretty as ever. Her personality was very sweet. There was nothing wrong with her. But I tried and tired to keep the flame alive and the embers just wouldn’t glow.

I hated myself during the next tedious six months of breakup. I felt so much like a jerk. I wish so much that she had been the jerk to justify my lack of love. I can’t count the number of times she called me and was crying because I had “forgotten our six-month anniversary” or “I hadn’t taken her to a movie in three weeks.” The worst tears came after I had given my friend the “permission” to ask her out himself.

“Why!? Why!? Why!?” came her shrilled voice (and that was almost 40 years ago and I can still remember it last yesterday). She screamed those desperate words over my sister’s pink, princess phone (I could only have a private conversation on my sister’s bedroom) I didn’t have the heart to speak in poetic prose like Gordon Lightfoot;

I never thought I could feel this way
and I got to say that I just don't get it.
I don't know where we went wrong
but the feelings gone
and I just can't get it back.

I think I was finally able to break up with her when I became a Christian at age 17. I was looking for some humane excuse. When I became a Christian, I stopped dating completely for the next eight years. I simply told her that God didn’t want me to date anymore. I lied.

I keep my radio tuned to NPR (because I don’t have any fancy MP3 or other system in my Jeep). However I have to keep turning the dial because there are three NPR stations and I live in the mountains. Within two miles I may have to dial between all three channels to keep up with a story and I’ve never have figured out how to program my station buttons so I can toggle between them.

Sitting in the middle of those NPR stations is one “Christian station” and two Canadian stations. The Canadian stations are easy to detect because I listen for the pronunciation “aboot” for about and the other one . . . well, it’s in French.

During my drive home I will sometimes, briefly, listen to the Christian radio station for short periods of time, especially during NPR's fund raising week. It is like looking through a peephole, with a fish-eye view of the old life. I was never a big fan of Christian radio, except maybe during my most fundamentalistic days when I thought that by listening to those crappy stations, I made God smile at me.

I really think that I occasionally listen to them now because I have the hope that I will hear something that restores some of my hope in Evangelicalism. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised . . . often I’m not.

Yesterday I had a hole in my schedule and left the office to run some errands. I turned on the radio and I didn’t realize it was before 3 PM (All Things Consider on NPR starts at 3 PM on the west coast). I turned the station from static until I heard the news but I didn’t recognize the voices. I found the news to be interesting. Most of it was about the overturn of proposition 8 in California. Then a short segment about the Israeli-Lebanese cross boarder skirmish. I was surprised when the news only reported from one angle. NPR usually interviews people on both sides of the question. It certainly left you feeling that the judge who overturned prop 8 was a nut case and extremely biased and that the evil Lebanese brutally attacked the innocent Israelis.

I was already thinking that the news seemed to have an agenda. Then a fund raiser came on . . . but then I learned it wasn’t NPR. It was a “newscast” on the Christian radio program. I could have guessed it was a Soviet news agency in the way only one side was presented.

If a psychology researcher would have recorded the fund raiser, they could have used it as the perfect example of guilt manipulation. It started with a verse. Then it took two words out of verse and used them in an entirely different way than the verse intended, to show that God wanted the radio station to succeed and that God was looking for a few “Men and women of God” would pledge $100/month to keep the radio ministry on the air. By the time that they were done, I felt like if I didn’t send in my pledge that God would despise me. Even NPR is never that manipulative.

The next program (and I only kept the radio on this station because NPR was still in its Jazz mode, and that is one genre of music that I haven’t latched onto yet), was a call-in show. I won’t even bother with the questions asked and the answers given by the two live-pastor-answer-men. But it was the tone and verbiage. Each pastor spoke with the voice of Pee Wee Herman that was awash in Karo corn syrup. It was constantly “blessing, be blessed, I’m blessed, feel a blessing.” I listened for a while and nothing they said related to reality . . . not normal human life on this earth.

It really dawned on me at that very moment that I had fallen—completely—out of love with the Evangelical culture. I’ve tried to love it but just can’t get it back. I can fake it, but there is nothing I can do to get it back. Absolutely nothing.

When the radio station advertised a “Prophecy Conference” and a “Marriage Enrichment Weekend” (reminds me of my mom’s neighbor, deacon in the Baptist church, who they caught beating the crap out of his wife and in response his church sent them to an Marriage Enrichment Weekend Seminar . . . rather than serious therapy . . . or to jail) I just cringe. I have no desire to go. I would rather go sit in a swamp with hemorrhoids. The last time I went to these things, a decade ago, it was because of “ought.” I go to my church each week because of “ought.”

But it is important to separate the falling out of love with the evangelical culture from that of God himself. There are more Gods (meaning the location and character of the one and only) than the Evangelical God. I could sit in a coffee shop with other believers . . . or just other humans for that matter . . . and deeply enjoy it, especially when we talk about God and his stuff. I can deeply enjoy the study of scripture and the study of history and the world, which God has made. I can sit in a Cathedral and listen to a chamber orchestra for hours . . . loving every minute of it. But the love affair with Evangelical seems to have faded forever. There are no more embers to fan.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rebootable Church? Sixwing's Thoughts on the Church for the Next Generation Part I

Because it might be unclear, I am using little-c church to indicate an individual congregation and big-C Church to indicate the overarching organization.

This piece I am still up in the air about but I think it needs to be said anyway: get the politics out of the Church. (All of them. From all sides.)

Yes, a church with strong political views will draw people who agree with it. It will also drive away people who disagree with it. If that church is sufficiently obnoxious about its political views, it will taint the larger Church and start driving people away from even less obnoxious branches.

Individuals have the power to act politically as well as the right to worship as they please. The two shouldn't be conflated, though. I do not go to church for a dose of nationalism or a lecture on politics (in fact, I avoid sermons likely to be either). I do go to church to seek a higher understanding of God, or myself, or the relationship between me and God. That is the purpose and focus of the Church - allowing a place for individuals to pursue their relationship with God.

That may turn into political activism motivated by my morals, those being influenced and shaped (but not exclusively given) by my relationship with God. But that is my choice and not at all the realm of the Church.

All right. I've gotten a bunch here about what the Church should avoid. I need to put up some of what it should include.

It needs to include, intentionally and specifically, people.
All the people who want to be there.

Maybe even all the people who don't want to be there, in case one should ever come anyway. That means accepting all the Others we spend so much time defining and pushing away. Others being whatever group of humans your sermon railed about a few weeks ago. I bet it changes by region, denomination, even congregation. THOSE people. You know who I'm talking about. Let them in. Show them your love and let them be who they are. Frequently, the people of my generation are THOSE people. I've been one of THOSE people, and when my section of the population is disincluded, I notice.

It needs to include God. I can't tell you how many sermons I've heard that have Bible verses in them, but no Jesus. Barely any God, even. And what is the entire reason (or at least, supposed to be the reason) we come together in a congregation anyway? Though this is less of a problem than including people, I've still seen it be a problem.

And it needs to include room for imperfection. We're all human here. Us people and them people alike. We make mistakes. If the Church has no room for them, who will?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Irresolute Grief

My heart is hurting right now. But this post is not about me. Like all of my posts, the mood is triggered by a personal experience but is not meant to be personal in focus. So, before I indulge, I want to point out that my interest here is in the concept of grief itself and how we cope with it and not about my personal grief, which has only served to bring this topic back to the forefront. As I share my focus of pain you will quickly see that it is nothing outstanding . . . just garden variety sadness. It is pale when compared to the major-league griefs, which I encounter daily—by proxy—through the lives of others.

The painting at the top depicts the intense grief of the loss of a child. Surely this is the most intense human grief possible.

My grief is of that vein but no where near that capacity. My loss is of my children but not to the grips of the irrevocable darkness of death, but only a spatial by circumstances, time and distance.

I am the father of five. My entire world has been centered on that role and the relationships for the past twenty seven years. Since about 2002 about every 15 months I’ve stood in my driveway, packing the back of our little car as a child drives away . . . forever. It is a little like being chained to the wall deep in Jobba the Hut’s dungeon and then once about every year or so he comes down and cuts a piece out of your heart . . . and then eats it . . . right in front of you . . . so you know that piece is gone . . . perpetually gone.

The reason that I feel this more acutely right now is two-fold.

The first son to leave me was Bryan. This past two weeks Bryan, his wife Renee and our new grandson Oliver were here for a prolonged visit. They now live in Minnesota. It was a wonderful visit, which enhances the severity of the goodbye.

I have this bad habit of feeling the grief the most in its prelude. A little over two weeks ago, when I pulled up to SeaTac to pick them up, I was haunted by the ghost of the goodbye to come. I felt it creeping up through my bowels. I knew that the next time I would be pulling into the parking ramp would be to return them. The two weeks passed in a blink and in a surreal way . . . there I was pulling up to give them away again to the shiny bird in the blue sky.

The second fold is the fact that my last child will be permanently moving out in just a few weeks. His departure is the last event of summer. The distance between now and then will too pass as a blink and the prelude to the goodbye grips my heart with great intensity that tears sit precariously inside my lids, just waiting for the chance to be exhumed. On the other side of it, I will be deeply lost. I see a dark forest without a resolution. My adult life has been defined by my kids. In a few weeks I will no longer be a father . . . not a father in the same way as I was before and . . . will never be again.

Now to the big picture.

I often draw from two statements when I think about being a post evangelical. These are defining points. One is by Dave Tomlinson (The Post Evangelical) and the other by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz). The former says the post evangelical has a loss of “certainty in all things.” This does mean the loss of all certainty. The latter says that the new gospel does not resolve everything, meaning right now. That is the real nightmare of the Fall of Adam, the one that the Evangelical neglects.

So, my point is, in grief, there is no answer. No conclusion. No step one, two, three to resolution and total bliss. It is left hanging . . . until the new heaven and the new earth consumes the old. Until we race up the waterfall on the backs of our flying hounds.

I then think about those around me whom have lost much more. I personally know people whose children suffered violent deaths . . . some while they were very young. How do those who experience such tragedy go on?

Just yesterday I had two male patients, one my age, one a decade older, who had lost their soul mates (each after decades of marriage). John lost his wife a year ago, Pete almost two. Both men were manly . . . meaning stoic. I had to bring up their wives because I knew them as they use to come with the men to their appointments. Both used the same strategy . . . speak superficially and rationally.

“Yeah,” said John, “I’ve lost some weight . . . which is a good thing . . . because Marie was the cook.”

Later in the day, by the time I got to Pete, I had to move him closer to reality. I used that terrible word that men fear, feel.

“Pete, how do you feel these days without Linda?”

He looked stunned. “Uh . . . well, I guess my back hurts more. I have to do all the cleaning now.”

“No Pete, how do you feel emotionally?”

He blushed. We sat in silence. Only in the tangential light of the window could I see that his chin was quivering. He was fighting reality with all his might. So, out of compassion, I gave him a way out. “Do you still have your beagle?”

“Sure do.” He quickly added with a smile.

So what do we do with grief? Not as Christians per se . . . but as men, and women?

I have many bad habits. I am addicted to iced mochas and I regret that. I know the truth that I never drink them for hydration but for taste. So, I’ve learned to make the most of the taste like a wine connoisseur, by sloshing around tasting each bitter bean on my tongue.

In my jest for life, I savor, in the same way as my mochas, the emotions of each moment. I float on the smell of the sea coming into my bedroom window in the early mornings. But, I also slosh around the feelings of raw pain . . . maybe too much. I want to be alive. I want to feel, even if that feeling is painful.

For someone like me, who has experience clinical depression, to savor the “taste” of grief is playing with fire. I know that it scares the hell out of Denise. She will not let me talk about grief . . . ever. She quickly cuts me off. “You can look at the down side if you want but I’m only going to look at the positive!”

I don’t blame her. I’ve dragged her through two valleys of the shadow of death . . . my clinical depression. The experiences were reminiscence of the The Days of Wine and Roses (which I alluded to recently) but without the wine. (Maybe the wine would have helped.) The last episode of depression was ten years ago, so I think I’m safe but I’m not sure. Clinical depression is to grief as septicemia is to a cut . . . totally different, even though one can lead to the other.

So, back to the big question . . . where do we put the grief?

Denise is an evangelical and handles grief the way that all evangelicals do, and actually most people. At first she refuses to talk about it. I would think that the woman has never had a sad thought if it wasn’t for those moments when the tears come flooding down her face . . . like during the drive back from the airport.

Her second strategy, again much more healthy than mine, is to replace sad thoughts with happy thoughts. “At least our kids are all healthy and all but one are within a few hours drive.” Or she will say after a death in the family, “They are happy now, they are in Heaven . . . who are we to be sad when they are so happy?” Or about the most recent issue, “Mike you will always be a father, now you also be a grandfather too. You should be happy, not sad.”

I just hate it when people tell me to “just look on the bight side.”

Our kids are healthy and I am so thankful for that. But still I feel the grief for the real-life loss. I have my wife, which John and Pete don’t. But, I sense the hint of the prelude to that changing someday, either for me . . . or Denise.

Denise’s favorite TV channel is Hallmark. She only watches shows that resolve. The Hallmark shows end with answers, happy answers. I wish I could live in that world and I envy her. I guess I could live in that world, but I still have this bad habit of savoring the flavors of life, be they good or bad . . . or ugly.

But I do belief in answers but they are on the other side of the looking glass and I can’t comprehend them here. I will never be the father I once was to my own kids. There is no way to resolve that. John and Pete will never be the husbands of the wives they once were. Those days are gone forever . . . unless there is a grand twist to the plot that God is holding up His sleeve.

But I can muster up the faith that some day, in the new world there will be resolution even though I can’t imagine it now. I savor the Fall of Adam and I wish I could spit it out.

So, while most people grasp onto the happy thoughts to cope with the loss, I guess I can do something close. I can fill my mind with distractions . . . with good mochas on sunny days, beautiful music, great novels writing by brilliant wordsmiths (which take me to other worlds), and me writing for no one. Wasn't this the message of Solomon?