People — The Crêpes of Life!

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It was Friday night after work and we were at Bino’s Bistro and Crêperie in Hillcrest feasting on crêpes, tiredness, love and goofiness — trying to reprise us four years ago in Paris, recovering from too much San Diego this last week and indulging in the elemental and eternal concoction of comfort food and comfort family to stave off mental dysfunction, work ennui and certain death.

Diner came to our table as bacon, tomato, avocado, mozzarella cheese and spicy Chipotle sauce on a fresh, tender slightly chewy crêpe — it was a California Crêpe.

Dessert consisted of orange-Grand Marnier sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on a tender fluffy crêpe — it was Crêpe Suzette, and we clashed forks over it.

Here is the deal for us humans — food and people, never leaving out the people are necessary to thrive.

At Bino’s the owner came to our table and confabulated with us about his former restaurant in Coronado, his five black cats who take walks with him, his many and varied crêpe recipes and his repository of odd and desultory memories. He was charming.

And that’s it, people are charming, mostly, or not, but we love them, need them and ought to feed them a dose of our attention and warmth and appreciation for being the crêperie inside of the crêperie of the very essential ice cream and whipped creme crêperie of them!

I had lunch last week with a sweet friend who brought fresh veggie sandwiches for us to inhale. “People,” she mused, “teach us stuff, all of them.”

It’s true and beautiful to see life this way. The ones who fail teach us how to fail or remind us not to fail in precisely the gruesome and horrible ways in which they fail. The ones who succeed teach us how to succeed, in precisely the terrible and horrific ways in which they succeed.

Each person is a meal to us, each one a dessert!

So here is my human-restaurant recommendation. Yelp people, find people, visit people, consort with people and consume all of them!

People are the crêpes of life, and life is better if we munch on as many of them as we possible can.

The Spaces To Which We have Grown Accustom

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Life is complicated — my life, your life, the lives of the people we talk to.

What do we do with this?

Fortunately, there is a very simple, useful approach to complications. It’s doing the one next good thing that we can think of to advance health and progress.

We best manage complication by doing the next simple thing we can do.

Today I made a phone call I had been putting off. It got results. Yesterday I bought materials for future project. It’s now a step closer to getting it done. On Monday I fixed something broken at the house. That’s how you keep your stuff from turning into Junk.

I wonder, what keeps us from doing the obvious thing? Fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, past failures, apathy — such things paralyze us and keep us from realizing amazing possibilities.

I wonder how many of us are living lives which ignore our potential and our giftedness. Are we, perhaps, even refusing a future God is offering us.

To explore this concept I wrote a fable about a woman stuck in a small world of her own choosing.

…..

The Spaces To Which We have Grown Accustom

You could move to the larger room,” he suggested.

“Well, I have never really thought much about that,” she said. “I guess I could.

He walked into the smaller of the two bedrooms in her condo. It was crowded, a small bed, desk, book shelves, old books.

There was twice the space in the empty master suite just a few feet down the hall. Years had past since her roommate, living in this master suite, had moved out of the condo.

The larger master bedroom included a dressing room, two walk-in closets and a master bathroom. It was a much bigger and brighter space, with a large window opening out onto the patio.

“I could help you move your stuff,” he said. “It wouldn’t take long, and this smaller room would make a perfect office. He paused. She look stunningly unexcited, so he added. “I think the bigger space would be so much more luxurious for you. You could even have a bigger bed.”

“Well, that is so nice of you,” she replied. “I have been thinking about a new bed.”

They stood in silence for a moment, as if contemplating an insurmountable possibility lying on a divine plateau somewhere between his mind and hers.

“Well, just give me a call,” he said to break the awkwardness.

She didn’t, but instead left things as they were — bricked and mortared within the dim interior of the tiny cubicle to which she had grown accustom.

After he left, she retreated to her small room and muttered to herself, “I never did much believe in heaven.”

More of my fables and antifables may be found at http://www.antifables.com

My proverbs about taking next steps may be found at http://www.modernproverbs.net

places

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The world is a labyrinth of places. Not all of them are hard not all of them easy. This morning families are hungry and cold in refugee camps in the Middle East. Others are basking on the beaches in Southern California.

In one place people hover around monitors and make deals; in another fires, and give up. Some hang off walls, free climbing; some pulled the covers up in warm, safe beds.

I’m given to thinking about places. Think with me. Here are my aphorisms, epigrams, and proverbs about places.

What places will you live in, build up or ruin today? Be mindful. Tread gently.

……

We become where we are.

Places make persons.

We are looking for safe places; we find them in risky places.

Bombs fall; places are ruined; people remain.

Places are handles; by them we carry reality with us.

Disrupt your space; disrupt your face.

We are defined by the spaces we make — and the ones we ruin.

Nature is best left the way we found her.

We eat from places we abhor; we drink in ones which we adore.

High is where we fall, low a place from which we crawl.

The unsafe space we create for ourselves is an adventure; the unsafe space we create for others is a horror.

God gave us nature to help us recover from the place we would turn it into.

From more of my epigrams, aphorisms and proverbs visit http://www.modernproverbs.net

2014

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It’s the last day of the year, December 31, 2014.

This afternoon, I ate whole blueberries, dipped in dark chocolate, at home in the quiet of my living room, snoozed on the couch with the cat, bought a few song I like on iTunes and wrote several blog posts.

I luxuriated in choices, and in hand-picked inertia.

The greatest wealth, reward, benefit, gift, prize this year offered?

The most meaningful life I lived was the life I did not live in the hospital, in jail or on chemo. The life I did not live in congress, the one I did not live in entertainment magazines and the one I did not live within people’s opinions of me – this was the good life. My best life was the personal life I lived with my friends, with my staff, at work, in my church, with my daughters and wife.

To have time and space and resources to think, to brood, to study, to read, to converse, to write, to travel, to work, to worship, to futz over what I do well, to reflect – this is the good life.

This year I rejoice that I had the time and strength to make my own bed – to even have a bed — to garden, to cook soup, to do the dishes, to play with children, to talk to my loved ones, to fluff the cat, to shop, to fish in Montana with a friend, to write blog posts, to write sermons, to write my precious proverbs and my dear fables, to eat my way through San Francisco with my family, to fix stuff, to refinish stuff, to tend to my investments, to dream, to make new spaces, to refinish wood floors with friends, to lunch and coffee with people I like – this was the best life I lived this year.

We make too much of much. We should make too much of little.

To be able to choose who you are with and when, and where you will go and with whom, to choose who you will admit to your presence and why – this the good stuff, and it is not to be overlooked. Many people can’t do that.

To be safe, private, secure, social when you choose, not publicly abused, not sought after, not traumatized, not exploited, not lionized, not hated, not sick, employed but not too much, vacationed but not too much, this is good, this is more than enough to satisfy — this is to live well.

The freedom to manage ones own self, to manage ones own opinion of ones self, to be more famous to oneself that to anyone else, to live within the sunshine of ones own acceptance, to live within the limits of time and chance and luck and guidance and all this brings to us that we end up with, to affirm oneself in the same way as one is affirmed by the great Creator, the one who made all small, self-governing, self-nurturing things – this is very good.

To be free to choose to live with ones own goals, to live with morals traditional and yet freely chosen, chosen so as to not harm others, and to nurture kindness and to enjoy small treats and moments alone with God and moments together with my wife and daughters and cats and foods and drinks and friends – it does not get better than this.

Tonight, on New Years Eve, I’ll make bean soup for dinner, and drink hot tea and relax at home, and not party and not stay up late and not want more and lounge with my wife and daughter in peace, and sleep well with my cats around me.

I’m good with that — and just and only and merely and completely and amazingly and gorgeously that-this-that which is my very own personal that.

Not Growing Beyond Who You Are

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The ficus tree in my backyard is huge, and it provides good shade for my whole yard, my pond and my house.

It can get bigger, and I can trim it, I can even cut it too the ground, but as long as it lives it can never go back to being a seed, a first sprout, a simple sapling, a young tree again. It’s roots go deep and spread wide now. At the base the trunk is thick and scared. Such is nature. Once organisms grow, they may reproduce, but they themselves don’t return to their original state and size.

And so too it is with humans. We are physically age-size specific. This also seems to go for our emotional, psychological and spiritual development also. When we have grown out of an immature view of life, then we see with experienced, shaded eyes. When we have surpassed simplistic views, then our concepts will become deep and complex.

This seems to make sense, but it isn’t necessarily alway so.

The other day I was looking through some old journals, the records of my thoughts fifteen years ago.

Fifteen years ago I wrote in a journal that it is “important to take a gentle look in one’s own direction. We are greatly in need of a tolerant, gracious, forgiving attitude toward ourselves. To be able to overlook others imperfections, we must be able to overlook our own.”

Odd, or not, but I have spoken and written the exact same thing, even recently. This idea concerning the importance of self-love is part of my tree, and it has been so for some time. Perhaps, I apply this idea now just a little better than when I first wrote it, but I don’t know. It is still something I am working on, and what began in me has grown to be me, and is still part of the me I am becoming.

Like the trees, we change, we enlarged, we scar, but for the healthy, some things remain the same. We are, when we age well, a compilation of the truths we have gathered along the way. We don’t grow past them, and they don’t necessarily expand on us. With true things, with the best things, “was” tends to be “is,” and “will be.”

I’m not done, not fully grown yet, and I am looking these days to keep changing, to provide more shade for other people, but I want, I plan, and I think it extremely important, to keep my roots, my trunk, my core, my simple, young, beautiful truths always about me.

A mature person — that person shelters within themselves the incipient, pure, stable essence of all they once were that makes them who they are becoming.

Of the best things I have learned this is one — not to let go of gentleness toward myself and others.

The Reality Foundry of the Divine

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When I walked around the corner of the back entrance to the courtyard I laughed.

The base material was already in the walkways. “What? Really? Cool!”

John had gone crazy, imagined the future with me — an idea in my head, an landscape architects plan, a couple of muddy measurements, a scribble with a pencil, a photocopy, and there it was, a venue worthy of an event, a celebration, a bride.

Metal stakes, dirt, red string lines, subgrade, grade, top of grade, finish grade, party grade, parade grade, life-changing grade — it was a virtual outdoor cathedral in the making.

The bobcat was scooping up base, the compactor was thumping it down, and I was living it up.

Then I went inside the chapel, passing over the newly refinished oak floors, and into the worship center.

I laughed again.

The recovered pews were in, fabricated in dark, rich brown — clean, smooth, shinny, elegance. The worship center remodel was entering it’s final stages. From the lovely pendant lights to the upscale wood floors, from the newly clear-glassed arch windows to the freshly carpeted stage, the place glowed with a new-found self-esteem anchored in original Spanish Revival glory.

What is it?

It is nothing less than the reality-foundry of the divine at work.

It is not less than the God-thumping laugh-making, hope-crafting, power-mongering energy forever resident in the world’s grand, eloquent, spiritual renewal, its lovely, numinous, reviviscent and effortless renovation.

Corrected

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“Look at you,” I said, “Joseph, the carpenter.”

“Do you know why I do this?” he asked me looking up from his logs and sticks.

“No, why?” I asked. As I was thinking of why someone might do this, in that moment I was surprised by his answer.

“I do this for God,” he said, with a little water in his eyes. “He gave me back my life, and so I do this is for him.”

His answer wasn’t cliched, nor was it said for any effect. It was one of those moments when the sincerity of the person, their honest core breaks through on you as a touching, moving, authentic force.

He looked down at the manger he was building for the Christmas Eve service at the church.

I felt suddenly as if in the presence of a sage.

“People say to me, ‘You did this and you did that'” he said, “but that’s not why I do this. It gives me a really simple, good feeling when I am here, working alone, doing this for God.

Colossians 3:23 came to mind, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”

In that moment I felt an odd but familiar feeling — realigned, brought back to focus, corrected.

What Heals?

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We happened on a haberdashery while walking home, just after stopping for hand-made chocolate truffles on Columbia Street.

It was an upscale hat shop in North Beach, and we stood amid a crowd of fashionistas, trying on high-quality head ware.

I looked good in the fedora, my daughter Laurel in the brown felt cloche with the light brown polkadot band.

I bought it for her for $70 — for Christmas. How could I not? She looked all 1920’s and 30’s in it — coy and gorgeous.

I could not have been more smitten.

It was that kind of day.

It began with a cafe latte, purchased by walking just down the street from our Genoa Place apartment to Cafe Trieste — and a bear claw found just around that corner at Stella’s.

Later my wife and daughters and I walked across the Golden Gate bridge, that huge orange-over-blue suspension of belief and rode the bus back to the waterfront.

For lunch I ate killer clam chowder and sour dough bread with my daughter Rosalind at the wharf. Later the family had ice creams. We walked home from there.

That night I had a slice of world class pizza taken from Tony’s, purchased two blocks for our apartment, a Firestone IPA from Trader Joes just down the hill, and some chocolate covered popcorn from a neighborhood shop.

I ate my dinner sitting in the bay window of our apartment, over looking Union Street, the city lights glowing in the big buildings, a crescent moon overhead, traffic down below.

What heals?

Love, pizza, bridges, chocolates, lattes, a wife, walking together, bread, daughters, hats and beauty — all collected within walking distance of where you sleep.

What heals me is San Francisco with the women I adore.

The Eagles: A Fable

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This week I watched a documentary on the Eagles, that great rock-and-roll machine that cranked out the hits and the hopes of the 1970’s.

The Eagles made it to the big time, became one of the best selling bands of all time and then came apart at the relational seams. I find this kind of thing fascinating. Apparently public success for some of us is as hard to handle as public failure.

When publicly successful, some of us tend to suffer a kind of craziness over the public exposure that comes with it. At first our social success creates an astonishing soul energy — we are loved! — but then later, away from the lights, a deep soul deficit may surface. To recover from what is perhaps removed from us by adulation and disapproval we may tend to seek out addictive, harmful solaces.

We brood, and we suffer the angst of the known hero. We suffer foolishness. We may suffer harmful competitions, insane jealousies, massive insecurities, twisted self evaluations. We may complicate concerning our ability to make and sustain our place in the world.

As a result of the pressures public success brings, many people avoid it. They know they can’t handle it. Maybe they can’t. That is perhaps too bad for some, especially those who could survive it and do some amazing things.

To explore this I wrote a modern fable chronicling the rise and fall of the Eagles. In doing this, I invented some new words. This is my attempt at success. I’m not afraid of success. Now I think I’ll go eat!

A Modern Fable

First, there was that pondiferous moment in Los Angeles when it all matriculated and then superwonkified at the Troubadour.

Then there was the exhaustification in London when it didn’t.

And then there is how if you skip to the end it is actually very hard to say what the freakin’ rockstar happened – – the mind-wrestling complications that came with the fore-waiting, the madly intensifying pressure of the creative wars, the wasting psychic metastacision of the alpha male ego and the final terrifying stages of group PTSD.

If you work under the huge, bright lights, if your own face becomes a series of a thousands dazed smiles, if naked women dance on your stage, if you find yourself running in the halls and vaulting into the waiting cars — the berzerkified, ernifricating cocaine craziness afterwards — just maybe then, you might begin to come unhinged too.

It goes back. From the time he was a little boy, from the time he got his first set of drums, from the moment they first heard him play the electric guitar like he was emptying his soul, from the time they heard him sing, from the instant they saw each other’s id in the Hotel California, the oddishly combinicated way in which they met others who wishified to performicate in public at a world-tour level and the weird chancification whereby they womped into a guy who also had the same mad, mad, insanified vision, how they dug the businessman who thought it all might work if they found their signature soul — it was star-crazy, supercool, madman upsetting!

They literally hissed, hogged and hated each other off the stage.

It can be narrificated and then expliconicated as the inevitable brain-damaging trauma of sudden success, or it can be psycho-differentiated as a mental heart attack, but in reality, at its core, it is about the desoulification that comes from not knowing who you are when they parade you before the adoring masses as who you aren’t.

Later the lead singer said, “We made it, and it ate us.”

If you’d like to read more of my fables, please visit my fables website at http://www.antifables.com

Miracles: The Views of C. S. Lewis

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Miracles, what are they?

We may say that in common usage, a miracle is a surprising and welcome event that is not expected.

About a underdog team winning a game, we might enthuse, “It’s miracle!”

When it comes to philosophy or theology, the concept deepens. Here we think of a miracle as a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

Posed this way, the belief in miracles or not becomes centered in a world view that believes in God or not.

In his book miracles, C. S. Lewis gives technical definitions to the two different world views, the naturalistic view and the supernatural or theistic world view.

Naturalists, under his definition, believe that the Universe is a vast process in which all events which ever happen find their causes solely in the events that happened before them within the system.

Supernaturalists, on the other hand, believe that interruptions or interferences can take place in this system of our universe from some other system outside it. A supernatural event would be one that is not traceable, even in principle, solely to materially determined causes within our universe.

So when it comes to a belief in miracles or not, it might be noted that we may tend to end up where we start out. If we don’t believe in God, then we may quickly discount miracles, If we do, then we have a way to explain them.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “If you have hitherto disbelieved in miracles, it is worth pausing a moment to consider whether this is not chiefly because you thought you had discovered what the story was really about?—that atoms, and time and space and economics and politics were the main plot? And is it certain you were right? It is easy to make mistakes in such matters.”

Lewis helps us to see that if we come at the question of miracles with the presupposition that there is only the natural world, the material world, then we are set up to discount anything we observe that might be supernatural with our bias.

Lewis goes on and explains how essential this issue is to the discussion. “For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.”

This brings up the key issue. Is there a spiritual world, and if so are the spiritual and the natural worlds two different worlds, two different kinds of things?

Christianity believe in the spiritual, in God, and it believes that the supernatural world and the natural world aren’t entirely separate. For Christians there is no clear line, wall or chasm existing between the natural world and the supernatural world. Therefore it is a mistake if we think of miracles as weird, as foreign, as paranormal.

The Christian idea of miracles is what one would expect from a God who is the author of nature. Miracle fit within the realities of what God has already done. He who made it, rules it and empowers it as he wills. For example, grapes, left to ferment, turn to wine. So when Jesus, as the Bible claims, turned water to wine, he was simply enabling and speeding up a process that occurs in nature. And when he turned bread into more bread, he was simply doing what take place in a grain field everyday. When God acts supernaturally, it is within the natural that he has created, and yet it goes beyond it in the direction that it was already going. Here is Lewis’s summary argument on this.

“The fitness of the Christian miracles, and their difference from … mythological miracles, lies in the fact that they show invasion by a Power which is not alien. They are what might be expected to happen when she is invaded not simply by a god, but by the God of Nature: by a Power which is outside her jurisdiction not as a foreigner but as a sovereign. They proclaim that He who has come is not merely a king, but the King, her King and ours.”

For many Christians, the issue of miracles comes down one of the great miracles of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Did it happen? Is it bizarre? Again, for the Christian, we need not put this in the category of the paranormal, of the completely unimaginable. If God is God, that is he is the author of life, then he can surely also be the author of new life. This is not outside what he can do or what we have seen him do even in the natural world. Life from death — we see this every day in nature, as the dying plant leaves behind new seed for new life.

Jesus coming as God in the flesh, to give new life through his death, this is perhaps the greatest miracle the Christian must come to terms with. If this is possible, then anything is possible.

C.S. Lewis called the incarnation “the Grand Miracle.” He writes: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation…. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this…. It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about”

By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human—in order to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. As Lewis says, “He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still … (to) the womb … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him”

Writes Lewis, Jesus is the ‘first fruits,’ the pioneer of life,’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.”

This is credible, and it is rational, and it makes sense and it makes sense out of and explains everything else. The universe exists for and within God, and everywhere evidence his entering into his creation to give it life and to renew it’s life.

Being a Christian isn’t so much just believing in miracles, it is believing in God, and it is living out a miracle and living within a miracle. The everyday experience of those who know God is an experience of living with God, God incarnate in us and all around us. Every day is a renewal in Christ, every other person, a beautiful miracle, the very work of God himself.

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