Archive for the ‘difficulty’ Category

Do we think, feel or act our way to practical solutions?

All of the above. We do well to throw the whole armamentarium of solutions at any problems we encounter, but lately I’ve noticed that you can’t much beat thinking, then taking action.

This morning I set about moving a couple of electrical plug a few inches — out of our bathroom backsplash and onto the wall — to make way for a new backsplash and countertop. It was harder than I expected. Working inside the drywall with very little room to navigate, I ran into a problem.

In both of the new electrical boxes that I was anchoring in, the ground wires were too short to reach the new location. They hovered stubbornly at the back of the boxes.  I tried wire nuts to create extensions, but they didn’t hold the three wires firmly enough to inspire my confidence. I imagined someone getting fried years from now — my ineptitude, my fault!

Momentarily confuzzled, I did some thinking; I needed a better way to extend the ground wires, a better way to protect the future, so I went to Lowe’s for something to crimp them together — or whatever.

I was helped by a knowledgable staff person and with his advice bought some plug-in wire connectors — very snazzy, little high-techy things you just push the wires into. Using them to connect the ground wires and add length, I was able to finish the job perfectly. No chance these wires will pull apart.

Neuroplastic solutions, discoverable solutions, good solutions — these are almost always at hand for those who think, take action, perhaps go for help, figure it out.



Within that ever-expanding ambit that rounds the temples of the indefatigable head-scratcher, lies the gorgeously available soluble.

“I severed its head off! Dead as a door nail,” she texted me.

I wasn’t surprised. It goes like that.

I’m a perfectionist, but I keep being faced with the fact that reality is never perfect.  My gardener friend was letting me know that she had cut the electrical cord with the electric lawn mower. That’s one disadvantage of electric lawn mowers; they tend to cut off their own umbilical cords. I know; I too have used an electric lawn mower to chop up several cords. On the other hand, the electric’s don’t belch nasty gas and oil.

Noting is perfect. I’ve been noticing lately that life isn’t perfect — cinemuck.

Last night at home my family got into a nice row over the accommodations for an upcoming family vacation. Wonderful! What is supposed to be fun suddenly wasn’t fun. And yet, no big deal. I believe that it will turn out to be a wonderful time together — with perhaps one day of it not. That’s how family vacations go. You always have one day that you just have to write off. The Greek’s might have had a penchant for aponia, much like our pharmaceutical companies and the general public, but I’m learning to be good with a bit of pain now and again. It’s normal.

This week I screwed some freshly painted master bathroom cabinet doors back on, one step in a beautiful bathroom remodel at home. But in doing so, I chipped the edge of one of the doors with the tip of my elctric drill.

There it is again — the flaw, the chip, the ding, the family spat, the cut cord. But here is the deal: I’m good with it. I’m good with not perfect. I even like it. It is equiprobable that things will go well or not. I’m not perfect, my work isn’t perfect, my family isn’t perfect and that’s okay with me.

I am finding that accepting mistakes, expecting flaws, embracing conflict, being good with not perfect — this actually makes life so much easier, and it sets me free to enjoy my imperfect self, enjoy my flawed relationships and to enjoy my sometimes sketchy efforts to make the world better.

It comes to this: Don’t look down at the floor when you are at the cinema; enjoy the movie.

This morning I went to the dentist. Her conclusion?

“I’ll see  you next week.”

Once is selddom enough, for anything, so next Monday I will make my fifth visit to her in three weeks.

That’s life; it is seldom one and done. Most things are a process, and that is okay because we get to good places by steps. I’m glad to have dental care. I am glad I can take steps, to have good teeth.

This morning, when I was painting the house, a small branch from a bush near where I was painting got caught in my brush, then sprang away, slapping me upside the face with paint.

I went in the house, washed off the paint, and went back at it. I got more paint on me, but now the house — it looks great!

I advise you to quit infrequently and to give up inconsistently.


Because life is tough, and so we must be tougher.

My neighbor is in the hospital. His daughter told me this morning they had to cut off some of his toes because of an infection. That’s no fun. It sucks, for him.

But, I expect to see him at home again soon. He is surgery man, one after another, and yet I see him again and again after being cut up, out in the neighborhood, jogging, or walking. And if he can’t walk this time, he can drive the Corvette he has waiting for him in his garage.

Life sucks, and then it doesn’t. There is hard, and then there is good. Get used to it.

If you perish, revive. If you die,  rise from the dead.  Life will kill you many times before it does. I suggest you get used to rising from the dead.

Life is tough.

Be tougher.


For more thought on being tough, check out my proverbs on toughness at

When I hung up I cried.

The numbers weren’t down as much as I had hoped.

“What does it mean?” I didn’t know, I couldn’t tell — and the doctors didn’t seem to want to say.

It’s multiple myeloma, cancer, and I’m not sure what to make of it; neither is my brother. He has it, and there seems to be no puppeteer above his stage, pulling on his strings, jerking him away from it.

There are a lot of variables at play in his disease, and the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The doctors say that the course of this disease is not predictable, that every patient responds differently to treatment, that they will have to try things to see if they work, and so my brother and I and everyone else who cares for him are left with the unknown.

At time like these, life can appear to us a unsettlingly uncertain, confusing, as random. Its events may not have discernible causes, patterns or solutions.

An accident, a sudden disease, a family member who dies and suddenly we experience the shock of the unexpected, the chill of the unknown, the unwelcome, surreal face the random.

With my brothers cancer, for us, there are more questions than there are answers. Why did he get cancer? When did it begin? Was there a roll of the dice in it? And what about God? My brother is a pastor. Despite my brother’s allegiance to God, God clearly didn’t stop him from getting cancer. And God clearly hasn’t healed it, despite many requests to do just that.

Is randomness playing a part in my brother’s life? Does it play a part in the realities we all experience?

Let’s consider it. Say we happen to be driving through an intersection when a car is also crossing the same intersection perpendicular to us, and the light fails and is green in both directions and the other car hits us. Under such circumstances it is common for someone to say, “That was horrible luck! I guess I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and everyone understands what is being said.

There are many variables at work in the crash, the failure of the light, just at that moment, the presence of the two cars at exactly the same time, the drivers choices to drive out that day, the speed of the cars — it’s complicated — and so we are right in seeing chance as playing a role in bringing all these elements into play, placing us and someone else at a scene at just that second on that day at that speed when the light failed and involving us in the crash.

It feels like this with my brother’s cancer. It’s a car crash we didn’t see coming, couldn’t prevent, with a result we can’t predict. There are so many variables in my brother’s situation — our family medical history, his genetic makeup, his age in life, the aggressiveness of the cancer, the drugs that are available at this time, his doctor’s choices of treatments, his body’s unique responses to the treatments. Indeed, there are so many factors at play here that we are left with little ability to make accurate projections, draw conclusions or make stable plans.

Life with cancer — for us it has a kind of surreal randomness, at the very least because of our vast ignorance, and quite possibly, because there are elements of it that are random at it’s very core.

This awareness of randomness is real, and it can be observed everywhere. We experience the rather common randomness of life when we take up dice. When we roll dice, the outcome is uncertain. For instance, on any given roll of five dice, we may get a pair of dice that will match or we may not. Anyone who has played dice knows this. We cannot say for certain, before we roll, if we will get a pair or not, nor can we discover a formula by which to accurately predict each roll.

However, the roll results may be calculated as a probabilities. For example, when we roll five dice one time, there is a 70% chance that we will get one pair that match. So from this we can see that the frequency of some outcomes can be calculated even when the outcome of a certain roll cannot be known.

This seems similar to my brother’s treatment plan. The outcome of this is unknown. When he is taking treatment, he is rolling dice.

Some scientists would argue against randomness. They would argue that everything is explainable, if we dig deep enough. There is one problem with this; it has not been proven yet. There are many things scientists do not understand. In fact, for all of us, there is more we don’t understand than we do.

Some of the very spiritual would argue that there is no chance or luck in life because the hand of God is in the world, because the power of God is present to control our affairs, and that because of God’s sovereignty, and his omniscience, nothing is random.

That is not what the Bible says.

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

The wise Solomon observed chance, just have we have, and not just in the dice. He spotted it by looking at gifted people and seeing that they fall prey to random forces — the swift, strong, wise, smart and educated fall into trouble by chance. A great athlete is ruined by a chance injury. A strong, young person dies of chance contact with a disease.

We see this kind of thing in the New Testament. In Acts 12, King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed. He arrested Peter and threw him in prison. It’s odd; Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by an angel, while James was brutally killed.

Why was James killed and Peter saved? We don’t know. It must have seemed random, perhaps even unfair, to those who loved James.

Did James’ death have any element of chance in it, the car at the wrong place and the wrong time, and if so, why would God allow chance as part of his universe, particularly for his useful, chosen ones?

Perhaps this is because God has not chosen to be the great puppeteer, pulling the strings on all the events of his universe.

The Bible reveals a God who lets go of some of his control. In the command of Genesis 1:28, we humans we given the power to create, to make choices, and to steward the earth. And then we were held responsible for our decisions.

God gave us choice, and so he has let us decide many things in our lives, and these choices are consequential and he holds us accountable, just as he did with Adam and Eve. We can see in this that God has in this way taken his hands off the wheel a bit, and he has let us drive. Apparently, he wanted to let go of control.

Just in this same way, as noted by Solomon, it appears that God has decided not to dictate every dice throw, or every moment of nature. It looks very much like he decided that he did not want to run the whole show. He has allowed the dice to roll random, he has set up the game this way, because he choose to let go of the wheel. He apparently wanted us to experience choice and chance, and to let himself experience our choices and the universe’s chances because that would make for the world he wanted. We can’t be certain why he did this, but we can note that the alternative would put him in a very bizarre position.

For God to to dictate every dice roll, to superintend every event, to manage every accident, to dispense all diseases, to hand out all sufferings — this would nullify all choice, remove all human responsibility, take away consequence, delete the sow and reap principal that now operates, and present instead a world totally controlled and dominated by the creator. In this scenario God himself would become the world’s great unrelenting, hyper-attentive, over-active, mad, mad, mad tyrant of phenomena. This is not God.

God is not a crazed puppeteer, frantically working all the stings, making every thing move. God is not the crooked casino manager, loading all the dice. God is not the over-controlling boss, the mad micromanager of life, nor is he the horrific, disease-breathing monster of the universe. God is not the Pandora’s box of the world, unleashing every ill at every turn, in every case. He has certainly allowed the possibility for disease, and in his great power he can certainly can allow a disease to overtake a person or a nation, (we see this in the Old Testament) but he isn’t the horrible disease dispensing, disease mongering dictator of all of life.

Here is the deal. God obviously didn’t want it that way, a totally controlled creation. And yet we must also insist that according to Christian orthodoxy, God does retain ultimate control of life, that he does intervene, that he does sometimes fix things, help us. Christian history and theology include the belief in the incarnation, Christ bringing salvation to earth, God intervening, God fixing human kind, God is far more than a Divine Watchmaker, winding up the world, stepping back to let it tick along on its own.

How do we square all this up? Well, perhaps in this way. God is actively involved in the universe, God does care, does step in, but chance still operates. Why? Perhaps God has allowed chance in the world, just as he has allowed free will, because he saw what he could do with it.

What could he do with chance? Chance has its uses. By chance, by the presence of the random, we transient humans live blinded to the future. Because of randomness, we see the roll of the dice dimly, as through a glass darkly. Perhaps in this way, chance was allowed to confound us, to humble us, to lead us to depend on God. Chance is perhaps an antidote to pride. We can’t figure it all out, we don’t have all the answers, we can’t predict the future, we are not ultimately in control. Also, by means of chance, or randomness, we are sometimes pleasantly surprised. Good things fall to chance, not merely bad things. By chance we may get a full-house! By chance we see beautiful wild animal. By chance we win one of the many games of life.

And there is perhaps one more virtue in chance. By means of chance, mystery is maintained, and mystery is a deep part of God himself.

Let’s bring up one more problem. Open theism, as presented by proponent Gregory A. Boyd, is the view that the future is in part, a set of possibilities and known by God as possibilities. This has caused tremendous debate from the traditionalists who insist that this limits God’s knowing and determining power in a heretical way. Open theism is not what I am arguing here. The Bible seems to make it clear that God knows everything, past, present and future. God does not, not know what will happen yet. He knows ahead what possibilities and probabilities will become realities. He knows which “might happen” will become a “did happen.” And we might even say that what seems random to us, a possibility, or a probability, may have a very clear explanation to him. And yet this need not make us abandon the doctrine of free will or the possibility of chance.

God, if he is God, that is omniscient and omnipotent, is never surprised, nor is he limited. He sees the way all the dice will roll before they roll and yet, seeing ahead or knowing ahead is not the same as causing, and giving choice is not controlling, and letting chance work in the world does not mean he cannot intervene at any point he chooses. Apparently, God is big enough to allow other forces than himself to be at work in his creation. God has gifted the creation with power.

We may maintain our affirmation that God is omniscient, and yet agree that it is still clear from the Bible and our experiences, that there is human free will and a random element in life. In trying to make sense of this, David Bartholomew puts it this way, apparently “God can have it both ways” – randomness and order.

What to conclude? How do we comfort the family who loses James? What do we tell the Christian with cancer? What do we celebrate as God’s intervention, what do we accept as his will, what do we take responsibility for?

I’m still not always completely sure, but I am sure that God is wise and responsible and makes good choices and handles the random well and that so should I.

My brother told me recently that he has experienced God walking with him through his personal car wreck, walking with him through his unwanted, seemingly random numbers, through his suffering, with him through the apparent randomness of his experience, with him not as a magician who chants the abracadabra and the disease is gone, but with him as a God of beauty, a divine beauty maker, offering bits and pieces of respite and wonder that refresh, in the middle of the news that shatters.


Note: For my modern proverbs on randomness, visit

I had coffee with my friend Dennis today.

His life is good, and sometimes a bit tough, as life is apt to be. Dennis recently retired from a long, very successful music teaching career. He has a long successful marriage, he has a beautiful, successful, loving daughter, he has a wonderful grandson. Dennis told me that he has no bucket list. He has done so much, lived so fully. He’s good to go!

But Dennis is coping with NF2, and he is losing his hearing, slowly, which is hard for a musician, and he is enjoying life on the terms that it comes to him now — somewhat limited — the best he can.

Dennis told me today, “I’m working on being grateful.” I’m impressed!

He is also considering designing an online class on using iPads in music education.

I like that too.

There are so many ways of responding to life, of getting along with what we don’t want to get along with, of ciphering life, of doing the math, the pluses and minuses of career and health and success and family.

People are resilient! I see that all the time. And they are smart and creative and brave and wise and full of the kind of imagination that thrives in difficulty!

Thinking of this, I wrote a fable about a man, who didn’t have a family, so he made one up! I love this man!


Once there was a man named Santino who didn’t have a family — so he made one up.

“Maya”, he said to his wife, “would you mind getting me a piece of the cake you made today?”

“Certainly,” she replied. He got up and got himself some cake.

“Yosef,” he said to his son, let me see your homework. Ah, you are doing a paper on the sociology of interracial intimacy. One thought is that you focus on the varying interpretations of father craft within these families.”

He pulled out his tablet and looked up several websites on the sociology of fatherhood within the bourgeois family.

“Interesting,” he said to himself, “the pervasive maternal dominance when it come to parenting.”

“Lilit,” he said to his daughter, “If you and your sister Saki would like, I will take you out this evening to get ice cream.”

That evening he went out and got himself an ice cream. He sat alone eating it.

“Saki,” he said to his youngest daughter, looking up from his ice cream. “How are you doing with that boy at school, the one who told you he liked you.”

He sat quietly for a moment. Another family sat quietly nearby.

“Well,” he said gently, “this can be quite sensitive. I wouldn’t say that to him, but it would be best to be honest. You don’t want to lead him on, give him false hope. That isn’t kind. It’s important in life to be honest, but not too honest, if you know what I mean?”

Santino looked up. The nearby family — a father, mother son and two daughters — were all staring at him.

He looked at them, and catching the father’s eye, said in a clear voice. “The fathering, it just never seems to end, does it?”

The other father, not knowing what to say, looked down.

Santino, looking around the room, smiled, and said to himself, “I just love being a father.”


I love Santino!

He was a father, a natural father, a good father, one capable of the acceptance of great diversity — an international father — a real father who didn’t get a chance to be a father — and there is a sadness in that for me — and yet he was indeed a father beyond ordinary fathers.

Santino was a great father to his imaginary international family!

I wonder about Santino and so many others like him. Why didn’t he get the opportunity to live out his identity? I don’t know. I made him up, and still I don’t know.

It happens all the time, the Santinos, living with their dreams deferred, their desires unfulfilled. And yet, like my friend Dennis, so many of the semi-blessed, partially blessed, and even the unblessed are doing very well. They, like Santino, are very grateful, on some very deep unfulfilled level, for who they are.

I wonder. I wonder what do we do when we don’t get to do all that we might have done, when illness, disability or circumstance don’t allow it?

This is hard, and yet, we I can see through Dennis and Santino, that we may yet thrive!

If we are grateful for what we have been given, even more profoundly, if we are grateful or who we are, and can image that, affirm that, act that out in any way possible, even when the rest of the world doesn’t see or know that, even when that doesn’t look like what we once hoped it would look like, then we are indeed blessed.

By the way, if you enjoyed the fable of Santino, you can find more of my fabulistic literature at

As I walked by, I heard a older gentleman say to someone he was talking to on the phone, “I’m not sure we are at the ferry landing.”

He was at the ferry landing.

I know; I was there, walking by him, at the landing. This place is familiar to me. I have been coming with my family for years.

The whole thing seemed familiar — the bewildered person, wandering around a bit confused, not quite clear as to what was going on.

I see them all the time, the semi-confused. I know them: I am them. We humans all suffer myriad disorientations and confusions.

Lately I have noticed that places can disorient, (parking lots, new cities) and also that sicknesses can create significant bewilderment.

Illness seems to cause the Voortrekker syndrome — “Where the heck are we now?”

Poor health, impairment, disability — it’s freakin’ foreign, and can elicit some pretty wacko responses.

About six months ago, my brother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. People by and large have been great, but his cancer has created some very interesting responses.

He has cancer, and some people are delusional.

“You have just got to read this book!”

“Listen, there is this diet …”

“I want to pray for you, right now, and I believe that God is going to heal you completely, right now!”

“I read this article. I am going to email it to you. You just have to read this article and …”

“There are several herbs that I have been using …”

“In Mexico, you can go to this clinic …”

“Have you ever heard of the healing power of magnets?”

They come to him, these self-appointed healers, with great energy, enthusiasm and love, offering their gifts at his altar, caring so much, and they really do, and they come to him, basically — insensitive.

Books are good. He has read books.

Diets are good. He eats well.

Prayer is excellent. Hundreds of friends and family member are praying for him everyday.

Articles inform. He has read more internet articles than is probably good for his mental stability.

Herbs, Mexico, bracelets, magnets — they all have their proponents, but what is really helpful?

A few thoughts.

It is not particularly reassuring to anyone, when amateur healers appoint themselves to the position of fixing the sick. It disorienting. The blind cannot lead the blind.

“You know how to do what? Heal cancer? Really?”

Those who don’t know what to do shouldn’t pretend they do.

Which leads to an interesting question?

Why? Why do people feel such a compulsive urge to give a remedy that they really don’t know will work, that they don’t even know hasn’t already been tried by the person, for instance prayer or a special diet? Why do they rush to offer things inappropriate to the person or the situation?

Perhaps this is because they really do want to help, very badly — too badly — and so they instinctively grasp at the first thing that comes to mind, something that they were told worked for someone else, something they found on the Internet, something they wish worked. They just can’t take it, not to offer a remedy.

These well-meaning ones are reality resistant — compulsively. They don’t know where they are at. They are at the ferry landing, and don’t know it; they are at the entrance to the River Styx, and they can’t recognize it. They are disoriented. Perhaps they have never been there before.

And at that point of confusion they are not quite safe to themselves or others. Unconsciously they blame the victim by implying that the sick one hasn’t done something right yet, hasn’t prayed with the proper amount of trembling, volume or spiritual mojo, hasn’t read the right book, eaten the right plants, gone to the right doctor or worn the correct metal.

Maybe, just maybe, this is because they are themselves are uncomfortable with sickness, brokenness, disability and loss. Perhaps they haven’t come to terms with the shaper edges of life. Maybe they haven’t accepted pain as part of life; maybe they haven’t integrated suffering and death into their philosophies, their epistemologies or their theologies. It’s denial, and it makes people offer up wacko responses.

It seems to me that God himself is much more comfortable with sickness and suffering than we are. He allows it. He uses it. God is not in denial about the rougher side of life. It seems to get along with it. God is sovereign, he can fix anything, but under his watchful, loving eyes, everybody gets sick at some point, and everybody dies.

So what would help? If the impulsively gushing of remedies doesn’t help, what does? How do we do something good here, how do we avoid wandering about confused, among the suffering?

I know what I have experienced that has helped me through some tough medical issues. It wasn’t aromatherapy.

When I have been sick, what has helped me has been when people affirmed me for some aspect of my character, particularly when it was true.

“You haven’t lost your core,” someone told me once during a particularly difficult time. “You are still who you are. You haven’t lost you.” I liked it. It made me more confident that an important part of me was surviving my difficulty.

It has also helped when people have had the sensitivity to ask a few relevant questions and then really listen.

“Wow, so what do your doctors say is next for you?”

“Cool, I’m praying that this will really work for you.”

And it has really helped when my dear ones have made simple expressions of love for me and my family.

A hug, a pat, a kiss that conveys real care, it helps. Real love helps, especially when you and most of the people around you are a bit confused by the complications of acute illness. Then it helps to be loved. It helps you get on the next ferry and travel to wherever it is that you have to go next.

“So after the stem cell transplant, when will I get back to normal?”

“Your bones still won’t be rebuilt,” said the doctor, “so you need to stay on this medication for a couple of years. Welcome to your new normal.”

My brother has cancer. That’s his new normal. He takes lots of drugs, and chemo. He’ll keep taking them.

Such is life, and so it goes, really for pretty much all of us.

What at first is shockingly foreign, must become a familiar traveling companion to us. We may not like it, but the new normal won’t go away just because we want it to. Inveterately along the way, there is no going back to an old normal.

We want to go back. We are wired for living in what we know, for nostalgia. We seem to have a thing for the familiar, a proclivity for the way it was, but reality has no such tie.

Reality marches on, with no sentiment. A wheelchair arrives at our door with no tears from the front walk.

Get used to it. It’s easier if you do. Life is an adaptation.

God is in this. Nothing surprises him but he constantly allows life to surprise us. The best thing to do with surprises of all kinds is to welcome them, to embrace them, to dance with them, to jump into them.

Just before you crash, lean forward, and shout, “Hallelujah!”

It’s more fun than cussing.

Last night we sat by the fire with chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers. We weren’t camping; we were grieving. We reveled in the joy of grieving.

We laughed, cried, remembered and forgot the loss of a good friend.

Perhaps we grieve best with family and friends — and food and fire.

This morning I got up and had my morning quiet on a big, soft couch, with a cat and coffee and a blanket. I’ve quit drinking coffee — except when grieving.

I love the early morning, and the late mourning too. I spoke with one of my friends who is a therapist last week. I asked her, “How do you grieve?”

“I don’t know,” she said. I felt better right away. If the expert didn’t know, maybe I wasn’t so lame. I don’t know either. I suppose it is kind of like breathing; you just do it, to stay alive.

“I eat macaroni and cheese” she said. “And go somewhere different from my normal hangouts.”

I started getting the idea. We grieve using grieving rituals.

I’m off, on a mission, to establish some rituals, for when I’m sad. Eating sounds really good, and taking time in the backyard, with fire, and family, and couches and writing — and drinking strong coffee.

This morning I wrote some proverbs, about grief. Here they are for your instruction in grief, and for your pleasure — in thinking.

Grief is the finest proof that we love.

Love is a poem; grief is a novel.

Grief has a peak, straight streak, oblique.

What’s past help isn’t past hurt.

Grieve when you hurt; heal with dessert.

Joy needs a mouth; grief needs an ear.

Grieving rituals are our victuals.

Simmer your losses in silence and sauces.

Grieve all your ouches with blankets and couches.

Sleep’s a respite for the desperate.

Loss instructs wavering minds to steady.

Weep — then make a fiery launch into the future.

Resilience is our super-human brilliance.

I feel so much better. I think I’ll celebrate today — my gains!

You can find more of my thought proverbs, axioms and epigrams on a wide variety of topics at

The first time I really took much notice was when she was lying on the sidewalk. We went over and presented her with the standard cliché. She said she was, and we helped her get up, and she hobbled off.

I had my office manager email the city. I had images in my mind of them coming out and pouring a cement square and calling it a day. They didn’t. Instead we got a letter in the mail saying that it was our responsibility to fix the problem.

“What?” I said on the phone to the city official, “We own the sidewalk?”

What it really came down to was the tree. Our tree cracked the sidewalk so it was our responsibility to get it fixed. There often seems to be a discrepancy in life, between what we want and what we get.

Actually, the whole thing started about forty years ago because of the sun. Someone decided to solve the problem of the sun shining too much in the west-facing windows of the church. In a moment of brilliance they took a little potted tree, dug a hole about ten feet from the side-walk, right in front of the windows, and put it in the ground. It was a good solution, it worked well for quite some time, but the problem solvers didn’t imagine the end result — another problem. It’s often like that with people who plant trees — they lack the prophetic gift.

When the company we hired came and broke up the sidewalk, all sixty feet off it, they uncovered root work —  forty years of it. Huge python-like roots were exposed, some six inches in diameter, lurking along a sixty foot span of walk, uplifting the cement from two to three inches, creating a trip hazard, eventually upending an older woman.

The fix cost the church close to $7,000 — the removal of the 35 foot tree, the removal of sixty feet of walk, the pouring of the new sidewalk and curb, the purchase of new landscape — non-root invasive.

There is often a discrepancy between what we want and what we get. We want someone to fix a problem; we are required to fix the problem. We want shade, we get a bill for $7,000.

I’ve noticed the discrepancy lately. Recently the son of a friend of mine committed suicide. We were stunned, knocked sideways, and run over by this. I went to the memorial service and came back home kicked in the head. This wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted life; we got a brutal death. A mom planted a tree. The roots broke the sidewalk. There is no fix.

There is a discrepancy in life between what we want and what we get. There is an uplift, a break, a gap and we fall on it, or into it and we don’t much care for lying on the concrete.

I don’t quite know what to do, but one thing comes to mind. What we can’t fix we can love. I love my friends left. I love the good that was in the little boy who grew up and then gave up. I love fixing the things I can.

The discrepancy remains, but it doesn’t overwhelm us, because other things remain too, a new sidewalk, a new tree, new friends, good memories, bravery — love.

The drops of salt water spin off the football as it speeds away from me — beautiful, tiny, silver globes of light flying up and away from the ball

I love the combination of light, and water, especially as it flies in the air off a ball. I throw the football to my daughter. We are at a hot, sandy beach in Coronado, California. We love the beach. I raised my girls at at this beach and another favorite spot in La Jolla.

We laugh, we toss the football, it flies true, the water is bright.

I like the true and flying ball tossed between two people who are extremely okay with each other. My daughter and I are. We toss it back and forth. I like it when it spins in a perfect spiral. We each throw a couple perfect passes,  NFL kinds of passes out over the bright blue waters of San Diego.

Yesterday I ran into someone who pretended that it was okay between us. It isn’t.

People do that. They lie.

I find that to be singularly unattractive. No bright drops in the air here. No good tosses. Nothing true, righteous, good. For there is nothing that can fly back and forth in nicely spinning spirals between two word tossers when there are lies in the mix.

I don’t like pretending. I don’t like what is false. I don’t like what is spun wrong. And I’m not that fond of lies. I used to be, but I’ve pretty much gotten over that.

This morning I read some of the Psalms. I love the Psalms — lots of bright drops of truth spiraling through the air here. I ran across an interesting turn of phrase in Psalm 36:2.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves
    too much to detect or hate their sin.

We do that, think too much of ourselves to detect or hate our own sin, particularly if we are hooked on  highly additive substances like pride, greed or jealousy.

Crazy! True! And damaging. Lies are always damaging, and really the most damaging lies are the ones that we believe. We don’t call them lies but instead brand them as the truth. Scary, for really the most dangerous lies are when liars that tell them think that they are telling the truth.

I know, because I do this, deceive myself. We all do — from  time-to-time which can add up to most of the time.  We think we are honest, because we  admit small negatives about ourselves once in a while, when caught, but we do so only to hide our worse offenses behind the shabby ruses of a few minor confessions.

It’s something to get past.

How? Not easily.

I actually don’t think that we can get past our own lies very often, but I have seen that life can get us past them, past the self-flattery, the pretending and the ensuing falsehoods.  But to do this, life must get tough on us, and take a couple of whacks at us, right between the eyes.

If that happens, that we get pounded, I’d recommend we take the licking, and come up asking for more.

A beating, extreme trouble in life,  has a way of potentially knocking untruth out of us, so we may, if we will, become more humble, admit our falsity and put on stronger reading glasses. Then, through the clear eyepieces of bitter experience, perhaps we will be able to detect our private, personal and oh-so-deceptive prevarications, and then out the darkness in us.

Today, I went kayaking and snorkeling along the La Jolla cliffs with my wife, Linda. Beautiful, the bright blue water, the bright blue sky. It’s what we do in my family, and have done so many times, to clear our heads from too much work and a bit of untruth, especially the untruth that the world is only violent and ugly and full of lies.

Under the water, through my goggles, I ogle some shafts of sunlight shooting down to the bottom of the sea, illuminating a brilliant orange Garibaldi set against some bright green surf grass.

Nice! Bright. Real.  Orange. True.

Coming back to the kayak, I crawl in and Linda goes out for her snorkeling.  We take turns climbing out of and back into the craft,  and then we point and laugh at each other. We are ridiculous. Trying to get back into the boat, we hitch ourselves up on our stomachs and lay across the boat sideways. We look like beached seals, stranded on plastic.

It’s bright between us. Our relationship is full of truth. We laugh. We see ourselves as we are.

Then we head back. The water flies off our paddles as we power home though the bright light and truth.