Monthly Archives: April 2016

The opposite of love

A year ago, when I got out of bed each morning, I did so only grudgingly. And only after calculating how many more times I had to do that until Saturday. I’ve never experienced hell–not real hell–not the hell of being in war or watching a loved one die a protracted, painful death. Those things are real hell on earth. But my experience is an approximation.

Today, I’m fine–physically anyway. Who knows why?

In a related point, sometime this week, I’ll look at something coming up and figure doom to be inevitable. Most people see the glass half full or half empty. I see the glass as about to tip over and spill on my laptop, ruining everything. It’s the doom thing.

Since things have gotten better, one thing I’m trying to do is remember what happened, remember how awful it was. And then remember where I am now.

As I read through the Old Testament, it’s remarkable how the Israelites–as screwed up as they were–put so much effort into remembering what God had done. Read the Psalms sometime. Read how they talk so much about how God delivered them again and again. The Red Sea. The Manna. All of it.

The simple fact is this: based on what I believe, I have a God who won’t just allow me to talk to him any time I want. He wants me to talk to him. He’s excited. He knows my name and he’s always glad I came.

Huh. Maybe there is beer in heaven. One can only hope…

And if the maker of the freaking universe is excited to hear from me and wants to spend time with me, what could possibly be bigger than that? What could love could possibly compete with that?

Hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy isn’t the opposite of love.

Fear is the opposite of love.

When you are afraid, you cannot love. When you’re afraid, you’re concerned about you. You build walls that none may penetrate. A fortress deep and mighty.

You can’t love someone when you’ve built a wall to keep them out.

Except for my own hypocrisy and smallness, there’s no reason to build those walls. Because no matter what’s already happened and what happens tomorrow, there’s no reason to fear. The experience of my life proves this point. I have someone looking out for me.

So there’s nothing to fear.

Except snakes. But that’s just common sense.

 

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I don’t deserve this

Last year, when things were bad, I tried not to get into the rut of asking what I did to deserve what happened. I’d go there from time to time–after all, I’d spent a lot of time and effort crafting my body to look good in a size-large shirt. But I didn’t stay there too much.

Fast forward a year…

This morning, I got up and ran. I only made it about two and a half miles because my legs are bigger than they used to be and my shorts bunch up and chafing ensues. This afternoon, I finished the run–total of six miles. In reality, I was hoping for more, but I’m not the most realistic person about setting attainable goals sometimes.

It’s not Satan’s-armpit time in Florida. The humidity’s still reasonable for here, and it’s only in the low eighties. Still, it was warmer after church than it was at 7 this morning. And I hate sweat in my face–which is a challenge in the Sunshine state.

What have I done to deserve this?

Not the struggles with the running, or the sweat in the face, or the crotch-based discomfort.

I get to run again. Last year at this time, I was fairly certain that would never happen. If what I had was truly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, it shouldn’t have happened. If that’s the case, basically I either got super lucky, or God decided to let me run again, depending on your view of such things.

Okay, Chris. You can run again. (Admit it. You just heard Morgan Freeman’s voice there, didn’t you?)

I have no idea how or why I was afflicted or how or why I was spared. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

I may have run my last. I could crash again tomorrow and spend the rest of my life staring out the window, longing to feel the gentle jolts to my legs that come with every foot fall. Or worse…

mutual life because you could die tomorrow

It’s a lesson that we easily forget as we assume God-like powers in controlling our lives.

Nothing is promised.

Not breathing. Not getting out of bed. Not wiping the sweat off your face as you run in April in Tampa.

None of it.

I wish I could tell you that I’d handle it with grace and class if everything were taken away tomorrow, but I can’t. That’s tomorrow’s problem, if it comes.

But I can tell you that I appreciate what I have a lot more than I ever did before. Even the things I don’t like day-to-day are really blessings because I’m in a position to experience them.


Why Prince mattered

At the time, I drove a powder blue Beetle. Most of the time it ran, though you had to scrape the frost off the windows inside and out when it was cold out. And considering I spent a good part of the year in Plattsburgh, New York, it was cold a lot.

Plattsburgh, NY on a warm July day

This was the car I had to air out one spring because the water I drove through on the road in Hagaman was much, much deeper than I thought. Just so you know, ’72 Superbeetles aren’t water-tight. The water poured in the seams around the door like mini-waterfalls.

Magnum had a car like it before he moved to the estate, though his was a convertible. And so did Kevin Bacon in Footloose.

Magnum’s Beetle, before the Ferarri

I listened to Prince in that car. One of my friends at the time had a massive musical mancrush on Prince. If I remember correctly, at some point, I got a cheap tape player and had it installed and bought Purple Rain on cassette. When I hear certain songs I still remember the feel of that car–the leather steering-wheel cover and the smell of that car, the sound of its engine.

I called it the Millennium Beetle and we’d take it to the parking lot in front of Ames, where there weren’t many light poles, and turn donuts some nights, just because we could.

Going to college in Plattsburgh was a great part of life. Sure we were broke. We shopped for wine based on two numbers–price and alcohol content. If we saved enough,  we got to drink Genesee. If not, we drank Tuborg Gold. We ate Little Caesars because they sent two pizzas.

$6.99 a case at the grocery on Catherine Street.

 

We listened to 95 Triple-X. We liked Come On, Eileen because Arlene, who hung out with us, used to get annoyed when we substituted her name when we sang it. And we drank beer and fought over really stupid things and played volleyball and dreamed about the future.

I’m no huge fan of Prince, the way my friend was. I prefer U2. And the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and Credence and a few others.

But I still turn up the guitar riff in Let’s Go Crazy. Every single time.

And I typically smile, even if I don’t dive into the memories. They’re there, whenever I want to visit.

And that’s why I was affected when Prince died this week.

Maybe for you, it’s not Prince. Maybe it was Lennon or Bowie. Maybe it’ll be McCartney or Stevie Nicks or Jon Bon Jovi or Eddie Van Halen or Eminem or Madonna.

If you looked hard enough, you’d find people this week who didn’t get it. So what? There were earthquakes all over the place. Intel is laying off 12,000 people. Some guy killed most of his family in Ohio. Donald Freaking Trump might be President.

Why are we obsessed with this…well, this freak?

Because of that Beetle and those friends and the fond memories conjured by a simple song. That’s why.

Because meaning in life is where you find it and a lot of people found it through Prince’s work.

You don’t have to understand it with Prince, but you have–or will–with someone else.

That’s what makes it art.

In a world that could use any joy it can get, fond remembrances are a blessing. And the people who bring them are gifts from God.