Okay, here’s my rant about politics and religion. I remember a day when people could agree to disagree without being mean spirited or villainizing each other. This has changed in recent years. In the past, I was proud to put a bumper sticker on my car during an election. During the last election, I was afraid to do so. I was afraid of having my tires slashed. Especially at church. Something shifted in our culture that has made us intolerant of each other. It’s like when politics or hot button religious issues come up, all Jesus said about loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek goes out the window.
I’ve decided the difference is that we have lost our sense of humor. We have lost our ability to laugh at ourselves. We take ourselves too seriously. We begin to think we are too important and that our opinions matter too much.
We need a global perspective. We need God’s perspective. We are a wisp of smoke, here today and gone tomorrow. We are fragile, fleeting creatures and need to treat each other with kindness. The verse from Psalms should put us in our place: For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Ps. 103:14
I blew this one the other day. A friend of a friend posted a link to a blog I didn’t agree with and I said something mean. I hurt someone’s feelings because I disagreed with her. This is easy to do on-line because we don’t have to know that person. We don’t have to look in their eye, we can just anonymously jab the knife. I felt badly, immediately deleted my post, and apologized. Now we are Facebook friends!
But, who am I to treat a neighbor that way? If I’d been sitting down across from her I would have seen it in her eyes: here is a fragile soul, a wisp of smoke, a holy creation. Treat her with gentleness and respect. But I didn’t. I have broken the second greatest commandment.
I am Butt dust.
So, I’ve resolved to weather this election with humor — by laughing at myself. And with grace for those I disagree with and who disagree with me. It will be hard and I may have to grit my teeth and bite my tongue but I want to remember that I am butt dust.
Say it with me now, “We are BUTT dust!” There, don’t you feel better?
In my last blog, I talked about terror and shared the story of my recent car wreck. I hinted that my children had the ability to take me to a place of fear 100X greater than the wreck. And so, part two.
The reason I was trying to get home over the mountain at night was because I wanted to maximize my time with my son Micah who would be coming back from Burning Man. He had only two days in Reno before heading back to Fort Bragg. We had a good last two days, and then David put him on a plane back to his base. The next morning I received a call that Micah didn’t show up for work.
At first, we thought, “Oh, it’s just like Micah to get home late and not realize he has to be at work right away. He probably thinks he starts tomorrow.” But, just in case we decided to check with the airline and look at his bank account. He had made it all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina where Ft. Bragg is located. Then, he’d gone on base, filled up his car and then emptied his bank account. So, he had either been robbed (beaten, lying on the side of the road dead?) or gone AWOL. Panic set in.
Two hours later, after a conversation with my daughter, we found that he’d talked about going AWOL at Burning Man. In fact, they’d had a big fight about it. She was sure he’d changed his mind by the end of the week, so she didn’t mention it.
The next four days were sheer torture. We’d had no word from Micah. I spent most days alternating between trust and despair. I had no words to pray so I turned to the Psalms:
“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” Psalm 6:6
Our friends and family stood with us and sustained us. And there were glimpses of God. One morning I was so despondent I prayed, “I just want to know that you are with me. It would help if someone I didn’t even really know was praying for me right now. I need to know you see me.” After that, I took a shower and when I came out my husband had put the mail on the dresser. In it was an envelope addressed to me from a woman I hardly know – I met her two years ago at a women’s retreat. On the outside of the envelope was a picture of birds. Under it she had written, “He is watching over you.” Inside was her assurance that I was not alone and she was praying for me! It was so unexpected, so needed. I cried tears of thanksgiving.
Two days later, again despondent I took the dog up in the hills for a walk. It was a warm, dry Reno evening, but when I turned and looked up, there was a big fat rainbow. Not the kind that arches across the sky, but a straight fat one that looked like an exclamation point, slamming into the earth. I sat on a rock and starred at it in wonder. All the promises of the rainbow came back to me and I felt God say, “This will not end in destruction.”
Micah has called us every Sunday for the five years that he’s been in the Army. On Sunday we received a Facebook message, “Alive and Safe, I love you.”
We were so relieved, he was alive and safe!
Our worry for him continues. We know he needs to go back to the base ASAP. We held on to the hope that he would contact us again this Sunday. When he did not, we again sunk into despair. We held each other in bed that night and cried.
Monday morning my husband had an inkling: It was the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. He went to a Flickr and put in Occupy Wall Street into the search engine. After two hours of searching, he was rewarded with the above picture of our boy.
Another glimpse from God. We are not alone. We stand with so many who are praying with us, and God continues to sustain us.
Many of you are going through equally difficult times right now. Let me know what they are so we can hold each other up. These things are too much to bear alone.
I often feel more evidence of God’s presence during difficult times. Maybe I’m just more aware of what actually goes on around me every day, or my radio dial gets tuned in quicker during trauma. Maybe I just pay more attention when my legs get kicked out from under me.
Labor Day weekend was my 35th class reunion and my high school besties and I decided to make a girls weekend of it. We got stranded in a bar for several hours (a long and humorous story for another time) and played the game, “Tell me a Story.” This is a game I invented when I was young to entertain my little sister on long road trips. In this game, someone gives you a word or phrase and you have to tell a true story about your life related to that prompt. My friend gave me the word “Terror.” I laughed and said, “I’m not sure what the story will be, but I’m positive it will have something to do with my kids.” Kids have a way of pushing our fear buttons faster than anything I can think of.
Driving home from the weekend, I got a first-hand look at another form of terror. I was driving up the Sierra Nevada Mountains at night when I came upon a pick-up truck stopped in my lane with no lights on. Instant decision: plow into him or try to miss him. I swerved left, overcorrected right and plowed head-on into the guard rail at 65 mph. I won’t go on about all that happened next. I won’t tell you how I found out the guy in the truck was a four-time DUI offender and plastered. I won’t tell you about his wasted female passenger who I thought was coming up to ask if I was okay but instead asked for a ride to the next town. Or the sheer miracle of how I walked away alive and unbroken even though my car was totaled and sitting in the same lane as the truck. I will say that I finally had the clarity to get out of my car and onto the side of the road. Then Brain-Trust in the truck opened his door so an oncoming car could take it off and fling it at me. At that moment I had an epiphany: I felt terrified! I knew that if I ever got asked that question again playing Tell Me a Story, I’d have an answer.
But, I do want to mention a glimpse of God I got that night.
The tow-truck driver dropped me and all my worldly goods, including my grand-baby’s car seat, at an all-night gas station in a small mountain town. It was a warm night and there was a man sitting on the bench where I was deposited. He was sipping a soda and smoking a cigarette. After noting my arrival he asked if there was a baby in the accident. I assured him there was not and we started chatting. It was very comforting to have someone to talk to. He told me of his life as a journalist in the bay area.
After about an hour I asked, “Why are you here?” I mean, it was about nine-thirty by then and he seemed content to sit and talk to me. He said he managed an apartment complex down the road and came here to get away from the noise. As the temp cooled he even got me a shirt from his car to cover my bare arms.
When my frazzled husband arrived around ten-thirty, my nameless angel got up to leave. “Thank you for staying with me,” I said, knowing that sentiment was inadequate for the situation.
“I just wanted someone to be with you until your husband arrived,” he said, shrugging as he walked away – just an every-day hero, just a glimpse of God. I wondered as we drove away, if he was real or a soda sipping, cigarette smoking angel? It didn’t matter, he was exactly what I needed in that moment and I was grateful.
There is a part two to this story, where the terror and the glimpses both crank up about a hundred notches. If you are a careful reader you will know where this is headed. But…since I’m still in the middle of this one I think I’ll wait a bit for that post.
Let me know of times you’ve seen glimpses of God.
Photo Credit, Believe Sign – Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv