No time to say goodbye


Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Ephesians 1:10

It’s a snapshot in my mind that will never go away…….a pickup driving by, a friendly average, innocent wave, nothing more. He was the guy, a friend of a mutual friend, who did some work on my brother’s rental house. For one holiday we parked the Motorhome there in the driveway. We talked and visited, and he volunteered to put our new vents on the roof, since neither one of us was eager to climb up there. So he did it, and he and Elaine talked and visited, and she volunteered to pay him, and he refused. Finally he accepted money for lunch.

He smiled and waved from his truck later that day.

Shortly after we got back to Arizona the phone rang and it was my Mom telling me that he had taken his life. Our friend went to pick him up for church and he found him. And last night we got another call, another person, also a Dad, reached the unthinkable place where it seemed the only option. Elaine and I talked to him on the porch for 20 minutes or so on Halloween night when he brought his young son Trick-or-treating.

And all I keep thinking about, praying about, are the kids, the wife, the people left behind. And I also keep thinking that we are all so breakable. We can only take so much.

I couldn’t really pray this morning, I just went out by the river and listened until the sounds of humanity started to intersect with the sounds of nature as God intended. I listened hard for any answers when I first went out, and all I heard was the owl. I heard the “Whoooo-whoo-whooing”……I thought I heard it repeat “Why……” instead.

Seemed the only think we could do this morning was head out on the river to see if it had any answers. It didn’t. But there’s something about being on the water that stills the soul. Seeing trees and clouds upside down changes your perspective. We paddled slow, meandered, both of us lost in thought.

The harsh reality is that there is no guarantee in this life that we will get a chance to say goodbye. I know that more than most. Another reality is that try as you might, some people, some situations just aren’t fixable. Not in this lifetime anyway. Life is short, we say. But why don’t we live as though we really believe it is? We waste so much time on anger, worry, little irritations that won’t matter a hill of beans in eternity.

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadth, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! Psalm 39:5,6

I need to get dressed……the day is already slipping away. Looking up, I see the bright red stickers that Mike left on our vents before he installed them, and I never want to take them off. I don’t want to forget his life. Because his life mattered to God and to his family. He left an indelible snapshot in my mind and now I have another, of someone else I exchanged words with however briefly. My Mom tells me that he was the only neighbor to ask how she was when she was sick, to tell her how happy he was that she was outside again.

And yes, you can say the most selfish thing in the world you can do is take your own life and I believe that. But I also believe that like the sticker says, we are not “guaranteed unbreakable.” Even God Himself had to be breakable for a time. Shortly before the cross He said, “This is my body, broken for you……..” Thankfullythe difference was and is, He had the power to put Himself back together which allows Him able to put us back together as well.

Please join me in praying for this dear family who is broken right now beyond my imagination.


Feeling Empty? Don’t despair……..

IMG_2449 reflection

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Many of my days have felt flat lately. I am fighting a battle, it’s like a dragon really. It’s an old battle so I know how to fight it. The dragon I am slaying has to do with tanking hormone levels due to a condition who will remain nameless, due to my age. The battlefield is taking place within my own body, who seems to be betraying me about now. You see, I have always been able to get my weight under control. I have always been able to push my way through with some extra exercise and eating right. The extra pounds would come off and the muscle would form…..I could watch myself take shape without fail. This time a force beyond my control is resisting my every effort.

Then again, I have never been 56…..there I said it. Everyone who knows me, knows I celebrate every single birthday. I have gone into the whys with other posts. And I celebrated this one despite being in the fog, in the mist and malaise of that thing which will not be named. (For now I will refer to it as Voldemort.) For those who never read Harry Potter, Voldemort is the big evil, the one who gave Harry his scar.

This morning started as many mornings over the past year. I didn’t feel that surge of joy that a new day had begun. I had to pray to get up and face it. It’s not that I was depressed, I was just ambivalent about it starting. As I prayed and began to move about my day, God nudged me in that way He has and said……”You know, feeling empty is not necessarily a bad thing, I am an expert at filling empty.”

“Yes, Lord, you are. How well I know it.”

So I started moving, and living and choosing life instead of death. That is pretty much the secret. This is a season which will not last and there is blessing in being empty, for Jesus came to fill all places. There is no place in our heart, mind, soul and body that He can’t fill. So I said yes to blowing off the driveway. And I also said yes to gratitude, for I have blessings too numerous to count.

And I kept on saying yes when I got my fall flag out. And I said yes again when I filled my body with good things to eat instead of junk. And I am saying yes by typing life-giving words onto this screen, because if it’s one thing I know, it’s that God always rewards the step of faith however small. And the step taken with hope, even if it’s not felt right away will sooner or later take root and bloom into feeling just at the right time.

For hope is not something we feel, it’s something we have that’s tangible. It’s alive… came up out of the ground with Jesus. Hebrews 11:1 Parallel: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So I will continue to beat my body into submission by exercise and eating right, and getting medical help if I need it, knowing that in due time if I don’t give up (and I won’t because I am stubborn like that) I will see results.

I remember like it was yesterday when I had to do this the first time. I had taken my wonderful gift of health and throwing it in God’s face by successfully starving myself and tanking my hormone levels to ground zero. After he healed my mind I had to do the hard work of healing my body. And I had to learn to forgive myself after God and my parents already forgave me for putting them through all that.

I remember getting up in the dark so no one would see me, running in any kind of weather. Those awful blue nylon shorts I wore…..I can still hear them swishing. Then my Dad joined me and we had some good times running together. It a good memory now, our running times. I went from death to life then, and now it’s another kind of passage from a different kind of death into a different kind of life. I guess you could call it the second act.

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do after He and I slay the dragon together.

Ring of Fire


Last night I stayed out on the patio long. I was feeling what my Grandmother would have called “a bit blue.” Lately, I have felt out of step with the world around me. Like I am a few beats behind everyone else. Sometimes it helps to go outside and sit very still, to listen to the bigger rhythm. It’s like putting your finger on the earth’s pulse when you can no longer trust your own.

I lay my head back in the chair and was surprised by the moon directly overhead. I don’t know why it surprised me but I didn’t expect it to be there, it was too high in the sky, but who am I to argue with the moon?

This morning I stumbled over both the previously frozen peas and the ice pack that I use at night to beat back the flames that rise like coiled snakes that come from nowhere. I picture a cartoonish Satan in a red suit, shoveling coals, stoking the furnace within me with a gleeful smile on his face. I am up about 3 times a night exchanging the frozen peas with the ice pack and vice-versa.

My Doctor recommended a place that sells things that may help but she told me it was cash only. What does that even mean? She is into a more “holistic” approach to medicine and I agree, I don’t want to take synthetic hormones. Someone told me about Black Cohosh so now I am taking 540 mg a day. I can’t be sure it’s helping but I will keep taking it for now.

There is an upside. If sweating is healthy, I can’t have any toxins left in my system. I am my own mini-sweat lodge.

I move heavily through most days with a leaden soul. I miss the old me. I miss the self I used to be. I have fleeting moments of happiness and then it’s back to the dull gray wash. I have learned that sometimes all you can do is move through the moment obediently and grab onto the joy when it comes.

I feel like a bit player in my own life and an imposter at work going through the motions. Like on “Seinfeld” when George Costanza got that job that he didn’t really get and went in to work everyday making up things to do in the office that wasn’t really his.

I joined a gym to beat back the ravages of time as well as all these symptoms and it does make me feel better, but I haven’t lost a pound. Most of the time I want to eat whole pies and plates of cookies.  It seems, the same furnace that stokes the flashes, stokes my appetite as well. If I am at home I look for things to graze on continually. I have sunk to dipping cookies in frosting, I am worse than an alcoholic.

And attached to everything else in this new phase of life, I feel a profound sense of shame that I am becoming “less than” “diminished” “devalued.” Being shown the back seat by the universe. I know that what I am feeling is temporary, and I know that God still strives with me.

He brings me little things like doves and blooming flowers and the moon.

And people I love who are always there for me. Above all, I haven’t lost my gratitude because I still have so much.

Despite it all, He remains my well that never runs dry. I will come through this, victory is mine. It always has been, through Him.


Rediscovering an old friend

This weekend, among other things, I went on a bike ride. I felt like I got an old friend back. Maybe it was my imagination but I felt like the bike was happy too, after being locked up in a dark storage unit for so long. I never realized how much I missed it. It’s kind of like low-level flying, and you can cover so much more ground gliding than walking.

Before long, I lost myself in the rhythm and bump of the tires going over the road, hitting the cracks in the sidewalk.

It’s kind of like meditation on wheels.

I rode around in the neighboring park…’s always good to see how the other part of the world lives.

I got some waves and some good mornings from people doing outside things, enjoying the morning air. I introduced myself to the neighborhood feral cat. I know he was feral because he watched me with interest but then hid behind a shrub when I got too close. I named him “Smudge” for the gray blotch he had right below his (or her) nose. I will watch for him next time I am over there.

As I relaxed into the rubber tire rhythm, memories washed over me of other rides I have taken throughout my life. We have a long history, bikes and I. They were part of our culture, back in the day. For a long time our family only had one car, so we got to know our bikes really well.

I learned on an ugly spray-painted hand-me-down that belonged to my cousin. Then, the magic year I turned 10, I got a bright blue Schwinn all my own. I still remember that first magic ride on Christmas morning. I have a picture somewhere, a side view of my snaggle-toothed smile as I cruised down the driveway, my new synthetic white fur coat with the silver buttons flapping in the cold air.

We were buddies that bike and I and I got to know every rattle and squeak intimately. I felt like it got to know me too.

When I was in Junior High I got a sleek, Gitane ten-speed. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I had chosen a brilliant metallic aqua-marine blue and when it glinted in the sun, it took my breath away. My friends and I rode in a herd, all over town. Most days I rode it to school. All the way into High School, in fact. (No, I didn’t have a car), most kids didn’t back then.

I could ride hands free on that bike, steering with a slight lean in whatever direction I wanted to go.

When I got that bike, my Mom inherited the blue Schwinn. Oftentimes, it was her only mode of transportation. I still remember her riding off to the store with her purse hanging from the handlebars, and every so often, one of the smaller kids she watched riding in the basket.

Don’t act so shocked. Times were different then, we didn’t wear helmets either.

We also took our bikes camping in Yosemite and even now when I ride, I can close my eyes and hear the echoeing cries of Stellar’s Jays as I breezed along, ducking for low hanging pines. I was always so excited for those tires to hit the ground, so I could explore and reintroduce myself to the trails I knew so well.

For those moments, I felt like God had given that particular stretch of earth to me as a gift.

When the mountain biking craze hit back in the early nineties, I got a special Birthday gift, a Raleigh cross- over mountain, cruising bike. And yes, I wore the geeky helmet and the padded bicycle shorts.

That’s the bike I took when E and I did the Tour Le San Francisco bike run. Now that was an adventure. There was every genre of rider and bike you can imagine, from old clunkers with boom-boxes bungied to the racks playing opera, to high-speed power racers who did the ride once to warm up and again just for fun.

And there were several people and groups in costume. It was San Francisco after all.

The serious racers whizzed by like greyhounds while the rest of us concentrated on not falling into each other and sucking air on the hills. They closed down part of the city for that race, and I’ll never forget riding through the winding streets of San Francisco and all those bikes spilling out onto the Pacific Coast Highway, the ocean opening up before us.

That view alone made laboring up all those hills worthwhile.

It’s that same bike I am riding all these years later. It has a few nicks and scars but to me it’s just as beautiful as the day I brought it home from the shop. And each time I ride it, whether it’s just to get the mail or around the block, all those other rides and memories come right along with me.

Friends forever.