Monday, March 30, 2015

Do I Know You?

I noticed him while he was still quite a ways away.  

Idaho University sweatshirt, shorts, baseball hat, the Birkenstocks,  heading clear across the lawn in my direction, following imaginary unswerving straight line.

His deliberate moves beg for a question,

Am I supposed to know this guy?

The facial recognition software runs furiously inside my brain, but except for some vague familiarity, all I get is, 


I feel sorry for the guy. Clearly he must have taken me for somebody else. 

I smile, the way you smile at a confused stranger.

By this time he’s stopped at respectable few feet distance.  We are standing face to face. 

Still no recognition. 

He smiles and says,

You are…

And he finishes the sentence by using a simple unmistakable description of one of my side roles, the label so rarely used I’ve almost forgotten belongs to me!  

My eyes pop wide open. 

How does this complete stranger know me?!!?? NOBODY here knows me in this role?

Obviously, it’s my turn now to be thoroughly confused.

I look at him again, and just as he is about to shorten my misery and introduce himself, it finally dawns on me.

I’ve known the man for more than a decade!  His face hasn’t changed much over the years.  Many times we’ve chatted casually about work and school, kids and politics.

But until today all our interactions have always been at the exact same location, same carefully parceled out context, sitting in the same chairs, each of us occupying a clearly defined role. 

As if that's not enough predictability to last you a lifetime, he was always wearing the same thing. A uniform of sort.

White pressed shirt. 

Business suit and tie. 

Carefully polished dress shoes.

Over the years, his gray suit in my mind somehow grew into him, into his skin and flesh, bone and marrow. His suit became an inseparable part of his identity without which he was just a confused stranger.
Outside his little ‘pigeonhole’, on an emerald-green lawn filled with colorful plastic eggs and bouncy children, stripped of his suit, he became utterly unrecognizable to my eyes.

I scratch my head over this and then I wonder if this might be why so many of us fail to recognize Jesus when He stands face to face with us?  

We are so accustomed to keeping Him pigeonholed in a clearly defined, predictable context, all buttoned-up into a suit of our own making.  When he shows up looking different, it’s confusing and unnerving.  There might be some vague familiarity, but no real recognition.  

We are just not ready for His surprise visits.

And yet, He knows us

He takes the unswerving straight line across the emerald green lawn, wearing Birkenstocks and baseball hat, and just as I am about to say,

Sir, do I know you?

He looks me in the eye, smiles - the way you smile at a confused child - and says,

I know you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Phantom Ear-bud Syndrome

Even though the ear-buds are gone, I still feel them like little lime-green wiry ghosts securely attached to my ears.  

It must be the Phantom Ear-bud Syndrome

I can even hear – at first loud and clear, but with time softer and softer – my favorite playlist.

Or, should I say, what used to be my favorite playlist.

For, curiously, I find that what once was a sound of heavenly escape, an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of the sea of turmoil suddenly feels more like noise pollution, something similar to trying to listen to your beloved radio station after somebody was messing with the tuning dial causing it to slip a notch or two from the right frequency.

I feel like I need an auditory detox!

My phantom ear-bud syndrome and its little ‘auditory detox’ side-effect make me notice something conspicuous about the people I pass on my morning walk.

They all have their ears happily plugged with their own version of my lime-green buds.

Young mother in yoga pants pushing a double-stroller.

The buffed-up guy showcasing his physique by wearing a tight black tank top.  I can recognize the beat from the way he speed-walks.

A bunch  of sleepy middle schoolers shuffling across the street oblivious to the second bell.

A  health-and-wellness conscious middle-aged couple.

The last two make a particularly curious pair.  They must be attempting to carry on a conversation with their ear-buds in.  I don’t think they realize it, but they look like two raving lunatics yelling at each other from the top of their lungs.  

It's actually quite entertaining. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Writer's Choice

At this point in the story, the tension for some of us can become unbearable.

Living with tension is tough. Some of us feel we must resolve it, get the immediate closure. 

We don't want to walk the tight rope.  We want to cut it!

The story, for example, could suddenly take a sharp turn, and even end – happily end - right here.  Right now.

I could, for example, take things in my own hands.  I am an adult, for heaven’s sake! I am in charge. I could  shorten the misery by hopping into the car, driving over to Best Buy and purchase a replacement set  Or, even better, order them on line and have them delivered to my doorstep.  I may even get free shipping.

When the package arrives, I would rip it open, plug my ears back up and  resume where I left off – humming blissfully to John Legend’s All of Me.

I could do that.

Or, perhaps, I could add a little intrigue, a little spirituality and mystique, and have my old buddy-buds mysteriously re-appear on my front door step.  Hung from the faded door knob by an invisible hand, a kind of deus-ex-machina. 

This may imply I have some special connection, special strings I could pull in order to get this vending-machine-god to deliver just what I want just when I want it. Even the great writers like Euripides and Shakespeare resorted to such literary devices. If it’s good enough for them, it certainly has to be good enough for me!

I am honestly tempted to choose one of these two approaches. Some may consider them cowardly, but who cares? If I am happily plugged back into my favorite playlist,  happily deaf to the unpleasant realities around me – who’s gonna blame me?

We could all live happily ever after. End of story.  The end.

I could do that. 

But, see, here's the problem. My friend Susan, my wonderful, faithful cheer-leader friend would have none of these shortcuts. She thinks that I need to chose C. 

Not A. 

Not even B.  

But C! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shake It Off

I find the four-letter word profoundly offensive.  

I can’t believe my husband even thought much less said the word in my hearing!

Just…???? Just the ear-buds???!!!

How dares he speak of my precious like that?? The repugnant word should never ever have been used in conjunction with my lime-green iPod ear-buds.

For, you see, these are not some ordinary run-of-the-mill Wal-mart clearance sale ear-buds.

No, sir. Not at all.

These are my very VERY special ear buds.

They are my highway to sanity ear-buds.

They are my annoying-noise cancelling direct-line-to-heaven ear-buds.

They are my vending machine of instantaneous peace and happiness delivered on demand like Netflix in the midst of the chaos of my life ear buds.

They are my anchor of tranquility inside the relentless torrent of demands, problems and emergencies filling my world. 

They are my oasis of calm and joy in the tumultuous sea of life’s depressing realities…

They are my fire-exit, a sure escape route from the madness around me into a carefully crafted playlist of songs that make me forg…

I almost choke on the last word because, smack out of the bright-blue sky, suddenly I am struck by a thought soo outlandish… soo unbelievable…. Way waaaaay too ridonculous to consider…

I want to shake the silly thought off… just shake it off…

But for some utterly inexplicable reason, I don’t seem to be able to.

Friday, March 06, 2015

No Wasted Suffering

I understand that I haven’t necessarily earned a Medal of Honor, or anything like that, but giving up both my favorite lime-green ear-buds AND a big fat grudge against God, all in one day, deserves, I would think you would agree, at least some recognition.


Oh, wow!  I am so very sorry for your loss. If that happened to me, I would have been mad at God for at least a month. Maybe even a year! You must be a saint.


That REALLY stinks.  Will you allow me to buy you another pair?  I know nothing can ever replace your precious lime-green ones, but at least I can try? Would Beats do? Perhaps we can stop by Marble Slab afterwards, just to make it up a little bit for the pain and grief you’ve endured today. And while we are eating waffle bowls with extra toppings, you can tell me all about how difficult it must have been to go through such turmoil, all in one day!

I don’t think I am expecting too much. It's just... it's just that I want my suffering to count for... something.

Because, there is nothing quite abhorrent in my book as wasted suffering.

When my husband comes home that night, before the front door is quite shut behind him, I greet him with,

I lost my iPod…

And his eyes grow really, really big, and he takes in a really really big breath…

But before he exhales, or explodes, whichever,  I quickly finish my sentence...

… my iPod ear-buds. The lime-green ones.  My favorite! 

My voice quivers a little, and I get misty eyed a bit, re-living the trauma.

He exhales a huge sigh of what sounds to me like… relief?

He resumes his normal breathing patter before he drives the final nail into my coffin:

Just the ear-buds? Right? Not the iPod? Just your iPod ear-buds?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Let It Go

The search for the forlorn ear buds ended the moment I slam the front door behind me.  Stubborn as yours truly may be, even I don’t consider going back the third time. 

When the rattling of the door blinds finally stops, I know this is it.  

My favorite lime-green ear-buds are given up.  

For Lent and For Ever. 

I feel like somebody just placed the heel of their foot in the pit of my stomach.

With no one else around, I find God an easy target to pick on.  I continue grumbling about how much I resent when a place of sacrifice is chosen for me. I remind Him that, Lent or not, I prefer sacrificing on my own terms rather than having my stuff randomly taken from me.

He is not responding to my ranting and raving.

I suspect He must have His ears plugged with perfectly fitting, annoying-noise-blocking lima-green iPod ear-buds. That used to be mine.

Still I am getting pretty exhausted with this one-sided conversation and begin wondering if, perhaps, I need to switch my playlist.

I start by telling myself that it could have been much worse.

What if God needed not only my lime-green ear-buds but the entire iPod – and everything in it – all the apps, all music, all photos which I still haven't backed up from two years ago! - the entire dang thing including the Lifeproof case?!!!

The thought sends shivers down my spine.

Indeed, it could have been much much worse!

Fully convinced by the imaginary scenario, I sigh a huge sigh of relief.  When I exhale, I think that not only did I finally let go of the ill-fated ear-buds but also of that big fat grudge against God. 

I can honestly say that I am genuinely thankful that God didn't need my iPod!

The great feeling last for the entire afternoon, until....