religion

About God

IMG_0120

Who, what, where is God?    Do you believe he’s the long, white-haired, Chuck Heston looking guy Michaelangelo  painted?    Or do you believe without the need for any kind of personification?

If you believe, what is God to you and why?     And must you attend church in order to be completely square the Big Guy….or Big Gal upstairs?

If you don’t believe, why?     Would you consider yourself an agnostic with doubts or are yiunan atheist certain there’s no divine force playing  chess with our lives?

Fear not, you won’t be judged.  There are no wrong answers.    I only ask because there have been a lot of trials in my life this past year  and during a nightly swim under the lilac skies of the Hill Country at twilight, I thought about my ever evolving concept of God  and wondered are we being punished when life is difficult or rewarded when things go smoothly.

Your  thoughts, please.

 

 

 

9/12/16

I still think a lot about 9/11, the  day that changed the world.     Some would say evil showed its ugly face on that day in the form of four hijacked 757s;.  less patriotic types might say America had it coming, especially on her own soil.  Others don’t care–it didn’t happen to them personally and still others mourn the loss of humanity.

Fifteen years has flown by.  Since that time, so many people have been born, so many have died.    What happened on 9/11 to some kids born since then might have the same affect on them as the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination has  on my generation.   It happened at Ford’s Theater, I know…in April, I think.

I was four when John Kennedy was killed.    I didn’t exactly understand the politics involved or the motives, but I knew a bad man didn’t like him enough to kill him and didn’t care how Caroline or John John  felt about it.    That’s how I saw it, I related to my fellow children.    That’s how my  four year old mind grasped that November day.

Fifty-three years later and I’m not sure I understand anything better than I did back in 1963 or in 2001.    It was hate that bought the planes down, three took buildings with it.  It was hate that killed JFK and hate that killed that black kid or that white kid or that murdered Asian doctor, the Palestinian college student or the Jewish merchant who’d been stabbed in the streets of Jerusalem..     Hell, if you want to be specific, hate even killed Osama bin Laden.

Or does it make a difference because ‘we’ hated bin Laden; united by a very strong emotion?

Well, September 11th, the marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, the USS Cole all happened because somebody hated Western ideals.   Were we attacked by the same united hatred , but in this case, it was hatred for us   For America.

I could recall terroristic tragedies that happened even longer ago, but admittedly, things get a little hazy after anything relative to Archduke Ferdinand’s murder.

I had a thought recently….the kind that would enter our gray matter after smoking some great weed.   What if God as we know it was really this massive alien or aliens and we were all put here for their amusement like Ceasar, the lions, and  the Christians in the colosseum????.    Violence being more sport than horror.

Sun Tzu (I think) believed that everything comes down to war. It’s the basic organizing factor of every society.   Well yeah, how can you know peace without knowing war?   Just think about it, somewhere at any given time on this planet, there are warring factors.     From an organized militia,  to ragtag guerrillas fighting in rain forests to football rivals facing each other every weekend in the fall.  Defense.  Offense.  Its the strategy of everything.

Is life just one big power play?

It feels like it is sometimes.     Who has the gold?    Who’s the king of the mountain?.   You hear stories about Wall Street tycoons or the star makers in  Hollywood who get the biggest thrills of their lives simply by fucking someone over a deal.

And don’t get me started on free will.    I think about the passengers on board the hijacked planes or the people who went to work at the Pentagon or either WTC tower that Tuesday morning.   They didn’t believe they’d  wake up that morning to die.    But 19 radical America hating Muslim zealots had different plans for them.    And then on United Flight 93, The Free Will of Man that existed on that plane became a tug of war.  Everyone on  board knew they were going to die and like the jumpers on the burning floors of the towers,  they received the ultimate Sophie’s Choice—-they got to chose how they’d die.  Again, I shake my head.

I don’t know.   I’m told that to try to understand God is feeble.   We’re not meant to understand God.   Well frankly, that sounds just a little too convenient for me.  Tolerance is more relevant than love and I can’t and won’t judge who or what you believe.  we must tolerate each others others different beliefs and yrs, even our doubts.    I know this;  a power far bigger than me exists, I’ve felt it; I’ve seen it in action minus the angelic choir in the background  and while I’d admit an existence, exactly how and why this entity operates as it does confuses the hell out of me.

 

 

 

Political Fan Bases & Religion

Hillary Clinton’s desperation is quite sad.

She was begging for votes the other day, not cool for a Clinton for m everything always seems go swimmingly. Or so it would appear. Hill even toted out Madeline Albright as a shill. Really? Most of the younger voters she so covets weren’t even born when Maddie was wearing ugly broaches in prime time.

So, is Hillary’s campaign in crisis? Well kids, I’m really not qualified to opine, BUT as a former broadcast journalist with 30 years in the trenches, I can recognize fear in someone’s eyes.

And what’s scaring Hillary her is an older, rather frail, balding, hunchbacked zayde of a man. No, not her husband, Bill Clinton.

It’s Bernie Sanders.

I watch his campaign stumps and notice the audience, filled with 20-somethings all gacked out on this age appropriate idealism. My first instinct is to tell them, enjoy it now.

I was only four when President John Kennedy was killed, but I’m something of an assassination buff and have spent a lot of time reading and You-Tubing his life. His audiences remind me of those who clamor for The Bern. Kennedy won because he wasn’t Dwight Eisenhauer. It didn’t hurt that he was young and handsome when compared to those who held the office before him. He had a well-heeled young wife who loved art and history and couture. Her style was mind blowing in her time. Together, they had two cute young kids. He came from a large family who was already storied back in 1963. He also had dreams and goals and that spoke to baby boomers, most just entering the legal age to vote.

I see the same zeal in Bernie zealots. Personally, I’m too jaded to believe all that Sanders is feeding his minions. Over the years, I’ve heard all the campaign promises and my lifetime, I think the ONLY president that ever kept a real, campaign promise was Lyndon Johnson. He established the Great Society which in part, gave all of our Black brothers and sisters the right to vote without suppression of any kind.

Hillary can beg to differ but she is establishment and her audience it seems, reflects thst. They appear to be mostly older females. I don’t chide these broads. They’re not that much older than me and they were probably the first ones to burn their bras while freely burning a big fattie. These women were gender suffragettes during the ERA years. I respect them, but Hillary can’t win with this demographic. Even when her husband comes out swinging. As I mentioned above, is Cltinon version 5.0. He’s not that much younger than Bernie and he looks it. In Texas, we say “he looks road hard and hung up wet”. Then again, nothing ages you more than eight years in the Oval Office. Take one look at Obama’s ever-growing jowels.

To me, the vocal minority of Trump fans seem to be blue collar white guys. Late 40’s and up. Lots of gimme caps.

Rubio’s fan-base? Looks mixed to me.

Bush? I glance at is audience and it appears to be comprised of older people who are mostly pale skinned. If younger, they’re preppies.

Cruz? See above.

Kasich, Fiorina and Dr. Ben? To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen any coverage of their events to opine.

So, let’s segue to the candidates’ religions. Not that it matters, but I’ll make a point about that in a bit. Trump is Christian, Hillary is Mathodist. Kasich is Anglican. Dr. Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist. Fiorina is currently a non-dnominational Christian. Cruz is an Evangelical with Southern Baptist ties. Bush, Rubio and Christie are Catholic and Bernie Sanders is the first Jewish contender for president. Now, this makes for some interesting dissonance–Bernie is married to a non-Jewish woman, which according to Jewish law, makes his grandchildren non-Jewish. Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism before getting married, making his grandchildren Jewish.

Fortunately for most thinking people, religion today is a sidebar within a footnote. Now, what candidates believe has become more more important than how they practice their beliefsis. We’ve certainly evolved as an electorate since 1960. That’s when Kennedy ran against Nixon and won, making him the very first Catholic elected into executive office and it didn’t come without bigoted drama. There were a lot of people who were actually scared of any political repercussions due to Kennedys perceived links to The Vatican.

Really, it’s all quite laughable all these years later.

God Texted

image

God:   Hello Laurie. You there? Texting is cool.

LK:    Well….well….well.     Greetings Hosannah In The Highest!

God:    The notorious G-O-D. I thought I’d try this texting stuff. It’s so instant us!

LK:   More so than talking on w phone?

God:  You guys to read more.   It’s all good.

LK:   How different the everything would have been had the technology existed back in the day.

God:   You guys were in your infancy back then. I had to introduce things to you in baby steps. Most of the early flock were Empiricists. These guys didn’t believe anything unless it could be felt, smelled, tasted, seen or heard. I had to be very creative back in the day.

LK:   And these days we take it all for granted.  We have banking, communication—everything In a cloud. And instantly accessible.

God:    You think Apple is a big deal? There was such mishegas with Guttenberg and the printing press!! What a commotion!!!    But it was good. I needed the world to be better connected…you know…closer. That Tower of Babel explanation only made things worse. It destroyed more bridges than it made.

LK:   Then why didn’t you just stick with Esperanto when you you had the chance?

God:    Water is great, right? But if you have access to eight different tasty kool-aid favors, well, how groovy is that?

LK:    Variety, huh?

God:    Anybody can learn a second, even a third language. Then there are emotions–those are universal. Love feels the same in if you speak Swedish or Urdu. Hate can be expressed in Mandarin as easily as it can be in German—Bavarian accent, thank you. And English is really kind of the new global speak. For a while I thought it should be Hebrew, but it’s a bit too glottal.

LK:    That would’ve infuriated the Islamic states. Can you imagine anyone there joining “the talibansky??????”

God:     Lead by Osama bin Ladenovitz???? Wasn’t in the cards.

LK:     What’s in the cards, then? Share, please.

God:     That’s up to you.

LK::     I hate it when our exchanges turn vague.

God:     They’re only vague to you and always only in the very beginning. The last word you type or utter in our conversations always come from a more enlightened person.

LK:    Knowledge is power.

God:     And faith is sustaining.

LK:     But more difficult in terms of adherence.

God:    For some, not for all. Faith is there for all who need it; those who seek it. It’s good to believe in something.  Even if it comes in the form of disbelieving.   That’s a commitment too.   It’s like what we were talking about earlier.

LK:     You mean the Internet? The ether? A cloud?

God:   Yes, and the big, white, gassy ones in the sky are no picnic to explain either.

LK:   I have faith, but it’s hard to describe.

God:    You’ve just described faith.

LK:     Interesting. Tell me please, do you know how it all goes? How it all ends?

God:    I know when it begins and I know when it ends.

LK:    And the middle part?

God:    That’s up to you. Look sweetie, life is like a sandwich. I give you two slices of bread—one is for birth, the other is for death. You decide what to put in between the slices, Ham, egg salad, a little roast beef, turkey or whatever.

LK:   You admit you know when it ends, but do you know how it ends?

God:   Simply put, it’s like this. Do I know when? Yes. How? No.

LK:    How can you not know how?

God:    I’ll let you in on a little secret. The keyword here is mystery. I can’t possibly explain everything. Only a few people can handle the reality–Steven Hawking and Nancy Pelosi to name a few.

LK:    Pelosi always sounded like an Italian verb.

God:    Yeah and who knew Nancy would become such an adjective!

LK:    I’ve known a few Nancy boys.

God:     As have I. You know, I’m perfectly okay with them getting married. I created them for a reason.

LK:    Which is???

God:   So everyone would have the chance to find love if they so choose. Your relatives 170 times removed poo-pood the concept of homosexuality. But that was when the world needed populating. I needed humans to procreate, but I needed them to love more.    So I let nature take its course.  People should love who they love. I never meant for the issue to be as divisive as it has.

LK;     How did you…YOU NOT see that coming??

God:   Maybe, I looked the other way. Maybe, I decided to give you guys the option of accepting things or denying things.

LK: Free will, again?

God : Again, free will.

LK:   That’s something you know I have trouble with.

God. Calvinism still keeping you up at night?

LK:  Well yeah frankly. Why does someone’s free will impinge on another persons free will? For example, a child is innocently playing in the front yard and some pedophile drives by, sees his opportunity, snatches the kid and a four year old’s battered body is found in a semi dry creek bed three days later.

God: You just answered your own question, doll.   Opportunity and outcome.

LK:  But we’re talking about an innocent child with just four years of life under his belt? He doesn’t know morality or what’s good or what’s evil.

God:   Maybe this ignorance can be a gift. That was his life. That’s all he got for this go round.

LK:   What do you mean?

God:    Here ‘s that Pesky Calvinism again. Pre-determination, but even that’s over simplifying it. Let’s say everyone has an alpha and an omega. A beginning and end.  .Don’t forget the sandwich metaphor.

LK:    How does that play into the reality that a toddler was abducted and found murdered?

God:   Again, it’s not that easy. But look at it this way: The child was going to die, It just so happened that he played outside on that particular day.    The murderous pedophile chose to turn down the street where the kid lived. Sometimes lives intersect. Sometimes only one comes out alive.

LK:    But to die in such a horrific way?

God:    Death is the destination, dying is the process. It gives me no pleasure watching a baby die en utero, There’s no joy in watching a platoon taken out by an IED. Its painful watching a jihadist wearing a suicide vest killing himself and everyone else in an open air market in Tel Aviv. It pains me to see a bomb landing in a playground,

LK:   Then why do we need to die at all? Why kill a baby before its born?

God:    Envy life has a purpose.  But the purpose has to be finite.   For the time the baby had, her impending arrival gave great joy to a mother and a father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

LK   And great pain when it was miscarried.

God:   Yes, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to live.

LK:   Then why couldn’t you intercede?

God;    Who’s to say I didn’t? The one thing you mortals that makes me crazy is attribute perfection to me. Heck, I invented mistakes. Some rapper once warbled, “ain’t nuthin’ perfect”. Preach on, my son because that’s the truth. Humans are created with a divine recipe. I’m talking about a billion spontaneous combustions of cells amid myosis and myotis and other fancy Greek based words with ‘osis’ as a suffix. That means the odds are pretty good something might go wrong. And sometimes it does. I start the car; Nature is the engine. As for your fetus question, some baby’s aren’t sustainable outside the womb.

LK:  I understand attrition and culling of the herd and all…

God:   Don’t put it like that!!!

LK.   Then explain why some disabled kids make it through the gauntlet.

God:   Because they have a purpose, too. Primarily, they bring joy to the lives around them. They make people in their spheres, willing to be compassionate and tolerant, more compassionate and tolerant. In essence, better rounded as people.

(Texting ceases briefly)

God:   Uh…you there? I sense you’re making that confused face, right?

LK   I’m here.

God:   What everyone must understand is that you spend your life as both teacher and student. Life is a gift and each life regardless of where or how it’s lived is a process in which a lesson must be learned and must be taught as well.

LK:   Like famine?

God:   It gives cause to celebrate times of plenty and stock up, when there are periods when food is scarce.

LK:   Like war?

God:    Peace can’t exist without war. We wouldn’t know sweet without bitterness. If love exists, hate has to exist…or worse, apathy.

LK:    Explain apathy then.

God:   Switzerland.

LK:   I love that you’re funny.

God:   I communicate with you in ways relatable to you. If I’m funny, then you’re funny since the ancient texts say you’re made in my image.

LK:  But I don’t have a big white beard and wear long flowing robes.

God:   Neither do I. That was Chuck Heston and someone’s idea of me in the make up and costume department on the set of a Cecile B. DeMille movie.

LK:  bDo you like food, too?

God:   My child, happiness is a twelve inch high pastrami on rye. Heaven to me looks a lot like the old Stages deli.

LK:   What’s hell like then?

God:   No decent deli to be found within a hundred mile radius.

LK:     Good one, G-dog.

God:   Hate to end this delightful texting session, but I must. Your Me-given opposable thumbs must be hurting by now and I have a massive prayer list to deal with, some dating back to the Nixon administration.

LK:   What are those prayers about?

God:  You had Gerald Ford in office, right? Prime example of that old saying, “be careful what you pray for.”

LK: Good point. Then get busy, God. One last question?

God:  Shoot.

LK:  Does that mean you answer all the prayers you get?

God.  Of course. I texted you, didn’t I???

Walls

Laura Kaeppler, Miss America 2012

This past Saturday night, I wrote a post about the excessive cringing I’ve been doing in my life lately. It’s the visceral response that I have when I think back on all the idiotic and in some cases, dangerous things I’ve done. We’re talking careless, reckless behavior. I alternate between feeling intense embarrassment, then shame…sometimes I feel both simultaneously. That’s enough to get to me think a bit about pulling a Lupe Velez…not that I ever could OR would do that. But I will admit, I am still appalled at my own  behavior.   Immobilized by my own audacity. 

Well, a post about all of that somehow degraded to  the subject of  Miss Texas, Kendall Morris making it to the Top Ten of the last Saturday night’s 2012 Miss America pageant, but not going beyond the top ten,  despite demonstrating what I thought to be the most talent of the nine other young women.   She was/is tall, young, and pretty. Beyond that she was/is this wonderfully fit specimen of womanhood. As handsome as she was/is, I suppose the woman who went all the way to be crowned and  then subsequently crooned by a CD of the late Bert Parks singing to her that as Miss America, she’s everyone’s ‘ideal”, was even prettier, talented and more fit.

Her name is Laura Kaeppeler.

For her talent, she sang opera, which I remember and to be honest, the performance made me cringe as much as reflecting back on that one particular Saturday night I spent drinking a lot of tequila in Nuevo Laredo. You can imagine the rollicking, frolicking evening I had. If you can, then please tell me. I don’t remember a thing. And something tells me I’m better off NOT remembering anything.

Anyway, see the pic above.  Pretty, right?

In the defining Q&A portion of the pageant, in which a question is selected randomly, she was queried via a slip of paper about the relevance whether ,  “a beauty queen should declare her political viewpoints or not’ . To that she answered…

 “Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well. And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all.”

Not bad. ‘Twas a nice demonstration of thinking on her feet in a calm, cool and intelligible way.

Hardly this ridiculous mental prolapse:

The platform she’ll support for her one-year reign is supporting and mentoring children of incarcerated parents. She should know–her father served 18 months in prison for mail fraud. In fact, her dad was sentenced when she was 18, just as she was graduating from high school. That was five years ago and her views about having a jail-bird for a pappy are very reasoned and obviously, honed through experience. In her words,, “I know there are many of you out there and I was one of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.”

We are the products of so many things; genetic coding, environment, religion, birth order, gender,  social status  and of course, choices. The one we make and the ones others make that affect us.

I like what I think Laura Kaeppler stands for, though I don’t know her from Adam. And it’s because I didn’t know her that for a few moments Saturday night after donning that rhinestone crown, I thought her only problem in life was getting a zit. Being lovely, pretty and publicly “showing well” were her only concerns. While in  her line of work as a pageant contestant, that understandably, would be the case– having a father serve time in prison for a felony outweighs an acne outbreak anytime.

Laura Kaeppler is a bright, shining example of the Big Get Even that sometimes life bestows on us. No one has it all. I don’t care who you are. If you’re pretty and smart and decent, you’ve got a father who bent the rules to get ahead fiscally and was sentenced to prison for it. The family shame. If you’re smart and funny, invariably you’re built like a Rubik’s cube and that physical limitation only exacerbates your rampant carb addiction and lack of willpower. If you’re pretty and smart, you have the personality of a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil eraser. If you’re a man who’s handsome and rich, you’re a self-centered rectal fissure.

Now, this isn’t to say that there are some who actually defy this and have it all, but these are rare finds, indeed. The truth is, no one experiences pure joy, elation and balance all the time. By our very nature as fallible mortals, we must endure the yin and yang of existence. The ups and downs; the highs and lows. Nature…God…the Universe (insert your belief system here), I swear, puts governors on our lives.   Whenever things are going well, something has to happen to temper it.  As if a law of nature.  George Harrison once warbled, “all things must pass”.   Joy comes as goes as fast as the violent thunderstorm.   

We’re given enough, never too much.

We are born free, but bound.

A million years ago, I grew up in a small South Texas town with small people who defined me by where I lived and the family I was born into. As I child and teen, I’d always heard others thought me lucky.   My family lived and played in what I suppose could be construed as small town opulence,  but lucky because of that????   Why is luck to some, defined by what one has? The people who thought I was lucky couldn’t have been more wrong. The home I grew up in had six bedrooms. It was big and that’s what people first noticed. Eventually, that would become all that they could see; just the outside walls and their dimensions. 

To me, that always exemplified perceptions and how different they can be depending on the eyes that’s doing the looking— the have nots vs. the reality of those who have, whether real or imagined.

In a way, that was the only thing I saw in Laura Kaeppler on  Saturday night. What she looked like..the fleshy walls that show the world a very lovely face and body.   I know she’s pretty, but that’s all I know.    I don’t know what her hurts are; what her needs are….her wants.   I don’t know what makes her cry…or cringe…in the privacy of a darkened room at 3:26 AM on any given Tuesday.

I don’t know her.    I just know what I see, which allows me to see her as one who has…so I can grieve as one who has not.

All of this is just fine, really.   This common distortion means the walls are doing their job.

They’re made to keep the roof on and the elements out.

Walls also help keep secrets hidden.

God Called

For me, 2007 was the thirteenth Circle of Hell.

Yes, I’m well aware that in Dante’s, “Divine Comedy”, there are only nine, but trust me–2007 was an exceptionally difficult year and actually, it felt like there were 20 circles and I traversed each one of them.

Repeatedly.

I won’t bore you with details, just suffice it to say that 2007 was horrific; filled with colossal loss, disappointment and personal illness. I was never happier to see the calender flip at midnight, December 31st.

Additionally, the month of April always has an effect on me. It automatically hurls me into the midst of this metaphysical tailspin. For starers, it’s my birthday month and then, the 26th marks the anniversary of a horrible automobile accident that changed everything. EVERYTHING. It was life-altering and in a very painful way, one of the most life-affirming events I’ve ever endured. And this year, I commemorate the 17th anniversary of meeting myself and my maker on the crumpled hood of a truck at the base of overpass on Interstate-10, not far from San Antonio.

I tend to get extremely introspective when my life starts to crowd me and it always seems to be relentlessly crowded throughout the month of April. I have to make room for the two of us–me and all those things I’m so damned scared of.

What you’re about to read is a by-product of that.

I entitled this piece, “God Called” and writing it a year ago (hence some of the dated references) helped me grapple with some rather serious existential issues.

Reading it again a year later makes me realize I’m still grappling.

But I’m working on it…..

l

.

3:46 PM Thursday April 26, 2007

SCENE: A cramped and messy apartment, somewhere on the West Coast. Laurie sits at her desk. The phone rings.

It is God.

*************************************************************************************************

LK: Hello?

God: Hey LK. What’s shakin’?

LK: Hey God! It’s good to hear from you.

God: Good to hear your voice, too. You had a birthday recently, right?.

LK: Don’t remind me. You know, I’m surprised to hear from you.

God: You shouldn’t be. I think about you a lot.

LK Still, this is a real surprise. You never call me.

God: I felt like talking.

LK: So, what are you up to?

God: Oh, you know. I’m like the McDonald’s of redemption. I answer six billion prayers a day. I wake up the next morning and there are six billion more.

LK. We mortals are a pesky, relentless bunch.

God: Yes, you are, but I love ya. I wanted to call to ask if there was anything on your mind these days?

LK: Yeah, there is. God, there’s a lot of crap in the world now. Heavy stuff happening. I just don’t understand why things are the way they are.

God: I know. Most of it’s hard to wrap your head around. Like why Eddie Murphy didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Dreamgirls”. And of course, there’s the whole Sanjaya thing.

LK: What was that all about?

God: Sanjaya? Oh for that, you can thank all the girls in the fifth grade class of the The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.

LK: Huh?

God: Prayer circle.

LK: Interesting. Why then was Sanjaya voted off “American Idol”?

God: For that, you can thank all the the boys in the fifth grade class of The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.

LK: That’s pretty funny. Still, it seems odd that we’re praying for Sanjaya when there are so many other things that need your attention.

God: People pray for a lot of different things. What’s pressing to some, won’t be to others. I don’t rate prayers or prioritize them. If you need something, you ask me, I hear you.

LK: But do you always answer every prayer?

God: Always.

LK: Doesn’t seem like it.

God: I do. Take you for example. There was that little issue of penis envy in fourth grade? Remember that? You prayed to me, asking me to turn you into a boy. I answered your prayer by keeping you a girl.

LK: But you didn’t give me what I wanted. I really wanted to become a boy. And by the way, WHAT was I thinking?

God: Please! You were eight years old at the time and no, I didn’t give you what you wanted, but I gave you what you needed. Don’t get me wrong. Sure, I could’ve done it, if you believe what you read.   Perhaps, I could’ve snapped my fingers and you’d have gone from Laurie to Larry in a flash. But that’s not how I operate and that wasn’t what you needed. That’s not what Madolyn Welsh needed, either.

LK: Madolyn Welsh? My college roommate?

God: If you wouldn’t have been you, you wouldn’t have gone to college, moved into the dorm and you wouldn’t have roomed with Madolyn. When her mother was killed in that car crash that fall, you wouldn’t have been there to help her. That was a very difficult and trying time for Madolyn. She needed you and you needed to be there. And the fact that you were there made a difference. It saved her life. Saved yours too. Remember? You were having a very tough Freshman year.

LK: I remember. What would the alternative have been for both of us?

God: You don’t want to know.

LK: Wow….

God: One life affects so many others in ways you aren’t even aware of. We’re talkin’ real “It’s A Wonderful Life” stuff.

LK: I’m glad I was there for Madolyn.

God: And be glad she was there for you. It wouldn’t have worked in any other way. Did you know she went on to become a doctor? A surgeon. She saves lives everyday and you helped make that possible.

LK: I had no idea. We lost track of each other our Senior year. I’m glad she’s doing well.

God: She is.

LK: You know God, there’s something I don’t understand. If you intervened with things all those years ago with Madolyn and me, please explain what happened at Virginia Tech? Where were you? And while we’re at it, let’s address the Challenger explosion and September 11th. Why didn’t you intervene then? A lot of people are asking that question.

God: I was on campus at Virginia Tech. I was on board the Challenger and I was also in New York; at the Pentagon and in that field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania five and a half years ago.

LK: But why did all of those…….

God: Those things happened because sometimes, bad things happen. For these people? It was their time.

LK: That seems so simplistic! Especially coming from you! As if I’m supposed to take that as an answer and be OK with it!

God: Exactly.

LK: Then why didn’t you prevent these things from happening?

God: I gave humans free will.

LK: That explains nothing.

God: That explains everything. For every action there is a reaction. That’s the way it is.

LK: That’s the way it is? I’m supposed to accept that? I suppose then, that Calvinism is correct? Our lives and how we live them, and end them, are predetermined?

God: Well, that’s over simplifying the point really, but there are some things that I want and need all of you to do.

LK: Now see? This is what I’m talking about!! I don’t get that! There are things you “need” us to do? What does that mean?

God: Everyone has a mission. Something they’re here to do. You’re here for a reason. Everyone is. The reasons are big and grandiose for some; quiet and unassuming for others. I changed that up for variety. You know, to add a little spice. But every life touches another. It’s part of my Divine Plan.

LK: But I don’t understand.

God: That’s why it’s “divine”. Look at it this way; do you know for a fact that when you go to sleep tonight, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning?

LK: Well, yeah unless you’ve got other plans.

God: Don’t be a smart ass. Answer me.

LK: Yes, I do.

God: Ok, that’s faith.

LK: What does that have to do with any of this? And what about Virginia Tech and 9/11? More than likely, the victims were operating on faith. They believed that they could go to class or work and be just fine . Not get shot to death or vaporized in their office after a hijacked jet crashes into their building. They believed! Maybe they felt covered by some kind of Divine Protection clause–part of that spiritual Deity/Follower privilege. What I think we should be getting when we sign up for our role as “Believers”. Where was your divine protection then, God? Those people had faith that their lives would go on just fine, yet they died horribly, tragic deaths!!

God: I told you, I was there.

LK: Then why didn’t you do anything?

God: Did it ever occur to you that I did? I was there. When and where they needed me the most.

LK: I still don’t understand why there are thousands of dead people as a result?

God: Look, faith is just that–believing that you’re covered, because you are, no matter what. Things always happen for a reason. Things are always taken care of. They always will be and so will you. You have to believe they’re always taken care of. That’s faith.

LK. Sometimes it’s really hard to do this blindly.

God: I know it is, but you’ve got to try. I gave you this ability to believe.

LK. Why?

God: Because hope keeps you alive.

LK: Hope?

God: Hope keeps you coming back for more. It makes you want to come back for one more chance to experience life. You do this for the off chance that maybe…just maybe one day, you’ll possibly get a guarantee that something just might happen.

LK: God, with all due respect, that makes no sense…

God: It makes perfect sense. It’s faith.

LK: OK fine, but this faith stuff is asking a lot of us sometimes. I’ve had faith before. Exercised it regularly. I prayed to you for things that I wanted and needed to happen. But I was let down when my prayers weren’t answered. I’ve never been married and only came close once. You know that I really loved Nick. When he left me, my heart was broken. What happened?

God: You’re prayers were answered. You just didn’t like the results. I gave you what you needed.

LK: But I loved him.

God: Trust me, I gave you what you needed.

LK: And what was that?

God: You needed a life without Nick.

LK: Why?

God: I could give you a million reasons why, but only one really matters: Nick was never the right guy for you. If you were with him, you’d never get the chance to meet the man you’re supposed to be with.

LK: So, where is my Mr. Man and why am I alone now and so miserable?

God: You’ll meet him when the time is right. You’re alone now because you need to be and you’re miserable I guess, because for some reason, you want to be.

LK: I want to be miserable?? As if I have some control over that? What purpose would being miserable serve?

God: Only you can answer that.

LK: I’m so confused. You say you’re here. You say you’re there. You say you sometimes give us what we want, but you always give us what we need, yet the decision to be miserable is mine.  I choose to remain brokenhearted?      

God: Yes, you do and it will mend. I heal the sick and wounded by giving humans that inherent ability.  Let me put it this way: sometimes you suffer heartache and pain to prove your resilience; that you can heal. You humans really are an amazing lot.  Like I said a minute ago, it’s not like a snap my fingers and bam!  I’m mean I could, but hey, I’m not Samantha Stevens on “Bewitched”, for MY sake! It doesn’t work like that and those who think that’s how I operate, like I’m some magical Genie, they’re wrong. The journey of life is paved with so many things–happiness, sadness, joy, sorrow; tears, smiles and faith…things you have to experience.

LK: Yeah? Well, a lot of people think you’re magic or supposed to be, anyway.

God: A lot of people are wrong. Blind faith is an intangible and really irrational when you think about it. A lot of people have faith, but to keep it, they need to have it backed up by something that can be proven. They have to see it with their own eyes. It took all different kinds of people to successfully inhabit this Big Blue Marble;  it still does and some of them are limited mentally and emotionally. Tales of bigger-than-life magic are the only things they can comprehend.  So,enter parable and metaphor.

LK: But if that’s all some people know, all they’re able to handle, why do you disappoint? Sometimes, it seems like you look the other way. There are so many times I wonder where you are.

God: I’m right here–where I have been; where I always will be. Listen to me–I give you opportunities, Laurie. You make of them what you will. You decide how to react, how to feel. This is how it works. This is life.

LK: This is how life works? There’s pain and disappointment, God! It happens everyday. It’s happening everywhere. If this is the way it is, then with all due respect, this seems like a very flawed plan.

God: Again, this is life.

LK: OK fine. It’s life…I get it.

God: Do you really?

LK: No, but you’re God, did you really have to ask?

God: This is why I like you, Laurie. You’re fearless. You’d even be flippant with a deity. This is good. I wish more would ask questions.

LK: Then you’re in luck, because I’ve got a ton of them like why am I out of work and with no idea what I’m supposed to be doing?

God: I’m giving you this time to figure it out. And you will if you try. You’re accountable for some of this, too. You have some control, some say in how your life turns out. But make no mistake, I’m always in the background and will always give you what you need. It may not always be what you want, but it will always be what you need.

LK: Why do you put evil people in our lives?

God: I don’t. People come into your lives and it’s up to you to recognize their inherent goodness or their layers of evil. How to respond is your call.  One of the best things I ever created was the “red flag”, those little things that just don’t sit right.  It’s that little nagging voice that reminds you something just doesn’t feel right. That things are amiss, to the point that it gnaws at you. If you’re experiencing this, it’s entirely up to you to ignore it or not; to stay or go.  It’s your call. It’s your free will.

LK: God, you and your ways are like this huge conundrum!

God: Yes, I guess I am. I like that word, “conundrum”. It absolutely explains nothing, yet explains everything, don’t you think?

LK: You know that I get very frustrated with you and I get mad at you sometimes.

God: I know and that’s OK. I understand.

LK: Divine plan, right?

God: Sometimes getting angry and expressing it is exactly what you need.

LK: I need to know why there’s so much deceit in the world? Why do liars exist? Why do people take advantage of others?

God: My textbook response would be for power or to exert control. Both maybe. They need to be something they’re not and lying and deceit accomplishes this. But the soul response is that without these charlatans, how would you know honesty exists?

LK: Why is there pain?

God: To prove the depth of real joy

LK: Then why bother? Can’t you pick a team for us and let us play through being incredible happy and knowing real joy, all the time?

God: No. You need to understand the dichotomy and then you have to experience all that life has to offer…the good, the bad and the indifferent. That makes the journey what it is. Besides, you’re worth it.

LK: When my heart is broken I certainly don’t feel worth it.

God: Yes, but you know it when you’re happy, right?

LK: I guess. So, let me try to get this straight, God: what we’re talking about here is the difference between what we want and what we need and that we can’t always get what we want.

God: Yep. Mick and the Stones backed me up on that fact about 40 years ago.

LK: And beyond that, this is about probability and outcome. The end result of these events in my life would have been far worse than just my experiencing the disappointment because they didn’t happen?

God: This is true.

LK: OK, you spared me, but why did you let me go through all that pain and disappointment in the first place?

God: Because you learned valuable lessons from each of the experiences.

LK: Like with Nick?

God: Especially with Nick.

LK: Then, you’ve always had my best interests at heart?

God: Always.

LK: I guess I never looked at it this way. You know, I feel close to you right now.

God: This is good.

LK: That reminds me…you knew my Aunt Sarah, didn’t you?

God: Yes.

LK: She always said she felt closer to her maker whenever she flew.

God: Your Aunt Sarah was a mean old broad. Not very nice at all. Believe me, she actually would’ve felt much closer to her real maker had she traveled by submarine!

LK: You’re funny. I love that you have a sense of humor.

God: That would explain the Geo Prism.

LK: I guess I better go now. Thanks for everything.

God: You’re welcome.

LK: We don’t do this enough, God. Let’s talk again….soon. Next time, I’ll call you.

God. You know, nothing would make me happier. Sometimes, you give me exactly what I need.

,

 

Strength…

I know that I’ve been very lucky. My life has been rich.

The industry in which I work has always allowed me to see things, meet people and participate in events that defy the word “standard”, by any definition.

While I’ve met people who’ve done extraordinary things and lived extraordinary lives, I’ve always been more impressed with ordinary folks whose main goal in life was just to survive yet another day intertwined in the mortal coil. In this hectic, often heartless dog eat dog world, it’s the things they’ve accomplish in the minutia of life that wows me. I’m talking about survival.

Case in point:

My friend, Martha was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. She was the definition of “amazing grace”. That’s exactly what she exuded. She stared her mortality in the face and on one occasion, came incredibly close to dying, but she rallied; she lived. She’s cancer free today and a changed woman as a result. She regards her mastectomy as more of a badge of honor, than a mass of scar tissue. Indeed, it’s one she earned.

The removal of her breast, meant the arrival of her spirit. She is awe inspiring. Remarkably, Martha is magnanimous enough to be grateful for having had cancer. She told me once that her battle with the disease was “just another crucible of life”, at least, in her eyes.

Maybe, but she continues to be a monolith of a strength and courage in mine.

I’m amazed by my sister, Karol. As the youngest of three girls, I was always heralded as the smart, funny one, but Karol is the one with the ability to hurdle life’s vicissitudes and she’s always done so fearlessly.

By comparison, I’ve only exhibited hubris.

Karol buried her oldest child. She lost Holly in a car accident on Valentine’s Day, 1999. Nine years later, I continue to be non-plussed by my sister’s incredible strength and fortitude. She walked her daughter from the cradle to the grave and somehow survived, with her heart relatively in act. I don’t think I could do that.

I hate that anyone has to.

In my life, I will admit, I’m never been a stranger to heartache. The sad reality is that everyone can say that. No one is immune to at least, some degree of pain. The road of life is paved with tears. And while I’ve suffered through ills myself; while I mourned for my niece, grieved with my sister and stood by Martha’s side, I’ve never known that gut wrenching sense of loss; the kind which launches utter perdition.

I learned that a childhood friend died on my birthday.

Jerry had been sick recently. Doctors spent years running her through a gauntlet of tests, but everyone knows what really happened: she died from a broken heart.

Her young son passed a decade ago.  I understand that Jerry had a very difficult time with his death.   She had many questions, but ultimately, perhaps the reasons how or why he died didn’t matter to Jerry. He was gone; taken from her. She was robbed of the joys of watching him grow up—her soul was augured from her, most egregiously. In so many ways, his death robbed her of life, too.

She was never the same.  How could she have been the same?

News of Jerry’s death saddened me a great deal. A great deal. I grew up with this woman. Christmas mornings together and countless other vivid, life affirming events spent in each other’s company. We shared a common past…a common bond. My memories of childhood were hers, too.

Selfishly, I pray that I’ll never know the kind of heartache and pain that killed Jerry. I pray that those around me will never know it again.

That’s my hope.

And as I sit here, now one year older, I’ve GOT to be optimistic about hope. It’s a cardinal virtue and to the enlightened person, it gives scope and purpose. I think many people deem hope to be a wish. True, it can be wished for, but it’s more than that. It’s a golden link that connects human aspiration with Divine truth. It strengthens fragile human will to be able to accept anything and everything that life throws us.

Ultimately, hope allows us to withstand heartache, defy fear and tolerate everything in between. It is the anchor of the soul.

That said, I hope I’ll wake up to yet another day tomorrow.

I hope American GI’s will be home soon.

I hope all heartache is short lived.

I hope I’ll be able to attend Jerry’s funeral, but I wish to God I didn’t have to.