the home of God is with man

The home of God is with men, and he will live among them.

We all have moments which sparkle in our experience of life. These incredible events, impossible to forget, overwhelm us with sheer joy.

You pop the question and she says, “Yes!” You’re named Employee of the Year. Your dad says, “I love you,” and you know without doubt he means it. You watch with big-eyed astonishment as your own baby inhales her very first breath. And then you laugh with giddy tears when she lets go with her very first cry. You sit with your children beneath twinkling stars on a cold, clear, dark night, a cold night … but you’re warm. Or, after decades together, your husband looks at you with misty eyes because he loves you more now than ever.

The light that glistens from these events illuminates who we become.

And these good things we celebrate. We cherish them. We retell these stories to our children and to our grandchildren. We thank God for these good and perfect gifts which come down from above from the Father of Light. We’re better because of them.

God himself … will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

But not every remembered event is good. Some things we cannot remember without somber reflection or even melancholy pangs of guilt. It may be a queasy feeling you get when you receive a letter from the IRS and remember you’ve “tweaked” last year’s numbers. It may be the lie you tell your husband about an affair you almost had. Perhaps, it’s the fender you dented when no one was looking. It could be words misspoken to one who could have been a great friend, words for which you were too proud to apologize.

Years later we remember these missteps we’ve made along the way. And the twinges of guilt we feel for what we’ve done to ourselves and others … well, we know we’ve earned it.

Then death and the grave were themselves hurled into the lake of fire …

Worlds away, beyond these regrets for our own actions, like on the dark side of the moon forever away from any light, there are things which happen to us that we’ve not asked for and we feel pain we have not earned and cannot comprehend. Losses occur which we wouldn’t choose in our most deranged state of mind.

The miscarriage of the baby you’ll never know … a car wreck that leaves you a widower … watching a child die and not being able to stop it … being raped by an uncle who calls it a special relationship. These things immediately suck life out of us, filling our hearts with black, hot tar, because they push us close to death.

And after them we live in pain.

Time passes and you begin to touch these wounds on their surfaces. You do it with a glib sort of detachment that allows you to momentarily ignore their impact. You shrug your shoulders and sigh, “That’s Life.” Or you say, “You know, it just goes to show that we really have no control.” And if it’s someone else’s experience … “Man, I’ll pray for you.”

And with the passage of enough time, one begins to pretend he’s unchanged or even stronger.

But inside … that hot tar that burns our heart hardens. Life becomes thick. Sparkles of joy disappear. And even years later we cry when we remember.

And regardless of our faith, our hope or even our love, the darkness still hides who we might have been had we not experienced the loss. And so we work hard to protect those places in our hearts that nothing else can touch. Like Jonah we cry, “I am angry even unto death,” for life as we have known it is over. We long for God’s caress.

Then I saw a new Heaven, and a new earth … for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared. And the sea was no more.

Then I heard a great voice from the throne shouting,

“See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Death shall be no more … and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.”

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Nothing which has cursed man shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face …

some day i will write a book

Someday I will write a book. It will begin like this:

When it was my chore as a child to clean the kitchen after supper, I would set the biggest pots in the sink and fill them with soapy water. In my little hands, they were unwieldy and difficult to manage. I knew after my Mom heard me say the magic words, “these need to soak,” I could walk away and trust her to clean the big pots.

Tonight I remembered this bit of childhood while standing in the kitchen. My wife had cleaned up after supper. I found three large pots filled with water sitting in the sinks. Difficult for her to manage, I know “they need to soak.” I smiled, grabbed the dish detergent and sponge, scrubbed the pots and dried them.

With my hands in hot water, I realize the time has come. I knew it would, but I couldn’t start until it became necessary, until I actually felt the need.

It’s time to begin writing. It’s time to start sharing the changes brought by Multiple Sclerosis (why do we give it the respect of capitalization?), and it’s time to share the impact those changes have had on my wife, my family and me.

Now that it’s time to write, I’m sure I should begin by clearly establishing the various reasons.

When my wife was diagnosed with MS, we were shocked. And while the information was helpful in a “this you need to know” sort of way, the reading materials we received from doctors and those I found in the library were too clinical to help my heart. It was great stuff for the mind and useful information about all that we would or could experience, but it presented no pathway for the emotional journey.

I’ve worked as a performance improvement director for a large residential treatment facility for children. I’m skilled at planning, implementing plans, observing results and reiterating the process after tweaking the plan in response to undesired outcomes. It’s easy for me to distract myself from the important matters of my heart by focusing on the practical aspects of preparing myself and my family for an uncertain future. Many things I do because they simply must be done.

So the first reason I write is because I want to be helpful to anyone who has read the clinical materials and still feels overwhelmed by the emotional aspects of an MS diagnosis.

Another reason is to honor my wife. And through the story I tell of us, to honor every person who lives with MS and other diseases and those who love and support them. No adult truly believes life is fair. Most of us grow past that fantasy during adolescence. Even so, there lives deep in our hearts the desire that life at least seems fair and reasonable – and “fair” would be great. When life is not, we ache for what “should” be.

I have a picture on my desk which I took on our honeymoon. It’s a reminder of many things for me, but mostly it’s a memorial to joy, fear, and commitment. Exploring Eureka Springs, Arkansas, we noticed an observation tower. Robbie said, “let’s go look.” Afraid of heights, I looked at the tower and saw the first platform about 15 feet above the ground. I thought we’d stop there, look and return to the ground.

She started up first, and I carefully followed her walking to the first observation level. She wasn’t there. Instead, I could hear her running up the metal steps to the top. I faced a dilemma. “Do I stand here waiting for her to come down (and look like a wimp) or do I venture to the top?”

One cannot be proven a wimp on one’s honeymoon and ever feel good about it. I overcame my fear and with a hand gripping both stair rails slowly walked to the top. A few minutes later, with the tower swaying in the wind, and my stomach knotted up, I stepped to the top of the tower. She was standing at the edge looking out across the valley. “Come here,” I said, “and kiss me.”

We kissed. I held the camera out at arm’s length, pointed it at us kissing, and I tripped the shutter. “Gotta go,” I mumbled and started slowly and carefully back to Earth.

It is my favorite photo. She is taller than me in the picture because I was standing on the top step. The wind is blowing her hair in my face. We’re against a blue sky. The photo is in a frame, matted with a red heart (faded as time has passed) with two doves cut into the upper corners of the mat.

Magic, it was! Swirling, giddy, joy. Just the two of us on top of the world on a beautiful, blue-sky day. That’s how it should be. But of course, life is not fair.

Third, I write for catharsis. During the last several years it’s as if I’ve looked at the world with tears behind my eyes. Seeing my wife slow down, listening to repeated efforts to get a word off the tip of her tongue, doing the grocery shopping because the effort would wipe her out for a few days, living with the constant reminders of what was, what is, and what may be is like going to a movie, watching the sad scene at the end and holding the tears back so you leave the theater misty-eyed but not so much that anyone would notice. You know it touched you. But you don’t want anyone to know how it affected you. You don’t want to be vulnerable.”

When I write my book, I will be vulnerable, and I will write the things I do not say.

finally! a personal blog!

Welcome.

I have blogged for years, but never for myself.  Now I will.

You may or may not appreciate all you read here.  You may often disagree with me.

That’s good.

Occasionally, I want to write something that will not fit neatly into one of the other blogs I maintain.  I will put that material here. Do not expect a theme, and regarding frequency, it will be hit or miss.  From theology to child welfare, from growing roses to nonprofit leadership to what I think about business, politics, etc., this is where I’ll touch base and write what I wish.

Enjoy!