Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creation

My creation is joy for it comes from my soul
I want you to hold it and be made whole
I give it to you an outpouring of me
Take and embrace what I want you to see
 
It starts inside with seeds of light
Growing there they give us sight
Rolling, turning, and getting so strong
Creation begins right where you belong
 
Our outpourings aren’t measured as merely a show
We must allow our treasures to grow
It is our soul’s life to express what lies deep
There is so much to give, we must not keep
 
Our joy is made manifest in purging our gift
To move others, inspire, strike awe, uplift
The rapture of finally making a rhyme
And knowing that your present was once mine
 
My creation is joy for it comes from my soul
I want you to hold it and be made whole
I give it to you an outpouring of me
Take and embrace what I want you to see


Duane Windell Phillips
July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Horizon Storm


The edge of the earth towers as the avalanche builds,
towers and flattens
 
Menacing and angry it flashes its arms of energy
It booms power, importance to the earth below
and boasts the power it wields
 
With a blast of cold and sheets of rain
the gale storms through
beating it’s chest with peals of thunder
 
Power, raw and unchecked
 
Horizon Storm

She Moves with Grace


She moves with grace
A goddess
Ethereal
A breath of sweet perfume
that haunts my core

My dream, my temptress
My heart was enthralled with a glance
A smile
A wink

Your form follows me
By night and day you stalk my dreams
Oh my lovely
My sweet
My darling
End this game and come to me

(C) 2015 DWP
After reading some many poems lately, I HAD to write something.  Why not about love?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Conner and Red: The Reunion

After many years of service, Conner had both sisters as wives and through his hard work, his father in law prospered.  However, his sons said that Conner cheated their father and a division began to simmer between the families.  While it is true the deal in which they agreed appeared to benefit the father in law, Conner worked his cunning and eventually came out the clear winner.  Due to the distance between Conner's family and his relatives, it was impossible to claim Conner cheated in any way.  Nevertheless, the sharp division between the families festered and grew worse. 

Conner discussed the situation with his wives.  Conner decided they should move back to his homeland.  Therefore, they left under the cover of darkness.  A few day's later it was noticed that Conner, his family, and possessions were gone and the father in law took off in search of them.  When he caught up with Conner, he was, needless to say, upset.  He complained that he never got the opportunity to say goodbye to his daughters or kiss his grandchildren.  In the end, they made an agreement between the two of them.  They agreed that God would watch between the two of them when they are away from each other. While the wording of their covenant sounds nice, in reality it was because they didn't trust each other. 

Now the difficult part of the journey was upon them.  How would Red react to Conner returning?  Was he still angry?  Did he want to kill Conner?  Anxiety began to bubble beneath the surface.  He knew that God had told him to return to his father.  However, Conner received word that Red was aware of his approach and it appeared Red was making war-like preparations.  He decided to divide his family and possessions into companies.  He put all of his family and possessions in front of him and sent them on ahead.  He was going to present many gifts to his brother in hopes of appeasing him.  Meanwhile, he stayed behind that night alone. 

Fervently, Conner prayed to God and God sent an angel.  So anxious was Conner that he wrestled with the angel, demanding a blessing.  However, the angel touched his hip and dislocated the joint and the angel went away.  Conner received an everlasting mark upon him with his limp.  Also, God changed his name from one that cheats others to a Prince with God.  So earnest were his prayers, so persistent was he in attitude, that though the angel struggled with him, God saw the faithfulness that had grown in him after many years of labor and how he was willing to demand the blessing from God rather than swindle it for himself. 

The next day, healed but marked by a limp, Prince with God set out to meet his brother.  When, at a great distance, he saw Red, he bowed low seven times to his brother.  When they finally came face to face, Red saw a changed man before him.  The two embrace with a love they previously did not have and wept.  Prince with God wept for joy to be kindly received. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Conner and Red: The Con Man Gets Conned


Despite the fact that Conner fooled his father, the old man was sad to see his son leave but understood it would bring peace to the household.  Therefore, the old man blessed Conner before he left and warned him not to marry any of the "bad" women from the area they lived.  Instead, he was to go to the area where his uncle lived and marry there. 

Red heard the admonition from his father and understood that his parents were not happy with the choices he made with his wives.  Therefore, in actions of spite, he married more of the girls from the wrong side of the tracks.

Conner traveled alone despite the fear in his heart of going to a place he did not know. While his parents tried to teach him and his brother about God, he never really prayed before and never quite trusted in God.  One night, God gave him a vision and a promise to be with him.  Calmed by the promise God gave him, he finished his journey.  He met some local people and asked if they knew his uncle.  They did and noted one of his daughters was coming near to them.  Conner was smitten the moment he saw her. 

After meeting his uncle and the rest of the family, Conner began working for his uncle.  They reached a deal for Conner's wages.  Conner would work for seven years in order to have Rachel, the youngest daughter, as his bride.  So Conner worked for seven years but because of his love for Rachel, the time swiftly passed.  However, on the night of the wedding, the bride's face was covered.  Therefore, Conner did not know until they consummated the marriage that it wasn't Rachel he married.  It was her older sister, Leah. 

Conner was furious.  "Why did you do this to me?  Why did you deceive me?, Conner demanded.  His uncle calmly replied, "In our country, we do not marry off younger daughters before the older ones.  Please don't be angry.  Let's finish the celebrations and you can marry Rachel too for another seven years of service."  Still burning with anger but powerless to force a better outcomes, Conner agreed. 

As he lay in bed that night he remembered hearing the angry screams of Red after Conner had swindled the blessing their father had meant to give to Red.  "I'm going to get you Conner.  I'm going to get you.  You better watch your back.  What goes around comes around."

"Humph, what goes around comes around.” Conner thought.  “Well, Red, I'm sure you'd be laughing with joy if you saw this turn of events.  The swindler got swindled.  Two can play this game dear uncle." 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hmmm


I have to remark on this.  Today, actually only a couple hours ago, I posted Conner and Red.  In such a short time it has surpassed my previously most read post, Burying Your Child.  I wrote that one on May 16 of this year. 

Thank you all for reading both of them. 

The Artist

A heart bound and set for forever
A body doled for this one endeavor
A union that frustrates beyond belief
Oh, is there a blessed time of relief

Eternity wails, toils for freedom
To hope for a Utopian Kingdom
Infinity stretches our flesh and bone
But we must never think we are alone

The Dancer sings with perspiration
The Painter fills walls with desperation
The Writer tells of battles waged inside
The Musician speaks of a chasm wide

For one the visions produce madness
Another begets a work of sadness
But all are chained to this war
Always we hope for the eventual door

Conner and Red

There once was a woman who was pregnant with twins.  It was a tempestuous pregnancy with the babies in constant turmoil.  When the day came for the babies to be born, the first born was red in color and had a lot of hair.  Therefore, his name was Red.  The second came out trying to get ahead of his brother for he had hold of his brother's heal at birth.  Therefore, he was named Conner. 

As is often the case with siblings, they were opposites.  Red loved to be outside and do things with his father.  Conner stayed at home and spent time with his mother.  Red was a man of action.  Conner was a thinker and schemer.  He liked to trick his older brother. 

One day Conner was making soup and his brother spent the day out hunting.  When Red came home he was famished.  He asked Conner for some soup.  Conner insisted that Red first give up his inheritance.  Of course, Red became furious and he said, "What is it with you?  I'm standing here starving to death and you want something from me first.  What good is my inheritance if I don't live long enough to enjoy it?  Take it.  It is yours."  Conner gave him the soup.  As Conner walked away with a smirk, Red tasted the soup and complained, "It isn't even that good." 

The father of Red and Conner was getting old and his vision was severely impaired.  He told his oldest son that he wanted to spend a special evening with him and asked Red to hunt for his favorite game and to prepare it in the way he liked.  Red went out to do so.  Red's mother overheard this conversation and spoke to Conner about it.  The two of them conspired to deceive the old man in order for Conner to get the blessing.  Conner loved both of his parents and was certain he would be caught.  Nonetheless, his mother had a plan to mask his different body type than that of his brother and the way he smelled.  His mother also said that she would suffer any consequences that may result of their actions. 

Conner and his mother prepared the meal and he went to his father with the feast.  His father was confused and didn't trust what he heard and smelled but the deception was complete.  The old man gave his blessing to Conner.  At last, he was better than his brother.  The inheritance was his.  When Red came back with the meal he prepared for his father, the old man realized what had happened.  With tears in his eyes, Red pleaded with his father for a blessing but there was none.  It was all given to Conner. 

Anger simmered in Red and he began to plot revenge.  Their mother saw Red's actions and knew the tension between her son's reached an unhealthy level.  In order not to lose them both, she sent Conner to stay with family in a far away land.  Little did she know she would never see Conner again. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One Sent Ahead

Whenever I think of the story of Joseph, I am impressed about how Joseph viewed his brothers selling him into slavery.  He told them that God’s sent him ahead to preserve life.  Gen 45:5  God uniquely positioned Joseph after he was sold into slavery to become the number 2 man in Egypt.  The reason this means something to me now is due to my last job. 

I won’t say I hated my last job but compared to my current job, that would be close.  I originally took the job because others told me it was a good stepping stone for bigger and better things.  Little did I know I would be on that step for nearly 9.5 years.  It wasn’t my preference to be there that long.  I tried to get out.  I bid on some jobs and had some interviews but nothing ever worked out. 

Finally, I resolved in my heart that I would be in that job until I retired or died.  Around this time, I got a new manager.  Let me say here that a good manager can make a stinky job better and a bad manager can make a great job stink.  He was a ex Marine and he expected people to do their job to the best of their ability.  He wasn’t hard nosed.  He was fair and I like him.  I believe we had a healthy respect for each other. 

It is funny that I don’t remember bidding on this job but I got a call from the manager who wanted to set up an interview.  I told my manager about the interview and thought nothing else of it.  I later learned that my manager knew my new manager.  I was in a drought as far as job interviews.  It had been a long time between them.  I believe that connection is how I got the interview. 

My point is that I had to wait until God’s person was in place before I could get the job God wanted me to have.  Maybe I am completely off but I look at my time in that job with less confusion.  I never understood why I was there so long.  Nevertheless, I am so grateful for the process now it is all behind me.  I am also so grateful for my current job.  I’ve been here 6 years and am happy with my job.  (Note: I am looking at the next step.  More on that later.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

In a Heartbeat

Yesterday, my youngest daughter was involved in a car accident.  I was at work when I received a text message from my wife that read, “Lap was in an accident.”  (We sometimes call her Lap since they are her initials.)  I immediately called to see if she was ok.  Thankfully, she is fine.  There were no injuries to her, her friend or the people in the other car.  Nevertheless, I made me think of how we take things for granted.
 
I was reminded of a story I heard years ago.  A man was out walking and the Lord decided to do something nice and placed a 20 dollar bill along his path.  The man found it and was happy to receive the gift.  He expressed his thanks to heaven and went on his way.  The following day he walked the same path and he was blessed again to find a 20 dollar bill.  This went on for a year.  Every day, he found 20 dollars in the same place on the path. 
 
Then one day, the Lord decided not to give him 20 dollars any more.  When the man went to the spot where the money always waited for him, he was surprised not to find it.  He complained, “Where is my money?”   What was once a gift that caused gratitude became a thing that belonged to him and he demanded.
 
For so many of us, we receive so many blessings we no longer recognize them.  We are at the point where we believe we deserve them.  Yesterday, I was reminded that things can change in a heartbeat.  There are no guarantees in life.  We should not act as if the blessings we receive will continue simply because they always have been there.  We need to acknowledge them and express our gratitude.  We should try to hold on to them.  They are not ours.  They are gifts from heaven. 
 
I am doubly grateful that when I kissed my daughter goodbye when I left for work, she got up and followed me a couple steps to give me a hug.  What a sweetie!
 
Please remember to count your blessings.  Things can change in a heartbeat. 
 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Parting: Final

Nancy called Tim to advise of her deepening feelings for him.  He was so overjoyed that he put his cell phone behind his back, threw back his head and yelled, “Yahoo!”  She laughed at him since she didn’t know how to respond to that.  He remarked, “You just made me the happiest man on the earth.”  Still, Nancy cautioned that she wanted to take it slow.  It was a long distance relationship and they aren’t easy.  Also, she wasn’t sure she wanted to move.  Tim agreed they could move slowly.  They would take it one step at a time.

Dr. Lowe was a champion for Charlotte.  Charlotte displayed raw tools and ingenuity with her writing and Dr. Lowe advised how, once molded and honed, the sky was the limit for whatever she wanted to accomplish.  Charlotte’s heart leapt for joy when Dr. Lowe shared this fact with her.  Never in her wildest dreams did she think she could be a journalist.  Things weren’t easy and the road still seemed quite long but Charlotte was beginning to believe. 

Bob’s heart was broken a few months later when his father had a stroke.  It was a relatively minor stroke but a major one followed it and his dad became bed ridden and unable to speak except for a couple phrases that he repeated over and over.  He could say “Yes.” and that made it somewhat easier to communicate with him.  Nevertheless, Bob could see the frustration in his father’s eyes.  To Bob, it appeared that his father was still all there but unable to come out of his debilitated body.  The man was trapped, unable to be freed.

Bob’s thoughts turned to Samantha from time to time.  That happened even more after his father’s stroke.  He remembered the two of them were close and something inside him said Samantha would want to know about his health.  However, Bob never did see or speak to her again and part of him wondered if he had handled things differently if they would still be together. 

John went to college that Fall and jumped into college life.  He wanted to experience it all.  Well, everything that was good about it.  He was not a party person so he didn’t seek that scene.  However, he was involved in a couple sports and joined the Acapella choir and even started acting.  He dated a few different girls but didn’t consider any of them very serious. 

He was happy to finally be out on his own.  He didn’t consider living on campus on his own but there was a gentleman from church that said living on campus was a good half way point from living at home to being on your own.  John immediately agreed with that logic. 

Jack finished counseling with Pastor Bob and the psychologist supplied by the military after a couple of months.  Both the psychologist and Pastor Bob believed his recovery was never in doubt.  He had a strong supporting cast around him and, often, that was the most important fact in any type of recovery.  Also, he strongly wanted to put it all behind him.  Jack continued to try reaching JoJo.  It was a long hard road since, not only was JoJo affected by PTSD, he was now addicted to drugs. 

He regularly thought of the song about people trying to reach those with an addiction.  “I pound on these walls with my bleeding hands.”  He understood why the writer’s hands were bleeding.  He had been pounding for so long they now bled.  Jack was starting to understand much prayer would be required.  All he could continue doing was loving and praying for JoJo.  He was very much encouraged during a visit when JoJo was sober.  JoJo shared with him that he “Had a wounded heart” and he “didn’t know what to do about it.”  Jack put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and said he would do everything possible to help him through it. 

On the anniversary of MIA’s death, the two of them sat on the floor of Jack’s bedroom.  Jack was nearly finished packing his things.  The two of them were going to get an apartment together.  JoJo said, “Isn’t it funny?  Death?  I saw enough of it in Afghanistan to fill 2 lifetimes.”

“Yep.”

“People come and they go throughout your life but you never really know…”  his voice trailed off. 

Jack turned to face JoJo when he started again, “It seems for every start there is a stop.  For every new relationship, one ends.  All these things go on and we are powerless to do anything about it.  Oh, we try to manipulate things to our own advantage.  But when bad things happen, things normally turn out good anyway.  So why are we always chasing after crap that isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans in the end?” 

Jack was silent.

“We went through so much shit over there and MIA lives through it all but kills hisself when he gets home.  I don’t get it.” 

“Me neither.  He was a good man.  He would have laid down his life for us and we would do the same for him.  But I have to tell you that since I’ve completed my therapy, it is like the curtains parted.  It is like a journey back into innocence.  I don’t know if that is what it will be like for you but I hope it is.  I can’t wait to begin working at the VA clinic and helping our veterans.  You know how much help we need and we can’t be the only ones.”

“You are going to do good there, buddy.”

“And you are going to be good at everything you do too.”

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Parting: Reunion

People’s lives are busy and that is just a fact of life.  Nancy and Charlotte spoke over the phone a couple times in the month’s following Charlotte’s start of college classes.  More than anything, Charlotte wanted to spend a little time with Nancy.  When Charlotte mentioned this, Nancy blurted out, “Why don’t you come over for supper?”  

There was silence on the other end as Nancy realized that it could be difficult for Charlotte to visit since Jack was home again.  Their town was small but one could still go a considerable amount of time without seeing someone.  Charlotte hadn’t seen Jack since he ended the relationship.  Still, she had to see him some time and it may as well be sooner than later.  Charlotte then said, “I think that is a good idea.  A home cooked meal that I didn’t cook is always a good thing.”  A date was set and after a few more minutes of chit chat, they hung up.  

The night of the meal came quickly and in the morning of that date Nancy realized she had not advised Jack that Charlotte was coming for dinner.  Jack sat at the table silently as he absorbed what this meant to him.  Hearing her name made his heart jump.  He knew he stillhad feelings for her but also knew that the relationship changed.  He did not believe he still loved her the way he once did.  He believed they could marry and make it work but he didn’t want to marry her.  The feelings just weren’t there any more.  

When Charlotte arrived, Nancy was putting the finishing touches on her world famous spaghetti and garlic bread.  She yelled, “Someone get the door please.”  Without thinking, Jack yelled back, “I’ll get it.”

“There’s no turning back now.” Jack thought as he walked down the stairs.  His heart started pounding like when he was about to start playing a football game back in high school.  

Charlotte stood outside facing the door for a full 8 seconds before she could ring the doorbell.  After she did, she wanted to turn around a walk away.  Still, she wanted to see Nancy and truly hoped for some alone time with her.  She remembered the day when she only wanted alone time with Jack.  She heard movement on the other side of the door and thought to herself, “Please let it be John or Nancy.  Please let it be John or Nancy.”

The door opened and there stood Jack.  As he opened the door, Jack determined to be pleasant.  “Hi Charlotte.” He said as he bent down to hug her.  She hugged him backwarmly.  She looked into his eyes and was happy to see he was all there.  The last time she saw him, his eyes were dead.  “He looks good.” She thought to herself.  

Dinner was delicious and the conversation during the meal was open and inviting.  While slightly tense at the very beginning, there was no strain from anyone at the table.  Nancy was pleased that the food turned out well.

Charlotte told the boys to go upstairs after the meal so the two ladies could talk.  John yelled as he bounded up the steps, “Works for me.”  Jack just smiled and said he would at least take his plate to the sink “like my momma taught me.”  Charlotte talked about her classes and how she enjoyed writing in spite of how stressed she was doing each paper.  

During a small pause in the conversation, Nancy blurted out, “Would you think it was odd if I started dating again?”

“What?  Really?  I think that’s great.  Wait, have you asked Jack or John yet?

“No.”

“Don’t you think you should ask them before you ask me?”

“Yes, I know but I wanted a feminine opinion first.”

“You have someone in mind, someone I know?

“A man I dated from high school.  We met again at my class reunion and we’ve kept in touch since then.  It would be a long distance relationship at first but with John now graduated and soon to be out of the house, I’m starting to think I might get lonely.”

They bantered more on this subject when Nancy dropped another bomb.  “Do you think you and Jack will get back together?”  


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Parting: Looking Back and College Days

Nancy remained in contact with Tim.  They chatted via Facebook and email but never by phone.  Tim continued to pine for Nancy but he never let his true feelings be revealed.  He felt it would cross a line to communicate by phone.  Still, they learned more about each other’s families. Occasionally, Nancy remembered days of her youth when she dated Tim and emotions flooded in. 

Then she would remember her husband.  He had been dead about 7 years now.  Her mind returned to the days when her boys were young and the two of them struggled to make ends meet.  Her husband was named Martin but only she called him Marty.  Marty would come home from work and, if the boys weren’t already waiting for him at the door, he would announce, “Daddy’s home!”  Then Jack and John would come running to the door and hang on him until he got down on the floor and wrestled with them.  Of course, he always snuck in a kiss to Nancy but he was quickly pulled away for some good old fashioned rough housing. 

Marty believed in God and the family attended church regularly but he wasn’t one to verbally proclaim his faith.  He didn’t show off.  He felt it better to live his faith in a way that people saw it.  In the home, he did little things to teach the boys about God.  When they sat down to eat, he had each of the family members take turns saying grace.  She remembered John had to be coached as a 2 year old to say “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.  Amen.”  Nevertheless, he wanted to be part of the family and partake in this ritual.  He always was trying to keep up with Jack.

Marty regularly told the kids bed time stories.  Sometimes they were bible stories, sometimes he read kid’s books.  Often, Marty made up stories.  He would ask the boys what kind of story they wanted and he created it as he told the tale.  He also made it a point to tell the kids about family.  He told stories about grandparents, himself, Nancy, and even the boys when they were little.  The boys seemed to especially like chronicles about when Marty and Nancy were young.  Each time he would share such tales, they giggled as if they didn’t believe their parents were once small.  

A melancholy mood hovered over Nancy.  Life has so many twists and turns.  While bad things had happened in her life and she had endured extreme heartache, she believed that God was good and gave, and continued to give, many blessings.  Still, for that moment she felt… she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  It wasn’t quite a sad feeling.  Nostalgic?  That probably better described it.  She didn’t want to go back but she wished some things could be in the present again. 

Charlotte endured the life of a part time student and full time employee.  At first, the novelty of the whole thing was like an adrenaline rush.  She had energy to attend classes, study, and work.  Then, a lack of sleep began to catch up with her and things got difficult.  She was extremely grateful for the flexibility of the chiropractor to work around her class schedule but still found it hard to work and study.  Slowing, she got into a rhythm and everything seemed to flow easier. 

She enjoyed her classes and her professors.  Her composition teacher, Dr. Lowe, was a taskmaster and that is how she described herself on the first day.  She said she would demand a lot from her students.  When an adjective was needed to describe how pretty a piece of music might be she didn’t want to write it was pretty music.  It was a melodious, sonorous, or an enthralling piece of rapture.  She required writings that would sweat, cry, and bleed. 

Though she was demanding, she was fair.  She made it a point to assist her students and was available at many hours of the day and regularly checked her email.  Charlotte developed a bond with Dr. Lowe.  Though exacting, she acknowledged that not all people have command of the English language let alone the ability to communicate their thoughts well.  Therefore, she pushed them to improve.  Dr. Lowe believed that the ability to communicate effectively could change the world.  If everyone could express their feelings in a clear, concise manner, many of the world’s problems would disappear. 

Charlotte poured herself into her writing and Dr. Lowe recognized special seeds in the first paper she turned in.  Each paper caused Charlotte much agony.  She stressed over every word and she wondered if each sentence expressed precisely what she wanted.  Dr. Lowe would not tolerate wasted words.  Still, in a few short weeks, Charlotte noticed the muse awakening within her and her confidence grew. 

The Parting: A Devil Has Entered Your House

Jack wanted whatever help he could get and, though some things were painful to bring up, he considered each therapy session essential to his existence.  Like an athlete pushing through the pain, Jack viewed each pang a moment of triumph.  He would not cower in fear from the memories that haunted him.  He would overcome them and be stronger. 

He started visiting with JoJo.  By this time, JoJo was heavily into drugs and alcohol but Jack was determined to help his friend.  It bothered Jack that JoJo lacked the family support that he himself had.  Therefore, he worked harder to support his friend.  As much as he tried, it seemed there was an insurmountable barrier behind which JoJo was hidden. 

Jack discussed the matter with his mother and the two of them prayed for JoJo.  He also mentioned the matter with Pastor Bill during one of their sessions.  Pastor Bill mentioned that he had counseled with many families who have a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol.  He stated how hard it is to get them to understand what they are doing to themselves.  He said, “There is a song by Randy Stonehill that reminds me of people who are trying to reach someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  I don’t know if that is really the theme of the song but that is what I felt the very first time I heard it.  We are helpless to reach them because it seems they are controlled by something that we can’t eliminate.  There is a line in the song that goes “A devil has entered your house.  He devours your days but his spell will be broken if you turn from his gaze.’  All we can do is love them and continue trying to reach them.  Ultimately, God has to change their heart.  We must pray for Him to move in your friend’s heart.”

Jack inquired about the song and learned it was titled “Evangeline.”  As he got into his car, he searched for on iTunes and downloaded it to his iPhone.  Once it finished downloading, he started listening to it.  It was a mournful song and it instantly tugged at Jacks heart.  While he felt he was now on the other side of the wall, he intimately remembered how it felt to be in the dark fringes.  Nevertheless, he felt the helplessness the writer expressed in this song and he wept as he drove home.  He listened to the song 3 times as he drove.  The song went

I can touch you but I can't reach you

I can love you but I can't save you

Crushed beneath some unseen weight

Locked behind some prison gate

I pound on these walls with my bleeding hands

And long to pull you from sinking sand

Link by link grows the chain of fear

a necklace of thorns watered by your tears

Even now one hope remains

One Holy Fire to quench the rain

I pray that your heart will be warmed by the dawn

And these shadows will be gone

A devil has entered your house

He devours your days

But his spell will be broken

If you run from his gaze

Evangeline

Evangeline

Is my voice growing faint in the gathering haze

Has your path been obscured in this dark twisting maze

we all bare the crimson scar

But that's not all of what you are

I wish I could turn this terrible tide

And call the angels to your side

Evangeline

Come back to me

Come back to me

Come back to me

Evangeline

The sky is blue

Your eyes are too

But they don't see

In this song, Jack felt the helplessness of someone who had a loved one suffering from addiction.  Though he himself never had an addiction, he wondered if this was how his mom and Charlotte felt after he returned from Afghanistan.  He remembered them and others speaking to him but it was as if he was half asleep and not really hearing or aware of what went on around him.  Somehow, this gave him hope that, maybe, if anyone could reach JoJo, he could. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Parting: The Return

In a way, it felt to Jack like he was returning home from Afghanistan.  He had been away for an extended period of time and, except for the wonderful people with whom he stayed, it was very trying.  In reality, those were the only similarities.  However, in this case, the parallels of the latter were caused by the former. 

When he saw his mother, the feelings were similar to when he got home from deployment.  They embraced warmly.  John hugged him and shed a tear while doing so.  Nancy asked, “How are you?”  He didn’t look as lost as when he left but she had to know how her boy was.  Jack know the question wasn’t merely to pass time or fill space.  She wanted to know where Jack’s heart and soul were.  Were they healed, whole?

“I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet but I’m on the path.”

“That’s my boy.”

Shortly after unpacking, Jack started making calls to the local VA clinic and starting inquiring about psychiatric help.  He also contacted Pastor Bill and asked about counseling.  With that set up, he sat on his bed and looked around his room.  His mom left it mostly untouched in his absence.  There were remembrances of high school, the military, and Charlotte.  He got up from the bed and walked to the dresser that had her picture.  He picked it up and remembered the last time they spoke.  All he remembered from that night was that he ended their relationship. 

He sank back into his bed gazing at the photo.  He felt like crap.  Still, he couldn’t help but think it was the best thing to do.  Looking back, Jack realized he was in no condition to maintain a relationship.  He couldn’t care for himself let alone anyone else.  He did what he had to do.  “Then why do I feel like an idiot, a loser?” He mumbled out loud. 

“What?” asked his brother, John.

“Nothing.  Just talking to myself, I guess.”

“Supper is ready, big brother.”

Jack got up.  “Thanks.  I just realized I missed your graduation.  How was it?”

“It was pretty good but don’t worry about a thing.  You can still donate to my college fund.  I’m accepting large donations.” 

Bob and Charlotte continued seeing each other in the months since Jack left.  Their relationship deepened but both of them kept a hint of distance between them.  Bob was still worried that if he started dating Charlotte, Jack may find out and carry out his threat of bodily harm.  Charlotte simply wanted to focus on her studies.  She didn’t want a boyfriend as a distraction.  Nevertheless, both of them noticeably lit up when they saw each other.  While they weren’t exactly the subject of town gossip, it was believed by most that they would eventually come to a deeper relationship. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Parting: A Ray of Gold After the Storm

Jack awoke the following morning with peace in his heart.  While he felt more contentment than he had experienced in a little more than a year, he understood he was not out of the woods yet.  Therefore, he went to the VA website to find information about psychological help.  He believed he was suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He located a facility close to where the Andaluz family lived and went there that day. 

He was disappointed and a little angered to find a receptionist who could care less about the young man standing in front of her.  Actually, she acted liked she took pleasure in being able to flaunt her authority and make him wait while she piddled about on the computer.  At first, Jack took it all in stride.  However, he sat for a considerable amount of time with no information.  He began to wonder if she was on Facebook.  Finally, she called him back to the desk to announce, with a smirk, that he had to go to a facility close to his home address or he would have to permanently move to this area. 

As a gut reaction, Jack wanted to scream and throw furniture around.  He wanted to break things.  Before he began to see red, a thought came to him.  He wanted to see his mom and brother.  This actually made him happy.  With a genuine smile on his face, he announced he would go to a facility near his home.  The receptionist acted perturbed that she hadn’t gotten to him.  She wondered to herself if she was losing her touch. 

As Jack rode the bus back to the Andaluz house, he called his mom to give her the news.  She was overjoyed that her boy was finally returning home.  Next, he contacted the airline to arrange a return flight.  This was another exercise in anger management.  It seemed the ticket he originally purchased required a return within 30 days.  He exceeded that by a few months and it would cost him several hundred dollars for a one way ticket home.  Instead, he booked a one week advance round trip ticket that was less than a one way ticket .  He planned on never using the return.  It sort of made him feel good to stick it to the airline. 

He called his mom again to advise of the details of his flights.  Finally, he told the Andaluz family.  As he told them he would be leaving, the full scope of their kindness rushed in on him.  These people took in a complete stranger.  When he didn’t leave at the expected time, they allowed him to stay longer.  Even still, there was no timetable when he would depart.  Additionally, they fed him and provided friendship, love, and encouragement.  In a short time, they became family to him.

Maria, MIA’s mom, spoke to him privately that night.  She wanted to impress upon Jack her appreciation for his friendship to her son, Miguel.  Though he was gone, in some way, Jack was a surrogate.  More than anything, she had to drive home one point.  She said, “Jack, you know how I feel about people using their God given talents.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Have you read Matthew 25 to know about the story that means so much to me?”

“Yes, I have, several times.” 

“It has always struck me how important it is to God that we use what He has given us.  He will one day take an account of how we use it.  I used to wonder why Jesus mentioned that the one who didn’t use his talents would be cast out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  It seemed harsh for God to throw someone into hell for not using their talents.  I spoke about this with a pastor.  He said it isn’t so much going into hell but the sorrow is so great over wasted opportunities people will cry and clench their teeth in severe anxiety.”  There was silence as the point was driven home.  Then Maria continued. 

“Jack, I see a lot of talent in you.  God has given you much.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  God has placed you on this earth for a reason.  The world is an empty place when you withhold your gifts but we all benefit when you use what God has given you.”

Gratitude washed of Jack and he began to cry.  Maria reached and pulled him in for an affectionate, motherly hug.  She whispered softly, “Oh papito.  You are such a good boy.” 

“How can you tell?  I’ve been such a, a, slug since I’ve been here.”

“I know a good person when I see them.” 

The next few days, Jack considered the blessings in his life.  In spite of his father dying, he still had a strong family unit.  He had been given many abilities.  If a person who has little and doesn’t use it is sad, how much more will someone weep and gnash his teeth when he was given much?  He felt he had an embarrassment of gifts.  He found himself praying for God’s guidance as to which gifts did God want him to use for the benefit of the world.  He wanted to leverage his gifts to their maximum usage. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Parting: A Heart in the Balance

One night Jack was in bed crying.  He sobbed quietly since he didn’t want to disturb anyone in the Andaluz house.  He had heard before that it was beneficial to write out your thoughts so he got out a notebook that he brought.  He sat in bed with tears streaming down his face but no words came to him.  His was mute to express the hurt that permeated his soul.  Slowly, a picture formed in his mind. 

He began to sketch a picture.  With limited artistic talent it was merely lines.  Eventually, it took shape.  I was a wide chasm with a single rope or cable stretched across it.  The drop from the cable was ominous.  It was a perilous trek across the gulf.  On the cable was a fearful, wounded heart.  His heart. 

As Jack looked at his finished work, he continued sobbing.  In his mind, he cried out to God.  “Do you see me?  Do you know the pain in my soul?  Do you realize how lost I feel?  Will I ever feel whole again?”  Then in desperation he cried, “God I need you.” 

He felt so alone, so isolated.  Then a phrase came to his mind.  “A man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”  He knew it was from the bible but didn’t know where so Jack got out his iPad and Googled the phrase.  It was Isaiah 53:5.  In the NIV bible it said “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 

Instantly, Jack identified with this scripture.  Though Isaiah was not talking about him, but Jesus, Jack understood what it was to have sorrow.  While Jack had not been rejected, something about this compelled him so he read the whole passage.  Parts of it seemed to Jack that it was about him and part about Jesus even though he realized the whole was about Jesus.  He read and reread the chapter 12 times that night.  Each time tears dropped to the screen of his iPad. 

Finally, Jack lay back in his bed pondering the grief that Jesus experienced when he was on earth.  He himself felt so broken, so undone.  How much more did Jesus feel bearing the whole of humanity for all time?  Did Jack really have any comprehension?  Still, Jesus bore it all willingly.  Would or could anyone do that without love in their heart?  Love could be the only reason He would come to earth and identify with His creation and make a way of redemption

Redemption.  Is that what he needed?  No, Jack remembered the day he asked Jesus into his heart so he was redeemed in that sense.  Nonetheless, there was something about him that needed to be made anew.  Since he was unsure as to what it was, he decided to pray for healing and whatever else he needed. 

It was the first time he prayed in a long time.  In Afghanistan he prayed a lot but it was mostly for safety for himself and his friends.  Now he was praying with desperation.  Jack could picture himself wresting with an angel as Jacob had done in the Old Testament story.  He needed God’s blessing and understood it was vital to his very existence.  Jack was seeking to be filled.  He had been emptied.  Now he must fill the vacuum.  He didn’t want a fake fill.  It couldn’t be sea water.  It had to be living water.  For the first time in a long time, Jack knew he wanted to live. 

A Time of Need

The last time he saw his mom, Paul spoke the words he had to say.   He recognized her discomfort as she shifted on the bed and redirected he...