June 27, 2009

The Training Instructor's Favorite

My first day of basic training I was told to sit perfectly still until my training instructor returned. He came back after just over five hours. I'd rather be hit in the face with an agitated puffer fish then ever try to sit still for that long again.

By the end of basic I'd hands-down been in trouble more often and had to do more push-ups than anyone else in my flight of 56 guys. I was also the training instructor's favorite. I know this because he told me, right before I got sent outside to move four hundred sandbags for no apparent reason other than I was his favorite.

One time I got in trouble for dancing in the kitchen while on KP duty. My punishment was... unpleasant. I say "one time" because that is not the kind of thing you want to get in trouble for twice.

Inside our bathroom was a vent that went up, over, and down into the girl's bathroom of our sister flight. Needless to say when our respective instructors were absent, there was much communication through the vent. I won fifteen dollars for doing an imitation of our First Sergeant into that vent. Word somehow reached our instructor and the next day I found myself doing that same imitation, only not into a vent.

My job in the flight was to roll shirts. I figured out a way to use two drawers side-by-side that made every shirt turn out immaculate, far above what was expected for inspection. Every guy had five PT shirts, six white undershirts and six tan undershirts. Times sixty.

One night for no apparent reason my entire body broke into hives. To this day I have no idea what caused it. Bees?

I don't remember ever feeling as proud as the day I had my name tag sewn on my uniform. It's strange to me how strongly I felt and still do feel about it.

My sisters sent me letters that occasionally had pictures in them. I'll never forget how powerful a letter or a picture can be.

During the six weeks when I'd never seen so much hazing (or public ridiculing), cursing or anger in my life, God turned what started out as two of us praying together every night into well over twenty guys gathering every night in the shower... the only place we'd all fit without waking the others up.

And I will never forget the day my drill instructor walked up behind me at breakfast and said
"You might want to get up. Now." Then flipped our entire table full of food into the air.
I'm pretty sure none of the cockroaches survived the fall.

June 19, 2009

How Do We Speak of God?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer watched as hundreds of years of church tradition crumbled. The German church had become an arm of Hitler. Few within the church even dared voice questions. Imprisoned in Tegel military prison, he penned these words,
"What is bothering me incessantly is the question of what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today... We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as 'religious' do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by 'religious'. How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity - and even this garment has looked very different at different times - then what is a religionless Christianity... What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God?..."
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison" Edited by Eberhard Bethge
Bonhoeffer was right. In many ways, Europe adopted a "post-Christian" society after WWII. I sit within my own culture, watching the gods of Self, Entertainment, and Affluence displace reverence. Because my Christ continues to change lives in this context, Bonhoeffer's questions ring true: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God?

June 9, 2009

Morning at the Medical Clinic

I had finished opening the medical clinic and was wandering around, waiting for something to capture my attention. My eye fell on the Doctor's stethoscope hanging near my desk. On this particular morning, the Doctor was not in yet and no patients had arrived. I carefully picked up the ancient stethoscope and placed the ends in my ears. It was a tiny bit big so I had to hold it in my ears while I pushed it on my wrist. Nothing. I moved it to where I thought my heart should be. Strike two.

I tested different areas of my chest until a vigorus tattoo came to my ears. I grinned and held it there thinking of my unborn niece's heart beat I had heard not 2 months before. Just then my eye started pumping as it sometimes does. I wondered if I could hear my heart beat from my eye. Like a dork, I shut my eye and pushed the stethoscope against it.

A loud cough echoed through the room and I jerked around. An old, stately woman cocked her eyebrow at me with a puzzled smile. How long had she stood there? Quickly, I shoved the stethoscope away, "Oh, hello. Sorry about that, I didn't see you. How can I help you today?" She ignored my question and stepped farther into the room, "Does your scope work, Doctor?" Ouch. I desperatly wanted to bruise my head on a wall in some hole elsewhere. "Yeah." I smiled sheepishly, "It works."

June 2, 2009

Roadnoise will drown out an enchanted childhood

Many people have said "There's nothing like family."
Do they know what they're saying?
Think about it for a moment, what is a family? Family is proof that God exists, and that He has a sense of humor. Family is one of the least logical ideas in the universe.

The process of family-making in America goes something like this:
Take a person, and have them meet randomly and fall in love with another person.
Boy and girl get married.
Soon another person comes out of the girl.
Voila, family is made.
The person coming out of the other had no choice in the matter.
The child is bound by the law of "family" to the kissy couple, and is for 18 (or a nerdy 35) years of their life under their authority.

When the child needs to be fed, the kissy couple that had him/her will feed him. Every time.
When the child throws up or does something equally disgusting, the kissy couple that had him/her will clean up and hold him/her.
When the child does something wrong, the kissy couple that had him/her will be responsible for him/her.
For 18 (or a nerdy 35) years.

This I ask of you. Why does it make sense? It doesn't. It isn't so much duties carried out by a kissy couple as it is love and dedication.
An endless cycle of selflessness to the end of seeing the success of others.

Think for a moment about the role of parents... get a job and hold it so that your family may have income to feed and clothe the children, as well as provide for their wants and needs.
What inspiration. It makes no sense, but all across the world, in every tongue, tribe and nation, it is a complete idea practiced by all.

And yet when someone sits behind the wheel of a vehicle, the last thing on their mind is the fact that a kissy couple has dedicated their life to their success as an individual.
The furthest thing from their thoughts is that they were born into a loving household, provided for their every want and need for 18 years, and the amount of love they were shown.
The person behind the wheel might as well have been born into a family of wolves.

They want to kill you.

They sit behind you on the freeway traveling at one mile an hour faster then your 71 mph, two feet behind you mouthing not-nice words and shaking a fist that someone once called "adorable, so small, and delicate!"

Not anymore it isn't.

In a cruel joke of a personality switch, the person driving behind you just left the baby shower where they were swapping embarrassing stories, exchanging laughs over presents being opened by a soon-to-be mother of twins, and they probably even grabbed a handful of napkins to clean up the accidental spill of apple juice on the lunch table when it was knocked over by the passing of hot dogs from one end to the other.

The person driving to your rear was once given a trip to Disneyland as a surprise birthday present.

Recently, the person behind you now swerving lane to lane trying to get as close as possible so they can hopefully cause personal harm was given the opportunity to speak at a conference on Leadership and Management of Self.
The five points in the speech each with ten minutes of sub-text and illustrations accompanied by humorous stories were as poignant as any well-delivered sermon. Most who attended that session left with at least a page and a half of good notes.

It never fails to amaze me what the wheel of a car will do to some people.
Put them behind it, and their family, their careers, and their love of life all grow strangely dim in your headlights and they become homicidal land sharks on wheels.

As Plato once said..." ."

Well, Plato said nothing about being cautious you don't set aside your humanity to become the picture of ferocity every time your speed exceeds 35 mph.

But he should have.

June 1, 2009

Ransomed from Futility

The dream first started in the midst of a spoiled fish stick induced fever. I was ten. It recurred during other fevers or linguistic finals induced stress. The dream is a nightmare because of the terror it pours on my soul.

Whether a dream is a nightmare or just a dream does not depend primarily on the events that occur in the dream, but on the emotion that the dream carries. A rabid midnight black grizzly may chase me for hours, but if I am not truly afraid of the grizzly, it is simply a dream.

In the recurring dream, there is no person but myself, no concrete object. There is only knowledge. Knowledge that I must do something, be something, and I absolutely, totally cannot. That's it. Some nightmare, eh? It is when I awake sweating and crying.
I must be righteous. It is beyond impossible.

The Corinthians were messing around with theology. Some of them tossed an idea up in the air "Hey, what if there's nothing after death?" Paul wanted the Corinthians to feel the terror of their logic: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:13-17

I need the righteousness of Christ as a man who is floating on a plank in the ocean needs pure water and food, desperately.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead... that God may be all in all" 1 Cor. 15:20-28

In light of this, I told my dream to take a hike.

"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Cor.15:54-58