Wednesday, April 29, 2009


My dog died last night.

That makes me feel yuk. Seeing her lying on the ground and "knowing" in the way the subconscious mind instantly knows things, but calling her name anyway and then consciously knowing gave me that sinking feeling in my gut. That makes me feel yuk too.

She's been dying for a long time. I knew that so I have tried to make her more comfortable. There was the medication for her joint pain, and the daily expensive soft dog food for her. I didn't take her to the vet when she lost her eyesight in one eye because actually, for the past 6 months she has been obviously feeling much better than she did for at least a year prior. She even wagged her tail when she knew I was there.

Joy was my dog and I was her person. I have a couple of stories which demonstrate that more than ever....

When we lived out in the country, I let Joy run free. I know; not supposed to do that but, she was fixed, and our distant neighbors didn't seem to care. When I say free...I mean, she went wherever she wanted and did whatever she wanted and killed whatever she wanted. The time I am thinking of, she found a den of skunks and not only killed the adult, but killed all five of the babies. I know this because she very proudly brought them to the house to show me her handy work. They were layed out in a straight line near the porch when I found them...Joy lay nearby, panting and wagging her tail.

"Good girl."

Living in the city limited her freedom to a certain extent, but we are blessed to have a pretty large back yard. One night, the neighbor hunting dogs tunnled under the fence and came into our yard. There was some growling which brought me outside. Lance, Joy's adopted child was there wagging his tail and Joy was no where to be seen. I was a little wary of these strange dogs and stood there not quite knowing what to do when the oldest looking one growled at me. My little medium sized Joy shot out of her dog house and went straight for the older dogs throat. She was protecting her human. I've never had an animal do that for me before, nor will I ever probably again.

"Good girl."

Death of someone, or something I love brings up guilt feelings in me. "I should have..." or "I could have..." I asked my class today to write their legacy, how they wish to be remembered when they die. While I was waiting for them to finish, I was suddenly touched with Joy's answer:

"I want him to remember that I belonged to him, that I was happy, and that I loved him."

"Good girl...and thank you."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gutter Races

Lo and behold it rained here in the desert yesterday. My daughter and I were alone for the afternoon and she delighted in playing outdoors, generally making a mess on the back porch. I stayed inside doing something I thought was pretty important at the time.

While taking the dog out front I realized that we had a mini flood moving down our gutter...just enough to splash your feet in. An immediate conversation in my mind went something like this:
"Glad she isn't seeing this...she'd want to come out here and play."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, I'd have to play with her and I have very important things to do."

"Like what?"

Thank goodness my "god-father" side wins out over the "selfish-father" side.

All I had to do was remind her of our previous rains and she was out the door like a shot with a toy in hand to toss in the water and watch it rush down the street. I used the match I was going to light the grill with (for the steak dinner I was soon to make). We had a great time racing flower's, leaves, and tiny sticks down the street. She was in heaven splashing bare-footed in the water.

The good/bad thing about the gutter races is they are over as soon as the run-off from the streets above runs out...which it soon did. After our last race, as we walked back up to the house, she skipped along and joyfully announced, "That was fun Daddy!" She also gave her mother a detailed report of our gutter races, and how she used this and I used that, and she won this and I won that that evening.

God, please KILL my selfish-father side. It threatens to rob my daughter of so many opportunities for joy and learning....not only that, it threatens to rob me of the awesome reward of a happy, healthy, loving daughter (selfishness betrays itself by limiting one's life rather than adding to it).
I think the next time it rains, I'll race her out the door...barefeet and all.

(I note that she had nothing to report to her mother about the cartoons we watched, nor the video game we played earlier that day....hmmmm. Could it be that those are not really important nor memorable to her?!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


With appologies to Tolkin, Lucas, and Le Guin, I have been constructing quite an elaborate fairy tale for my daughter each morning on the way to school. My daughter has taken to simply saying "Aragorn!" and I am expected to weave away. Some mornings, though I'm "not allowed, I would rather listen to the radio...but other mornings, what joy to hear her laugh when I make up something funny, or even to have her participate in the story making.

I found a recent extra benefit to this routine. My daughter is not perfect in her appearance like some of the turds in her second grade class think she should be and they, in their magnanomous benificence shared with her that has xxx and yyy. After being made aware, she experienced the usual response of staring at herself in the mirror, wishing xxx and yyy would go away. And then she faked sick for 3 days in a row (we made her go to school anyway).

[An aside: If you are an idiot parent who doesn't have the compassion to teach your child at a very young age not to make fun of other people...I hope you enjoy it when you child grows to be an adolescent and makes fun of you, among others. Have fun with that.]

I realized I had a perfect opportunity to teach a lesson without directly personalizing it and drawing up her defences so I wove a story about how the young daughter of Aragorn, Chastity (yeah, Sonny and Cher) had a very tiny nose, and a large birth mark on her face. She too was made fun of and after threatening to throw the bullies in the dungeon (which she made me say several times), her mother (Joy -- named after our dog) taught her how to deal with those kind of people.

I felt especially proud that day. And especially grateful to other's more creative than I who wove the stories I use to weave mine. But most of all, I'm grateful to Dora Diane, for reminding me how very important it is to tell stories and laugh in the morning.

I wonder if she's too young for me to work in the horrible death of Chastity's boyfriend brought about by his attempt to kiss her...

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Cross, The Tomb, and Candy Eggs

40 is a wonderful age. I recommend it to everyone who has not yet been here. For me, strange and wonderful things began to happen at 40. For one, I appreciate life more than perhaps ever before. This is a drag, but also an inspiration as, I am in good physical shape as well as better emotional shape than I have ever been. I realize things that I knew, but never really grasped before. Insights abound nearly every day. I think it is a great time for the mind as it develops wisdom...slowly but surely.

This past week for example, Holy Week leading up to Easter. I found myself approaching Easter in an entirely different way than ever before. Perhaps it was our new preacher and his sermon the Sunday prior. Perhaps it was wisdom. Or perhaps, it was the fact that Dora Diane was ready to learn more about the death and resurrection of Christ. Either way, I worked to take it seriously. We even watched The Passion on Friday night (just my wife and I). It was really rewarding, though very difficult to watch. Somehow Jesus is more real to me these days...something I have probably prayed for to the extent that it is now being answered. Anyway, it is helpful for me to imagine Christ himself walking with me through the low places, as well as the high ones.

I'm pretty sure that Dora didn't gather the full meaning of what Christ did for her...but I do know she understands that the easter bunny does not give meaning to Easter. Part of me marvels that we Christians celebrate the cruel and painful death of an innocent man. I know, I know, we celebrate his resurrection....but really, partially, we celebrate his death. Watching the Passion, I realized how primitive this all is. We humans try so hard to be civilized...but we're not. If Christ was alive today, He would not have to worry about our "civilized" society failing to put him to death. We'd find a way. Maybe he would be beheaded by Muslims. Maybe he would be placed in a mental institution. Probably he wouldn't even set foot in much bad press. I'll bet he'd appear in a little backwater town in an occupied land...I hope not Afganistan or Iraq...but that would be just like Him. (No, I'm not comparing the US to the Romans.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

"I know it's all part of God's plan."

I've been doing a lot of thinking about "God's Will" recently. I like to try to figure things out. After all, God gave me a brain and I like to pretend to use it every now and then.

I attend a baptist church in a small town. That is a bit different than saying that "I am a baptist" but still, close enough for most. Baptists, if one didn't know are rather conservative. That is to say, when my old pastor came upon me in the local grocery store with a 30 pack of bud light under the basket...well, he was nice...but I don't think I ever lived that down in his mind. Good baptists don't drink, smoke, dance or gamble. (Well, one out of four aint bad!) (Brings up the old joke about the guy who says he's a old time baptist, pats his shirt pocket and say's "Sh**, I'll bet you a hundred dollars I left my cigaretts at the bar in the dance hall!"

Anyway. Some Baptists also deal with tragedy in a way which is difficult for me to swallow. When bad things happen, they first ask themselves if there is any "unconfessed sin" in their life. I don't. Remember, I just attend a baptist church and keep my amazement to myself. If anything causes me to tumble down the hill over my faith however it is that belief, as well as this one: Someone dies, gets shot, loses a child to an illness, whatever and their self-soothing is, "I know this is God's will." or "I know this is all part of His plan for me."

I've worked really, really hard on that and two things come to mind:

1) If I am a competent enough father to find ways to teach my daughter things she needs to know without kicking her in the literal or figurative gut...I believe God can do the same.

My plan for Dora is that she never get electrocuted. I'm not going to cause her to lose her hands so she never has an opportunity to stick them in the light socket. Now, if she does step outside of my plan and sticks something in the light socket and I'm not around to help, she will suffer. That's NOT my plan for her; in fact it is way outside of my plan for her. So there she is, lying on the floor unconscious, her hand black from an electrical burn. I would immediately swoop her up in my arms and rush her to the hospital. I would do everything in my power to help her overcome and live on despite her bad choice. Thus, I would continue to work out my plan for her, despite the obstacle she thrust in my way. Perhaps her bad experience would be useful to her in the future. But it was not in my plan...and I didn't cause it to happen...and I didn't NEED for an accident to occur to get her attention. I'm competent enough to find other ways to reach her.

I know enough about God's will to starve an ant, but the above reflection on my own imperfect fathering leads me to assert that God is not a bumbling uncle who watches me trip down the stairs and then says, "I saw that coming 'and allowed it to happen' becuase I decided you needed to learn a lesson about stairs." Rather, I think He is there with me, at the bottom, weeping and hurting with me, while He begins to work out His will for me, now that I have a broken leg. (He "taught" me all about stairs back when I was a very young child and experienced gravity for the first time. The brain He designed learns from those early mistakes and is supposed to remind me to be careful.)

2) Consider the following:
  • "Josef F., 73, admitted that he locked his daughter, who was 18 at the time, in the cellar, that he repeatedly had sex with her, and that he is the father of her seven children." He kept her a total prisoner for 24 years. She never saw the light of day.

This was discovered 6 months ago and the guy is soon to be sentenced. Of course the girl and her seven children are all in a mental institution. If THAT was the 'will of God for her life, and the lives of her seven children;" if THAT was God's plan for them...well, just imagine what that would mean about God.

What does it mean about God if the plane crash victim whose life was saved and says, "I guess it was just God's will that I live."? Does that mean it was God's will that the rest died? I humbly suggest "no." God's will for all of us is that we "have life and have it abundantly." Anything which limits or hinders abundant life is outside of God's will. Human error or Evil which entered the world to create chaos, disease, and death is the culprit I choose to blame.

What gives me hope is that God is all powerful and able to use "All things for the good of those who seek and fear him." He has a perfect plan and is not ultimately thwarted by evil. I remember playing with ant beds in my youth and thowing obstacles in the ants way just to see what they did. Over and over, their initial will was challenged but they would always find a work around.

So what do I say to people when they are the recipients of one of these "obstacles?" The first thing is "I'm sorry you have to endure this." The last thing I would say (and if I got to it on the list I would cross it off and not say it) would be "God's will is hard and mysterious." To me, at this time in my spiritual growth, that's just ignorant and mean.

I know God has a plan, and I know He is bigger than any tragedy which should randomly fall on me or my family. I know He has a plan for my daughter, and I know that He will continue to work it out. And in the end, wherever she is on the journey, He will bring her home to Himself.

Sorry to any and all who disagree. I'm not a good baptist. But do want to be a good Christian. I do want to be in His plan and I don't want to have to figure out the "magic" formula to keep from getting a spiritual kick in the gut. I've never come across that passage in the bible. (Ok, ok. Someone is eventually going to read this and think about the verse which says "The Lord Chastens those He loves." and "God will not allow you to face more than you can bear." Let me work on those further and elaborate later.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cause She'll Be Gone

One of my favorite songs is Dance With Cinderella. It is a beautiful and poinient challenge to take advantage of the time you have with your child because eventually, "She'll be gone." For most, this brings tears at the thought of her leaving home and living with someone else. Me too. But in my experience, it means more. It means that one day soon she may die.

My melancholy bluntness stems from recent events in the lives a people I care about. A dear, old friend faces his infant son's debilitating illness...and nothing seems to be working to heal him. Another acquantance at church lost their unborn child.

My wife and I have been through terrifying trials with our daughter...but not like that. Yet I can imagine the worst. My life experiences have taught me that she could be gone by this evening. I am helpless to stop that. Probably why we humans eventually seek solice in a "higher power." The Alcoholics Annonymous organization has it right...step 1: I admit I am powerless over my _________. I give control over to my higher power.

Fill in the blank.

But I don't want to be powerless! It's really not fair. If others get their time with their children, watch them grow up, have the luxary of time, why not I? Job said the same. Lost everything unfairly. And God's blows me away.

"Who do you think you are to contemplate?" "Help me understand your great human wisdom which allows you to dictate fair versus unfair." Paraphrased, much of that seems to scream: "It's not about you Job." "There is a much bigger picture."

Could we be let in on the bigger picture then. If a child had to suffer, could we not see how it's all supposed to work out in the end. Just let me know who benefits, and how. What will I learn at the cost of this child's suffering. Worst of all...why do so many refuse to learn those lessons and repeat the same failings over and over again?

It doesn't make sense. But I should be used to that...there are a lot of things my mind doesn't wrap around. But I'm brooding. I don't have to suffer anything but the fear of those things. When I thought I was in the moment...I wasn't. Relief fell and all was right with the world.

It's not about me...but I am decieved to believe that it is. My child's suffering becomes my suffering...and I grieve because I hurt. "Why Me?"

Why not?

Dance now.