Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Little Feathers: Back Story- Pure Fiction

Little Feathers: Back Story- Pure Fiction: Michael paced and fidgeted, waiting, as usual, for his chance to give advice to the boss. And the boss needed advice, because the whole...

Back Story- Pure Fiction

Michael paced and fidgeted, waiting, as usual, for his chance to give advice to the boss. And the boss needed advice, because the whole world was going to hell. In fact, a big part of the world was in hell already.  Why couldn’t he see that?
The big old wooden door opened, and Michael put on his game face. Not to aggressive…the boss didn’t like that. Not too…whatever! Michael shrugged his shoulders, admitting to himself, if no one else, that he had not gotten it right yet. Not the right combination of words and tone and emotion to move the guy to act like Michael knew he should. Knew he HAD to.
“Michael! How are you?” he said, coming forward to give Michael that hug that Michael had to brace himself for. Not because he didn’t like the hug, but because it always drew him offsides. Made him lose his focus and intent. 
“Fine, fine. And you?” Michael drew back from the hug, looking into his boss’ eyes to see what mood he might be in today. Bummer. He looked happy. The guy was delusional.
“I am good. And glad to hear you are well. What can I do for you, Michael?”
As if he didn’t know. As if Michael had not been pleading for the same thing now for way too long.  Michael shook his head, just a tiny shake. Took a deep breath. Took a chance on contact and put his hand on his boss’ forearm for emphasis.
“They are at it again. Only this time, I think is worse than ever. I can’t do anything with them, they surely won’t listen to me. You’re going to have to do something. They will listen to you if you go down there.” Michael went for the combo effect…sincere, urgent but not pushy.
“ I know. You know, it breaks my heart. I have tried everything I can think of. Except…”
Michael interrupted, “You haven’t tried everything. You haven’t just gone down there and talked to them yourself. Unless you count that whole burning bush thing. Which, wasn’t quite the same thing as just showing up, you have to admit.”
His boss smiled, the memory settling on him. He chuckled. “Well, maybe not the exact right thing, but it seemed like a good idea back then. But anyway, this morn…”
Michael burst in again, “You keep sending people to tell them. It isn’t working! They either kill them or ignore them, or both! You have to do it yourself” Michael was warming to his subject. His pupils were dilated with fervor, and the hand on his boss’ arm was squeezing in passionate appeal.
His boss looked down at the gripping fingers and looked back into Michael’s eyes. Michael let go with sudden frustration, stepping back and shaking his head. This was going to end like every other meeting. Nothing. Big fat nothing. He started to turn away.
“Michael, listen for a minute,” it wasn’t a request, “I am trying to tell you something. I have an idea, and I think you will like it. I think it might work.”
Michael stopped breathing. Progress. Something new. Something besides the same old sending of some poor guy who ends up dead, despised by the very people he trying to reach.
“What…what…” Michael leaned a little toward his boss, a little afraid to get up too much hope.
“I’ve decided to go down there myself. “
Michael jumped up, pumping his fist and doing a little jig. “I knew it! I knew you would fix it! You love them too much to let them keep on killing each other! I knew you would fix it!”
His boss was grinning now, watching Michael’s joyful reaction. He waited a minute for Michael to do a little shadow boxing of the enemy.
“Take that, evil! Take that, death! Take that you sorry excuse for human misery maker!” Michael kept it up for a minute, then curiosity sunk in.
“Where will you appear first? That could be a huge decision, you know. You have to get the powerful behind you first. Wait…what am thinking…you would have to if you were a human, but since you are God, once you go down there as yourself, the whole entire human race will fall on their knees before you!”
His boss nodded, pausing, “That’s just the thing, Michael. That is the very reason I can’t do it the way you are thinking. We’ve been over this a hundred times.”
Michael’s face fell. What was the catch? He turned and started pacing, reciting in a terse voice,
“You made them to be free. You can’t manipulate them. They have to live free from strings and obligation to you or they can’t be truly themselves. Yadda, yadda, yadda…”
His boss ignored this last disrespectful tirade.
“That is right, Michael. That never changes. If I love them, I am bound by all the laws of every moral code ever imagined to give them their freedom.”
“Well, what moral code do they live by, for crying out loud? How can you make it worse by stopping them from making such a dung heap of themselves and all of earth?” Michael was so deeply disappointed he forgot that there was still a plan that had not been tried before.
His boss sat down, motioning to the other easy chair beside him. “Michael. Sit. I am sorry it can’t be done your way. But I do have an idea. And I think it just might work. Sit here. I feel how much you love them. How much you grieve for them. You have to believe me when I tell you I feel those things as keenly as you.”
Michael sat, his arms on his knees, his head hanging. He let out a sigh, and raised his eyes to the face of this boss who he did love so much.
“I’m going down there. But they will think I’m a real human. I’ll live like they do, and the hope is that I’ll get the chance to teach them how to love each other. And themselves.”
“So…where will you appear first?”
“Well, if I’m going to do it right, I’m going to do the whole thing. I’ll be born, like them.”
“You have got to be kidding me? You, a baby? You will be so at their mercy, you’ll never make it to be old enough to teach them anything!” Michael let out another sigh. He loved his boss, but this was a bad idea.
“No, I think it will work. I have the mother picked out. She’s good. And the father is a good man. I’ll do the whole thing. I’ll be born, I’ll grow up, I’ll love my family. I’ll gather some followers and spread the news that love is for everyone. That no one is alone. That no life, and no death is beyond me.”
“So, you picked a queen? Who is it?”
“Well, not a queen. I picked a Jewish girl. Her name is Mary. You know, the Jews have messed up a lot, but they keep trying, and that’s where I want to go. Remember David? He has a descendent named Joseph who is engaged to Mary. It’s the perfect family.”
“Now I know you are kidding me! They are dirt poor! You will be lucky to get enough to eat, much less gain any influence at all with society!”
“That’s kind of my point, Michael. I want to do it the hardest way, so that there aren’t any people anywhere, ever, for the rest of time who think they aren’t good enough to live in love.”
Michael slowly shook his head. “I don’t think you know what you’re in for. I’ve been down there. It isn’t what you think. There is not much hope, and there isn’t much love either. And for sure, they have forgotten their promises to you.”
His boss nodded just as slowly, “ I do know, Michael. But I have not forgotten mine to them.”
The look on his boss’ face left no room for argument. In fact, the extreme fondness he felt for his creation shone on his face like a light. Michael felt a little bubble of hope under his breast bone for the first time in a very long time. This was crazy, but maybe crazy was just the right thing for this mess that was the human condition.
“OK. So, let’s say you are going to go down there and show them how to love each other. Then what?”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to see what they do with it. And with me.” He put his hand on Michael’s arm. “And I’m going to need your help. I know I said it the human way, but we’ll add just a touch of your ideas. See, we gotta get Mary on board, give the word to Joseph that he doesn’t need to worry, maybe tell some shepherds, and…let’s put a big star in the sky ahead of time to kind of point the way.”
“So, a star over Jerusalem?”
“Well, no. I’m going to be born in Bethlehem. Because that’s where David came from, and I’m going to do my darnedest to fulfill some of the Hebrew prophecy. To give them hope. And to help them know who I am.”
Michael chuckled. “You have this all figured out. OK, we’ll try it your way. And pray. A lot!”
His boss grinned from ear to ear. “I knew I could count on you. Now, let’s get this thing rolling!”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Little Feathers: My War on the War of Art

Little Feathers: My War on the War of Art: A while ago my son, Josh, recommended a book to me that I read and took to heart. At least I thought I did. The War of Art, by Steven Pressf...

My War on the War of Art

A while ago my son, Josh, recommended a book to me that I read and took to heart. At least I thought I did. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, taught me about the many ways I have sabotaged my own creativity. Much of the book is about overcoming the thing that keeps any of us from doing what we are passionate about as fully as we could. That thing is, quite simply, our self talk. I don't want to over simplify the book, and I believe it is truly worth reading for anyone who feels they have not lived up their potential. We may think of creativity as applying only to the arts, but as problem solving is creativity at its best, it actually applies to all of life.
I learned a lot about myself from the book and for a while I worked really hard at being scrupulously honest about my motivations, my efforts, and my ultimate responsibility for my creative output. I had little litmus tests in place to see if I was acquiescing to the negative messages that manifest themselves in the life of every person. Then, I must have gotten tired.
There is song written by Cat Stevens; The First Cut is the Deepest. I only know the Sheryl Crow rendition. At any rate, I totally agree with the concept that the habits of self talk we establish early in our lives, "I'm no good at math",  "I can't dance" etc, are so deeply engrained in our psyche that we have to work hard to bounce the needle out of that groove and make a different recording. BUT the good news is that we can break old habits. Including how we see ourselves and our contribution to this life.
I am writing about this because I have let myself fall back into patterns that keep me from breaking free as a writer. I have so many reasons lined up that no one will want to read/buy whatever it is I'm working on. If this ever happens to you, I say let's go to war.
If the war on my art is the creative hamstringing caused by self doubt, then I am ready to make war on that war. My weapons will be courage, diligence, humility, and hope. What have I got to lose but old grooves that don't serve me well anyway?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Little Feathers: Goodbye Hannah

Little Feathers: Goodbye Hannah: Our kids had a fabulous team of teachers in the third grade at Highland Park Elementary. Those teachers could do anything! Except for one re...

Goodbye Hannah

Our kids had a fabulous team of teachers in the third grade at Highland Park Elementary. Those teachers could do anything! Except for one really hard thing. The teacher who read aloud to them did such a great job. Until she came to the part in the story where she needed the other teacher to read for a while. The part where the dog died.

A great story is one that helps us wrestle with the hard questions in life. Like how to go on when we are covered in grief. Like how to come to terms with the loneliness we feel when lose a friend or family member. And because dogs are such perfect examples of a loving friend and family member, many of the really great stories we read as youngsters deal with the death of a dog. Like, Where the Red Fern Grows, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Old Yeller.

It was about the same time our son was in third grade that it seemed like one hard thing after another was happening in the lives of my circle of friends. We even made a dark humor joke about it. We would tell of the struggle, and then someone would say,  "And then the dog died."

There are people who own dogs. I've owned a few. Dogs who came and went without a lot of impact. But then, there are dogs who own people. And I've been owned by a few. The first time I ever saw my dad cry was when we had to put down our beloved Spotty when I was a kid. Spotty owned our whole family. Smart, funny, loving...a lot like the Boxer girl, Lucy, who owns Bob and I now.

 My sister in law and her husband were owned by a beautiful, funny, smart Golden Retriever named Montana's Hannah Banana who died yesterday. Some people can't understand how the death of a dog can be so tough. It's only a pet, they say. But if they say that, they have not experienced that little piece of heaven on earth that is the unconditional love of a dog. It isn't just the smiley faced dog grins, the efforts to respond to us and please us. It is the also the way dogs make us better people. We have a deep desire to care for a dog who loves us, to make their lives good, too. Hannah had a wonderful life. Her people did a really good job of appreciating the gift they were given in a dog who loved them. They will miss her so much. Because they lost a friend and a family member. Goodbye, Hannah. Good dog.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Little Feathers: Elementary, My Dear

Little Feathers: Elementary, My Dear: I was lucky  to get a writing assignment from a house that publishes a  devotional book for people with intelletual and developemental disab...

Elementary, My Dear

I was lucky  to get a writing assignment from a house that publishes a  devotional book for people with intelletual and developemental disabilities. I was asked to use a really helpful tool on Microsoft Word that edits for a certain grade level. This tool is so amazing, because it checks for sentence structure, vocabulary, etc. Though the audience for this devotional is adults, I was advised to use a third grade setting. And something really rewarding happened.
I got to boil down comments on a scripture passage to very elementary thoughts. I kept asking myself why I usually think this relationship between God and us humans is so complicated. Why do I think I always need more information? Like what influenced the author of the book, or what some theologian thinks of this precept or that. I get so deep into thinking I need to know the mind of God (unfathomable) and understand the purpose of our living. I get lost in the history of the church, the personalities that shaped the different translations and proclamations.
I find I can put all I need to know in a few sentences. God loves us more than we can imagine. We struggle and grieve and fail and reach out to God. God is there. In the pain and sorrow. Then, we sing and shout for joy in the midst of the sweet things life brings us, the chances we are given to try again. And God is there. In the first breath of a newborn, the hug of a loved one, the encouragement of those who have lived long and seen much and still greet the new day with a will to live. And the names we call our organizations or churches, the programs and dogma, those may not have much to do with the truth of the matter. God was God before the written word, before the cosmos came into fine focus. Nothing I write will change the nature of God. Even if I get some details wrong, all I really need to know is this simple truth: nothing can separate me from the love of God. It's elementary.