Faith

With eyes closed, slowly swaying with her right hand to the sky, she sings with a passion and conviction that I can only look at with admiration and longing. My eyes close, my skin bristles, a small tear forms in the corner of my eye. The music makes me feel vulnerable, open. She begins to freeform, she breaks into a rambling tearful prayer. I’m mesmerized…

The Holy Spirit is what she’s having. And I think I want it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have had a complex and difficult relationship with God. Once “Born again”, or so I thought in my teens it wasn’t long before I lapsed into a state of agnosticism which later devolved into what I can only call Atheism. I rejected all of it. I have no problem telling you why; I saw too many people praying for themselves and their own advancement, and I had a very hard time understanding why a kind and benevolent God would give babies cancer. While tolerant of other’s right to worship and willing to engage in a debate with anyone, and I could argue my side as good as anyone, I didn’t budge for years.

Much ado was made about my atheism when I got married. We got married in a hotel. A Justice of the Peace presided. It was a civil ceremony and I told the J.O.P. quite definitively that I wanted no mention of G.O.D. My wife, a non-practicing Jew and me a Atheistic angry ex-Protestant…well we sure pissed off our families. That, the pissed-off thing reached new heights when we failed to introduce our kids to religion. No baptisms, no Bar or Batmitzvah’s. No church or temple. I do regret teaching my children my views, as impressionable children I may have ruined it for them.

I wouldn’t begin to come around, and I only came around a small bit, until I petitioned for membership in Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a organization known for making good men better. I was by all accounts a good, if not flawed man and I was a good candidate by all standards. But I was required to acknowledge a faith in a higher power. No specifics required as to denomination or name, but no atheists. I had to really evaluate my stance because one thing I did not want to do was enter a faith-based organization characterized by worthy men on a lie.

Hard questions followed and if not for a good friend I wouldn’t have started on the path that I am now discussing.
“A good friend came out of nowhere and gave you a kidney, saving your life?”
“Yes.”
“And that was just a accident or a coincidence?”
“No.”
“You know for certain that there is nothing out there?”
“No. Nobody can honestly say that.”
“Then if you dismiss nothing, then you logically have to ackknowledge something?”
“Yes.”
“Isn’t it possible that you don’t need to know why things happen, that it’s beyond you?”
“Yes.”
That was the conversation that opened the door for me to acknowledge that maybe there’s more to it. My compromise was to call it Spirituality.

Then my father died. My father was a Godly man. He lived by a strong moral code and he loved Jesus. Especially towards the end as Parkinson’s ravaged his once strong body and spirit. When he died I started doing two things I never did before; I talked to a granite gravestone, and I began seeing shadows in my house.
The Paranormal is a great indicator of God. The shadows, hopefully my father, seemed benevolent but I had heard enough stories to know that not all are. You can’t believe in evil without acknowledging its polar opposite and that is something holy.
Still, that one incident aside, I really didn’t move beyond the label of Spiritual.

But I began to open myself up a bit more. I began to find the chirp of the bird, the deer sightings, sunsets, mighty storms and reflections on the water as particularly beautiful and less of a coincidence of nature. I found God outside the walls of a Church. I adopted the “Kayaking” doctrine.

“Kayaking” worked for me. But the selfish praying for a football victory, a winning lottery ticket and the hateful vitriol or outright fucking hypocrisy that I had witnessed in past “Church” phases was still with me. And I still had a hard time with the whole dead baby thing.

Recently I have been talking a lot with a lovely woman who has shown me what I had been missing. She is kind in her actions and her prayers. She prays for others, not for personal gain. She is humble yet strong, she controls what she can and has faith in that which she cannot.
She has shown me what I have been missing and didn’t know I was searching for.
Faith.
People have a hard time with control and I am no exception, letting go of that white knuckle grip is a daunting task. And I’m not quite ready to fall in lockstep with the old “Everything happens for a reason”, or “It’s all predetermined”. But I am coming around to the possibility that I will learn someday, not today the reason for the triumph, or calamity that has just occurred. It’s called FAITH and I’m starting to come around to it.

The people of faith that I have been watching with a keen eye have a special walk. A special smile. They are not acting better than you and I, they just convey a feeling that something has their back. That everything is going to be ok even if they don’t know how, why or when.

I think I’m on a journey that will take me there. I think that my hardships, lessons, and scars have happened for a reason. I may be a vessel, placed on this earth to help one person or many. I may have to hold on to my questions for a while to see if they ever get answered. In the interim, I want to spend more time around people of faith.

I want what they’re having.

Give a little, get a lot

There’s an old adage that states:
“You can’t help those who can’t help themselves.”

While this is largely true there is a caveat. You still need to try.

It all started with a phone call from a friend and Masonic brother after 10 PM on a Saturday night in October. Despite the bond between Masonic brothers being mighty and strong, the late hour, and that this particular brother is long-winded and hard to get off the phone, I chose to let it go to voicemail. He immediately texted me imploring me to call him. I did.

He was in jail.

It turns out my Masonic brother, who is held to a higher standard by our fraternity and by his own commitment to be a better all-around man, was pulled over for speeding and then arrested for outstanding warrants. He was unlicensed, uninsured and in violation of not paying 2 years of child support. He needed my help, in particular he needed money. His car was impounded and he needed 500 dollars.

I offered my ear, the full extent of my advice and any resources I had to offer but I had no money to give. I implored him to reach out to his family. What he then told me made me realize that I actually knew very little about my friend.

I always knew that he was under-employed. When I reconnected with him 7 years ago (we were friends in HS) he was working part time which I thought was odd for a man my age with children. What I didn’t know, and learned that night, was that he hasn’t worked at all in 2 years. His girlfriend he lives with had finally grown tired of supporting him and asked him to move out. His mother refuses to have him stay at her house. His 2 ex wives hate him. He is in a deep depression, and he is blaming his current situation on it.

The temptation to be judgmental was overwhelming. I had serious questions and opinions on how he had let himself get into this situation. In particular how just getting a damn job could have prevented all of this. But it would have been kicking a man while he is down, it’s not my style and it isn’t helpful. I needed to help him then and kick his ass later.

I implored him to reach out to anyone in his family that he can borrow from to get his car out of impound. He called me the next morning, his son had stepped up and helped him.

I have seen him regularly since then. He still has no car or license, he has been sofa-hopping every night, a hearing for his support is pending and he isn’t working. To be fair, without a car or a mailing address he really can’t work. But in my heart of heart I knew that he wasn’t trying. He was doing the one thing I hate the most…feeling bad for himself. Still, I withheld judgement.

Last night he called me. The situation was critical. He is officially completely broke, has nowhere to stay and has noone to turn to. I talked to him for hours, but after hour 3 I realized that he has a fatal character flaw. He doesn’t listen, he merely waits to talk again. I wasn’t getting through to him. I verified that he had a place to sleep that night and ended the conversation for the night. I went to bed but didn’t sleep well. I was very worried about my friend.

This morning he called me early. He was in tears. He had been a closed off rock before, not being able to ask anyone for help and not taking advice, now he had finally lost it. He cried into the receiver about how he wanted to be a better man, how he couldn’t take feeling like this anymore but he didn’t know where to turn. For the first time, he was willing to hear my thoughts. I again resisted the urge to give some tough love, some hard advice. It still wasn’t the time. He needed some stability to get his tears out, not worry about where he would lay his head that night or where his next meal will come from. I told him to hold tight, that I would call him back.

Before I go any further let me say that if I wasn’t 100 miles away I would take him in in a second. But I can’t.

But I had another idea. A mutual friend and Masonic brother of ours had a spare room and had previously offered it to me. He had also mentioned that he would offer it to our friend if it absolutely came to that. I called him and told him that it had indeed come to that and I updated him on the status of our friend. We both agreed that something had to be done. Inaction could result in something tragic and neither of us could live with it having not done something.

He was open to the idea of letting our friend stay with him but he had some genuine, legitimate concerns. He is also struggling financially. He can barely feed himself and is wary of having another mouth to feed. This is a fair assessment, our friend doesn’t have any means to support himself and would need some generosity for a while. We talked about his own situation for a while. We had concluded that it would be a temporary help for our friend and other than financial, it wouldn’t put him out. In fact, he would welcome the company. But still, there was the matter of money.

I told him that I would give him a check for $200.00 to pay for enough groceries for one month. I really don’t have it to spare but I need to do something. He was taken back by my offer but grateful. He thanked me for the offer but he would have to call me back. He recognized the urgency but needed a moment to think. Before he hung up he asked me where our friend was staying. I gave him the address.

I just received a call from my distressed friend. He was picked up an hour ago and he is enroute to his temporary shelter. He tearfully thanked me for my assistance and pledged his undying gratitude. I told him to take the reprieve to assess, recover, relax and game plan his return to being a productive citizen.

I don’t know where he will be in a month. I plan on visiting them on Sunday to get a better feel for where he is going. I want to thank my friend and Masonic brother for putting our brother up. For now, I don’t have to worry about him succumbing to his depression.

I don’t have much in the way of assets, but I am always going to be as generous as my situation allows with what I do have. Empathy, a soft shoulder, a cache of hard-earned wisdom and a meager but consistent bank account can go a long way.

No-one can do everything. But everyone can do something.

Superman out.

The End of Faith? — Tom Being Tom

Faith. Many of us have struggled with it our entire lives. Many of us will never truly reconcile the notion of a higher power. Unfortunately, we also fall terribly short in being able to discuss our differences on this complex and polarizing subject.

And then Tom of Tom Being Tom wrote this. Which I will now share for your reading pleasure. Do you follow Tom? If not I only have one question…why wouldn’t you?

I don’t believe in gods. Those of you who know me know that well, and those of you with even a passing sense of who I am probably understand that, too. 38 more words

via The End of Faith? — Tom Being Tom

Song lyric Sunday

Some of you may know this song by heart, some may have never heard it. It is one of those songs that proves the adage that the music you listen to in your formative years will always be sentimental to you, if not remain your favorite music. The latter has proven true for me, and in times when I lack clarity or need a reminder of what drives the blood in my veins I play those songs.

Bob Seger’s Like a Rock is the title track of his ’86 album that cemented my love of Seger’s gritty, honest, relateable songs. This song, before it became a Chevy commercial at least, was a staple in my daily playlist.

Now, as I find myself weakened and looking for strength I love this song more than ever. It reminds me of the days when I was young, strong and carefree. Of the days when I walked with my shoulders back and my chest out. When I swung an axe in the crux of a cold October afternoon in just a T shirt, my brow sweaty and my muscles tight, plowing through the woodpile my dad and I had just created. My friends were all playing football but I committed myself to the task at hand. Like a rock.

I miss that feeling, I want it back. I hope to get it back. When I hear this song I am reminded of better days and given hope that they will return.

Give it a listen will ya?

Stood there boldly
Sweatin’ in the sun
Felt like a million
Felt like number one
The height of summer
I’d never felt that strong
Like a rock

I was eighteen
Didn’t have a care
Working for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
But I was lean and
Solid everywhere
Like a rock

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock

Like a rock, I was strong as I could be
Like a rock, nothin’ ever got to me
Like a rock, I was something to see
Like a rock

And I stood arrow straight
Unencumbered by the weight
Of all these hustlers and their schemes
I stood proud, I stood tall
High above it all
I still believed in my dreams

Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
Twenty years
I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone

And sometimes late at night
When I’m bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin’ a ghostly white
And I recall
I recall

Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate
Like a rock, carryin’ the weight
Like a rock

Like a rock, the sun upon my skin
Like a rock, hard against the wind
Like a rock, I see myself again
Like a rock