Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Jack sat in his car with the engine running, radio on low as Lauren Daigle sang ‘I will trust in you’. He closed his eyes and listened to the poetic words. He thought about his beautiful daughter, now in her thirties who had been praying for years for a child, a baby. And, his wonderful son-in-law, who stood by her side every day. Jack thought – ‘defeat-after-defeat, all they could do was trust in you Lord – for something magnificent to happen – someday’. Jack listened to the words - “when you don’t move the mountains - I needed you to move; when you don’t part the waters - I wish I could walk through; when you don’t give the answers - as I cry out to you – I will trust in you”.
For Jack, that was the part of being a believer that hurt the most, that perplexed him the most – the hardest assignment Christ calls us to – to trust in Him – no matter what. Good or bad.
Looking at his watch, he needed to run – the courthouse was open and the ceremony was about to begin. The judge was going to be surprised at the magnitude of the crowd that would stand in front of him this Friday morning in December, a sunny, warm winter day in Texas. His daughters support group was there – to vouch for her, as a mother, a leader. All she needed now was the final approval from the judge – to make it legal - and the boy would be hers.
Jack saw his Bible sitting on the passenger seat and picked it up to find one last source of encouragement – maybe something he could share later in the day. It flipped open to the book of Daniel.
Daniel – ‘that’s weird’ he said. His new grandson’s name: a 10 year old blonde headed miracle – a real stick of dynamite – born in California, now living in Texas. Jack’s eyes were drawn quickly to Daniel 2:48 – and he read “Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the wise men.”
Jack rushed inside to be a witness before the Judge, to be a father to his daughter and Mzee to the new kid. Daniel became his newest (and oldest) grand-child that day in December 2016.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
"My prayer is a joke", Jack thought. "I can't even fit it in here with the others, it's falling out already. This whole thing is s train wreck!"
The strict Jewish men around him rocked back and forth, back and forth, facing the wall, praying softly and then reading from their Bibles - from the Law. Jack thought it was both silly, and poetic. He admired the determination and dedication of these men in black - but couldn't understand the process or the purpose. He liked the idea that they were focused - focused on God - who could be critical of that?
The wind blew and Jack watched his folded prayer blow to the ground. He picked it up and pushed it into a different crack in the wall - tightly - jamming it in with force and anger.
A minute passed, the sun felt warm. Jack closed his eyes, lifted his face to the sun.
It fell again. A light breeze passed and Jack could hear a voice saying - "leave it Jack - I've seen it - I read it - I answered it, and you're good to go!"
"Thanks Lord - for keeping it real - you're awesome, as usual." Jack hurried back to the waiting bus.
"Ali" looked on, nobly, as camels do, and he was quiet as a mouse. Ali was a caricature of himself, Jack thought, and he hadn't changed at all since Jack saw him last - 10 years ago, on this hill, looking over the Old City of Jerusalem. "Come-on man, just 10 sheckel's - I lose money at that price - just 10 - ok!?" The Arab vendor draped the scarf over Jack's head and shoulders. "You look real good man!" "OK then, but take my picture with the city in the background - get the dome in too", said Jack.
Jack could hear the tour guide behind him - Hilek - explaining to the group the details of the valley that lay between this hill and the city walls of Jerusalem. The multiple burial sites, Muslim, Jews and Christians - all staking their claim on sacred ground.
Hilek was a bit too 'politically correct', Jack thought, and chuckled to himself. They don't all win, in the end, when the Messiah passes through here, He won't care much about the graves - He won't even notice the graves when he enters the city gate. Everyone, everywhere, will bow to Jesus - but for those who didn't believe, before he arrived, it will be too late.
Ali knows it - he's heard it all, from every angle, for years, in every language, as he looks over the City, year-after-year-after-year. "The camel surly knows the truth", Jack thought. Ali's ancestors carried those Kings, with all those gifts - to see the baby - just north of here in a small town. So it's in his blood - passed from generation to generation.
"The camel knows", Jack smiled.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
But this evening, Jack was in Jaffa, watching the sunset -with his girls. Keeping a low-profile wasn't easy for Jack with his girls nearby, always drawing a stare and a whisper from the 'men' on the streets. Even other women were mesmerized by the three. One was enough to catch the wondering eye's of locals and tourists. But with the three of them together, there was no hope.
It started getting dark, as they all walked north toward the city. There, up ahead - "that's it", he said - "let's warm up, get a drink". Jack ushered his girls into 'Gordo's', a beachfront café. As if he were protecting special agents, he escorted his own 'Charlie's Angels" into the café and commanded a table in the front, with a view of the ocean, the beach, the rising moon over Tel Aviv.
"Happy Sylvester!", a waitress shouted from behind the bar. Puzzled, not knowing what she meant, Jack ignored her and thought about the day, and his girls, and Israel.
Finally, Jack relaxed. It had ended. It was over, the day was coming to an end. This year was over. "New beginnings", Jack said softly, to himself, as the girls talked freely and giggled.
It was New Years Eve. Everything Jack needed, everything he wanted, was sitting at this table, in this room, on this beach, in Tel Aviv.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Jack dipped his hands into the mud bucket - deep - and grabbed a gob of goo. He smeared it over his head and face, down his chest and over his arms and legs. The others were too pre-occupied to notice him, as they smeared their mud over their bodies with passion - laughing like little children.
Selfies everywhere. The mud was suppose to be a cleanser, for the skin and soul - and when you mixed it with salty water, it would make everything better - and Jack was ready for anything 'better'.
It was foolish and silly, Jack thought. But, he whispered: "I'm here now, I'm here once, and I'm gonna do it." It was starting to get cold, the sun was dropping over Israel and the clouds were clearing over the hills in Syria to the east - just on the other side of the Dead Sea.
He walked down the rocky shore to the salty water - his bare feet aching as he navigated the stones - the stones that shouted out - "you don't belong here!". Jack couldn't recall any mention of Jesus ever coming down to the Dead Sea - but he could be wrong - yet, why would he, 'it was dead'! and Jesus was life!' There were no fish, no bugs, no weeds, no nothing - but salty, very salty, water.
He took a deep breath and fell back into the water, and floated like a bobber waiting for a large mouth bass to take him down.
Like those around him, all he could do was laugh - out loud. He had made it to the deepest point on the surface of the earth - about 400 meters below sea level. "It doesn't get any deeper than this!".
Jack reclined in his salty chair and watched the sun set. Glad to be alive, in the Dead Sea.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Jack knew that 7:30 meant at least 8:30, which meant it could be 9:30 or later, and that meant he wouldn't pull into his driveway in Texas till after 1:00am again, maybe later. He couldn't catch a break out of Cleveland - "the mistake by the lake", "they got that right", he mused to himself.
He pulled his expense envelope out and starting filling in the blanks, using his receipts from his wallet, he documented most of his expenses for the week and tucked the receipts into the manila folder for scanning later.
Trouble followed Jack these days. Nine months ago he left a good job, trading it for what he hoped was a great job - but it wasn't. He worked with some difficult people, under a management style he detested, for lower pay and benefits. He travelled every week to places like Cleveland - not exactly the prime choice cities in America. Slowly, he was getting bitter and disgruntled, and generally saddened. His only salvation was Jane - waiting for him at home each week - to consul him and tell him 'it will be ok - hang in there Jack - you can do it'.
Jack wasn't usually a defeatist, but he was beat-down this week, and the delayed flight wasn't helping his psyche any. He knew inside he had everything to live for - he wasn't a fool - just tired and angry tonight, at life.
He sat there trying to lift his own spirits. "I need to pull up - I'm not tapping-out on this just yet".
Jack opened his laptop and went to Google. He typed in "Screwtape". He read the quote on the screen: "the humans, they live in time, but our Enemy destines them for eternity" - Screwtape to Wormwood.
"Thank you Lord" Jack whispered, "you are the I Am".
Friday, September 10, 2010
"I'm not feeling very wise, or old," Jack thought to himself, sitting in the waiting room on the second floor of the hospital. He was alone, but there were dozens of people around him, people he knew and people he didn't know. They were loud. But he was alone. "Mzee my ass", he whispered to himself, his lips barely moving as he spoke. He felt guilty for saying it, even to himself. In front of the large window that faced west, he could see remnants of the Texas sun, trying to show herself while the storm clouds were moving fast across the sky. Lots of clouds, they blocked the sun and it was gray - everywhere - it was dark and gray.
"Isn't this a beautiful hospital Jack?" someone asked, he couldn't tell who exactly, he was distracted by the clouds. "Ya, they really do things different these days, don't they," he relied weakly. It had been a stressful day at work. It had been a stressful week at work. The timing couldn't be worse. Jack was feeling guilty for being distracted, for putting too much emphasis on things like work at a time like this. He was feeling guilty for feeling guilty. "It means nothing, nothing at all", he whispered to himself.
Jack was inside, inside himself, and reflecting on just what was going on. He didn't know what was going on. His phone rang and he took the call as he moved to the back of the room so he wouldn't be distracted. "Noise, it's all just noise", he thought as he ended the call..
Everything was happening in slow motion. Nothing seemed real. Jack looked down and couldn't tell where the walls and the floor met - the colors ran together. Jill came over and excitedly held up her cell phone to Jack, without saying a word. "He's here!" it said - a text msg from the labor room in the back. He's here. It was about 6pm. Jack looked up and out the large picture window of the hospital. He stared at the cars passing and at the people coming and going from the parking lot below. A heavy summer wind blew the trees.
Two months earlier Jack watched as his baby boy was married. It was impossible, his son, his only son, had met and married the love of his life. It was impossible that just 'yesterday' that kid was swinging Ninja swords and riding bikes through the neighborhood. Just 'yesterday' he was playing junior high football. Just 'yesterday' he was in high school facing the giants and battling for his life. Just 'yesterday' he drove off to college in his little red car.
And, just two months earlier Jack watched as his beautiful sister finally surrendered to cancer. Just 'yesterday' that sister was singing in high school musicals. Just 'yesterday' that beautiful sister was buying him coffee at Starbucks as they traded family story's, laughed and shared dreams.
And now, today, Ledger appeared. He had landed on planet earth. "Ledger Cross", Jack whispered to himself. Jack stared out the large picture window, to the western sky. The clouds were gone - absolutely gone, and the sun was getting lower on the horizon, turning the sky a bright orange and red - uninhibited. Every cloud had disappeared, absolutely gone from the sky.
It took just seconds.
Anything was possible. Jack moved through the hospital corridors, the long hallways, found and pushed the heavy door open, and saw his beautiful daughter in a big bed with a big smile. The room smelled good, it smelled new and fresh.
She was holding Ledger, in a tight little bundle.
"Hey Mzee!" she cried out.