Sometimes I Dream Of Heaven

It never gets old.  I never run out of places to explore, people to meet, games to play.  I play a lot of games.  The Fields of the Lord are made for running, and jumping, and exploring, and playing.

I think to myself, “It’s strange that I squeal like a 10 year old sometimes”.  And then I pass my reflection in a beautiful still pond, and remember that I am 10 years old.  But then again, that isn’t exactly right.  My soul is eternal, and I have each and every memory of my life on earth.  Yet, here I am, in a 10 year old body.  I have a child’s sense of wonder and abandon.  The angst from my earthly life I remember, but I cannot feel.  I wake each heavenly morning with a child’s joy.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Yes, there are cities here – more than could possible be explored in all of eternity.  There are lights and hustle and bustle; enough to light the imagination of any heavenly child.  There are no video games, because one can spring up in real life right in front of you, and you get to jump in and play to your hearts content.  Who needs electronics?

But I am drawn to the Fields.  I wander beside babbling brooks, I climb mountains, I rest in the shade of mighty live oaks. I play lots of baseball.  I’m pretty danged good in this particular body, not like I was on earth.  I sometimes play shortstop, but I really love to pitch.

After all this time here, I’m still pretty amazed at who “made it”.  And, how I recognise each and every person, even though I never met them on earth, maybe didn’t even live in the same era; even though they, like me, are here as children.  I know each and every one of them.  They are my brothers and sisters.  It started with Jesus – I knew who He was the moment  I saw Him.

I particularly like to pitch to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig – even though they connect far too often with my fastball.  Abe Lincoln joins in from time to time; he’s really grown to love the game.  And the little girl in pigtails who plays a mean second base?  That’s Joan of Arc.

Every now and then, we hear a song on the horizon.  It starts faintly, yet, as we hear it, our hearts are quickened, and soon we are singing along.  We sing songs of joy and praise.  We aren’t embarrassed as we would have been on earth – we can’t help but sing.  It grows from within us, and just bursts out.  We join the heavenly chorus and feel the ecstasy that comes from being within the Perfect Song.  It dies down again slowly, and the games begin anew. 

We play with no real purpose, as only children can.  It warms my heart that two of my best friends here, who particularly like to explore heavenly mountains and beaches with me, I recognise as my earthly parents.  Here, they are kids with exuberance, who smile and laugh.  We remember all that “stuff” from our lives, but we can no longer feel sadness or bitterness about it.  We are now siblings, children of a greater father.  Sometimes, I sit on the gnarly roots of a willow with my child-bodied parents, and we dangle our feet into a running stream and laugh about the times of our lives, even the unhappy times.

I like playing with everyone (there are SO many kids to meet here!), but I really like playing tag with my brother.  He is fast, lightning fast.  He laughs as we dash through the Fields of the Lord, and knows that I cannot catch him.  Sometimes he looks down at his own body and leaps for joy.  He almost cannot remember the withering, wheelchair bound body he carried for so many years on earth.  He has all of eternity, but he is making up for lost time.  My brother just wants to run.

So we run.

And he, and my parents, and Babe Ruth, and Abe Lincoln and I run and play in the Fields of the Lord, as we did in the days of our youth.  The summer skies of heaven are filled with our yelps of play, our squeals of delight.  And then we hear a sweet, beloved voice, floating on the heavenly breeze, calling us home for supper.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

We gather at a mansion without measure.  We all gather around a humongous table, and Jesus sits there waiting for us all.  We have a feast, eating the most scrumptious food ever – it always is:  wonderful dishes pulled from all of history.  I am still drawn to the fried chicken, but I also like the more exotic fare.  And our heavenly metabolisms can eat all we wish.  We don’t even feel bogged down later.  But we all enjoy the fellowship with each other and with our Lord.

We retire to Great Halls, and sing again.  We cannot help but sing.  The Father’s presence dwells among us, and we feel peace and awe.  Sometimes, I’ll look at another kid, and we’ll glance at each other as if to say, “Can you believe this?” 

Tomorrow, great adventures await. 

Where Do We Dwell?

I often think of my life as a house.  In my mind’s eye, it is designed very closely to our dream house in reality: there are two wings, joined by an open-air atrium in between.  From the atrium, you can see fully into both wings, and the decor of each wing spills over into the atrium, mixing into quite an eclectic decorative scheme.

On one side is the Turmoil wing.  It is decorated darkly and starkly, it’s a mess, and demons can often be found there as house-guests.  Scattered throughout the wing are reminders of the past: mementos of heartaches, tears, pains, struggles.  They are permanent additions; I’m not allowed to get rid of them entirely.  It is nearly impossible to feel at ease here.

On the other side is the Peace wing.  Its decor is bright and airy, and not surprisingly, peaceful.  It is pretty much immaculate all of the time, sometimes because I pick up after myself.  And sometimes because angels, who are my silent house-guests in this wing, do the cleaning.  Sometimes I see them do it. Sometimes I just notice it got clean while I wasn’t looking.  Scattered throughout the Peace wing are photos and mementos of happy milestones and loved ones.   Each piece, no matter how tacky, holds a memory that makes my heart soar, if only just a bit.  This is altogether a happy place, and here I can rest.  

Now, I think all of our houses are designed like this.  And life is not lived in either wing, it is lived in the atrium, where pieces of each wing spill over and mix together in a strange incongruent sort of decor;  where we can turn and look into each wing and see all that they hold, and what’s going on in them.  We have no choice in the matter: this is where we live.

But, where do we dwell? 

Where are we drawn to lay our heads when we are weary?

In this matter, I consider myself the luckiest man on earth. 

Up until my thirties or so, I mostly dwelled in the Turmoil wing.  I thrived there, I wallowed in the decor.  I’ll admit, it made me a better writer; my writing was biting,and incisive, and could always, always bring tears.  From the doorway, I could see across to the Peace wing.  Although a small part of me longed to go over there, I mostly considered the idea boring, and the demons whispering in my ear convinced me of that fact.  Besides, I had friends over here, I thought.  They played a little rough, but I felt safe in their company.  And, even if I wanted to go over there, the atrium was open to the elements; the crossing could be dangerous.

Now, I can’t point out exactly when it happened.  I think it was a slow transition, because one morning I just woke up and I was in my bed in the Peace wing.  I noticed, “This isn’t boring!  It’s perfect”.  And that is where I have laid my head ever since.

Oh, I haven’t totally abandoned the Turmoil wing (for some reason, I’m not allowed to).  Every now and then I’ll journey over there, and make sure the demons have enough beer and fluffy pillows.  But I do not linger there long, as in the days of my youth.  I desire to go “home”.

I thought of this the other day,when I noticed almost all of my blogging friends going through such turmoil.  My goodness, there is a lot of pain lately.  I pray for each and every one of you, and I’ll do anything you ask to help get you through these times.  Believe me, you mean so much to me, your pain goes into my Turmoil wing, lest I forget.  Yet, I will aways guard our friendships and put them in places of honor in the Peace wing.

Anyway, I thought about how the world must see me (from reading Shoot The Moose).  Because of the particular time I started this blog, I come across as somewhat of a pollyanna.  Compared to 99% of the world, I’m wealthy.  I almost never have health problems. (I wish you could see me knocking on wood).  I have a very good job, that I love.  I’m always going on and on about my beautiful children, and my beautiful wife, and my beautiful house in a beautiful part of town.  I lead a very fulfilling, almost exciting life.

And all of these things are true.

Yet, sitting over there, I can see it from where I sit, there is turmoil.  Here in the atrium, it spills over and bumps into me, forcing me to move from time to time.  There are mementos of illness, and deaths of loved ones.  There are whole sections decorated with the pain of infertility.  One of the back rooms, where I try to avoid at all costs, is filled with my most unfortunate youth.  There is pain, and rejection, and shame of being “white trash”.  There is loneliness, lots of loneliness.   There is extreme material loss.  There is the heartache of watching a dear loved one wither away from a vibrant youth, stricken with an incurable, slowly debilitating disease.  One that I love as a brother (because he IS my brother), has gone from being the greatest guitarist I ever knew,to being unable to hold a guitar up to play it.  There is the fear and care of watching my parents impoverish themselves taking care of him, and worry about their stubborn refusal to let their other sons share the burden.  There is the general care and pain of living with other people, of being a parent and husband, and all the little heartaches that go along with them.

And as I get older, I know new additions are coming, with illnesses and deaths of immediate family and dear friends, and my own health failing.  I dread to see them erected.

Turmoil is always there, and the demons therein are not shy of pointing it all out and mocking me.  “HERE is your home!”, they taunt.  “Come back, have a beer and join us in cursing the wretchedness of life!”

Yet, my head is turned to the Peace wing.  The angels sing beautifully and remind me of all the good in my life.  Their song reminds me that, in time, all mementos in the turmoil wing will be melted in the hottest of fires and molded into the most beautiful gold items I have ever seen.  Their call is irresistible, and I am drawn to Peace. 

My life is lived in the atrium.  I am surrounded by Turmoil and Peace.  But I have been given a miraculous gift.  

I dwell in Peace.

I don’t know how it happened, or where. I am no better than anyone else (probably worse).  I have a huge Turmoil wing in my life, yet, most of the time I my eyes are turned elsewhere.  For this, for the draw of Peace, I will thank God through all eternity.

I hope, no I pray, that you can lay your head in the room of Peace.  Turmoil is still there; it will always be there, until it is burned down and all of its contents forged into Beauty.  I know it’s alluring to linger there.

But the angels are singing, calling to you.  Can’t you hear them?

The Lord Giveth…

This is weird, and it’s neat at the same time.

Aside from a little white-ness, I have the exact same hair I had at 17.  It’s my saving grace.  In the locker room, men make little self comparisons (no ladies, believe it or not we don’t make that comparison – you know the one.  Men just don’t roll that way).  Back on topic:  I see men in their 30’s who still have bodies like they did in their 20’s.  I see men older than me, who, based on wardrobe, are far richer than I.

But, I do not fret.  I have more hair on the top of my head than they do.  All of them, younger and older.  I giggle at the men who panic in the face of a receding hairline, and shave their heads, like PeeWee Herman: “I meant to do that!” 

In my mind, this makes everything even.

Now, the bad part.  God, in his infinite wisdom, decided that if He was going to bless me with a lifelong head full of hair, there would be a price to pay.

I also have skin like I was 17.  I’m 43 years old.  My mother told me, when I was in my early 20’s and my skin still hadn’t cleared up, “Don’t worry, it’ll clear up by the time you’re 30”. 

But, at this point in my life, it’s cool.  I’m not so self-conscious about it anymore.   If I had to choose between having a headful of hair and adolescent skin or being bald and having clear skin, it’s not even a contest.

I’m beginning to think that hair is tied to the self worth of men the way breasts are to women.  But then again, I could be wrong.  Most seem obsessed with being so skinny they no longer have breasts, which IMHO is a shame.  But maybe “skininess” is the physical characteristic women tie to self worth, as men do hair.

And in both genders, the tying of the biological to self worth is probably a societal construct.  I’ve had many women tell me that, although they’d never say so publicly, bald (not shaved) heads are turnoffs.  And men aren’t stupid, we pick up on this. 

The same probably goes for the women/weight connection.  Or the women/breast connection.  Men cannot help what they are attracted to, and women pick up on this.  But, I need to give it more thought.

I just think it’s weird that the two things I had always thought would change the most drastically with my body since adolescence never happened (at least not yet).

There’s a Feeling I Get When I Look To The West

Click here.

(click to embiggen)

I didn’t get to my camera till the sun had already gone past the horizon, but I still think it’s pretty neat.  An extremely low light situation, I must have taken 60 photographs of this dusk.  But, the silhouette of the family to the left speaks to my heart.

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