The Dream

old door

I had a dream last night.

Another in a decade-long series of recurring dreams.

Most of these dreams are indistinguishable from one another.

Carol and I would go see a house. I would begin opening doors and discover a room. And another door, and another room. A stairwell. And another door into another room.

After awhile, it would become obvious that no one had been in these rooms for a very long time. The furniture would be from the 50s or 60s, slightly dusty, untouched through the decades.

Every door leading into another room.

And another door.

After a few years, these dreams shifted a bit.

Instead of visiting the house, we had just moved there. I would open a door I’d somehow not seen before.

And so on.

About a year ago, the dream changed. We’d lived in the house for awhile and we already knew about the extra rooms.

In this house, many of these rooms were in complete disrepair. Leaks and cracks and open ceilings. Missing light fixtures.

Last night, the dream changed again.

We’re having a cookout.

Lots of people. Lots of conversation. Music. Laughter.

Suddenly I feel overwhelmed by the crowd and I sneak off into the deserted parts of the house.

And I see all the disrepair. Abandoned appliances from the 1950s. Broken furniture.

Some strange contraption hanging from the ceiling in what once must have been a dining room.

It feels like life used to be lived in these spaces, but no more.

I stand there, taking it all in, wondering.

Then I see them. My friends from the cookout, looking for me, looking around with the same wonder I was feeling.

remodeling-contractorThey have measuring tapes, and step ladders, and saws, and paintbrushes—and I see friends conferring, going away and coming back with some new item or tool from the home improvement store.

Mind you, they don’t ask my opinion about any of this.

They just do their work.

Finally, it’s too dark to continue and we step out onto a hidden terrace one of my friends found, and relax together under the stars, taking in the peace and beauty of a rediscovered place.

When I awoke this morning, I realized the message of the dream.

I bet you already know.

The house is me.

And half the friends in my dream—I haven’t even met yet.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

—Hebrews 10:22-25

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King of Oxymorons

washingfeet

IMG_1399, a photo by doubleedgedpen on Flickr.

I believe God is a fan of liberty.

In precisely the same way he’s a fan of everything else he created and sustains.

Here’s the kicker, though. He didn’t create individual liberty so that you and I would be free of all constraints or responsibilities. As I read the owner’s manual, I’m not seeing God being a great fan of self-centered individualism.

In the Kingdom, compassionless liberty is king of the oxymorons. The concept simply isn’t there.

We are called to liberty and we are called to service.

We are not compelled to service, either by God or by those God ordains. (Although God does have creative ways of applying pressure. See Jonah. Or Saul.)

We are called. We are given the opportunity. The resources. The empowering.

And the responsibility.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

‘Unto the least…’

Homeless-Hungry“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

Matthew 25:34-40

The Story Behind the Story…

December 19, 2010.

It’s cold where I’m sitting early Sunday morning, but as I’m waiting for the answer to this puzzle, I barely feel any physical discomfort. In front of me, crouched as far away as he can manage within the confines of his kennel, is my elderly terrier. We are on the patio. He won’t come out and he desperately needs to.

I could simply upend the kennel, or reach in and force him out, but I know this would not be helpful.

You see, my dog’s problem isn’t obedience. It’s pain. He’s in the kennel because, as tried to go through the open patio door, he crashed into the side of the doorway and hurt his right—blind—eye.

I’ve tried everything I can think of to coax him out. I carefully picked up his kennel and set it on the patio, hoping he would get cold and step out. And maybe do what dogs do when they first go outside.

No deal.

He hurts too much. And he’s too afraid.

I think the Lord is reminding me just now that I’ve been like that over my life. I’ve been like that a lot. Sometimes I’ve been handled well and sometimes not. Sometimes I just hurt too much to do what I should.

What people expect and wish for.

I know better than to try and force my little dog out. I know to move and speak very gently. But that’s all I know.

Suddenly a simple thought presents itself. It’s so simple and so obvious, I don’t understand  why it didn’t occur to me sooner.

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‘Life marches by. I suggest you get on with it.’

Something just now made me think of one of my favorite movie quotes of all time:

“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!”

Same movie: A thought we might remember today as many of us re-immerse in old family systems…

“Sometimes you have to look hard at a person and remember he’s doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way, just like you.”

Or this one:

“Don’t you think that everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret about something? It doesn’t have to ruin your life.”

Honestly? From my rapidly diminishing pile of regrets is this one:

I wish that I had learned earlier—before my parents passed from this earth—to let it go and move on, and just be. Let them be them. Let them enjoy being with their son. What is it Tim Sanders’ grandmother said? “Eat the nut, dump the shells.” Learn the lesson, discard the bitterness, and get on with life. And the people who share it with you.

Or, as Kate says to Jane:

“Life marches by. I suggest you get on with it.”

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:32


Jane Fonda talking about her most difficult scene in On Golden Pond, where cinema closely mirrors her relationship with her real-life dad:

 

‘Call to me and I will answer you…’

Bible Reader

Bible Reader in Transit, a photo by waltarrrrr on Flickr.

The origin of the feeling probably came from hearing from so many of my old friends during my birthday yesterday.

This morning, as I reviewed Jeremiah 33:3 (“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”), the Wayback Machine hurtled me to the mid-70s, college, and the first days when light began to penetrate the darkness that dominated my brain.

What I remember most, emotionally, about those days was how lonely and frightened I was. Frightened and anxious about everything. The young people I started following around believed this verse with all their hearts. They actually prayed, expecting God to answer their requests. They claimed promises. They obeyed commands. They built community around love, acceptance, forgiveness, accountability, and mutual caring.

Bolstered by their example, I too began to believe.

And it was in those days I began to hear God for myself.

And, for the first time, I began to feel hope.