Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Long Sleeves

“Think of--
Stepping on shore, and finding it Heaven!
Of taking hold of a hand, and finding it God's hand,
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial air,
Of feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality,
Of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm,
Of waking up and finding it Home.”
--Author Unknown

These words have taken on special meaning to me as the years have passed. I first read them when one of my dearest friends was in the hospital fighting for his last breaths. I had purchased the book that this prayer was in at a bookstore known for used books. Sometimes you can pick up a new book there for a buck. I picked up the book because of the title, All Will Be Well-A Gathering of Healing Prayers edited by Lyn Klug. When I got home from the hospital the night that Doug died I leafed through the pages of this new book and found the prayer written above. The line that jumped out to me was the one speaking of breathing new air. Doug was breathing new air, and taking deep breaths and he was not able to do that before.

We look for comfort in our lives and it is waiting for us, right where God left it. But the words are not hiding, the guide is waiting for us to count on him to take us to the place that we need to be. It doesn't just apply to books and physical spaces on the earth, sometimes the Guide is waiting at the door of our hearts, ready to take us on the journey of ourselves. I think that all too often that tour we take with him is a visit to the vistas within us that look out over our ability to love.

Pretty analogy huh? I liked it, I just came up with it. I see the tour / tour guide analogy as being the case though. Sometimes those vista views are short distances where a little wading in the creek takes us to where we need to go, sometimes they are great chasms and require trips that we will be making by any means possible. They are not impossible trips, sometimes they are just rugged ones that are hard to pack for. These trips are sometimes trips up the side of a mountain where we see the panorama and we have the oft spoken of mountain top experiences. The thing about any of these trips is that we get to see the opposite directions as well.

Sunday morning I arose from my cozy bed and padded into the bathroom to brush my teeth and take my medications. Normal Sunday, knowing that I have a little more time than I do when I go to work, I don't have to move at quite the same pace. I wanted a little something for breakfast so I had a bowl of my mother's homemade applesauce. She doesn't just make this stuff, and it isn't just a labor of love, though all those things apply, she is an artisan when it comes to this tribute to God and anyone else who has ever tended an apple tree. I took some from the freezer when I saw her on Saturday, a two pound tub of love. I sat down to read my e mail and there was an e mail unexpected; from someone a long distance from Indianapolis. Her name isn't important in this case, though I won't forget it. She had read my blog, and I think that she may have read every word of it. Thank you dear friend for doing so, I am flattered and touched. She said something that hit me right between the eyes with a virtual two by four, in her missive she reminded me that I am a, “Child of God.” While there has never been a time in my life that I didn't know that, I haven't always lived like I knew it was for sure. She spoke of her life and the joys and sorrows in it, just as I speak of the joys and sorrows in my life. If she had been closer I would have hugged her just like I hug my friend Darlene. (I love to hug Darlene for two reasons, she gives a great hug back, like a firm handshake, you know that you have been hugged, but you feel the honor and the sincerity in it and she always beats me to the punch of telling me that she loves me. The other thing that I love about hugging Darlene is that she is so thin that I can feel my own ribs when I hug her. It's a little hard for me to feel my ribs) No, if my new found friend in the distance had been nearer, there would have been a hug. A Darlenesque hug and I would have worked quickly to tell her that I love her before she could say it to me.

Now I mention all of this because since the e mail came this person has been on my mind a great deal, all through church, all afternoon Sunday, and Monday she was there. We share a life experience, but at a limited level. We have experienced a loss, the loss of a dear love in our lives. The loss of a very special person, we have lost from our present life a person who had potential that we wanted to see blossom.. I think that is one of the hardest losses to face. To know that the person who is gone from us had potential and we aren't going to see the process of it's growth or the end result, or the effect that it has on others. To the point that we will miss the affect that it will have on our life. Or will we?

I mention the analogy of God being a tour guide in our lives, but what's more, I think that he uses some of the most amazing, well, tools if you will, to get us to where he wants us to go, to get us to ponder on the thoughts that he would have us linger on. He uses an atlas where there answers and maps for the trip. He equips us, but I've noticed that in the equipping he uses a very unique form of uniforming. I can speak for myself in this case, I think that I can speak for my long distance new friend. The tailoring department for these outfits has a thing for sleeves. I've come to the conclusion that this tailoring style must be based on the uniform of the commander in chief. In fact, I feel very confident that this jacket style is exactly the one that he uses for his own uniform. God's sleeves are long, because his arms fill it and he is able to reach across the expanse of heaven and earth to use the arms within to give those hugs that help us to know of his love. He gives us these exceedingly long sleeves so that we can do the same thing. I believe that I have stepped on the ends of mine and fallen more than anything, but I try to use the sleeves, I reach out to the ones that I can see and hug them, or the ones that I have faith and believe in because I've seen them. I know that there are others who need these hugs and I somehow miss giving them the squeeze that they need to remind them of my love for them. But what's more, I've realized, or been reminded by this person so many miles away that her uniform is made the very same way, her arms were long enough to hug me on Sunday, a hug that has carried me for three days now.

We talk a lot about being God's ambassadors on earth, but we can only do that if we are willing to wear the uniform. If we are willing to put on the long sleeves and do the reaching across the miles, or across the aisles in some cases. It isn't always easy to do this, sometimes we are called upon to love people that we don't really like. In fact, I said the other day to my sister that maybe that's why I'm still single. If I don't feel the love for myself that I should, how is someone else going to have a desire to be a part of my life and show me their love? Maybe that's why when I hug Darlene I can feel my ribs, but I can't feel my hand patting me on the back in an encouraging hug. And yet, there are those who hug me, who show their love, care and concern for me in this way.

One of the hardest parts of life is losing a love. An old high school bud said to me one time regarding this very thing, “how can you miss what you haven't had?” In this case we were talking about committed relationships. Even short term dating experiences. I didn't do that when I was in school, I did very little of it later and I do even less than little now, I think they call that none. I shared with him that it is very easy to miss what you haven't had, and that it may be more painful. But now, some 20 or so years later I see that both are painful. It hurts to miss what you had, the loving relationships that you did have as well as it hurts to not have the loving relationships that you long for.

So imagine when I was invited to look at a website that is a tribute to my long distance friend's memorial page for her son. Another of her son's prepared and delivered a memorial service for his brother and in it nearly every aspect of it, (written three years ago,) matched the things that I said for my father. The prayers, very similar, the scriptures, the same, I had one different one, he had one other. But there in both services were the words...”Think of--” I have wanted to think of it as a comforting prayer for a time of loss, but the more that I read it, the more that I look at what it is really saying, it's a prayer for our daily lives, a prayer for healing. I love to hold hands, so holding God's hand will be heaven. I love a deep breath of country air, imagine it being from the stars, I think of passing from storm (read a lack of a loving relationship,) to an unbroken calm. And let's face it, is there anywhere more comfortable than home? I think not.
I've thought a lot about all of this since Sunday, all because God sent someone into my life with very long sleeves, and arms to fill them. She has offered her love, care and encouragement. I hope that she reads this and knows that I offer to her those very same things, and long sleeves full of embracing arms so that she might experience the love that we so long for.


Anonymous UNK said...

God Bless you Don for all the love you share with the world. Never, ever stop feeding my apitite for precious words that fill my eyes with tears and heart with pride. You are a diamond in the treasure chest of mankind. God Bless and HUGS. Your UNK

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