Dreams are funny

I think I dreamed a memory last night–it was the strangest thing.  If that’s even possible.  But it was very clear and detailed.  I think I was 6 or 7 in the dream, and I woke up in the middle of the night and went into the kitchen.  My dad was sitting there in a chair, with my mom’s desk light on, holding my brother’s bb gun.

“What do you need?” he asked me.

I needed lots of things, but all I wanted was a drink of water.  “I’m thirsty,” I said.

“Get your drink,” he said. “But be quiet.”

“Why do you have Timmy’s gun?” I asked him.

“Mice,” he said.  “They’ve been leaving shit pellets under the sink. And on the floor over there by the phone.”

“Don’t we have mousetraps?” I asked.

“Well, son, we do.  But I can’t shoot them in the cupboard.”

“Oh, OK.” I said.  I got a small glass of orange juice and drank it standing by the sink.

“You’re really going to shoot them?” I asked.

“I hope so,” he growled.

“Ok, then.” I said.  “I’m going back to bed.”

I wonder if he got them?  Can’t remember that part.  I know my dad hated mice, though.

Ipod challenge

OK, not really a challenge, but I thought it would be interesting.  I have a lot of weird stuff on my Ipod, and I figured everyone else probably did, too.  So if, like me,  you listen at work, hit shuffle songs, and then list the first 5 songs you hear….

1. Fly to the Angels–Slaughter

2. Give/Turn Your Eyes–Third Day

3. I’ll Be There for You–Bon Jovi

4. Link Sausage Lady–Tapwater

5. Be Thou My Vision–Selah

Power trio

I’ve always loved the band Rush, since I was a teenager.  Always thought they had great songs, and were awesome instrumentalists.  I think I saw them four or five times in concert and they were always really good shows.  But I noticed something at each concert, something that never changed–no chicks.  I could not escape the truth–women do not like Rush.  I could not really understand why at first.  They play well, Geddy Lee has a great rock voice.  What’s not to like?

On the other hand, there’s this:

The singer looks like a cross between Ichabod Crane from the headless horseman story and Olive Oyl from the old Popeye cartoons.  And the other guys look like yahoos you’d meet down at some dive bar, making piles of peanut shells next to their barstools.

So I guess I can understand. 

….sigh…good music, though……

The invalid

The Healing at the Pool (John 5: 1-8)

 1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.[b] 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

 7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

 8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

I was listening to an online sermon a short while back that was about this incident (an Aussie evangelist named Tim Hall), and it made me think a lot.  The story goes that every once in a while, an angel would stir the waters of this pool, near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem.  If you were fortunate enough to be the first person in the water after it was stirred, you would be healed.  John does not specifically mention other instances of healing, but considering how many people would hang out around the pool waiting for the water to stir, having no idea when that might be, suggests it had to have happened at least a few times.

On the other hand, the word also could have spread through a sort of middle-eastern grapevine, and not actually ever have happened.  Maybe it was some sort of mineral spring, and the stirring of the water was brought about through some sort of underground venting of air, or water of a different temperature that would cause the water to be disturbed.  In any case, John only relates the point of view of the invalid.

I just love how Jesus asks him “Do you want to get well?”

The invalid doesn’t know who Jesus is at this point, and as far as John relates, Jesus does not identify himself–he probably just stepped carefully over and around the other sick and injured people and made his way this particular man.  Think about what that must have been like for a minute.  Here is a pool, surrounded by men, women and children in varying stages of illness, and probably dying in many cases.  There would have been a lot of people, on a lot of mats.  There would have probably been moaning, and crying.  Praying, too.  Probably lots of that.  And all these sick, diseased, and dying people waiting for something to maybe happen.

I would imagine no one would want to be anywhere near this place–it had to have been like a leper colony (and I would hazard a guess there would have been a few lepers there, too).  Yet here comes Jesus, walking right into this place of sickness, right to this particular man.  And asking him if he wants to get well.

Tim Hall mentions that a lot of times, we’re like that invalid, waiting most of our lives for the water to be stirred. 

I think that’s so true.  Of course I can only speak for myself, but in thinking about it, of course I’ve done that.  I’ve certainly felt like an invalid for a large portion of my life, at least, a spiritual invalid of sorts.  I’ve sat back and watched as things happened in other people’s lives and wondered why they hadn’t happened in mine.  Wondered why every time things got stirred up, I was always the last one into the water.

I guess the question is: Did I want to be well?

The answer is that sometimes I didn’t.  I was comfortable in my sickness, because I knew it, and knew what to expect of it.  I knew all too well what life was like as an invalid, and was truthfully not that interested in the alternative.  What would happen if the water was stirred and I got into the pool?  How would my life change?  What would healing feel like?

And how would I stir the water?  Somehow I always knew it was wrong to simply sit there and wait for it to happen.  Yet that is what I did. 

People say that God helps those who help themselves.  I’m not really even sure how true that is, but I think it’s true that Jesus wants us to be active participants in our own healings.  He will not arbitrarily step in and just go “Bam!,” like Emeril.  And while he will kick things up a notch, he won’t do it unless we ask him to.  I think one of the greatest gifts we receive from Jesus is the opportunity to choose Him over ourselves, to “lean not on our own understanding,” as proverbs says.  And he desperately wants us to lean on His.  Every time I wonder if that’s true, I try and think about Calvary.

Who would do that for anyone?  I wouldn’t.  And who’s water would I stir?  The truth of that is I’m too concerned with watching the damn pool for myself.  I suppose the question of the day is how do I get around that?

I ask Jesus to stir the water of my pool.  I ask Him to take my hand and help me get off my mat.  And if I don’t get the answer I want right away, I ask again.

                                                             And again.

                                                                     And again.

Jesus rewards perseverance.  You find that everywhere in the bible.

So, comfortable as I am on my mat, waiting for waters to stir, I can’t spend the rest of my life there–I’ve already been doing that for more than 38 years.

So do I want to get well?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Stir my water, Lord.

Year of firsts…

I discovered one of life’s basic truths shortly after I returned to school with my arm in a cast in the ninth grade. And that is, it’s pretty hard to type with your arm bent at a 45 degree angle and encased in heavy plaster (no fiberglass in those days). I did sit there for 1 whole class before I realized I would have to try and transfer to something a little more cripple friendly. Since my “accident” had happened on the third day of school my freshman year, it was still early enough in the semester I could probably swing it, if I could find something that wouldn’t have already built up a backlog of homework.

I spoke to a counselor, and was given several options, but only 1 appealed to me even a little bit–it was a first period drama class. I’d never even thought about something of that nature prior to falling on my butt and breaking my arm.

Still, it was either that, or something truly horrible like economics, or government. I’d had my fill of government in the 8th grade, and had no interest in experiencing it again.

My antipathy toward econ went without saying–you would have had to pay me to take that darn class. So drama it was.

It was so interesting once I got in there, too. I’d always felt like a bad fit for school, and sometimes even to life in general. But the people I met there were so much like me, in the sense that they were all pretty different, and in some cases, way different than everyone else. I loved it immediately, even before I did a single scene. There were a few of the really popular kids in the class (mostly girls, and one football player), but most of them were, well…geeks. Like me. Yet within the class, everyone treated everyone else the same.

I was introduced, and sent into a smaller group with about 6 people, and shortly after that was assigned a partner for my first scene–a girl named Angie. She was one of the popular girls, and was extremely pretty, had a great figure, and wore expensive-looking clothes. Of course, I was immediately intimidated. Not just by how she looked, but also by how she seemed. I was this really poor kid with his arm in a cast to the shoulder. I wore bad clothes, and had scraggly longish brown hair.

Then we got our scene–it was from the play The Fantasticks, and was only a couple pages long, about three minutes total. We went over into a corner to do a read-through, and to my surprise, she was nice, or nice to me at least. I had never so much as spoken to anyone who looked like her before, and had not expected her to be friendly, or to go out of her way to make me feel comfortable, which she did.

We read through the scene, and when we got to the last couple of lines, I was shocked and horrified to see the last two words on the script, written in italics: they kiss.

They do? I had never kissed anyone but relatives, and the thought of even so much as pecking a “rad” looking girl like Angie nearly sent me into a Scarlet O’hara-like swoon.

“Um, uh….do you, think…I mean…do we have to do this? Like…..kiss?” I managed to stammer out.

“I think so,” she said. “Makes me kinda nervous. I’ve never kissed anybody. Like, a guy.”

How was this even possible? It was true she was 14, like me, but she was beautiful, and she must have had guys lining up outside her door every morning. And the thought she would just blurt something like that out was…strange to me.

“Neither have I,” I said. And then, realizing what it sounded like, “I mean, not that I wanted to kiss a guy, but well….” and I just trailed off.

She smiled. “I know what you meant. Anyway, we’ll see if we have to do it.”

So we practiced a few more times, and then class was over for the day. It made me feel a little better that six other people had been assigned the same scene, too. But not that much better. I might actually have to kiss her. It was terrifying.

It took me almost a week to learn the lines in the scene, and I found out that not only might I have to kiss Angie, but I also had to dance with her. It just kept getting worse and worse. But I did learn my lines, and Angie and I practiced every day. The dancing was bad enough, brief as it was. But I got through it, was able to play it for a little humor, thanks to the cast on my arm.

That Friday, we had to do the scene on stage in front of the class for the first time–we were the first of all the people doing the scene. I was scared absolutely out of my mind. I think my face was almost as red as the Adidas t-shirt I was wearing. But we got up there, and the teacher said to run through the entire scene, with blocking, and the little bit of music we had for the brief dance. “The kiss, too,” he said.

Well, that question was answered.

Now, I can appreciate that he was just giving us the hardest thing to do first, so everything else would be easy by comparison. Then, all I wanted to do was puke in the mop bucket next to the stage door.

“Well, let’s give it a shot.” Angie said.

So we got on the stage, and went through the scene. And under red and blue gel lights, with my arm in a heavy plaster cast, I had my first dance, and my first kiss, with a girl I barely new. I don’t remember that much about it, other than her lips tasted faintly of mint.

In the movies, Angie and I would have gotten together–the nerd and the beauty. But it didn’t happen like that. We never even did another scene together, and we never really even became close friends. She always said hi if we passed in the hall, but that was about it.

I’m glad that I broke my arm that morning, though, when I think about it. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not taken that class. I still have my inhibitions, of course, but nothing like I did before I took drama. Mr Hollingsworth changed my life, and, for that matter, ended up getting me a prom date, and my first girlfriend.

After that first semester, I was able to talk my guy friends into taking the class, and then it was even more awesome. I think it changed their lives a little bit, too. Though Ben didn’t like it much, he still took it–but only for a year. The Laird brothers stayed with me the whole time, until I graduated (well, Ravi, anyway. We graduated two years before his brother).

I still like to perform, too. Seems I can’t keep myself from at least trying to do it–probably much to the annoyance of my friends, at times. I can’t help it. It got into my blood, and I can’t get it out.