Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pre-Game Show

A new family moved in next door.  That happened a lot in trailer parks.  Homes with wheels
never bond fully with the ground they sit on.  Our family was a prime example.  In the ten years we were part of that nomadic world, we moved three times, our trailer towed to a new location in hopes that the change in surroundings would somehow make life a little bit better.  However, each trailer park was much like all the others.  Though the lure of slightly better rental rates was hard to resist for those counting every dollar.  Given the transient nature of the trailer park population and that most of our social life revolved around church, I usually didn’t find out much about my neighbors, even those less than thirty feet away.  Which made the question that inspired the Good Samaritan story particularly relevant: “Who is my neighbor?”  Often, I really didn’t know.

In this case, I was destined to know more than the bare minimum, which was that the trailer next door was occupied.  It turned out that the new neighbors had children, one of whom was a boy about my age.  Unless I had to interact with them directly, adults were mostly relegated to faceless anonymity.  But, seeing kids my age going in and out of the trailer next door piqued my interest.  There was no formal introduction where our clan trooped over and knocked on their door with a house-warming gift.  They came and went for some time without my awareness extending beyond the additional facts that there were a total of three children, a boy younger than the one my age, and a sister who appeared to be a year or two older.

Besides, by the time this kid moved in, I already had a friend.  For me, one friend at a time always worked best.  Because I knew what it was like to be the third person.  Worse yet, I had a little brother who was often foisted on me by Mom as the third person.  So, while two guys could almost always agree on a course of adventure, a third person always complicated things.  Either they wanted to do something different, or, in the case of younger siblings, were an effective damper on your plans by virtue of their youth and inexperience.  Being the third person in those circumstances is no fun, and having a miserable third wheel along is no picnic, either.

Like every friend I had during those trailer park years, this friend was about a year younger than me.  David was affable with a ready smile under a mop of thick, straight brown hair that always seemed to be hanging in his eyes.  He was not self-conscious about the amazing overbite he had, which made me both more aware of and less embarrassed by my own protruding top teeth.  We spent a lot of time together.

Something happened to alter that neighborhood dynamic one Saturday when David came over to play.  He and I were in the street tossing my football back and forth.  Street football was a staple outdoor activity for us.  Unlike baseball or basketball, football required only the ball, not a basketball hoop or a bat and gloves and a large field.  The two of us could wile away hours working out passing routes on the uneven asphalt.  

That morning, while we were moving our imaginary team smartly down the field with well-timed down-and-outs or slants, the neighbor kid came out to observe.  I was sure he had seen us do this before in the weeks that had lapsed since they arrived, but had never seen him actually appear interested.  This time he stood watching intently for a couple of minutes.  The next time we paused near his fence, he spoke.  It was the first time I had heard his voice.
“Hey.”
We looked up from the complex play diagram we were scratching out on the street with a small rock.
“My cousin is going to be over next Saturday.  You guys want to play a game?”
To retain any sense of self-respect, both David and I knew the answer to that.  We looked at each other then back at our challenger and said, “Sure.”
“Okay. See you next week.”
That was it.  He turned to go back into his house.  We had taken a couple of steps closer to his yard during this brief encounter.  Close enough for me to see that he was several inches taller than I was and his build contrasted with my painfully thin frame.  The way he bounded up the steps into his trailer was not reassuring, either.  David, though not skeletal like me, was even shorter than I.  He cocked his head in the direction of the recently closed door.
“If his cousin is as big as he is, we could be in serious trouble.”
I nodded my head in solemn agreement.  My neighbor had seemed cooly confident when talking to us.  And we only had a week to prepare.


While the next seven days would include compulsory church and school activities, I knew what my focus would be: that window of daylight between the time I got home from school and when it turned dark outside.  It was to be a week of feverish preparation for The Big Game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CHALLENGED

When it comes to tracking, supporting, or even giving a rip about the latest social media meme, I am a contrarian.  I don’t share the cute little items on Facebook that say “If you really believe this Cute Little Moralism, you will share this”.  Similarly, in a bygone internet era when real people used e-mail and not just corporations or scammers, I didn’t forward those messages that said “If you really care about this Important Fact, forward this to 10 people.”  I didn’t take the ASL challenge.  Wait, what ASL challenge?  That was last week, for Pete’s sake.  ANCIENT History.  

Don’t get me started on what passes for historical these days.  The people who think history started with the founding of Starbucks or Apple (two of my faves, BTW) are the same ones who think the collection of savages known as ISIS are a new phenomenon brought about by American foreign policy.  Silly you, that ‘meme’ has been going on for over 1000 years — 13 lifetimes for most of us.  BEFORE computers and smartphones.  Sorry.  Did I just go political?  O.K., back on track.

One recent Facebook Challenge did catch my eye: The Gratitude Challenge.  Not as video-centric as a getting doused by a bucket of ice, not as easy as simply forwarding something that has been around the internet 3 million times.  Sharing personal gratitude takes honest effort.  It means opening my eyes to all that springs from the one central gift every person has: life.

Rather than play the multi-day challenge game, I just sat and cast around in memories and present circumstances for examples of grace in my life.  Grace, Gratitude.  Being thankful for something I didn’t deserve.  

So, here are some graces that came to mind:

A co-worker telling me back in 1995 that I needed to get onto the SAP project my company was starting.  The knowledge I acquired of complex German software has made a living for me for nearly 20 years.

Our family being plopped into a trailer across the street from a quiet, middle-aged Christian couple when I was a little chap of 5 or 6.  This led to Mom’s conversion, me meeting my future wife, and my years of growing up being rooted in a church of faithful individuals who genuinely cared about a boy without a father.

Every job I have ever held was the result of someone making the risky decision to hire me.  I had no control over that, regardless of how impressive or unimpressive my resume looked at the time.

I have not had a life-threatening injury or illness, nor have my wife or children.

I have never been close to destitute and always have had money to pay the bills.

My children love me, sometimes in spite of me.

My wife loves me, usually in spite of me.

My grandchildren love me because, well, that is what they do.

I have worked with a number of smart, capable, honest people over the past 35 years.  Most of them would do that little bit extra for others without expecting anything in return.  Just part of their job.

I have read 100’s of good books and have ‘just a few more’ sitting around waiting for my attention.

I live in an era of amazing technology such as the computer that fits into my pocket.

After slogging through some painful years, my sisters and I are in many ways closer than we have ever been.

I can get out and run four miles three times a week.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Fresh popcorn and family movie night.

Barnes & Noble (long may it live).

My mother still pressing on with resilient faith and good humor.

Ice cream on hot summer days.

I have never gotten up in the morning wondering whether I would have anything to eat that day.

I have friends who listen first, listen carefully, listen thoughtfully, then offer advice.

The Pacific Ocean.



The more I ponder, the more I realize I could go on, and on, and on, endlessly.  Perhaps that is the lesson of this gratitude challenge: I have limitless reasons for gratitude, because Grace is not limited.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

You ought to be ashamed

This is worth getting out of bed for.

The aroma of bacon in the morning takes me back to childhood school days.  Mom would

come into the bedroom I shared with my brother and wake us.  
“Time to get up, boys.”
At that moment, groaning and going back to sleep was what I wanted.  Then, the smell of bacon wafted in the door.  It was enticing in a way that no maternal pleading could match.  We didn’t have bacon all that often.  It was a treat, really.  But it sure made getting out of bed a whole lot easier.

I remember one morning in particular when I was in about 5th grade.  I had gotten dressed and headed out to the front of our trailer, following the scent of bacon.  Our compact eight foot square kitchen-dining room had just enough space opposite the stove and sink for a small circular table that we used for most meals.  The bacon was crisp and on my plate, bread was in the toaster, an egg was sizzling pleasantly in the skillet where the bacon had been fried.  A single mom had little time to spare on weekday mornings with four kids to send off to their various destinations before she left for work.  So she often started breakfast cooking, then we would have to finish the job.  If you want to eat, there is a strong incentive to keep an eye on the stove and the toaster.  The toast popped up and I slathered some butter on it while the egg neared over-medium perfection.  Mom disappeared to finish getting ready for work.

[As an aside, I suspect I am not the only person who finds a delightful irony in the 21st century ‘discovery’ that eggs and meat and butter and other fats are not nearly the evil they were thought to be in the cholesterol-crazed 80’s and 90’s.  Fascinating how science has come nearly full circle and found that the classic breakfast my mom fed me was actually quite beneficial, particularly for a growing boy who needed proteins and fats and carbohydrates in large quantities.]

Soon my egg was done.  I turned off the gas burner and scooped it up with the spatula to transfer it to my plate.  Unfortunately, the same bacon grease that made it easy to get the egg out of the skillet was just as effective in reducing the friction co-efficient between the egg and my plate.  The egg kept right on going when it hit the plate, sliding off and plummeting down to the floor at my feet.  A yellow explosion of yolk with bits of grease-coated egg-white splattered my shoes and the linoleum floor.  In a frozen moment of time, several realities hit me:  I had a mess to clean up;  I had wasted food; there wasn’t time to cook another egg; I had barely enough time to eat breakfast before I had to leave for the bus stop; my morning routine was shattered.  
Did that just come out of MY mouth?

And I swore like a sailor.  

Well, maybe not precisely as a sailor would have sworn if a sailor had been in my egg-besotted sneakers, because I hadn’t been around sailors enough to know how one swore.  What I did swear like was a school-aged boy who not only learned formal English in school, but during recess also acquired a repertoire of colorful words not found in the grammar book.  In fact, the group of boys I hung out with had developed a skill of seeing how many different swear words they could string together without taking a breath.  So, what goes in must come out.  Or, as the Man from Galilee said, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18).  My anger and frustration had burst out in colorful language matching the colorful mess on the floor.  

As I turned to put my plate on the table, I noticed Mom had reappeared in the front of the trailer.  I looked at her and she looked at me.  Instinctively, instantly, I knew I done something far worse than dumping my egg on the floor.  I had disappointed Mom.  A deep sorrow welled up in my gut.  I was ashamed.  Ashamed that Mom had heard those words; words that no-one should ever hear, but especially not Mom.  Ashamed that the boy that could recite his Sunday School memory verse without fail was exposed as a sham.  Tears began to roll down my face, I crumpled into a chair head in hands and the only words I could get out of my mouth were “I’m sorry.”  Over and over.

Mom’s just know things.  It is why they are mothers.  She put a hand on my shoulder and quietly said, 
“It’s only an egg.”  
We both knew it was more than just an egg, but that short phrase let me know that she still loved her boy, even in his fallen state.  Then, she told me to eat the rest of my breakfast while she cleaned up my mess.  The act of biting and chewing calmed my aching heart.  Mom wiped up the egg with an efficiency I marveled at while I sniffled over my hasty meal.

Not much more was said about that outburst of mine.  I had a school bus to catch, Mom had to get to work.  But I never forgot.

Over forty years later, when movies and songs and books and magazines and electronic text are heavily weighted with the profane, my childhood incident seems so trivial.  Shame is an outdated notion in this era of self-actualization where being true to yourself is more important than who you might offend in the process; where people flaunt their indiscretions on talk shows and Facebook.  But it seems to me that in ridding ourselves of shame, we have lost some fundamental dignity, both in how we view ourselves and how we treat others.

Those unprintable words I learned in childhood are etched deeply into my neural network.  I still have moments of muttering #&@!% in moments of anger or frustration.  The sad truth is, there are things I have done since that day that are far more shameful.  The best inside of me is still tainted.  Yet, I am grateful that those experiences have not cauterized my conscience, but instead have been lessons in forgiveness like that early one Mom taught me.  And forgiveness is nothing to be ashamed of.




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Safe With Me

A bruised and battered woman, a celebrity male.  Emotion, passion, codependency, a baby, money, fame.  All on awkward public display.  The sad story of NFL player Ray Rice and his wife Janay.  It has played out many times in many ways as long as men and women have been uniting in love or lust or both.  In the middle of all the conjecture about why his anger leads to violence and why she is so ready to defend him, something stands out to me.

Regardless of whether you see marriage as ‘fair’ or not, the majority of women end up hitching their lives to a man in a vast leap of faith.  Granted, the man is taking some risk, too.  But, culturally and biologically and practically, it is the woman whose identity becomes subsumed in the relationship.  She becomes wife and mother.  He remains identified by what he does.  

One feminist response has been: Women must be independent of men if they are to thrive.  Men cannot be trusted.  Who am I to blame them?  When we live in a culture where the first thought upon seeing a woman with a bruise is “Who hit her?”, something is dreadfully off track.  But in spite of that, men and women keep trying.  We still need each other in ways profound and mysterious and fundamental.

In the ‘Why I stayed’ narrative, we hear horrific tales of other women trapped in dangerous relationships.  We hear about why women are afraid to leave and what may be the root cause for men’s anger.  But I wonder, where are the men saying: we need to be worthy of the trust women place in us?   

In the “Liturgy of Solemnization of Matrimony" from the Anglican Book of Common prayer, mostly unchanged since 1559, are these familiar words: 
I _________ take thee ________ to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.*
That section is followed by one that has become less popular over time: 
WITH this Ring I thee wed, with my Body I thee worship, and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Those lines “with my Body I thee worship” call to mind even older words: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
In the middle of calls for prosecutions and resignations and “something needs to be done”, the most compelling alternative is the man who can answer with one, and only one example: his treatment of the woman who has risked her personhood by committing her life to his.  The testimony that this woman has always been and will always be safe with him.

For those men I know who are walking that path, thank you for the example you are setting in your home, your extended family, your community.  Thank you for teaching by example that women are to be honored, protected and cherished.  Thank you for laying down your life for the sake of another.  That is manhood.  And that is why she will stay.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

*Here is an excellent explanation of “I plight thee my troth”.  But to spare you the lengthy, delightful linguistic detail, a more modern rendering and just as meaningful is “I promise you I will be true”.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Few Tickets, A Few Years Ago

There we were, the four of us packed into a booth at the local ice cream parlor, two on either side of the worn formica-topped table.  Mom, my older sister, my wife, my cousin.  Each of us were relishing a cold ice cream on a warm summer night and swapping stories.  About traffic violations.   

Some stories are compellingly rare, such as winning the lottery or taking an exotic trip to Nepal, or taking an exotic trip to Nepal funded by lottery winnings.  Traffic ticket stories are commonplace.  Most Americans of driving age have at least one.  Still, since these events constitute the extent to which most of us experience the ‘wrong’ side of the law, we remember them.  

Other stories are made worthy by the teller - the selection of words, the timing of the delivery, the inflection of the voice, facial expression.  Add in an appreciative audience with a shared history and the thread of humor fairly hums with mirthful joy.  I heard one such story while sitting in that ice cream parlor in Wyoming.  Though it will lose something in the translation from oral to written form, here it is as best as I remember it, with a bit of literary embellishing to fill in what I don't remember.

Once upon a time, in 1978 or 1979, when the United States was in the middle of a gas crisis and Jimmy Carter was President, there lived a young man, barely eighteen.  His home was in central Wyoming.  He may have looked something like the picture shown here.  Like many men of his age, he was trying to make his way in life as best as he could.  He had no grand ambitions, except perhaps to earn a little money, have a little fun, avoid hurting anyone, and learn something along the way.

The young man was employed by a meat packing plant, where livestock are turned into marketable chunks of dense animal protein for human consumption.  It was physically demanding work, but not the most mentally stimulating.  Early one afternoon when the work was a bit slow, the owner of the plant came through looking for volunteers.  He needed a couple of workers to drive a load of ‘inedibles’ down to a rendering plant in Denver.  Inedibles would be the stuff that, well, is what you have left when all the edible stuff has been packaged.  Guts, fat, floor scrapings, bones.  Nasty.

The hero of our story did a quick mental comparison.
    “Should I stay here cleaning freezer floors and meat hooks or drive to Denver?”  
He quickly concluded that the road trip would be a more interesting way to spend the afternoon and raised his arm to signal his willingness to volunteer.  A second employee, another young man perhaps two or three years older, also signed up. 

After hearing some brief instructions about their destination and obtaining the keys to the vehicle, out to the truck they went.  It turned out to be a bit bigger than either of them had expected.

The older of the two got in behind the driver’s seat, while my cousin took shotgun.  They sat bewildered for a moment at the sight of not just one, but three levers sticking up from the floor.  Finally, the driver said to his companion, “Ya ever driven one of these before?”
    “Nope.  Have you?”
    “Well, no, but it can’t be that different from a regular truck, can it?”
    “Probably not.”

After fiddling with the levers for a bit, they discovered that one was indeed the gear shift.  The second one seemed to have something to do with shifting as well.  Sort of an in between or half-gear shifter that required an extraordinary amount of eye, hand, and foot coordination to operate in tandem with the primary gear shift.  The third lever engaged an additional drive axle.  After grinding their way through the levers a few times, they settled on keeping the extra axle out of operation and using only the primary shifter.  This last decision meant winding the engine up pretty tight to make sure that dropping into the next full gear wouldn’t stall the truck.  Shortly, with a little revving and grinding, they were on the road.

Now, you may be wondering what employer in his right mind would send two inexperienced drivers with a commercial truck out on the highway for a round trip in excess of 300 miles.  In the wild west of Wyoming and likely most places in the U.S., the cost differential between a licensed commercial driver and a couple of unskilled laborers in a meat-packing plant was and is significant.  So, rather than pay to have a driver around that wouldn’t be kept busy most of the time, or hire one temporarily, it was quite a potential savings over the course of a year to use the ‘volunteer’ method.  Legal?  No.  Cheap?  Yes.

As the adventurous duo cruised within a few miles of their destination, they began to notice an odd smell.  The closer they came, the worse it got until it was overpowering.  It had something to do with the rotting contents of the rendering vats where all the ‘leavings’ are chopped, sliced, diced, cooked and separated into various chemical compounds used in an astonishing variety of ways. 

Needless to say, our two stalwarts were highly motivated to leave their load and be on their way.  After emptying the truck, they switched places and were back on the road north.  As they approached the border between Colorado and Wyoming, they came upon the port of entry with a sign saying that all commercial vehicles needed to stop.  The younger driver looked at his partner.
    “Are we a commercial truck?”
    “I dunno.  Don’t think so.”
    “Well, should we stop?”
    “I didn’t stop on the way down.”
    “Right.”
So, they kept on going.  Not long after passing the port of entry, however, they saw the dreaded flashing lights of a patrol car in the rear view mirrors.  After they stopped, the Wyoming state trooper pulled up behind them and walked up to the truck.

    “Do you know you were going 63 in a 55 mile-per-hour zone?” he inquired. 
(At the time, with gas prices having soared over a dollar per gallon, the government had deemed it necessary to throttle back freeway speeds as a means to conserve petroleum.)
    “Well, um, no.  I didn’t think it would go that fast.”
The trooper, who had heard his share of creative excuses by speeding drivers, glared incredulously into the cab.
    “You didn’t think?  What do you mean, you didn’t think it would go that fast?”
     “I couldn’t really tell how fast I was goin’.  The speedometer’s busted.”

That revelation dramatically changed the tone of the encounter.  In spite of the ignorance of the two drivers, they were indeed driving a commercial vehicle.  Regulations covering commercial vehicles specify that all components be in proper working order.  Having a broken speedometer set off alarms in the troopers mind. On the spot he initiated a complete vehicle inspection.  In addition to the broken speedometer, there were six other violations, for a total of eight tickets, when including the speeding citation.

The zealous trooper, in his eagerness to do a thorough vehicle inspection, neglected to ask for the log which drivers of commercial trucks are required to maintain.  Since, to our knowledge, Wyoming has no published criminal statute of limitations on traffic violations, we are not saying that the log wasn't filled out, just that the officer failed to verify the log.  Whether he confirmed that the driver had a commercial rating on his license is also lost in the murky historical record.

That collection of citations cost the owners of the truck a cool grand in fines, as well as the cost of repairs.  However, it is unlikely the experience changed their business practice.  In the years since, my cousin has done more commercial driving, but without any more 8-ticket experiences.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The New Wild West

The following is a reflection on one aspect of our recent visit to my Mom's home town of Douglas, Wyoming.

-------------------------------


They seemed to be everywhere that morning.  After a weekend spent at homes many miles and many hours removed from this prairie town, a horde of laborers, from the marginally capable to the highly skilled, returned to their grueling routine.

These were weathered men in rough, dusty jeans and boots.  In the hotel dining room they were devouring selections from the breakfast buffet and washing it down with coffee.  The rectangular outline of a box of cigarettes or the circular imprint of a can of chewing tobacco marked many hip pockets.  Caffeine and nicotine, staples of the working man.

Intense eyes peer out of faces creased and burnt by days in the sun and unceasing wind of the Wyoming plains.  Their bodies are shaped by strenuous physical toil, producing a certain taut lean-ness reminiscent of an earlier generation of transient workers who rode these plains a century ago called cowhands.  Not the careful, narcissistic sculpting of regular trips to the local gym, theirs was the hardness of hours and days and weeks of constant labor.

In the hallways and the elevator I was passed by men carrying backpacks or tool bags out to their pickup trucks.  A few were standard half-ton trucks, but often there were heavier 3/4-ton or 1-ton rigs laden with tool boxes and equipment.  Where I was used to seeing mini-vans and SUV’s and economical sedans, the parking lot and nearby gas station was full of bulked-up trucks destined for a long drive out to the fields of work: the trusted steeds of the modern western man.  After topping off the gas tank, they ‘saddle up’ for a drive over narrow winding roads, treacherously crowded by the influx of traffic.

Where their predecessors would have herded recalcitrant cattle to the railroad, these men guide fossil fuels to railcars, either oil fracked from miles under the earth or coal scraped from nearer the surface.  The cargo ultimately powers homes and automobiles of people with little understanding of where the petroleum or electricity came from, much like the city dwellers of an earlier era who dined on beef-steak that arrived on their plate long after the cattle drivers had done their work.

As I watched these men, I wondered how long I would last in a day on their job.  I thought about my esoteric work with data and information systems.  Where results are measured by invisible changes to software.  Where I sit in an air-conditioned cubicle farm surrounded by other knowledge workers in office casual attire worried about whether our workstation is ergonomically correct, not whether someone will be injured or killed on the job or just making it to the job site.


Oh, yes, we do our part to bring products to market, to contribute to the necessary stream of capital flowing in the economy.  I am thankful for a mind that allows me to perform complex analytical tasks.  But those coal and oil workers, following the new boom in Wyoming energy brought on by the irresistible economic forces of scarcity and demand, are at the top of the food chain.  If they were not ripping that hard, black coal from the ground or sucking that reluctant dark oil from deep fields of shale, I would be sitting at home, in the dark, with nothing to do.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why I Pray

When my hands have done all that they can do,
and there is still much more to be done...
I have given much thought to prayer lately.  Mostly about why.  Why pray?  Why do I sporadically, instinctively persist in an activity that is so intangible in practice and results?  What I read or hear from others on prayer is often how: the practice of prayer.  But always how is inextricably linked with results.  I may not be the most observant person, but I cannot point to
examples of a given outcome explicitly following a specific prayer of mine.  So, I have discarded the results-orientation of prayer.  When I meet a friend for conversation, the only outcome I hope for is a deepening friendship, that we will know each other better for the time spent together, that we will have been encouraged.

So, I have tried to put prayer into that framework - a desire for a deeper knowing, to be encouraged as I catch glimpses of a Good that is weaving itself into my life and the lives of others in ways that are not always clear to my limited view.  As I have done this, I have come to a conclusion about prayer: I need to pray because I need a way to express hope.  Hope for things to get better when I or people I care about are struggling with life.  

Sometimes the circumstances of life are cruel and people suffer through no fault of their own.  Other times they, you, and I make foolish choices and endure the consequences.  In either case, what is done is done, it is what it is.  Think back to your high school or college commencement addresses.  How many individuals who sat around you listening to the grand speeches about the great things all of you would do have had any influence outside their small circle of friends and family?  Even the people we deem most powerful on earth are limited.  It is at that point of reaching our limit that we need hope.

When I face the ‘what is’ of my actions and it is a stinking mess, I need hope.  

When realize that those I love have only the faintest understanding of my heart’s cry for them because of my flawed and twisted behavior, I need hope.  

When insurmountable obstacles of disease or death or disaster loom, I need hope.

I need some way to lay hold of hope, to hope that things will get better, for me, for others.  Or, perhaps, if not better, then that the struggle will be purposeful.


And prayer is the best way I know of to express hope in an unknowable future.  Use the word Destiny or Fortune or Fate or, as I often do, Providence.  Whatever you want to call it, prayer is my recognition that there are mistakes I have made that I can’t fix, there are people I love whom I have hurt, there are places I will never go and things I will never do that I probably should have.  I cannot relive those moments and correct those failings.  When I pray, I am simply expressing the hope that the gap between all I wish to be and what I really am will be bridged.  That there IS a Grand Scheme, and in that Grand Scheme, all my limitations have a perfect fit whether it makes sense now or not.

“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us…”  Romans 5:2-5 (HCSB)