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Archive for September, 2010

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” — Philo of Alexandria

It appeared I was in for a rough landing as I arrived into the new weekend last Friday morning. Not feeling so well, I almost canned my trip to the gym. But while a release of endorphins in a yoga class set me in a better frame than before arriving, it would not last.

Back home, I knew I must have some sort of stomach bug. So I found myself doing the best thing I could do: I rested. Sinking into the sanctuary of my mattress, I spent most of the day there, occasionally falling into slumber, all the while watched over by a playful, gentle spirit inhabiting the body of a calico cat named “Fiji,” and periodically getting up to take nourishment with my new diet of chicken noodle soup, toast, and Gatorade.

It was a space for grace.

Illness is the body’s call for us to surrender, and allow it to work its own recovery as we rest. I remember how the surprise of this hit me when over five years ago I suddenly found myself hit with pneumonia. While this illness was no picnic, paradoxically, lying in my hospital bed at that time, I found myself experiencing a rest and peace that I had not had in months.

And following a day of rest Friday, the next day I arose in a better place.

Logging into Facebook, I was surprised by the drop-in live chat by a newly added friend. It was someone I’d not spoken to in years, that is, until a few weeks earlier when he sent a friend request. But my last memories of this person were not so fond. Casual friends for several years, we’d enjoyed some really good moments together in the company of a larger social circle when we both lived in another city and state.

And then recently reunited a few years ago under new circumstances, it was not long afterward when in a time of need my friend invited me to speak with him about possible employment leads for which he was well-connected. We had an initial exploratory discussion which went well, and I left with a sense of renewed hope as he invited me to continue the conversation.

But it never happened. While calling and emailing multiple times, all attempts to connect went unacknowledged. I felt feelings of dismissal, like I’d been played the fool. And some measure of self contempt for having hoped. While clearly, these were deeper issues that went much further back than this experience—and served to trigger such feelings—regardless, I had no problem justifying my anger in this situation. And I invested some energy in what I might say (none of it pretty) were we to cross paths again, as my original expectations had been upended. That was then.

But flash forward more than four years. And now this. What to do? Go off?

Accept or decline friend request?

Or take it, fake it, and act like nothing had happened?

Or run, and risk stirring up an old pot anyway?

Or use those rehearsed but now tired old lines which seemed a bit out of place?

Ugh. I hate such quandaries—even more when I risk seeing something of the prison I’ve put myself in by accepting them as my only options.

Forgiveness, with no exceptions, ensures peace.

What’s that?

Accept; don’t expect.

Oh yeah. The words of a former teacher were coming back to me. And then another line:

Don’t react. Respond.

Not easy to hear, but they brought badly needed perspective. And I realized that I had a choice, when after several weeks of doing nothing, I shot out a message to my friend from long ago. Having prayed about it beforehand, I felt that it was legitimate to respond with some super brief acknowledgement of my previous anger, but only if in doing so I was ready to risk opening the door to relationship again, and not trying to make it an issue and then disappear.

And now a few days following my message, he was contacting me.

I don’t want to discount the sting of the earlier offense, nor minimize what I’d done with it in the time since. But I’m glad I listened to a different voice of wisdom the day I responded to the friend request. As it turned out, years earlier when I’d tried reconnecting, my friend’s world was crumbling around him in that season of his life, of necessity diverting his energies with issues which had nothing to do with me. And he has been in a long journey of recovery since. Of course, how could I have known this? I didn’t. Humbled, my heart began to move out of darkness into light as over the next hour I was invited into my friend’s story.

The Scriptures counsel us to “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8). How often I have failed at this. But I am grateful for the act of faith that led to my having an alternative experience bearing much fruit that I would have missed had I acted on my initial feelings. All I can say is—thank you, God.

And a day that started well ended well, too, as stories of redemption continued into the evening.

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of helping out with a fundraiser event for a most worthy organization here in Orlando called Samaritan Village—for women caught in cycles of addiction and prostitution. It was born out of one woman, Rhonda Stapleton’s, vision to offer a safe transitional space for women coming out of jail or off the streets, as in her work she found they often had nowhere else to go except back to cycles of violence, death, and shame they’d been living in. She wanted to offer a refuge that would help them to unlearn old patterns, which takes time. And moreover, not just to help leave behind an old life, but to offer a chance at learning a new one.

The catering was top-notch. But the best feasting took place as some of the women of Samaritan’s Village shared stories of changed lives, bringing the face of a vision and organization to life. At close, you could feel an energy in the room palpably greater than before.

It was another space for grace.


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“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

– Hebrews 11:1

The other night I received a call from an old friend whom I’d not talked with in a couple of years. Over the course of the next hour, we played cross country catch up on the intervening period since our paths last crossed.

Then Josh, my friend, asked me a question that caught me off guard: “Are you still doing anything with film?”

Two summers ago, not long before the last time we’d spoken, I’d flown out to Los Angeles to study for a few weeks under a modestly successful filmmaker there who was offering takers the chance to make their own short films while soaking up an industry insider’s perspective, and for dirt cheap. People from all walks of life showed up: some already working in the industry; others wanting to break in; some already enrolled in good film schools; and even one socially active senior who wanted to raise awareness on a neglected population living within his community by making a documentary.

The philosophy of our instructor: “Just do it.” Start making film, as nowadays you shouldn’t have to go to an expensive film school in order to enter the industry and do good work.

A few years earlier, I couldn’t have imagined such a wild lark. And even when going, the idea of the LA Dream Factory was not all that appealing to me. On paper, as a recent graduate from a counseling program, it almost didn’t make sense. Yet having time in my schedule as I was unemployed, and offered an invitation that spoke to something deep inside, I headed to LA.

But to my friend’s question—with the brief exception of beginning a screenplay turned novel last year—I answered with a quiet “No.” That that part of my life is on the shelf for now.

On one hand, it wasn’t easy to hear Josh’s words because they elicited an ache. An ache underscored by feeling called to live a certain way over the last eight-plus years which for the most part has been hard and had relatively few outward signs of success, where there have been many brick walls, disappointments, distractions, and temptations while seeking to honor this sense of call.

But this isn’t a story about film; it’s a story about desire. And being invited into my story by a friend who knows me—who sees me, and gets me—was a great kindness. Though recognizing my difficulty, Josh was glad that I have not deadened myself to desire. That I still live with it.

As I put it to him, I’m at a place in my life where there are certain things that I have no other possible way to reckon them now but by faith. They just seem too impossible, and out of reach. Foolish.

To live by faith is to live with the ache of desire. It is the calling to live as an artist—seeing into being those things which do not yet exist, carried by what William Blake called a “firm persuasion.”

When drawn into territory where there are no clear road maps, can you be a fool? Will you be a fool?

I’ve often been tempted to be too practical for my own good, and at some of the worst possible times. But due to the apparent foolishness I’ve succumbed to in recent years, why begin now?

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