Categories
fitness gratitude journalism

Gratitude List 1418

(1) Slept in till nearly seven in the morning – a good night’s sleep.

(2) Am at the Courtyard Cafe getting the free Pikes Peak coffee.  The brew is especially robust this morning, and I’m on my second cup.

(3) This new Topanga 21-speed mountain bike is great!  It’s wonderful that my friend helped me get it, with lock, pump and helmet too.  Did 7 miles on it the first morning.

topanga-1

(4) After a substantial bout of hibernation, I am up to face the day.  I’m a member of the community here.  As such, I am accepted.

(5) I like this version of Jack Straw that I’m listening to now.  Interesting how Google comes up with great things for me to watch on YouTube.  

(6) Just heard from Tracy the editor of Spokane Faith & Values.  She was asking again about my homelessness story pertinent to the city of Spokane, and I again had to ask her if she’d received my story on social media and pleasure-seeking.  She apparently had not, so I was able to resend it.  Hopefully it will be published soon.

(7) A third cup of great-tasting coffee, like Starbucks medium roast.  Very nice, as well as free of charge.

(8) I gave myself a three-day rest from all my usual companions and activities, and am now rested up, and eager to present myself among them once again.

(9) Not wanting to further ride the bike just yet, it feels right to be bundled up and walking briskly through the 36F degree weather.  Thankful for the free time for vigorous exercise.   

(10) God is Good.

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Categories
bible Christianity scripture

I Will Pour Out My Spirit

“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

  — Joel 2:21-28 ESV

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Categories
Artist Piano meditation

Three Minutes Peace

I was recently challenged to improvise on the piano for three minutes without exploding into a fit of passion. I turned on the recorder just as I played my impromptu prelude to last Wednesday’s Taize service, and here’s how it came out:

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Categories
Artist Piano jazz

Lullaby of Birdland

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Categories
Art Christ Homelessness prayer

Dangers of Liberation (Part Seven)

This is the final post of a seven-part series.   Though it will make more sense if you read all six of the previous posts in the series, I won’t be so demanding as to insist upon it.  My hope is that it will stand on its own, enough to secure your interest.  I don’t differ from many other writers, in that regard.

My knees got hit pretty badly by the pavement on which I had slammed them down.  They would be swollen the next day.  But I did not care.   When I stood up from the prayer I had screamed, something was different.  There was an eerie calm about my spirit that suggested a newfound confidence.   I had never prayed a prayer like that before.

St. Paul wrote: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  — (Philippians 4:8-9)

Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole.  I prayed more prayers in the trenches of homelessness than I had prayed at any more respectably churchgoing phase in m life.  But I had never felt a sense of peace engulf me as it did when I stood up from that prayer.   For the first time in twelve years, I had cast aside the sting of stigma, of all the things that people supposed my homeless experience to entail, and prayed directly that I would be granted a home.

It wasn’t long after that I remembered an old associate of mine.   It crossed my mind that a certain music teacher I’d worked with in the past had offered to get me a one-way ticket to anywhere I thought I could start a new life.   I remember being somewhat perplexed when he added: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, by the way.”  (This obviously planted the thought in my head that he was in fact trying to get rid of me.)

Whatever the case, we met to discuss the matter.  He told me he was no longer teaching, but had received a large retirement.  So he reiterated his offer, suggesting he fly me to Belize.  That was a bit far away for me.   

So I told him I would start googling keywords designed to land me in a part of the United States where I thought I would flourish.   I began to google things like “college town,” “small town,” “affordable rent,” and “low crime rate.”  I also threw in demographics tailored to me tastes, for I tend to thrive in the colder temperatures.    It wasn’t too long before the city “Moscow, Idaho” began to surface.

“This is bizarre!” I told myself.   “I was born in Moscow Idaho — but I only lived here for the first year of my life.   I know nothing about this place, except for that my dad was teaching ROTC at some college, and that he was transferred to San Diego or Long Beach shortly after I was born.”

As the city of Moscow began to work its way further up toward the front page, I took my leap of faith. 

“Why is it that I have never even pondered this town?  Nor wished to return to it?   One think I’d have been curious.  But I wasn’t — until now.”  

On a hunch, I looked on Craigslist for a room.   I saw a studio room with a kitchenette in a converted residence hotel now called the “Friendship Apartments.”  To my astonishment, the room rented for only $275 a month.

I sent pictures to my friend.  “How much do you think this rents for?” I asked.

“Oh – I don’t know.  Maybe $900?”

“Try $275.”

“We’re on!” he shouted.

Shortly later, he was buying me a $200 one-way ticket at the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.  Forty-eight hours later, on July 27, 2016, exactly ten days after I had prayed that unprecedented prayer, I was sleeping indoors in a place of my choosing.

And I have been sleeping indoors, in places of my own choosing, ever since.  Twelve years of degrading, debilitating, demeaning, undignifying, dehumanizing homelessnes was ended that simply.   It was as easy as that.

I had only asked for “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  But God gave me much more than that.   God answered all the prayers I had asked in frustration why I had to continue to be surrounding by thieves and hookers and pimps and hustlers and drug dealers, and why was I not surrounded by Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors and people more like myself.

I walked through the city gate of the town of my birth, the place where (according to my late sister) I had lived for only fifteen months.   This is the gate that I found:

heart of the arts

This is why I related earlier that all the prayers I prayed in total outrage and frustration were answered by the God Who Is Love.   If that Love can cut through hatred as thick and vicious as mine, I believe it can cut through all the hatred in the world.

Let’s hope.   There is always danger on this earth.   I have been in danger of many things since I’ve lived in doors — danger of a different nature than one finds when one lives outside.  But there is one place where there is no danger, and one home that is eternal.

“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make you free.”   — Jesus Christ

THE END 

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Categories
love Musical Theatre Playwriting

Tuesday Tuneup 72

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Re-integration.

Q. Had you been disintegrated?

A. Yes.  Flat out discombobulated.

Q. How would you describe this state of discombobulation?

A. It was beyond mere confusion or befuddlement.  I felt as though I were living in two different worlds at once.  

Q. Only two?

A. Perhaps more than two.  But two that I was aware of.

Q. Can you describe those worlds for me?

A. I’ll do my best.  In one world, there was a woman.   A young woman, with whom I have been endeared.  

Q. Romantically?

A. No.  More like fatherly.   Someone who has a beautiful spirit, but is uncultured in manner.  I felt drawn to her, not unlike Henry Higgins in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw–the play memorialized in the musical My Fair Lady.  

My Fair Lady

Q. By Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe?

A. Very good!  And she resembled Eliza Doolittle.  I therefore wished to take her into my home, and educate her.

Q. Are you certain that was your only motive?

A. Not at all.  And therein lies the second world.

Q. Can you describe the second world?

A. Full of desires for immediate gratification of base impulses.   No longer concerned with being a father-figure or an educator.   But rather drawn away by — 

Q. By lust?

A. You said it.  

Q. So how did you deal with this sudden outburst of youthful feeling?

A. I wrote in my diary.  I sent an email to the Associate Pastor.  Then I turned off the phone, so it would more difficult to keep texting her.   And I closed off our series of texts with a courteous goodbye, indicating that I might see her on the next day.

Q. Will you?

A. Perhaps not.  Something tells me to steer clear of her.

Q. What are you afraid of?

A. Myself.

Q. Aren’t you old enough to know better?

A. Yes.  But that doesn’t mean I might not fall.

Q. What does all this mean?

A. Probably that I’ve been in a certain measure of denial.  I like to think I need my space.  And I am grateful for my solitude.  But that gratitude seems to be restricted to a certain interval between about 3 and 7 in the morning, where I sit here alone, and reflect, and write.   At all other times, I avoid my apartment completely.  I hate to feel that rush of loneliness that comes upon me whenever I walk through the door.   

Q. What are you to do about this?

A. Nothing.  What can I do?   I can’t tell myself I will be alone forever.  Nor can I control who is going to cross my path.  I guess I’ll just wait.  And pray.

Q. Isn’t that a bit passive?

A. Would you rather I be aggressive?

The Questioner is silent.  

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Categories
gratitude journalism running

Gratitude List 1413

This week’s gratitude list is from yesterday morning.

1. Only slept 4 1/2 hrs btw 10 & 2:30, but I’m truly thankful to be up during the ‘absolutely quiet hours.’  I always reflect better, and also get better writing accomplished, during these early morning hours. 

2. Though I hadn’t run for quite some time, the ease with which I ran the full 4 mile course yesterday was startling. I also did 22 pushups afterwards (10 before the shower and 12 after).

3. The morning run helped me to relax and keep the Sabbath afterwards. Somehow, that kind of running helps me to be okay with being alone. 

4. My daughter and I talked at length. I always hear everything she says, despite that I am not a very good listener in other contexts. It is good to know of her situations, as they become my prayer concerns. 

5. Continuing to tidy up the house is getting me to remember that a lot of my alleged severe ADHD is resolved when I know where everything is.

6. Heard from my friend Nick from California on his work break. Hadn’t talked to him for a while and really enjoyed the conversation.

7. After that, I meditated for twenty minutes. I’m researching it, and starting to get more out of it. It’s a practice.

8. Community Action calculated my benefit to be $297 and paid that amount to the utility company.  This is great, especially since I’d only requested $99 (my current bill for two months in the Winter). Looks like I’m covered for a while.

9. Realized on reflection, I need to hold off on the column about homelessness for Spokane Faith & Values a while longer. I don’t mind expressing my opinion as long as it’s a genuine conviction. But there’s something on the last page of the 5th Draft that isn’t quite right. Tracy said she’d hold off. In the meantime, best I turn in one of my other stories.  Grateful I realized this, as I’d have stuck my foot in my mouth.  

10. God is Good.

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Categories
Musical Theatre Piano Musician

You’ll Never Walk Alone

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Categories
Homelessness Mainstream mental health Psychology

Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

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Categories
Playwriting Psychology science theology

Tuesday Tuneup 71

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Uncertainty.

Q. Uncertainty about what?

A. About whether I ought to contact a group of theologians.

Q. Theologians?

A. University professors interested in theology.

Q. Why would you want to contact them?

A. To vindicate myself.

Q. Were you falsely accused?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. What was their accusation?

A. That I did not make any sense.

Q. When?

A. When I expressed my personal theological conjecture.

Q. Which is?

A. I call it “The Clone Theory of Creation.”

Q. What’s that?

A. Hard to express.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have told me I wasn’t making sense.

Q. Give it a try?

A. That’s why I’m here.

The Answerer clears his throat.

download

A. Simply stated, the Clone Theory of Creation intends to demonstrate a parallel between the creation of life by God and the scientific replication of life that occurs during genetic cloning.

Q. What inspired this theory?

A. Genesis 1:26.   “Let us make Man in Our Image.”

Q. You believe that when God made Man in Their Image, it was like scientists cloning a human embryo, and thus creating a replicate in the image of the embryo?

A. Exactly.

Q. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

A. One would think so at first.  However, I later found numerous Scriptures that appear to confirm the hypothesis.

Q. Why did the theologians think you weren’t making sense?

A. Probably because I wasn’t!   I’d never really tried to express the theory before, and when I did, I became extremely tongue-tied.  I must have rambled for five minutes, before the professor to my right put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Andy, I hate to break it to you, but nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made any sense at all.”

Q. What happened then?

A. I was embarrassed.  I felt my face turn beet red.  And I told them so.

Q. Are you sure that not one of those professors thought you were making any sense?

A. Quite sure.  There was, however, a young man present — a student — who approached me afterwards.  He assured me that the theory had made sense to him.  But he also said something that discouraged me.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “I followed your theory, and I thought you were making sense.  But in deference to your age, wisdom, and maturity, I would like to suggest that even you, Andy, know that your theory is OUT THERE.”

Q. How did you feel then?

A. Shot down.

Q. Why?

A. Probably because of my ego.  You see, at the previous such meeting of theologians, I felt that I was shining unusually brightly.   A respected professor emeritus of philosophy even expressed a desire to have lunch with me sometime — a man held in high regard, who had spent three years in India with the Maharishi, and wrote a book about Gandhi.  People seemed to admire me for my biblical knowledge, as well as my knowledge of denominational differences.

Q. How did you pick up your knowledge of denominational differences?

A. Probably by losing jobs as a piano player with just about every denomination on the planet.  But, despite looming loss of job, I always enjoyed soaking in the sermons, and comparing those of one denominational slant to that of another.   My history of failed church jobs reads like a class in “Comparative Christianity.”

Q. So you felt that you had really shone at the previous meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. Then what?

A. Then my ego told me I had an image to maintain!   So I went to the next meeting eager to sustain my positive image, in the eyes of the professors present.

Q. And?

A. Because of that egoistic expectation, I tried too hard to prove myself.  And in trying too hard, I failed.

Q. Is there a moral to this story?

A. There certainly is.

Q. And the moral is?

A. Ditch the ego, dude.  Just be yourself.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  I’d like to ask a question of you, and of my readers.

Q. What is the question?

A. Am I making any sense?

The Questioner is silent.  

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