Gratitude List 1035

1. Slept really well for over eight hours, between about 10:30 and about 6:45, with very vivid dreams that seemed meaningful. Thankful for REM sleep. I never used to get it when I was homeless, sleeping with one eye open out there, ready for anything.

2. Courtyard Cafe, just finished the $3 traditional breakfast, on my second cup of free Pikes Peak coffee with unlimited refills.

3. Though my thoughts were anxious and scattered on awakening, I noticed after setting foot outside that there was never a moment of inner rage like there often used to be. Even when the thoughts of the guys I’ve been mad at crossed my mind, there was no anger in the thoughts. That’s what we call progress.

4. 36 days now since I gave up a certain personal habit that turned out not to be a good thing for me. Others, I suppose, may enjoy it, as they will.

5. It felt good to show up ten minutes early for church yesterday morning, instead of ten minutes late.  There’s something about finding a seat in the pews that’s to my liking, and having people come up saying hello for a while, that’s much more peaceful than rushing in late and having to wonder if I stick out like a sore thumb.  

6. Though I couldn’t find my spikes this morning before setting out in 23F weather, I succeeded in getting the laces of my snow boots tied up, despite frazzled ends.

7. As I walked toward the Courtyard Cafe, I contemplated how much I am invigorated by the marvelous cold weather of these here Northern regions. I sure don’t miss my past in California, where it was hot, hot, hot — in more ways than one. ;)

8. I was blessed by this blog post that Khaliela, who heads up our local Writers Guild, wrote for GoDaddy.

9. Dreamed all night about this guy whom I might be working with. I was working not only with him but with all the people he works with. They kept giving me practical advice on getting along well with others in the workplace. They kept saying: “Play by the rules. Don’t just show interest in yourself, show interest in Michael and the others. You’re only human. Go by Romans 3.”

When I woke up, a large figure I often see to the left of my front door loomed into the kitchen. I sometimes take this man to be an Angel — I all him the Angel of Dreams. He always shows up after a particularly meaningful dream. When my eyes open, I see him, and he slips stealthily into the kitchen, after which I see him no more.

I opened up the Bible and read these words:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

10. I’m on my 3rd cup of free coffee.  A friend just texted and said she’ll be on her way over.  It’s good to have friends.  It’s good to have a home.

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Gratitude List 1023

I’ve been doubling up on my gratitude lists lately, usually doing two a day instead of one.  I tend to do that when times are hard, because they really do help me keep my spirits up.  And then, ironically, I sometimes realize that times are not so hard after all.

1. Though I only slept 3 1/2 hours from about 10pm till 1:30am, it’s really okay.   There’s nowhere that I have to be today, and I can make my own schedule.  I’ve paid all my bills, and I’ve got food in the kitchen.  Thankful that I have a place where I can sleep, and that I’m not outside in the 32 degrees of cold.

2. I just remembered feeling a real sense of peace when I was walking home from the café in the drizzle last night.  When I was at peace, I saw a vision of someone whom I love, that she’s totally depressed right now, and I was able to pray for her with compassion.

3. When I was in the space of #2 above, I no longer felt threatened by this person whom I love.

4. Reading Proverbs 7 is reminding me it’s probably not a good idea to go out with any particularly flirtatious married women.   ;)

5. Really glad I decided to go to church yesterday after all.  Everything about it was nice, including the fellowship afterwards.  I didn’t know Tom R. could play the 12-string like that, and it was also the best I’d ever heard Mary R. play the flute.  Also, Amy P. got up and read very nicely.  I remember thinking her mother Kathy must be proud of her.

6. Finished the polished draft of #2A The Age of Nevermore”  in my vocal score. Really got into it, how all the extended notes acting like drones against the melody lines in the quintet are like the “sirens of the damned” that the lyrics reference.  Can’t wait to score the instrumental ending with all that cacaphony and synth-brass counterpoint over wailing guitar solos while my protagonist is in torture on a gurney at the psych ward.

7. I love that cute café, the way they just sit there and let me work, and they don’t kick me out or anything like they would have when I was homeless down in California.

8. Grateful for that Friday night meeting at the Recovery Center, and for Cindy being the secretary.   I think I’ll try to go every Friday now, and just go once a week between now and April.

9. Just saw a notification of a new email reply from Lynne Fisher.  This will give me something to do before I go back to bed.

10. I’m in a good mood now.  God is Good.

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The Responsibility of Those in Authority

The words of King Lemuel – an oracle his mother taught him.

What shall I say, O my son?
What, O son of my womb?
What, O son of my vows?
Do not spend your strength on women
or your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to crave strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of justice.
Give strong drink to one who is perishing,
and wine to the bitter in soul.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
and remember his misery no more.
Open your mouth for those with no voice,
for the justice of all the dispossessed.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
and defend the cause of the poor and needy.

–Proverbs 31:1-9

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Who Has Woe?

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions? Who has complaints?
Who has needless wounds? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
those who go to taste mixed drinks.
Do not gaze at wine while it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a snake
and stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your mind will utter perversities.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas
or lying on the top of a mast:
“They struck me, but I feel no pain!
They beat me, but I did not know it!
When can I wake up
to search for another drink?”

–Proverbs 23:29-35

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Tuesday Tuneup 33

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of peace.

Q. Are you at war?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom?

A. With my enemies, of course.

Q. And who are your enemies?

A. Good question.  I tend to think that there are two of them — two young rapscallions from the hood, deluded young gentlemen who are often ringing my doorbell at odd hours of the night, for lengthy periods of time, and only to request annoying favors of me.

Q. These two young rapscallions — are they truly your ememies?

A. Probably not.   My enemies are probably more internal than external.  

internal enemyQ. What do you mean by that?

A. Well you know, I have all these inner blocks or demons that try to prevent me from staying the course, from keeping to what I’m about, and all that.

Q. But if a guy rings your doorbell at three in the morning, and keeps ringing and knocking until you finally give up and go answer it, and you can’t get back to sleep, how is that your fault in any way?

A. You know something, you’re right.  Almost any O.G. would not be able to get to sleep after something like that!

Q. So why are you being such a pushover?

A. That’s the internal enemy I’m talking about.  I’m a pushover.  The Kid knows that once a month, I’m going to be available to walk down to the nearest ATM and get him money for his chewing tobacco.   So what I’ve got to do is just say NO and say it firmly.  

Q. Why haven’t you done this already?

A. He keeps catching me off guard.  Both of them do — the other one’s not so flagrantly nefarious – but he’s still got his angle.  And his angle involves me, because—

Q. Because?

A. Because I’m a pushover.  And worse yet, I just told the whole world about it.  Pretty soon, every rambunctious rapscallion in town will be knocking on my door.  On MY door!  On the lockable, locked door that I EARNED – after putting in twelve hard years on the streets, where there was no door to be locked, or even to offer the slightest separation from me and all the evils of the night.  What a fool I am to willfully descreate and violate the sanctity of my sanctuary!   Damn, I’m pissed.

Q. And now?

A. And now what?  I just have to make the internal change, and enforce it, and be firm about it.  It’s like — a life lesson.  It’s something I’m supposed to learn here, while I’m on this Earth, and take it to the next stage of experience, when I’m not.

Q. You think so?

A. Sounds good to me.   Not knowing how to stand up for myself and say NO to people landed me in a gutter for over ten years.  I daresay I shan’t make the same mistake twice.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 32

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Right where I am right now.

Q. Where’s that?

A. In a cozy cafe on Main Street, not very far from campus.

Q. What do you like about where you are now?

A. It brings out the best in me.

Q. And what, by the way, is the best in you?

A. The best in me is a part of me that seems most authentic, less contrived, and less compelled to veer from my designated course.

Q. And what is your designated course? 

A. I think you know.

Q. Do I?

A. Sure you do.  It’s all over this blog, isn’t it?

Q. Is it?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Is that why you’re being evasive?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, isn’t it evasive of you not to provide me with a direct answer?

A. No – not evasive.  I’m just tired of it all.  Tired of always having to define myself.

Q. Is that tiredness a form of ennui?  Or perhaps burnout?

A. No, not really.  I’m not tired of the designated course at all.  I only tire of describing it.  

Q. Well then — if you don’t wish to describe the course itself, can you tell us what to veer from it looks like?

A. Certainly.  I veer from my course when I encounter a certain kind of compulsion.  

Q. What are you compelled to do?

A. I dare not say.

Q. But if you will neither describe the path nor its detours, how can we possibly learn anything about this disparity?

A. That’s a very logical question.  And I can’t say I didn’t anticipate it.   So I have prepared an illustrative reply.   May I proceed?

Q. Why not?

crossroadsA. Here in this small, close-knit, Art-positive community, there are two establishments in close proximity to each other on Main Street.  Like many of our residents, I have been known to frequent both.  Down the way from this cafe, there is a very different kind of place.  It is a much louder place – a looser place.  A place where just about anything could happen at any time.  

Q. A bar?

A. Not exactly.  No alcohol is served.  But the energy is a bit like a bar.  Logical social boundaries are often broken, and with great disregard for consequence.  

Q. Do you find this threatening?

A. Yes.  Threatening – and at the same time, compelling.

Q. What are you compelled to do there that you would not do elsewhere?

A. Lots of things.  Just about anything associated with a casual cultural standard.  Cussing, for example.  Or discussion of — you know, dirty things.

Q. Dirty?

A. You know what I mean.   Personal pollutants.  Those things that soil the soul.

Q. Why on earth would you want to pollute your person?  Or soil your soul?

A. Because to do so presents me with a consuming problem with which I am already quite familiar, and therefore comfortable.   Thus it provides an escape from a present-day problem that is unfamiliar, and thereby making me very, very uncomfortable.  To the point that I can’t even sleep at night.

Q. Didn’t you allude to this yesterday?

A. I did.  Point No. 5 on my gratitude list alludes to it.

Q.  So you wish to replace an uncomfortable problem with a comfortable one?

A. Exactly.  The comfort would ease the pain.

Q. Isn’t that dangerous?

A. Very much so.  That’s why I left the building.   I was not only compelled — to do something that I ought not to do — but sorely tempted.  The temptation came in the form of — a woman.  A beautiful woman.  Need I say more?

Q. Has enough been said?

A. Perhaps not.  Only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed.

Q. Where did you go when you left the building?

A. That you know.  I went down the way, to the cafe where I am now so content to sit.  

Q. And this cafe holds no compulsions to veer from your designated course?

A. Not in the least.   It rather fortifies my commitment to the course that has already been laid out for me.

Q. How so?

A. Here I have met the finest Artists.  The greatest musicians.   The most inspired social visionaries.   The most engaging speakers, and the most fascinating storytellers.  I am never compelled to veer when I sit here.  I am only compelled to expand upon that which I already have.

Q. Then why didn’t you just come to the cafe in the first place?  What compelled you to go to the other place down the block?

A. I don’t know.   I don’t want to be thought of as snooty or aloof.   

Q. What does it matter what they think?

A. It doesn’t.  I think I just learned that.   Well — I knew it — all along.  But I didn’t think I could practice it.  Now I do.  I was scared when I sensed where the woman was heading me.  And I fled.  After fleeing that iniquity, a sense of peace has come upon me.  The peace has come upon me — because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

Q. What does that got to do with anything?

A. I have an echo on this planet.  An echo in whom my voice resounds.  When my echo is dissonant — or suspended, or irresolute — often I am as well.   This is because the echo feels that her sound is that of an angel — yet in reality, the Angel has fallen. 

But now, you see,  I am consonant.  Released.  Resolved.   And the peace that transcends all human understanding now guards my heart and my mind — through the Spirit of the God of Love.   And if that incomprehensible peace has come upon me, then it can come upon my resounding echo.   And my Echo will be at Peace.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 933

My gratitude list from Saturday morning.  (Edited Nos. 9 & 10, in case you’re a person reading this who is on my “G-List.”)  Many blessings and peace to all.  

1. Solid sleep amid unusually vivid dreams, probably about 7 1/2 hours from around 930 to 530. How often did that happen when I was homeless? Glory to God, man.

2. Just received an insight about something I’ve been doing that’s been making it difficult to let go of the past. It’s a bit too personal for this list, but my gratitude is in the fact that, as I stop doing this thing that I’ve been doing, I will become less focused on the past, and more focused on the present, as a stepping stone to an even better future. It’s also not a hard thing to stop doing, especially given this new motivation and insight. So thanks be to God.

3. Got six bags worth of cleaning supplies, toiletries, food, and reading glasses at the Dollar Store for only $27 yesterday morning.

4. Completely washed the dirtiest dishes I’ve ever been known to accumulate by running hot water in the bathtub and washing them all there, with ease. Am also motivated to keep the dishes clean now; and, in fact, to clean up the house completely.

5. This is the first month when I got the idea to write down all my expenditures in a small notepad I keep in my coat pocket with a pen. Somehow, it’s hard to spend frivolously as I do this.

6. Switched to a local mobile phone provider, got a good plan, and will not have to change the number.

7. Arranged to meet with Shaun H. once a week, every Thursday at 8pm, and focus on practical things that will assist me in my recovery. I have a feeling it will work this time, that I will be accountable, and that I won’t flake.

8. Noted the synchronicity of my spending approximately an hour in the Dollar Store, and the lady from the church who gave me a ride down there while doing errands in the mall showed up back at the store at the exact moment when I was done at the checkstand. Things like that are somehow affirming of divine involvement.

9. Heard from Alastair, the editor of Street Spirit, with the information that she published Old Habits Die Hard in the November issue, and a request for an invoice.   Here’s a link to a pdf of the paper.  (I’m on p. 8).

November Street Spirit

10. I was doing some reading on the Christian concept of sanctification.  There’s a lot of Christian language in there that might be off-putting to unbelievers, but two things I get out of it that I think many can appreciate are these: (1) it’s okay to be an Introvert, and (2) it’s about being true to your own true self.  The world will always want to box us into one box or another.  God’s not like that, because God is not of the world.  He’s of eternity and truth, far beyond the things that will perish with the grave.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be becoming who I am.  

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