Grim Reaper?

Grim Reaper?

Waspish.

Hornetish.

Hoodwinker, he.

Like a window peeper.

Not wanting to be seen.

But, with a grim purpose.

The sting prepared.

But, what?

The sting is only temporary.

That one was prepared.

No true death.

Only transition.

From one slim sliver.

To the never-ending.

Eternity with Him.

Grim?

Only from this side.

Reaper come!

Richard L. Brewer

9/19/19

Asp Enticement

I have this good friend. I have mentioned him in previous posts. He is an inspiration, encourager, and challenger. He has called my creations “pithy”. I am not as painstaking meticulous as is he. Things come to my mind. I tend to voice them, pen them, and leave them as they are birthed in my mind.

I do not intend to be disrespectful to those who endure Tourette syndrome, but I have described myself as being a bit Tourette-like. If something comes to mind, I am inclined to regurgitate it in raw-form. Hopefully, I do not do this in a disrespectful, harmful way. Rather, at least I would like to think, things come out in an unpolished, raw way that reflects my pithy mediocrity.

 Anyway, this good friend recently sent another one of his poems and it captivated me. The poem led to some email correspondence between the two of us and the following creation spilled out.

Asp Enticement

“Hiss.

Hey.

Whoa.

You gotta see this!

More than a beauty.

It holds power.

Don’t you want to know?

Forget what you heard.

This thing is the real deal.

I am not asking you to sell your soul.

You have been hoodwinked by a naysayer.

Just a little nibble.

You will KNOW.”

Know. Knowing.

Gnawing.

Regretting.

If only, NO.

Richard L. Brewer

8/29/19

Prodigal

It occurred to me that the prodigal was not all cleaned up when he returned to his father. He was a filthy mess. He was tattered. He reeked. His intention was to ask his father to be treated like a hired hand. Yet, his father ran to greet him, embraced him, and kissed him. Then, the father had the best robe brought to him and sandals for his feet. And, a ring for his finger! How extravagant. And, then the fatted calf was ordered to be slaughtered to celebrate the return of the penitent son. More extravagance. The prodigal’s father, an example of our Lord. Oh, to be like the prodigal: ready to be penitent. Oh, to be like the prodigal’s father–accepting and embracing of the one who fed the pigs? “Oh no!” I fear I have been more like the non-prodigal. I pondered and then I composed the following. Pods for thought.

The prodigal, the father, and the non-prodigal.

He assuredly stunk, the prodigal.

He had fed the pigs and pined for the pods.

He had been foolish.

He had demanded his inheritance.

He had gone to a faraway land.

He had spent his inheritance on sensuous pursuits.

Then: money spent, famine came, dire desperation.

He found a “job” feeding swine.

The filth, the smell, the revolt.

Then, an “aha” moment.

He could go to his father and beg to become a hired hand.

“I will admit I sinned and am no longer a son.”

His father’s servants had food to spare.

“Yes, I will become like one hired.”

So, off he went toward home.

He was still far away when his father saw him.

His father ran to him.

Such an undignified response.

Such love and compassion.

Crazy love!

Reaching his son, the father embraced and kissed him.

The son: tainted, filthy, and reeking.

“Bring a robe, bring a ring, and kill the fatted calf!”

“My son was dead and now is alive!”

His father was elated and loved him.

“He called me his son.”

“He embraced me in my stench and filth.”

“Me, the demanding prodigal.”

“He put a robe on me.”

“A ring on my finger.”

“He said, ‘Kill the fatted calf!’”

“I am a filthy, degraded mess.”

“Yet, he called me his son.”

“The one who was lost is found.”

“The one who was dead and is now alive.”

“He rejoiced!?”

“What manner of love is this?!”

And there was celebration.

The older son heard the commotion.

“What is going on?!”

Then, the non-prodigal erupted with anger.

“This son of yours wasted himself with prostitutes and sensuality!”

“I will not go in!”

The non-prodigal had lost nothing.

And he resented the father and the prodigal.

Like Christians who shoot the wounded.

The non-prodigal unloaded his gun.

Electric Fences

Electric Fences

I have both vivid and vague memories of my paternal grandfather. Visiting him was interesting. He whittled and smoked cigarettes. He was a man of few words. He liked to tease, sometimes in a painful way. My most vivid memories involve him trying to get the grandkids to touch the electric fence. The fence provided a very convincing shock and was to be avoided: meaning “I fell for the suggestion at least once”.

During once visit he suggested I touch the fence. I chose not to. I had learned that it did not feel good. (No shock for any reader, I am sure). He asked me if wood conducted electricity. I replied with a confident “no”. He invited me to pick a stick from the ground and touch the fence in order to verify my scientific knowledge. I obliged. I grabbed the stick and touched the electric fence. I received a very memorable shock. What a shock: my scientific knowledge had failed me. The stick was wet from the morning dew and I had not noticed. But, grandpa had.

I am leery of electric fences. I do not like the experience of touching one. That was learned in early grade school. I had been fooled twice; both times out of ignorance. I was wise enough not to urinate on the fence as he reportedly had suggested to another cousin. I am glad that invitation was not my first to the electric fence. I do not have any desire to know how that must have felt.

I think about the electric fence on occasion. Usually, it is when I am talking to a person (client) who continues to engage in the same behavior and continues to get “shocked”. Interesting how a person can continue to repeat behaviors that result in pain. As the saying goes: “If you keep on doing what you are doing, you will keep on getting what you always got”. It is so easy to repeat behaviors that lead to painful consequences.

I challenge my clients (and myself) to stop grabbing hold of the electric fence. Watch that you are not tricked by a “wet stick” and certainly do not urinate onto one. It is advisable to learn one’s lesson and avoid the inevitable—and what should be a readily predictable—shock. But, alas, many keep grabbing the electric fences of life, to be shocked again and again. There must be a better way. What (or whom) are your electric fences?

Good people pass away…

Today marks the 18th anniversary of my son, Evan’s, death. He will soon be gone longer than he was alive.

He was a gem: a gentle soul, quick wit, worth listening to when he spoke, empathetic, affectionate, and deeply spiritual. My, what a loss. It is really easy to ask “why?” Soon after his death a friend suggested I look at the following verses from the Old Testament of the Bible.

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2, New Living Translation).

My grief was (and still is) potent, but I had some sense of peace after reading that verse. He had a gentle and tender soul. He would have been deeply impacted by many events that he was able to miss. He was spared from evil. Mixed feelings. I am grateful he was spared so much evil. I miss him and always will. That is grief. It is endless.

“Light touch. Don’t try to control.”

I am not much of a swimmer. Yet, I have learned an important life-saving lesson: relax and float when in trouble. One is in graver danger when struggling than if one relaxes. Rather counterintuitive.

During my college days I worked part-time as a janitor. One of my jobs was to run an industrial buffer and keep a hallway in top-notch condition. The head janitor explained: “Give it a light touch. Do not fight it. If you do, it will jerk you around”. He demonstrated the task. The buffer glided beautifully to one side of the hallway to the other. “Now, you try” he said. “But, remember: a light touch. Do not try to control it.”

It looked easy enough. I felt a fair bit of anxiety. I wanted to perform well. I reached out for the buffer, squeezed the levers and I was in for one wild ride. The buffer took off, careened from wall to wall and I was dumbstruck. It was a good thing the walls were constructed of concrete blocks! I released the levers and stepped back with disbelief, embarrassment, as well as amazement at the power of the buffer. The head custodian repeated, “Don’t fight it. Give it a light touch”. He demonstrated again and the buffer smoothly glided back and forth across the hallway. It was like watching poetry in motion. Then, it was my turn again.

I grabbed the handle, squeezed the levers, and I was in for another wild ride. I stopped the machine and looked back at the head custodian. “Light touch” and “Try again” were the only words I remember. I did “try again” only to repeat my first two experiences. I obviously had no idea of what a “light touch” meant. The buffer took off like a wild animal and I was certainly not in control. I stopped and looked back at the head custodian. “Keep trying. Light touch. Don’t try to control it”. Having said that, he walked away. I watched him until he rounded the corner before I attempted the “light touch” once more. The result? A careening, out-of-control monster which I had not tamed and of which I was obviously not in control.

Several more attempts with the same results. I stopped in exasperation and not much optimism that I could learn to operate the buffer. I turned and looked down the hallway. There he stood, the head custodian, laughing at me. I know, now, that he was laughing with a sense of recognition learned from his own experience. He winked and walked away.

“Light touch” he had said. I had to try again.

With determination not to control, but to give it a light touch, I reached out and lightly held the handle and touched the levers. The most amazing outcome: the buffer glided across the hallway like poetry in motion. A life-lesson learned. To attempt to control something with that much power was beyond my ability. It took a light touch and the buffer did what it was designed to do. “Do not try to control it. Give it a light touch.” Counterintuitive like floating. But remarkably effective.

I sometimes ‘forgot’ the “light touch” and I was jerked around like a wimp. Moral of the story. Trying to be in control does not work as well as a light touch. I have been jerked around by more than an industrial floor buffer. And, I do not wonder why. “Light touch” works rather well in so many areas of life.

Alphabet Soup

Life can be/is very hard. Confusion is common. Confusion does not feel pleasant. I was once told that confusion is good:  “It means you are working on a solution and haven’t arrived at it yet”. I found that explanation to be comforting. There could be an outcome, but it was not clear what the outcome would be or when the outcome would occur. That got me to thinking about vegetable soup.

I have had food poisoning twice in my life. What miserable experiences. I hate to vomit. Yet, when I was in the middle of the intestinal upset, I was wanting to vomit to alleviate my misery. Vomiting brought about the end of the suffering. It was a very intense, very messy, and very unpleasant experience. But, it brought about relief.

What if I ate a bowl of alphabet soup and it caused food poisoning? It would need to come out. It would not be pleasant, it would not be neat, and it would not be pretty. The letters would certainly not come out in alphabetical order. Some (maybe many) of the letters would be unrecognizable. The result would be a rather unpleasant mess. But, it would mark the beginning of recovering.

There is a parallel to food poisoning and emotional/stress poisoning. Both cause misery. Both require a type of vomiting. Neither allows for an orderly exit of that which needs to be addressed. As is true of the vegetable soup, what we need to “vomit” emotionally will not come out in “alphabetical” order. No words, no paragraphs, no chapters, no edited final product. But, in order to recover, vomit we must.

Emotional vomiting is unlike food poisoning. With food poisoning, all of that which comes out is cleaned up and flushed. Emotional vomiting allows for some salvaging of the vomited mess. One has the opportunity to make use of the vomited letters–to make some sense of the upset. Those letters can be used to create sensible meaning. Words, sentences, chapters, new narratives, and healing can take place.

I hate to vomit. But, vomiting can be my friend. That is true of both literal vomiting and emotional vomiting. Unrelieved, both perpetuate misery. Vomiting is not neat and orderly. It is messy, it can smell, yet it is necessary to alleviate the upset. Both are arduous. Both leave us worn out. Both require some time for recovering. Sometimes I am glad I can vomit.


Richard L. Brewer