Thursday, May 28, 2009

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Ted...

This isn't about a man named Ted. I was just thinking of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and it made me think of the theme song's opening line, and I thought of all that because I got a new tooth yesterday to replace an old tooth. Very Hillbilly-like. Was chewing gum and the 1996 tooth came out and my gum bubbles had little pieces of tooth in it and it was bad. So there you go.

But the day, the new tooth day, it was good. And I didn't realize it all the way until I was walking late and reviewing the day like I do now and I saw how good it was. And a friend told me the same thing, how God was kind of right where He (or She) needed to be all day, which was right there in every moment. She wrote to say she was thankful for "the opportunity to be in the moment most all day today, which is just what 'the next thing' is. And that’s where I find God, because then I get to see God in everything under my nose."

I've found that if you ask God in the morning to make you aware, He will. And awareness is a key for us all, especially for me, unaware for so long. Unaware is like walking in the fog and you hear voices and see blurred lights and you know where you were but you missed what happened. You can't truly recreate what happened because you don't honestly know. I've really come to believe that most of us go through life unaware. I hate when I do that now. For me, it takes practice.

So I get up at 5:15 in Ruston to head toward my new tooth in Shreveport. The guys at U-Pac-It were nice when I stopped for a turbo cup of decaf, and you wonder "What's the point?' but I like me some decaf, and I love the people at U-Pac-It. They smile and we talk and it's entirely good.

(This thing about the point of drinking decaf reminds me that the other day some friends saw a woman raking loads of free peanuts into her big purse; they were at a restaurant that offers you free peanuts as an appetizer and they put the buckets of peanuts on the table and the lady just raked them into her purse. AND THEY ASKED FOR MORE ROLLS!, which of course were probably shoved into a coat pocket and taken home. But the point is, you don't steal peanuts. They are, by definition, not worth stealing and next to free. "I paid 'peanuts' for that." This is like stealing pennies and just one step up from stealing air. I love a peanut but they define 'cheap.' I can see stealing a fork or a salt shaker. But peanuts?...That's just stealing to be stealing...)

Traffic was backed up in Haughton but I still got to the dentist just three minutes late, at 7:13. I like to get there early. I always request to bat leadoff, 7:10 a.m., before they start breathing the laughing gas and getting all loopy. I love my dentists peeps! So nice and nurturing. And expensive. Though that's not their fault. They even gave me two cookies.

And I got out just in time to meet my pal at Starbucks, where I did not have to buy a cup of coffee for $73 because my dentist peeps had given me a cup free (at least sort of free, not counting the new chomper). "You're like family," they said, which made me panic at first because I thought they were fixing to fire me, no questions asked, but instead they meant it as family in a grand and feel-good way, as in "You've got a false tooth, but you still belong to us!"

Beautiful, beautiful visit at Starbucks. I like to talk about things these days but even better is the listening. I have been listening for what I want to hear for years, even making a good living at it, but when you start to listen for everything, or just listen openly, you start to HEAR everything and it's hard to beat. All these people, these images of God, trying so hard to tell you something, to teach you, to share bits of themselves. This is what makes you feel entirely honored and even -- here's a new word -- humble, that people would share. I look back at the times I was absolutely shut down, didn't share, couldn't, and couldn't be of any help, even to ones I loved, because I couldn't receive or give. Wanted to; could not pull the trigger. I was good for 85 yards in a 100 yard race. And that's what makes you lonely and that's what makes, as Anne Lamott says, "...Jesus want to go drink gin out of the cat dish." Life's about relationships. Do you ever pray this?: "Please God, let me remember that every day, and don't let me ever be the person I was, isolated with a false tooth and a false spirit and a false just-about everything. Help me listen and help me be aware." I do. Not just like that, but close. And I'll tell you: if you pray that and mean it and have faith He'll keep His promise, He'll do exactly that. He'll cover you. And yes, I agree: it's a miracle.

So then, break of breaks, I go to Barnes and Noble to kill a few minutes before seeing another friend and yet ANOTHER friend calls. And he's wondering where I'm at. I'm supposed to be in Ruston. But I'm in Shreveport. At Barnes and Noble, which is JUST where he's heading! So I get 20 minutes with him.


Then I go see my other buddy, and he's recovering from nearly freakishly dying, but he's at work and healing up and he loves me and that's all good. When I tell you he has prayed for me for 28 years, I am not joking. I love him, and my man 30-WT too, for keeping the faith. And there were two ladies in his office and three guys and he introduced me to all of them and THEY were kind. Sort of beamy even, and they took the time to stop working and say hey to me. And the first guy I saw when I walked in, he hugged me; haven't seen him in eight years, I bet. Who knew?

Got a Whataburger, the third one in my life, for the trip back. And the nice lady who sold me the burger, when it was ready she walked around the counter and handed me my sack and smiled like I was her favorite uncle. Why are all these people being nice to me?

I worked the last half of the day in the office and got a good report from one of my favorites; a bit of a cancer scare has been head-faked and that's all good, and her husband is no longer wearing out the carpet, walking and worrying. And my friends at work were all cheery, like it was Christmas Day, but it was only a Wednesday.

I'm leaving and the phone rings and it's a couple and they're going to eat and want me to meet them so I can meet the husband's mom. OK. So I do that and of course she is wonderful and small and talks low and smiles big. I might never see her again. But I'm glad I saw her last night. I thanked her for sharing her family with me. She nodded like she was used to doing it, like it was her job, to spread the love around, quietly but efficiently.

And that took me home to lift weights (can't you tell!!!; well, they are very little weights) and of all people, Smart Jimmy calls! He comes through town on Wednesdays. He had to get on home but he was checking in, like I check in on him. He needs me to check in on him, which is something I would never have imagined. But he does. And I need him to do the same for me. So we do.

And then I go walking and I walked four miles and talked to God, out loud, and mostly listened, and that's when I heard most everything I just wrote.

Today Dr. Speed wanted me to eat with him and I did. And he wants me to help him chop some wood after work, so I will. And a buddy wants me to meet him for some decaf before he and his wife go out of town, so that's all good.

Wait a minute. "Is it really ALL good?" One of my favorite T-shirts. And no, it's not. That's why we loved that T-shirt. But it's not all bad. It will never be all good, not down here. Those are the rules. Which is why I pray and pray to be made aware, to not miss the good, and to be part of the peace and the joy and the faithfullness and the hope and the goodness, and not the sneaky and squeaky part of our human nature, the part that has to make Jesus thirsty for just a split second, thirsty enough to cut his eyes toward the cat dish...

(This post turned out ridiculously, embarrassingly long! Started and just kept going. Remember, sometimes what I write could be either misunderstood or flat wrong, so head's up. Posts might even be typo-filled. But we're not reinventing the wheel here. Or trying to win the pennant in one game. Just sharing is all. Hey, check out Philippians 1:3. Seeya!)