Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Big Toe

Okay, so I am one of the most severe critics of people who, in a prayer circle, ask for prayer for their "big toe." Which is a symbol of things that really don't matter in the big scope of things.

Okay, so I have two big toes which annually take the brunt of my foolish, perhaps, hobby and avocation of mountain climbing. For those of you initiates or, worse, couch potatoes, who don't have a clue about what downclimbing on steep slopes can do to one's largest toes, here's the deal: they jam into the ends of one's boots, causing significant trauma to the space beneath the big toe nail, which gets bruised, then turns blue because of dead blood, then the toe nail dies, then the new toe nail pushes up from underneath, causing a most hideous and double depth toe nail that takes at least a year to grow out. The unfortunate thing that happens is that one, like me, who is back into the craft of climbing, is already doing the damage of a new year before the old toe nail is done growing out. And that is doubled, because every year I have two toe nails which bear the brunt of these climbs. My toes annually look like death. Sigh.

So, I have been good this 2010 climbing season. As of July 8th, I had already climbed 5 14ers, and 3 other peaks, and 6 other hikes, without damage to my almost healed big toe nails. But Friday the 9th, I did a mountain with my daughter Annie, which is a fairly severe up and downclimb. And somewhere on the way down I realized that my right big toe was in trauma. sigh. Again. sigh.

And sure enough, when I got home to Colorado Springs last night, I could see and feel the story. The area beneath the big toe nail was swollen, the color beneath it was already changing color to a dark blue, and i was in for another year of ridiculous, deadened, dying, god-awful-looking toenail.

So, drawing back to something my dear friend Dan Clader told me years ago, having come to the end of my patience and endurance, I did the only thing that I had left to my disposal. I got out my elecric drill.

Yep. Dan told me years ago about one of his kids having one of these toenails, severely under pressure from the damage done underneath the nail, and how they, around the campfire, found a way to puncture the gathering pressure underneath the nail. And how they got the pressure relieved with something. . .

And so, the electric drill . . . and I decided, in that moment in the garage, that I was ready to try something I had never done, and, good grief, enough is enough, and, heck, I'm a real self who has courage, and personal strength, and, crap, if it doesn't work, then I'm big enough to live with consequences, and dang it, I'm done with this pressure under the toenail.

So, I drilled it. Took the smallest drill bit I had. Hooked it up to the stupid drill, and within, what?, 15 seconds, blasted through the toenail and blood pooled and trapped underneath blasted like an oil geyser up through the tiny hole, and at once there was relief from the pressure and I laughed like a mad man.

Yep. The toe's good. No pressure. No dark blue hideous color. Just a tiny hole in the big toe nail.

Just in case you missed it, I'm a stud. Don't you ever turn your back on me when I have an electric drill in my hand. . .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blessed is the Man

So many of my troubles in life I have had a direct hand in. And God is not shy about disciplining me over such things. But just when I fear that He is so done with me, I am overcome again and again with the experience of the love of God. Like the writer of Psalm 94. . .

"Blessed is the man You discipline, O LORD,
and whom You teach out of Your Law,
to give him rest from days of trouble. .(His discipline is all love, to give me rest)

For the LORD will not forsake his people;
He will not abandon His heritage. . . (I really am NOT alone)

If the LORD had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. (Which means I would have had to disappear, and I have NOT had to disappear)

When I thought, 'My foot slips,'
Your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. (Even in that which hurts so much, He meets me with love, covenant love, hesed love.)

When the cares of my heart are many, (which they have been)
Your consolations cheer my soul." (comfort, real comfort. . .)

Psalm 94: 12-14, 17-19

Monday, July 5, 2010

Life as a Poem

I must admit that when I began to get drawn into U2's magic, I was bothered by the ambiguity of their lyrics. I would ask people, "What do you think that line in the song means?" And they would inevitably say, "I don't know." So, I would listen, listen, listen, over weeks and months and years, and along the way a phrase would suddenly erupt in meaning. Sometimes it would come because someone far more astute than me would see what was in the band's heads, name it, and the lights would go on for me. Sometimes, though, I would have the revelation myself, the scales would fall off of my eyes, and I would be gripped by something so much more powerful and weighty than what I had ever imagined lay quietly in the words. And now, over several years, I am discovering that that first opening up has been followed by more discovery, deeper meaning, a seemingly endless exploration.

So, for example,at the beginning of "Walk On," on their first recording of it, Bono intones "Love, not the easy thing, the only baggage you can bring; love, it's not the easy thing, it's all that you can't leave behind. . . " You ponder it with its' double negatives, and find yourself confused and unsure of what he is saying. But over time, it becomes clear that it is exactly the message of I Corinthians 13, that this kind of love never fails, will never be erased in its impact, that indeed this love carries over into the Age to Come, and that nothing can take away the goodness or impact of acts done in love, agape love. Those two opening sentences are for me, now, both an impetus to love with a selfless love today, in my circumstances this day, and also to glimpse ahead into the Age to Come, when I will discover that every act I have done here in love will await me, be present in the Kingdom of God, and I will get to walk in the goodness of it. And this very awakening cracks me open to the wonders of that Age which is coming..

This, I am beginning to see, is the wonder of poetry. It is, usually, a short collection of words that consternate us. We don't know what the poet means, and it frustrates us. But oftentimes, there is something there that grasps us, and won't let us go. We go back to the text over and over again, turning over the thoughts that are evoked by that text, and finding over time that meaning emerges, insights we simply could not access in the first or second or third readings. And sometimes, this portal becomes an entrance into a world of meaning that has laid in wait for us.

What struck me is how the Word of God operates the same way. We encounter God in the written Word, which in that encounter becomes the Living Word, Jesus Himself personally speaking to us. And that encounter in a passage of Scripture becomes a portal through which the truth of God expands, goes deeper, takes us to new and more marvelous insights. It is so much more than data, information, or a nice linear sequential argument. Rather, it is the portal through which we enter into the Age which is coming, which is present to us through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And in the end, it is all about Personal union with the living God, which the poets can only point towards.

This, I think, is life experienced as a poem. A portal into which the living God enters, and, by His invitation, draws us into a bigger Story, the only one that matters.