The Space In Between

I have no idea how long it lasted, but for a few moments anyway Albert was the only person on earth who knew what he knew. How long do you suppose he stared at what he had written, E=MC2, until he said to himself “Huh, it’s finished.”? Wow, what kind of feeling must that be? What kind of weight must be lifted off of you, the moment when you know it’s finished? Margret Mitchell putting down her pen and holding Gone With The Wind in her hands. Or DaVinci putting down his brush and stepping back for the very first look at the Mona Lisa.

When we have been through an ordeal, we’ll say “…it’s over.”. It means we can move on now. When we complete a task, we’ll say “…I’m done.”. Means ya don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s only when something has just been created, that we say “…it’s finished.”.  Oddly enough, “…it’s finished…”, doesn’t mean the end of something, but rather the beginning. It’s a call to come and see. An invitation to come and witness something newly born. Let it have it’s affect on you and celebrate it. It’s finished.

Imagine getting to say that about your whole life. Not “…it’s over”, or “…I’m done.”, but for your last words on this earth, as you put your pencil down or put your paint brush aside, you get to say “…it is finished.”.

Only one man, one life, ever got to do that. For a man battered, bloodied, and hanging on a cross……..ya sure don’t expect the last words out of His mouth to be ” It is finished. “. At His death, Jesus invited me to come and witness something newly born. He invited me to the celebration. Jesus let go. He put down the pen, lay the paint brush aside, and let the weight lift from his shoulders, into perfect peace. It is finished. It is whole, alive, filled with it’s promise to the full. Everything after that, is a result of that moment.

So, where does that leave me? I like to think I’m a present to Jesus from His Father. That God presents me to His Son all broken and worthless and covered in my own nothingness and says ” Here son. Wanna see what else your sacrifice, what your life, your faith, your love does now that it’s finished? Watch what it does to Jay.”

My life gets to happen as a part of the space in between a Father, showering down all His love, and all He has to give, upon His Son. I get to live out that celebration as a gift from a Father to Son, and call it my life.

I only “think” I have real barriers to making something out of my life. Jesus says it’s finished. Not sorta finished. Not almost finished. Finished. I can stand here lookin’ whipped, or I can get to celebrating.

Taking One For The Team

 

It was draft day at Parkwood Elementary School.

My schoolyard glory was at it’s peak during marble season (big hands), with success continuing through paper football season. I struggled through dodge ball season but rebounded respectably during Yo-yo and Top season.

Now, however, it was kick-ball season and things weren’t looking too good for me in today’s draft. See, there’s a coupla things you’re gonna need, to actually take part in a Kick-ball game. An ability to kick the ball, and an ability to run. I didn’t have either one of those. Doesn’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation either. If you can kick and run, you’re playing kick-ball. If not, you’re some guy standing in a field while classmates throw red rubber balls at you. Not really the kind of thing you can make up for with enthusiasm and a winning attitude either. It’s just what it is.

The field we played on was a pretty fair distance from the school building for a kid on crutches and braces, so the teacher let me leave a couple of minutes ahead of everyone else. The walk gave me plenty of time to pout and feel sorry for myself. Oh I wasn’t pouting because I couldn’t walk. I was feeling sorry for myself because I wanted to play. Polio was nothing compared with the cruelty of not getting to play. Heaven forbid. At this age I considered play, not just my right as a kid, but my calling, my duty, my responsibility. Not to mention my talent, gift, and super-power. I didn’t know much but I did know that, not playing, was just wrong. It was seeming quite unfair to me this day that I couldn’t play, even though I really, really wanted to. So there’s an obstacle or two to overcome I admit that, but couldn’t God, just this once, miracle a way for me to play today?

As I was muttering and grumbling my “prayer” to God, the other kids began to arrive. I stood still and became an unofficial finish line for a wave of racing children. Now, I never stood in the group of kids being picked for kickball for obvious reasons, but today the draft pool was  kind of forming around me. I probably should have moved away before the two captains started picking teams, but I couldn’t quite make myself do it. Oh what’s the harm? Figured I might stay until someone notices I shouldn’t be there. To my surprise though, no one said anything or even looked at me like I didn’t belong. Before you knew it, teams started being picked.

Captains quickly took turns picking from the pool of players. Calling one name, and then another. They hurried to get through, wanting to get on to the game. I thought this might work to my advantage. Maybe in their rush, they won’t notice I was picked. I was really starting to feel it too. I somehow knew God really was gonna pull off a miracle and let me play kick-ball with the other kids today. Of course I knew I would be picked last,……but ask me if I cared. All I wanted was to play.

I did my best to seem inconspicuous as the names clicked by. The draft pool shrank quickly as kids were picked. I was beyond excited, beyond happy, beyond pleased. This was a real moment for me. And then there it was. Someone called my name.

Wow!! I just got picked. I can’t believe it. When I heard my name called it rushed through my veins like cool water. I felt it all over. It was one of the best feelings I ever had. I just got picked.

I opened my eyes and moved to take my place with my team, when something else caught my eye. There was a kid left.

A very long story, happened in the blink of an eye. It happened in the tiniest of moments. If life would have happened the way it was suppose too, I would be picked last and everything is great. But I wasn’t picked last. Not being picked last meant that some innocent boy just felt every kid on the playground look at him and wonder how bad do you have to be that they would pick the kid on crutches and braces before they picked you? He had a stigma now. A judgement on him. He got it in a second but as you know, they can take a whole lot longer to get rid of.

I saw the boy droop with the weight of what just happened. It took the starch out of me too. I just wanted what I wanted. It never crossed my mind it might hurt someone else for me to get it. I felt helpless because the damage had already been done, and there was nothing I could do to make it better. I stood still a minute thinking it through.

I struggled without ever getting a good grip on it, but I did know this. I did know that somehow I was older right now, than I was just a moment ago.

Spider On Me

   It was my very first job. but calling it that gives the impression there was work involved. Most kids my age were earning gas money flippin’ burgers or folding tee-shirts. I somehow lucked out and was getting a paycheck for listening to music all day. A very nice man at our local christian bookstore was having trouble keeping up with all the new music being released, so he hired me to keep up with it. I was in charge of listening to music, and then ordering any and everything I wanted to for the store. They kept calling it my job, but no kidding it was like getting payed to eat ice-cream. I would have easily done it for free.

  This little christian book store wasn’t in a shopping center, or a mall. It was just a small white cinder-block building out by the radio tower on the edge of town. It was owned and operated by two gentlemen that genuinely loved their work. They both considered it a calling more than a job, and it showed. They were Laurel and Hardy-like it that one was a gentle, but giant of a man, while the other, reserved and diminutive in comparison.

   Now as much fun as it was to listen to music all day, nothing was more entertaining nor made the job more worthwhile, than to listen to these two guys go at it, on whatever the days’ topic might be. It wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t a  debate or competition. It was more like a conversational event. It would begin anew each morning, and last until closing. You’d just toss a subject out there on the floor between them, and by the end of the day they will have talked the hide off of it. It may be stories, or authors, or wisdom’s, or scriptures and theologies. These men embraced a good talk about it, while I embraced a good listen.

  Bibles were the biggest seller of course. Everyone pitched in with that. On this particular morning, I just happen to be the guy at the counter when the bell on the door jingled in a customer looking for a new bible. She was a pleasant middle-aged woman, and though I didn’t ask, I would guess a mother, wife, and homemaker. She told me what she was looking for and I placed several selections of bibles on the counter between us. We talked for a while about each one and tried to narrow down what might best suit her needs.

  At some point this lady asked to see a bible on the display shelf behind me. I stepped to retrieved the bible, but when I turned back around she had jumped ten or fifteen feet back from the counter. She was clutching her oversized purse in front of her for protection, and staring at my legs with a look of absolute horror on her face. I instantly became afraid because the only time anyone makes a face like that without saying anything, is when there is a really big spider on you and they’re too scared to help.

  I froze in my tracks and tried my best to stay calm. That was on the outside. On the inside, I was something like; AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, please don’t bite, please don’t bite me, AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!

   I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to look. I moved like I was handling nitro, tense and certain something really bad was about to happen. I anticipated seeing a giant Brown Recluse spider crawling up my leg, and at speed. My first glance I didn’t see anything, which in its way made things worse. Where was it? Is it moving? Please don’t let me feel it touch my neck.

  Just as the creep factor was about to reach its apex, the lady finally spoke. “You’re a sin.”, she said forcefully and sure of herself,  but still clutching her purse in fear. Before I could grasp what was happening, she rebuked me again. “You’re an abomination to God. You are sin and evil in His eyes, and He has crippled you.”, her voice louder. I was having a hard time catching up to how fast everything was happening. One second I’m talking to a very pleasant mild-mannered housewife. The next I’m receiving my first damnation from a genuinely sincere and more than a little frightened lady, that is convinced satan just tried to sell her a bible. Not to mention I still wasn’t completely sure there wasn’t a spider on me.

   Before I could catch up,  the two owners dropped what was in their hands and literally ran to my aid. The last thing she did was point her finger and call me a sin again, as she was being hurried out the door by my rescuers. The bell on the door clanged loudly as it was slammed shut. The owners turned immediately to me in stunned silence, and not knowing exactly what to say. I had no idea how to react either, so I took the obvious choice and broke the tension with, “Well, I’ll be damned.”. (they got it)

  By now I realized that with the counter between us, she never saw me from the waist down. Until I stepped to get a bible off of the shelf, this poor woman had no idea I wore leg braces. This was a first for me. I had certainly on rare occasion known people to be uncomfortable around me because of the polio, but I had never actually freaked somebody out before. Now put away your tissues if you’re thinking I was traumatized by all this. I wasn’t. Remember, I was only eighteen months old when I got polio, so there was never any danger of being convinced I had done something at that age to make God cripple-makin’ mad. It was far more drama than trauma. It would have been easiest to think this lady was simply a little crazy, but she wasn’t. She was just a person. She was any of us. Sure , it was dramatic, but not at all difficult to understand. For her, polio was a cruelty that is beyond a loving and forgiving God. He wouldn’t do such a thing to someone He loved. That made me an abomination to God in her eyes. It’s a line in the sand. If God loves me, why doesn’t He heal me?

  Well I have only lived this one life so maybe I’m limited in understanding, but I can tell you from my experience;………What God doesn’t choose to heal, He uses to heal.

  God did heal me. He just used polio to do it. It’s understandable that people only see what polio takes away. They think sometimes that it devastates any chance of a truly full and fulfilling life. Fact is though, it gets you there a lot quicker. See, for any and everyone on this earth that longs in their heart to be something in this lifetime. To really have something and do something with their lives. ANYONE in search of their “something-ness”,…….must first pass through their own nothingness. Polio was the bullet train that took me to my own nothingness.

  As long as there have been people, we have struggled with “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people.”. We think that we’re angry because of what God may have done to us, when in fact we’re upset with Him for ever having loved us in the first place. I am in a woefully, infinitely, epicly lopsided relationship of love with God. He has everything to bring to the relationship, and I have nothing to bring to the relationship. There’s nothing I can earn to balance the scales, and no way to earn it if there was. God loves me with the advantage of perfect knowledge, perfect understanding,  with every abundance, and every ability. I love Him back with none of those things. Most of all God loves me in a state of eternity. He had an eternity before I got here to prepare, and He has eternity left to get it right. I love Him from a speck of time, in a speck of nowhere by comparison. I’m in a relationship with someone whose only flaw, whose only imperfection, whose only weakness, whose only mistake,…..is me.

  He knew that. He knew a relationship like this wouldn’t work. How am I ever suppose to believe God really knows what He’s doing, if He loves me? There is no possible way for me to EVER accept that I’m worth it to God.

  To show that He completely understood where I was coming from, He took it to its furtherest point. I thought I was bad and worthless and He decided to show me the truth about how bad and worthless I really am………..He sent His perfect and blameless son here. He knew what I would do to Him. He knew our standards, our motto “If we can kill it, it ain’t God.”. And of course He was right. I killed Him. I ended the speculation, I ended any doubt. Here God, this is the real me, THIS is what you are in love with.

  I guess I thought that would stop it. No more “Don’t you think I love you? Don’t you believe I want to give everything I have to you? To give everything I am, to you? Don’t you believe Me when I say I will love you forever? That I forgive you completely and forever? Don’t you believe Me when I say I love you without measure?”.

NOOOO, no, no, a thousand times no Lord. I couldn’t possibly accept that. I couldn’t possibly be less deserving.

  God just smiled at me and said “Of course you couldn’t son. Of course you could never believe I would really do any of these things for you. I’ll stop asking”. Then with all the love there is, He looked at Jesus a long moment, and then looked back at me and said, ” One more question though. Do you believe I would for Him?”.

  Happy Easter everyone.

Polio, And Momma’s Little Ambassador

I checked to be sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, threw my bags in the car, and went to tell momma I was takin’ off. I had work the next day, and it was time to be getting back. My mom was always easy to find. You just listen for someone whistling a song, and follow that sound. She’ll be at the end of it. Today’s song came from the kitchen. A hymn (if you were wondering).

” I guess I’m gonna get going.”. I said as I entered the kitchen. Momma smiled and made her way over to me. She fiddled over me a bit to be sure I was presentable, and asked if I had everything I needed. I assured her that I did, and we had ourselves a good hug. As she hugged me, she stroked my hair from my head to my shoulders, and with a smile she said “Goodness son, I can’t believe they let you have a job with hair this long.” She was right. My hair really was far too long for a grown-up with a job, but I worked in an industry of creative people, where it wasn’t even noticed.

Now, I have no idea why she decided the moment was right, but for whatever reason my mom picked this time for one of the classic and traditional mother/son talks, that mothers and sons have. She reminded me to watch my behavior when, and wherever I am, because you never know if someone may be watching and may be inspired or influenced by that. I should remember that, and try to be a good example.

Well, she started out just fine, but within a sentence or two she realized how funny this speech was for her and I, and began to laugh her way through it. You see, she knew as well as I did that if you walked on crutches and braces like her beloved son did, there wasn’t a chance that “maybe” someone might be watching;…….you can bet your shorts that EVERYBODY will be watching. If I knew anything about life, I knew I was being watched. Bless her heart, this was her right as a mother to have this talk, and she was being robbed. Let me give that woman credit though because she didn’t let it stop her from having her moment. She gave the whole speech. She gave the whole thing laughing, but she gave the whole speech.

Heck, it was a good speech, and I loved hearing it. And polio or not, she was right. I really did need to stay aware of myself. Being handicapped did mean that people were watching, and for many of those people it is the first time they have encountered someone like this. You want to try and make a good impression because like it or not, you’re not just representing yourself, but other handicapped people as well. You try and think of yourself as kind of an ambassador for the handicapped and act accordingly. You really don’t mind people being curious, or asking questions. Who better to ask? You take a minute and be a good ambassador if you can.

My chance to be a good ambassador, came sooner than I expected. On my way home, I stopped for a bite to eat at a family restaurant just off of my exit. The hostess was showing me to my table and as we approached, I could see a little boy at the table next to mine catch sight of me. He instantly became transfixed. Now, for the most part, adults try not to look directly at you out of politeness. Kids on the other hand, make no bones about it. They are seeing something they have never seen before, and are trying their best to figure it out. Something like that requires full attention, and so they give it.

Now, I have seen more than my share of curious children in my time, but this little boy was taking it to a whole other level. I laughed a little inside because of how intense his reaction was to seeing me. This little boy was frozen. He couldn’t move. His eyes were as wide as he could make them, and his mouth fell open with his spoon still in it. I don’t exaggerate to say he had literally stopped breathing.

I sat down and he couldn’t see me anymore, because his mother was sitting between us. That’s when the little boy started slowly leaning out from his booth to see around his mother. I thought it was cute until I noticed tears beginning to swell up in his eyes. He didn’t look frightened, just intense. At this point his mother noticed and looked back over her shoulder to see what the boy was looking at. She quickly grasped the situation and gently told him to finish eating. He didn’t move. So she called his name to get his attention, but it was as if he couldn’t even hear her. She finally reached across the table and tried to push his head back over his body. He went limp so that only his chin moved as she pushed. This got her and I both tickled. This little boy was flat-out having a problem with what he was looking at. His mother glanced back over her shoulder at me again and without saying a word I looked at her with acknowledgment and comfort that I completely understood and was willing to help any way I could.

I took a moment to remember the talk me and my own mother had earlier in the day, and wished that she could be with me right now. She could watch me and this boys mother explain to him all about being a handicapped person. It would be a real teaching moment for the child that would stay with him for a lifetime. And I was ready. I was born for this. Born to be an ambassador to others. I think it would make her mighty proud of me. Well, she wasn’t with me but still, I was going to do this one for my sweet mother.

It was then that the mother turned back to her little boy, still frozen and teary-eyed at the table, and asked so lovingly, “What is the matter son?”

I took a breath and prepared to intervene when the boy began to cry and said to his mother, ” It’s Jesus;…….and he’s hurt.”.

Listen to your mother, and get a haircut. Okay?

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bill and Melinda Gates Are Hellbent On Having Me Eliminated!! (you heard me)

As I picked up the magazine the pages flopped open, and I quite unexpectedly found myself face to face with the person who will put an end to me.

It was a small picture tucked up in the corner of the page, in the Newsweek magazine. A picture of Melinda Gates, philanthropist and wife of Bill Gates. The caption underneath the picture read;

“Melinda Gates: She Takes Aim At Polio.

Her goal is nothing short of wiping a disease off the planet,

and she is likely to succeed.”.

  Unbelievable!! It boggles my mind that a lady and her husband (and a few thousand of their closest friends, medical professionals, scientists, and volunteer’s),…will be ending a disease. Ending a global suffering,…for everybody. A whole world. It is impossible to exaggerate admiration’s for a thing like that.

  This is the very best of news of course, which is why I was confused about having somewhat mixed emotions about it. Don’t get me wrong. I am in awe of what Melinda and her team are doing. They’re making history. For all of us. What caught me off guard was realizing that in doing so, in making that history, Melinda will inadvertently make me a small part of history too. She has made me;…….the last of something.

  For good or bad, and like it or not, I am now a part, a member, of the last generation of polio. I will be one of the last stories that Polio will ever get to tell.

Warm Springs 1960-61

   There were many thoughtful people along the way, who lovingly tried to explain. They told me that it made me special, or that we’re never given more than we can handle. They told me that it was just God’s will, that there is a reason for everything, or that there are some things we can never know until we get to heaven. They were all well intended, but these were answers that would help me cope with polio. Answers that offered a way to endure polio, to get around polio. The understanding I needed was the hardest to come by. How to look her in the eye.

   I considered wowing you with the most inspirational story I could think of for this, but I can write those kinds of stories anytime. This is a legacy story. A legacy story for polio, I’ll grant you, but a legacy story none the less. I shouldn’t share something that can be written anytime. I should try to give what I can only write about one time. My legacy story for polio should be to tell what it’s like to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, and look her in the eye.

  Polio took a lot of chapters,….but the truth is, there was only one real story. That story is, and always has been, the image of polio standing in the path between me and God, and asking one question, over and over again. She asks, “If God really does exist…..”, she pauses and looks at God for a moment, turns back, and continues,” ….and He does. What are you Jay?”.

  I have always been amazed that God wrote the entire volume of my existence, out of the tiniest little detail in the story. Believe it or not, having polio was almost insignificant. It is when I had polio that made the most impact.  I was eighteen months old. Being so young, I had (nor have) no recollection whatsoever, of “getting” polio. This meant that I never knew polio as something that happened to me. I have only known polio, as being me. Polio was not God’s intent for me,…..it was God’s intent of me. This tiny grain of sand changed the question from, “Why me Lord?”, to, “What am I Lord? What am I?”.  With the one, I would live with a sense of being unfairly wronged,……..but with the other, an inescapable sense of just, being wrong.

  This idea was reinforced by the fact that there was literally no place on earth that felt like I naturally belonged. The was no sense of, “Welcome, we have been expecting you.”. More often than not it was, “Hello, we were not expecting someone like you but please, we will be more than happy to make arrangements.”. It is a selfless gesture and appreciated, but it does wear you down after a while that you’re a born inconvenience to everyone you meet, and everywhere you may go. I didn’t belong here like this, but arrangements would be made if I wanted to exist.

    If “being wrong”, and being on the wrong planet wasn’t enough, I had the added distinction of being “uncorrectable”. I couldn’t be fixed. See, God didn’t make me like this;……He created me like this. To be healed wouldn’t restore me, it would remove me from ever existing. Now I’ve got THAT going for me too. So just to recap the list of things I knew for sure,….I was completely wrong, I didn’t belong here, and I couldn’t be fixed without admitting that I never should have existed in the first place. And all because I was too young to remember getting polio.

  I thought that all of that would give me the right to say that I have indeed looked polio right in the eye. It didn’t.

  That distinction happened the first time I overheard someone say;….. that I was the reason they couldn’t believe in God. They wanted nothing to do with a God that claims to be all about love, but would unleash such an anger and vengefulness towards an innocent kid. They said that you could talk until you’re blue in the face, but nothing justifies something like that. Not even if you’re God.

After hearing that, I had no choice but to wonder how many people there had been along the way  who had shaken their fist at God, rejected Him,…..because of an encounter with me. Not because of something I had done, not because of something I said. It was because I existed. It didn’t matter what else I might be. For some, I made God unforgivable? Now, I was looking her in the eye. Now I understood what polio was all about.

I needed help.

  She was an angel, bright and alive. Not only did I hear her speak, but I was disarmed by her comforting, yet heavy southern accent. She told me that her name was Ollee, and that she had come to deliver a message. She spoke clearly and carefully as she began, “Gawd has heard your prayers Jay, and He wants you to know that you’re forgivin’.”. I smiled and told her how comforting that was, but it didn’t help me to understand. I needed to know what I was exactly? Why would God create something like me? Was I just a one in a billion mistake?. She listened intently to every word, and when I had finished she acknowledged me warmly and repeated, “Jay, you’re forgivin’.”.

  My frustration boiled over and I snapped at her, “Well I don’t feel very forgiven okay. This isn’t love Ollee. This is what you do to people you hate. This is what you do to severely punish someone. This is a curse Ollee, a vengeance, an anger. This is not what you do to people you forgive. This is not what you do to someone you love..”.

  To my surprise, the outburst genuinely upset Ollee. Tears were welling up in her eyes, when a second angel appeared and whispered comforts to her. It was an older woman that exuded assurance. While Ollee gathered herself, the second angel turned to me. Before she could speak, I tried to assure her that I never intended to make an angel cry. I had gotten carried away, and that I was truly sorry if it hurt her. The elder angel paused for a moment as though she were deciding exactly what she should say. Then she kind of smiled and just said, “First day.”. When the confused look didn’t leave my face, she continued with, “What? You thought it was just poof, you’re an angel? It’s her first day. Now sit back and listen.”. While I tried not to laugh at the surprise of what I had just heard, she turned back to Ollee and said, “Ollee, why don’t you tell Jay what made you want to be an angel in the first place.”

  A smile broke through the tears, and Ollee began to tell me her story, as though she were living it for the first time. “I was layin’ back and takin’ in the universe one day. It’s infinite vastness. It’s variety and colors, it’s lighted places and its darkened places. I thought about how old it was, how long it was, how high it was, and oh how many stars she holds. It was breathtaking. At some point I wondered to myself what it was gnawin’ at God so much, that it took creating all of this, to get it out of His system?”. Ollee’s accent made every word seem important, and deliberate. She continued, “It was  then that I realized that all of this, this entire wonderful universe, wasn’t enough. All of creation wasn’t enough to satisfy God. It wasn’t enough to fully express Himself. God’s desire was to create a perfect expression of everything that He is. everything that he is after existing for an eternity. The universe didn’t do the trick. So, God made a man.”.

  Ollee lit up as she shared this notion, but went on with her story, ” I lay there lookin’ at that universe, and wondered if at that same moment, that universe was looking at you, with the same awe and amazement. What was this thing God created, and what was He gonna do with it? There were all kinds of rumors. Some said that He might build an army with them. Some, that He would rule the universe with them. Others, that He was filling a kingdom with them. A creation that great could be used for anything.

   I wanted to find out for myself, so I watched. He hadn’t started an army with them yet. He doesn’t rule the universe with them yet, and He hasn’t filled a kingdom with them yet. Maybe in time. What I did see was completely unexpected. What does God do with this perfect creation, this ultimate expression of everything He is? Well best I can tell;…..He just gives “em away.”. Ollee looked at me with a tender heart and said, ” Like I told you Jay. God didn’t make you for gettin’ something;….God made you for-givin’. He made you for givin’ away.”.

At with those words, the dawn broke and the darkness passed from my heart. I knew that no matter how broken I was, no matter how lost and alone I thought I was on this earth. No matter how big of a mistake I was, and no matter how wrong I was for existing;……EVERYTHING changes when you are forgiven. Everything’s different when you know you’re “for-givin'”.

  Forgiven for what, you may ask. I was only an eighteen month old child. What had I done so bad, that I needed forgiveness for?

   I needed forgiveness more than I needed anything else because;… without forgiveness, love is measured. You didn’t miss that did you? Without forgiveness;….Love is measured.

  Without forgiveness, the best I can hope to do, is to salvage something out of my life. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but God never intended to salvage my life;….He intended to save my life. There is only one truth that saves a judged and measured life;…..forgiveness.

  You see, forgiveness isn’t so that  I know how bad I am or how wrong I am. Forgiveness is so that I can know for sure that the one who loves me, isn’t holding anything back. It’s so that I will know I am getting ALL of God. Not just the measure of Him I think I deserve. I’m forgiven, not because I’m Jay, but because Jesus was Jesus.

And do you know what God did with Jesus? He gave him away.

So what’s God’s plan for me? No more than Christ His Son…..to live my life for-givin’.

Saved A Princess From A Dragon Once

There was no front to this place. You had to drive around to the loading docks to get in. The giant building had long been abandoned by its original occupants, and now had found a second life as a super-sized indoor flea market serving the south. I was in my twenties and finally decided that cinder blocks and one by sixes, could no longer count as furniture. It was time to grow up a little and decorate my living space. I was at the flea market hoping to find some native-american craftwork that might suit my needs.

The size of the place was daunting, with aisle, after aisle, after aisle of every kind of merchandise imaginable. I was deciding if it might be a good idea to leave a trail of bread crumbs back to the car, when I looked up and found I was standing in front of a place that specialized in native-american crafts. Just what I was looking for/wont need the bread crumbs.

This was no flea market grade craft shop. In a sea of velvet Elvis paintings and homemade candles, was this oasis of art. There were paintings, and baskets, and artisan depictions. There was also a large selection of ceramic bowls and vases, that were being handcrafted on-sight. I wondered through the shop awhile, and ended up near the back, watching one of the artists hand-paint clay figurines that had already been fired in the kiln. He was a burley man, and surly artist. I soon sensed that he didn’t much like being watched when he worked. Fair enough. I probably wouldn’t like it either.

I started on my way when I noticed a clay statuette, laying on a cooling rack beside him. It was a simple, but graceful, elegant depiction of a native-american lady in a fine white, and black, and turquoise shroud-like garment. I had no reason for thinking it, but it seemed to me she was a princess. Maybe ten inches high, the lady stands with her head bowed, eye’s closed, and her hands folded beneath her chin in prayer. There is a necklace with a cross on it, intertwined in her fingers. A rosarie perhaps. The only details you see, are of her face and her hands. The rest is a blanket that she has wrapped around herself, to protect from the cold as she prays. It was a blanket, but it was easy to see the resemblance it had to wings protectively wrapped around her.

There wasn’t anything extraordinary about the piece. It was rather plain and unadorned in fact. But I liked it. Thought it might be nice to have an indian princess praying over me at home. So I asked the artist how much it was. He begrudgingly smuffled the price at me at having interrupted him. I tried to hurry, and handed over my money. As I reached for the statue, however, the man grabbed it and tossed it in the garbage can.

I couldn’t have looked more startled and confused, but immediately he waved his hands to assure me it was okay. He said that this one was no good, it was broken, and that he would get me a good one from the back. We both kinda laughed. I glanced at the statuette in the waste basket one more time, wondering how I missed the imperfection, she looked fine to me. No matter, as long as I got a princess.

The painter started for the back room, when I asked for no reason whatsoever,….”So, what’s wrong with it?”. He answered back that she couldn’t stand up. Her base was flawed. As he said this he picked her out of the trash, and tried to stand her on the table to demonstrate. Sure enough, she leaned to one side. He looked back at me with a slight smile at having an artist’s eye, taking pride in looking out for his customer. He then went after another princess from the storeroom. When he returned, he took a moment to point out the craftmanship of the new statue, cradling it in both hands as he showed me it’s details. He then carefully wrapped it up in paper, before putting it in a bag. I thanked him, and he smiled and nodded a “you’re welcome”, as I left.

I made it all the way to Persian rugs and spices before I stopped. If there would have been anything else wrong with her;……a botched paint job, or maybe she was cracked coming out of the kiln. Something else, anything else,…..I would have been fine. It would have been nothing more than a mass-produced, clay figurine. But she wasn’t. She was an Indian Princess, that had trouble with her legs. She couldn’t stand. It wasn’t her fault. She was just made that way. I shifted my braces to get a better stance, leaned comfortably against my crutches, and prayed;…”So, what’s that got to do with me Lord?”. We laughed, and I was off to save a Princess.

I had been standing there a moment, not quite knowing what to say, before the shop artist even noticed me. It was his turn to look startled and confused. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of how to begin. So, I just blurted out that I wanted the Princess in the trash can. There was some awkward silence, and he explained again that it was no good. I could tell he was even a little offended that I would come back in and ask for such a thing. I told him that I knew it sounded crazy, I agreed with him. It was ridiculous. I then nodded at my own condition, and the most obvious reason for such a request. A crippled guy on crutches and braces can’t be turning down an Indian Princess willing to pray over him night and day, just because she has a little trouble standing. That’s gotta be some kinda sin.

I expected that he would fully understand, but for whatever reason, he didn’t get it. He told me no. At this point I was getting a bit anxious about her. I was afraid I was too late. That maybe she had broken when she was tossed in the trash. Or maybe he really wasn’t going to let me have her.

I placed the carefully wrapped princess in the shopping bag on the counter, and slid it toward him. He was miffed by this and sternly told me that he would NOT discount the statue, because he offered to the point of insistence, that I take a perfect one. I realized then that we both wanted the same thing. He wanted me to respect the value of his work. To validate his perfect creation. That I could understand. So I emptied my pockets on the counter. I then put every dime I had on me, on the table between us. It came to a little more than twice her original price. I didn’t say anything, but I did take a deep and relieving  breathe.

The tension left us both and he handed me the crippled Princess, with a peace-offering,… “If it means that much to you, I want you to have her. Keep your money kid.”. I thanked him for the offer, but insisted he keep the money. When he asked me why, I remembered a line from the movie “The Commitments”, and told him as I was leaving “If I take the money back, the ending is too predictable. This way, it’s poetry.”.

And the Indian Princess?

A little felt under one side of her base, and she stood straight and tall. Been prayin’ over me for close to twenty years now.

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