Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Striving for Daylight and Living the Dream

Most of us have standard autopilot greetings for each other on a day to day basis.  Most of us ignore these greetings, and give a standard autopilot reply.  There’s one that I used to hear on a pretty regular basis that I never understood. 
I would greet someone with, “How are you doing?”

Now this sounds like a standard greeting, but those who know me know when I say that I actually want to know how someone is doing!  I’m overjoyed when I get a real answer!
But sometimes someone would answer in a way that I just didn’t understand.  Frankly, it irritated me.
“How are you doing?”

“I’m  Livin’ the Dream.” (They always say it with capital letters.  I still don’t understand how they do that ‘cuz they say it in monotone, and usually with droopy eyelids.)

Huh?  Ok….

One day I reached a point where I heard that phrase uttered one too many times by a guy behind the coffee shop counter so I asked him:
“What does that mean anyway?”

He looked poleaxed.  Like me in third grade when my teacher, Miss Ludwig, had just called on me to answer a question in class when I wasn’t paying attention (which was often).  I think he was kind of afraid he might give the wrong answer, and it would go on his PERMANENT RECORD (said with a loud voice and an echo).

“Um…  I never thought about it.  It’s just my standard greeting.”
 “Ok, just thought I’d ask.  I hear it so much I figure someone has to know.”

I kept asking people.  No one had an answer.  I filed it in the back room of my brain (it’s getting pretty cluttered back there – too many unanswered questions, like: Why is there an ‘S’ in the word ‘lisp’).

Then I discovered a few years ago that I started to dream differently than I used to.

It used to be that, like most people, I would have a dream and wake up in befuddlement thinking the dream was true for a few moments.  I would usually feel a sense of relief that the dream was in fact not happening.  Most of my dreams were, at the least, confusing.

Things changed a while back though.  I developed an awareness of my dreams.  I will be in the middle of a dream and realize that I am in fact having a dream, and I become more of an observer than a participant.  I find myself often telling someone in the dream, “This is just a dream.  I’m going to wake up now.”
Sometimes if it’s a particularly bad dream I’ll yell at myself.  “NO! NO! NO!  THIS IS JUST A DREAM!  WAKE UP YOU IDIOT!”

There was a time in my life when I was unaware of all this.  My dreams were an escape, and sometimes a refuge.  Someplace to drift along without a care regardless of whether they were good or bad dreams.  They offered variety if nothing else.
When I understood the difference in my dreams I discovered something else.

I no longer need the escape. 

Now, when I realize I’m in the dream, I have found that my most fervent desire is to wake up.  Not because I don’t like the dream.  The quality of the dream is irrelevant.

With all the good and the bad that happens in the world today I still find that my life is a wonderful gift.  It is no longer necessary for me to escape reality.  When I realize I’m in the dream I claw my way to wakefulness.   I strive to reach daylight so I can live my life another day!
Want to know why?  I want to wake up because my life now is better than my dreams!  I wake up next to a wonderful, beautiful woman.  I wake up knowing that my kids and grandkids and the rest of my family are still out there, and they love me!
I am living the dream!  

I now find that I am reluctant to sleep.

It wasn’t easy to get where I am – ohh no!  I know there’s a lot of you out there who struggle through daily existence.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes you feel like you pay a price for living.  Sometimes you realize that you still have to deal with some nightmare people.  

I discovered that Forgiveness – both given and received – is the greatest harbinger of peace that has ever been, and I have discovered that I need to pursue it daily.

Some days hope is harder to come by than others, but I want you to know that Joy is still possible.  Every day is different, and somewhere down the road daylight is still there waiting to greet you.

“- Joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5

©Dan Bode 2017

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


My friend Marc is easily one of the wisest men I know.  I was talking with him at dinner one night, and he brought up the concept of “convergence”.

Convergence is something we see when we look back.  It’s that sense of a pattern, a nudge, a sense that someone knows something about you that you don’t when they give you a gift.  You may have a sense of something big coming your way, and you tremble in anticipation of its arrival, but you don’t know the when, or what, or why of it until it happens.  Then you look back at all the things that led up to it, and you recognize all that had to happen just so, at just the right time, in just the right way, against all odds, some that were good, some that were bad, some that you thought were completely inconsequential, and every hair stands on end.
That’s convergence.

We talked about how we take so many things in life for granted and then look back on them later and see events that were seemingly inconsequential at the time become significant.  He told me about a lesson that he used to teach his students as a high school English teacher where he would put together a calendar containing all the days of about 80 years in one sheet.  He would invite all the kids to come look down on the document laid out on the floor, and he would tell them, in effect, “Look closely at this.  This represents all of your days.  Don’t waste them.”  I imagined seeing that calendar at the beginning of my life, and at the end.  At the beginning I imagined being full of hope for all the days I still had ahead of me.  At the end I might be filled with regret at what I had never done, now faced with nothing left. 

When he told me about this I had just finished reading an amazing book by Donald Miller (who is now one of my favorite authors) titled, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”.  In it he talks about how to look at your life as a story, and how to write a better one.  In the book Miller says this: “What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given - it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.”
It made me realize how much I take for granted in every day life.

Marc said when he thought about how my wife and I came together it was like a convergence of events that had been put in motion long before.  We had each gone through so many things that caused us to be made for each other. 
After my first wife died, and I began to consider dating as an actual possibility, I remember wondering if it was really worth it to start another relationship.  I was 52 and wondered if I had enough time left to really build a life with someone again.  Was starting over really worth it?  I eventually came to understand that I was giving the concept of time control over my life.  Time is a tool, not a god, and I have all the time I need regardless of when I start something new.  My success in life is not necessarily measured by what I complete.  It’s more by what I allow love to motivate me to do.  A relationship is not a task to be accomplished, but rather a love to be nurtured to the point that it cannot die, and that is not a function of time but of devotion.
It took me a while to learn this.  I had some painful stumbles, and made my share of mistakes, but then Brenda was there, through no plan of my own.  All the things that had been set in motion throughout our lives brought us to the right place, the right time, the right person.
This reminded me of something I had thought of a few weeks earlier and hadn’t told anyone about.  I was thinking about how God had so long ago set in motion the events that brought us together and made us fit.  I imagined it as though when God made the universe He made a perfect baseball, and He pitched that baseball out into the ether, then turned back to creating the world.  But that ball travelled across space and time and eons and epochs and eras.  Through all the events of the world from the beginning that ball was travelling in the background where no one but Him knew of its presence.  Then one day, against all odds, I was in a stadium, completely unqualified to stand at the plate, holding the perfect bat, with no pitcher on the mound.  All of a sudden I knew it was this very moment I had been made for.  I knew something was coming my way, and I heard His voice echo across the heavens when He said,
And I took that perfect bat, and I made a perfect swing with every ounce of my being, and that ball that had travelled all across time and distance from forever came down out of the sky in the most perfect of arcs to meet that swing, AND I HIT THAT BALL RIGHT OUT OF THE PARK BACK INTO THE UNIVERSE FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE!

And that is what it was like to fall in love with my wife, and I think of it that way every day.

Convergence.  It’s a God thing.
©Dan Bode 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What Do You Do With a Second-Hand Grave?

Jesus had a habit of using things for purposes other than what we intended them for.
When He arrived in Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, everyone was getting ready for Passover.  He had sent a few of the disciples ahead of Him to secure the place where they would share the Passover meal.
Then when they finally get to the night where they sat together to celebrate the Passover as each of them has for their entire life up to this point Jesus does something different…..

“This is My blood, drink in remembrance of me….”

Their ears certainly pricked up at this I’m sure.  They definitely hadn’t heard that one before.

“Ummm, excuse me Jesus?  I’m pretty sure that’s not how my dad taught me to do that….”

“This is My body, take and eat in remembrance of me….”

He used the Passover as something different than what they had made of it then, but when the disciples all looked back on it later they realized that in reality it had been all about Him from the beginning anyway. 

And then, on the Third Day, He rose from the dead.

That really kind of threw a wrench in things.  

Even though He’d been telling everyone who would listen that He would, they still didn’t actually expect it to happen.  That’s not what graves are for.

And that begs the question:  Just exactly what do you do with a used grave?

A grave isn’t a grave until it has a dead body in it.  Once it has a body in it it’s not like you’re going to use it for something else.  It’s not a multi-purpose kind of thing, you know?
But a grave isn’t supposed to empty itself either is it?
What should have held Him securely for the rest of time simply didn’t.  He used for something else. 
What should have been the end, was instead used as a beginning.
He used it as the launching point for the means of our survival.

If I was the owner of that tomb, and stood in front of it a few days after sealing a dead body inside, knowing that the person I had buried actually did what He said He would do and rose again, I would wonder what to do with it. 
I could be practical, and keep trying to use it for what it was originally intended for.  I would know for a fact that there would be another dead body to put in there sooner or later.  I’ve seen death often enough in my own life to know the truth of this.

I tried putting myself in the shoes of Joseph of Arimathea, staring at that stone that should have been there, but was instead over there.  

Seeing the grave clothes folded there instead of being wrapped around the body where he had put them.

It’s difficult to fathom what could possibly be going through his head at that moment, but I think I know what I’d do.

I think I’d move in.

To be where He had been, but wasn’t.

To live where death was defeated.
Not present.

Had no authority.

Where the scent of mortal decay never lingered.

That would be a home like no other.

Then I realize that I’d just be falling into the trap that man has found himself in since the beginning.
We always want God to provide proof of Himself in what we can touch, see, taste, and hear.  Jesus showed up and gave us all that, and there were plenty then who still didn’t get it.

But here’s the thing:  I don’t have to own the empty grave, or live in it, to know the truth of what He’s done for me.  
All I need to know is that there really is a second hand grave out there, and it failed in its purpose the first time. 

It won’t ever get a second chance, but I always will.

Happy Easter.

© Dan Bode 2016

Sunday, December 6, 2015

With This Ring

There is a ring on my finger that wasn't there before. 
It fits like my finger was made to wear it.  I was used to it the moment it slipped over my knuckle and rested there.  It encompasses more than my finger.  It’s in my bones and my heart.  It is me, and it belongs to her.  What God has brought together no man can separate. 

It is a match to another ring on another finger, and they are both worn for a purpose.  This ring brings me home.  It always points me to where I want to be, and reminds me of that day when my heartbeat quickened, and settled into a new rhythm upon sight of her.  I want this ring to be with the other ring.  I want to be where that love lives. 

This love is the greatest I’ve ever known.  It is love without walls where the flow between us is constant and replenishes what we have together. 

The words, “With this ring I thee wed…” were spoken with these specific rings in mind.  They signify the bond we have committed ourselves to.  They represent the shield that protects us from the elements of this world that seek to separate us. 

With this ring I know who satisfies me.  I have confidence that we will not be separated by time or distance.

With this ring I know where my heart belongs.

With this ring I give valor, honor, and commitment to a woman for whom I have so little to offer, yet who is worth so much, and accepts me as I am nonetheless.

With this ring the dust and ashes of the past are washed away.  My path is clear from this point forward, and my steps are sure.

With these rings the words of our vows are embodied in the touchstones of reality.

With this ring I see that all the joys, all the sorrows, and all the mistakes I’ve made have led me to this point.  I get to be the man who sees this ring on my finger, and the hand that wears the other one, and the eyes that see me in return.  The eyes that hold the greatest treasure I could hope to have.

It was all worth it.
©Dan Bode 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Steps in the Right Direction

So I sold my house the other day.

I have never sold a house before, and I have to say it’s not fun.  It’s great when it’s all done for sure, but the process stinks.  There were people in my house when I wasn’t there, whom I didn’t know.   They were looking at my environment in order to judge whether it was good enough for them, and therefore judging the quality of my house.  Then I realized that as I am looking for a new house myself I am doing the same thing to others. Ugh.  I give them my sincere sympathy as I judge their living space for its suitability to my desires.  And the funny thing is that this is a completely acceptable form of hypocrisy!  Oh the joy!

The reason I am selling is because I’ve finally reached a point where I can take a step forward in the journey of my life.  There have been times in my life where blessings have poured down on me like a torrential rain that has left me breathless.  Everything comes together like it was planned that way when I did nothing but watch.  This is one of those times.  Don’t get me wrong; there have been plenty of times when I didn’t feel blessed at all, and in fact thought I was plodding through a desert eating sand.  I was carried through those times and they have made the blessings that come after that much sweeter.  I can say now looking back that the suffering is made worth it by the blessing that came after.  I didn’t feel that way then though.

This house was a good house for me.  It did what it was supposed to do: provide shelter, safety, warmth.  A lot of stuff happened there; some good, some bad.  Some dramatically bad and life changing.  I learned that a house is not necessarily a home.  A house is not defined by the events that occur within its walls.  It only becomes a home by the spirit with which you imbue it.  So the spirit of my home is completely dependent on me.

For a long time my home was not so welcoming for me.  It was a place to sleep.  Many years of my life were spent occupying space in someone else’s home, and so I didn’t have an opportunity to learn how to make a home for myself.  When I was alone I didn’t know how to “become” my home. 
And then I met a woman, and my eyes were opened.

In the process of preparing my house to be sold I needed to make some changes.  There was painting and landscaping and cleanup.  Then it had to be “staged”. 
Staging is an odd concept for me.  You have to make the house look like it’s lived in, but you can’t leave it looking like it has actually been lived in.  You have to decorate and arrange it so people can see its potential rather than its reality.  Believe me when I tell you that my life was spent hiding its potential with discarded clothes and way too much furniture.  I didn’t realize how much “stuff” I still had that crowded my life until it was gone.
Here is where this woman helped me recognize what I needed to do.

Brenda has an eye for color and decoration.  In fact I would say she is truly gifted in this area.  So when it came time to stage the house I asked her to take a look at things and see what she could do.  So she did, and it changed everything.
When she was done I found that I actually loved this house.  It felt like home again.  It was decorated to suit me and be useful.  It wasn’t just a place to take up space anymore.  When I walked in I realized that if I had understood what to do and how to express it I would have done exactly what she did. 
I told this to my friend Cliff one day and he said, “So she made your dreams come true?”
“Yes! That’s it!”
She came in and chose to know and understand me, and I her.  I chose to allow her in, and know her.
It’s ironic, though appropriate, that I got my home after she touched it, and now have to leave it behind.  
This is a good thing, because now I get to marry her. 

Now we get to make a new home.  There will be a better spirit there, a better purpose.  A better life.
We’ve both been through enough of life that we understand what we want in our home.  We started the relationship in honesty and have continued to build it that way.  So as we look for a new house we look at it in terms of how it will be suited to conform to our desires.
We will make it ours.

It’s a wonderfully odd thing for me to be able to live in a relationship without walls.  To have an opinion and have it heard and respected, and still be loved for it whether she agrees with me or not, and not lose my sense of self in the process.  We complement each other in so many ways that we are starting to finish each other’s sentences. 
It’s weird.  In a totally good way though!

Leaving the house itself is actually more difficult than I expected.  When you’ve lived in one space for long enough there are attachments both good and bad.  Buying this house turned out to be the one decision in my marriage where there was no argument or discussion necessary.  We both felt that this was the place we needed to be, and being there, for me at least, was a key to my survival.
My neighbors are also my friends (most of them anyway), and that relationship overcomes the physical distance that moving will create.  So, for a while yet, even though I don’t live there anymore, I will still automatically drive to that place because that’s what I’ve done for so long.  It’s part of me.

There is some difficulty in letting it all go.  As I went through the process of first realizing that I still had more stuff than I really wanted, and then getting rid of it, I uncovered many things I forgot I had.  I still had the pins the doctor pulled out of my hand when I broke it in high school, and my Webelo/Boy Scout badges from my childhood to name a few. 

Once I moved everything out of the house I started the cleanup.  I went from room to room vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning.  As I finished one room I backed out and closed the door.  This room was my room.  A lot of history there.  This was my daughters’ room.  I said goodnight to them there. 
Down the hall and into the living/dining area.  I spent more time here than anywhere else I think.  All the family activities occurred here.  A lot of wood went through that fireplace, and I finally got that wood burning insert that I had always wanted.

Then the kitchen.  Cleaning all the drawers, countertops and shelves for the last time, and mopping the floor.  I backed up to the door to the garage with the mop, and shut the door for the last time.  I loaded up the car with the last of everything and drove away.
I learned a great deal while I lived there.  I learned what real love is.  I learned what real commitment means.  I learned about promises and sacrifice. 

So I walked out of that house a better man than when I walked in 17 years ago.

Everything I learned there I will take with me and put it all in our new home.  It will serve as a foundation for what is to come.

Because here’s the thing: I’m not just leaving a house.  
I’m changing my destination

For 17 years every road I have traveled on has ultimately ended here at this structure.  No matter how far away I was when I got on the plane or got in the car I took the steps that led me here.  When I turned the corner this house was always there.  At the end of every day I came to this place.
I’m changing my way home.  Home will be Brenda now, and I will be Home for her.

No more baby steps. 
All big steps, and all in the right direction.

©Dan Bode 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Smoking grass - Thought I'd add some laughs from an old one...

Every kid has done something stupid growing up and I have to say I did my share.  If I made a list of Stupid Things I Have Done it would probably fill at least two large volumes; one for childhood, and one in progress for adulthood.  In the childhood volume there would be things like jumping off the roof of our house while holding a blanket over my head by the four corners to act as a parachute.  Nothing was broken, but my feet and ankles were pretty sore.  My friends kept asking me why I was walking funny, and of course they thought it was a pretty cool thing to survive a jump off the roof so I told them I jumped off the roof.  Far from thinking it was stupid they actually held me in some reverence for a while.  Every kid wonders what free fall is like, but I had actually experienced it!  The blanket didn’t slow me down, just so you know.  My parents never asked me why I was walking funny.  They assumed that if there was no blood and no significant swelling I was all right.  Besides, if I had told them I would have been banned from the roof. 

The roof was a place that I could go to enjoy the neighborhood a little more.  The view was incredible.  I could see in everyone’s backyard, and down the next street.  I would climb up on the side of the house using the gas and electric meters as a kind of ladder, and then pull myself up.  It was while I was up on the roof one day that I discovered the concept of smoking.  I looked into the backyard of the people that lived behind us.  I never knew who they were, or at least I have no clear memory of them.  My world consisted of Elm Street, San Leandro, California.  Anything beyond that was extraneous information, totally unnecessary and outside my ken.  As I pondered the questions of my young life while up on the roof this day I happened to look over into the neighbors backyard.  I saw a light smoke rising from the other side of the fence, and I heard the distinct sound of coughing.  Really bad coughing.  At first I thought it was my dog coughing up a hairball or something, but I could see him curled up in our backyard sleeping the day away.  I couldn’t see who was on the other side of the fence because they were right up against it, so I yelled, “Hey, what’cha doin’ over there?”

No answer, but the coughing stopped.

“ Is it a fire?” I yelled.

“Shut up!” came the response.

“But what’s goin’ on?”  I yelled again.  Little kids don’t have much of a sense of subtlety.

At this point two teenagers popped their heads up and looked around.  They didn’t see me at first, but my dog Grizzly saw them and started barking.  They were getting a lot more attention than they wanted to I think.  I recognized one of them.  He had tried to bully me and my friends at the park once, and my brother Mike found out about it and beat him up.  I could tell from the look on his face that he remembered me.

“What’s all the smoke from?” I yelled.

“Shut up, we’re smokin’ alright? Just quit yellin’!”

Now one of them had draped his arm over the fence with the cigarette in his hand, and this one didn’t look like the ones I saw my dad sneak out on the porch to smoke.  I don’t think my dad was aware that I knew he smoked, but I saw him out on the porch sometimes at night after I was in bed and he thought I was asleep.  He would stand out there with the cigarette and smoke one before he went back in the house.   I think it was one of those things that everyone else in the house knew about, but never talked about.  I brought it up once. 

“Why were you out on the porch smoking last night, Dad?”  I was just curious.  I didn’t mean to start anything, but my mom gave him a look that I had not seen before, but which roughly translated probably meant something like “I told you the kids would see it!”  She was not happy.

That was the only time I can recall my father looking what can best be described as flustered. 

“Don’t worry about it.” was all he would say to me about it.  He didn’t try to hide it after that though.  In fact, he started smoking a pipe in the house right after that, I think.  I enjoyed the smell of pipe tobacco though. 

Anyway, the cigarette these kids were smoking didn’t look like my dad’s.  The ends were twisted. 

“What kind of cigarette is that?” I asked loudly.

“Will you SHUT UP?!  It’s grass!  Now leave us alone!”   They ducked back down behind the fence and started coughing again so I left them to their own devices. 

Now, I didn’t know what was in cigarettes of any kind at that time and up until now it really held little interest for me.  Now my questioning mind kicked into high gear.  Why, I asked myself, would somebody spend money to buy cigarettes if all that was in them was grass?  Heck, we had yards full of the stuff!  The wheels were spinning quickly now as I climbed down off the roof, and ran over to my best friend’s house down the street.  Ronnie Bateman was a year or two younger than I was, but we had grown up together.  I have no memories of my life on Elm Street without Ronnie Bateman and Peter Schmidt being there.  I don’t know where Peter was that day, but Ronnie listened eagerly to my tale of the smokers in the backyard. 

“They were smoking cigarettes, and they said it was grass!”  I told him.

“I didn’t know they put grass in cigarettes.”  He replied.

“Me neither, but that’s what they said.”

“We could make one of our own.” Said Ronnie.

“Yeah, you want to try it?”  I asked.

“Sure!” he said eagerly.

We went out to his backyard and to the side of his house.  They stacked all their old newspapers over there.  We knew we needed paper, and we didn’t think it mattered what kind.  We didn’t want to go into the house and ask for any so we settled for the weathered, yellow newsprint, the old Oakland Tribune.  Ronnie went into his garage and found some matches while I ran to the front yard and pulled up a handful of grass from their lawn.  The front lawn was greener and thicker than the back lawn so we figured it was better grass.  We sat down and eagerly rolled the grass in a strip of newspaper that we had torn off.  There was no stopping us now.  It was easily three and a half inches long, and probably twice the width of any cigarette we had yet seen.  Since we were using Ronnie’s grass and his paper we both agreed that he should have the first puff.  I wasn’t too worried about it, after all, we had plenty of paper and a big lawn to go through.

He stuck the “cigarette” in his mouth and held the match up to the end. 

“I think you have to suck in while you’re lighting it.” I said.

So he sucked in while he was lighting it.  I suppose there is something to the physics of cigarettes that causes them to burn slowly.  It probably has something to do with the tobacco being tightly packed or something.  This grass was not tightly packed at all, and the newspaper was pretty dry.

So there were probably a lot of little pockets of air for the flame to feed off of.

These various factors probably explain what happened next.

Every time we had seen a cigarette lit, on TV or by any adult we knew, they always settled into a glowing ember on the end of the cigarette.  This, however, resembled the pictures we saw on the news of forest fires.  The flame grew immediately to at least twice the size that it had been on the end of the match, and since Ronnie was sucking in on the other end, the flame followed the air that was being sucked away right towards Ronnie’s face.  I saw his eyes grow to the size of silver dollars through the smoke and flames as the cigarette got shorter and shorter.  Ashes were falling away and floating all around us.  Just as the flame, which grew as it traveled the length of the cigarette, started to singe his eyebrows he threw it down and started coughing.   I thought he was going to throw up.  This wasn’t gonna be just a hairball either.  While he coughed I stomped out the remains of the cigarette.

When he finally quit coughing and looked up at me I saw a fine gray layer of ash on his blond eyebrows.

“So how was it?”  I asked.

“Really bad!” he said in a very raspy tone, just before he started coughing again.

“I think it burned your eyebrows!  Let me see, I’ve never seen burnt hair before!  Wow!  Hey what happened to your eyes, they’re all red!”

“I don’t know.”

“You better go to the bathroom and wash off your face and eyebrows or your mom will find out what happened.”


I went in the house with him and made sure his mom wasn’t near the bathroom.  The coast was clear and he made it without incident.  He washed up and came out again looking none the worse for wear.  I figured watching him was enough, and I decided smoking just wasn’t for me.  Ronnie figured out the same thing.  Whenever he walked into a room where someone was smoking after that he always left the room looking a little “green around the gills” as they say.

I suppose I would have to include a subsection in my “Stupid Things” book called “Stupid Things I Got My Friends to Do”.  It would be a strong argument against the concept of peer socialization, and would probably change the course of history.

©Dan Bode 1998