Wednesday, December 25, 2019

His Glory

Christmas 2019

Christmas is not the only day we see His Glory.
Let us never forget that He calls us to Love every day,
Every hour,
Every minute,
Every second,
Every single moment of our lives.

This is where His Glory is most present.
This is when we know Him best
When we Love.

Humanity does not deserve my praise,
Only Him,
The babe, the Man, my God.
If all creation sings His praises,
Who am I to be silent?

There is no one on this earth who can tell me who to love or who to hate.
There is no one who can demand my love,
But He can call me to it.
And so I seek to reach the goal He sets for me,
Not on just this one day of the year but rather -


Dan Bode Copyright 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

This Is Not a Path

Years ago, as I would walk my daily route to my office from the train station, I would walk along a cement pathway that cut through a portion of a back area near the Convention Center.  The pathway was only about twenty feet long and bordered a lawn area on one side and a planter bed on the other.  I had been walking this same route every weekday for a few years when one day I reached the other end of this short pathway to find an obstruction.
A metal signpost had been erected in the exact center of the pathway.  Attached to the post at chest height by bolts through the center was a sign that read,
“This is not a path”.

I was confused, to say the least.
I had been using this as a path for some time.
But it was NOT a path. 
There was a sign that very clearly stated this fact.
I stood there as my mind plodded along considering the implications for several minutes.
I even took a picture of it.
Was it a path before, and then not a path?
Or, was it never a path and I just never knew it until some unknown individual decided everyone needed to know?
Was I in violation of the law?  (I pictured undercover law enforcement lying in wait to tackle me for this flagrant violation as I cast surreptitious glances behind the bushes near the now “NOT a” path.)
And now, having been caught out by the signage, should I commit a collateral violation by stepping off the “NOT a” path onto the lawn (which was clearly not a path and never meant as one, which I had always assumed the “NOT a” path was there to protect)?
Quandaries often beget conundrums.
On this, my first encounter with the signpost, I carefully stepped around it without touching the grass and completed my daily sojourn to my office.
As the days progressed, I found myself completely unable to alter my route to work to avoid the “NOT a” path.  My feet were drawn to that cement like metal to a magnet, and as I approached it, I found myself looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was monitoring my movements.  At one point I discovered that someone else who walked the “NOT a” path took active offense at the sign’s legalistic declaration. 
Half of the sign was bent back around the signpost. 
While I was inwardly overjoyed to find that someone else shared my disdain for the message this sign conveyed, I shuddered to think of the consequences of this most flagrant disregard.  I carefully avoided touching it thereby leaving no fingerprints to implicate myself in this most welcome vandalism.  It was easier to get around the sign now.
Several days later I found that someone else had straightened the sign.  There was still a very obvious crease left where it had been bent, and the paint had cracked marring the previously smoothly pristine surface of the message.
And, as before, I walked past the sign with my now characteristic nonchalance.
Another span of days passed uneventfully until I set my foot upon the path again and found that the sign had been bent back again, except that this time my fellow “NOT a” path-er had bent back BOTH sides of the sign to completely wrap it around the post!

It seemed that war had been declared.

A few days later I arrived to find the sign had been straightened once again with the creases considerably more prominent than previously noted.
A week passed, and I had by now learned to approach the “NOT a” path with an air of expectation, constantly wondering what new iteration of sabotage I might find.  I sometimes found myself wondering about it as I drank my morning coffee at home before I began my journey.  As I eagerly approached the “NOT a” path I noted from a distance a difference in the sign, but I was too far away to identify the nuances of the change.  I walked a little faster as I approached and found, to my great surprise, that half the sign was missing!
The left half had simply vanished!  Closer examination revealed the wonderful perpetrator had simply bent the left half of the sign back and forth until, in its weakened state, the metal simply surrendered. 
It was a Monday and the final battle had begun. 
Tuesday found the other half of the sign bent back again in what I perceived to be a precursor to its removal.  I began to picture, in my mind, the previously removed left half hanging on the wall of someone’s garage reading, “This…i…no…pa”, patiently waiting to be reunited with its other half.
Wednesday the sign post-er tried to rally against the onslaught by bending the remnant of the sign back to as close to a straightened position as was possible, but it seemed a half-hearted effort at best.
Thursday was the last gasp where I found only a one-inch strip of the metal sign remaining where the bolts that held the sign to the post were located.
Friday even the small strip was gone.
All that was left was a lonely post left standing in the middle of what was apparently, once again, a “path”.
It has been several years since I walked that route to my office as I changed my commuter route, so I went back to check the status of the path.
The path is still there, as well as the post.
It is still used as a path, and there is still no sign.
It occurs to me that I often use things for purposes for which they were not originally intended, and that most of the time that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes, however, it doesn’t really do me any good. 
Sometimes I’m using something a different way because I’m too impatient to wait until I have the correct tools to do it right.  Sometimes I’m stubbornly selfish enough to just barrel right into a wall and knock it down, rather than build a door in it and leave the structure intact as the original builder intended.
Sometimes I look back on my life and realize that some of my views and actions were just plain wrong, and that I now disagree with my old self in many ways.

The problems I face most often arise when I see someone attempting to selfishly use another person for their own purposes.  Trying to control another for personal gain is never acceptable.  Relationships are not transactions, and people are not currency.  Yet that is what our politicians and media elite on ALL sides consider the rest of us to be.  We are simply a means to their ends.  We are used in ways in which we should not be used.  We hate whom we are told we should hate.  We deny existence to those we simply do not want.  We spew hatred and call it tolerance.  Honesty is rarely seen, and integrity is all but non-existent.  We allow it with our compliance, and we are simply walked upon.
We have become pavement.
A path that should not be a path.
Your choice is this: will you be the well-trod and worn-down stone, or will you be the one who stands up for those around you that are beaten down and disavowed – the ones you yourself so loudly shout down in disagreement?

Now consider that each person who reads this will interpret it to justify his/her own view.  They will come to the conclusion that the “other side” does this exactly!
My response to that will be that they have missed my point completely.

My point is that we – each and every one of us – is guilty of this at one time or another.  We all need to realize, and practice, the idea that understanding does NOT equal agreement, and we are not right simply by virtue of standing on a bigger soap box.
Sometimes I realize that it’s actually easier to apply love, grace, kindness and forgiveness than it is to find ways to justify my - sometimes actually justifiable - anger or disagreement.

There is joy in peace, and from this I find it easier to love.

I have found, finally, that love is always the more welcome path, and the most wonderful journey.

It always leads me home.
©Dan Bode 2019

Monday, December 24, 2018



What Would Jesus Do?

He would live for you.
Jesus states that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13).  I suppose I could probably make an argument that if He also says to “love your enemy”, then my enemy could eventually, in some sense, at some point in time, be my friend as well.  And then, of course, logic dictates that I might lay down my life for them as well.  Scary thought.  It’s happened before.

My point is that I have a choice in how I spend my life.  I could potentially choose to die in someone’s place in some instances.  So, Jesus gave me direction in the manner with which I could live the life He gave me.

But He didn’t give me the choice of where, when, how, or why I would be born, because He has reserved that option for Himself alone.

He chose to die for me, but He chose to live for me first.  He came into this world for that specific purpose, knowing what each of us needed.  No one else has the ability to love in that way, and yet He calls me to love others as I know He loves me. 

This level of love has, in the past, seemed so far beyond my abilities that I would simply give up trying and give in to the needs of the moment.  I would just do what I wanted, responding angrily to something with the rest of the crowd.  Or maybe trying to fix something, or someone, that was not my responsibility and failing miserably.

But real Love, just isn’t like that.

Real Love desires that I give up my prejudices, my anger, my politics, the things I was taught, and all the other “encumbrances” that I’ve accumulated throughout my life, even when I’m faced with all of those same things in my friends, whom I would in fact lay down my life for despite our differences.
My wife and I were talking the other day, and as we were driving past an insanely crowded mall with miles long lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot she asked, “Why do you think people do that to themselves?  What is worth all that?”
My answer was nothing is worth doing that, but I think we do it because we have such a limited ability to express love for each other that we’ve given in to the idea of “things” as an expression of love.  We have reached a point where we have devoted entire industries to the idea that we can universally express love to our fellow man for only one day out of the year.  Some of us get a few weeks out of it.

We do this because this way we can get out of making a continuous commitment to love others on a regular basis.  Because if we love someone more than that one day then it interferes with our own desires for ourselves.  This becomes how we choose to live, and to die.  And so we choose to live in a constant state of discontent, because no one will give us what we want.

In light of what we’ve become, the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” is perhaps not as relevant as we think it is anymore.  I wonder if the more pertinent question today is, “What Did Jesus Do?”
It’s a question that has already been answered.
He chose to live – for you.  It’s the only answer He could give, and the only One who could give it.
Merry Christmas.


©Dan Bode 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love Conquers All.

I'm reposting this one from 2013 because it reflects a lot of the thoughts that have been going through my head for a while now.  I'll be posting more stuff again in the coming weeks dealing with many of the topics that figure prominently in the news today - because I believe that almost everything that comes up in almost every discussion in our society today is tainted by a lack of the one thing we need the most: Love.

"Love Conquers All"
I’ve heard that phrase for most of my life at one time or another, and I’m not sure I ever really understood it until now. I have no idea why it took so long.
It portrays love in the sense of the conquering hero.
The one whom no enemy can stand against.
The difference for me now is that I understand that the battlefield on which all this conflict takes place is in my own heart.
When I examine it realistically I have to admit that I always thought of it in terms of conquering someone else. I wanted love to conform others to my own expectations of what they should be. I wanted love to be at my command.
Imagine my surprise then, when the blade turned upon me instead.
Love will, if I let it, overcome my pain to grant forgiveness, or ask for it.
It will overcome my pride to extend my hand in friendship to my enemy.
It will overcome my anger to allow my faithfulness.
It will overcome me.
Love conquers all, but first, love conquers me. My walls must be overcome from within.
It is sometimes hard to love, but worth your whole life to reach just one moment of being completely known by another, and to know the other in turn. To reach out your hand unseen in the dark knowing the hand of another is already there in expectation to take it.
It is worth everything for just one moment of this. To be known, and not forgotten.
Living your life in pursuit of that first, and maybe only, all encompassing instant of perfection.
Because God is Love, He created us as an expression of Himself, hence we are created in His image. As an expression of God Himself we are inherently worthy of His sacrifice for us, and yet God on a cross seems so incongruous to our concept of love. That’s the problem with our interpretation of love.   It’s so watered down we have no concept of what real love is. It’s as though in so many ways we have sanitized the true expression of love to be bloodless. It’s all butterflies and sunny days to our general way of thinking.
We seem to forget that love "endures all things"(1Cor 13:7), and the need for endurance implies conflict, distraction, and sometimes pain. We should love fiercely letting nothing come between us.
Love, when practiced honestly, becomes beauty incarnate.
Love influences the practice of my life. It gives everything I do different meaning.
Love truly is an action, and yet it is more. It becomes what we do, where we go, who we know and how we know them. Love cannot reach its full potential in our lives if we do not allow ourselves to live in complete surrender to it. If I am only capable of loving someone when things are all good, then I don’t really love at all.
Each of the qualities of love (1Cor 13) implies that there is a need for that quality because its opposite exists in the world. Patience is needed because the lack of it causes bitterness. Kindness is needed because cruelty exists. The difficult part of this is that we all know that we are capable of dealing out all the opposing forces of love. We focus on the positive aspects because we feel better when we actively pursue them as a lifestyle. There is healing in the practice of love.
“Love your enemies” (Lk 6:35), is the most difficult aspect of love, but Jesus gave us examples of it throughout His life. Judas was the most difficult enemy to deal with because he was already loved. His ability to cause pain was increased by the measure of love Christ gave him. There are times when the evidence of the love of God seems so profound to me that I actually understand why some people fear it rather than readily accept it.
Even the one who betrayed Christ was allowed at His table. Christ knew that Judas was His betrayer, and yet His love for him was such that He still desired Judas’ presence in the Passover meal; one of the most intimate of settings.
Judas didn’t deserve that and he knew it. Jesus knew this as well, and gave it to him anyway. All this made Judas’ betrayal that much more profound to Judas, for the greater the love we give when betrayed causes that much more pain for the betrayer.
And is it not one of the most important aspects of love that we should find the ability to love our enemies for the simple fact that when we sin we ourselves act as the most intimate of enemies to God, and He loves us still? Is He not the greatest example of loving one’s enemy simply by loving us for, “He loved us while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), let alone the ones we condemn without authority?
It is the ability of love to not only conquer all things, but to remain after everything is done and over with. After all the blood has been shed, the ground churned, and with the vultures circling overhead to pick at the corpses of our discontent, Love walks among us to restore us after all the pain to a healed state ready to love again. It is self perpetuating by nature so that when we learn to love ourselves, as God loves us, we understand that we must do something to maintain it in ourselves in order to stay alive to share it with others.
His love makes us matter.
And so we are filled with possibilities.
Because of His love Jesus not only died, but He came back for us!
He. Came. Back.
It is this single, overwhelming act of love that inspires every other expression of true love that we can ever submit to or practice in the human experience.
Through His redemption we are alive with the potential to discover the worth of our very souls.
Live in love,
Do battle in love,
Rest in love,
Die in love,
Return in love.
God did.
It’s called Easter.
©Dan Bode 2010

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Day After

It was Christmas in 1914 during World War I.  

The British and Germans had fought to something of a stalemate.  It was bitterly cold on the front in Belgium where both sides were holding the line in fortified trenches in the early part of one of the worst wars in history.

And it was Christmas.

With no light to see the target the shooting stopped at night, and in the silence German voices were heard yelling across the “no man’s land” separating the lines, “Merry Christmas, Englishmen!”  The British returned their greetings, yelling into the frigid night.  Someone started singing Christmas carols which were joined by the opposite side.

Eventually, soldiers on both sides ventured out of their trenches – unarmed – to greet each other and exchange gifts of chocolate, cigarettes and other small extravagances that mean so much to a soldier in the field.  A truce of sorts was declared, and no shots were fired during Christmas Day on this part of the line.

For that one day they were able to put aside their human-ness, and take up the image of Christ to celebrate His birth. Yet they knew as well that they would soon be obligated to try to kill each other even as they celebrated the anniversary of new life come to save us all from death.All because of Christmas.  

I suppose Jesus wasn’t called “The Prince of Peace” for nothing.

The day after Christmas has always puzzled me. 
We spend weeks, if not months, leading up to Christmas Day, touting it as the “happiest time of the year”.  There are lights everywhere, and everyone is happy, and generous, and caring.
But then it’s over, and they aren’t anymore.  The lights go out, and, seemingly, so does our joy.
The days after Christmas are a period of undefined silence in which anything can happen.  We come down from that period of frenzied activity leading up to that one day with no idea what to do with our lives, but take down the decorations and throw the wrapping paper in the trash.

It’s in this period where Christ can strip us bare.  We have the opportunity to acknowledge His love and beauty, or we can pick up again the mantle of our humanity and return to the savagery we seek to leave behind.  This is not new; I do it every day. I give up the gifts He’s given me and return to being simply human.  
I give up the better part to become the least.

I give up being more than human, and become even less. 

Then He speaks, “Yesterday was my birthday, but I’m still here.  Why do you celebrate only one day of my life?  I am always present!  I still Love you!  Remember!  Remember! ”

So I wish you a Merry Day After Christmas!
And a Merry Day After the Day After Christmas!
He is still here….

©Dan Bode 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Boulevard Series - Final - At the end of the Boulevard

Boulevard Coffee is closed.

As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”
Why that is true I don’t really understand, but there it is.  And now we come to the end of something that has been here for 35 years, give or take.  Three generations of my family, and countless friends, have had the opportunity to experience it directly or indirectly.  Some of you who have read my blog in the past will have read about episodes of my life that have happened there.
It’s reasonable to assume that, after this many years, roasting beans in a plant that reaches temperatures over 100 F in the summer, and working behind the counter serving customers of every disposition and persuasion, the owner might feel he has a right to retire.  And he does, so he is.  Retiring I mean.
Cliff has been watching people darken the door at Boulevard Coffee for a long time.  He started off originally at a little spot further up Fair Oaks Boulevard that was more like someone’s living room.  It had a fireplace, and couches everywhere, and it felt very “homey”.  Eventually he expanded to a second store and a separate roasting plant.  After several years he closed the original shop and stayed at the second store. 
I started going to the original store and then switched to the second one when he closed the first one.  I was there at least once a week, but usually more if I could find a way to work it into my schedule.  I started going there because the coffee was the best I ever had, and I have yet to find better.  I continued to go there because it became a refuge for me.  The events of my life led me to find someplace where I could find a few hours of peace, and so I found myself a spot at a table there and received an education in coffee at the feet of the master.
There were times when few seats were available.  I walked in one day and the place was as crowded as I’d ever seen it.  I looked around and told Cliff, “I guess I better get it to go today!”
Cliff looked around and said, “Hang on a minute.”
He went to the back through a door and stuck his head back out and waved me back.  He pulled up a chair to the supply room counter and said, “Is this ok?  I don’t want you to have to leave.”
“Really? That’s really cool!  Thanks!”
“What do you want?”
I told him what I wanted and he brought it back to me.  I felt like I had the keys to the kingdom.  It was one of those moments where I felt like I could say, “Yeah I know somebody who can help you…”, you know?  That’s been our relationship for 20 years. 
Cliff was roasting coffee in the Sacramento area long before anyone else.  A “coffee community” has sprung up over the last 10 years or so, but I have to say they are some of the most pretentious people I’ve ever met.  They think a good cup of coffee is rated by the design the person pouring it draws in the cream.  And the coffee isn’t that great.
I am biased for sure, but I’m also right on this point.  So there.
As I have contemplated my last day here at Boulevard I think back to when I first started coming here.  It was a place to go to separate myself from all the pressures of my normal environment.  As life moved on over the years it was a place where I knew I always had a space.  I was always comfortable here with both the staff and the regulars.  It was safe.  Boulevard was the first place I thought of to meet my family and friends, the place I went to read or write, the place to simply sit, and in essence quite simply my refuge.  I knew all the employees, and they knew me.  If you walked in and asked them to make your coffee the way Dan Bode drinks it they would know what to give you.  I used to bring in breakfast burritos to the employees on Sunday mornings just to make sure they had breakfast since they started so early.  I felt a little bad when I brought them in and discovered Jeff was trying to go vegetarian.  He decided to put it off for a while since there was bacon in it, which I thought was a very intelligent choice because, well – bacon!  Most coffee places know who you are by the drink you order, but there they actually knew your name.  Boulevard was the Cheers of coffee.
When I started dating Brenda this was one of the first places I brought her, and of course everyone loved her as much as they loved me. 
In light of all this I understand that as much as it is the right time for Cliff to close these doors for himself, it is also the right time for me.  My life is filled with joy now, and I no longer need the refuge.  At the same time without all the experiences and people from this place I would not have the degree of joy I have come to know.  This place, and the people there, have helped to shape me into the person who was right for my wife.  I had countless cups with my daughters, and grandkids (hot chocolate for them), extended family and friends.  Knowing everyone who has worked there over the years has been a great blessing. 
Today was the last official open day.  I sat in the shop today for a good portion of it.  I got to see old friends and regulars, and of course, Fred.  It wouldn’t have been right if I didn’t get to end it with him there since it pretty much started with him too.  It was funny that I had just finished telling the Fred story to one of the other regulars when he walked up.  Perfect.
I drank more coffee than I ever have before in one day.
It occurred to me today as I was driving in that I had expected to be going to Boulevard after I retired, but Cliff beat me to it.  Twenty years of Saturdays, and then some, have passed by in this place, so now I have to find something else to fill my time.  It’s not like there’s not plenty to do – I just need to get used to the idea of doing something different.  Driving a different direction.  Setting a different path. 
This whole experience has been a lot like reading a good book.  When it’s well written you get caught up in the story and the lives of the characters.  You get to know them very well, but then the story always ends.  You miss the characters and their world that you were a part of for a while.  You miss the story and wish it hadn’t ended.
So, today as I walked out the door of Boulevard for the last time, I read the last page and closed the cover. 
Time to find a new story.
©Dan Bode 2017