Saturday, April 3, 2021

Doubt

I think about Thomas sometimes.

What do we really know about him?  All I was ever taught was that he was the “doubter”.  “Doubting Thomas” were his first and last names as far as I knew for most of my life.

We love labels don’t we?  I suppose humans always have.  We tend to categorize everything in some way.  Maybe it just helps us remember. 

It seems odd though, doesn’t it, that we would label a man’s entire life based on one event out of all his days?  Granted, the fact that he was doubting God has something to do with the importance of the event.

I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating – I have often wondered if, after three years of Jesus teaching the disciples through parable and allegory, that after He died and rose again – I have to wonder if at least one of the disciples didn’t think, “You mean you were serious?!”

But here’s the thing: Thomas wasn’t the only doubter.  In fact, when Thomas finally saw the resurrected Jesus, the others had already seen Him a week earlier, and they were still locking the doors!  He was in a locked room full of people who were scared to go out into the world because they were doubtful of God as well. 

Go figure.

And, of course, now that I think about it, I doubt Him too sometimes.  Every day in fact. 

Every moment of worry I experience is a moment of doubt, because I’m choosing not to apply the belief that He actually cares so much for me that He will keep me close to Him.  Every time I choose not to forgive someone, or accept forgiveness, is a refusal to accept His sacrifice for me.   

And He forgives me for it every stinking time. 

Thomas was a man who was willing to die with Jesus.  In one instance he urges all of the disciples to go with Jesus so “we may die with Him.”  That sounds like a devoted man to me.

So yes, Thomas doubted, and it was his doubt which Jesus used to point out that the importance of belief in Him without seeing Him.  Jesus was pointing out the level of faith required to trust Him based on the word of those who know Him. 

Sure, Thomas doubted, but he also believed. 

This wasn’t the first time they had witnessed a resurrection either.  The most famous was Lazarus, but there were others as well.  The obvious difference was that those were things Jesus had done for others.  He was the source.  They all doubted that He could, or would, do it for Himself.  They had walked into this with the idea that Jesus was there to liberate them from an oppressive government.  Their understanding of the role of the Messiah was limited to their current circumstances, much as it is today.  All they saw up to this point was their loss of a leader.  The fact that He was there among them was proof that He didn’t come to do what we want the way we want it done. 

So, Thomas was there to voice my own doubts.  Thomas was there to touch the unhealed wounds of a physically resurrected Jesus for me.  Thomas was there to hear Him say,

“Oh yes.  I was most definitely serious.”

©Dan Bode 2021

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wake up Calls

 

Every once in a while, I get a piece of information that gives me reason to pause. 

I hear about someone I know who is seriously ill, died, or has had some serious life event occur.  It makes me re-examine my own life and values.  It jars me out of any ruts I find myself in, and offers me a way to view everything in my life, and the world in general, from an altered perspective.

The thing is, up to now, my reaction has always been to the events that occur in the lives of others.

This time it’s me.

Several months ago, I walked into my doctor’s office, and he told me I have cancer.

This was not what I wanted to hear.

Then he said, “If you’re going to have cancer, then this is the one you want.”

Hmm.  Ok.  Not quite sure how to deal with that, but in dealing with friends who have had more aggressive forms of cancer I have to say this is a better statement than the alternatives.  It turns out that this is the slowest growing of cancers you can come up with, but the treatment for it is to remove my thyroid gland and be done with it.  I guess I should be ok with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy it’s not worse.  I truly feel that God was in on how they found it by “accident” on another scan.  This is not a death sentence by any means.

As I have told people about it, I’ve made a point of quickly letting them know that I’m going to be ok, and there’s nothing to worry about.  Keep in mind that I can say this because I’ve already processed all the initial fear, shock, and bottom-dropping-out-from-under-me feelings, and found that I understand the truth of my situation.  I know this is not like what family and friends of mine have dealt with.

But. 

It makes me pause.

Cancer is not as much of a threat as it was, even 20 years ago, however, the affect it had on so many of those I have loved in my lifetime has shaped my initial reaction to hearing about it.  This is not to minimize the seriousness of being diagnosed with it, by any means.  I’m merely pointing out that in many cases we have reached a point where a cure is possible in more cases than previously, and it took me a while to get to that point in my own case because of how it was defined in my life.

My first reaction was, “How am I going to tell my wife and kids?  They’ll start crying because of something I said!”  I really can’t stand the thought of something I do or say causing someone pain (unless it’s someone who hurts someone I love – I have no problem causing them pain).

As I began to delve deeper into this, I started to think about all the people I have known who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  I thought about how they reacted to their diagnosis, and the difference in how I reacted to it.  The difference in perspective between us was profound, but now I am beginning to see the “how” and “why” of the difference.  Now I see the staggering need to bring the two perspectives together as one.

Upon discovering that a family member or friend was dying, my initial reaction has been a form of denial based on my overconfidence in medical science. 

“Ok, but there’s a treatment for it right?  Sure, you’ll have some problems, but then you’ll get through it and everything will be back to some kind of normal right?  There’s something I can do to fix this isn’t there?”

I also attribute this reaction to basic human selfishness that wonders, “How will this affect me?  What will I do without you?  How do I fill the hole you leave?”  It’s sadly difficult to miss all the “I” and “me” statements there. 

Eventually I would reach a point where I shifted my focus off of myself and listened to them.  They would start to talk about the things that are “really” important, and all these “really” important things are not the things I “really” care about.  They would talk about loving others, forgiving others, and resolving conflicts.  All the things I didn’t have time for and would get to “someday”, when I wouldn’t have to live with the idea of giving up my own desire for “one upping” the other in order to forgive.    

But they were at peace, and I was not.  It was always easier to follow the crowd, and have the same need to hold on to things.  It was always easier to put my faith in tangibles, or worldly concepts like “rights” or “fairness” or “justice”, while ignoring their opposites of “mercy”, “forgiveness” and “grace”.  So, when I got my own diagnostic “gift”, I began to examine the reason I could hear them all talk about what was really important, and agree with them in the moment, yet go back to living my life the mediocre way I always had. 

There are consequences to forgiveness, and they are usually peaceful.  Why was I so set to avoid that?  Why was I always so desperate to hold on to my own ambition?

I remember an incident many years ago, when there was a division in the church I was attending.  It was having a profound effect on the congregation, and I was in the midst of it.  At the same time there was a young woman there who had died of cancer, leaving behind a loving husband and a couple of children.  I remember her as being one of the kindest people I knew, and her husband was the same.  At her memorial service her husband shared some thoughts that she had wanted him to convey to everyone, and at one point he said words to this effect, “Sandy knew there is a big conflict going on in the church right now, and she wanted to say that we need to forgive each other, and that it’s really not the important thing.”

I remember that moment thinking, “It’s not that simple.  There is more at stake here.”  I was so caught up in my own pride and anger that I refused to see the deeper meaning that God kept trying to point out to me in my life.  I was so caught up in the “mundanity” and societal anger of the moment that I actually refused to consider any viewpoint other than my own.  I assumed that God agreed with me, and did not need to consult Him about it. 

As time went on, we left the church, the division ran its course, and the pastor involved left.  We eventually came back to that church under a different pastor.  The division had been healed, but I never shook the feeling that I was wrong in my participation in the problem.  I eventually came to understand where I had gone wrong, and years later I contacted the pastor.  I submitted myself to him and asked his forgiveness, and he was incredibly gracious to me in granting it.  We restored our fellowship and became friends again.  It wasn’t until I had been forgiven – which, by the way, he had granted to me long before I had asked – that I thought back to Sandy’s plea to see what was really important.  Finally, I caught a glimpse of what she saw.  All of my anger at the time of the division had accomplished nothing.  All of the blinders I wore at the time kept me from living a peaceful life 

Sandy saw what was needed.  It was love.

I believe there is beauty to be seen in everyone.  God created our very eyes to be cognizant of the beauty He placed all around us, in the people and things of His creation.  I had largely chosen to ignore His view, and opted for the myopic sight of my own. 

I believe that hate is not the opposite of love.  I would posit to you that hate is more accurately defined as the desire to contain, consume and damage the beauty found in another, due to my failure to admit that God created each of us with inherent beauty which in turn inspires His love for me. 

I believe that love is a product of the recognition of God’s beauty in each other.

Beauty is found in every life, and in how I choose to spend mine. 

It is found in the joy of a child.

In the compassion of an adult.

In the grace of an athlete or artist.

In the life, and sometimes death, of a soldier, or anyone else, who lays down their life to save another.

In forgiving others who don’t want my forgiveness.

I have cancer, but it is not going to kill me.  However, it did shift the axis on which my world spins.  For most of us I think it is fairly reasonable to say that when we hear “cancer”, we first think of it as a death sentence.  I have known others who have been diagnosed with drastically worse forms of cancer.  I have watched many of them die.  Almost without fail they have each discovered something in the process that I now realize I only gave lip service to.  I never, until now, began to understand the depth of the knowledge they gained. 

The lesson they all seemed to point to was this:  Nothing I ever wanted, or thought I needed, or that the world told me I need to believe, or anything (or anyone) I sought to control or possess, was ever worth more than being able to see the beauty in the life of another.  This sight gives me the opportunity to find something to love in everyone.  Each of them said they wished they would have lived their lives as though that were the greatest truth.

Someone told me I had cancer, and I started to let go of my own needs, wants, desires, and conceptions.  I went back and started looking with my new eyes at what God was really saying, and I found it was very different from what the politicians and many church leaders were telling me. 

The difference now is that since I’m not dying, but truly choosing to look at my life as though I am, I have a greater awareness of, and a more effective idea of how, I should spend that one life I’ve been given.

I was asleep, and now… I’m awake.

©Dan Bode 2021

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Say His Name


What does it mean when a man says, “I can’t breathe”?
The air that sustains all of us cannot reach his lungs.  They cannot inflate to extract the infusion of oxygen that we are all created to live on.  When he says, “I can’t breathe” he is expressing a longing to live.
Then I see why he can’t breathe.  Another man has his knee bearing most of his weight on the neck of the man on the ground.  The man on the ground is black, the man with his knee on his neck is white.
The man on top is a police officer.
The man on the ground is black.
That’s all.  Just black.
Now he’s dead.  Because of a white man’s knee.  Because he’s black.

That picture is the epitome of the relationship between the white and black races in America.  Oppression due to perceived difference, based on fear, because of perceived difference.  If the picture was black and white, and I had been told it was 100 years ago I would probably have said something to the effect that, “Fortunately we’ve come a long way from that.”

It isn’t from 100 years ago.  It’s less than a month old as I write this.  If I made that statement in front of a black man he would have laughed in my face, and rightly so.
This man wasn’t doing anything at all that warranted him being arrested or detained, let alone killed.  

There is extensive video evidence of the entire episode that clearly shows his lack of resistance.
It should never be acceptable that any person feels a threat to his or her life for simply walking out the front door of their home.  
To fill up the car at a gas station.  
To drive down any street.  
To jog in the evening.  
To stand in their own driveway talking.

Because he or she is black.

I’m white, and while I am not specifically responsible for the way the black man is treated based on the behaviors of my forefathers, I am present now.  This makes me responsible for seeking change in the society of the present.  
My crime is my silence.

Since this man died, I’ve read and heard countless stories of what a kind and peaceful man he became, and how he did so much to work with the youth in violent neighborhoods teaching them to live better lives.  I’ve also seen stories of his criminal record, and that he had drugs in his system.
 
But I have a question:  Why is it even necessary that he should have to have a “good life story” to make this a horrifying event?  Why do we feel it necessary to justify his life?  On the other side of that, how does showing a past criminal record have anything to do with the events leading up to, and the moment of, his death.  This would have been just as horrifying if it had been someone else - “just a normal guy” – because he’s black.

No, George Floyd was not a saint, and neither is anyone else.  Yes, he did some things very wrong in the past, like many of us.  But none of that mattered one way or the other in the moment that he should not have died.  George Floyd did not resist, right up to the moment of his death.  He didn’t struggle violently.  He didn’t even curse.  I keep wondering what he was thinking in this whole process.  As he struggled to move in a way that would allow any breath at all, and as I watched the police officer dig his knee even harder into his neck.  I watched again as they taunted him to get up while he was pinned down by three officers while he did not struggle.  Was he thinking, “I keep telling these kids they need to seek change peacefully, so I have to keep it together.”  Then as the situation progressed, with his lungs demanding oxygen, “Keep it together, everyone is watching.  Be the example.”  Then again as he faded out and died, “Please make it worth it.”, and finally, “Mama, Mama.”

I’m white.  I feel relatively safe in my world.  I know there are those out there that might threaten my life at any random time.  When I think about them, I don’t think about the color of their skin, and I never have to imagine that it might be a police officer.

Because I’m white. 

Through this event many other events and processes have been triggered.
Protests have swept the country, many with riots where property was destroyed.  Ironically, most of the rioters appear to be white.  Some from Antifa, some from white supremacist groups, but all simply trying to sow more violence for their own ends.  The protestors have, for the most part, been peaceful and are honestly trying to take this opportunity to help us see the need for change from their perspective.
Police across the country have sought to support the Black community, sometimes even marching with them as they protest.  They detest what the officers involved did, and they have promised change.
They always walk a very fine line, but more so right now.  Under threat for something they didn’t collectively do, but nonetheless having to deal with the responsibility for it.  Doing their jobs and wondering if they will die for it.
It seems ironic as I look at that statement that it may be a similar situation for the average black man in America.  They walk a fine line as well.  They are under threat when they walk out of their house.  Some, like Breonna Taylor, didn’t even have to get out of bed.  So, a black person has to wonder on a daily basis if they will die for being black. 
All this because their skin is a different color.  Being black is not a chosen profession.  They don’t have a choice in the color of their skin, but again, why should that even make a difference?  More disturbing to me is the way many people I know have defended these deaths as legitimate.  
When they try to deflect the response by saying, “Where’s the outrage because this other person died?” I just want to say, “Because no one cared enough for him or her in their own community to be outraged about it.”  That is the fault of the community that didn’t care enough for them to say something.
The black community cares for themselves, and that is not wrong.  They are rightly outraged when they lose a member of their community whether they were a criminal or a saint.  We in the white community could stand to learn something of that attitude.

But in the meantime, George Floyd is still just as dead as he was yesterday, and somehow, all of us need to come together into a peaceful union of hearts and minds.   We need to acknowledge the sins of our forefathers, and make this society of ours right.  Change has to occur, and it is never comfortable.  It is easier to identify needed change in others, than it is to see the need in ourselves. 

There’s a great deal more to say about this, but I’ll save it for the next post. 
There are an inordinate number of people who respond to posts about this incident saying something like, “You need to take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of someone else’s eye!”  I honestly don’t see how that applies here, but whenever I hear something like that (which, for the record, just makes you sound incoherent) I just go back and watch George Floyd die again. 
And again.
And again.
No logs there.
Say his name!

George Floyd.

©Dan Bode 2020





Friday, May 29, 2020

Unprecedented times


I’m going to give you fair warning here:  what I’m about to write here will probably offend just about everyone I know to one degree or another.  I’m not an expert, and this is all just my opinion.  You don’t have to agree.  The thing is, your opinions are for the most part inexpert as well, and we all quote or share videos of “experts” that only support our current way of thinking, so there’s that.  If you don’t like it that’s fine with me, I’ll still love you and we can still be friends.  If you choose not to be friends after you read it, then I suppose we weren’t really friends in the first place if that’s all it takes to cut me off.  This will appear on my social media accounts because I get to express my opinion there.  I will delete any comments that appear that are disparaging to anyone or are attempting to argue, because I’m simply not going to argue.  I’m not giving that control to anyone.  You can use your own space for that.

We live in “Unprecedented times”. 
I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, but honestly, I think it’s kind of a dumb thing to say.  Every day is new so isn’t it all unprecedented?
There’s a lot of stuff happening right now in the world that is devastating to everyone to different degrees, and we have to learn to adjust somehow in “unprecedented” ways.  Before we do that, however, we have to understand the truth of what we are dealing with. 
For some time now I’ve experienced a genuine sadness over how we all as a people are treating each other.  We have allowed ourselves to be divided by false information, rumor, and even more minor issues to the point where there is nothing left to hold us together.  All that seems to matter is each person’s individual desires with no regard to the impact they might have on the life of any other human.  Our politicians tell us who and what to hate, and we should of course trust them because they all have our best interests at heart (that’s sarcasm just to be clear).  Add to this the current slate of politicians on both sides of the fence who use anything and everything to their advantage for their personal gain, and who tell us they are doing it all for our benefit.  And we eat it all up as though they actually even know who we are.  When I hear the things that politicians come up with to say about each other I feel like I’m listening to 5-year-olds argue.  I’m not singling out any party here either.  This is ALL of them!  What’s worse is we are actually listening to and supporting them! 
This is the environment into which a virus is introduced.
One would think that something as serious as this is would bring us together, but we’re already too far down the road of selfish ambition to make it that easy.  Nothing is off limits to political partisanship.  Instead of working together at a time when we need it most, when one side does something good the other side can’t possibly admit it so they have to do something the opposite and call it good instead.  Then the finger pointing starts and everything comes to a standstill.  Everyone caught in the middle suffers, all the while pointing fingers as well.
My point is this:  our political leaders are not special.  They are not better than us.  They are human too.  They all do some things right, and some things wrong.  None of them are all good, or all bad.  If I cut you off in traffic one day, does that mean I’m a bad person?  No more than you are when you do the same thing.
In order to agree with one thing a politician does, I do not have to agree with, or like, everything he/she does.  I actually have the ability to think for myself and recognize the conflict I see with my own eyes.  Open your own eyes and see what’s there for yourself instead of just accepting everything you are told!
The outright stupidity that infects and divides us over this is astounding.
Someone makes a statement like “Don’t live in fear”, and someone else picks it up and makes it some ridiculous rallying cry.  Fear is a choice.  You can do the right thing and not live in fear, but remember they are two different things that are not dependent on the other.  Just because I choose to live in a manner that you define as fearful, does not make it true that I live in fear.  It only proves that your opinion of me is irrelevant.  You are merely trying to manipulate me into living like you, who live in your anger.  And anger is just an aggressive response to fear.  So tell me who’s really living in fear then?  All you are trying to do is gain strength in numbers to prove to yourself that you are “not afraid”.  If I don’t want politicians to tell me what to think, why would I let anyone else have the right to tell me what I fear?
We’ve become too lazy to think for ourselves so we just keep repeating the thoughts of others, with no effort to learn any facts.  We simply accept the uneducated and/or untested opinions that skip across our screens that reinforce our existing beliefs.  When something different comes up, it is simply ignored or attacked, and the person who posts it is now considered untrustworthy or worse, an enemy.
I’ve seen another trend where someone uses statistics from other movements to deflect from the issue.  Most of you who do this do not support those movements in any substantive way.  You don’t work with them, you don’t give money to them, and when you get their emails you don’t answer them.  So how dare you hijack their work to support your own misguided attempt at selfishly giving yourself some credibility.  All you do is undermine any sense of integrity you had to begin with.
There are a lot of things that have been done wrong, or at the very least, inconsistently as we as a society have tried to deal with this pandemic.  Even to the point of denying its existence.  Let’s not forget that this is a worldwide pandemic.  It’s not just here in America, but because we’ve made it a political issue instead of a medical one, and put the idea of dealing with it into a political structure, we are now dealing with it as though we’re children on a playground trying to avoid cooties!
But here’s the thing: There are other diseases that we have not encountered here in America and other First World societies.  We need to acknowledge this and use the situation we are now in as a way to recognize what we can change in order to deal with future infections in a better way.  The First World has no idea what to do with contagion, and we have lived in blissful ignorance of the threat and call it “freedom”.  So, we reduce safe behaviors to “taking away our rights” because we are truly selfish in this.  There are viruses developing and spreading freely in Third World countries, they are mutating and becoming more virulent.  They are untreated for the simple reason that it is not profitable to develop a cure for a poor country.  They are ignored, but make no mistake; they are still coming.  There have been warnings of an approaching pandemic for years now, we just didn’t listen.
For this reason alone, we should at least be approaching the need for a response to this as an experiment that requires that we follow the prescribed patterns of behavior so we can find out the best ways to control it and save our own lives.  Instead we fall to the ground and wave our limbs uselessly and cry about the violation to our rights!  And people die, but instead of being concerned about the deaths or infections we find another useless video made by someone who wants to be an authority on something but isn’t, that we think somehow justifies our existing point of view.  For the record, it doesn’t justify anything, it only proves your willful ignorance.
We treat reports of death as inconsequential so we can maintain our ignorant bliss. 
“Do you actually know anyone who has died from this?”
Even asking the question is just a reflection of ignorant selfishness, because it wouldn’t change your existing view regardless of the answer.  You would merely find some explanation that made it acceptable to deny the cause.
“Oh he/she had underlying conditions.”
And that makes a difference how?  We shelter in place and practice social distancing and wear masks to protect those that have the underlying conditions.  As a reminder, THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT YOU!  It’s about everyone you know or come in contact with!
“I know someone who knows someone who died of cancer, but they said they had to report it as a virus death.”
There are actually verified reports of this happening.  Again, many things are being done wrong as we learn to respond to this threat appropriately.  When government is involved in anything the response is usually at best, cumbersome and unwieldy.  I’m not an advocate for government overreach in any way, but if we are going to get a handle on this we need to make mistakes first and err on the side of caution.  The more we know and understand the better we can adjust to the reality of what we need to do.
“The guy in charge fired someone who was saying something he didn’t like.”
Again, how does this change the issue whether it’s true or not?  This is just following a persistent pattern set by the politicians and media to launch personal attacks on someone who is saying something we are simply too immature to hear.  Because, again, we have given up the ability to think intelligently for ourselves.
This is a worldwide issue.  It’s not about American rights.  It’s not about “OSHA regulations”.  It’s not about “one world government”, or any other conspiracy you care to name.
I’m going to take a moment to point out what should be obvious.
This is a virus.
The virus doesn’t care how old you are.
The virus doesn’t care how famous you are.
The virus doesn’t care what race you are.
The virus doesn’t care how much money you make.
The virus doesn’t care what you think you know.
The virus doesn’t care what political party you belong to.
The virus doesn’t care about your rights.
The virus doesn’t care about your religion or faith.
The virus doesn’t care about anything.
The virus doesn’t have the ability to care, or emote about anything at all.  It’s a virus.  It merely looks for an environment to thrive in.  That environment is you and me.
I need people.  I need human contact. 
Unfortunately, so does the virus.  What I need, and do, for myself, could now become a threat to the safety and well-being of others.  It’s hard enough to accept this on a basic level, but when we add political posturing to the process it completely overshadows the reality of our situation.
I will go on to say that as a Christian, I am appalled and ashamed of the way a significant portion of the Church has chosen to treat others during this time.  Both within and without the Church body I have watched people being treated cruelly, and so viciously.  I am completely disgusted by this behavior.  Those who do this have simply put their politics over their faith.  They are dictated to by hate rather than the Love of Christ, and it sickens me.  To you I would say this:  Step out of your current thought structure and re-examine your actions in light of what Jesus would really do!  Try to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  We are supposed to be different! 
So many times, I have heard it said, “I follow God’s law not man’s.”  This is commendable and I agree with that statement.  However, you completely undermine any credibility you may have engendered when you only follow God’s law when it agrees with something you want to do, and conveniently ignore it when it suits your purpose.  God’s law is always God’s law, not just when you like it.  His Law is Love, and our job is reconciliation, not judgement.
I’m not perfect.  I can’t claim any better record at actually following through with this than anyone else.  I am trying my hardest though.  I’ve learned more and more throughout my life that Love really is the answer. 
This thing really is killing people, and we can do something about it.  You will say something like, “I care, I just don’t think we should be doing it this way….”. 
Please just shut up.  Take responsibility for your own actions, and start thinking like someone else is at least as important as you are to yourself.
I know I am not alone when I say I have held the hands of the dead.  They are impossibly cold.  I have tried in vain to impart some warmth back into them, and I have discovered to my despair that I cannot bring anyone back to life.  There are no do overs.
If someone I loved were to die from this virus, and it could be shown that it came from you, that you were in fact responsible for my loved one’s death because you couldn’t be bothered to care enough to take precautions, then I would come to you.
We would have a meeting, and you would not welcome it.  I would not threaten you.  I would not harm you or do anything to you.
What I would do, would be to give you the unimaginable weight of my grief.
I would place upon your shoulders the overwhelming, unbearable burden of the effect of your own actions onto your shoulders.
I would watch alongside you as it weighed us both down together. 
As it pressed us to the earth and inexorably crushed us.
As it slowly and inevitably left us all but lifeless.
And then I would take it back.
I would forgive you, and take your hand to help you heal.
I would love you once again.
And then I would sit beside you, and take your hand and ask,
“Was the life we lost worth it?”
©Dan Bode 2020


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 -

Always.

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