Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I Joined the Mob

A few weeks ago I joined a mob.
It was not a game, nor was it organized crime. Although it was an organized mob.
We came together through a loosely connected network of Face book and Twitter announcements to meet at a specific time and place, and take a specific action for a specific amount of time, for a specific purpose.
There was no single leader, I know it had to have started with someone’s vision, but I don’t know whose, nor does it really matter.
As I was walking to the designated location I realized that I was nervous. I did not at first understand why. We weren’t going to be doing anything illegal or threatening in any way. After some thought I understood my nervousness.
Let me explain:
I was about to be a part of a flashmob.
A flashmob is a group of people who come together in a seemingly random fashion to one spot. At a designated time they all perform a specific action for a few minutes and then disperse. If you look up the term “flashmob” on YouTube you will see videos of huge pillow fights, or people swatting each other with folded newspapers or performing highly coordinated dance routines. All harmless, but all designed to attract attention and break the routine of those around you.
Sometimes it’s meant to inspire joy, sometimes serious thought, sometimes just to get you out of the rut you find yourself in.
At first I thought that I was simply uncomfortable with the attention it might bring to me, but I dismissed that because I generally don’t care if I am the subject of anyone’s attention, unless they happen to have a gun. I was nervous because I was about to become part of a cause.
I was about to take a public stand against something that I believe is one of the greatest offenses one human can inflict on another. It offends me so much that I find it very difficult to control the anger I feel against those who are guilty of perpetrating this crime against others.
The issue is Human Trafficking: The buying and selling of one human being to another.
Also known as slavery.
That’s right. That disgusting thing we thought ended with the Civil War in our sanitized histories. Alive and well in the United States of America, and incidentally, quite virulent in the rest of the world. It is an international disease.
It occurs all over the world, and it crosses socio-economic, racial, religious, and sexual lines without thought. It has happened in my town and yours. A young girl just a few miles from my home was kidnapped. She was claimed as “property” and taken from a happy home in a nice neighborhood then sold on Craigslist for sexual use.
She turned out to be a case of one who was rescued and returned to her family. She has the opportunity to recover, although that will be a long and difficult process that she should not have to go through. Sadly, she is still in the minority. And that’s just one of the ones we know about. Most of those forced into this life cannot escape. This is real. It’s not just something you see on a documentary that will only affect “someone else”.
It is currently estimated that 27 million people around the world are enslaved in some form. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people a year are brought in to the US from other countries as slaves. At least 100,000 American minors are sex slaves.
Human Trafficking wasn’t even a crime in the US until the year 2000!
Safe houses are being built by rescue organizations to help these victims get out. They give them a place to recover and rest in safety, but there are far too few.
These organizations need our help in every area: finances, manpower, administration, everything. I will post links to their sites at the end of this article.
This issue makes me angry as few other things do. The thought of what these victims go through sends me into a spiral of fury that, if left unchecked, would turn into white-hot, unadulterated RAGE!
If I were faced with one of the perpetrators of this crime I don’t know that I would be able to control anything I did to him.
The reason is this: I have a beautiful wife, and daughters, and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, and friends who could all be made victims of this crime, and the thought one of these sub-human perpetrators even coming close to any one of the people I care about and attempting to victimize them is absolutely horrifying to me. That, coupled with the idea that it is an absolutely credible threat in the real world that I live in, in my town, seems beyond comprehension.
But here it is, as real as breathing.
As our economy tanks and our governmental authorities claim a lack of funding and resources to adequately combat any number of problems, this is also given a lesser priority.
Why does it always come down to money?
One side makes money doing it, and the other side needs money to fight it.
It started by someone wanting to make a profit, and reducing human life to the status of a commodity, a thing, something to own and dispose of when used up.
There are those who would like to legalize it so the government could reap the benefit of the taxes levied on it. Might as well get something out of it since we all know it’s going to happen, right?
Oh yes, and when it’s legal all the abuse and kidnappings will stop because the kidnapers and pimps will suddenly see the benefits of actually filing tax returns and claiming their long deserved status as entrepreneurs.
And because those in authority lack the funds and the drive to respond adequately to this issue (although I have to give them credit for trying) we are left as a society to come up with our own solutions. And since it is unacceptable in our society to remove the perpetrators from the gene pool without the approval of our court system (because even though they obliterate the rights of one human they are somehow allowed to retain their own) we can instead pursue the victims of the crime to rescue them.
We can be there to help them pick up the pieces, and return to some semblance of a “normal” life.
And this brings me back to the mob.
I joined a group of people who quietly gathered at the steps of the California state Capitol building, put on shirts with a message stating that 27 million people were being trafficked, and…
We simply froze in the process of whatever action we were in the midst of at that moment, and didn’t move for five minutes.
People would walk through the crowd and suddenly realize that they were in the middle of a group of people, all dressed similarly, who were not moving. At all.
It was weird.
No one does that.
And they noticed.
I don’t know how many people noticed enough to go out and do something about it, or get involved in any way. I don’t know if anyone even figured out what we were doing at all.
But we took a stand, and peacefully made our point, and if only one person asks a question as a result then that’s a good thing.
My anger was channeled to a higher purpose, and I was more effective doing this than I would have been following my own instincts and dragging a trafficker into a back alley, as is my preference.
I am not really a “cause” kind of guy, and I don’t recall ever really being this openly adamant about anything before. I don’t know that I have ever felt the combination of anger, sorrow, and fear at the same time before. Somehow I just find this one impossible to walk away from.
Most of you who read this will not feel the same passion as I do over this issue simply because you have other worthy causes you have chosen to devote yourself to, and I would not want to distract you from them. But I would ask this: Just take a look. See if there’s some area you can contribute to. Chances are that you know someone, who knows someone who has been affected by this thing.

For in the end you are not as far removed from it as you would like to think.
©Dan Bode 2010


With More Than Purpose

California Against Slavery

Courage to Be You

Saturday, October 2, 2010


We all have treasures that we wish to hold on to with all of our strength. We treasure more what we have worked harder to obtain, or what someone else has worked to obtain for us. When I think of treasures I first think of my initial understanding of the concept which I got from my brother Bill.

My relationship with Bill was a special one that takes some explanation. Bill is 15 years older than I am, he is the oldest of six children and I am the youngest. By Bill’s own admission it took him a while to think of me in kindly terms when I was born. He thought it was rather disgusting that my mother would have another child at her age (about 35). Then he was forced to baby-sit me, and he discovered all the neat things I could do, like rolling a piece of tape into a circle so the sticky part was on the outside and watching me try to get it off my hands. He probably watched me pass it from hand to hand for quite a while. Anyway, Bill and I became closer as time went on and I came to depend on him for many things. Most notably to answer all my questions as I was growing up.
Bill was, and is, a smart guy. I figured he knew everything, because he always had an answer for all of my questions. It didn’t matter what the question was he always had an answer. He never said “I don’t know” to me until I was about nine and then I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know whom to ask. I actually had to use the encyclopedia. It was the heaviest book I had lifted up to that point in life.
Bill was the guy who did everything right. I never saw his mistakes because he was always there taking care of mine. It was as though he would do anything for me. I remember when all of us kids were still living at home. We lived in a three-bedroom house. My two sisters were in bunkbeds in one room and us four boys were in bunkbeds in our room. Bill and I were in one set and Mike and Dave in the other. I had the lower bunk since I tended to be very active whilst I slept, and a five foot drop while your sleeping is not a pleasant experience for anyone, especially with a crybaby like me for a little brother.
One night in particular I woke up about 1:00 AM. I don’t really know what time it was, but it was dark and everyone was sleeping so 1:00 AM sounds good. I saw something on the wall next to the bed which I was convinced was a spider. For a little kid late at night a spider on the wall is nothing to take lightly. Everyone knows spiders are more harmful at night ‘cuz they have more time to suck all your blood out and then they spin all their webbing around you so you can’t move and then they kill you with their poison and….well you get the picture. I couldn’t get out of bed to get away from the spider either, because it’s just as bad being awake and out from under the mysterious protection provided by your blankets, which by the way, provided absolute impervious protection against any and all monsters that stalked the night. My solution was to poke the bottom of Bill’s mattress and wake him up.
“Bill!” I whispered.
No answer. I poked again.
I saw movement from the bed above me, and then Bill leaned his head over the side.
“What’s wrong?” He wasn’t upset at all.
“I think there’s a spider on the wall beside me.”
“Hang on.” He said as he climbed down.
It should also be noted here that the monsters I feared so desperately never seem to attack big brothers and grown ups, so I had no qualms about asking Bill to leave the protection of his blankets.
He leaned over my bed and looked closely at the wall.
“I can’t tell if it’s a spider or not.” He whispered. “It’s too dark. I’ll have to go get the flashlight.” We only owned one flashlight, and it was in the glove compartment of the car in the driveway. Bill got the car keys and went out to the car to get the flashlight. I was amazed at the way he fearlessly walked through the house with no thought of his own safety. I was even more amazed when he walked outside in his pajamas! All the monster rules in the house were null and void the minute you walked out the front door. Even if you took your blanket with you, it offered no protection from the Outside Night Monsters. If you had a flashlight when you went out there, you might have a fighting chance, because they didn’t like the light one bit, but Bill was unarmed. So it is only reasonable that my estimation of my big brother’s powers increased exponentially when he returned to our bedroom with the flashlight completely unscathed.
Wow. They didn’t even try to get him!
He walked back into our room and leaned over the bed again, shining the flashlight at the spider on the wall, which by the way had not moved an inch since I first spied it. Do spiders sleep?
The beam of light finally found it’s goal and I saw captured within the circle not a spider, but just a little mark on the wall that I had accidentally put there with a crayon the day before. I never said anything about it because we weren’t supposed to write on the walls. If anyone asked it just showed up one day while I was gone, I don’t know anything about it.
“It’s just a mark on the wall” Bill said, “nothing to be afraid of.”
“Oh. OK. Thanks.”
“It’s OK. Can you get back to sleep ok?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Ok, goodnight.”
He climbed back into his bed, and went back to sleep. I fell asleep pretty fast too, because I knew then there was nothing that could get past my big brother Bill.

When Bill joined the Air Force he was gone for long periods of time, but he always wrote to me faithfully. He always addressed his letters to “Master Daniel Bode”. I had no idea why he put the “master” on there but it sounded good.
When he came home to visit he always brought me a gift. One thing he would get me that was my favorite thing was called a Treasure Ball. It was nothing more than a big ball of layers of tissue. Wrapped within each layer was a small Cracker Jack sized toy, and then at the center there was a slightly larger toy. I would set each prize aside in a special pile as I came to each one. I kept the tissue for a while too. I would play with all of the prizes and save each one. Even though I had other, more substantial toys, these would hold my attention for the longest time. There were two reasons for this. First, they were from Bill. Second, I had to work for them.
The way they came to me added to their value, and determined how I treated them. I esteemed, loved and respected the giver, and so the gift as well.
It is said that we pattern our concept of God after the example of our father, and for a long time I certainly did that. But as I came to know God more personally, I realized that the better example of God’s action in my life was Bill. He was my protector and the one who had the answers. I could depend on him to accept me in spite of all the pranks I pulled and trouble I got into.
God is like that too, but with the exception of one major thing. The treasure I sought in the Treasure Ball was something I had to work for, but the treasure God gave me was something He had done all the work for. I am often reminded that I don’t treat the treasure from Him, which has infinite value, as well as I treat the treasures I have gained on my own, which have no lasting value at all.
©Dan Bode 1998

Monday, September 20, 2010

God Calling

This one's a little old, but I needed to hear the lesson again.

God is calling.
He will keep calling until He gets an answer.
What exactly is God’s calling?
I used to think it meant becoming a sequestered monk and taking on a vow of silence, or being a missionary to the remotest part of Africa where I would have to drink fermented goats milk and eat roasted beetles (crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside).
None of those options sound remotely appealing to me, but when God calls it isn’t usually done with my convenience in mind. God’s calling is based on His desires not mine, but keep in mind that His calling always benefits us when we heed that call. That does not necessarily mean that we will consider the benefits we gain as desirable. We may not want the reward we get.
Take Jonah for example. Jonah is the classic example of the human response to the call of God. God called him to go to the Ninevites, a people whom Jonah happened to harbor a strong dislike for, and tell them they would be destroyed if they didn’t turn from their evil lives. He refused God’s call and went the other direction, because, quite frankly, he was not the most likeable person around and he wanted the Ninevites to die. He gets on a boat going the other way and ends up in the belly of a fish for 3 days to think about it. Then he is literally thrown-up on the shore and goes to preach to the Ninevites, who actually repent and are saved from the wrath of God.
Most preachers would be thrilled to have an audience respond so well to their message, but since Jonah didn’t like them in the first place he was really hoping they wouldn’t change. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. In the end God calls Jonah on the carpet for his attitude.
The Ninevite’s salvation was not the benefit that Jonah wanted, but it was what was best in God’s eyes.
And there’s the rub.
We don’t look at the details of God’s call through God’s eyes. We look through our own. And let me tell you our vision is pretty myopic. In fact our vision is so limited that it actually goes against our nature to even consider that another viewpoint might exist. So God gives us the tools to make the necessary decisions to fulfill His call. He prepares us for obedience rather than complete control. He is there working behind the scenes as we approach times of significant impact in our lives. He desires our total willingness to follow Him rather than the threat of a forced march in front of an unforgiving master. It is for the love of Him that we do what He asks despite our fears and misgivings. Our knowledge and vision are so limited that we easily surpass our boundaries when we trust Him to know what we do not, or what we refuse to know.
The call overshadows everything in our lives. There is nothing more basic to our existence than the need for the love of God to reside within us, and it is His love within us that allows us to go beyond our own abilities to fulfill His call. And it is the fulfillment of His call that brings us a greater joy.
The call of God provides us with both a starting point and a destination. To reach the destination He provides us with a vision, and the gifts necessary to attain it. The vision has something beneficial for each of us individually, and the Body of believers as a whole, and like everything God gives us, it cannot be contained within the limitations of one person. Everything God does seems to be made to overflow any boundaries placed upon it. The things of God are no more containable than He is. He gives us gifts that we are compelled to use in the manner and place where He finds it useful rather than where and when we find it convenient. As another case in point consider the story of Queen Esther. She discovers that someone has deviously set out to destroy the entire race of her people the Jews. Esther is asked by her uncle to intercede for her people with the king, but she is reluctant. If she approaches the king when he has not first called her there is a distinct possibility that she could be put to death. As she struggles with the need of her people and the possibility of losing her own life her uncle injects this thought into her deliberations: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'' (Esther 4:14b Italics mine)
In that moment the gifts and vision provided by God had just overflowed the boundaries of the vessel in which they resided. Esther responded as the Queen whom God had made her to be and risked her life to save her entire race. While the gifts God gave her were indeed hers, they were only effective when used in the manner in which He needed them to be used.
God is not surprised by the situations we find ourselves faced with. He does not lose sight of where we are or what we are going through. He doesn’t turn around and suddenly say, “Oh no! Where did he go?” as though He has misplaced us somehow. The Shepherd’s eye is always upon us.
We are not called to be ministers, missionaries, kings, queens, policemen, firemen, or computer nerds, but to be lights in the darkness. We are His wherever we go, and He calls us to be his representatives in the world according to the gifts and skills He has given us. It is not for me to do whatever I wish to do and then arrogantly say to God, “Please bless me as I do what I want.” One of the truest forms of worship I can engage in is to ask God first what He wants me to do, and then willingly go simply because it is God who asks even if I don’t necessarily agree. As in Jonah’s case the call of God does not require my agreement, but it does require, and depends on, my love for God and my understanding of His love for me. That is the basis of our obedience.
In Jeremiah 29:11 we are told, “For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” I am humbled by the fact that He takes notice of me to have a place in His plan at all, and awed by the love it requires to invite me to participate. When I willingly follow His prompting, and respond to the restless longing He has placed in my heart, my step is surer as the wind of His spirit clears the dust and debris from the path I have often ignored. It is a path I often shy away from. The trailhead is sometimes hidden beneath the layers of my self-indulgence, but it cannot be ignored forever. The beginning of that path is marked by a rough hewn cross, whose surface is marred by nail holes and blood stains. On one side awaits His love, and on the other His justice. It is my choice to live in obedience or disobedience, and my choice to enjoy the blessings or suffer the consequences.
We tend to think pretty highly of ourselves at times. We often assume we know the outcome of certain events, and in our assumption we think we have control. But we presume far too much. We have as much chance of directing God with our preferences as a feather has of standing still in a hurricane.
The past few years have been fairly tumultuous for our family. We have felt many blows in both the physical and spiritual sense. At the beginning of this period we tended to look at things expecting the worst to happen, but then God took us in hand and showed us the futility of our anxiety. There was always more to see than we could spy from our vantage point, and with each new event there was a new means of dealing with it. And in dealing with each one a new aspect of the personality of God was revealed that we never would have otherwise understood. We do still worry about things, we aren’t perfect, but we look for God’s hand more readily than we ever did before. It is in His hand that we find the greatest peace, and in obedience to Him that we find the greatest purpose. We know that His plans are "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
And that is what the call of God will always be about.
©Dan Bode 2000

Monday, August 30, 2010

Acquired Tastes

Occasionally I will hear someone use the phrase, “It’s an acquired taste.”
My usual question in response to this is, “Why acquire it?”
If it’s bad enough that you don’t initially like it then why would you go to the trouble of forcing yourself through the dislike into tolerance? There has to be some reward there.
This came to mind one day a while back when I read a story about a rare and expensive variety of coffee.
I must first digress and say that I am, in truth, a certifiable coffee snob. There is no better way to say it. The only coffee I have found worth drinking comes from Boulevard Coffee in Carmichael, California. Everything else is substandard. Cliff Miller owns the place and when he retires I think I’m just going to start roasting my own coffee. I will be at a total loss as to what to do at that time, and I have been thinking about it for quite a while believe me.
Anyway, I started drinking coffee seriously in college because I needed a stimulant other than illegal drugs to keep me awake so I could finish my homework and stay awake in all my classes. The thing about it was that I hated the taste of coffee at that time. Granted the stuff I was drinking came out of a can, which is the worst stuff you can get, but that was all I knew back then. I had drunk coffee occasionally as a child when my Danish grandmother told me that I wasn’t a real Dane unless I drank coffee. Not wanting to disappoint my grandmother, whom I loved very much, and in an effort to retain my Danehood, I learned to drink coffee her way. She gave me a sugar cube and told me to hold it between my teeth, and when I sipped the coffee to swill the coffee past the sugar cube. I went through a minimum of four sugar cubes per small cup. I already had a reputation as a hyper kid, but when you added caffeine and sugar to the mix I must have turned into a tornado. My recollections of those afternoons are rather blurred. All my baby teeth had fillings too so I doubt it was the healthiest practice. On the other hand, my grandmother’s diet consisted mainly of coffee, sugar, butter and red meat and she lived to be 102 so it can’t be all bad.
So, I acquired the taste for coffee out of necessity, and later learned to like it. Now I love it and consume it with what I would call an “intense regularity” and have no desire to live without it.
And Cliff, well he is my very good friend, but I often refer to him simply as my “Supplier”.
Then I heard about this rare coffee. My ears perked up when I heard about it because it costs an enormous amount of money. Hundreds of dollars a pound. I began to wonder what it was and what made it so special. I started to think about how I might score a few ounces.
So I did some research.
It is called “Civet” coffee.
I originally thought the name derived from the region in which the coffee bean was grown. Then I discovered that a Civet is really an animal that thrives in Indonesia. It is sometimes described as a “cat like” creature.
It’s basically a weasel.
I was confused as to why any variety of coffee would have an animal associated with it, particularly an animal as undignified a weasel, so I read further.
The Civet eats the berries of the coffee tree. The actual coffee bean is kind of like the pit of the berry itself. The Civet eats the whole berry. The Civet digests the berry. The Civet “expels” the coffee bean.
This seems a normal and natural process.
Then it gets bizarre.
Some enterprising, and I’m sure upstanding, member of Indonesian society must have been cleaning up Civet poop one day and saw the “processed” coffee beans. Being a coffee drinker himself, and not wanting to waste anything, he wonders what it would taste like. So carefully gathering up the beans (hopefully wearing gloves) he takes them home and (hopefully after washing them thoroughly), roasts them lightly. He then grinds them up and puts them in a sock (hopefully a clean one), ties it closed and throws it in a pot of boiling water.
He drinks his new brew and, because it took so much work to get the beans, he convinces himself that the flavor is indeed improved over the other coffee beans he uses. He calls a friend over to try some of the new brew.
“Before you taste this I want you to know that I put a lot of work into processing this coffee.”
“Well it must be good then! Let’s have a taste!” his friend replies eagerly.
His friend tries it.
“Hmmm. It has an odd aftertaste. I can’t quite place it. Where did you get these beans?”
“Over in the south field. But it is the processing that is unique my friend.”
“Really? What did you do? You could probably get a lot for these. The more unique it is the more people will pay for it.”
“Exactly what I was thinking!”
“So what did you do?” he asks as he takes another sip.
“Well, really all I did was pick the beans. The rest was already done! That’s the beauty of the whole thing!”
“What do you mean?” his bewildered friend replies.
“Well you know all the trouble we go through to get the seed out of the berry?”
“Of course.”
“And you know the Civets we keep chasing off?”
“Well yesterday I was out cleaning up the Civet poop- “
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this.” He puts down his cup.
“ – and I found the beans in the poop and they were already out of the berry, and so I-“
“You gave me ROASTED CIVET POOP?! Are you NUTS?!”
He grabs his cane and starts beating his friend with it.
“What on earth made you do that? And why did you give it to ME?! I’m supposed to be your friend! Are you trying to poison me?! Is this because you married my cousin?! It’s not my fault she can’t cook! Heck, you’re drinking roasted weasel turds; you don’t have any taste anyway! Why are you taking it out on me?!”
As he rolls around on the floor with his arms up to protect his head from the cane that is being swung with increasing fervor the grower yells,
“NO, NO, I want you to be my partner! You said yourself it had a unique flavor! OW! If we sell it without telling people where it came – OW! - from they’ll pay extra for it! It doesn’t even have to be good!”
The cane stops in mid swing.
“Hmmm. You may have a point there. By the time they figure out what it really is they may be hooked.”
“Yes! Exactly!”
“Then we could start a Civet farm and feed them the bad beans so we could save the better ones for the regular crop.”
“Good idea!”
“Okay, I’m in. But what will we call it?”
“How about Civet Coffee?”
“We’ll tell everyone it’s an ‘acquired taste’. That always gets ‘em.”
I doubt they ever drank any again themselves.
Eventually the idea took hold and now the stuff sells for, in some cases, $600 a pound. Recent studies have found that virtually no one can taste any significant difference between this coffee and any other, although I don’t know if the participants were told they were drinking roasted weasel turds. I suspect that if they knew this up front they would have refused to participate in the study.
Up to this point the consumption of poop was always limited to the animal kingdom. I know this because we have a dog and a cat. I like them both. I have observed that they have what I have come to think of as a “symbiotic” relationship. When we first got the cat we kept her indoors for several months and during this time we, of course, had a litter box.
Being the one who was automatically assumed to be the Litter Box Cleaner I had reason to observe some, what I considered to be, odd things.
The cat learned how to use the litter box fairly quickly, and she was pretty consistent about how many times in a day that she used it. It was a little irritating when she would get a little overenthusiastic in burying her “product” because she would kick the litter out of the box and then I would step on it. It felt like a bunch of little sharp pebbles. When I went to scoop her stuff out of the box I came to expect a certain number of “items” to be there, because she was, as I mentioned, consistent.
After a few weeks I began to notice there were fewer things in the box than there used to be. Now normally I wouldn’t consider this a problem, but since she was an indoor cat I started to wonder if I was going to start finding some of these little “markers” in unexpected places. I was on the lookout, but I never found any strays. I did, however, discover something else.
One day as I was walking through the room with the litter box I came upon our dog sniffing in the litter box and she came out with a piece of dried up cat poop in her mouth.
The litter box was her cookie jar.
“Oh man! What are doing that for? Do you have an iron deficiency or something?” It seems like any weird dietary practice is always explained by an iron deficiency. I’m sure she understood every word I said. Being part yellow Lab she looked up at me with those pathetic eyes and wagged her tail as if to say, “What? Did I do something wrong? Try one they’re tasty!” I chose to forego this offer.
The cat became an outside cat shortly after that. I have observed that there is a particular spot in the flower bed of our backyard that she prefers to use as her litter box. I have also observed that the dog has discovered this spot. I won’t give you anymore detail on that except to say the dog has never licked my face since the litter box incident. I have heard that in some countries (not the US) it is considered healthy to drink a glass of one’s own urine each day. No one who does this will be allowed to lick my face either. I’m pretty sure if I just started feeding the cat more food I wouldn’t have to feed the dog anymore. She’d have her own “natural” food supply.
So this is my proof that Civet coffee consumption is unnatural for humans and should at the very least come with a warning label of some kind. I’m not really sure what it should say. Maybe something as simple as,
“WARNING this is made from weasel turds! Drink at your own risk!”
Or maybe,
“WARNING! The consumption of Weasel Turd Coffee is an ACQUIRED TASTE! If you have not acquired the taste you risk death and/or chronic halitosis in the process of acquiring said taste. And it may destroy all your other tastes, and leave you friendless!”
Yeah, I think that one would do it.
You’ll save a lot of money for gas too.
©Dan Bode 2008

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Friend Ron

In the neighborhood I grew up in there were quite a few kids my age, and we all played together, but I was close to just a few. One of those was a kid named Ronnie Bateman. I was a few years older than him, but we were both born while our families lived on that street and I suppose they must have gotten together as friends for Ron and I to have become so close. I don’t recall a time while I lived on that street that he and I weren’t friends. We were always hanging out together. His family became a surrogate to me when mine began to unravel. When my parents divorced he was there, we didn’t talk about it, but I knew I could express emotions over the situation without any reprimand. He was a good friend in a storm.
Later, when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I went to stay at his house when she went in for surgery. His mom made my lunch for school, and got me where I needed to go. Again, when my mother was dying from the cancer the surgeons were unable to get, Ron’s home was mine. There was a connection between us that was cemented in my pain, and one that I have never forgotten.
After my mother died I left the neighborhood I had grown up in to go live with my brother Bill. It was a parting that I had no means of comprehending. It was September 1973, and I was 12 years old. All of my stuff was packed, and I was getting ready to leave the house that I had lived in all my life. My brother Dave was going to live there for a while with his wife Heike. I had come up with every reason I could think of to stay there, but there were no other viable options. Living with my father was not a consideration due to his alcoholism, and Dave and Heike were just starting out in their marriage. Taking responsibility for a now troubled 12-year-old would have been too much to bear. So I had to leave the neighborhood. There were no other choices.
I had to leave home.
As I prepared to leave for the last time my friends all came around to say good-bye. I did ok with most of them, although some of that was because I was still simply stunned with all of the sudden changes that were taking place around me. My family had changed, my home had changed, my school had changed, and while there were so many friends and relatives offering their love and support I still felt profoundly and completely isolated. Not even the people or things that I had grown up with seemed the same anymore. Then Ron came over, and I went over to his house for the last time. His mom cried and hugged me and said good-bye as well as his sister Kathy and his dad. We sat around for a while and looked through all of the boxes full of parts from every electric toy we two had owned. We had been gathering all the materials to make a functional robot. No one ever thought to tell us we needed more than electric motors to do it. Finally, it was time for me to leave. We didn’t quite know what to say anymore. Good-bye was too simple for the kind of friendship we had. We were young, but we had gone through a great deal together. In the end we just said good-bye and hugged. That was something I generally didn’t do with other guys at that age, but there was no other way to communicate anything further. I left the neighborhood with promises from my friends to write to them and they to me. I don’t think any of us ever did, kids at that age are generally not the best at that kind of thing.

Quite a few years passed before I heard any more news from the neighborhood. Ron and his family came to my wedding, and Ron caught the garter belt. We didn’t get a chance to talk much then so there was no opportunity for any catching up. I had no contact with anyone there except for my brother Dave and he would occasionally pass on some news that he had heard. He and Heike had moved out of the house when it was sold, so he did not have as much direct contact as before. My wife Sue was pregnant with our second daughter Kaytie when Dave called me with the news that Ron Bateman had just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery for a brain tumor. I was pretty shocked. Ron was only about 23 years old. This wasn’t supposed to happen this young. Dave said that he had heard that he was doing ok, but he hadn’t talked to them directly. I still remembered Ron’s phone number, it was as indelibly etched in my memory as my own from those days. Mr. Bateman answered the phone. I told him who I was and he said,
“Well hello Danny! It’s good to hear from you. How are you doing?”
I told him I was fine and gave him a brief rundown on my life up to that point. I then told him I had heard about Ron’s situation and had called to see how he was doing. He had just come home from the hospital the day before I called.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hey Ron, this is Dan Bode.” I replied.
“Wow! How ya’ doin’ buddy? It’s been a long time!” He sounded tired.
“I’m doing pretty well, how about you?” I asked.
“I’m doing OK. I get tired real easy though. The doctor says that will get better with time. How did you hear about me?”
I told him about Dave and how he had told me about it all. We talked about all we had been doing over the many years we had missed in each other’s lives. He had become a Christian about the same time I had. Both of us had grown up in the church, but we never had an understanding about what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ. After searching around for a few years we both wound up back at the Cross. It was good to know we had that level of spiritual fellowship to connect. We talked about getting together sometime and going sailing. He had joined a sailing club and would go out on the bay. He enjoyed the peace. We made no definite dates since we had no idea how his recovery would progress. I called him every few months after that to maintain contact, and he seemed to improve in his strength and general health for a while, but then things seemed to go down hill again. He told me that another tumor had developed. This time the doctors could do nothing for him. He was going to die.
His family settled in and waited with him. He was engaged at the time to a lovely young woman who chose to stay with him and become a part of his family.
I don’t remember how long it took for the tumor to develop to the point that it totally incapacitated him, but when he went into the hospital for the last time his mom called me and I came back to see him. I remember walking in to the hospital and finding the hall where his room was. His mom was just coming out when she saw me. She immediately put her arms out to hug me, and as I put my arms around her I remember saying “I love you.” It was the first thing out of my mouth. I didn’t think about it prior to that, it was simply the right thing to say. She had been my mother too for a while. She held me tighter and sobbed quietly for just a moment. She let me go and said “I love you too Danny”.
“How is he?” I asked.
I could tell the room was crowded, and there was a lot of noise going on in there.
“He’s actually doing pretty well. Several of our friends from church came to visit, and do you know he said he wanted to lead them in some hymns? Can you believe it?”
I had to believe it, because I heard a bunch of people singing hymns in his room. When I walked in they were just finishing the last one, and people were starting to file out of the room. They all smiled at me as they left with tears in their eyes. I walked closer to the bed and his sister Kathy, who had been sitting next to him, came over and hugged me.
“Ron guess who’s here? It’s Danny.”
“I was hoping you would make it out.” He said.
He didn’t look too much different from when I had seen him at my wedding a few years before. I don’t recall him looking emaciated or anything like that. He was, however, completely incapacitated. The tumor had grown to the point that it was actually shoving his brain to the side. All he could do was lay there with his head turned to the side. He could see and he could speak, but that was all. He would occasionally ask someone to turn his head for him. Because the pain was now so intense the doctor had put him on a continual morphine feed. There was nothing they could do now except ease his pain. We talked for a little while, but not too long. He fell asleep and I just sat by his bed for an hour or two praying for him and his family. When he was awake he was either singing, praising God, or telling a joke. He was the most positive person there.
Occasionally the morphine would intervene as he drifted in and out of a drug-induced fog, but something struck me very profoundly as I watched this happen to him. Most people are quite incoherent in this state, rambling on with jumbled thoughts or just basic nonsense, but not Ron. When the morphine took over and Ron lost conscious control of his senses, the only words that came out of his mouth were praises to God. He was totally oblivious to my presence, but not to his Creator. I almost felt as if I was intruding on a private conversation, so powerful was the presence of God in that moment. It struck me then that Ron had truly given himself completely over to God.
We all talk about doing that don’t we? We all talk about giving ourselves completely over to Christ, and living for Him. That is the goal of our existence. That is the one point in our life that every Christian strives for, to surrender completely to God and let Him do His work in and through us. Ron had reached that point. He was so completely immersed in the Holy Spirit that when he had no control over himself, God did. I asked myself then, if I were in the same condition as Ron what words would be coming out of my mouth? Would the pursuit of God be so ingrained in me that I would still praise Him if I had no control of my actions?
It has been 13 years since I asked myself these questions, and I have yet to answer them.
Ron was sent home to die in his own bed, in the same room we had always gone to play in when we were kids. One night in the middle of the night as his father was checking on him, he awoke briefly and asked his dad to cover him up. His dad covered him and checked the morphine flow on his way back to bed. He died peacefully a few hours later as he slept.
His mom called me the next day to tell me he was gone, and when the memorial service would be. I was there to see all of his friends and family say their good-byes and add my own.
It struck me as I sat and listened to everyone speak with such love about this man that I had known all my life, that I had watched a man die. I have indeed heard the words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” more than I wanted to in my lifetime, but never had I been there to actually observe a death of someone I knew well. I had been there shortly after my mother died, but I was not there to see the process. Here I had actually talked to Ron about where he was going. We had talked about seeing each other again, and then he faded out and started praising God while he was not aware himself of what he was doing.
I had seen death before, but I realized then that I would never, in any other circumstance, consider it such an honor to watch a man die.
We are all appointed once to die, but Ron had taken his one life and used it to die well.
©Dan Bode 1998

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Love Conquers All

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Right Thing

"For such is the will of God, that by doing right we may silence the ignorance of foolish men." 1Peter 2:15.

We can do the “right thing” all of our lives and bad things will still happen to us. Doing the right thing does not save us from future circumstances. It is when we continue to do the “right thing” when life goes bad on us that our lives gain significance in the eyes of others.
Job is the perfect example of the man who did the “right thing” all the time, yet he suffered a great deal. The real significance of Jobs’ life is that he continued to do the right thing even as he suffered. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but when I really give it some thought I realize that if Job hadn’t acted as he did he wouldn’t even be in the Bible. If he hadn’t continued to live as he always had his faith would have no standing with the world. It wasn’t his suffering that set him apart, a lot of people suffer. What set Job apart, what made him worthy of our notice, was what he did in the midst of his suffering. He just continued doing what he had always done.
It is when we continue to do the “right thing” when bad things happen that the world takes notice. When trials occur in our lives our first question is often, “Why me?”. The more appropriate question should be, “Why not me?”. My faith does not exempt me from adverse circumstance. Trials happen to everyone at some point, but we as Christians are given the means to cope.
Prior to Jesus, Job was the epitome of suffering. Things that never happen to anyone happened to Job all at the same time. A lot of people get hung up on the whole idea that God allowed Job’s children to be killed. What most of us fail to do is to look at these events from God’s perspective. Granted this is a difficult proposition at any time, but we need to try it in order to understand this issue. God knew that Job’s children would be going to heaven, which is better than being on earth any day. So their deaths were not a bad thing from His view, and once they got there I know they were pretty happy with the outcome. The reason He knew where they were going, aside from the fact that He’s God, is that Job had raised them to know God. In fact, Job even made sacrifices for his own children just in case they forgot or sinned somehow. Just to make sure all the bases were covered. Job did the “right thing” even when no one else thought he needed to. Job was conscious of his relationship with God all the time. Because Job spent so much time in fellowship with God there were qualities in that relationship that most of us only dream of because we have chosen not to pursue God wholeheartedly.
God knew Job. He trusted Job.
When God pointed to Job He said, “Have you considered my servant Job?” He didn’t say “Here’s a long list of my followers that you should look at.” Of all the people on earth He could have mentioned He named only one. He did not name Job’s children, or his wife, or his friends.
Job was the only name that passed God’s lips.
To have faith is to be tested. I have to wonder if untested faith is real faith at all.
Let me clarify that statement: We all have faith in something. It may be a thing, a person, or even an activity. We tend to put our faith in people or things that have passed some test that has proven to us that it is worthy of our dependence on it. Sooner or later the object of our faith will be judged as to whether or not it is worthy of it. I can tell you with complete certainty that everything we have faith in on this earth will fail us. The reason for that is this; on earth we determine whether something or someone is worthy of our faith, but with God it is He who determines if we are worthy to have faith in Him. The quality of our faith in God is determined by its resistance to the influences of a dying world, and it becomes our own choice as to whether we allow our faith to be strengthened or weakened. To be tested is to go beyond our own limits to the point where only God’s strength can sustain us. It is when I reach the limits of all that I aspire to that I find that I alone am not enough.

So it is that Satan dares to come before God, and he can’t help but acknowledge God’s authority in saying that he can’t get past the protection that God has set around his servant. I think there was a lot more to this interaction between God and Satan than we realize. I think Satan came face to face with the reality of God as he never had before.
“Have you considered my servant Job?”
Satan already knew about Job. He was already aware of the protection God afforded him. "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side ?" (Job 1:10) He had already tried to get past God’s defenses. That’s how he knew that God had surrounded Job with His protection.
I think God was pointing something out to Satan. I think He was sending a message to Satan that said, “Whatever you do to this man will never be enough to make him curse Me. There is nothing you could ever do to anyone or for anyone that will create in them that kind of loving devotion to you. I alone am the one who will have this, and I freely return that same devotion to those who give it to Me. You lost this war before it began just as I have always told you. Have you considered my servant Job? Your worst will never be enough to change his heart. I already know the truth of Job, but by testing him you will only be proving the truth to yourself. You will not win. Remember the name of Job whenever you think you have won an inch of ground, and remember that you have gained nothing! So consider my servant Job, Satan, and understand that you haven’t got a prayer.”

I think the truth is this: God did not choose Job to suffer. He chose Job to survive.
God knew what Satan intended, and He knew that Job would not give up. He also knew that others would, and they would go to hell if Satan tested them the same way.
There are days when we have grief upon grief. Tragedy hits and life falls apart. We are not strangers to this. When something tragic happens I lose the ability to understand the why or the wherefore. It is completely overshadowed by the pain. Sometimes we don’t want to see our wounds. Sometimes we cover it over rather than acknowledging the fact that faith and grace are often very bloody.
When God’s protection was in place Job apparently did not feel Satan’s attacks. When it was taken away Job felt the attacks, but still endured because he knew for a fact that God was still there. Job had no ability to understand why these things were happening, but he did know without a doubt that none of it affected the fact of God’s existence or His love for him.
By living his life as he had, Job ensured that his own faith was strong enough to maintain an unseen connection with God so when God withdrew His protection from Job their connection remained. And we see the truth of this in scripture when we read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Once we are near God we are simply near Him. It doesn’t matter what side of the halfway mark you are on. To be in the presence of God is overwhelming no matter how far back in the balcony you think you are. All the seats are good.

After describing Job’s restoration the book of Job ends saying, “After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.”
There is no further mention of Satan seeking to inflict anything further on him. He took his last shot and failed. I think Satan fled the halls of heaven chased by the voice of God echoing behind him saying, “Remember my servant Job.” Satan is a failure, and God considers us the jewel of His creation.
Satan’s failure is our success by God’s proxy. There is no better claim to God’s love than this. He proved it to us at the Crucifixion.
We will suffer,
and we will have joy,
and God will welcome us Home.
©Dan Bode 2010