Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Have God Will Travel

I think I have a mind like the Indianapolis 500. Ideas seem to circle in my head for 500 times or so until one of them becomes a completed thought after it crosses the finish line.

Judi Gaitens, a facilitator of our Centering Prayer Group has a grandson, Mike, who was hit by a car while riding his bike earlier this year. He suffered serious damage and went into rehab after his initial hospitalization and now is at home and back to school part-time. If you want query God about His existence you could do worse than go to the Caring Bridge website,mikearneson@caringbridge.org. One of the entries indicated he spent "hours" in physical therapy each day. That grabbed my attention and I sent him a note about my experiences because I know what a grind that is, both physically and emotionally.
Back in the 70s I spent a year recuperating in an orthopedic ward in a Naval Hospital in Boston. I used to go to physical therapy to exercise my legs every morning and considered it a vast drain on my free time. The exercises were repetitious, boring, and painful. Most patients were marines who had done a combat tour and were not about to do any exercise regimen they didn't want to do, period. So one day the Corpsman singled out one of us that always complained the loudest, stared for a minute then yelled "Are you crazy?!!" (I think he picked me out because I was one of the few that were in the army and wouldn't give him that much of a hard time - and he was probably right).

The Corpsman's point was that we were exercising not for the the next week, month, or even year. We were exercising for the rest of our lives - all the sweat and pain
will give our legs the ability to take us where we want to go in the future and impact the rest of our lives. I wish I could tell you that I absorbed his lesson immediately and understood the importance. I didn't. Not until I got older, not until now. I don't think I ever knew the Corpsman's name because I don't think he ever gave it. He looked 19 years old going on 15 and when he came up to everyone, he only had one question, "Do you know any pretty girls?" But he had wisdom beyond years. Hope he found the pretty girl. I hope Mike got some encouragement from my note.

Life comes with a rear view mirror called memory. Sometimes I look. I've never understood people who say we should only look to the future. If you want to know where you're going, you have to occasionally check out where you've been. What I am going to write may sound egotistical because it probably is, but I'm trying to understand some thoughts and use words doing it so I am going to have to make a few short stops along that road. Both as I was writing Mike and now, after the operation when my legs aren't working well, I thought of some of the places my legs have taken me in life. They are in no particular order or importance and I'm sure you could come up with some even more meaningful than mine. It was fun and also gave me a sense of appreciation.

October, 1971, Laconia, New Hampshire: My legs took me by a meadow halfway up a hill on a brilliant autumn afternoon where I saw God show his A-game. From a stand of trees; birches, maples, and oaks; a whirling dervish of brilliantly colored leaves danced across the field as if keeping time to a wind song.
April 11, 1981, Winchester, Mass - For some reason my face has gone through life with the look of a bank robber, but as I walked down the aisle of the church everyone told me I had the biggest smile they had ever seen. My legs were walking me into marriage and into the arms of the prettiest, most wonderful person I have every met. I was lucky to share her life and I knew it. Still do.
My legs took me to Fenway Baseball Park in Boston, sit about 300 feet from the pitcher's mound and let me imagine what Babe Ruth's wind-up looked like.
My legs took me to my truck that took me to Cary, North Carolina where I witnessed my son do an unselfish act with no one looking. My heart soared.
July 31st 1970, Quang Nghai Province,Vietnam - I witnessed a medivac crew perform the bravest and most unselfish act of courage I ever hope to see. Facing certain death under fire, they were willing to give up their 3 lives for a small chance of saving one. No sense of duty or combat machismo defines their willingness to die for someone they didn't know. They're actions don't equate with any of life's mathematical computations: refuse the mission, lose 1 life, take the mission, lose 4with a small chance, a very small chance, of gaining one. We're people so we don't do divine things, but what they did (and probably repeated many times), transcended this life.
A few years ago on a cold January sunset my legs took me to a hill in Henderson, Nevada where I looked at the neon Las Vegas profile backlight the mountains across the valley. It was beautiful.

We all paint our own pictures, but God supplies the canvas and the color..and we get help on our brushstrokes. Did the Corpsman bring me to all these places? No...I did. but as I get older I've come to believe that we are all a sum of parts and other people have helped us to believe that our lives are built on a foundation of reliance, some reliance known, some unknown. We are connected in ways that are not readily discernible. Did God bring me to all those places? In truth I don't know but in a lot of cases I don't think so. Some of the places my legs took me God didn't want me to go and I lingered in those places a lot longer than I should have.

If I want to keep walking to God, to continue to close the distance, the issue isn't how much I was walking with God and how much I wasn't. The reality of the walk is that it is God's universe-my walk being a small part. Me being a small part. I'm fond of saying "less Jim, more God" is what I strive for in life, but that is not quite complete.

This is hard. I'll finish up tomorrow.

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