Saints, ministers of the Gospel, I can imagine some of you are a bit disturbed by my attitude when it comes to the Marchers. Or maybe not. In any case, do not think that I have not considered it. To keep it brief, here is my defense.
Picking up in the middle of Elijah’s speech found in first Kings chapter eighteen we find:
“‘…Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’
And all the people said, ‘That is good idea.’
So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’
Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’
But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.
It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with loud voice, for he is god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’
So they cried with loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”
I’m Pete, not Elijah. But I do know how to read.
Sidebar: See the rest of the story if you think the LORD plays games when it comes to his name.
It’s Friday. I have the day off, and I need to get back to my study of the ancient people of Ugarit and their wedgy language. Before I do, I want to formally share my thoughts on the school shootings. I believe they are worth repeating.
I believe the school shootings, beginning when I was a senior in high school and continuing to this day, raise the issue of whether man’s creation and use of two atomic bombs has fundamentally altered the status of arms in the United States of America.
To understand how I can see this as the issue raised by school shootings requires me to explain that I believe the natural state of man is chaos. I believe that the manner with which we take a break from the chaos is “the law.” I believe that “the law” is the act of giving up freedom in order to obtain freedom. Philosophically, I believe the U.S. Constitution without the Bill of Rights (of course this document is not real–this is merely philosophical discussion) is “the law.” I believe the similarly-standing-alone-for-philosophical-explanation-only Bill of Rights is the rebuttal which declares preference for life in the pre-law, chaotic, and natural state of man in certain particular areas of life–being in our specific case: arms. Kind of a two-sides of the same coin thing, which itself manifests to the rest of the world the proud and distinct self-understanding of our people.
So that’s what I believe to be the issue raised by the shootings.
Here you’ll see again my solution to this issue, the real issue, the only issue, the issue that you have been up to now unable to say or write because you do not think for yourself, which is to add (second amendment stays) the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Amendment XXVIII: In time of peace, Arms shall no longer be secured by the people.”
…to assume you had character to begin with.
Not a single one of you accepted my challenge. Not-a one. Your silence allowed my mind to wander. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t think through my challenge before I declared it. Of course you wouldn’t understand you had been attacked and defend yourself. You don’t have character. Character requires perseverance, and perseverance requires overcoming some sort of difficulty. No, not the difficulties you’re thinking you have overcome. Neither exasperatingly stuck-open selfie sticks, nor completely spelling out words live under this umbrella. I’m talking difficult. I’ll give you an example.
H-‘s Spring Break was last week. (To new readers, she’s my seven-year-old daughter.) The entire reason I moved to Denver was proximity to the mountains. I wanted to live near the ski-resorts and I wanted H- to grow up skiing. The opportunity finally arrived to take her skiing. In short, the ski-lessons turned out to be a bust. She didn’t know the other kids, and the instructors were very un-ski-instructory.
The proper bunny hill, however, was open for another hour after the lesson, so I took her to the line for the unthinkably slow-but-brief chair lift. Suddenly she had to go to the bathroom.
“Too bad,” I said.
See, I have a younger brother. Once, when we were about to ride the Power Tower at Cedar Point–last ride of the night–as we crept closer to the terrifically terrifying thrill ride and heard the screams, he suddenly had to go to the bathroom.
I also said, “Too bad,” to him back then.
I can only imagine the transition H- experienced as she went from fear of the unknown, to fear of heights, to fear of how to get off the lift. But I don’t have to imagine her relief as I firmly held onto her and we successfully dismounted without hiccup.
“Ready for this?” I queried, absolutely certain she wasn’t.
She soon fell.
I didn’t help her up and I felt like a jerk.
Luckily, ever since she was very young, upon her falling down, I’ve been asking her, “Why do we fall down, Bruce?” and she answers with, “To learn how to pick ourselves up.” (Thanks, Mr. Nolan.)
We maybe made three trips up and down the bunny hill before we called it quits. If she ever chose to fall because she got going too fast and decided to bail before things got ugly, I would help her up. If she fell because she was afraid, I ski’d to her and told her to get up. That was day one.
Day two, we started fresh. After more of the same, she began to fall less and eventually proposed an intriguing deal.
“Hey Daddy. I was thinking. If I can ski down this without falling, can I have a stuffy (her name for Beanie Boos)?”
“I’ll make that deal,” I confirmed, quickly adding, “But you can’t fall once. But you’ve got a deal. It doesn’t matter if it takes all day either. If by the end of today you have made it down one time without falling, you get the stuffy.”
“Not once. Got it. Can I have one for every time I don’t fall?”
“No. But,” I continued, eyeing the larger mountain to our left, “If you go with me on that chair lift, all the way to the top, and ski down the green with me, then no matter how many times you fall, I will get you a second one.”
“So two total?”
“Yes, H-. If you don’t fall on this short one, and you simply go with me on the long one, you will get two stuffies.”
She agreed and we eventually boarded the longer lift. She seemed in awe of how much longer it was. I’m sure she was not looking forward to skiing down the mountain.
This green run took me about thirty seconds to make it down if I didn’t stop.
My mother, H-, and I took one and a half hours. Well, that’s not true. After about an hour, my mother just left us, unable to believe my treatment of H-.
H- cried most of the way. She fell about every ten feet. Only rarely did I help her up. At one point some stranger lady began giving H- tips, I didn’t acknowledge her existence. Probably five minutes went by before hah-sah-tahn concluded it was best to leave.
Are you getting the picture? I was aware that I was coming off as literally employing every horrible parenting tool out of the tool-bag. To these people, I was the tool. But they were mistaken.
See, they thought I was trying to teach H- how to ski. Far from it. It’s possible H- may never really take to skiing like I want her to. Instead, I was teaching her to have character. (Something I’m especially glad I did, considering I have since learned that none of you have it.)
Again, an hour an a half later, the last thirty minutes of which my dad and mom spent actively debating my sanity, H- and I finally made it to the point where she could see the bottom. Naturally she fell at that point.
“Get up,” I said.
Then, totally surprising me (for what reason, I do not know–this was the skill I was teaching) I hear her say to herself, “Okay. There’s the bottom. You can do this.”
I had to look away lest she see my joy; better for her to harbor whatever kind of ill will little girls can have for their fathers at this moment.
During the late lunch she further surprised me by suggesting that she probably shouldn’t get the stuffy because it took so long.
“A deal’s a deal, H-.”
Then she asked if after we go together a few more times on the bunny hill if she could try going by herself–after we ride up together.
Overall, H- did not take to skiing like my younger brother did at her age. She doesn’t turn much.
But she has something you don’t. And she will not forget it.
PS – The conversation with my friend didn’t go well, or develop at all really. We met. I barely and playfully broached the topic, and he said, “I’ve already replied.” It reminded me that he definitely carries the fire. But it also made me sad. Because I love conversation.
I should have known the night was on my side when her dress fit.
She briskly, confidently, and oh-so-perfectly entered Boettcher Concert Hall, holding the thin, race-car red fabric of her dress off the floor with her soon-to-set-the-piano-on-fire fingers.
Red is my favorite color. And if dresses could direct their attention, her dress pointed directly at my heart. Did I mention that it fit? It fit.
Beethoven is said to have said something like, “Music is God’s final revelation to man.” Of course, with an understanding like that, he could only have meant the LORD. Amen, Brother B. Amen. And thank you, LORD.
All I really want to do here is call to your attention this pianist. If she comes to your town, drop everything–every single thing that you are holding, whether in hand or mind–and pay any dollar amount to see her play. (Or any other currency for that matter, you uptight legalists.)
This woman turns the concert hall into the cathedral.
Do you believe that there is more to music than sound? Good. Me too. Zee Zee three.
You will not be disappointed.
H- slowly read, “United States of America.”
I took back the card and scanned for the line I intended her to read and be impressed by, and then reattempted my quest, this time with my finger as a guide for her eyes.
“Flight Instructor, H-. Flight Instructor. I can teach people how to fly.”
She was not impressed.
“Oh, look at this. These are the two guys who invented flight,” I said, showing her the back of the license.
She scanned it, displaying deep resolve to not feed my ego.
“Wait,” she finally said as I took it away. “Let me see it again.”
This time her eyes studied the images.
Her turn to impress, she dispassionately declared, “They look like the Wright brothers.”
“It’s called ergonomic,” he informed H-, taking a moment to verify that he believed the mug’s slightly twisted handle was in fact designed that way, and not just poorly made.
“I would rather call it a foal. Or, like, a stallion or parents.”
“What?” he asked, confused and trying to not lose focus on what he was reading while they ate their donuts. “Why would you call a coffee cup’s handle’s shape a horse?”
After taking a moment to recount the conversation in her head, she replied, “You said,” then she paused before continuing, “Wait, what did you call it?”
“Ergonomic-” he repeated mechanically.
“-Right,” she said, recognizing the big word this time. “Then I said, ‘I’d call it a foal’—I didn’t say a horse.”
“Right,” he confirmed, belaboring the word. “Then I asked you, ‘Why would you call it a foal?’” Then, deciding that H- was not going to let him off the hook easy, he refocused all his attention on their conversation and, for clarity, asked, “What is a foal anyhow?”
Eyes wide in disbelief, she answered with an impassioned yet restrained increase in volume, “A foal is a baby horse!”
“Okay, okay. I remember now. But you still haven’t told me why you would call it a foal?”
Seeing that her father did have a point and finally hearing his real question, she answered, “Because they’re cute!”
The difference between two and seventeen is either fifteen, if counting items, or two and three-quarters, if counting hours. And because it is now seventeen, I am even angrier at you than before.
I’m angry because today, I, like many of you, am asking the LORD why he isn’t granting his mercy to our children while they are in school. Nearly every day I pray, “LORD have mercy on us and protect our children while they’re at school.” Once again, the LORD has not responded in kind. About this, I’ll have a talk with him later.
But there’s more. I’m angry at you, fellow parents, because you are obviously not teaching your children forgiveness. What is your problem? Why don’t you teach this to the little ones? Do you not know about forgiveness? Do you not believe in it? Do you think forgiveness is some kind of joke? Do you think forgiveness is intuitive, natural, or some logical deduction? Well, you are wrong. The price of forgiveness is blood. It cost the LORD his only son’s blood, it is costing us our children’s blood.
So help me God, if your negligence in teaching your child forgiveness ends up costing me my child in some future shooting, I will be more than angry. But I go too far. Do you see? To receive forgiveness from our heavenly father, we must–that means it’s not optional–forgive each other. I’m calmer now. Contemplating forgiveness will do that. And the old rugged cross carries incomprehensible peace, too.
But now you have a Son-of-God-given mission: By all means, take a moment to teach your child forgiveness. Do this soon. I’m begging you.
Now, back to talking to the LORD.
She had plugged the laptop directly into the wall outlet. I couldn’t believe it. One year has passed, but it still sticks out in my memory.
Before the babysitter left, I tucked H- in for the night. After paying her and saying, “Thanks again!” I showed her the door and she exited. There was always a peculiar tension to our interactions, likely due to the fact that she was young and happily married and I was divorced and didn’t buy it.
But she had plugged. The laptop. Directly. Into. The wall. Who does this?
Moments like these confirm that I am not meant for marriage.
Did she not know how much a laptop costs? Or how much of me she placed at risk?
Quickly, I double check that, sure enough, the surge protector is on the ground, visible, and within reach of the wall outlet–right where I left it.
But come closer now. There is something else. I want to tell you something that I already feel guilty for sharing. There is a part of a lover that I miss dearly. I don’t hear much discussion of it among the ranks of men, but I find it to be enchantingly erotic.
It is the feel of the tender, meaty flesh of the inside of your upper arms. You only offer it as you lie naked beneath me, having willingly allowed me to push your arms over your head in worship.
Now there is only longing. Longing for my thumb to again devotedly caress the skin that spans from the bones of your wrists to the muscles of your arms as I finally and firmly enclose this part of you in my palm.
Vulnerability, your scent intoxicates!
And what of this confession?
“It’s so hot, it melted butter!” H- exclaimed as we entered the car after the service.
He immediately and uncontrollably voiced aloud, “Why is there butter in the car?” While silence filled the air, he recounted the latest and most butter filled experiences of their past.
Sure, there was the camping trip to the mountains wherein they stopped at the convenience store to pick up the butter necessary for successful and tasty breakfasts which he forgot to pack–the convenience store who’s possibly-attractive-enough-to-turn-men’s-heads-nine-years-ago-in-high-school-blonde-haired clerk suggestively asked him, “Whaaaaaaa-tcha makin’?” as she rang up the butter-
(A suggestion that he might have accepted if first, he were younger, second, he was not presently reconsidering leaving his daughter alone in the car for so long, and third, he was less aware of divine commands against extramarital fornication with heathen women.)
-But no, he could distinctly picture that box of butter and its remaining three sticks in the door of the refrigerator at home.
The salacious and provocative memory addressed, he now returned to the warm car and continued his interrogation of H-, asking, “H-? Why is there butter in the car? What are you talking about?”
Unperturbed by the question, H- answered, “It’s just a little bit, here on the handle.”
Without turning to view the location, he asked, “Okay, but where did it come from?”
Then he remembered that her bagel was simply buttered–no schmear.
“H-. I still don’t understand,” he rejoined, “Why is there butter on the handle? Where did it come from?” he continued.
“It’s not a lot, daddy,” she said. “I just, you know, had a little extra butter on the bagel and used the napkin to wipe it off and put the napkin in the door handle.”
‘Okay,’ he thought to himself. ‘So we’ve got the origin of the situation explained. Now we need to discuss the how-and-why of the fact that butter does not quite possess the right attributes to base exclamatory remarks intended to indicate uncomfortable realities of life in a car without air conditioning.’
“Yeah, well next time, H-, just eat the butter. Okay?”
“Ah, what’s going on here?” he said, upon seeing the “Road Closed” signs ahead.
Our pair were on their way to their downtown church, and as often was the case, some Sunday mornings more people chose to use the city streets to communally run/walk in circles than travel to worship the LORD.
“Daddy, why don’t you use your phone?” H- suggested from the back seat.
In previous and similar situations H- must have noticed that her father fared better when he let the voice of his GPS keep him oriented to the church’s location as he attempted to navigate the detour.
“Well, H-, here’s the thing. I feel like one day I am going to really understand how to navigate downtown Denver,” he paused for effect. “And today, well, today just might be that day.”
He looked into the rear-view mirror and saw what can only be described as volumes of doubt.
Let me pause this tale to ask you, the reader, a question. How many words can a little girl’s look contain? By my count, at least fifty. For H-‘s look said, clearer than any voice can utter, “You think today is going to be that day, daddy? Of all days, you actually think the day you understand downtown Denver is today? When we’re already late? I cannot tell, daddy, if you’re joking or not? So I’m asking you directly, ‘Do you really think that day is today?'”
Suffice it to say, it wasn’t that day.