So… What did YOU find?

According to a friend of mine, there are no good partners out there to be had. They all eventually leave, abandon, and go astray from my friends side. Therefore all partnerships are doomed to fail from the off and must be viewed at the outset with skepticism and a critical eye. My friend complained that the current relationship was repeating a lifelong pattern of abandonment and was at a loss for what to do.

I was stunned at my friends dismay and said to myself that I needed a sign on how to offer advice. I didn’t need to wait long.

Enter Sunday morning service. The pastor is discussing many interesting passages of faith learning. Not one scripture was given priority over another; somewhat unusual for him. Typically, his sermons are focused and raw from several supporting Words from The Lord. But on this day, I felt like the Holy Spirit had led him to speak from many passages because his flock had many issues, no one like the parishioner next to her or him or them. At one point he said something that spoke to me. He touched on Matthew 6:33 and I knew then I was heart from The Lord. Then later I returned to my friend and noticed others had spoken a prophetic word as well. They said things like, “.. I’m sorry this happened to you… How will you go on?… Maybe you need to go to other places to find relationship if the same dry well you return to is stagnant and reeking with the same funk of the others…” But one stood out to me and said that perhaps a spiritual journey was in order. The one said that with a spiritual journey inner peace might yet be found.

I was elevated immediately and entered the conversation. I said to my friend that it is a great idea to have a spiritual journey. It needn’t be anything formal. It could simply be a walk amongst the dusty stacks in a local library. Or a short jog down a well used hiking path nearby. Or perhaps a quiet moment or two taken for self reflection in a favorite reading nook somewhere. But whatever path taken, the journey was ultimately a path to peace. A path that would begin with a spiritual journey because only with inner peace could outer peace be found. Peace in life and relationship.

My point was this:

God is in us. God is peace. God is love. God desires relationship with us. By seeking Him, we find peace which is the essence of love. By going a spiritual journey that begins with one small step, we are seeking God.

…. Seek ye first, the kingdom of heaven….

The spiritual journey is a path to peace that is seeking God. God is within us if we could be still and listen closely enough to hear Him. The spiritual journey is seeking God and finding him inside you and thereby finding peace and ultimately love. We find love where we seek it. We find peace where we seek it.

On a macro scale, we find only what we seek.

Recall Star Wars. Yoda directed Luke to enter the grotto. Luke grasped his weapons. Yoda chided him saying he would not need them, knowing he would only find what he brought in there with him. If Luke brought anger, fear, envy, weapons, all the things Yoda was attempting to turn Luke away from, those are what he would find. And indeed he did. He found Darth Vader and within he found himself.

That’s fantasy. But there is a great truth in it.

We tend to find most readily the things we are searching for the most earnestly. If we are seeking peace, we shall find it, sometimes serendipitously. If we seek war, we shall find it. If we seek negative folk. Criminals. Love. We will find it all.

Consider for a moment my own story: I was in need of an automobile and had loved the Mini Cooper as a concept but wasn’t sure if it was a good vehicle. But once I set my heart on seeking it out as a path to transportation, I suddenly noticed just how many are on the streets. I expect they were there all along, but it wasn’t until I was taking due notice of them. Focusing on them. Journeying toward the ultimate purchase of a used one, that I noticed them and how many there were. My point is I sought them and they suddenly were plain to me. I was aware they existed but wasn’t seeing them until I looked for them.

For my friend, I suggested that by seeking what was desired most in relationship, the spiritual inner journey must take place first. Why? Because by knowing love and peace within it would be that much easier to recognize peace and love without. Not to be fooled or drawn in to a relationship with one who isn’t loving or kind but is instead a user and abandoner.

Seek… And ye shall find.

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Unexpectedly homeless.

“.. So this says I’m homeless, right?”

I received a call from a fellow worker who said they suspected an apartment was illegal and the person living in there may not know it. I approached the situation as I normally do. Somewhat dispassionately because getting wrapped up in the personal side of a situation like this can skew a feeling persons approach.

I do understand why doctors try to be clinical at their approach. Sometimes choosing not to look at their patient in order to curtail a real relationship. It could cause them to lose focus and do more than is required or warranted. Making decisions that would affect the quality of life beyond the reach of medicine. In my line of work, a career hazard can be caring so much for the occupant of the structure that the people inside begin to question the sanity, motivation (or worse) or the competency of the inspector.

So I try my very best to be even, level, fair, consistent. No one job should get a higher level of attention than the last unless the project itself warrants it. Regardless of the election results. The social strata. The economic clout. The code is the code and applies across the board because it’s not about cost. It’s about life. Money is not important. Only life is important.

So I went to the identified home and discovered that there was indeed too few ways to escape if the worst happened. The history was documented well enough to establish fault, but my goal was not to place blame. My goal was to preserve life. My co workers goals are the same. So we set about our jobs and pressed on.

Notices go out. Emails are sent. Phone calls are made. Hands are shaken. Pleasantries exchanged. No one is a real winner in this and can I see that from the beginning.

The process takes over as the people cast about unsure of what direction to turn. Some know what to do. Others are not as familiar. All are disappointed that more cannot be done now.

Then the person most affected comes in to get a liberating document. It’s intended to insert him into a place that is safe to lay his head at night. The freedom paper he held will allow him certain accesses and most valuable of all, time. Time to think and prepare and plan his next step.

And the next.

And the next.

This document is his Charlie Bucket golden ticket. But while it gains him access to a potentially hopeful future, his current situation now becomes crystal clear and is brought into bright focus.

“.. So this says I’m homeless, right?”

My world stops. I feel the need to sit down. The man before me isn’t even sure where to go next and asks for directions. Vague directions coupled with waving hands and extended fingers assist him on his journey. Dorothy Gale had better directions to the Emerald City. And her prospects proved to be just as dim upon her first arrival.

It’s hard to do my job. But I adore my career. It’s a career I value as much as any career choice can be. I’ve never felt more fulfilled because daily I have a chance to make a real difference and maybe, just maybe, help in the preservation of life, in an abstract yet very concrete way. It is in moments like this, which are few, but precious, that I remember why I do what I do. It’s not for vainglorious reasons. Not for chest thumping moments. Not for the upbraided attitude some adorn themselves in. But rather for the blessed opportunity to be honest, true and effective in the preservation of life.

And when the question is asked, “… So this says I’m homeless, right?” Somewhere along the way, I know that someone failed. Someone lost focus. Someone chose not to care.

And I am sad.

Living stars in my hands

I cannot remember just how many nights I’ve spent out of doors as a child. The many evenings I spent prowling around my yard and neighborhood when the day was done and the sun had retired for the night.

Day was my time to be in school, so out of doors was relegated to recess and running to or from the bus stop. I spent more time outside than in because outside was freedom.

I was free to explore. To be The Shadow or the Incredible Hulk. To be Evil Knievel or Starsky and Hutch. Well, not Starsky and Hutch. More likely Huggy Bear.

At any rate I had a world to explore and the only one responsible to me was me. Homework done, I could have the run of the neighborhood. I would ride my new 10 speed all over creation. From my home to the park. Or perhaps even to the tree covered dirt bike trails not designed for my ride, but I rode them anyway.

I’d take the roads up Grandview to Ditch Rd and then up another street to my secret trail. Hilly. Covered by trees and shrubs. Behind it all was a waterway. Creek or river. Didn’t matter. I heard it. I saw it. And I loved it.

I would sometimes meet up with others I didn’t know. We would have impromptu races around the interwoven routes in that small patch of heaven. The sun couldn’t see me, but every leaf knew my name and when the wind blew I heard them all whisper to me in a glorious chorus.

Later I would return to my yard. Sweaty and chest heaving with exertion. I didn’t yet have glasses so nothing escaped my attention. The graveled edge of my driveway that housed the Lindy 2 camper and the garage that had our Snapper riding mower. That mower had given me and my grandfather many rides both around the grassy yard and up the street. Often to cut someone else’s lawn in an effort to make some spare change for Bazooka Joe gum or another issue of the Amazing Spider-Man.

But the maple tree in the front yard didn’t hold me long. I ran into my backyard. There was the fruit kingdom. Trees and arbors abounded. I had two or three apple trees, a cherry tree, even a pear tree. Then the grape arbor. And all conspired with my mother to make jelly, wine and preserves for cold winters or breakfasts yet to come. In the foreground was my sand box. The many adventures I had there would’ve made George Lucas jealous. I carried into and lost more action figures in that pit; even though it was only three or four feet square. I’ll never again see my Luke Skywalker or Hammerhead or GI Joe action figures. But I will never forget their permanently cupped hands ready to clutch a light saber or a blaster or a high powered and completely implausible high caliber weapon.

As night fell and my mother knew I was home she would wisely ask me in for dinner. Usually there was bounty from the garden my grandparents lovingly tended to and I wouldn’t admit to liking. I enjoyed pulling the weeds and tilling the soil. It was only thirty or forty yards long and maybe three or four meters wide. But it held such wonders. Okra. Kale. Corn. Beans. Chili Peppers. Squash. Cucumbers. I was amazed at how things were born of soil and yet were edible if cared for properly.

Then the show would begin. The main reason I stayed out after dark.

The lightening bugs.

I felt then as I do now that they were there as earth bound guides to the stars. I couldn’t be in the sky, but the sky sent them to me so that I could be part of it. Even with my limits. My arms were far too short to box with God and I certainly couldn’t reach the heavens. Since I couldn’t dance and play with my stars, my stars said “…let us send our little ones to him. And we will all dance together in the some way…”

My lightning bugs and I had an agreement. That so long as I released them we could play. I’d have a jar. Or I’d have my hands. They would float to me slowly enough that I could catch them and better see the light that they kept within. I don’t really care what science says in answer to bioluminescence and all those words of higher education. I knew they were magic. That is all. Anything that could fly, live, play with a little boy, and glow was nothing short of magic. They showed me where the borders of my yard were and they taught me how to handle life carefully. Be gentle. Do not be so rough. Life is precious and precarious. I didn’t need to feel the sting of death from a lost friend or family member, through I did soon enough. I learned that death is coming for all of us whether we bring it upon ourselves or it is out of our control and usually it happened because of simple curiosity or negligence.

My lightning bugs decedents may never forgive me for the many great uncles I caused the premature passing of. But it is with great sorrow I look about me now. In a new latitude. Far from home. And still I search for my old friends.

To no avail.

It has been a long time since seeing my old friends. Once I was sure I saw a few in a field recently. But no. I was mistaken. Have they gone forever? I hope not.

Recently, I saw a moving van encouraging folk to relocate from my home state. On the side was a giant depiction in all it’s anatomical correctness my old friends. Instantly I was teleported back to the late 1970’s and images of summers returned to me.

I do not recall lightning bugs looking like that. My memory is that they didn’t have legs quite that long and a thorax (if that’s what it’s supposed to be called) that misshapen. I recall Tylenol shaped bodies with subtly flexible butts under inflexible shells that protected many wings. Not at all like the ghastly creature before me on the van.

I reflexively closed my eyes.

My memory must remain unsullied. I want to remember my childhood the way I want to remember it.

And I did.