Monthly Archive for October, 2011

Something Beautiful

Someone famous once said, “If you don’t bend, you will break.” I could be paraphrasing. It would have had to come from someone famous because us normals don’t get quoted. It was probably someone who is also dead because getting famous for something you say usually doesn’t happen until after you’ve moved on and someone else finally understands what you were talking about and tells everyone else.

This place… this… repository of words and thoughts, fears, feelings and forgettings, rememberings, searchings, findings and losings is devoted to the quest; to the process and journey to discover the opposite of breaking. My son solved the puzzle for me of what the opposite of breaking is, but knowing what it is, is only half the battle. Some say the other half is red and blue lasers. Technically that’s true — the firing of lasers indicates action. The other half of the battle is putting what you know into action. The other day (or today, or whenever) I was only half of what I should have been. I was, er… am, quite the opposite of bending.

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A few Fridays ago at The Trail (a men’s short-term morning bible study at our church) I listened to my friend Dan talk about breaking. Well, indirectly at least…

All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. reference

This version of these verses from The Message are more poetic than most. Other translations refer to us, our lives, our hearts as “jars of clay” and the treasure is God’s light and power hidden in us, in plain sight. The best place to hide something valuable is in worthless junk in plain sight.

Dan continued his lecture. Uncovering some clay pots, one at a time, on stage explaining that as we go through life we incur cracks and chips in our clay pots. Our experiences or decisions and circumstances in which we find ourselves — either by our own doing or as a result of other people’s choices — take a toll on us. They break us. Sometimes in a big way, sometimes in barely noticeable ways (at least on the outside). And no two people break the same way, or have the same set of chips and fractures. He had the lights turned down in the room and I could see light coming out from inside the clay pots; through the holes and the cracks. His message ended with the notion that the more broken we are, the more people can see God shining out from inside us.

I couldn’t stop there. Because if that’s the end: to be all busted up and fractured, I don’t want that. At what point is the last crack going to happen and everything comes crashing down? When is the bottom going to fall off? Fear set in and I became afraid of this final moment hanging out there somewhere in the timeline of my life waiting for me to finally give in and give up and smash. I’ve seen it before. I’ve been close before. I remember watching my dad on the kitchen floor rolling around, crying, out of his mind. We see movies all the time where people just snap and go nuts. Somedays I feel I’m standing on that line and all it will take is a simple push in the wrong direction and I’ll be done.

And then it hit me.

Maybe Dan was trying to get here, or maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know, but it hit me. Hard. That light? The light of God seeping through the cracks of those of us that have him in our hearts? That light is glue. His light is the resin that holds everything together. That light is stronger than my clay. In fact, the clayness of my heart, the parts made of dirt and mud and impurities, just get in the way and if I’m really honest with myself… if I step back from my own selfishness and my own moping and my sick sense of self-importance, then I can see the way the light bends through and around the cracks. In some parts it is thicker and more brilliant than others and it makes me wish I was all glue and no clay.

Pieces of We

Almost two years ago, Lego released their first Mini-Figure series. These are specialized singular figures only (not from any other sets) in mystery foil packs* with sixteen in each series and Kai and I have collected our favorites. Series 5 just came out less than a month ago. We jumped in at Series 4 at Legoland on our last family vacation. I was looking for the Werewolf for my sister. Kai started out trying to find all the figures with helmets; I wanted all the monsters. My first was Frankenstein’s Monster, then the Werewolf, Mummy, and the old Fisherman. I know, the old fisherman is not a monster… keep reading. Once I learned of the Zombie from Series 1, I had to get it. I found it on Amazon for way more than the $3 retail cost (along with The Robot for Kai). The Vampire was also from Amazon for less than $2.

I’ve always liked monster movies as far back as I can remember, despite being so incredibly frightened as a kid. I still vividly remember, when I was about 7 or 8, watching a black-and-white version of Dracula at night at my grandmother’s house. Or, maybe she just had a black-and-white television. Anyway, there was a woman in a white night gown unconscious on a bed, and a man hiding in the closet, terrified. Dracula flew in from the balcony window and approached the woman. He paused and you could hear the heart beat of the guy in the closet from Dracula’s vantage point. He said something to the man in the closet, knowing who he was, and left, I think. That scene has been stuck in my head for a long, long time and I don’t know which version of Draclua it’s from. I almost don’t want to know.

There were plenty of other not so family-friendly vampire/horror movies at friends’ houses who had HBO and parents who either didn’t care or… well, didn’t care. At one point, my other grandma took me to the movie theater to see Fright Night (1985). As far as I knew, monster and horror movies were normal. Being scared is normal, right? I used to be petrified to get out of bed at night, thinking that as soon as I set foot on the floor, something will grab my leg and yank me under my bed… I still have a hard time going to sleep with any part of me hanging over the edge of the mattress. Logic has very little affect on fear. It’s pretty safe to say that vampire and monster lore is somewhere buried deep in my psyche. And, so is Christmas music. Go figure.

Fast forward about thirty years — I’ve got some life under my belt and my world view has changed quite a bit. It recently occurred to me that all these monster stories have something in common (besides obvious plot lines, bad special effects, and horrible piano music): they are capitalizations of isolated and extracted and flawed characteristics of humanity, of myself, exaggerated and exploited. Monster movies remind me of what I don’t want to be. And seeing them now as little plastic toys with semi-adorable faces disarms them.

Mindless, relentless, obsessive (the zombie):

Lego Zombie Mini-Figure (Series 1)

Lego Zombie Mini-Figure (Series 1)

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Bound, lifeless, destructive (the mummy):

Lego Mummy Mini-Figure (Series 3)

Lego Mummy Mini-Figure (Series 3)

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Fractured, alone, misunderstood (Frankenstein’s creature):

Lego The Monster Mini-Figure (Series 4)

Lego The Monster Mini-Figure (Series 4)

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Angry, manic, depressed, uncontrollable (the werewolf):

Lego Werewolf Mini-Figure (Series 4)

Lego Werewolf Mini-Figure (Series 4)

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Cold, parasitic, selfishly passionate (the vampire):

Lego Vampire Mini-Figure (Series 2)

Lego Vampire Mini-Figure (Series 2)

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Okay, now this is where the old fisherman comes in as patience and wisdom and old-fashioned manliness, instead of all this monsterness. Not the kind of manliness that seems so prevalent today, but the quiet, gentle, discerning kind. The kind of manliness that isn’t pushy, obnoxious or loud. The kind that knows how to treat everyone and knows how to ride out the storms. The kind of manliness that does not react to time (or the lack thereof); rather, he responds with tact and thoughtfulness, compassion, warmth, strength, and dependability.

Lego Fisherman Mini-Figure (Series 3)

Lego Fisherman Mini-Figure (Series 3)

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Becoming a bad-ass fisherman means conquering of all these inner monsters. I’m not sure I can cross many of these off my list yet on my journey to becoming a fisherman. Some days are better than others, though.

* Mini-Figure individual foil packs from Series 1 and 2 had a second barcode that identified which figure was inside. As of Series 3, Lego no longer used a second bar code, thus making the packs more of a mystery, unless you got really good at feeling for certain pieces.