Odd and Curious Thoughts of the Week

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(1) So this past weekend, while eating a salad at Maudies, my date and I see a child vomit at the next table over, the parents not at all outraged or disgusted and simply continue to eat while the waitress cleans up said vomit. The parents handed the kid an ipad and a glass of sprite while we sit and try to carry on a normal conversation.  In the midst of this shocking event, our waitress remembers my side of dressing, which consists of a vat of white creamy substance in a large bowl looking exactly like vomit.  I’m totally disgusted with all humanity and I am swearing off ranch dressing forever.

(2)  In other news, we went out for sushi and laughed with new friends.  It turns out eating raw meat is less gross than a vat of vomit dressing.

(3) In his elder years, my dog has managed to overcome his arthritis in the morning long enough to bark for treats and roam the neighborhood at will without a leash, a stern warning, or any time limit on peeing, apparently.  He has a bladder the size of Wisconsin.

(4) My kids were off visiting grandparents for a solid week so my house has been quiet and I missed their beautiful angelic voices and the singing and yelling and laughing and running.  One night I visited a girlfriend and she was like “OMG I AM SO TIRED OF CHILDREN LET’S LOCK THEM ALL OUTSIDE AND DRINK WINE” and I realized that sometimes a break is lovely. It’s all about perspective.

(5) The kids came back and I was so excited to see them that I made crispy broccoli and tomatoes soaked in balsamic, but then I realized they are children and what the hell was I thinking.

(6) For dessert we had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but mostly it was just me eating it with the occasional droplet of ice cream placed upon their tongues like they had just hatched out of a nest and they needed food as basic fuel to fly. But not too much because it’s Cherry Garcia.   I missed them and all but still.

(7) Went on a fabulous dinner date to Alamo Drafthouse to see Stand By Me with a full menu that matched scenes in the movie complete with beer parings from a pub in Portland, but three beers later I was like seriously folks it’s Tuesday. There is a morning coming.

(8) My children are sleeping in my bed because I can’t stand to be away from them.  I wedge myself in between them and sing spirituals and tell them in the middle of the night they are the joy of my life. My son woke up and said he dreamed he was riding a mud-laden roller-coaster and when he got off he kicked snapping frogs off his toes.  He clarified that although there are snapping turtles in real life, this was just a dream. There are really no snapping frogs.  I thanked him for the clarification; I wasn’t aware.

(9) Basically my life is amazing.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvs/93359712/sizes/m/in/photolist-9fuAd-btgrkH-btgnUn-btgr2Z-btgoUv-btgot2-btgpA8-btgqop-btgpYe-375HNU-n3cfJx-5JFJSC-53Yh2i-5zssWC-5zst2J-5zobyz-Htds7-8hN9M1-5Qw3eF-k1riK-k1rmS-cULPsq-6PTb1g-5NSk3s-aBUPLU-4JKpUM-4Vyjgj-4imkmh-6omdkQ-aBUPUd-aBS4EM-aBS9o8-aBS9TF-aBUPEo-aBS4QP-bx54d7-59zbfZ-aBUQm7-mUBwNz-gG3bZp-6KM5k4-eaFwCz-aBS4nK-aBSa28-kJ1Ew8-6toJLC-PWUXM-82Zr86-d64Tf1-9qTBwJ-6KR6Nq/

Blogging the Bible: Daniel and the Lion’s Den

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Okay, folks.  Let’s set the stage.  King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon in 605 A.D., and was a powerful ruler.  Whenever he raided a country, he took the most talented and useful people back with him to Babylon. He ripped off the young, flawless, handsome, winsome, and well-informed. Then he gave them food and training and groomed them to enter the King’s service.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but if I saw my nation overtaken, was taken captive and held in a strange land, and had to watch the king’s court suck down wine in sacred goblets, my heart would burn with anger.  I’d be like “no thanks for the astronomy lesson, my dear chaps” and develop an elaborate plan to escape, or try and overtake this evil reign of power, or maybe even drink too much wine and do something stupid and end up scrubbing toilets.

 

And yet when Daniel was offered royal food and drink that went against his own religious culture, he asked for permission to not partake.  He didn’t hold his hands up in dramatic protest or throw himself on the ground in some religious frenzy. He simply asked if he could refrain.  When the guard scratched his head about it, Daniel said to just observe him for ten days and see if he looked just as strong and healthy eating salads from Whole Foods.  So the guard just shrugged it off, and Daniel and his companions were given knowledge and understanding and studied literature whilst eating healthy vegetarian meals from the royal kitchen.  Daniel sounds remarkably calm and serene to me, like a true celebrity of the Bible with apparently good working kidneys.

 

So then there were the King’s dreams, which no one could interpret, and the King was so pissed off that he’d been training all these young handsome people, all the while giving them good food, providing them interesting scrolls to read, teaching them to recognize constellations, and speak in persuasive sentences, and when he has one freaking dream, no one can help.  All he hears is scratching and burping in the distance.  What’s the use of all these people, anyway?

 

Kill them all, he shouts.

 

I envision him retiring to his chambers with handmaidens and fans.  So a decree was sent out for all the wise men to die, and people naturally looked for Daniel to help, and Daniel went to talk with the commander of the guard “with wisdom and tact.”  He sought out his three best friends and started an all-night prayer vigil, basically saying “we best figure this out, dudes, or our heads will literally roll.”  So Daniel praised God for a while and then asked if He could just please show them the dream of the king so we can all live to eat our spinach lasagna tomorrow?

 

And God did. And Daniel ran to the temple all sweaty and out of breath asked the King to give him a chance to interpret it, and he was spot on, and the king placed him in a high position and was impressed with this God that Daniel so often prayed to. And again if it were me, I’d be like “thanks a ton God – I owe you” and then just sit back and get fat in my purple robe and cheese nachos, backsliding in my newfound Kingdom love, but Daniel was always consistent in his praise to God and humility in all things, and his powerful witness changed the heart of the King himself.

 

So fast forward a few kings, more vision interpretations, a few more grey hairs, and we get to King Darius the Mede.  Jealousy abounded in his kingdom due to Daniel’s position of power and he was envied, so the administrators set a trap for the King to kill any man who worshipped someone other than the King. And of course Daniel was a man of God, as we well know by now, and prayed three times a day on his arthritic knees, and was brought to this new King for violating the law.  King Darius actually liked Daniel and tried to find a loophole to save him but was unsuccessful, so he begrudgingly threw him in a den of hungry lions.  Why the King didn’t just hang him and thought having ferocious animals gnaw him to death like Sunday chicken is beyond me, but it makes for a great story so let’s just go with it.

 

I like what the King says next – he says “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.”  I got a sense that this King knew somewhere deep inside that the God of Daniel was true and powerful, and the next day the King ran to the den (that was sealed with a huge stone, because the Bible is so into foreshadowing) and called out in an anguished tone, as if there was hope Daniel might still be alive.  And he was, probably wishing he could brush his dentures and have a pillow because this nasty smelly floor gives an old man a backache. Daniel told the King that God sent an angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions, and they did not hurt him because he was innocent and had done no wrong.

 

Let’s pause here.  Why did God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths?  If God is all powerful, which he is, and has dominion over all the earth, which he does, it seems to me he could have simply ordered the lions in whatever language lions speak to stay away from Daniel, and they would have purred like kitties and rolled their bodies down at Daniel’s feet for a belly scratch.  I think there is a lesson in even this.  I find God to be infinitely more creative than we can imagine and uses all forms and methods to fulfill His ultimate purpose.  And what we ask for in prayer doesn’t always end up in the way we expect. I sat wondering if the lions were filled with hunger, and had angry faces, and wanted to devour Daniel but couldn’t because of their closed mouths, and this forced Daniel to continue and rely on God for his strength throughout the night.  It reminds me of the verse in Matthew when the disciples were filled with fear during a raging storm at sea.  I mean, they were there with Jesus, for goodness sakes, and they were still scared.  “Save us, Lord; we are perishing,” they pled.  And Jesus responded with, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

 

But Daniel, oh Daniel. You and Job were kindred spirits and loved God through the hard nights.

 

So Daniel was steadfast, and sure, and took the sins of Jerusalem upon himself and begged for forgiveness, even though later when faced with an angel he admitted that his strength was gone and he could hardly breathe.  And even after he saw the hand of God shut the mouths of the lions, Daniel was visited by the angel Gabriel himself, who said “as soon as you began to pray, an answer was given. . . for you are highly esteemed.”

 

The thing that strikes me most about the book of Daniel is the notion of steadfast allegiance.  A determination to serve God at all costs, without a single doubt. I honestly don’t know if I would have the power to serve so blindly – so unequivocally – so assuredly, especially at such a young age away from the comfort and security of my family.  I’d be sobbing and looking around for help and rocking back and forth.  But maybe Daniel did some of that too?  Maybe his young bravado spirit was also interlaced with shreds of doubt and fear? Maybe even decades later, Daniel sat there all night watching the fierce hungry eyes, shaking in his own sandals.  Even if the beasts couldn’t rip his loins apart with their teeth, they might scratch out his eyes with their claws, no?  And when he said the next morning, “they have not hurt me,” it might have followed a very long night of constant prayer just in case.

 

Let Daniel’s story be a reminder to us that if he could make it through dictators and death threats and drooling fierce lions, we can make it through cancer and death and divorce and all kinds of other modern-day peril.  It’s okay to be scared, and the lions don’t magically disappear, but their jaws are clenched shut and we shall make it until dawn.  The God of Daniel is the God of us, and He hears our very first plea-fueled prayer on the subject of what’s desperately plaguing our hearts.  In the end, God reveals to Daniel that the wicked will always be wicked, and yet the wise will understand.  And he was told to close up and seal the words of the scroll.

 

The time is coming near, my dear friends, that God will separate the weed from the wheat, and this story needs to be saved and sealed and retold to give us all hope.  We need to be reminded that being steadfast and sure is the only way through a night of hungry eyes.  God’s path will prevail, and His love will lead us through the dark night, and in the end all we can hope for is to rest, and rise, and be steadfast in the morning.  For the Lord gives what we do not deserve, and loves when we have no reason to be lovable, and sends angels to protect us when we need protecting.

 

The story of Daniel is one of great hope and safety, even when we are standing, screaming, sobbing in a den thick as thieves, with claws and hungry eyes.  But alas – an angel is with us, shutting mouths.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ru_boff/8418090146/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Rose-colored dreams

Sometimes I dream about silly things, meaningless combinations of people and daily routines and journeys to nowhere.  It’s like my brain can’t handle all the data and throws it together in perverted ways, going shopping for shoes while eating broccoli and meeting my husband for drinks without wearing pants.

Occasionally there is a peace that washes over my soul like blue waves.  I wake up softly, like on the shores of Maine, and flip over on the pillow with a sigh.  I thank God for coffee and warmth and softness, and it’s these moments I reach for him, lying beside me, to feel his touch.  These dreams are rich in color.  Green soothes my tattered nerves and Red rises up live lava from the underbelly of some great unknown.  Yellow bursts from clouds and Dark Violet erupts from the blackest of darkness.   Color is opera and it flows through my subconscious like a rich aria, and all I can do is be present in it, wallowing inside, basking in the glory.

And then the nightmares come.  Images that stain and bleed and cut so deeply I wake up gasping for breath.  I can’t shed the pictures and I end up churning and weeping and praying for my brain to un-pixilate the data.  It’s after these restless nights I wake alone in an empty bed with a dusty heart.  I want to shake these dreams free, angry at myself for conjuring up unwelcome images.  And yet they are all part of me, the waking and the sleeping and the living and the dead.  The sweet and the wholesome and the angry burning fire that consumes.

They all have their place, really.  The silly and the rich and the dark are all woven together to show what our minds are thinking while our bodies rest.  I had a dream once that a bomb landed in our home but didn’t detonate, and I went to the attic and clung to what I loved the most.  The very next day my life totally changed.  The bomb went off.  Pieces scattered.  I saw it coming.

I often lay in bed at night, wanting to find truth.  I pray and I read and mull over the day.  But truth is never evident in the twilight.  It’s only revealed after my subconscious repeats the day’s pattern a few thousand times.  When my body stops moving long enough to let God in.  And in the morning, things are clearer.  Not always more beautiful, mind you, but clearer.  Like a direction has been forged.

I don’t like the terror: I want to cling to the aria.  And yet we don’t get to choose these things.  We dream what we need to see in order to process life around us, and this is one thing we can’t control.  It’s a lesson to pay more attention to what your internal soul is trying to say.  To allow God a venue.  To hear the hard stuff.  Because it’s through the hard stuff that you grow, and change, and become stronger.

Dreams are not always rose-colored glasses.  Sometimes the rose turns dead and glasses break and we wake up hurting.  And yet there is hope that someday in the future we’ll wake up in Maine again.  That love will be there to hold onto.  That in time, the colors will return in waves, and we’ll smile in the knowledge that our souls are happy.  That we listened to truth.  And we’ll all dream about going to dinner without any pants while eating asparagus ice cream.

Oh my dear soul.  Let the silly come. 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zigazou76/6855067667/sizes/m/in/photostream/