Tag Archives: spirituality

Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 5

On the 5th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (You can read previous portions in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

Wendell jerks away from the memory. “I used to have faith like yours.”

“Faith like mine?” Ira snorts. “The only time I set foot in a church was to get married. And you know how that ended.”

“But for the past month, all you’ve talked about is religion.”

Ira reaches for Wendell who instinctively steps back. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’ve found joy.”

Wendell smirks. “So what does she look like?”

Ira scowls and leans back in his wheelchair. “You do that a lot.”

“Do what?”

“Joke around when I hit on something uncomfortable.”

 Wendell takes a sip of tea and gives Ira a nod of respect. “Okay, I’ll bite: tell me how you found joy.”

Ira leans forward and gestures with his hands to illustrate his story. “It all started several months ago. I was feeling like one of those elephants in that Tarzan movie. You know, life’s over, nothing to live for, so many mistakes and regrets. Even thought about ending it all. But as fate would have it, Ruth dropped by. Something about her intrigued me.”

“It’s called sex appeal.”

Ira smirks. “See? There you go…”

“Okay, you were saying…

“Well, she’s always wearing a smile and seems, well, content. Anyway, we talk and she says it all has to do with her faith, so she hands me a Bible. I was skeptical, so I decided to read a chapter or two and if nothing happened, then I’d figure something else out.”

Ira looks over the top of his glasses. “Now I know this will sound crazy, but the words seemed to hop off the page and into me.” Ira taps his chest. “I haven’t been the same since. You wanna talk about joy?!”

“Look, just because you experienced euphoria doesn’t prove God exists. Maybe you should go see the doctor. I bet your meds are out of whack.”

 Ira, undeterred, wets his lips to deliver his final thought. “What I’m trying to tell you is this: I found God here in Villa Velencia.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 4

On the 4th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Check out previous paragraphs in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

“It’s like this: no one wants to invest in a product that will be last year’s model. THAT, my friend, is a tough selling environment. But like I always say, tough times—”

“‘Only make you tougher,’” Wendell finishes, hoping to quell the conversation.

Ira steams ahead at full speed. “I follow a hunch; make a call. And do you know what happened?”

Wendell spies Ruth boarding the bus. “You wish you’d gone shopping at the mall.”

“What,” Ira blurts as he pushes his glasses back up his nose. “No, not shopping, I got the account. It was like tapping into Fort Knox! My boss couldn’t believe it. He nicknamed me–”

“The Miracle Man.” Wendell turns his attention back to Ira. “What the hell does any of that have to do with joy?”

“Simple: Since I know what it’s like to live without joy, now that I’ve found it, I’m qualified to be its salesman.”

“Oh Judas,” Wendell fumes. “You’re going to start preaching about religion again, aren’t you?”

Ira waves him off. “No, not religion. Besides, it never did much for me anyway. What I’m talking about is joy and Christmas.”

Wendell wags a finger in front of Ira. “Then you’re still talking religion. Like I’ve told you time and time before, I don’t doubt Jesus existed, but to claim he’s God, born of a virgin? Those can be explained with science and logic.”

“Unless it was a miracle.”

Wendell grinds his teeth and drifts back in time…

He sits beside Ellen’s bed, holding her limp fingers; machines clack and whiz in the background. Tubes are in her nose, arms; face is snowy white.

This isn’t how he planned it. This had to be a mistake. He is Wendell Bennett, top-notch trial attorney for Goddard County. His prestigious degrees, good looks and panache had given him the footing to storm up success like a marine hitting Omaha beach. Over the years he became so iconic in the courts that he is known only by his last name. When defense attorneys learn that Bennett is on the case, the matter is quickly settled out of court. Those that are opportunistic eye him like a gunslinger, but he mows them down. Mercilessly.

He is at the top of his game, ready to enjoy life with Ellen: trips to Europe, long walks on the beach, visiting grandkids, sipping wine in Napa Valley. Ellen isn’t supposed to find a lump. The oncologist isn’t supposed to tell them it’s malignant.

He is Wendell Bennett and cowers to no one, so he attacks Ellen’s disease with the fervor he is noted for as an attorney. Second opinions. Third. Fourth. He reads books and magazines on the topic, attends seminars and workshops, even gets out of his comfort zone and blogs. Only the best centers will do: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Stanford. He tries holistic health, wellness retreats, even the black market. All promise a cure. All let him down.

He leaves no stone unturned. He tries Eastern yoga, mysticism, Pentecostal pastors, Catholic priests, holy men of Yemen.

Nothing.

The cancer, like a plague of microscopic locusts, continues to gnaw away at Ellen. Weak and haggard, she begs for home, longing for the comfort of her own bed with family and friends nearby. He obliges, but Bennett never loses, so he makes one last ditch effort.

He prays to God for a miracle.

He begs, willing to swap his life for hers, vowing all of his time and money to pious service if only God will answer his prayer. For months he prays, daring to hope, steeling his faith, yearning for God’s healing touch.

Now he sits beside her. Tears well, vision blurs. Ellen lifts a weak hand and touches his cheek, and in a frail voice, gives him God’s answer: “Let me go.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 3

On the third day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man.

(Read previous portions in “Love, Joy & Miracles” in “Past Posts.”)

He eyes the carafes, pondering whether to have Constant Comment or coffee, when a familiar voice shouts: “Christmas!”

Ira Rubin, Wendell deduces without taking his eyes off the table. Salesman from Akron; south wing; wife died years ago; son never visits; the man is obnoxious as the day is long.

He drops his tea bag into the mug of steaming water and faces Ira. Racing toward him in a motorized wheelchair, green oxygen tank clanking like an alarm bell on a destroyer, is a bespectacled man with close-set eyes. Strands of hair sway like Kansas wheat, and his over-the-ear oxygen tubes accentuate his wrinkled face.

“Christmas,” Ira fires at close range.

Same old Ira! Manipulates you into a conversation you never want to have. Lately, the topic is religion. But since it’s almost Christmas, I guess I can humor him…

“What about it,” Wendell asks as he stirs his tea.

“Does it bring you joy?”

“No. But I hear the cafeteria’s serving fried joy, sautéed joy, joy ala mode…”

“Very funny.” Ira sizes up Wendell. “Seriously, what’s your answer?”

 Wendell sips his tea. “It’s the same as it was yesterday and the day before that: no.”

“I figured as much, which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the Christmas I made the sale of a lifetime?”

“As a matter of fact–”

“Coldest December Akron’s ever seen. Sales were down, China was manufacturing for less, and Christmas was a few weeks away. In my business, Christmas was the valley of death for sales.”

“Just like the cave in that Tarzan movie.”

“Huh?”

“Remember that old Johnny Weissmuller film? The one where he follows those elephants behind a waterfall?”

Ira shoots a finger into the air. “Yeah, I remember that one! They go there to die and poachers try to steal their tusks. Well, it’s just like that only worse.”

Wendell swirls his tea. “Naturally.”


When I Learned That Harm Can Be Love

While painting some gutters,  a baby bird’s chirp caught my attention.  Not wanting to alarm him, I looked high and low for the nest but was unable to find it.

Repositioning my ladder, the chirps increased in volume and intensity.  Peering cautiously into the bush, I searched the shadows for him.  But what I meant as cautionary he perceived as a tactical threat.  Launching himself from his hiding place, and giving me a scare, the young sparrow flew away.

Only he was too young to fly.  So instead of reaching another bush and safety, he landed in the yard.  Dazed, he chirped repeatedly, no doubt calling to his parents for help.

Standing high on my ladder, I had the perfect assessment of his situation.  Not only was he out in the open and easy prey for the neighborhood cats, but he sat only a few feet away from a busy street.  I knew he couldn’t escape danger, and that it was impossible for his parents to help him, so I decided to make the rescue.

Hopping off my ladder, I grabbed an empty 1 gallon bucket to trap him, scoop him up and then set him free.  At least that was the plan.

But as I neared, he chirped and flapped and flitted away.  Once more, he presumed that my intention was harm when in reality I only wanted to rescue him.  And in fact, his efforts to escape were not only moving him toward the street, but were alerting the prowling cats.

Desperate, I crouched and crept closer.  And as quickly as I could, I dropped the bucket over him.

I could hear his wings fluttering against the bucket and his frantic chirps echoing within.  My heart broke.  I wished that I could speak “sparrow” and tell him that I had no intention of hurting him, and that this was the only way to rescue him, and that he was going to live, and that I would set him free in an even better place.

And it was at that moment that I better understood how God must “feel” trying to love me.  It’s not a perfect picture, but like the sparrow, in my attempts to find freedom apart from God, I’ve discovered gravity’s ruling hand and have landed in the middle of danger.  Likewise, I too interpreted his scooping “hand” as being hurtful and cruel.  But looking back, perhaps standing on a rung of life’s ladder, I see that it was the only way out, and what I defined as harm was in fact the most loving thing he could have done.


Never Forget Your First Love

When I was in college, I learned a valuable life lesson from an unlikely source…my bass professor.

During a lesson in preparation for my senior recital, he stopped me midway through a section.  I studied the music to see where I’d made a mistake (but didn’t see anything) so I began again.  He quickly stopped me and said, “Play a C major scale.”

Without flinching, I flew up the fingerboard, but before I had reached the next octave, he interrupted me yet again.

“Let me see it,” he said.  Unnerved, I handed him my upright bass and bow, wondering if it wasn’t too late to change majors.  He began to play the scale slowly, making each note ring with purpose. In fact, my instrument had never sounded better!

“You’ve forgotten why you became a bassist,” he counseled, as he made my instrument come alive.  “Listen to each note.  Enjoy how rich it sounds.  Feel how it resonates through your body.”

He was right.  I had become so consumed with flashy speed and finger dexterity that I’d lost touch with my passion.  I was playing notes, not music.

Although this was a music lesson, I’ve found that this truth spills over into every aspect of my life: writing, marriage, parenting, spirituality…

I often have to take a moment and ask myself: “Have I forgotten my first love?”  “Have I forgotten why I became a _____?”

And since speed kills–and we’re all going 100 mph in a 50 zone–I know I need to take drastic measures.  So I take my foot of the gas, pull off to the side of the road, gaze into the sunset, and get reacquainted with my heart.

For me, it’s the difference between life and LIFE!


%d bloggers like this: