Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Not to Get a New Truck

I bought my first new car when I turned 50. I left the dealer about 10:00pm with my Toyota Tacoma with 6 miles on the odometer. At 7:30am the next morning my wife backed into the rear fender in our driveway. The next day one of my clients backed into the front end backing out of her driveway. The next week I started working at St. Paisius Monastery every weekend for almost 10 months. Like a dope I had leased it for 6 years with 15,000 miles a year to save money on monthly payments. In 3 and a half years I had put almost 150,000 miles on it.
They call that "upside down". This is the last time it visited St. Paisius last week. Going through the Salt River Canyon, it became clear to me I needed that 1,000.00 brake job the mechanic was warning me about.

My kids visit us a few times a year. All of them use our cars when they come to visit. Sean is visiting during spring break. He is 17 and uses my work truck to go to Church and run errands. I've always had it in the back of my mind that if one of the kids ever gets in a wreck in my work truck, I'm screwed. I need my truck.

Sean left for Church at 6:45 on Wednesday evening. At 8:15 I got a call. "This is Sean. I got in a wreck at Gilbert and Main." I asked if it was bad. He said "Yes, pretty bad." I asked if he was OK. He said, "Yeah, I'm OK. The other people are kinda OK, the lady has a cut on her leg... here, the paramedics want to talk to you..." He was OK. Peggy was at choir practice, I called her and she headed to the accident. I called friends who drove me and McKenzie to the accident. Sean had run a red left turn arrow. The don't have those in Hemphill, Texas. My truck was on the sidewalk facing the opposite way he was heading, bleeding oil and transmission fluid. Tools, paint, mud, ladders, buckets, saws, razor blades, books, all were thrown all over inside the truck. The scaffold and drywall mud boxes were in the intersection.
I grabbed my crucifix and prayer rope and let them tow it away.

Here is Sean the next morning with his bottle of ibuprofen and the truck at the junkyard where we had to unload all my tools and stuff into my rental truck.

Here is the car that hit him. The driver walked away, his girlfriend went to emergency for stitches in her leg.

I told him cars can be replaced... at my age kids are harder... We thank God no one was killed. Sean said, "Thanks for taking this so well." I told him we need a new van too....

So, "Upside Down Red" is totalled. I have "gap insurance" which pays the difference between what I owe and what the truck is worth. So I walk away free and clear. We went to the Nissan dealer tonight and I bought my second new truck, a bit bigger and hauls more stuff. (No lease.) Soon the new Church at St. Paisius will be ready for drywall. I have a brand new truck that will make the trip now. God works in mysterious ways, I suppose.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Not Another One

I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment on the Virginia Tech massacre in one way. I’ve not read any newspaper articles about it, I haven’t downloaded any of the videos on You Tube, I’ve read two blog posts about it and I’ve listened to maybe fifteen minutes of talk radio rants about gun control, evil and the politics of violence in America.

Everyone has an opinion and a dot they connect to some event or aspect of culture, politics, religion, psychology or morality that in some desperate way helps them make sense of the tragedy and what might keep another one from happening.

I don’t know Cho. Though I do in a way. I ran a Boy’s Home for five years. Kids were sent to us to cure, straighten out, point in the right direction, teach or nurture… whatever you wanted to call it. These boys had been beaten, burned, sexually assaulted, starved emotionally and physically, locked up, locked out and had seen things kids should never see much less even imagine. Some were genetically disadvantaged from the start their humanity compromised with low IQ’s, twitches, tweaks and synapses that didn’t fire or fired at the wrong times. Others had their humanity twisted out of them by watching their father have sex with the family dog in the backyard through their bedroom windows late at night then be assaulted by him later, or having scalding water thrown on them by their mother for crying when they got an “owie”. So, yeah, I know Cho. What I don’t know, nor does anyone, is how his peculiar experiences in life intersected with his peculiar humanity and its peculiar limitations. Nor do we know why he chose to work out his salvation, or his concept of it, in the way he did.

One thing I came to realize working with the shattered humanity I have, is that every action is purposeful and is intended to control some circumstance, create some illusion or tweak reality so that some deep existential pain within me will be alleviated and some vast dark void in my soul will be filled. We used to have a saying about all the dysfunctional ways the boys would try to do that: “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.” It’s a cliché that covers a multitude of sins.

Solomon said, “What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” Ecclesiastes 1:15 Pessimistic? I think not. Who can straighten the path of the entire human race since Adam’s sin? Who can count all the ways we lack love? Who can straighten a child deformed by the dozens of people who have bent him, pushed him, twisted him and crushed him? Who can count what was beaten out of him, drained from him and torn out of his soul? What is lacking is not even clear to ourselves much less those around us.

Why does one person go on to a life of introspection, chose a path of painful healing and look to love as the cure for the darkness and another cast themselves headlong into their darkness and lose themselves and try to take everyone around them into that black hole?

The greatest despair is not to despair of the possibility of encountering healing love. It is to disbelieve that it even exists, and if it does, that it does not matter. The nihilistic spirit of the age is a culture of ultimate despair. Relationships and even love are utilitarian and ultimately are in service to our “feelings”. We are slaves to passion, and if we cannot “feel” something, we WILL feel come hell or high water and will do anything to experience something within us that tells us we are human and not an empty void. Even if that feeling is pain, sorrow and twisted exhilaration.

I ask myself of Cho what I asked myself of dozens of young boys I lived with for five years, “Is there anything that can be done to straighten this twisted human being, what could I possibly add to this empty vessel to fulfill its humanity?” All I can come up with is love. But the problem is, who am I that I can possibly love to that depth and intensity? I am inadequate to the task because I too am twisted and empty and shattered. But bad breath is better than no breath at all. Perhaps my imperfect and shallow and weak love will give a glimmer of the greater Love awaiting us all. If Cho had encountered a real Christian, would it have made a difference? We don’t know if he did, or that it ultimately would have mattered. I just believe some people are bent and in this life cannot or will not be straightened. And the rest of us have to live with this reality when the dark emptiness in them spills over into our lives and engulfs them. The only hope we have is the hope that even in that darkness there is still a Light that shines in that darkness and if we are faithful the darkness will not overcome it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Has it Been Two Months??

Gee time flies when you're having Lent!
What's been happening?

Well, I've been working like a dog (like a Great Dane, not a chihuahua...)
For some reason I've been doing a LOT of doctor's office remodels lately and of course they have to be done before they open and after they close. So I do those before I go to my "day jobs". And all this going on during Lent and Holy Week and being the Reader at our Mission

Of course we have to keep places like this surgery room REALLY clean while trying to do drywall work.

I was on my way home one night on the freeway about 11:00pm from Safeway Corporate offices (another after everyone goes home remodel) feeling sorry for myself for having to work 18 hours that day and saw someone having a worse night than I was...

Of course, when you're sacrificing a lot and begin feeling like a martyr, strange things happen....

No, its not stigmata. You shouldn't use your hand to pound a piece of one inch copper pipe into a fitting. Use a mallet next time, stupid. No crowns of glory for being a dope no matter how much it hurts. sigh.....

But it hasn't all been work work work. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" as Jack Nicholson immortalized in "The Shining" (Shelly Duvall looking over the typewriter at his manuscript was one of the most psychologically frightening and well shot scenes in Kubrick's career). Anyway, I digress. We went to St. John's Monastery for a pilgrimage and to visit this guy

He's not really all THAT scary and sober... he's really just a Russo-phile poser. But he is a novice there, and my step son. While I was there I interviewed Abbott Jonah about the Jesus Prayer, monasticism and the spiritual life for my radio program . On our way back we stopped in San Francisco to visit St. John Maximovitch who lies incorrupt in a shrine in the Russian Cathedral there. My wife had some heart problems during Lent. She was prayed for all over the world and annointed with oil from St. John, and when she went in for the catheterization they found no blockage. So we stopped in here to say "Thank you" to St. John.

We also drove through the Sequoia National Park where they have some REALLY big trees. This one was a sapling when Christ was born. This is a tree hugger's dream...
This was a scenic stop off where you can see 11 mountain ranges at one time.

By the way, that's my 14 year old daughter hugging the tree. She's 14 going on 23. She refuses to go to a convent so this is the next best thing for her Dad's sake...
Speaking of convents...I just returned from St. Paisius Women's Monastery where I've been building stuff for them for about 4 years now. This is where my father in law is buried.

Another painter and I spent two days and painted the main building, the barn, 3 sketes, 3 outbuildings, the goat pen, and about a half mile of fence. This is the cemetery fence. I loaded a generator and my spray rig in the back of the truck and drove around it to paint it. In the background is the new Church that is being built. God willing, I'll be able to do the drywall work on the interior when the roof is on.

So... that's the life of Steve for the last couple months. Now you'll have to excuse me, I need to go put something on the sunburned bald spot on the top of my head. Next time you're painting outdoors in the Arizona sun, wear a hat. Remember, no glory for dopes, just pain.