Archive for July, 2011

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The Bridge

July 21, 2011

This is the last piece of creative writing I did for my class.

Picture source
The Bridge
Late last June I received an email. It wasn’t like I have never received an email before, but this one stated,
Dear Wanderer,          
I have read your blog and see your heart. Love to talk to you in person. See you at The Bridge.
Love,
Paul
I receive many emails for my blog. Many of these emails are not fans as I tend to write about things many people do not wish to discuss. I remember a wise man once told me, “Never discuss religion and politics, it will just get you in trouble.” Damn, I wish I had listened to that sometimes. Those are the things I write about—and tend to get many people upset. Funny at times that the two—religion and politics—seem to be mixed by many people. Many of these people consider themselves the “Religious Right, however, I see them as often very religious but rarely right, especially in light of their so-called literal interpretation of the Bible!
Yet there I sat, at my computer just staring at this strange email. It became stranger when I replied. I sent a simple message of:
Dear Paul,
I am not sure who you are, or what The Bridge might even be, or where it might be. It may be that you sent this to me by mistake.
It happens,
Best wishes,
The Wanderer
By the way, I do have a real name; however, the internet is a scary place at times so I often just sign my emails as I do each blog post—The Wanderer.
Then the reply came. It was not a message, but a map signed with of all things—a smiley like this! = )
I sent another message, but this time only received a note that there was no such active email address. I put it out of my mind until yesterday.
I was cleaning out my email when I came across the map. I looked at it and I recognized the area it referred to. I had hiked and camped in that area many times yet never heard of, let alone seen The Bridge. In fact, what intrigued me was that I had not seen this before, and even more, there was no marking that indicated The Bridge was on the map. The top of the map just stated, “To The Bridge. Follow the narrow path.” I scratched my head, and decided I had to check this out.
Today, I set out. I found the starting point that I recognized on the map, and packed the old Jeep pickup with my backpack. I packed light at first then wondered if this might be an overnighter. So, I also decided to pack the sleeping bag and a few necessities just in case. I looked at the map that I printed out, and realized that there now appeared even more detail!
In wonderment, I said out loud. “This can’t be real.” I reached for my MP3 player and scrolled through the songs until I found my favorite group, Kansas. For some reason their songs seemed to speak to me throughout my life, and today, it seemed to be directed at me.
I listened to Steve Walsh sing:
“I’m woven in a fantasy; I can’t believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
And with each passing day I feel a little
More like something dear was lost
It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between,
All I am, and all that I would ever want be
It’s just a travesty, towering, marking
Off the boundaries my spirit would erase.”
I began to think about the walls and barriers I had faced in my life. I thought how the fundamentalist mindset builds walls to keep people out while those oppressed build walls to protect themselves. However any wall that is not faced leaves us wondering what is beyond that wall. My mind seemed carried away in thought until the last few lines in the song seemed to again speak at me directly:
“And though it’s always been with me, I must tear down the Wall and let it be
All I am and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross
THERE IS NO LOSS”
Straight out, my biggest wall was God. In many ways God seemed so real, yet as such impenetrable. If there was a need for a bridge to get to God I know I would have questions to ask. I read enough theology (maybe too much) in my life to either screw me up or wise me up. Which? I am not sure about.
I found the starting point on the map and again, there were more details on the map than before. It was as if… if as I moved forward, there came more details. I saw the hiking trail the map pointed out and headed up the trail. It was a hot day and I was glad I had frozen half my canteen before I added water. I passed the marked stream and came to a “Y” in the road. I had hiked these trails many times and never noticed that other trail. The map marked as Frost Trail. I mused at the joke a bit. If someone was playing a joke on me, this one was a doozy! I decided to take the trail that appeared “less traveled”.
The trail seemed to be much rougher than I thought at first. At times I would look back at the view and marvel at the majesty of the mountains. I climbed a bit more and found a river. I looked at the map and noticed the river seem to appear just as I looked at the map. The name was intriguing. The name was The River of Man. I looked at the water closer and realized it was not like the other mountain streams. This was an ugly, hostile—almost angry looking, river. At times I swore I saw faces in torment as it rolled past me. I wished this was only a dream.
I walked coming to a clearing where at first I saw a person. Then I realized he was standing before a bridge. On the bridge stood three other people all dressed in what appeared to be some sort of monk robes.
The man smiled at me and I realized he seemed to be blind yet could see me. He put out his hand and stated, “Few make it this far my friend, we are honored by your presence.”
            “I really do not know how to respond.” I stammered.
            “My name is Paul, you must be The Wanderer. Do you still have the map?”
            “Yes.” I said.
I held it out and Paul unrolled the map and as before details appeared on the map. Paul smiled and said, “I love it when The Glory does that.” Paul then turned to me and asked, “I suppose you want to know what this is all about huh, son.”
“I am a bit afraid to ask.” I replied.
Paul then started to tell a story.
“Many years ago, humanity lost touch with who they really are. They lost touch of their value. God created man and woman, and called them good, yet man and woman decided that day at the tree, to see as if they were God and set their own values on things. Are you with me so far?”
I nodded yes.
Paul continued, “Over time, God tried to show that He was not like the other gods humans had created. He even picked a pagan named Abram (later called Abraham) to be the father a nation set apart for God. These people were to be the representatives of God on earth to The Others. The Chosen had been given Laws to set them apart from the pagans. However, over time the Law became stricter and soon the Spirit behind The Law was lost. People lost sight of compassion and balanced The Law stood for. In a sense, The Law replaced God or became a tool to try to force God’s Hand in moving. Then came the fullness of time, when The Glory of The Bridge appeared. The Glory laid down his life for all humans. In fact he was a New Human, the first of many to become his brothers and sisters.”
            “What does this have to do with me today?” I asked.
            Paul smiled and stated, “Today is the day of salvation. It is as simple as crossing a bridge over the troubled waters of humanity. One can try to cross on their own and slip into the stream and be taken where the cruel waters of life takes them, or trust the Builder of The Bridge and cross over.”
            “What if I don’t make a choice?” I asked.
            Paul smiled and said, “It is sort of like that Rush song, Free Will, ‘If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.’ Salvation is free. It comes only by Grace so no one can boast. However, once you cross over The Bridge, your life ends but a New Life begins.”
            “Do you mean like dying and being raised again?” I asked.
            “Yes.” Paul stated and turned walking toward the bridge. “Are you coming or not? You were the one who had all those questions.”
            I stood there trying to figure this all out. Was this real? Was it a grandiose delusion or something? I found that I was drawn to The Bridge as if it were calling me. I stepped on and realized again that there were other men on The Bridge.
Paul pointed over to them and introduced each one. “That guy is Peter, we call him Rocky. Then there is John and over there is James.”
I stammered and said, “L-like those guys in the Bible? I-I mean, are you those guys?”
The Bridge erupted with laughter and Peter took his big hands and smacked me on the back. I was a bit in shock and missed exactly what he said, but it sounded like, “Friend.” so I smiled back.
I looked at the men and noticed that Peter was the rough and tumble guy I had in my mind. John seems slight, yet firm with somewhat of a runners build. But James, he looked like every picture of Jesus I ever saw. I even began to ask if it was Jesus and as if on cue, John reminded me, “James was the brother of Jesus, The Glory.”
Paul looked at me, and as blind as he was; it seemed as if he looked not only at me, but within me. He reminded me of what I said before I stepped on The Bridge, “Brother, you had questions?” His smile was radiant and he looked as if transfixed between earthly and heavenly domains. I looked and saw his hands, and remembered how Paul was beaten for his faith many times and even left for dead.
I blurted out the first question that came into my head. “So what is faith?
Paul smiled again and said, “The Bible states it as ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’”
“Sort of like not seeing but still believing? But what about people like Doubting Thomas who had to see to believe?” I asked.
Paul laughed again and said, “Well, as you can see, Thomas is not a greeter on The Bridge is he?”
John looked over at Paul and said sternly, “Be nice now, Paul. Remember you saw The Glory and your sight has never been the same.”
Peter broke in, “Be careful with that Paul, He speaks to both Jew and Greek in one breath. His writing has such deep knowledge, and at times his words are hard to grasp.”
I tried to act as if I recovered from all the shock and stated, “I guess I understand that a bit, how else would you describe faith?”
John looked at me and stated, faith is simply trust in action. You trust a chair to hold you when you sit in it. You also trust The Bridge to let you cross over the river. As you moved forward, you trusted The Map to reveal your destination.”
“I get that.” I said.
I then sort of remembered the big question—the question I did not want to ask as both Paul and James stood at each end of The Bridge. I blundered on anyway. “I have heard that Paul and James are at odds with each other in their ideas of salvation. Paul says, ‘Salvation by Grace through faith, so none should boast.”
Paul smiled at me as if he knew what was coming.
“Yet, James states, ‘Faith without works is dead.” I dreaded the words as they came out. “So, who is right?”
Paul laughed out loud and said “No one is right! I wrote that to the Letter to the Romans… well it was more ‘No one is righteous-not one’” All joined in the laughter—even James.
James broke his silence and walked toward me. He put a gentle hand on my shoulder and explained. “You see, Paul speaks of how we come to The Bridge. You cross over, and as you leave, I remind you of why you were created. You were created for good works. Paul wrote that, by Faith you walk in your New Life and doing these Good Works the creator gave you to do. This is done in Faith. If you are not doing those works as you were created to do, then you need to look at your faith as living or dead. It is sort of like when Paul stated, ‘make you election sure’.”
I thought for a moment and then said, “I understand that, but I know of people who point out that the Creator does not really care about this world as evil is rampant. I sometimes think they have a point and often have no answer for them.”
James smiled kindly and stated, “One must remember that these are not works you do under your own power and will, but that of the good and perfect Will of the Creator.”
I stood silently, knowing that James would say more.
“These works are for you to do, but are the Father’s works in and through you.” He continued, “If someone is complaining about evil winning, then they are not looking to do the Father’s good and prefect Will. The Father created you and even those skeptics to do good works, and to complain and not do anything is only contributing to the problem. It is like someone who only wants to criticize but not offer any suggestions to better the problem. You might be surprised, but the Creator can even use those who do not want relationship with Him to do good works for Him. So, I would simply ask them, ‘What are you personally doing about evil and injustice you see as they also have responsibility to others as long as they live.”
I looked at James, “I get it, thus The Bridge. Paul calls us to it we enter in faith and you remind us how to live this New Life. I looked up and realized the day was leaving fast. I looked at the men and said, “You said, today is the day of salvation. Then I must cross today?”
John looked at me and said, “Every day is a new Today, but Today it is your choice.”
I shook their hands and thanked them for all they taught me. I looked at James as I crossed and James said, “Remember, faith without works is dead, but today, you found New Life. Live justly, for the just shall live by faith.”
I turned and looked at the wooded area around me. It seemed so beautiful. I turned around to tell the men and found all was gone. The Bridge, river, Paul, Peter, John and James–all vanished. I looked at my hands and instead of the Map, I held an old leather Bible. I laughed and headed back to the Jeep.
As I was driving home, I saw someone with a flat tire. I pulled over and for the next 15 minutes helped change the tire. I talked of Today and The Bridge. The man looked at me with a tear in his eye and said, “Did you get an email from Paul too?”
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The Outing

July 20, 2011

This is a short story I wrote for my creative writing class. Hope you enjoy. Based on actual events. = )

The Outing
Spontaneity is not a huge factor since the kids came so when my wife came home and stated, “Let’s get up early and go to Emerald Lake and do some fishing.” I instantly jumped on the idea. It all started out well the next morning. I am not an early riser, though as I get older I find it harder to sleep and more and more get up well before I intended.
As my wife put on her fishing makeup and tried to decide if she should fix her beautiful blond curly hair or just wear a hat (she went with the hat), I started making breakfast for the family. We had gone camping the weekend before so still had some left over Ore-Ida® Potatoes. I made some eggs and to my surprise both my kids stated, “Thanks for making breakfast Dad.” You must understand my kids are polite, but my daughter (who is one well stated opinion wrapped in an almost six year old body) seems to not like anything I make. Most mornings are more like, “Dad—I SAID I wanted cheese on my egg.” (She never eats the egg).
While I was cooking breakfast, I thought of all the pictures we have taken of Emerald and West Rosebud Lake. These lakes are located in the Absaroka Mountains and are part of the chain of lakes created (though they may have been then in some original form) by a dam that was built high up in the mountains. It is a hard climb and engineers even built a small rail system to haul supplies to the top of the mountain to create Mystic Lake. For years I hoped to hike up there and last year I was finally able to do it—it almost physically killed me. While the lake is beautiful, I was so exhausted when I reached Mystic Lake I all but passed out. What intrigues me the most is that it must have taken some rugged men (or women) to climb and build that railroad as well as build the dam.
I kept thinking of fishing on Emerald Lake (though I am sure it is really West Rosebud Lake we spend most time on). Mountain fishing is something I love to do. The water is clear and usually anyone can see the bottom of the lake. Often you can even see the fish just hanging out waiting to be caught.
The week before someone gave us a rubber raft. It is not a big one, but one that should hold me, my wife, and two kids. I had been hinting at wanting one, but it seemed to be a luxury we could not afford at this time. Part of the attraction to the idea of a rubber boat was memories from my childhood. My mom, brother, and I had a small rubber boat that we had played with for many summers. Actually, we had many rubber boats as we would play dunk the person in the boat and often it would create a hole in the boat. So, we would return it as defective. After about two or three returns I am sure the store owner became suspicious. However, the one memory I had the most thought about was when my Uncle Rich took my cousin and me up to a little lake in the Beartooth Mountains called Sheepherder Lake. Actually it was Little Sheepherder Lake where it happened. These lakes at the time had some rather large fish. My memory of the hike was of my Uncle paddling out into the lake in the little rubber boat and fishing from it. My cousin and I could hear when he caught a fish as Uncle Rich would let out a loud, “Woo-hoo!” when he caught one. Then we would look for him and watch him get pulled across the lake by the fish! That was exactly what I wanted to experience this weekend!
However—we did not receive any paddles with the raft–so the search was on. My first thought was a place we as a family call, Mr. M. Actually it is the Montana Rescue Mission thrift shops, but the sign looks like MRM so we call it Mr. M. I am not sure if anyone else in town calls it this, and at times I have to explain where I mean—even though the sign says it clearly.
As a family we shop at MRM regularly. I recalled that I have seen many paddles at this store and was convinced I could find it. So after we packed the gear, kids, and dog into the SUV, we went over there. After about 15 minutes of searching and having to agree to buy a plastic Pink Panther toy for my seven year old son, I found the one paddle MRM had. My wife then realized we forgot the camera at home so as we drove back, we noticed the huge pawn shop we had in town. They always had boats and canoes so we thought we’d give it a chance. My son and I ran in and walked over every inch of the store and then I had an idea—so I asked one of the people there if they had any paddles. They of course said—“No.”
We ran back and retrieved the camera and headed over to Wal-Mart. As we passed Taco Bell, I realized it was after 11AM and suggested we get a bite to eat. My wife was not hungry, but my son said, “Nachos with cheese—please.” I had three tacos. It was the longest wait in line at a fast food chain in the history of mankind! I could tell you about it, but you might desire death over the excitement of it all. Needless to say, my daughter decided as we drove off, “I now want nachos!” I smiled and said, “Sorry honey, you said you did not want anything.” She huffed and pouted and said, “I TOLD you I wanted nachos and you never listen to me.” My wife and I looked at her and reminded my daughter just how clearly she stated, “I DON”T WANT ANYTHING!” to which she replied, “YOU RUINED MY LIFE!”
We then headed over to Wal-Mart. My wife thought that if she just ran in, she could move faster. After a few minutes she called me on the cell phone to make sure she did not forget anything. She ran through the list in her head—I thought I heard everything—she stated she was coming out but—“There are so many people in here! It is like a freakin’ zoo!” I could hear babies crying over the phone and by the looks of the parking lot, I stated, “Sound’s like it–the parking lot is crazy also.” It was now 12PM.
RING!
“Hey, ask the kids if they want hot dogs. They are doing a fund raiser outside here and I figured it was noon. I guess the sandwiches I planned to make for lunch can now be for later.”
I asked the kids and they agreed. They had hotdogs and we finally hit the road.
The drive is about two hours. As we drove we noticed the flooding of the Yellowstone River. In fact, it looked angry! The river reminded me of stories of the Amazon when it hits the ocean. I understand that there are huge waves and it can be very treacherous—this river was very treacherous. We drove on and came to the final turn.
“Detour?”
“Yeah.” I replied.
“What should we do?” my wife asked.
We sat there and watched three cars just drive on past the sign. We agreed that if it looked bad we would turn back.
We drove and came to a point where the road was diverted. What had happened was that a part of the road had literally sunk. We drove on the dirt filled detour and headed to the lake.         
When we arrived, we noticed a large number of vehicles all parked at the end. We drove past Emerald Lake hoping to get to West Rosebud Lake only to find the road was closed.
”What’s going on?” I muttered.
We turned around and found a spot on Emerald Lake to fish. I carried all the fishing stuff down to the lake as my wife applied sunscreen to herself and the kids. She then began to fill the raft with air.
I walked back up to the SUV and began to help with the sunscreen. I put some on my son thinking he would rub it in; only to find later he was sunburned with a small heart shaped white spot where the suntan lotion was squirted on him. He thinks it looks cool.
We took the raft out. I tried it first, but found it rather hard to paddle and even harder to get out. In fact I felt like a trapped turtle trying to get out and wondered if my wife had not been there if I would still be trapped today.
My wife and kids then took it out and seemed to fair much better than I had. I watched them and took pictures as they paddled around the lake. So, they came back over and I tried to go out again. I took my fishing pole hoping to reenact my Uncle Rich’s experience, but as I paddled around, I realized there was not a fish to be seen. In fact, as I looked around at the other anglers not a fish was being reeled in anywhere. “Winterkill?” I wondered.
I then realized that this lake had a current—and I was drifting farther away from my family. As I paddled, I also remembered my bum shoulder. With each stroke of the paddle I remembered my bum shoulder even more. At one point I was trying to decide if there was a closer shore to paddle to, but realized that I would have to drag the raft around the lake.
I made it. But, then the wind came. We decided to pack it up and the wind blew harder. I carried everything back to the SUV while my wife began to deflate the raft. We then repacked the truck several times to fit the dog.
At 4AM this morning as I felt my shoulder pain and sunburned head (I even wore a hat!) the only person that seems more miserable than me, is my poor old dog. Getting in and out of the SUV is hard for her. She is over 100 pounds of butter flab from the tiring life of lazing around the house most her life. I could hear her moan in pain so as I reached for the aspirin for myself, I gave her some also. Don’t worry, I checked to see if it was safe.
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Just a poem for my creative writing class

July 20, 2011

These next few blog posts are my attempt at creative writing. I am heading toward finals week and thought I might share some of my writing. This was to the question, “What literary tools does the poet use to turn words into emotions, sounds, and images?” See if you can name a few of them.

Picture Source

Tools of a poet
When a poet writes a poem of writ,
The poet will use many tools to express such wit.
They may reach; and build; expectation,
Just by using punctuation.
The poet will also use metaphor,
As a cape on a matador.
The poet may take an abstract idea,
And mold it into a beautiful flower.
The creaking of a door will make you think that,
Is the same as sound from an old man’s back.
The poet’s job is the greatest of role,
Though that may be a bit of hyperbole.
Though some may be Wilde and a naughty heathen,
It has been decided all poets are angels fallen from heaven.
For the salvation or loss of men’s souls,
Are held in the hands of the poet’s prose.
May I be such to associate when?
The poets of old pass on their pen?
To sing on a page like the late Freddy Mercury,
To splash with the pen the ink of victory!
To rise to it all with gallant expression,
To give heart to my own inner confession.
One needs not a priest when sin does arise,
For the poet’s heart is far from disguised.
Being it frozen like Poe in Dante’s cold hell,
Or expanded three sizes like Grinche’s heart, as Suess does tell.
The poet can speak in ear splitting silence,
All the while be like the neighbor who screams “Hello!” over the fence.
These tools may be as faint as speck,
They may even be bolder than one might expect.
Yet with these tools of trade,
The poem of a poet is wonderfully made.
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Shane Claiborne on Fundamentalists

July 14, 2011

Thanks to Mike Friesen who pointed this video out.

http://youtu.be/ZSlLGq7LbWw

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Have a happy and safe 4th of July

July 4, 2011