The Miracle of Miracles

Miracle

This past weekend, the world watched an historical event take place in Rome, where 2 popes were canonized as saints, while being proceeded over by 2 living popes.  This has never happened before in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and is unlikely to ever happen again.

I bet the souvenir shop at the Vatican made a killing!

Part of the ‘sainthood’ vetting process is the verification of the act of performing miracles.  I think that most people outside of faith belief systems see the concept of miracles as one that’s limited to ancient writings in the Bible.  Was it just that the people who lived thousands of years ago were more in-tune with the the manifestation of such supernatural events, or was it just a lack of modern knowledge that led them to believe that common things were considered ‘godly’ back then?

I have to admit, I get a bit squeamish when people throw the ‘miracle’ word around, especially when they’re talking about having a parking ticket lost in the government systems or their favourite sports team came back from certain defeat to win a series.  These are probably not the types of miracles that would get anyone designated as a saint (unless your team’s name happens to be the ‘Saints’).

Basically, in our modern and enlightened society, we have managed to relegate miracles to the same interest and legitimacy as fortune tellers and circus side shows.  Miracles to most of us are nothing more than facts that haven’t been explained yet.  I think that’s a mistake.

Miracles, big and small happen all the time.  I know people who have had miracles happen to them over the years.  Some were true medical mystery healings that have happened without explanation – an incurable condition, suffered for years is suddenly absent.  Gone forever.  Others were more practical – someone suddenly and permanently quitting smoking after praying about it.  No withdrawal, no nicotine fits.

Sometimes miracles are as simple as having prayers answered.

I still think though, that miracles get bad press – or worse, no press at all.  It’s because of this that the idea of miracles happening in our digital world isn’t given much credit.

I to get caught up in the cynical side of miracles at times.  I’m not likely to build a shrine in my living room if I found a dust-bunny in the shape of the Virgin Mary.  It’s more likely, my finding a dust-bunny in my living room at all would be a miracle, since I’m never the one to clean under the couch.

But something happened last weekend that made me revisit my belief in miracles.  At the end of our church service, during the announcements, the minister asked if there were any updates from the congregation.   A little girl, about 10 years old, timidly put up her hand.

Her mom has been battling cancer for the past year, and has had a terrible time with it, as you can imagine.  Every time things would look up for her, more devastating news would follow, and she would be sent back to the hospital for more tests, chemotherapy, biopsy’s, and so on.  Mom was brave beyond belief.  Her Maritime strength kept her pushing for any help the medical establishment could offer, but in reality, the prognosis was not very good.

The church has a prayer chain – a group of people who dedicate enormous energy to praying for whatever is given to them, and this mom was at the top of the list. She was added to the prayers at every Sunday service as well, and others who know her said quiet prayers during their day or as they sat for meals.

She was an open book about her pain, suffering, strength, and even the unpleasant details of the extremes the doctors were taking to try to fight this terrible disease.

This Sunday, the little girl who put up her hand was invited to come to the front of the church to speak.  She was too short for the microphone, but it turns out she really didn’t need it.  She loudly and proudly announced to everyone in attendance that her Mom had cancer, but it now it was just gone.  Mom doesn’t have cancer any more.  The entire congregation was in tears.

The back story is that when ‘Mom’ was to have a biopsy on the 10cm tumor last week, the radiologist could find nothing to test.  Just scar tissue remained.  The tumor was completely gone.  A miracle.

And now here we are, you and me, faced with a decision to make.  Do we raise our hands to God and say ‘Thank you for answering our prayers’, or do we scramble for tangible reasons that this tumor could have disappeared naturally, in order to discredit the power of prayer, and any proof of this miracle happening.

It’s not unlike conspiracy theories, isn’t it?  Any doubt is proof.  Maybe she never really had cancer. Maybe the chemotherapy killed the tumor.  Maybe.  I have no doubt the skilled doctors played a role.

Maybe this Mom and her daughter have a little more time to spend together at home planning for the future, instead of sitting in hospitals wondering if there will even be a future.  Maybe, like the 2 popes, a real-life miracle happened, and we should thank God for it.

Maybe you’ll think a bit differently about miracles too, like I will.

 

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Breaking Bad-der

My dark side has led me to this.  I just watched the entire Breaking Bad series on Netflix, and unassuming Mr. White was on to something big!  This was a guy I could relate to.  In fact, the similarities between us are remarkable!

  • Just turned 50
  • full on mid-life crisis
  • Spending way too much time in our underwear
  • Look awesome in sunglasses and a goatee

Walter White

Heisenberg

Other than his health issues, we’re practically the same guy.  Heck, we both even have a Brother-in-law who works in law enforcement.

Naturally, Walter White’s little foray into entrepreneurship ended badly for him, but I think I figured out what his problem might have been.

He chose a product that was lucrative, but meant dealing with the most unsavory and unpredictable group you’re ever likely to run across. That was his fatal flaw…literally.

My plan is a bit more pedestrian that cooking crystal meth, but under recent municipal legislation, just as likely to get me busted by ‘The Man’.  The upside to dealing in things of an illicit nature is people who want your product will pay big bucks to get it, and are motivated to keep their yaps shut about where they got it.  “Loose lips sink ships” as they say.

The key is finding a product in high demand, no one else is making, and can be distributed quietly without raising suspicion.  The answer was right under my feet – herbicides.

Thanks to heavy political pressure from the environmentalists, our local governments banned all types of residential weed killers.  The herbicides disappeared off store shelves faster than half-priced foam fingers at a Miley Cyrus concert.

One thing the government should have learned from the early years of prohibition, is that demand will always be there, and when something is suddenly made illegal, felonious characters come out of the woodwork to fill the need and make a pant-load of cash along the way.  This is where I come in.

Homeowners are faced with few options now that the Panda-lovers outlawed lawn sprays.  They can get down on their hands and knees, pulling those nasty yellow weeds out by their roots, or they can give up and surrender to this plight to their grass.  It’s in their dirt stained, desperate fingers that I will deliver their sacred nectar.

Contraband dandelion killer will be the next crystal meth for my community.   I even have my own ‘Jessie’ to help me with distribution.  There’s a little kid who wanders around the neighbourhood all day with nothing to do.  He seems to know everybody and would never be suspected by the tree-hugging police.  He’ll give out some small samples.  Maybe even spray an entire lawn as a show of our awesome power over weeds.

Poor desperate gardeners will come begging for more.  One squirt and they’ll be hooked!  Demand will outstrip supply, which will drive up the price. Economics 101, right?  I might have to move my operations from my garage to a mobile unit to stay ahead of the green cops…a Winnebago?  Yeah, I can see it now, cooking my special blend, hidden in plain sight, maybe at an unsuspecting campsite where the transient population is used to looking the other way.

I’ll have to move my product around.  Too many perfect lawns in any one neighbourhood will create suspicion. It’ll be important to stay ahead of the nature fuzz.  I might even have to leave my own lawn a semi-dead weed haven just to throw off their scent – just like the way Walter drove that Aztec around even though he could afford a Ferrari.  It’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make to stay ahead of them.

My plan is fool-proof.  Nothing can stop me!  After this long winter, everyone will pay whatever price I set for my secret herbicide, to ensure they have the best looking lawns around.  Balancing my fame against total anonymity will be the real challenge. This whole plan should keep me busy until mid-June when the current crop goes into hibernation.

Hmm.  Let’s see – it’s almost May now.  With the new equipment and raw materials I’ll need, and with the free samples to get the word out, giving my ‘Jessie’ his share, I think I should just about break even….maybe that’s no better than breaking bad, now that I think about it.

I’m sure something else will pique my interest – I just started watching Dexter.

 

 

 

 

 

The Raven (as portrayed by a small white dog)

picture-159.jpg photo

 

 

 

 

 

Last night upon a midnight dreary, my small dog whined weak and weary,
Over many a bothersome and irritating volume of forgotten rest,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a pest,
As of some one gently crying, crying at my bedroom door.
`’It’s the dog,’ I muttered, `whining at my bedroom door –
It’s only rain and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak Springtime,
And each separate drop of rain wrought its ghost upon the door.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my pillow buffering the sorrow – sorrow about the sad Brandi –
For the mutt that once was fun, whom my mother named Brandi –
Blasphemous words I yelled in vain.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each white ear
Chilled me – filled me with annoyed mutters never spoke before;
So that now, to still the beast at my bed, I stood repeating
`’Tis just raining outside dumb dog, stop whining at my bedroom door’-
Some pathetic dog voice seeking entrance at my bedroom door; –
It’s only rain and nothing more,’

Presently my calm grew weaker; hesitating then no longer,
`Dog’ said I, `You’re mad, truly your quietude I implore;
But the fact is I was sleeping, and so loudly you came weeping,
And so annoyingly you came weeping, crying at my bedroom door,
That I could no longer ignore you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
It’s only rain, and nothing more.

Towards the girls room, darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, missing dreams would she wake the girl next door;
But the silence was broken, and the girl was not awoken,
And the only sound there angrily was the whispered word, `Brandi!’
This I grumbled, and she echoed whimpers I implore, `Brandi!’
It’s only rain and nothing more.

Back into the bedroom turning, all my effort with with useless churning,
Soon again I heard a whining somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely she’ll give up at my bedroom door;
Let me sleep then, what torture is, a small white dog named ‘Brandi!’ –
Let me rest and be still tonight stifling the sound of ‘Brandi!’; –
It’s only rain and nothing more!’

 

My apologies to Mr. Poe for butchering his famous poem.  I ended up taking my dog down to the basement where she couldn’t hear the rain.  I got about 3 hours sleep…we’re getting some sleeping pills from the vet.  I haven’t decided if we are supposed to give them to her or take them ourselves.

 

 

 

The Bus Ride

This blog is a departure from my usual style, but I felt compelled to write it.  I hope you enjoy it, or at least see the metaphors in your own ‘bus ride’.

When you’re young and just starting out, you begin a long journey that will last the better part of your lifetime.  Everything you learned up to now was designed to prepare you for a long bus trip, and almost all of us will take that ride.

You stand, excited and scared at the same time, with thousands of other people, young and old alike, waiting to get on a bus.  Buses of all sizes, shapes, and colours, numbering in the hundreds, rev their engines and vie for a spot on the road, or are parked to let people on or off.  You wonder which bus you should try to board, or perhaps more importantly, which bus will let you on.

You stand at the doorway to a bus you seem to like, and the driver may talk to you.  If they like you, they may ask you to board, and travel with them, hopefully to your destination, although that destination hasn’t been determined yet – at least not for you.

You may have to talk to a lot of bus drivers.  Some will close the door without acknowledging you were even standing there.  Others say they have to make a stop first, but will come back for you, but never show up again.

In time, you will find a seat on a bus that will take you.  The bus is crowded, but you locate a seat at the back that you will share with a total stranger for some time.  The air is thick and hot back there.  No windows – at least not clean enough or near enough to see out of – and no air conditioning.  It’s not pleasant, but the promise of a journey into the future keeps you smiling, or at least tolerating it.

The bus begins to move, and you watch as the busy streets blur around you.  Any sense of direction is lost to you, but you put your trust in the driver, and know that wherever you’re going, it’s better than where you were.

There are buses everywhere, big and small – some slow and broken, others shiny and fast.  Most are just like any other bus, though, and that’s the kind you’re on – conservative and consistent.  Just like you.

The bus makes frequent stops, and some people are escorted off, crying or yelling.  Others jump off as soon as it slows down, and run to another bus.  No explanation is given, and you likely will never see them again.  An empty seat becomes a semi-civilized battle with the other passengers, especially those at the back with little air and no space.

If they’re fortunate enough, someone will move up to the vacant seat, leaving a bit more room for you to stretch out and maybe become known as a good passenger to the few around you.  Often, though, the seat is stolen by someone picked up along the way that the bus stopped for.

Not fair!

On the bus, you get to know the other passengers around you.  Everyone has a different reason to be on the bus, but in the end, they are all  looking for their own destination somewhere down that long road.

Some might become friends, although most will remain ‘that guy’ who says hello to you every morning but you still don’t know his name. Such is life when you are traveling on a great journey, and you begin to realize that the expedition itself is as relevant as the destination you were looking for.

If you’re lucky, seats will become empty further to the front on this very, very long trip, and as you move forward on the bus, you become more well-known and liked.  You try to keep in touch with those at the back, but its tough. The air is cleaner up here, and you can actually see out the side windows, although the path ahead is still not fully in view.

You feel glad you got on a bus that could go so long without any breakdowns or getting lost.  You praise the drivers’ skills and work with the other passengers to make sure the bus keeps on the road, straight and true.  Life is good.

Eventually, after a long time, you realize that your destination, although still an extremely long way off, is actually closer to you now than your starting point, and everything you dreamed of for yourself is coming to fruition.  You have moved a long way forward on the bus, and can even talk to the driver occasionally.

The bus still stops, and people get on and off – either voluntarily or by force.  You don’t make contact with most of them, but a few promise to keep in touch.  Most don’t, though.

The bus has become home.  In fact, you realize you’ve spent more time on the bus than anywhere else as long as you’ve lived.

Some people have changed buses many times, but you, with the exception of a few quick transfers early on, have remained on this bus the whole time.  Even the driver has changed over the years, but the bus has stayed, more or less, on the same path the whole time.

At some point, you notice, however, that the bus has begun to move more slowly.  Other newer, faster buses are better equipped for the road ahead, and pass you quickly.  The destination is not approaching at the rate it once was, and more and more seats are now empty.  Fewer passengers are picked up to fill them. The driver isn’t talking as much as they used to, either.

The bus slows even more, despite the lighter load, and people start to whisper about what the driver is going to do about it.  You all trust him – you have to!  He’ll figure things out and you’ll continue on our route like you always have.  You got on the right bus.

Then one day it happens.  The bus stops, and as you look out the window to see why, you find that you are the next one to be escorted off, along with a few others.  No explanation, or forewarning.  Just a somber handshake and some tips on how to find another bus somewhere else.

So there you are.  Standing on the side of the road, watching the bus amble along without you, shakily heading to the destination that you were sure it would take you to. Shock, sadness, and yes, even anger fill you, and for a while, you can’t even think about getting on another bus.  Even if you did, where would you sit?  Where would the bus be going?  Can you trust the driver and the other passengers?  No – just sit a while and think.

You decide to stay and play for a time – stretch your legs and smell the flowers around you that you sped past all those years.  If feels good to do this, but in the back of your mind, you recall just how much further you still need to travel to reach your destination.  That thought is always there, lurking in the recesses of your brain, like a sinister shadow, threatening to step into full view.

The thought of the long path ahead becomes overwhelming, so you make up a little sign “Great Passenger. Hard Working. Respectful. Loyal. Will take any seat”, and you stand on the side of the road, forcing a smile, waiting for a bus to see you and stop.

Buses pass by so fast that you’re sure they can’t even read the sign.  A few slow down and give you a quick glance, but speed off without stopping.  You stand on the side of the road for a long time, wondering how some people get buses to stop and pick them up, but you can’t.  Is the the sign wrong?  Do you look intimidating? Are you too old……?

A few buses stop, and even let you look inside.  They have an empty seat, and need someone to fill it.  You’re dressed well, and are groomed to give a great impression, but the seat they have is pretty far back, and it might not be a good thing for someone so well groomed to sit back there.

The bus leaves without picking you up.  This happens a lot.

Down the side of the road, you see one of the old passengers from your bus, pushing a motorcycle along the soft shoulder of the road towards you.

They stop when they reach you, and show you the motorcycle they have.  It’s not working, but maybe, with the two of you together, you can get it running and zoom right past all those stinky, noisy buses to your destination in record time.  No more bus drivers deciding who gets on or off, and when.  You’re the drivers now!

You have nothing to lose, but as you both push the old machine along in the soft sand, you tape the sign to your back – just in case.

The hope of getting that motorcycle running keeps your energy up for a while, but the tires don’t roll in the sand very well, and for some reason the engine just won’t start.  You keep watching over your shoulder, hoping another bus might just stop and pick you up.  It’s a tactic that’s mixed with wishful thinking and guilt, but one that you hope will pay off.

Others on motorcycles pass along the way.  You are conflicted with desire for yourself, and jealousy that they got theirs working while you still push yours along in the hot sun.  Still, the thought of being in the drivers seat brings new hope, and you push on, despite the odds.

At times, when you’re alone on the road, those dark shadows flow into the light like a river breaking its protective banks.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  The bus was supposed to carry you all the way to your destination.  How will you get there now?  It’s way to far to walk, the motorcycle idea doesn’t seem to be working, and despite a few stops, no bus has made a seat available to you.  How did this happen to a good person? It’s not fair.  But, as they say, life isn’t fair.  No one was out to get you.  No malicious intent was a part of anyone’s agenda. S**t happens sometimes.

In the end, there’s no guarantees.  You may never get on a bus to begin with, and even if you do, it might be a short trip.  You were luckier than most.  You had a good ride – and a long one.  Time to stop the pity party, and do what you’ve done before.  You’re smarter now than you were back then.  You know which buses to stay away from and which ones can get you all the way to your destination.

This is nothing more than another new adventure.  A bump in the road, and you should be excited like you were when you stepped foot on that first bus so long ago.

Except this time, the stakes are a lot higher.  You have more skin in the game, and more people are expecting big things out of you. Failure is not an option, and the bus drivers have a lot more questions now than they did back then.

Where will you end up?  Will you ever get that motorcycle running, or will you have to take a few buses to get there?  You’ll never know.  The only thing to do is to know that everyone you’ve ever met is rooting for you, and wants to see you get there, and that somehow, it will happen.

Leap and the net will appear.  Keep those dark shadows behind the banks as much as possible, and when you feel like they’re seeping in, run for the high ground of friends and family.  They’ll always carry you.

Have faith in God.  He has big plans for you.  This change is a chance to reassess your path and to listen to what he’s calling you to.  There’s a purpose for everything, even, if like that first part of your bus trip, you can’t see it yet.

I wish for your bus ride to be full of adventure, great friends, deep faith, and an awesome destination.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Safe travels, my friend.

 

 

 

 

Must be spring – a bug flew in my ear.

bug

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – I don’t like Spring.  It’s easily the worst season (winter being a close second after the one we just had) of the 4.

For many, it’s the promise of better weather and warmer, longer days.  That’s ‘a good thing‘, as Martha would say.

It’s true – Spring means that Summer is on its way, so we shrug off the Winter blah’s, stow away those heavy ugly winter clothes and bring out the lawn furniture.

But not so fast, my friends!  Spring is a false season. It’s a liar.  Spring is not about nice weather and sunny days.  That’s Summer – let’s not confuse the two.  Spring steals all of Summer’s thunder, literally, and offers nothing of value for itself.  It’s like a cheap sidekick as an opening act for the real performer.

It doesn’t help that I really suffer from springtime allergies.  In Canada, we celebrate the May ‘2-4’ weekend, which falls, not coincidentally, on the weekend closest to May 24th.  I think it was a British Queen’s birthday, so as ex-patriots, and exploiters of  the monarchy, we mug every long weekend we can out of them.  I used to think it was named after a case of beer…college days!

It’s the first long weekend of warm weather, but for me it’s a double-edged sword.  This is also the time of year that all the lovely trees are bursting forth with their pollen-spawn, clogging up my sinuses and attacking my immune system.  I usually spend it in the basement with a bottle of Benadryl and box of tissues.

Yup, Spring is a total poser – a cheap veneer, looking like a real season, but it’s just a mirage – a delusion, tricking us into liking it.  Don’t believe me?

Let’s look at the differences:

SUMMER:

  • Long days of sun
  • Warmest weather we’ll see all year
  • Vacations
  • Bikinis
  • Beer gardens & patios
  • Swimming pools
  • Days at the beach
  • Pina Colada scented suntan lotion

SPRING:

  • Rain and/or snow and/or sleet and/or freezing rain
  • Allergies
  • Weather that makes you think it’s summer until you go outside and are freezing in 10 minutes
  • All the dirt, garbage, dog bombs, brown grass, and other nasties that were hidden in the snow
  • Flooding
  • Mud
  • The smells…yuck!
  • Mosquito spray
  • Dead skunks, racoons, or anything else trying to procreate by crossing a busy road
  • Allergies (it’s worth mentioning twice)
  • Birds nesting in my dryer vent

I used to think birds nesting was kind of cute.  In our first house, they nested in the vent for the bathroom fan.  At first is was sweet, being sung to by those melodic, hungry little chicks in the morning while taking care of business, but like all animals, they grew up and trashed the house.  The mess down the outside of my home was a toxic, sticky sludge that had baked into the siding.

See?  Spring is a lousy season.  It’s only positive is that it’s followed by Summer, so it gets the polite applause it doesn’t really deserve.  It rides on the coat-tails of our greatest season, taking all the credit: “Spring showers bring May flowers” – like it’s supposed to make us all warm and fuzzy about dreary, wet days.

Walking the dog this morning, I noticed that the receding glaciers from this past Winter are exposing a lovely collection of pop cans, wrappers, and poop – literally some was on top of one of those green utility boxes.  ON TOP!  That was some dog, I tell you.

The weather was too cold for Spring attire, but because it was above freezing, everything was a muddy mess.  Just to cap it off, a bug – probably the only one alive this time of year – flew directly into my ear.

Oh, yeah.  Let’s welcome Spring, but only because it means that the main attraction is somewhere in the wings, waiting to make it’s appearance.

I can only hope that this Spring is a one-act show….