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brown and white short coated dog on white ceramic floor tiles
Picture of a door that is slightly ajar, open enough to see a sweet, brown puppy

Is nothing sacred? I thought, as they head-butted their way through the bathroom door.

Early on, it was my puppy, all floppy ears and fluffy tail. She’d used her considerable nose to push her way through the door, which had been slightly ajar. What’s doing? she seemed to say, with a tilt of her fuzzy head. With that, she sat down and took a nap.

Then it was my toddler, all cherub cheeks, binky and blanket in tow. He’d barge in like a mini-caveman and sit on the floor by the “throne.” Want some company? he seemed to ask. With that, he’d lay on the floor with his blankie and take a nap.

Finally, it was my cat, all wild whiskers and stealthy feet. He looked like a tiny, tuxedoed man, with dark pants tucked into white tube socks. He seemed to say, Are you aware that my food bowl is only 99% full? With that, he’d put his head down on the bathroom rug and take a nap.

“This used to be single occupancy,” I’d say to my audience, all of whom would just look at me, bemused.

I realized some things are sacred. These moments. The slow pace of time. The invasion of space. The crumbs and legos and dog toys strewn around the living room. Those moments were golden, although at the time, it didn’t feel like it. I often felt as if there were things coming at me from all sides and I never had a moment to myself.

We’ve all been through a lot lately, with COVID fatigue, political clashes, and the general sense of distrust that has set in.

It’s easy to slam the door, to shut everything bad out, but sometimes, when you leave the door ajar, good things come toddling in.

person looking at the milkyway
Picture of a man facing away from the camera, seen in silhouette, looking at the star-speckled night-time sky

Not to make light of the violence that occurred last week in the US capital, but I’d rather ponder esoteric ideas like life in outer space right now. Quite frankly, proving there’s intelligent life here on Earth at the moment might be a challenge. 

Science fiction books and movies always portray aliens as monsters, but what if they’re watching us right now, not with nefarious intentions, but kind-hearted curiosity?

A study claims there may be many civilizations in the universe, and I find this fascinating. 

What if extraterrestrials are watching you the way you watch those two bluebirds as they flutter around the cherry blossoms in your front yard every morning? Aren’t they magnificent! What will they do next? Pick up a tiny branch? Must be making a nest! Wow! Ain’t nature grand?

What if they’re checking in on you the way you keep an eye on that stray cat who visits your backyard. Does he need food? Where does he sleep? Is he okay? What color is that kitty really — black or brown? He almost seems to have subtle stripes. Look, honey, he might have stripes! Isn’t he a marvel?

Every day, as I look at the headlines, I ponder how strange our new normal has become. At this point, if we had an alien invasion, I might not bat an eyelash. “Aiiight,” I’d say, “just stay in your lane, supply me with coffee and chocolate, and we’ll get along fine.”

Mankind has become desensitized to disaster and demonstrates an utter lack of decorum — even humanity — but one day, civility will return. Empathy will emerge. Compassion will make a comeback. 

Until then, hunker down as best you can, and hold on till morning comes. Or at least till the Mother Ship comes to take us away from all this!

Let me tell you, I really do love a good zombie movie. I know this is a strange topic for a post on a prayer blog, but with everything in the news lately, dialing into the dystopian dimension has been rather comforting to me!

The way I see it, zombies need better PR people. Also, a good law firm. They could probably win in a class-action lawsuit against scientists with clumsy hands in labs. As the old saying goes, Don’t drop the beaker filled with experimental toxins if you don’t want to spark a zombie boom! Could be I just made up that saying, but c’mon, it’s really just common sense.

Zombies may have a bad rep, but they’re really just misunderstood. Don’t you think? They never asked to be undead. It’s just one of those things.

In some ways, people in America have become less humane than zombies. We can’t even get along at the grocery store. Some people refuse to wear masks, saying it’s an infringement of their personal rights, even in the middle of a pandemic. Is this some form of brainwashing that’s turning people less than human? Even zombies don’t attack each other.

It’s not too much to ask that we look out for each other, doing simple things like wearing a mask. Keeping social distance. Washing your hands. It’s not a political statement. It’s a sign of one of the few attributes that separates humans from zombies: compassion.

Don’t be an unthinking zombie. Be a person. Take care of yourself and your neighbors. Do the right thing. No matter what you hear from authorities who say otherwise, the golden rule trumps (pardon the term) zombie drool.

BugZooka WB100 Bug Catcher VacuumYesterday, I saw a silverfish in my bathroom and stopped in my tracks. Zowie! That’s a big bug. Four inches across. I got my trusty BugZooka (a tiny vacuum that sucks up the bugs so you can release them outside) and tried to capture her, to no avail. Undeterred, I went to the kitchen and got a plastic cup with a lid but couldn’t redirect her into the cup, so I talked to her. I’ve got to get you into this cup to relocate you or I’ve got to squish you. Sorry.

Surprisingly, she went into the cup. I went to the door and asked my son to open it for me and took her outside. Now mind you, I probably let in two flies while I was releasing Sylvia (the name I give to all silverfish. That, or Sid) but she had to go.

While I was chasing her around the bathroom, I realized she was afraid of me. For all she knew, I was the grim reaper, and I may well have been if I hadn’t caught her.

She was reacting in fear. I was reacting in fear.

What if everything that we’re afraid of is actually afraid of us?

As you go about your day, take note of what makes you anxious. Is it people passing by on a busy city street? Hold on. Are they looking at you the same way?

Pay attention to your fears today. They might be telling you they’re not so scary after all.

PS: This is not an endorsement of the BugZooka (although I like it). I only included the picture to show you what it looks like.

Coaster, sans arachnid

Once, as I was watching TV, I reached for my hazelnut coffee. It was placed on a coaster that resembles a throw rug with tiny strings on it. As I drink my coffee, I have to make sure it’s centered so it doesn’t spill. Usually I just grab those little strings to adjust it. This time, I wasn’t paying attention. I grabbed the strings and tugged, only to look down and realize that it wasn’t the strings of the coaster I was pulling on. It was the legs of a spider!

Mildly freaked out, I said “Aaah!” He said the spider version of “Aaah!,” making a jerking motion with his legs. All those crazy legs. Mercy. He ran off and I started to go after him to squish him (there wasn’t time to capture him with my trusty Bugzooka and take him outside).

I realized that he’d gotten my message without my even trying.

He wasn’t coming around me again, not after that tiny torture session. Tickling my toes? What manner of fresh heck is this? What are you, giant creature with flame-orange hair?

As a general rule, impinging on my space will never get you a warm welcome.

This goes for spiders on my coffee coaster, of course, but also for:

  • People who decide to park their car in front of my driveway.
  • Salespeople peddling stuff I don’t need that I’ll end up putting directly into the attic.
  • Zombies sent to my house inadvertently by a faulty GPS (Gory People Search.)

The best way to make a point, no matter how important you feel it may be, is to give people their space. So if you’ve found faith and want to share it, be sure to ask permission. Respecting others’ decisions speaks well of your religion.

1. Never sneeze with half-chewed nuts in your mouth. I’m still picking bits out of my hair.

2. If your wife makes something for the potluck, remember to actually bring it. (Owen, that’s you I’m talking to.)

3. Folks can say in one breath that they voted for Trump because he is pro-life, yet in the next breath fully countenance the forcible removal of immigrants, the yanking of health care to thousands — making pregnancy a “pre-existing condition,” while simultaneously denying prenatal care, and failing to understand why Black Lives Matter.

4. When one only has herself to cook for, one tends to eat sporadically and strangely. Creamed kale for supper, anyone?

5. God makes God’s-self known in loud trumpeting…and barely perceivable whispers. Both. I am much better at hearing the trumpeting. Although it is jolting.

6. As a brilliant artist friend reminded me with his painting of Jeremiah being lifted from the cistern (the biblical prophet’s enemies throw him into a dry cistern; a court official rescues him, not just with rope, but — thoughtfully — with pieces of cloth to place under his arms while he is being lifted, so the ropes don’t chafe him), you can lift a person up by throwing them a line and expecting them to be grateful for it, OR you can lift someone up with special attention to their individual needs — i.e., gently. How do you lift people up?

7. There is always a third option: To not lift people up at all. This is becoming less and less acceptable to me, yet more and more common in the world.

8. I need to speak less and listen more. This will render me pretty much selectively mute. That’s okay; the world has enough noise in it. It will, however, make phone calls awkward.

9. I need a nap. A year or two ought to do it. Now, if you’ll excuse me….

“I had to break away from her,” my friend Alice tells me over the phone about someone she once called a friend. Alice isn’t the only one. Lots of folks lately seem to be dealing with toxic people. You know them. We meet them everywhere in the jungle of life. Some are outright predators; others hang back, like vultures, waiting to sink their talons into the weak and weary. The hardest part of dealing with toxic people is that maybe only you see that person for what they truly are. The rest of the gnus keep grazing, blissfully unaware. Yet God commands us to love everyone. It may take time to find a way to love our enemies — difficult things always do — but it also demands of us a certain primal common sense. To wit, the following poem:

This is not a litany of sins.
You have taught me things,
a veritable National Geographic
special. Some creatures,
for whom all touch is enemy,
strike — even if the stroke
is light, a caress.
Some people know pain,
and let it go, others
grow it and sow it,
sweat it from their pores
like tropical frogs or
hold it in their craws
like komodos who will
pursue you, slash you with their claws,
consume you or, in a pinch, lick you,
(a flick of the tongue, breathlessly quick),
let the poison in their maws do its work.
Whichever way they come for you, you die.
How do you love a komodo?
From afar, perhaps, and pityingly.

Being the last rat off the sinking ship
because it will give the other rats a chance to swim,
or because the ship, to its last gasp, is dear to you.
Not following the crowd, especially when the crowd
is wandering aimlessly and without a working compass,
moral or otherwise. Being a good Samaritan
when Samaritans are in short supply.
Choosing the careful answer when the witty one
is easier and could earn you a seat with the cool kids.
Praying not for things but for things to be as God wills them,
especially when you want something very bad or badly.
To listen without speaking, to accept without
exception, to create when others destroy.
Blessing the last word when it is not yours
and blessing the mouth you wish had not spoken
in language you wish you could unhear.
Appreciating puce, the ugliest of colors,
simply for being different.
Singing, loudly and often.
Hugging for no reason.
Saying yes, of course,
and no as needed.
Flying in dreams.
God-finding.

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