A year and a half ago I wrote this post, and this one subsequently ending “Stranger In Rebellion” (until last December when I rebooted it). They were about an opportunity we had in Denver and all the fallout that came therein. Recently, I have been troubled by having many dreams about living in Utah; moving people I knew there, living in houses I have a history with, planning meetings with people, walking or driving the streets. It seemed a constant barrage and I began to wonder if I was being told something.
The same group of discipleship friends, the ones who told me they’d do everything to make me stay if they believed God was telling them it was wrong, gathered last Sunday night – and there was a similarity of conversation. I told one of my dreams and hope of interpretation. He told me that biblical interpretation of dreams was done by a person of God to someone who did not know God, so perhaps I should know my own. Another thing he said was that God seems to communicate to me in the going. In the possible move to Denver, I had to go there in order to feel God stopping me. Maybe this will be the same?
I had suggested in the past that I would like to take an all day/night drive to Utah with these friends, and, show them around a bit. The places I lived, went to school, restaurants I enjoyed, people I knew, are all a part of who I am that not one of them will ever know or understand. Who am I but where I came from? And now, just last week, my friend confirmed that perhaps we ought to do that, and have a good conversation on the way back about what God may be telling me. I delighted in the idea and began thinking of places to go. And then I had a great idea… Write about the places I would go. I like writing and I really like writing about my history, so why not begin a series about the places I’d take my friends. Most of these probably won’t be places we’d actually have time for, but it is more of a record, for good and bad.
I am writing this on “Former Stranger In Rebellion” instead of “Undeniably Mayo” because it seems right. This is where it all started, and this is where it may ultimately finish.
Mount Calvary Cemetery
The first place I’d like to write about is about the end. The place where all come to rest: a cemetery. You’re told to be quiet in church, quiet in school, quiet in the library. But a cemetery is a strange place. We need to be respectful. We need to be reverent. We need to be quiet. My Grandpa’s grave was located near the eastern most point of the entirety that is the Salt Lake Cemetery and more specifically, Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. As a child, my family would visit his plot every Memorial Day, washing the bird poop off the tombstone with small tupperware containers filled at the little nearby shed. We’d walk up and down the hill in the hot sun getting enough water in the bowl and walk carefully back up trying not to spill too much so as to limit our excursions. As we stood around, waiting for my parents to feel whatever they were supposed to feel, I got a wondrous tickle deep down in my tummy. I wanted to run. What a perfect place to practice the dodge and weave, through the tombstones over the little trees, up the hill and back down. But that was all forbidden here. We were to be reverent. We were to be quiet. “Don’t step on the graves,” we were told. “Don’t lean on the tombstones,” we were reminded. We knew how to act, it was just hard to in such a beautiful environment.
Later, we’d walk up to the trees that lined the many roads within, to look at the graves of… my possible sister and brother, or my dad’s sister and brother? I never really quite understood, nor did I try to clarify, and it seemed mythical to me that I might have had two older siblings, or, that I might never existed. There were four of us kids and I was the third. If my parents were shooting for four, and the first two survived, would I exist at all? Those trees along that road held great reverence and quiet for me. The small inlaid stones were shabby and broken up, barely any writing on them at all. The memorial within the Mount Calvary Cemetery for those who were killed by abortion is larger and more intricate than all those little stones that marked the memory of those children who died very young. These small little tombs made me quietly sad, and yet filled me with a philosophy about who I was, and that I existed and they didn’t. What kind of God did we claim to know that left me alive and allow those others to perish? And why was there some sort of life there where we had to not walk upon them? Would they feel pain in the afterlife if we trod on their grave or shifted the stone? Sure, it is all respect for the living in that all this is done, but as a child we wonder why, and the smaller ones always held such sway over me.
I never knew my Grandpa, but buried there now is my Uncle Mike, his parents who are my Nana and Papa, subjects in many of my dreams. My dad is buried there too. They are all in and around the same modern mausoleum. Families divided in life by divorce, now united in death. These people define me. The place they now rest defines me. Here is where we shared tears when my Papa succumbed to old age, and too long after, my Nana. All the people who gathered at their home many a Sunday, now so geographically and emotionally and spiritually divided, coming together to mourn the loss of why we came to be. We will soon be gathered there, united in death. For death defines and succumbs to us all.
And yet, with the life I now live for eternity, do I go back and share this life, live it in such a way that they must see Christ in me? Or do I stay here? It seems that in the going I must find out.
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”
-2 Thessalonians 1:3-5
We started studying 2 Thessalonians last night in our fellowship/bible study group, when one of our members started on how he was saddened by what he sees in the church today regarding the lack of love displayed among the believers. There was some discussion about the lack of persecution we suffer. The thought from the one discouraged is that the manifestation of love should just be something we strive for, and that is an obvious thing to me as well, yet still we find ourselves lacking. If we love Jesus we will obey his commandments, and He also prayed that we would love each other. So in our love for Jesus are we loving each other as we should? I haven’t felt much love from the brethren here, but what have I given out? Another thought was that our love is in not leaving each other over trivial matters, or divorcing as the word that was used. Would we, as a group that had been together for two years be strong enough to see each other through the next 10 years, or 20?
As I listened to the group I pondered my connection to these people. We started being with these people 2 years after we moved here. It was still a very difficult time for us, not only in the things we had left, but in seeing some of the ways Christians treat each other. It was a powerfully rough time. This group formed through some of this hardship and depression I was suffering. I was glad we decided to have it at our house, because it is a rare excuse I can come up with in not coming. Many a time there was that I would sit in silence most of the night, not wanting to share my thoughts of feelings. My belief in my lack of importance contrived itself to shut me up. It was noticed, but not pushed. Eventually I would give myself over to opening up, denying the feelings of not trusting people, and it was rewarding. The culmination was two Emergency room visits last year that allowed me to be myself, open up and start loving these people.
I shared that the way I feel about these people would keep them in my hearts for years to come, no matter where I end up. But it was only through the tribulation I went through that I felt this way. Even in the verses above it seems that their love, in some way, grew from the trials and persecutions suffered.
The other thing I shared is the idea that we aren’t really holding onto the idea that we are part of a way bigger thing than just living and dying. We have a grand hope and a kingdom to share. Our lives are truly supernatural and that makes us realize that what happens here and now is just so stinking temporary. Our goal is not in being happy here, but looking forward to the grand green pastures of being with our Lord and Creator forever!
One of the things I ask the children here, when I get the opportunity to hang out, is, “Does God want us to be happy and never have a hard time in this life?” All of these kids would say that God wants us to be happy and never suffer. Eventually, when we grow up, and if we remain in the faith, we are given the idea that suffering is for our good. That only the loving parent will discipline their children. We don’t get the idea that tribulation brings perseverance brings character bringing hope until we are “ready” for it. We may understand this concept, but the teaching or perhaps hope as a child that everything will be easy stays with us, and we don’t give ourselves to each other because dealing with other people is hard.
I also brought this up to some guests we have and she said that when going through a hymnal that was about 150 years old, she found in the topical index, “hymns for when a child has died”. Can you imagine that being in our hymnal today? How much is death such a common thing when we are doing hip replacements to 85 year-old people today? We hear in other cultures that when you are ready to die, you take your mat away from the village, lay on it and wait for death. We know that where love and hope and faith grows is where death can be just around the corner. We do not suffer in this country if we are not facing hardship and disease and death on a daily basis. We may believe we are, but in contrast, are we really?
Lately, to me, it seems that we are losing a lot of ground, culturally, to the amoralist society. I wonder about how much we fight these issues and wonder if we should. Especially when we should be looking at people changing on an individual basis and not an entire culture. The fight is right, but is it worth it? I ended up hoping to run into more sinners (of whom do not know Jesus), so that I can share the kingdom I am looking forward to. I pray that God gives me the words, but I have a life I lived in sin and now I am a child of God, and this is what I need to share. It’s not me who changes people, a culture, but God who changes lives. I still sin, why should I try and stop sin when some segments of my life is defined by it? Our world is turning upside-down and we are all here for a purpose, for this time, to this generation. May we grow in love and hope and faith through the trials now and the tribulations of the future.
Strange Confessions: One the most adrenaline rushing activities that a United States suburban kid can take the opportunity to do is doorbell ditching and when we got together with my Dad’s family, this was our favorite late night event.
Yeah, I know… what kind of stupid confession is this? Well, these aren’t really real confessions. I never intended them to be serious breaking the law confessions, which I could and I might write about in the future. But this is just plains silly, right? I admit it is. Recently, I’ve thought of additional uses for this site: as a journal of sorts, an opportunity to record specific events in my life along this present time-line.
Today I found out that an Uncle of mine has died. He was my Dad’s cousin, so he wasn’t really my Uncle, but that is what we called him. Honestly, I didn’t care much for my Dad’s side of the family. My Dad was an only child. His Mother was the oldest of thirteen children in an Italian family. Their family reunions were monumental acts of obnoxiousness and social pain. I believe I spoke of this one time before. His Father was an Italian immigrant with two brothers. I never knew my Grandpa, but his youngest brother, I knew him and I enjoyed his modesty and hospitality. He had three children and one of them was my Uncle who just passed away. I didn’t know him hugely well, but when I did see him, it was always good. It was a rare treat to see him at his house. He and his wife were extremely hospitable and they always had plenty of Italian food laid all out to just grab and consume at will. He had two sons and a daughter I think was from another marriage. When you’re young you kind of know these things but never nail it down, things remain assumed. But, you know, you’re a kid… who cares about where your cousins come from as long as you all get along, and we did get along.
The one time I really remember spending the evening at their home stuck with me. I can still see faces in the dark, being conspiratorial in our affectatious discussions toward mischief. Our goal: to annoy as many neighbors in my Uncle’s middle upper class world. The hills and homes of Sandy, Utah was our stadium of shenanigans. Doorbell ditching was the activity of choice. We’d go up to door and fake each other out, running away, or acting like we rang, then run, screaming and laughing all the way through night, the excitement welling up within us. There was another thing we tried but never sure worked or not. We’d tie fishing line to a doorknob run it out to beyond being seen, then rub a wet washcloth on the string. Apparently, this would make a loud, squeaky noise in the home and the owner would come out and only find a string tied to his knob. Has anyone else heard of this? Did it work?
Anyway, I will remember my Uncle as having a warm heart, an open laugh and have the only cousins on my Dad’s family I had fun with. I also remember that he was a manager at JCPenny for a time but heard he had run the Catholic soup kitchen. He never bragged about where he was financially, career wise, or socially, I just knew he was a good guy who seemed to do as much as he needed to for his family. I wish I could be there and share and hear about him with those who will miss him most, and I pray that they would be comforted in their grief. So long Robert, I wish I’d known you better as an adult.