Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ghosts

What a trip it was. It was exhausting, and it was exhilarating. It was thrilling, it was boring. I was anxious and I had a peace which surpasses understanding.

I traveled 2,600 miles with my sons, a rolling expedition over highways and byways, through the largest sink valley in the world, and through several deserts. That ol’ van climbed over the Sierra Nevada's and parked along the Pacific Ocean. We negotiated packed angry L.A. freeways and wide open spaces without another vehicle in sight.

All that terrain was a challenge to the vehicle (and driver), but the terrain of the heart and soul was more challenging. There were ghosts.

Sometimes we lend our fears more power than they deserve. We become anxious about things that will be all right. We worry over events past and events future which rob us of enjoying of the present. We whisper our fears in the secet places of our hearts, unconscious incantations creating amorphous monsters within.

I paused on the way south in the town of my childhood... and found myself disillusioned by a house, a street, a community that is smaller than I remember.

The ghosts of those memories loomed large.

It was in that 2nd floor room overlooking Plumas street that I learned to fear ghosts... some from the house across the street, from within the walls of the room I shared with my brothers. I once set a trap for the Boogie Man in front of the bedroom door... of wire clothes hangers and kite string. All I caught was my father. He wasn’t amused.

Looking at that house this week I saw other ghosts. Missing trees, a house diminished in stature when seen by a soul having traveled an additional 45 years. On the corner was the ghost of the church which housed spiritual epiphanies for a five year old.

A disappointing bout of nostalgia... not that great a tussle with ghosts of the past.

I was more concerned about the ghost of my father.

In my heart he is still a giant who terrifies with speed and strength and anger.

The point of the whole journey was to meet up with my father, see him off on a dangerous stunt he yearned to complete, and to wrestle with the ghosts of my own fears... and faith.

I felt a pressure to “witness” to him, an attempt meet the command of “the great commission” in my own family, and to let him know that people of faith, well this person of faith anyway, can love without strings attached.

I discovered that he was no longer a giant, in fact he has lost a little height, is shorter than he was a few years ago, shorter than me.

Father & Son

It turned out that suspending judgment was easier than I thought it would be. I smiled and nodded encouragement when he told stories of his life in Thailand. I set aside my distaste over prostitution and the inequities between wealth and poverty, third and first world cultures, and I discovered that there was a gentleness behind my father’s stories.

I saw the genuine affection he has for friends and neighbors, for children and monks and girl friends and prostitutes. I saw how the Buddhist attitude he has picked up from that culture has helped him see each person as having value, having a soul that is eternal, that is beyond the actions within life itself.

I felt a genuine affection for him as I listened to the stories that were tinged with sadness or bravado or pride and even an occasional hint of humility.

I felt my heart warm toward him with a love for him, my own reaction to his soul, though not tinged with the Buddhist view of eternity.

Suddenly I saw that simply loving my father was all that was required of me.

That is it. Nothing more.

I needn’t tell him about the steps to salvation, or make the case for church attendance, or even for prayer.

All I need tell him, all I need show him, was that I loved him.

And I do. I love him.

And I watched a ghost fade away.

As I type this the hairs are standing up on my arms. It is that powerful. A ghost has been exercised. In loving my father I am freed. In giving him respect and acknowledge that he is a soul created in the image of the creator of the universe I find that the man who terrified me, who nearly killed my brother and I, the one who shouted and controlled and was a thundering titan to a small child, is a soul I love and forgive, and am willing to sacrifice for.

I think that this is a lesson my Lord has given me. That in the end, love is all that matters. I think I understand a little how He loved others so well, even those who would betray Him.

“Love God with all your heart, and mind and soul, and love others as you love yourself.”

Love.

I suspect that the feeling of superiority I sometimes feel when I deem others as non-christian is truly a sin. In evaluating the faith of others, in evaluating the lives of others, I cease to love, cease to obey Jesus.

There were other ghosts on this trip as well.

There was the echoes of relationships, ways of behaving, with my sister, with my mom.

My sister, a strong Christian, has offended my father with her judgmental comments, her passive-aggressive words always implying deeper meanings.

I found that in simply loving her, in not replying to challenging statements, just loving, the ghosts of past arguments failed to materialize.

On the journey home there were massive thunderheads. It was difficult to appreciate their true size. They were so large, that they could be seen from over a hundred miles away, their tiny companions grew huge as the miles rolled beneath the van, and still the giants beyond them loomed over the mountains.

Thunderhead

The clouds were beautiful, their amorphous nature suggesting shapes to our minds as we climbed toward the Siskiyous. And they dropped heavy rain and released bolts of lightning as we climbed toward the Oregon border.

Note: that teeny dark cloud,
the one in front of the dark grey thunderhead,
just above the horizon is actually very large

Clouds are nature’s ghosts. They are born in invisible vapors over the ocean, drift across uninhabited seas, and materialize as they are squeezed as they climb mountains.

Likewise, my own ghosts rise out of small thoughts, small fears, and materialize only when squeezed by the mountains of experiences in my own life.

Like the clouds which washed the dust of deserts off our van, my ghosts have dropped their loads and I see them as simple metaphors of living and loving and forgiving.

My father plans on making another attempt at that record in November, a time that is supposed to be particularly difficult with high winds.

I feel no desire to go.

Not that I haven’t concerns for his safety.

But the desire to see him one last time, or to tell him about my faith, or to simply tell him that I love him, has evaporated.

Another wonderful part of this trip was the time I spent with my sons. I was able to talk to them for hours and hours and answer all sorts of questions and simply let them know over and over and over how much I love them.

First stop in Yosemite, the waterfall is probably 40 feet high

On the way home they told me many times how much they love me... sweet words.

"You know, what, Dad?," Isaac said. "There isn't anyone else in the whole world I would rather have be my dad.
"

I spent some time in prayer in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

In the valley

We traveled through Yosemite, pausing to appreciate granda vistas, listen to brooks and streams, watch wildlife feeding in meadows, listen to the roar of waterfalls.

Momma deer & 2 fawns

El Capitan

Elk

A place to pray

I still have other fears in my life. Things I need to work through, to understand, relationships to repair.

But this journey of thousands of miles was a greater journey of the heart.

I think many of us have ghosts. Fears and anxieties over things we know will really be allright.

My blessing this past week was the exorcism of some of those ghosts.

It was a good trip.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

welcome home!

jel said...

CS,
Glad you and the boys, made it home, and thank you for letting us take this journey with you!


ya got some very AWESome pictures there!

Blessings

annie said...

I've been following your journey and it has been a blessing to read as it all unfolded. Thank you for sharing it.

And I agree, the pictures are awesome!

curious servant said...

A G-G F: Glad to be back. hope to run into you soon.

Jel: Thanks for accompanying me!

Annie: I'm glad you tagged along as well!

I'll have to post some random poics, just for the fun ot it.

C & G said...

glad you all made it home . . . and that it is well with your soul

we're still here :) and still on the adoption trail . . . it's slower that I like but that is how it is. I haven't really felt like blogging through the valley that we have recently been in - maybe I'll just start another blog for regular life and thoughts and the occasionally update on adoption there - then the pressure to write specifically about adoption would be gone . . .

thought about and prayed for brenda a lot while you all were gone. tell her "hi"

ukok said...

I LOVE the images taken in the Valley, where you prayed :-)

I've been keeping up to date with your blogposts via Bloglines, CS.

I've loved that you shared your journey with your blog buddies. So glad you 'paused' for God as you continued along your way. God Bless you!

Judas Hate said...

Will,

An absolutely magnificent post about your truly AWESOME mental, physical and spiritual journey!!

Isaac's sentiment brought tears to my eyes. I'm sure it did you too:-)

Glad you are home safe Brother.

Justin

P.S. Yes, we actually own "Little Miss Sunshine". Great movie.

bjk said...

Thanks for telling your story.....where He has brought you and ....just thanks

Pia said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post CS.

Jada's Gigi said...

Yes, it was a very good trip.

Felisol said...

Dear CS,
I'm happy for you and the answers you've found.
It sounds almost beatlishly easy, "love is all you need", but it is true.
Even though I sometimies find the road to love ,-and healig, rough and bumpy.
I greet you with Peter's words.
1. Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

donna-in-ny said...

Will,
I have been following you on this trip, reading along as you penned a thousand varying emotions. A journey that in the end was completed in peace... as you embraced each step, kicked each pepple out of your way, maneuvered the potholes....I gained a sense that you seeing your father through God's eyes rather than through life's dramas. Many of us don't get to do that until our loved ones have passed on...Praise God that this adventure was placed before you, that you captured it's full purpose and you are now home safe...a husband, a father, a son who has a greater understanding of love as God intended.

Praying for you and your precious wife and boys...

donna

Nate said...

It is good to see that you have found the entrance to the path.

Christopher said...

powerful stuff.

ame said...

"my sense of right and wrong can diminish my love for others." (from your previous post)

what powerful words.

a reflection of people, especially in places with lots of rules.

a reflection of humanity ... mine, too.

ame said...

i did spend some time last night catching up ... and enjoyed reading it all at one time. the last three weeks has taken all my energy getting Youngest balanced again. i'm slowly getting caught up with all my special friends our here :)

thank you for your prayers and encouragement. i actually did try this little church this morning. i was running late, and your comment kinda pushed me on. thanks :)

it was nice, this church. it is small, and that is nice. i'm used to a contemporary service, and this one is very mellow. but they teach through the bible verse by verse, and i like that.

and, it was truly a God thing. after i sat down, a woman i know came and sat next to me (she had been in the children's church). she introduced me to some people and share some about the church. they were warm and friendly, and i didn't feel like hiding or running at anytime - VERY nice.

they have a bible study for women on wed mornings - i think i might visit this week since my girls are not here. and they have a wed night church bible study, which i think i'll also visit. it was nice, non-threatening. peaceful. i think i'll take my girls and see how they like it.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Hi CS, it nice to have you back. I have enjoyed following you along on you guys' journey.
I'll bet Rocky was glad to see you all too.
Could I borrow his picture in the van for a Wordless Wednesday? It would be on my Jim's Little Photo Place blog. I think he enjoys being in the limelight. http://jimmiehov6.blogspot.com/

Your sister thinks she is doing good but a relative can go overboard. My daughter used to try to 'reform' me when she was younger. Now she accepts me. Maybe I wasn't so awful after all.
She sure was bugging the tar out of me, I know that.
..

Coco said...

Home...(sigh)
with a stronger bond with your dad and your boys. Plus lots of wonderful memories! : )

Thank you for taking us along on your trip : ) Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts of your dad... Think about his offer-visiting him in Thailand, after all, he offered it with his heart.

Anyway, home...back with Brenda : )

Blessings.

ps
i posted a pic of my mom on my blog

Lucy Stern said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I love going on trips with my family. We are away from telephones, TV and regular activities and we just have fun together. I also love camping and spending time in nature. I enjoy going up in the mountains in Colorado and just enjoying the fresh air, the stars and the camp fires. I have had some of my most spiritual experiences up in those mountains. God gave us a beautiful earth to live on and I enjoy it's pleasures.

I'm glad that you came to peace with your dad. The best way you can share your religion with him is to just live it. He was raised in a different country, and has a different religion. Just love your dad for who he is and leave it at that. If he has questions about Jesus Christ, you can tell him then. Don't be judgemental and just love..... I'm glad you had some good time with your boys.

curious servant said...

Thakns Lucy... but he wasn't raised in another country. He was born in the same city I was and started visiting Thailand only a year or so ago.

Othewise, your comment holds pretty true.

Terry said...

Oh Curious Servant... I should of read this lovely post first!
It is a real tear jerker!
Your love for your father starting as a small trickle in your heart and building up to a fountain that is just over flowing is nothing short of a miracle of God!
This love is all you need because your dad is going to feel it and see Jesus inside of you.
Words will not be necessary until the time comes that he will be asking!!

You are so funny.
I had to laugh when you told about laying the trap for the ghost and catching your father!!
So funny!!!

You know what Curious Servant?
The more I know you, the more that I think that you would have fit so perfectly into the Golden Clan. You would have been so much fun because everyone of us except for my sweet sister, Betty made one wild mischief making bunch!!..from Terry

Vicki said...

You, my friend, are a beautiful writer. Not because you string words together so perfectly (but you do!)but because when I read your posts, my heart is deeply moved by your experiences. You tap into all our hearts, CS.