Thursday, June 20, 2013

Clothed... and In His Right Mind

They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind...  Mark 5:15

November, 2011.  It was a sunny but chilly day with a stiff east breeze.  In that season of the year, there is nearly always a stiff, chilly wind coming out of the Columbia Gorge when we are fortunate enough to have sun.

I was on the phone with a colleague as I looked out my home office window overlooking the cul-de-sac north of our house.  I blinked, and my eyes confirmed what I had seen first.  Yes, indeed.  The muscular man, appearing to be in his mid-30's, was indeed walking down the street buck naked.

He seemed to be conversing with, or responding to, things I could not see.  At one point, he stopped as he entered the alley between the fence of my yard and the chain link fence around the school athletic field.  Then he walked to the school fence and began to climb it, fingers and toes gripping the diamond-shaped holes in the fence.  He was as agile and strong as a chimp on his play structure.

When he reached the top rail of the fence, the man squatted and rested up there a bit before he leaped down into the schoolyard.  I cringed.  The soles of his feet had been resting atop these sharp, twisted wires supporting the man's full weight...  but he appeared to feel no pain at all. 

Next, he walked in a circle.  Then he returned to the fence, climbed back over and came walking down the street in front of my house.  He came down my driveway, stood in my open garage for a few minutes, before returning to the street, going back to the schoolyard and climbing the fence for yet a third time. 

Oblivious of pain...  oblivious of the chilly wind...  oblivious of all that most of us are attuned to in our daily relationship with the world. 

I had been on the phone to the police dispatcher minutes before, and at last a police cruiser sped across the athletic field and stopped.  The officers kept their distance, not threatening the man, thankfully.  They engaged him in conversation before finally convincing him to enter the warmth of the back seat of the patrol car. 

The man of Gerasa (Mark 5, Luke 8) was clearly in another world from most folks, an alien to them.  Jesus apparently engaged him in another way from most people in the man's life.  The results are stunning.  And I have no doubt that the encounter also changed and informed the way Jesus and his students engaged and related to people after that.

What if we did the same?

Sarah Thebarge did.  It changed her.  It changed a family.  It changed the world.  For good.  For goodness.

The divides of culture, class, language and life experience can be every bit as formidable as the divides of mental health and mental illness.  Likewise, the divide of mental illness can be as formidable as all of those other things that clearly exist but are not seen as being so formidable as mental illness. 

Jesus paid attention.  He engaged the person first, always before the labels. 

Sarah paid attention to the invisible girls she met.

What if we did the same?  How much more of the world would be clothed and in its right mind?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Few Good Men

Kevin's Dad, Delmar, whom we all knew as "Del" when he also worked at AAR Western Skyways, had been a U. S. Marine.  USMC.  At Kevin's memorial service, Del talked about teaching his two children, Kevin and his sister Jerilyn, how to shoot and handle firearms. 

Del had taught them well, at least Kevin.  Del told us how Kevin and young buddies decided to go deer hunting, armed only with Kevin's .22 caliber rifle.  Kevin was too young to get a hunting license at the time--which he hadn't bothered to consider.  Nevertheless, Kevin bagged a deer on his first time out...  with a .22 rifle. 

So much for the argument that you need an AR-15 with 30-round clip for deer hunting.  When I was young, a high school classmate went hunting for the first time with Dad and carried a .270 Winchester.  The kid had such buck fever that his shots were poorly placed and didn't kill the deer until he had fired nine times.  Nine rounds...  Sounds like a local police shooting.  Yet in his first time out, Kevin was able to bring down a deer with the lowly .22.  Go figure.  Clearly a difference in training.    

The .22 is so small and low powered that it's barely useful for more than plinking at cans and taking out small rodents.  To be sure, the .22 can kill you.  When I was a boy, a second cousin of mine, Alan, accidentally shot himself with a .22 when he was shooting sparrows around the barn.  I once scared myself half to death when the single-shot .22 I was carrying discharged a few inches from my left ear. 

I had a cartridge in the chamber, but the hammer wasn't cocked.  But I was foolishly using the butt of the stock to hammer through some ice so I could check a trap I had set under the ice on the Bell Creek.  The jarring was enough to nudge the hammer against the firing pin causing the cartridge to fire. 

I thank God I survived that excursion into stupidity and lack of judgment.  It's not the only time God has spared my life. 

But Del and Kevin's mother had done much more than teach their kids about guns.  They taught them responsibility, judgment, committment, and steadfast relationships.  In a word, adulthood. 

As I read about crime, violence and shootings; as I hear the stories of the lives of young children and their home life that Jean tells me when she comes home from school; as I learn of yet more city, state or federal officials whose conduct is anything but mature and responsible, I come back to Kevin and where he came from. 

I come back to Kevin and who he came from.  I come back to Kevin and who he knew he needed to be:  a good man.  I had a Dad who was a good man.  And a Mom who was the equal of that as a Mom.

A number of years ago, I was in class with a female colleague who was pastor of a small Lutheran church in Omaha, Nebraska.  The majority of her congregation was female.  Over 90%, according to this pastor, had experienced sexual violence, domestic violence, or both.  After listening to her grief and the challenge it presented--for not only her congregation but society at large--I responded, "We could fix most of what's wrong with society by fixing a few things wrong with our men."

That pastor calmly and quickly replied, "You got that right."

Like the USMC, I think we're all looking for a few good men. 

I wouldn't mind if a couple million of 'em were named Kevin.  Or Del.  Or Oswald.  Good men can be named anything.  But they need to be good men first, every one of them. 

Happy Father's Day!