Saturday, February 23, 2013


April 7, 1986

I awoke that morning ready to be at work, hoping that my attendance would forestall the inevitable. The electricity had been off for some time. Thankfully the wind-up alarm clock was able to work that morning. It was cold. All the utilities had been turned off. I wasn't able to get clean. Honestly, I don't recall whether the alarm rang that morning. All I know is that I was keyed up to be at work. It wasn't as if I had to have the alarm clock working anyway. The night was cold. It was dark. I awoke knowing I had to provide. I walked to the donut shop for the early morning crowd knowing that it might be my last day. I arrived just before five AM. I washed the dishes, I cleaned the toilets, I swepted the floors. By late morning the inevitable happened. My boss, who was disheartened by what he had to say to me, told me that I was fired. I couldn't do the job. He was stuck. He needed someone who could be responsible, who could do what he needed in the time allotted. He gave me my salary for what I was supposed to do. He was generous. As strange as it may seem, I felt sad for him. He wanted to help me out. He hired me initially, I think, in a desire to help me out. I remember that day explicitly. My mother and I were arguing intensely; and I decided to leave her side and walk over to the donut shop that was hiring. Amazingly enough, I was hired by the owner (maybe it was my emotional adrenaline). I worked there two whole weeks, my first real job. But he couldn't keep me on as a charity case. He ran a business. Eventually he needed to let me go. It was that morning. That morning of April 7th, 1986; that morning that we were evicted. It was the same morning that I was to be fired from my first job. It was the morning that I was to develop bronchitis. It was the morning that I was to experience homelessness. It's amazing how God can work in the midst of several different circumstances at once.
At the time, I was struck by the desperation of our situation. We called relatives in several states. Nothing prevailed. We had burned the bridges that had previously existed in our family situations. This was the end. We were left to our own ends. That Monday morning will always be inscribed in my mind. The early morning written by actions of putting a stuffed animal in my brown leather jacket (Tim, whom I still have, thankfully), a consideration of a few key items that my mother had set aside in a shopping cart that became quickly our only claim to worldly possessions. Those first few hours consisted of considering the possibility of desperate phone calls answering our most immediate needs.
The next three days consisted of realizing that we had exhausted our resources, especially those of my mother's family.

In the days to come, we were to realize that the family we were seeking (or who actually sought after us) consisted of those who acted in concert with Christ's commandments, and not with those that merely consisted with our immediate conceptions. That Thursday will always be foundational to my life. That group, which will always be known as the "gang of four", showed up in my life on that Thursday.

It's late and I'll write the next chapter next...

Some Myths Are True

I've been reading a lot lately about myths of various sorts. Mostly they have been about our self identity as Americans, and in particular, Christian Americans. Last month I read Greg Boyd's, "The Myth of a Christian Nation", put out by Zondervan (there's something deeply ironic about that). Reading Boyd's book led me to another, even better, book, called "Myths Americans Live By", by Richard Hughes. What I like about Hughes' book is its fair appraisal of both the promises and the perils of the various American myths. He considers the myths of America as: the Christian Nation, the Millenial Nation, Nature's Nation, and its expression through Manifest Destiny, and the mythic qualities of American Capitalism. In each of these, he allows that they have a core that can be expressed and enacted in noble ways, yet acknowledges that each of them, especially expressed through Manifest Destiny and the Gilded Age of early capitalism, saw great misery and awful crimes committed, all in the name of "progress". The only myth he sees no redeeming quality existing in, is the one he (and others) called the myth of the Innocent Nation. This myth is inherently destructive, since it is borne out of a self delusional self conception that inevitably sees the world in starkly black and white, us versus them, we wear the white hats and anyone against us of course wears the black hats. Aside from an overly confident belief in the American Creed (boiled down to "We hold these truths..."), Hughes' analysis is quite good.

It also has sparked an interest on my part in understanding better what it is about myth that so shapes our understanding of ourselves, others, our past, and even our future. It seems we cannot live without some sort of myth. Of course in using the term myth, I'm using it not in the sense of an untrue story, such as we understand when we describe something as an "urban myth". Instead, I mean the term in its more basic sense, which is that of being a story that gives meaning to the world, both in how it began, what it's end/purpose is, and what best describes our interaction with it. In that sense then, some myth is more true than other myth. As Tolkien told CS Lewis late one Sunday evening in 1931 when Lewis held on to the notion that myth automatically meant untrue, and therefore he could not accept the idea of a resurrecting God, since it was seen in so many other religions, Tolkien said, "Some myths are true. They describe reality." That's what I'm after. Good myths then are healthy, since they afford us a better picture of the world we live in, and allow us to more accurately interact with that world.