Christmas at the bar with Santa and the “holy” trinity

 

It is a regular event, one you might expect.

There are those that line up and wait for the doors to open.  They are “those” people.   The ones that hang out till close, wander the night, and then need to fill their need and wait for the doors to open.  They know each other.  They are regulars.  And they are habitual.  As if they have no where else to go.  Many appear daily, they are recognized and welcomed,  Ahhh the fellowship of this bar.

And this day is special… it is Christmas, and most places are closed… but this place is waiting and ready.   This is not your regular bar… This is Iron Gate.  It is a food bar, a soup kitchen open on Christmas day, and every day.  Their mission statement… Our mission is simple: we feed hungry people. 

And on Christmas I said yes to being their Santa Bob.  irongate5

Santa needs to go the extra mile to touch lives when folks live in tents or under bridges or any place that will allow a person to get a moment of warmth or protection.  Comfort is an optional word in the vocabulary of these folks.  But Iron Gate is a place of comfort, warmth, nourishment, every morning from 8am-10:30.  Food, shelter, a smile, a moment of service to those who are rejected, dejected, infected, unconnected.  Iron Gate serves “crackers.”  I don’t mean saltines.  I mean folks  who have fallen through the cracks.  The mentally challenged, the disenfranchised, the shopping cart pushers, folks without an address.

This is NOT Cheers.  But they all have names..  Not everybody knows all their names… but nearly everyone is know by someone.   These are a fragrant people. . . in quality of spirit as well as other ways.  And I am sure that Iron Gate is a home for their hope.  But the holidays are especially trying for most in need.   Rich or poor.   But the crackers now hold a special place in my heart.

This is a good place 365 days a year.

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Grab a plate.  Sit and enjoy.  Stay a while.  Go back for more.  An someone will even smile when they clean up the mess….. no tipping please.

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But this day was special.  Santa got to sit and watch.  He was assisted by his elves, Morey and Giacomo.  As always…. the elves did all the work.  But Santa gets the headlines.  And this is what Santa saw.

Hungry folk, homeless folk, down on their luck folk, down home folk like you and me… but they are folks with few options.  If these folks are “milking” the system like I read so often on Facebook, they really SUCK at it.  I am absolutely certain that these folks don’t have what I think people who have stuff think they have.

As and aside, I have heard the phrase “there but by the grace of God, go I.”  Well let me say, for all you believers out there, those that recite that phrase… someone needs to put some skin on your Jesus.   I WAS There.  That place.  There but by the grace of God go I, and the grace of my beloved friends who opened their home to me and my dog for 18 months.  Nearly broke for 18 months while I tried to get back to life after multiple tragedies and bad decisions.  Bad decisions made at an age where I should have known better.  The result was broke and homeless at age 59, with a van, a dog, and a few hundred bucks.  J&G put flesh on their Jesus.. AND A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS.  Tank and I will never forget that.

So maybe those panhandlers on the corner are out there milking the system.  Maybe they have such an incredible life they just need to stand on a corner with a cardboard sign and hope for $3 more then head to their secret home in the hills and take your quarter to pay the cable bill.  Or maybe they will waste it on a smoke or a drink and a moment of comfort, instead of opening a savings account and build for the future.  I don’t know what they will do.  I do know where there next meal will come from if they want it.

Well this is what Santa saw.  He saw survivors.  They come in all shades and all sizes… but they all appear to live to survive until tomorrow.  And Iron Gate puts just enough flesh on their bodies, and flesh on their Jesus so the crowd that gathers today can return tomorrow.  There is no preaching, there is only flesh.  Tangible and loving.  And because of this, Santa saw the sparkle of hope in the eyes of a grateful crowd.

But Christmas was a special day…   There WERE presents.  The appearance of the “holy trinity.”  And recipients seemed as excited and grateful as a kitten with a new empty cardboard box.

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The “holy trinity” of gifts.

Candy, gloves, socks.  Sugar, warm, dry.  Joyful recipients.  No Bah-humbug here.  Hark the Herald Angels sing.  Gifts received to an hallelujah chorus of thank-yous.

Gifts received by folks who are grateful in the face of such trauma.

The holy trinity.  Skin on your Jesus.

Energy, comfortable hands and feet.  Blessings.  Tears.  Laughter.  Though there was a small crush of folks trying to get to the head of the receiving line, there was NO unruly outbreak like folks on black Friday fighting over a $5 toaster.

Santa took notes.  It is a very short list of things to keep in his sleigh.  And I need to get a bumper sticker for the sled.

CAUTION: FREQUENT STOPS FOR SHOPPING CART PEOPLE

And a bag to hold some socks, some gloves, and a roll of lifesavers.

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Visit here to learn more.

https://www.facebook.com/IronGateTulsa/?fref=ts

 

 

 

A season of UN.

Could it be the place where it all began.  Could this have been the start of all things “un”.  I remember this time.  I was fresh out of College… ready to plant myself in the world.  Ready to do something.  I am still ready to do something.  This could be my un-moment.  My personal battle ground.

As reported in Advertising Age Magazine, “In the early 1970s, as part of its new “uncola” advertising strategy, the 7UP company had J. Walter Thompson produce a TV commercial starring actor, director and choreographer Geoffrey Holder as a Caribbean planter explaining the difference between cola nuts and 7UP’s “uncola nuts,” lemon and lime. The extraordinary performance of the Trinidad-born Mr. Holder made the spot one of the most remembered commercials of all time. But behind the scenes, the project also represented a dramatic change in the marketing culture of the soft-drink company — the first time it allowed a person of color to be cast in its TV ad.”

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I so remember this campaign. I did not know that it was the first to feature a person of color… but that is not my current focus. It is the UN that fascinates me.

I am intrigued as we have passed Thanksgiving and rapidly approach the “other” holiday. In the spirit of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who’s office of diversity had the foresight to publish these seasonal guidelines in a helpful list for us all to better UN-joy Un-Christmas.

“The list, found on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s website, also encouraged employees to send non-denominational holiday cards, use general decor when decorating and make sure that food and beverage selections are not specific to any one culture or religion.

The list also discourages us from playing “Secret Santa” games.”

“Holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes — for example, ‘Dreidel’ or ‘Secret Santa.’ If you want to exchange gifts, then refer to it in a general way, such as a practical joke gift exchange or secret gift exchange,” the guidelines state.

Ahhhhh…. UN-Christmas. Why didn’t I think of that. I mean seriously, how can folks like me be so selfish and heartless to think I/we should be allowed to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who I believe to be my Savior, as a focal point a worldwide remembrance. Enough is enough. It is time to recognize this time of year for what it really should be…From this day forward we shall all celebrate “Yearsend”.  Yearsend, what a festive time. I can’t wait to chop down and decorate my Yearsend tree.

Here are a few of my new favorites:

The Grinch that stole Yearsend

A Yearsend Carol, with Mr. Scrooge.

The Yearsend Story, you’ll shoot your eye out.

The Griswolds and Yearsend Vacation.

The list is endless. UN-Christmas, I mean Yearsend, is here.

OK.  Enough is enough.  WTF.  Who cares and why?  Seriously, how can my celebrating Christmas offend anyone.  I haven’t got a clue.

I love that my Jewish friends enjoy Hanukkah.

I would never ask a celebrant to refrain from enjoying Kwanzaa.

There is Festivus for the Rest of us.  (Thanks Jerry)

And Seriously University of Tennessee… what is the religious beverage you are referring to.  A cup of blood at a Satanic gathering?   OR… Is it Eggnog?

I am so frickin’confused.

Really, Secret Santa is offensive?  Perhaps that is what set off the Muslim terrorists at the Christmas, oops, Holiday party in San Bernadino recently. Is that why the terrorists left and returned in tactical gear to murder party goers?  Santa Claus and offensive drinks.

No it is now Insanity Claus.  People are just fricken’ nuts.  So much hate, so much anger.

If Christmas pisses you off, move along.  There is nothing to see here.  It is just a bunch of folks waiting in line Thanksgiving night to kill someone for a bargain price on a Toaster or TV.

In fact that Black Friday thing could be a terrorist plot.  OMG, danger zone at the Walmart.

And to think is all started with an Uncola.

Prior to that, we would all take a Coke in hand and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Happy Yearsend to all, and to all a good night.

 

 

damnit!

The holidays.  A time filled with music, joy, shopping, drinking, eating, giving, receiving, and reminders… Ah, yes reminders.  Little memory triggers that may occur on a daily basis during the rest of the year, but for some unknown reason hold a special power in November and December.

Some very special triggers are annual.  No other time.  Some are the best.  Some are the worst.  And some are like Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. I don’t mean to judge but what the hell is all the hoopla about this passion for chemically induced seasonal flavor.  I don’t get it… well actually I do…but I am NOT a follower of the pumpkin spice stampede.  But I understand the passion and love for some if not all things Thanksgiving and Christmas.

First is the turkey.  I eat turkey nearly every week.  but the roasting and the smells that fill the house are usually seasonal.  I don’t know why.. probably because it takes a family to consume a bird.  Probably because I can’t microwave a 15 pound bird.  Probably because I can’t fit the turkey roaster in the dishwasher.  But for me is goes one step beyond the meal.

soo

It is the ritual of taking the carcass, the boiling and bone picking and the making of the best soup I ever tasted.  Thanks  Mom, you really hated to cook… but you really loved to pinch pennies.  There are many good things that came from your frugality.  This holiday gem is the best for me.

There is no carcass this year.  It’s ok.  I relish in the memory.

Second, the lights.  I love the lights.  During my adult life I have only done the “full-Griswold” once.  My first year of marriage.  Every nook and cranny.  The roof and house lines… and though I don’t do that anymore… I do travel the streets in search of the best.  And how can I not.  I am from Kansas City.  That is all I need to say for those of you from Kansas City understand that the “Paris of the Plains” is the home of the greatest shopping center Christmas light display in the world.   I won’t argue with you.  I will just say that the Country Club Plaza has no equal in my little holiday mind.    Just trust me when I say… pictures do not do the Plaza justice..    I am so thankful it is a part of my memory bank.

I missed the lighting again this year.  It’s ok.  I so enjoy the memory.

So many pleasant memories.

As I age I find that memories are enough.  I don’t want to live yesterday again… I just want to smile because I was a part of it.

And of course there are the moments that give me pause. Because now my life includes tragic and sad moments.  Things from yesterday that I cannot change, things I have accepted, but things which will cause me to cry out.

Though I am not a big shopper for the holidays.  I am aware that others may be.  And I do have 5 dogs and 3 cats.  And they require constant spoiling.  So I do go shopping.  I do not like to go shopping.  But my animals are not sensitive to the holidays.  They are sensitive to feeding times and play times.  So shop I must.  And I always grab a cart when I shop for the critters.  I have to.  I will just grab an armful and a hand basket when I shop for me.  But when it comes to the kids, well it requires the cartage of bags and boxes of some weight.

Let me introduce you to my little friend–

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We met in the parking lot.  Discarded like an unwanted animal.  Left to find its way home, lest some caring patron or hired gun would come searching and return it to the home for wanted grocery carts.  This cart had no business being in this place at this time.  So I grabbed it.  I had to.  Those of you who have followed my irregular blog my understand why.

You can get a refresher here …………

https://casacaninetulsa.com/2013/12/03/now-i-remember/

So I decided it was time to renew the purpose and mission of this 4-wheeler.   Off we went.  Past the holiday displays… the racks of candy, cookies, toys, impulse “as-seen-on-TV” displays…. wait is that a Chia Head… wow, how cool is that.

Stop renewed focus… don’t get sidetracked.  All of the fun, meaningless stuff that Michelle loved.  Seriously, a brilliant woman with a penchant for all things tacky.  (that could be why she married me).  Remember the dogs and cats.  On to the pet food aisle.

Tasty treasures, Meow Mix, Rawhides, Chunky beef stew.. filling the cart.  Grateful to have one.  Then to the self check-out aisle.  Staying focused.  No other things to buy.  Get to the vehicle and unload.  Hurry.  Hurry.  I could feel it…  I had to hurry.

Open the trunk… Unload.  Return Cart.

Damnit.  Damnit……… I actually cried it out loud in the store parking lot.

I was a miserable, selfish, sh!##y husband.    Damnit.

I returned the cart to its home… And I went home.

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I wish I had a turkey carcass and trip planned to Kansas City.

I don’t but I am now at peace.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

tanksleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere under the rainbow…..

Somewhere under the rainbow…..Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet….

I see them everywhere.   Rainbow colors.   They are not thought of as the marker to a pot of gold.   They are rarely connected to unicorns anymore,  They are, it seems, the new representative of the unspoken acceptance of a now “legal” lifestyle.

So many folks have washed  their Facebook profile pictures with this rainbow flag symbol.

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We are it seems, awash in the rainbow spirit.  Are you “fer it or agin it?”  Whichever side is chosen, there will be arguments.  There will be stands taken.  There will be anger.  There will be joy.  There is the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.   There will be divisions.  It is the the world we live in.

But wait there’s more……….

Somewhere under the rainbow another battle begins on an emotional, historical, and very real issue to so many.  It’s an exorcism in the making.  I sit in awe and wonder.   I am saddened.  I am not surprised.  A reason to rise and fight is often robed in many symbols.  I do not have the energy to judge it… I just observe the battle raging.  It will get uglier.

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We are it seems, awash in the rebel spirit.  Are you “fer it or agin it?”  Whichever side is chosen, there will be arguments.  There will be stands taken.  There will be anger.  There will be joy.  There is the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.   There will be divisions.  It is the the world we live in.

And why do we fight…

Well here is my deal.. I am created in the image of God.  Therefore His character and His characteristics reside in me.  When I recognize that, and live that, and honor that… my life is more often filled with joy, with peace, with a desire to live in unity.

Here then are my 2 takeaways from all of this flag waving.

1.   John 13:35  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  the counterpoint… live in the spirit of division and people won’t know anything about God and His purpose for those who love Him……or those He desires to be with.

2.  Symbols have power.    Symbols do represent what people believe… because God set up symbols before me… it is what God does… it is part of His character… I am in that image, so are you.. I believe..  Why else would folks fight over a flag or a color scheme? Genesis 9:13.  I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.

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May you find peace under the rainbow.  May you know the covenant Maker.

Oh, yeah…. what the heck in indigo anyway?

Why it has NEVER been magic!!!

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Magic–the art of creating illusions

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.…  Galatians 5:22-23

At the core of the Human Spirit, is the Holy Spirit.  An Image of God, His Image in which we were created, our Image.  It is NOT magic, it is our essence.  Believe or not… I believe this is the essence of the human spirit.  It is NOT supernatural, it is all that is good and natural.  It is just unusual, so it often requires an event to find it’s power.  To be given an identity.

Nothing it seems is as resilient as the human spirit.  Nothing it seems is as committed to recovery after a disaster than is the human spirit.  Living in Oklahoma, the land of tornado alley, I am always amazed by the throngs of people that run to the scene of tragic tornado touchdown event.  So many travel to lend aid and support, both physical and emotional.  It is not magic.  It is not an illusion.

I watch in awe as the video of a young girl with autism goes viral because her performance of the National Anthem before a televised sporting event brings the crowd to its feet.  The performance leaves me speechless.  It is a triumph of the human spirit.  It is not magic.  It is not an illusion.

We at BedFarms are a group blessed.  We are surrounded daily by the movement of the human spirit.  It is not illusion or magic.  Poems, pictures, paintings, photos, prose, presented by people of passion.  We live together with Nancy and her dogs at Tails you Win, or alongside Heavy D, we become space people.   We are Dingled and Poppered.  We know the King.  The Human Spirit finds its wings and takes flight.   It is not magic.  It is not illusion.

But it is the result of vision.  And if there is a supernatural characteristic to Life on the Farm.. it is the vision.  And the vision is NOW an EVENT.  And so it is that we come to celebrate the founders of the vision feast.  Jon and Maria.  People I have never met.  I am grateful to be a participant.  A sojourner.  A celebrant.  Because of the vision, I have become more like the person I was meant to be.

It is NOT magic.  It is NOT illusion.  IT is the human spirit finding its proper residence.  I do so love the farm.  I “heart” the human spirit… rising like the Phoenix.

Oh, by the way… Disney World is a magical place…  Jon and Maria, give that mouse a hug for us all.

 

See you in my…………….dreams?

“To sleep, perchance to dream, ay there is the rub”  Hamlet

tanksleep

I dream during the day, I sleep at night.

It is said that everyone dreams.  Everyone during the night has those REM moments.  Deep in the recesses of slumber the brain awakes to discover new places, new adventures, old friends, new friends.  Scary, sweet, sad, comforting, disturbing, helpful, hurtful, hopeful dreams.  And these dreams, it is said,  have meaning.

I have read the stories.. there are famous dreamers.

Alice, down the rabbit hole.  Dorothy in the land of Oz.  Biblical dreamers like John and the Book of Revelation.  Patriotic dreamers, creative dreamers, inventive dreamers.  All “see” things in their sleep, and awake to speak clearly of what was seen.

And there are folks who make their livelihoods interpreting this dreams for you.  Doctors, psychologists, charlatans.   And how do you argue with the interpreter?  “the shoe represents the fact that your Father stepped all over your future while you were still a child.”

“Thank you”  I feel much better, “How much do I owe you?”

And then there is me.  I know I do not stand alone.  I just awake to remember nothing of the prior night.

I sleep in the world of the dreamless.  Trust me when I say, I sleep well, I sleep “hard,” I awake refreshed nearly every day.

How do I interpret the land of never remembered dreams?  No visits from the past, no insight to the future.

charliesleep

So I have been asked to interpret my dreams, a dream.  And I got nuthin.  Nada, zip.  And what does that mean?

During the day I dream with purpose.  I see things that I wish, or hope, or pray to be.  My day dreams are rich and filled with the aforementioned hope.  My dreams of the day are directed, with purpose, filled with discovery.

I love dreaming.  It is a very Spiritual act for me.  It is the accompaniment to my earth experience.  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”  Acts 2:17.

But during the night I find myself with nothing to interpret when I awake.  And how do I interpret that?

Well I don’t know.

Let me sleep on it.

shadow

tanksong8

Can I just stand quietly by your side?
You don’t need me to talk
I so want to fix.
Like you were a broken lamp
Or a flat tire
or a misspelled word
Fix me, they cry out
But you do not cry out,
you just cry

Can I just sit quietly by your side?
Can I listen and not respond?
Can I just listen?
and not respond
For your journey is a solo venture
And I want to lead you
And you just need to travel
undirected for this moment
And I wouldn’t know where I was leading
If you let me lead the way.

Can I just be strong in this silence?
Present and attached.
Long and strong at times
and nearly imperceptible at others
Can I know the strength of silence
And let time close the wound
healing from the inside out
It is not a wound that I can fix.

tanksong1

But I can sit quietly
Difficult as that may be
I can
I can
Like a shadow
I will be here
I will
I will

But do not sit alone in the darkness
It is then that I disappear.