Turner Tales

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My friend Turner taught me two things: one, to never underestimate the power of a door and two, to never underestimate the power of God.

After a few minor scrapes with the law as a juvenile, Turner committed multiple armed robberies in his early adulthood. He paid gravely for his crimes, spending more time behind bars than on the outside. After his final incarceration, he participated in a number of rehabilitation programs, determined to keep himself on the straight and narrow. I met him in a support group two years after his final prison release, and he remained in my life for over twenty years until he died of cancer about five years ago.

Turner acquiesced wholeheartedly into society and became a respected, hardworking, tax-paying citizen, not to mention a mentor to many, including me. However, he functioned in a state of high alert in the free world and could not escape the tight grip of hypervigilance. Whenever he saw or heard a door in motion, he couldn’t help but flashback to the echo of heavy metal. It spilled over him like a slow-motion train slipping off the track.

Turner explained that in lockup, the opening and closing of the security doors follow the daily schedule of a prisoner and attentiveness to prison doors stands above clock-watching. Life seems as predictable as peeling a potato, but over the years, the deafening, resonant clang of the metal doors knifed Turner’s brain more than the constant bellow of insults and orders behind prison walls.

In fact, the first time Turner faced the dungeon gate, he tumbled backward. His one-time youthful hopes, dreams, plans dissolved. When you serve time, he said, no matter if they open or close, prison doors lead to nowhere. You begin where you end, like hopping into a prop car bolted onto a stage floor. Needless to say, ten years after his release, he bought a house and removed every single interior door.

Over the decades, Turner acquired a deep faith in the God of his understanding and never forgot to thank his higher power for his new life and the freedom to do such things as remove doors at will — at least in his home. He also never failed to express his gratitude to our group. As is our tradition, we encouraged Turner in the same way we did each other. Despite our empathy and understanding, we experienced a few occasions when the subject turned to God and His will for us. Typically, a few members plowed into a tangent and looped themselves into an esoteric, high-pitched dialogue about the nature of the supreme influence over the universe.

Rising like a three-hundred pound totem pole, Turner’s nearly seven feet of height would tower over us. His reddened face reared with bulging eyes, turning side to side above his vintage leather jacket that crackled like kernels changing to popcorn.

“God? God? You want to talk about God? Go ahead! I’m out of here, because who the hell am I to hear or talk about God and try and figure out what his or her plans are or aren’t? I’m nothing in the face of God, the divine, the almighty. Nothing. I have less significance than a roach racing around a prison cell compared to him. Her. It. And that’s a good thing because all I know is: I matter. You matter. We matter. And if we get all holed up and locked into trying to figure out things that aren’t to be figured out, we’ll lose sight of what really matters today. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.”

Each and every time, Turner instantly deflated our egos, a sense of peace saturated the room into an unplanned moment of silence. An outsider could have felt the brotherly-sisterly connection of those thirty or so people in the group. We sure did. Fortunately, Turner never barged out of the room, and the meeting resumed in a calm, collective spirit. You see, this former Hell’s Angel was our angel of wisdom. He opened the door that led us to a spiritual space where the door shut tightly behind us. We were safe because self-seeking was left on the other side of the door. Our holy ground we secured under our feet among notorious sinners who, in our eyes, were on their way to sainthood. What I’ve learned from Turner and so many like him, is: if false pride is the deadliest of all sins, then humility is the greatest virtue.

To this day, every time I get into the war zone of my crazy, little, take-charge head of mine, I remember Turner. I inhale deeply, swing open the confinement of my mind’s door and run wild and free.

Faith Muscle

Need Seed

My New Year’s wish list:

  • Hope for the hopeless
  • Voices for the voiceless
  • A sense of purpose, whether it is cleaning the sink or operating a business, for the bored and lost
  • Disconnection from social media and connection to real-life humans, see below
  • Inclusion for all, see above
  • The experience of one sunrise in the upcoming year that abashes the soul in its chorus of silence
  • Infinite Seeds of Hope packets to plant and create perennial gardens of aster, dahlia, goldenrod, mum, sedum and other vibrant and showy flowers that will illuminate the most pitch black soil

In fact, I think we can all be inspired by “Stars of Hope,” an art installation by Jane Ingram Allen at 620 4th Street, Santa Rosa, California, that was installed on November 25, 2020. The website states:

“In this time of a pandemic and an economic downturn, these stars of colorful handmade paper with seeds for wildflowers in them express hope for a brighter future in 2021. After the installation comes down in early 2021, these stars will be given out to residents to plant in their own yard or keep as a remembrance of this time and our hopes for a better world.”

  • Most of all, on the wish list is my hope for a better world. Always remember, even one positive change, albeit small as a mustard seed, can be the spark that inspires a “flowering” inferno one day.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Brick and Mortar 2019

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.                                                           Angel4 Psalm 34:1

Brick Wall

During this past season’s midnight Mass, I found Christmas, but it wasn’t solely in the Mass. I found Christmas in a young father who sat in the pew in front of us. His eyes glowed in adoration of his special needs toddler. Despite the fact that the child squirmed, gurgled and occasionally jolted, for over two hours, the father cradled her with undivided attention and devotion. In the face of challenge, his face exuded peace, contentment and joy. His one-word response to his child: Christmas!

This upcoming New Year, when I am faced with challenges, I hope to respond in the same spirit of Christmas, no matter if it is in the dead of winter or heat of summer. In other words, no matter how my faith is tested, I have memorized my response that is so apparent in the father’s life that I encountered at church. “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Brick Wall2

Funny, how my relationship with God is sometimes one-sided, and I think He should ONLY bless me. Blessing the Lord at all times and praising him always is like laying a foundation of brick-like faith while the Lord spreads his love in the form of mortar.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

 

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Faith Muscle

 

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (31)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

31. What did I learn after a month of asking questions about faith? mustard seed

 

Plain & Simple: I  have mustard seed faith, but I have a mammoth God.  

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Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

 

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Faith Muscle

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (30)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

30. Doubting your faith? 

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If you are doubting your faith, you are not alone. When Pope Francis was asked if he every had any doubts, he replied, “Well …, I have so many, eh! I have so many … Of course, we all sometimes have doubts!”

When doubt sets in, realize you’re in good company!questions-1922476_1920Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

 

biceps-2750460_1280
Faith Muscle

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (29)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

29. Shaky faith?   

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Even Mother Teresa had times when she didn’t feel God’s presence. (And let’s face it, most of us are not Mother Teresa.) Don’t bury your doubts and frustrations. Find a friend who’ll listen respectfully.  Keep the faith. While you’re trying to figure it out, God’s got you covered.background-2908901_1920Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

 

biceps-2750460_1280
Faith Muscle

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (28)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

28. What have I done today to affirm that my faith is real?

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Today, how can we actively demonstrate our love and trust for God? Your action needn’t shake the globe.

Here’s a few, 103 to be specific, ideas to help affirm your faith: 103 ideas to inspire kindness.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

biceps-2750460_1280
Faith Muscle

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (27)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

27. Do I realize there is strength in doubt?  

world-3043067_1920Every time we weather the dry periods of faith, we emerge renewed. In the process, paradoxically, our egos, emotions, intellect and self-will fail us. However, the seed of our soul, where God dwells, prevails. Even “non-believers” can’t dispute their authentic selves.     

Always remember, periods of drought and doubt will bring us closer to our abundant selves and weatherproof our faith.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

biceps-2750460_1280
Faith Muscle

January Reflections: A Question a day to deepen your faith (26)

Never mind New Year’s resolutions. Angel4 Wrap your mind around January  reflections: A question a day every day for the next 30 days to deepen your faith.

26. Do I realize there is strength in faith?  

hope-1220981_1920Do not fear the strain of life. You may feel worn. You may feel washed out and wasted. The fact is feelings are not facts. Do not deplete your energy fighting the unfounded. Fight hard to believe that strength is in God’s stronghold alone.  The depth of your belief will set the course for a new and brighter future.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

biceps-2750460_1280
Faith Muscle