Friday, October 30, 2015

Ghost Stories

For the most part, I'm a sensible, scientific Christian who loves Harry Potter but harbors no delusions that witches, ghosts, and magic wands are anything more than fascinating fiction.

But there have been a few times when strange things were afoot and made me wonder. 

When George was in navigator training, one of his good friends lost his fiance when she was hit by a truck while walking on a sidewalk. On the night before the funeral, he was alone in his bedroom, sobbing, when he felt someone take his hand. He felt a sense of peace and knew that she was okay and he would be okay. There was no one else in the room. 

The next morning, he shared the experience with his fiance's aunt, who immediately freaked out. Her sister, the deceased's mother, had just told her about having the exact same experience the night before. 

George and I made a pact that whichever of us dies first will come back and hold the still-living's hand for comfort.  

The only other unexplained experiences George and I have had all happened in our home in Boise, Idaho. Very shortly after we moved in, we were asleep, and I awoke to the sound of someone knocking on the sliding door in our bedroom. We didn't have curtains up yet, and with the neighborhood lights, I could see quite clearly that no one was there.  

When I told George about it the next morning, he claimed I dreamed it, but it didn't feel at all like that.  

Some nights later, with a light snow on the ground, we both awoke to knocking on the glass door. The snow was pristine, not a footprint in sight. 

George believed me. 

One Friday night, I taught a class at Boise State's weekend university program. George wanted to go out with friends, so he told me he might hitch a ride with them and meet me downtown at a bar when I got off work. If he couldn't get a ride, he'd be home waiting for me. 

I pulled into the garage next to George's car. Still not knowing whether he was home, I entered the house yelling, "Are you home?" Quite clearly from the guest room, I heard George reply, "I'm in here!" 

This surprised me, but I headed to the guest room.

There was no one there. 

No. one. 

George was already downtown with our friends.

Oddly, I didn't feel the least bit threatened or creeped out. The dogs, who were crated, acted as if all was normal. When I let them out, they weren't interested in the guest room or anything other than greeting me with the lunatic dance of unrestrained dog joy upon sighting the mistress (to paraphrase Dave Barry). 

Given our experience with the knocks on the glass door, George withheld judging my experience with his disembodied voice as a sign of impending mental breakdown. After all, when the final strangeness hit, we knew for sure it wasn't just me.

George was sitting on the bed and out of the corner of his eye saw a small brown puppy run across the bathroom toward the closet. It was definitely not one of our dogs. 

Perhaps our house was built over a giant reservoir of hallucinogenic gas that slowly leaked inside, causing auditory and visual disturbances for us both. I mean, if we were really crazy, don't you think our symptoms would have gotten worse over time? Right?

What I like about all of these stories is how the supernatural (or simply inexplicable) events were not at all scary or threatening. In fact, they were either benign or comforting.

And those are ghost stories a person can live with.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tiny Problems

In a discussion about when we pray, I shared that one of my most powerful times to pray is on Wednesday nights in winter when I take the trash to the curb. Our driveway is quite long, and as I gaze up at the black sky full of stars and planets and the occasional meteor, I find it impossible not to appreciate the greatness of God and my own tiny little place in His Creation. I must, must!, express gratitude for that.

So now the joke among my church friends is that garbage reminds Susan to pray.

I'm okay with that.


The ocean provides a similar effect. The steady beat of waves on a shore, the rhythm linked to space and the moon, the sense that you could never, ever control that massive entity teaming with life and energy and death...the ocean is, indeed, big enough and powerful enough to make us feel very, very small.

A regular check on our hubris grounds us and reminds us that those problems which distract our waking hours and disturb our sleep don't mean as much as we want them to mean. We need to let go of our self-importance and maintain some sense of perspective.

Perhaps praying while taking out the garbage isn't so strange after all.

Where do you go to make your problems tiny?