A Man, a Table, a Gun, and a Smile

It was a thin and old man, a picnic table, and a BB gun, actually. That’s all I remember from the dream. But it was funny! I remember that too. Something about those three things made me laugh in the dream, and apparently in the “real” world, because I woke up laughing. I laughed myself awake, and then was embarrassed that I was embarrassed. I was alone in the dark, laughing. And then I just smiled at the sweet absurdity. I have no idea when this dream was, but I must have been younger, because I had felt embarrassed. About as close as I can get to a time, is that it was before this year. But, I smile even now thinking about it.

And that is how I woke up yesterday: smiling. Not about the dream. I just . . . was smiling.

I realized I was smiling a little later when I was having coffee, and thinking about prayer, and it made me smile that I had been smiling. Maybe in my sleep. So I prayed smiles all day, and did, off and on, smile all day. And today too!

Smiles are contagious, even to themselves. We smile, and it produces endorphins on a small scale, and we feel better (if even on a small scale, like maybe a tiny kitchen scale, ha), and we smile because of the smile, and we feel better.

This was shown once, by that famous pencil experiment, but then some joy killers came along with this. But, like Mulder, I want to believe, so I do. Mystery/magic/wonder: I am keeping it all, along with my pencils. And, I will never stop . . .

I like the things that make me smile. When someone says “thank you”, I smile. I like it when I teach, and I say some little thing that may be obtuse or obscure or SO WITTY or even a little on the edge of here, meaning out there, and someone gets it. I smile, just knowing.

Music can make me weep with joy or longing; or it fills me with resolve; or it takes me into the presence of the holy; or it turns me toward that window looking outward wistfully. But music also makes me smile. That song by Chicago . . . it can really make me smile. I like Chicago; how could anyone not, really, like that band? Maybe those joy killers.

And, it’s not a bad place, either, Chicago. I was there once, with a group of teenagers riding in a church van, from Memphis heading to Wisconsin, to “do” some Christian service. That’s what the kids probably said, do some service or that it was a service project. But, we were actually doing what Jesus did all the time: having fun and helping people as God’s anointed. So, we stopped in Chicago, and I parked in front of the Sears Tower. I’d heard that parking was tough in Chicago, like in DC. Try to park there within walking distance of any of the Smithsonians, forget it. But there was a spot right in front of the tower! So I pulled into that perfect spot, we went to the top of that tall tall tower, and then moved on up the road to Wisconsin. After we came down from the top of the tower, of course.

When we got back to Memphis, and I returned to my office the next week, I had some mail to go through. I noticed an envelope addressed with my full legal name, and the return address was Cook County, Illinois. Chicago is there, still, in Cook County. I opened the envelope, and inside was a legal document of some sort.  It was a notice that I was to appear in traffic court. Because of a parking violation. In front of the Sears Tower.

Holy crap, I might have said, even back then as a youth and family pastor at a very large church in Memphis. Well, short version, I was guilty but was not going to travel back to Chicago and try to park, unless, well, unless God’s people would pay my way up there, and pay for the ticket, neither of which they would knowingly do. So, I took it up with a deacon buddy, who was quite capable of conspiracy to aid and abet, or to front me some cash. He must have sensed my desperation and decided that the ruse had run its course. His sister, as it turned out, was an attorney in Memphis, and through some diabolical connection, had scored some Cook County envelopes and had forged the notice. It was a joke, and it really made me smile. It does now, knowing that faithful followers know how to have fun. In the moment. That tower, of course, became the Willis Tower. But to me it is a tower of memory. And that makes me smile too. Moments and memories. I am smiling.

Good writing makes me smile. I enjoy metaphor, and word play, and multiple layers of meaning, and deep truths, and conceptual thoughts, and poetry, and gently offered instruction or correction; I love to read all of that. I aspire to good writing too. I hope to write good writing and write it well. Mostly, like this, it is just stream of consciousness, but it can occasionally be beautiful. And it is just a blog after all. And you are reading it, after all, at least this far. Ok, now this far.

And that is another thing: you reading what I write; it makes me smile . . .