A Word about Love

I originally wrote the following last night as a comment in a friend's Facebook thread. The topic, broadly speaking, was the age-old one of relationships between the sexes; more specifically, it began with my friend's perspective on the way many women today view men. The subject stirred up something that has been living in me for years about the nature of love. I could expand on it immensely, but the two paragraphs that follow say it well enough in brief....

Ladies and gents, allow an old duffer to provide a perspective from the pre-tech era. Let me be frank: hormones have always run hot. But there was a time when sex was something sacred, not a given; when "friendship with privs" would have been recognized as pure BS; when women were seen as something awesome by men, and men by women; when a guy's voice used to rise a minor third with nervousness about asking a girl out; and when care, respect, and honor, not me-first, what-I-want, and what-I-think-love-should-look-like, guided man/woman relationships.

We've lost track of what love is. This nation has become tremendously self-centered. So men, if you say you're a good man, then know for sure what that means, and then be it toward women in a way that can't be easily moved by circumstance and shifting emotions. Women, know that it is no easier for a man to be a man than it is for you to be a woman. Have respect for yourself--and have respect and care for us men. And both men and women, if you wonder what love--real love, not Hollywood love, not hormonal love, not love that's all about emotions and how you feel--looks like, consult that outdated book for non-sophisticates called the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. The ancient wisdom there will frickin' blow your postmodern millennial minds and challenge you to a higher vision than anything our trendy, self-deifying culture has to offer.

Home Remedies

I've got a cold. Had it for a few days, and so far it seems like the usual fare, but since there's a really nasty, long-lasting bug going around that has been blossoming into pneumonia and putting people in the hospital, I'm not taking this thing lightly. Bed rest for me, lots of bed rest, and fluids, lots of fluids. I've been slamming glassfuls of warm water, often mixed with lime concentrate and a couple tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar.

Now, the thing about having a cold is that, as soon as you publicize your condition on Facebook, everybody responds with advice. It's a compulsion no one can resist. Your dead Great Aunt Agnes will resurrect long enough to post her sovereign home cold remedy featuring Bragg's cider vinegar, anchovies, garlic cloves, and eye of newt. And this is not a bad thing. It's good to know that people care, especially when you live alone, and many of the remedies, from eucalyptus oil to fire cider, have merit. Better than just mindlessly doping oneself with cold meds.

So yesterday I went out and bought a few cold remedies, both traditional and non-traditional. In the mix was fresh horseradish.

I loooove horseradish! But I don't normally eat a heaping spoonful by itself. My experience doing so when I got home was practically revelatory, and at its peak it occurred to me that I had at least momentarily supplied my village with an idiot. WHOOO-wee! The stuff is supposed to clear out your sinuses. That it does, most efficiently, but what they don't tell you is that it accomplishes this by first scouring your paranasal cavities with a wire brush, then purifying them with a blowtorch and ripping them out by the roots.

Right now I could use a dose of horseradish. Living in Michigan, land of mold and allergies, a person gets used to inhaling through just one nostril at a time as sinal fluids ooze back and forth from one side of the face to the other. Each half of the nose gets its turn, with free breathing on one side and a cork stuck in the other, depending on how your head is tilted. That's the lifestyle, and I'm used to it. But this cold has got my sinal gunk slopping around like a seiche, and I'm thinking, "More horseradish."

And then I think again.

Should I? Probably not. Man, that stuff is potent--blow your head clean off. You might as well swallow a lit M-80.

Ah, well. Let's do this thing. Village, make way for your idiot. . . .

A Christmas Meditation

Ten years have passed since I wrote the following post. Much has changed, yet some things seem like they haven't changed at all except that I'm a decade older. My words back then were written from the heart; I knew them to be true and felt their depth. Today that depth has deepened further through struggle, through growth, through loss, through gain; by God's grace, which has carried me when I could not carry myself; and through his love, which has remained constant for me when I wondered whether he was even there, and if he was, whether I mattered to him at all.

My hope—particularly if this Christmas is not an easy one for you—is that this meditation will speak to your own heart, encourage you, and help you to see Christmas in a different light.

JESUS

Christmas Eve. As an older single male, I'm spending it alone. I would like to say that in reality, I am not alone—and really, that is the case. My Lord is with me. Jesus. But when it comes to polishing off a large bowl of chili (heated to a well-seasoned glow by a sub-lethal dose of Dave's Insanity Sauce), followed by a generous helping of spaghetti, all designed to take the edge off a bottle of 9 percent ABV old ale and another bottle of 11.5 percent Trappist ale . . . well, the work has been strictly mine. No one sits with me in my humble, though comfortable, apartment to make supper and the partaking of craft brew a shared effort. I am by myself—as are many who will read these words.

Yet, as I have said, He is here. Here in these modest digs of a solitary, middle-aged male. And because He is here with me, I trust He is also there with you, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be.

Some of you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Others are simply experiencing, like me, another "single" Christmas Eve by yourself. You have friends, and if you're fortunate, you have family, and you're thankful. But there's still something missing, isn't there?

It's all right. He is here with you and me. Emmanuel, "God with us." And in a strange way, those of us who feel sorrow, or loneliness, or a poignant emptiness in this Season of Light, may be closest of all to the heart and soul of what Christmas is truly about.

For you see, that little baby who was born into the lowliest of circumstances two thousand years ago didn't come for the sake of inspiring cozy traditions, or warm exchanges of gifts by the fireside, or happy family meals. No. Those things are wonderful, and I wouldn't detract from them for anything. But their absence in the lives of so many of us lies closer to the reason Jesus was born.

He came not because this world is so wonderful, but because it was, and is, so broken. He came for those of us who long for a place called "home." He came for the lonely, for the disenfranchised, for less-than-perfect you and me who know firsthand the meaning of loss, and tears, and struggle; who long for something more in life. He came to give us that "something more." He came because he knows how deeply we long—and need—to be truly, safely, securely, and lastingly loved.

I write with all the freedom that a couple bottles of high-potency ale can inspire, tempered by my editorial instincts and guided by my heart, which is consumed with Him. But who is He? In this day of well-publicized "new discoveries" of the same tired old heresies that have sought for centuries to recreate a more convenient Jesus, the marketplace of ideas abounds with options. I just Googled the name "Jesus," and on the first page of search results I find the following:

    * three full-color graphic images of Jesus

    * a "Christmas Jesus Dress Up"

    * a YouTube clip of Jesus singing "I Will Survive"

    * an online Catholic encyclopedia article on Jesus

    * a BBC news article that begins, "A statue of the infant Jesus on display near Miami in Florida is being fitted with a Global Positioning System device after the original figurine was stolen."
Clever, all very clever. But when you're alone on Christmas Eve, cleverness doesn't really cut it, does it? For so many of us who are by ourselves tonight, the one thing we long to know is that we're really not alone. The older we get, the more that matters.

So perhaps, after we've wearied our clever minds exploring all the alternatives, the Jesus of the Bible really is what we're looking for after all—because of all the gods available in today's spiritual shopping mall, He is the only one who has come looking for us in a way that is consistent with someone who cares not about religion, but about us. To be born in our midst and commit a lifetime to experiencing everything about the human condition, from inglorious start to brutal finish, certainly smacks of a genuine and very personal investment.

Christmas is God's way of acknowledging what all of us instinctively know (though we try so hard to argue otherwise): that this world is fractured, splintered. That we are lonely. That we are lost. That we long for something more. Christmas is God's way of saying, "My loved ones have lost me, and I have lost them. And that is unacceptable to me."

This Christmas . . . you are not alone. I am not alone. Jesus came for us. If you've screwed up your relationships, Jesus came for you. If you've been sexually abused, Jesus came to clothe you with dignity and hope. If you're lonely, He came to give you a place at the family table. If you've been betrayed or abandoned, if your heart is filled with pain and anger from the lashes of an unjust, uncaring world, He came to hold you gently with arms that will not be removed. If you're_______, He came to fill in the blank with something better than emptiness.

This Christmas . . . we are deeply loved.

So to you, my friends, however you may believe and whatever your circumstances may be . . . may He fill this time with the reality, the glory, and the comfort of Himself. Have a blessed Christmas.

—Bob