Dreams, Prayers, and Pain Very Real

“You know, while I appreciate your words, people saying they are sending prayers is pretty much a throwaway line these days.”

I’m somewhere in a dream, it is early morning, and this conversation is going on in my head.

In the story, a friend is telling me he recently learned the doctor is telling him his cancer is a one-way road, no U-turn available. All he knows is the pavement will run out too soon.

“People tend to type those words into a keyboard and never think of them again,” he said. “Like I said, translucent platitudes.”

As is in dreams, my voice speaks from a strange third-person way. I am outside the body speaking but somehow connected. I know what I’m wearing and the color of the bike I’m standing next to.

“Prayers are real,” I said. “I’ll grant you some people might toss out words of encouragement in certain situations, but I can tell you prayers are very real.”

“If you say so,” he said.

“Look, if I tell you you’ll be in my prayers, you will be in my prayers. And I can tell you, from my personal experience, they are very real and very powerful.”

As is dreams, the surroundings ebb and flow into different locations. I then realize we are on a cell phone, his voice carrying a bit of static.

I hear my voice again.

“I’ve been in some difficult spots in life and there is no other way to explain what came next other than someone listening on the other end. Call it God, call it something else, but I’m telling you there is someone there. I believe it with all my heart.”

“Well, I’ll be counting on yours. Maybe you can put in a good word or two,” he said.

Professionals tell us dreams are unpredictable manifestations of churning emotions inside of us. In the last several days I’ve learned someone I knew in school taking his life. I also learned another friend quietly being treated for cancer yet never sharing with me. Instead, he selflessly focused his attention on the difficult medical journey my daughter was on at the time.

I am not a professional at much beyond a keyboard, arranging letters and words in order to tell a story. But I am sure these two items deeply disturbed and impacted me deep inside.

I’m going with the following: all around us, people are secretly going through difficult times and highly personal challenges. And while we may or may not know about them, we need to not be afraid to ask for prayers for those in need. The clerk at the grocery store, the homeless man pushing a cart alongside the road, our spouse.

In the end, and there will be an end, let us cast our net of prayers far and wide, asking of help on behalf of those we may not know who need it most. Because, in my experience, someone is out there waiting to receive your words.

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Kale Becoming Uninvited Dinner Guest

A stranger is working into my lunches and dinners. Rough around the edges, lacking any redeeming sense of taste, and abruptly showing up when least expected, I’m done with him.

I am hereby declaring myself not aborad the kale train.

The first time I spied Kale was the vegetable department of a local grocery store, my friend holding out his fresh catch at arm’s length like he had trapped a rabbit in the woods.

“You tried kale yet?”

I shook my head, his grip seemingly tightening on his catch as if primal instincts were kicking in.

“Kale,” I said. “What does it taste like?”

The conversation stalled right there.

The concept of so-called super foods is like a train hurtling down the tracks without an engineer at the helm. Granted I understand the premise of higher concentrations of vitamins or some other healthy appeal. But how did I get over a half-century though life without knowing certain foods were slightly better for me and therefore should cost a small fortune?

My wife likes kale. Well, “likes” might be an overstatement, but she is increasingly finding ways to sneak the green leafy vegetable into my diet at home.

Last week kale showed up in my fish tacos.

I love a good fish taco. Grilled, blackened, even fried. Large or small, fish tacos are a separate food group for me.

But nowhere in the great recipe book of fish tacos, does kale show up.

Picking at the leafy contents, I asked my wife what going on between the flour tortilla. Something was askew, so to speak.

“I used some of the salad from last night,” she said. “Figured why not?”

My mind quickly identified the intruder hidden inside my taco: kale.

My wife is strategically blending kale into meals. Not that she is a huge fan either, but kale is seemingly included in more recipes or dishes at local restaurants. Recently I’ve gone to defensively asking waiters if the salad includes kale.

“We can add some if you wish,” comes the reply.

I then share with my quest to keep kale from being subversively pushed onto my plate or into my palate. Not that the taste of kale is bad – a taste that reminds me of getting a piece of cardboard accidentally stuck in my mouth – but I do wish to have some semblance of control over what shows up on a plate.

Believe it or not, I am not alone. Unscientifically-speaking, half the waiters volunteered they, too, were not on the kale bandwagon. But sprinkling a bit into a salad allowed them to charge a bit more on the menu.

I love vegetables. My mom would be proud. But at kale, I am drawing the line. Superfoods be darned, I am taking back control of my vegetable intake no more cardboard-tasting veggies in my food for the sake of being fashionable.

That is except for at home. There I’ll eat what is on my plate – or fish taco – and like it.

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Drowning in a Flood of Choices

I’m ready to dial back the choices in my life.

Last night I found myself 20-minutes deep down a rabbit hole of a streaming service for the television. And the longer I scrolled, the more overwhelmed and disinterested I became. Finally, in frustration, I clicked off the television and tossed the remote onto the coffee table.

How did life, with all the time-saving choices before us, become so overwhelming?

My television is home to several paid-for streaming services, each promising to make my life richer, easier, and more rewarding. And my truck, music streams from a satellite service with more flavors of curated music, news, and sports than I can find time to explore. And my phone, now filled with little-used apps, is similarly bloated beyond everyday use.

I need a break from the world’s generous offer to help simplify my life.

Technology is a funny thing – original promises regularly being amped up to a level most of us eventually decide is beyond useful or helpful. Unfortunately, we – as consumers – end up drowning in the success of helpful intentions. I know I am.

I am reading a book chronicling the settling of western Texas. Pages describe small mail-order houses built on rugged grounds struggling to simply grow vegetation let alone support a family of six and their livestock. And from what I read, they got along fine without thousands of commercial distractions in front of them. Honestly, I envy them.

Somehow we have become geared to believe more is better. More movies, more music, more choices of tomatoes in the grocery store. At one point, however, when are the number of choices creating the opposite effect – stunting our curiosity and appreciation for variety?

I consider myself an average person of average intelligence. And in addition to that, one with a lower than normal attention span. Focusing deeply and for extended periods, unfortunately, could be a skill being groomed out of us by an onslaught of the never-ending noise of choices.

Recently I’ve begun turning down the noise. At home we have cut the cable cord, eliminating hundreds of little-if-ever watched channels, now relying on streaming from three subscription services. I now subscribe to only three newspapers (The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times), and reintroduced a handful of favorite CDs into my truck. I’ve even worked to remove social media from my mind and attention, only rarely checking it to keep up on a few friends and family members. I don’t miss the noise one bit.

I guess in a way, this is akin to being a pioneer in the twenty-first century, turning away from the invasion of choices in my life. I appreciate a good apple, but I don’t need ten choices in the grocery store. I appreciate a good movie, but I don’t need 100,000 choices from a dozen streaming services. What I need is the time I control. And as of late, I got to tell you, this is a battle worth fighting.

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