In The Flow

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Encounters 

I remember when the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released.  I was a year or so out of high school. This sci-fi classic was a Steven Spielberg blockbuster about people who encountered friendly extraterrestrials. Cities witnessed flying UFOs, beams of light in darkened skies and scientists share dialogue with aliens via a connection of musical notes. Though we know aliens are there, they emerge as otherworldly backlit shadows near the end of the movie, as character, Roy Neary believes and comes into their presence.

Close Encounters is packed with drama, adventure, and mystery. For me, the film conveyed an almost divine meaning. Nevertheless, the film celebrated its 40th anniversary with re-released versions, the director’s cut, and Blu-ray bonus discs.

This is by no means a review of the movie, but it is a sighting of an encounter, not with flying saucers and fictional beings, but nonetheless a brief review of an event.

2020 was a blur of stained encounters I would like to erase from my memory. As heart wrenching as it is to see a population of people disenfranchised and die in epidemic proportions, amid the overwhelming witness to systemic manifestations there are miracles.

On May 26, 2020 after leaving a graduation drive-by party, the clouds began to grow darker as lights bolted from the sky. As we continued, a strong wind scurried leaves in the road ahead of us and it began to rain. By the time I reached the edge of my mother’s driveway, a torrent unleashed deafening claps of thunder and severe lightning.

As I turned to steer the car in reverse, I heard the explosion of a canon. At that precise moment, a brilliant beam of light appeared in the rear windshield. My mother saw one in the front. The beam lasted a few seconds. It felt like something tried to penetrate the car, so I stopped, thinking we had been hit but there was no impact. Nothing was broken and nothing was missing. The two of us looked at each other in awe, knowing angels covered us like armor, as the strikes (or fiery darts) bounced away. This was not a sci-fi depiction but an experience of being spared by a close encounter of God’s mercy; something we should also give to others.

Though the release of drama and appalling actions display on the screen of our lives, we are not defined by the sighting of deliberate attacks, darts, or descriptors of who others believe we are other than who God says we are.

Having encountered a miracle of the personal kind, I feel a re-releasing of trust in someone bigger than myself in all circumstances, even amid daily distractions. Who do you trust? The power of His presence is not of this world.  

In my life’s script the director’s cut is justified so I can shift from a mediocre existence to one with more capacity to be filled by His spirit.

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Take a Breath   

 “Keep Calm.” I see these inspired memes everywhere and some people embrace its meaning.

 Lately, I have been thinking about what permeates the air. Before this unprecedented season brought with it, high anxiety, and even more distance between our conversations, the mood of our air had already been a hot topic. In these times, I remind myself to draw in peace; even amidst the smolder of forest fires, felled trees, armed conflict, and a hue of matters that are all gravely crucial. The air we draw in is as essential as our existence.

The breath of life is blown into our dusty bodies every day. It is a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from an unseen God who decides our supply. It is an unearned gift. Sadly, this same air we breathe has not only become disregarded and devalued, but it has become a choking hazard.

The air we breathe into our lungs is free. It is not provided to us based upon a zip code, shoe size, status, IQ or even our DNA. It is based upon grace. 

To protect ourselves we now wear a diverse offering of masks and we acknowledge previously familiar faces by their eyes, the shape of their bodies, or the sound of their voices. And even then, it is not always easy to distinguish them from their cues, until they call us by our given name. For me, the mask creates a fog that veils my eyes, heats up my air and makes my nose run. None of this is normal.

Maybe you are like me and agree that today things look and feel quite different.

I read a lot and sometimes listen to the poem-a-day videos, I recently heard a poem by Kelly Davio, “To My Seatmate, on a Cross-Country Flight.” There were two lines that stood out, “See how the mask gaps at the side? It is a reminder that we breathe the same air, you and I.”  This is an interesting perspective. The distance between the fabric of a mask and our skin is so small.

Yes, we all breathe in fresh oxygen, and no matter what kind of masks we wear, we all have gaps somewhere on the side of our masks. I honestly had to reflect on the question. What kind of air do I draw into my gaps, and what kind of air do I expel?

Hmm. This is something to think about.