Christmas Blessings


















DearYolanda,


Thanks for the candle. You said you made it yourself?

I lit it last night after turning off the television, watching the flickering flame spark and dance so beautifully in the darkened room as I lay on the couch, slipping into that place between wakefulness and sleep where the angels whisper. As I listened, saying my prayers, mesmerized by the candlelight, I dropped off to sleep.

The next thing I heard was the plaintive wail of fire engine sirens as I startled awake to the smell of burning curtains. I'd left your beautiful candle too close to the window and the entire south wall of my house was engulfed in flames.

I shook my wife awake. We hastily grabbed a few things and rushed from the house. The firemen worked hard, knocking down the flaming wall to reduce the spread of the fire, but unfortunately the attic was also on fire. We had so many boxes of flammable stuff packed away up there the flames erupted like a thousand angry torches.

There was very little the firemen could do at this point, other than try and protect our neighbors' homes. The house closest to us (the east side) which belongs to the wonderful blind couple, did suffer some roof damage, but fortunately the firemen put it out quickly. After talking to our neighbors this morning, we learned they unfortunately suffered considerable damage to their carpet and furniture from the fire hose water and rain. Though we've known and loved this elderly couple for nearly 20 years, they said they can no longer talk to us, on advice from their attorney who we will be hearing from shortly.

Cheryl and I are now living at the Howard Johnson's in Pomona. It's not like home, and the people in the next room seem to be continually fighting and shouting, but it's the cheapest motel in the area. We found a few empty syringes in the bathroom, the carpet has quite a few nasty-looking stains and the wallpaper in this room is peeling, but we are just grateful to have a roof over our heads at this point.

I managed to get my laptop computer out of the house and I have internet access here, but it's hard to concentrate on this e-mail, what with the terror of last night continually replaying in my mind. This room smells like smoke, although it's probably coming from our own skin. My wife inhaled so much smoke she has to wear a breathing mask with a portable oxygen tank because of her chronic respiratory problems. We haven't had any sleep since the fire and we don't have any clean clothing.

I called the insurance company this morning and for some reason I had not received my renewal notice, so unfortunately I find that my homeowner's insurance has lapsed. I'm afraid this means our house and possessions are a total loss. We lost our cars in the fire as well. Because the electric garage door motor was wearing out and would not open in cold weather, we did not have time to get our cars out of the garage. The Mercedes was a few years old, so at least I got some fun out of that car, but it is unfortunate that Cheryl had recently purchased her beautiful new Lexus -- full payment in cash. We're hoping the discount insurance coverage for the car will cover part of the loss, but I do worry about doing business with a company based in Bolivia.

I'll have to take out a loan to have the debris of our once beautiful home removed so I can try and sell the vacant lot to a developer, but in these hard times for real estate, it will be practically impossible to get any money out of this property to make much of a dent in the amount I still owe on the home. I'm not sure if I can even get a loan at this point. Bankruptcy may be the best option for us. Unfortunately, we are still locked into a flexible-rate mortgage and our interest rate has risen to slightly more than 12 percent. We were barely able to keep up with the payments as things were.

I wish I'd made a backup copy of my book! I was really counting on this book to move my career forward. The only copies were on computer discs and paper -- all reduced to ashes. The main copy was stored on my desktop computer which was also destroyed. It's not the sheer length of the work that bothers me (about 280,000 words) as much as the length of time it took to do the research, what with all that travel to foreign countries that I'm still paying off on my Visa card. I'd never put this much work into a book before, and I'm afraid I'm too old to repeat what has been a 12-year labor of love.

We were hoping to sell some of the antique furniture and paintings we recently inherited from my family's estate that we'd stored in the house, but nothing is salvageable. And so many things accumulated from 35 years of marriage and from both of our families can, of course, never be replaced. I hate to think about all the wonderful photographs we'll never see again. At least we have our memories!

Unfortunately, our two cats died in the fire, and of course, my wife is devastated. One of them was the cat my son Christopher (who is coming to stay with us for Christmas) grew up with. He was so looking forward to seeing his precious little kitty, Mr. Toodles, again. We'll have to call Chris today and break the news.

After reviewing my current financial situation, I've decided the best thing to do is to try and rent a decent trailer home for the holidays, as there are a few mobile home parks in the area that are not as dangerous as some. We're going to try and find a mobile home with an extra bedroom for Christopher who is due to arrive in a few days. I'm afraid all his presents also burned in the fire, but we know he will understand. I suppose I should not have put all that cash in his stocking! It was a surprise down payment for a condominium. I foolishly thought it would be fun for him to see what $80,000 in cash looked like! I was surprised that I qualified for that home equity loan, although I suppose it was because of the high interest rate I'm being charged.

It certainly will be an unusual Christmas for us, what with all of our carefully picked, expensive presents destroyed by the fire. We will just have to focus on the blessings of life itself and be grateful that we did not die in the fire -- only a few second-degree burns and smoke inhalation, although I'm afraid I may have broken my ankle while rushing to get out of the house. It is quite sore! The paramedics bandaged it last night but I refused to be taken to the hospital. I just could not face an emergency room after all I'd been through. Cheryl and I will take the bus to the clinic today. I'm using an old umbrella for a crutch.

We will simply have to learn to be grateful for what we have left, even though it probably means total financial disaster. Cheryl and I now realize we will have to give up the idea of retirement and return to the workforce to try and rebuild our lives. I've already contacted Wal-Mart and they say they are hiring! A light in the storm!

So, once again, dear Yolanda, thanks so much for the candle! It was so beautiful and sweet-smelling, and, in fact, it was one of the few things I managed to salvage from the fire. I have it lit now, near the window of our motel room that overlooks the laundry area. It casts such beautiful shadows against the curtains.

Merry Christmas,

Russ




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo courtesy of the Bend Weekly
© All Rights Reserved




Believing In Santa



When I first told my children about Santa Claus, of course I knew there was no actual human being I was talking about. But I told my children he was real and would reward them for being good.

I didn’t care how they envisioned Santa, for there are so many variations of his image, all so innocent in spirit, lighthearted and loving. It didn’t matter. I didn’t care how they imagined he spent his time at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus, the elves and reindeer. It didn’t matter.

We all understood that Santa was real in a different way than our friends and neighbors were real. He was real in spirit, and so we could imagine all sorts of things about Santa and even read conflicting ideas about his life and accept them all without difficulty. After all, nobody really knew for sure.

The specific details of Santa’s existence were not important. It was the underlying truth, that there are larger reasons for good behavior, reasons that could last for a year or even longer. Santa was a power for goodness in the world who would bless you for your honest heart and punish those who were cruel and deceptive.

As a grownup, I replaced the idea of Santa with knowledge. I knew that honesty, no matter how unrecognized it may be among friends and family, fills your life with joy, the kind of joy that is free from shame and guilt. I also knew that those who are dishonest and mean, no matter how long their actions may go undetected, are immediately punished for their sins because of who they become. They have lost the heart of an innocent child.

Heaven and hell are here, and those who are evil live in a hell of their own making, the hell of their own existence, no matter how long they avoid punishment from others.

In this dangerous and unpredictable world there are so many good people who are so unjustly punished by life, by disease, natural disaster, political oppression or just everyday happenstance. Earth is a place where all things are possible, both good and bad. It has something to do with free will. But if we struggle against adversity with an honest heart, we will find higher ground.

So my children grew up believing in Santa, even though they did not keep him firmly in mind throughout the year. But they grew up believing that striving to be honest and good was the right way to live. And even though some of the children they knew did not believe in Santa, they did not fight with them. Some believed, some didn’t. It didn’t matter.

Most of the children who believed in Santa needed no proof. They accepted Santa as a matter of faith, buttressed by the occasional Christmas morning miracle of the missing cookies and nearly empty glass of milk. When my children began to seriously question the existence of Santa, I took them to an old stone church and we sat in a beautiful, vine-encrusted alcove and I explained that Santa was more than just one single person.

I told them Santa was the spirit of giving that lives in all of us who find joy in bringing happiness to others. I told them every department store Santa who gave joy to little children was filled with the spirit of Santa. I told them every parent who wrapped up a special gift with a card that said, “Love to you, from Santa!” was inspired by the spirit of Santa. I told them Santa was more magic than they imagined, that instead of being just one person, Santa was the spirit of kindness and love that filled the hearts of millions, especially at Christmas, and that we should keep his spirit alive every day of the year.

I told them that as we grow up, many of us replace the idea of Santa with the idea of God.

I told them the best parts of all religions were filled with this spirit, and that this is what so many people mean by the word God, that God is a force for honesty, kindness and love in the world. I told them it does not matter how we picture God or how we define God. As long as we fill our hearts with love and charity, then we are doing the work of God here on Earth.

I told them words and pictures are what we use to help us understand the spirit of Santa, the spirit of God, but the words and pictures are not what’s important. It is the meaning behind the words and pictures, the inspiration that fills each heart.

We are all imperfect, we all make mistakes and we all have times in our lives when we are so certain about things that we become blind to our errors. To fight each other over ideas about God is like trying to prove whose idea of Santa is the real idea. To fight each other over ideas of God is to be so certain that we have become blind to our own imperfection and capacity for error.

I told them some people forget that these stories are about meanings, not details. They are intended to open our hearts and help direct the course of our lives. It’s the message that's important, and what it says to each of us.

I told them to respect the religions of all cultures, that whatever ideas of God people believe in, if these ideas open their hearts and lead them toward honesty, compassion and love, then they are on the right path – all of them.

The details are not what’s important. We all speak different languages and have different ways of describing and understanding things. It’s the essence from which all explanations come that is important. That’s what faith is for, to keep the connection strong between ourselves and God because words are not enough.

We all have to start somewhere. Some of us start with Santa. The important thing is to realize that spiritual growth is like any other kind of growth – it requires change. The lessons we learn as children are for children. The lessons we learn at the beginning of our spiritual journeys are for beginnings. To grow a larger soul, we must not get stuck. We must not stop. We must keep going.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11





~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo: Christopher & Joshua Loar with Santa
© All Rights Reserved




The Boundaries Of Heaven

















We draw the boundaries of heaven
Around the spaces of ourselves,
Marked off by threat
And bluster,
As if heaven were a place
Unwelcome.



~ text and photo by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 124:

New is temporary.
Shabby is eternal.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 65:

At ocean’s edge,
the tide pushes me back,
then pulls me forward.

I try to balance myself
between its inevitable,
contrary motions.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 6 & # 7:

For every bird that flies,
there’s a little bird that dies.


Or:

For every bird that dies,
there’s a little bird that flies.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 46:

If you would have demons become angels,
you must pray for them.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 77:

My self-esteem is so low,
I have delusions of mediocrity.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 73:

When you begin a prayer you open a door.
Keep the door open.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 139:

Fear comes when we expect the future
to be bad. Hope comes when we expect the future to be good. Joy comes from experiencing happy moments without the need of the past or the future—the joy of a blissful now.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 122:

Christ would weep
for what some Christians do.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 106:

Desire is the fuel for hope.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 64:

Some people want to own the road,
while others are just out for the drive.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 222:

In this world of sorrows, we must find
some small, happy thought, each day,
and smile.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 231:

There is nothing quite as persistent as reality,
but imagination comes close.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 158:

We draw the boundaries of heaven
around the spaces of ourselves,
as if heaven were a place unwelcome.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 43:

Find heaven right where you are.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 38:

Does the racehorse know he’s won?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 12:

When you don’t have enough to eat,
you treasure every bite.

Only the poor fully appreciate those things
the rest of us take for granted each day.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 102:

The source is not important,
it’s the inspiration that counts.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 61:

When you teach, when you try to open the mind of someone who is resisting, be content to plant a single seed. Begin with one thought.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 129:

Some of us are so busy praying,
we forget to listen.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 145:

The truth does not depend on what you believe.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

At The Circus









W hat was I thinking?

Too eager to accept a dare? Afraid to back down?

How absurd it all seems now, about to step out on this wire so incredibly high above the crowd.








~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Artwork by Jolantasketch
© All Rights Reserved

# 184:

The end of all wars will require the end of certainty.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 202:

Perhaps another word for God is Being,
something whole 
in which we have individual parts,
but still, always part of the whole.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 201:

Sometimes, honesty and kindness come into conflict.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 236:

We believe in illusion.
That’s why we wear clothing.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 220:

If you truly care about this world,
you must live with a broken heart.

It has always been so.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 215:

Perhaps the difference between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics is a product of multiple realities with borders than may or may not overlap, along with realities beyond our scientific capabilities to perceive.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 199:

My writing is about: What I have learned,
what I am learning, and what I need to learn.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 118:

Stubbing your toe is God’s way of
testing your vocabulary.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 119:

Though the elements of cultural decline
may be momentarily popular,
they will not escape the verdict of history.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 68:

What if we have come here
from the future, not the past?



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 94:

Poetry: What it means is more important
           than how it’s dressed up.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 40:

Instinct is another word for God.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





Under The Bed
























I remember seeing a white, colonial building fronted with columns on the day
I was left at the orphanage.
At least this memory was always in my mind, but knowing how insatiably curious I’ve always been about my biological parents, my biological circumstances, I knew that I may simply have been filling in the blanks of the great mystery that was my first two years of life. After all, I have absolutely no memory of the mother I'd lived with more than a year.

Then one day when I was in my early twenties, I went there. It was the first time since being left for adoption. I'd phoned a social worker who agreed to meet with me, to tell me some basic “non-identifying” information about my parents. As I approached the address, the building came into view. It looked exactly as I’d remembered: A white building, colonial style, columns and all.

What followed is a blank. I don’t remember the foster family I lived with for the next six months and I don’t remember being taken home by my new parents. Many years later, my grandmother told me that for the first few months, every time the doorbell rang, I’d run and hide under my bed. It took me a long time to shake that fear, and even now, I still get the urge once in a while.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Painting by Erin Payne
© All Rights Reserved

# 109:

Learning is a series of constant beginnings.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 114:

However inspired they may be, your holy books were not written by God, they were written by men. However inspired your holy books may be, they do not represent the will of God, they represent the will of men, and so are flawed, imperfect—human. Read them, learn from them, see their strengths and see their weaknesses, then set them down and continue.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 95:

Life is about the experience, not the outcome.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 34:

Folderol is its own excuse.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 45:

A prayer speaks to the one who prays.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 37:

A saint is seldom treated fairly.
It’s part of the job description.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 246:

I am blaspheming my way to paradise.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Myth Of Unity


It is the clarion call of politicians: Life in America would be ideal if only we would all come together as one people and be unified and united, preferably under their all-embracing leadership.

If there is anything that marks the distinctive identity of life in America, it is the freedom we all enjoy from not being unified and united. The battlefield of our differences produces compromise, which allows our society to experiment with ideas, to push forward in one direction or another without resorting to the kind of extremes that total unity would command.

Yes, total unity would be commanded, by an authoritarian government that no longer tolerated dissent and by a politically correct media turned into an enforcer of unity, of “the common good,” a mainstream media castigating anyone who would dare express an unpopular opinion.

We have already had a taste of this, haven’t we?

Why do we applaud when politicians promise national unity? Is it because each person who applauds believes his or her vision of “the truth” will become manifest under such national unity? Is it because we are so sure that our particular religion, our particular political philosophy, our general sense of what is right and what is wrong will surely prevail in a perfect world?

This country was formed by generations of political refugees escaping the kind of national unity that strangles freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to criticize and change one’s own government. The refugees are coming still and the great work continues.

Our government works because we are a diverse people, full of opposing ideas, forced to compromise. And compromise means that many opposing ideas must be taken seriously when policies and laws are made. If Americans are anywhere near being united at all, it is in the belief that each of us has the right to fight for an idea, to oppose an idea, to be taken seriously. This is the check and balance of American democracy, this freedom to amend or replace a flawed idea with a better idea. America is a birthplace and battleground of ideas.

Yet politicians and media pundits shake their heads and bemoan how “polarized” the American people have become. Our polarization, our fierce differences of opinion are evidence of a free society in which we all are emboldened, empowered and encouraged to express our opinions vociferously, knowing our opinions matter.

The day we are truly unified and united will be the day we are no longer free.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Keith Weller
© All Rights Reserved

# 31:

Listen to your imagination.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 245:

Time is born of a singularity,
tied to the temporal “before and after.”
The cosmological constant is the eternal “now.”



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 100:

So many writers with nothing to say,
who nevertheless say it very well.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 30:

If you wish to bring joy and love to others,
you must be full of joy and love.
You cannot give what you do not possess.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 17:

Question everything
and perpetuate what is good.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 82:

Consider how your vision of the world
is created by your emotions.

Then, set your emotions aside
and take another look.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 93:

People want the security of knowing
and so spend their lives
cementing their beliefs into place,
constructing the impenetrable wall of self.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 239:

I cannot prove angels exist.
It would hurt their feelings if I tried.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 207:

Eternity will solve everything.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 54:

We are knee-deep in mousetraps.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 28:

To be in heaven
and not know you are in heaven
is one of life’s great tragedies.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 179:

Criticism may be necessary,
but it’s more profound to construct
than criticize.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 164:

There is no greater gift
than the gift of a new day,
along with the health, sanity
and freedom to make use of it.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 67:

If you want help from the angels,
you must listen very carefully,
for they speak softer than sound.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 23:

Too much work strips everyday life
of love and serendipitous happenstance,
oh yeah!



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 78:

Most artists are starving,
if not for money,
if not for love,
if not for transcendence,
then at least for attention.

It’s hunger that propels them.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 96:

God is another name for the will to live.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 75:

You may call it fiction,
but if you drop a large novel
on your foot,
your toe will hurt.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 36:

Hate is a disease of the heart.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 35:

Home is a place in the heart.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 5:

I will make a better memory than a man.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 244:


To mourn the loss of a single life
is to mourn for all.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 217:

I’ve always wondered what it’s really like
to be me.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 200:

Time is fleeting
and there is so much to study and learn.
I am sorely tempted to let the laundry go.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 238:

You ask why a merciful God
would allow such cruelty in this world.

Don't blame God for what people do.
Hell is mostly man (and woman) made.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 242:

We are living in a test tube of reality.
It’s an experiment.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 18:

Find the blessing in each moment.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 60:

When someone tries to anger you,
say to yourself: I am an ocean.
I cannot be moved.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 121:

I am a Peter Pantheist.
I have a childlike belief that
everything is a component of God.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 92:

Hope is the seed. Joy is the flower.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Mindings