Dear Jack: Your First Scary Dream, Which was Based on Actual Events

5 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack: Your First Scary Dream, Which was Based on Actual Events

Dear Jack,

Tuesday at 1:00 AM, I shot straight out of bed and ran upstairs. I didn’t use to have such stellar hearing when it comes to a child crying in the middle of the night, but that skill has evolved over the past 5 years.

When I arrived in your room, you were sitting up in your bed. You explained, “I had a scary dream. The house was on fire and the fireman came.”

I quickly assured you, “Well there’s definitely no fire in our house. I’m here. It was just a dream. There are no firemen here. Just us.”

You and I both knew why you had that bad dream. The morning before, as our family was about to leaving for school and work, we all noticed a strange chemical smell in the garage.

I thought it smelled like nail polish remover; you thought it smelled like chlorine in the swimming pool.

After Mommy pulled her car out of the garage, much of the smell went away; though the smell was still very strong inside my car.

Our plan was this: When we get home, let’s not park in the garage. Instead, let’s keep the garage door closed, that way we can walk into the garage through the smaller door, to see if the smell has replenished itself.

That is indeed what happened, but I also had Mommy call the non-emergency line for the fire department.

When I arrived home, you and Mommy were sitting in Mommy’s parked car in the driveway; as the fireman explored our garage, and house, in all their fancy equipment.

Dear Jack: Your First Scary Dream, Which was Based on Actual Events

Interestingly, after their thorough investigation, they found no sort of gas or chemical leak. They found no reason for concern.

The best theory they, or we, could come up with is that we had recently opened the box for Holly’s new stroller; and somehow the “new smell” from that accumulated into the garage, which is on the other side of our living room.

This marks the first time I ever remember you having a scary dream and calling me up. I wish you didn’t have to dream that, but I’m glad we had our place professional inspected to make sure we truly are safe.

Love,

Daddy

Is Life in Black and White or in Color? Is It Real or Just a Dream? What was Before and What is Beyond the Vanilla Sky?

At point does “real” become imaginary?  Or does “real” never become imaginary, but instead, is “real” sometimes unseen and not yet understood?

What initially begins as blue skies which we can literally see above us does eventually become the dark, black, mysterious outer space where we assume God and the angels are.  And maybe even aliens and time traveling holes in the universe. While the past simply begins at one second ago, which we all can verify quite easily, if we continue going back in time, we eventually find ourselves in stitched-together memories of high school and even childhood.  Keep going, and we were not even born yet.  Travel further back in time, and we would see Abraham Lincoln, whom we all agree was a real person.  Go still further back to the life of Jesus, whom some proclaim is the Son of God, some proclaim was simply a great teacher, and some proclaim was never actually a real person. Go back to the days of Abraham, the earthly father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Finally, we get to Adam and Eve and before that, the beginning of the Earth and the Universe.  But at what point in reverse time do you stop believing in reality?  At what point does it become hard to believe?

What started out as simple look around us ended up becoming one strange trip. It’s easy to recognize what exists right before us in our own time and space.  But very quickly as we extend the frame of perception, we have to admit we can not literally prove anything.  Faith is unavoidable, for every single person alive today and every single person who has died in the history of the world.

While I am definitely a self-proclaimed black and white kind of guy, as I love things to be simply laid out before me in a practical way I can follow and understand them, I am just as equally an abstract, neon colors kind of guy as well. I am a cross-breed.  I am a hybrid.  And I believe that life is as well.

We can not separate the mostly relatable first episode of the TV show LOST from its spiritual, heavenly series finale.  Our existence is both real and a dream.  It is both tangible and invisible.  It is both reality and a fairy tale.  Until we reach the limits of outer space, and until we travel completely back and forwards in time, life is something we can not truly begin to figure out or understand in the smallest degree.

Life is both black and white and color.  Life is both real and a dream.

The Common Fascination with Ghosts and My Wonder of Why People are Afraid of Them

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

From Jesus’ disciples thinking that He was a ghost when He walked out on the water to their boat, to the tradition of people gathering around a campfire to hear a ghost story (in which one of the storyteller’s buddies is waiting in the woods to scream at the right cue), ghosts are a classic and preconceived idea.  The thing that gets me about ghosts is this: What are they actually going to do to you?

Yes, ghosts are spooky, creepy, and flat out scary in an old school kind of way.  But I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone in my life that has ever been injured, held hostage, or killed by a ghost.  In every ghost story I’ve ever heard, the worst thing about seeing a ghost is… well, seeing a ghost.  Even if ghosts existed, it’s no more threatening than paying $8 to go to a “spook house” and getting frightened for two seconds because a guy in a hockey mask jumps out at me with a plastic machete.  He can’t touch me, or hurt me.  At best, he’s just there for dramatic effect.

The fact that if ghosts existed they’re harmless is made obvious through the term itself “ghost stories”.  They’re stories.  Fiction.  They often involve a person who suffered a strange death in a house or in a field decades or centuries ago who can still be seen or heard on the right night.  Or like in the bed-and-breakfast where my wife and I stayed at out in Salem, Massachusetts, in which previous guests wrote in the sign-in book that they heard footsteps at night and heard the doorknob being jiggled.  Still though, even if that were true, I’m still here today telling the story.

A natural defensive response to this is someone telling me a “demon story”, which is totally different.  The movie Paranormal Activity is about a demon-possessed girl, not a ghost.  That’s part of the reason it’s so popular and so scary.  There’s a major difference between ghosts and demons, and a lot of people don’t realize that.  A ghost (or apparition) is the appearance of a person who has already lived and died.  A demon is an evil spirit which may inhabit a living person or animal.  (Surely a quick search on YouTube by typing in “actual exorcism” or “demon possessed person in Africa” is at least a little convincing.)

The New Testament is full of situations where people were possessed by a demon, so Jesus or His disciples casted the evil spirit out.  In particular, there was that one time where Jesus cast a multitude of demons out of a man into a herd of pigs, which immediately ran to the ocean and drowned themselves.  But even though I am aware of demonic presences in real life, I fully realize that the greatest concern of the satanic force is hinder me in my spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and to prevent me from building up the Heavenly Kingdom.  Not to possess me.  Because they can’t- I’m already spoken for.

What truly scares me at night?  Being outside in the woods, knowing there could possibly be a mountain lion or a Copperhead snake that sneaks up on me.  (One of my current favorite TV shows is I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which comes on Wednesday nights on Animal Planet- I’m a little bit obsessed.)

A few times throughout my life I have been stuck in a heavy-feeling dream where I felt like something was oppressing me or weighing me down, where I even heard strange, slow motion voices that I can not distinguish. I tried to wake myself up, telling myself it was just a dream.  I tried to speak, but couldn’t.  Until I said, “Jesus! Save me, Jesus!” I immediately woke up to realize that I physically said those words out loud and that those spirits whispering in my ear or whatever they were doing had disappeared.

I take it I’m not a very well liked guy by the dark side of the invisible spiritual world, because never does a day go by where I don’t somehow publicly acknowledge that God is relevant in my life and that He is responsible for something good.  Instead of letting demonic forces trying to threaten my spiritual life, I do my best to live a lifestyle that hinders their mission. Some people are fascinated the possibility of seeing ghosts; I am fascinated by how through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I pose a threat to the wrong side of spiritual warfare.

“You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that- and shudder.” -James 2:19


Some Picture Examples of the Weird Houses I Dream About

From “mirror mazes” to “crazy mansions”, it’s often the wacky building itself that is creepy with its peculiar layout, strange placement, and whatnot.

In between bad dreams and good dreams are the ones that are just plain weird.  And while all dreams we have are a least a little strange, some of them specifically can not be classified as negative or positive; for me, I’m specifically referring to the dreams where I’m at an odd location.  It could be a dream taking place in the Swiss Alps (I still remember a dream I had in the 10th grade where I was greeted by a mountain goat on the top of a mountain in Switzerland- it wasn’t significant in any way, but I will never forget the randomness of it) or a remote village in Thailand that I barely remember driving through on a motorcycle from back in 2004.

But I would have to say the most subtle weird dreams are where I am in an unusual house, where it is so odd it’s almost spooky.  Like when I dreamt that 250 townhouses in the development were all attached: The only way to get to mine in the middle of them all was to crawl through hundreds of other people’s living rooms and kitchens, because evidently there were no front and back doors on everyone’s townhouses anymore- just two hidden exit doors for the entire 250 connected homes.

When we think of “spook houses”, our minds often go to some cheesy place we pay $10 to visit around Halloween called Slaughter House! where ultimately a subpar Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and gorilla with a chainsaw (with no blade) jump out at us in the same quarter of a mile stretch.  To me, those obvious caricatures of villains are not scary, because they’re so predictable and anticipated.  Take away the men in costumes, the motorized mummies that pop out from the wall, and the eerie sounds effects streaming from an iPod somewhere.  What’s left is a building.  That, to me, is where the potential lies for spookiness.

And I’m not even taking this to the extreme of an old abandoned house that is rumored to have spirits and ghosts.  I simply mean that the place has a weird layout in which the exits are not obvious.  It’s the idea that I could be lost- and I guess for me, being lost in a strange place is still scary, despite the fact I’m no longer an 8 year-old boy.

If you’ve ever dined at a Buca di Beppo restaurant, you know exactly what I mean: all the kooky black-and-white photographs on the wall, the spumoni type colors of the interior of the walls, the random LP records glued to the ceiling featuring unheard of Italian singers from the 1950’s.  The place is a maze; the first couple of times I went to the restaurant, I got lost finding the restroom, but I had trouble finding the table where I was sitting.

Much less scary than the reality of demons dwelling in abandoned buildings or even the cheap thrills of popular Halloween spook houses, there will always be the kooky and creepy dreams where I’m in a weird house and I don’t know how I got there.  And as for Buca di Beppa- though their Italian food is good stuff, man, their restaurant buildings give me the heeby jeebies.


dad from day one: One More Month to Go

Thirty-five weeks.

Jack’s due date is November 11th, so it’s pretty likely that within the next thirty days, he will be born.  I am past the stage of being nervous, afraid, or underprepared (because I’ve accepted the fact that no first time parent can truly be prepared enough). Instead, I am completely excited and feeling very positive about it all.  A few nights ago I had a dream that Jack was a few months old and I was holding him, feeling his face against mine, and even though it was a dream, it was a feeling that I have never experienced before.  But it’s a feeling that I know I will be experiencing soon in real life.

This late into the pregnancy, it feels more like our baby is actually born and less that my wife is still pregnant.  We’re so close to meeting him.  I’m already feeling a hint of this great desire to do anything I have to in order to make sure he’s taken care of.  Like an innocent puppy that winds up on my doorstep with sad eyes that say, “Please take care of me…”  Except he’s a human being and I had a part in bringing him into this world.

I look forward to caring for him with my life.  I don’t care about having to change diapers, losing sleep, and just flat-out transforming the normalcy of my life to be a dad.  I want this little boy.  And for the record, he’s got some cool shoes waiting for him out here in the real world.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com