Thursday, April 06, 2006

momentary lapse of reason

Walking through the park last night I came upon the strangest sight. Tied to the fence rail was one of those little kite string holders and a line of clear string, probably fishing line, extended straight up into the sky. I would not have noticed it except from the direction I was walking, my eye caught the shimmer of sunlight off the clear string like the sun gets caught in a spider’s web, invisible unless the light strikes it just right.

I enjoy kite flying. I think I get it from my dad, who often makes long driving trips for business. A while back he got into the habit of packing a kite in the car and when road-weary, would pull over for a rest-stop and fly the kite for a while. Great stuff.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I wanted to see what was “up there”, so I turned around and saw . . . nothing. Absolutely nothing. I saw a plane fly by, it’s cotton-candy contrail billowing out, but no kite. I looked back to the fence . . . handle, string . . . sky. Someone tied the sky to the fence.

A guy came up behind me with a basket-ball, “See it yet?”

Both of us stood there, staring upward. “I thought that plane was gonna cut the string,” he said.

Then I saw it. Up past the birds. A tiny triangular shape. I could make out black and red.

“Who did that?” I asked, laughing at the marvelous feat.

“I dunno. Some guy put them up there and left ‘em because it was too hard to get them down,” he said.

“Them? You mean there’s more than one?” I turned and looked back up, following the sky-tether as far as I could. Seeing nothing I looked back down to the fence and followed the curve of the posts until I saw another kite-string handle glistening heaven-ward.

Then I saw the second kite . . . and the third. Barely.

Years ago I lived across the highway from the Gala Kite factory. These are the people who make that old standard black kite with white tail and the blood-shot eye-stickers you put on the wings. Naturally they had this large field out behind the factory where (I guess) many test-flights were done. While I had football practice out in those fields, my dad would go around a collect clumps and pieces of string from rejected or failed flights and would take them home. I never really appreciated what he was up to until he produced from the garage this . . . mechanism.

I don’t think it was any higher than my knee, but it was a wood frame with a spool in the middle and a crank on the end. The frame extended out to one side, so you could anchor it with your foot, and the spool was wound with string. Lots of string.

We went kite-flying.

I remember him getting that kite up so high that it disappeared. And I remember imagining with him what would happen if it fell . . . and where it would fall . . . and all kinds of things. And I remember at the end of the flight, how he brought that kite in, foot on the anchor and turning the crank, spooling the line back in. The kite made it’s only journey—I couldn’t believe how torn up it was.

I never got to talk to the pilot of the three kites, nor the basket-ball dude. On the way down to the park I did talk to one person, and will simply report that I forgot how difficult witnessing to homeless people can be. They have a lot of time on their hands. And they get a lot of street ministry. Put together “lots of ministry” and “lots of time”, a person can reason their way into some really bad theology. I was not going to argue with the guy, but emphasized the need for repentance and to fear the one who can send the soul to hell (he seemed to know a great deal of scripture). But at times I felt like I was talking to two different people . . . and probably was.

Anyway, I was walking back to the church along the sidewalk, looking up and the sky, trying to find those kites, or a kite . . . any kite. I walked about a block, head tilted back, staring upward. Then it hit me. I started laughing out loud because I remember in downtown Houston, those “crazy” people would walk through downtown, staring up at nothing, mouth hanging open. Occasionally, someone would get curious and follow their gaze, but shrug and go on their way. I figured I must have looked like a loon walking along the sidewalk, staring up and who knows what. That’s why I was laughing. Then I realized how much crazier I must look, walking along the sidewalk, staring and laughing uproariously . . .

I would have really liked to talked to more people about heaven, and point their gaze upward to Jesus.

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