Climb Every Mountain

Boo loves to climb.  We are pretty sure by this point (at less than 2 years of age) that she will be our little gymnast.  She is utterly fearless when it comes to jumping, heights, going upside down, climbing and tumbling.  One of her favorite games is for me to pick her up by the legs and swing her upside down from side to side.  We had N record me doing this once and then decided that I could never post it for others to see because people would think I was abusing the poor thing, even though Boo can clearly be heard saying “again, again” over and over and sticking her legs back up into the air to be grabbed by daddy.  I swear, some days I think she just views me as an ambulatory jungle gym with funny facial fuzz.

She loves to dance as well so often times N and Boo will sing and dance around the house while daddy is off cleaning or working in the yard.  Occasionally I will join in too, but to be honest it’s more of N’s thing than mine and as picky as Boo is about who gets to do what with her, I figure that can be a good mommy/daughter bonding moment.  Boo and I have fun with her wood train set, in the bath and wrestling so I think it’s a pretty even trade.

Yesterday we showed her the actual jungle gym she was getting for the first time.  Boo and her dream

We are buying it used from my in-laws neighbor.  While I enjoy buying new stuff as much as the next guy, the simple math of the fact is that in many cases I can’t afford new and this deal was just too good to pass up.  I will say, transporting it could be a little fun since we have to disassemble it first, but with my father & father-in-law’s help, it should be doable.

The entire time she and I were running around and looking at the play-set, she was climbing up the ladder on her own, trying to figure out the rock wall and going up and down the slide at toddler lightning speed.

I got this Exploring our house Boo swinging Boo and the rock wall[

I sometimes wonder what must be going through her head as she faces these obstacles to her desires while at the same time wondering where my own such determination has gone.  All too often when I stop to sit and think about the cost (either financial, personal, emotional) I am less and less inclined to push forward towards my dreams.  Is this just a reality of growing up?  Is this what we call responsible?  I am not sure, but as I watch her push and struggle and overcome, I find myself hoping that she does not follow in my footsteps in this regard.  I want her to always push her boundaries, I want her to reach outward, to grow and challenge herself and those around her, to achieve something greater than exists in this present moment.  I want to help raise a young woman who sees the heights in front of her and thinks to herself…”I got this.”  Or, because I’m a musical theatre major, a woman who just starts humming Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music:

Climb every mountain,

Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life,
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.

Read more: The Sound Of Music – Climb Every Mountain Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Sleeping on the Edge

Every parent has moments where they find themselves in weird positions, doing odd things, trying (and often failing) to keep the baby/toddler asleep.  Mine tend to be of the precarious perch variety.  When my oldest, D, was a toddler we had one of those molded plastic beds in the shape of a race car.  It was only about 8 inches from the floor to the mattress and the frame itself was only about 6-8” wide.  I spent  a number of hours stretched out, balanced on that little strip of plastic, as I calmed D’s nightmares or brushed D’s hair to help D get back to sleep.  There may even have been a time or two when my ex-wife came in and found me asleep and D sitting up watching me with a big ol’ grin on D’s face.

As a child I always wanted my own father to be the one to come and comfort me when I was sick or scared.  I loved my mother, but my father was the bedrock, my security blanket if you will.  I have often wondered why we prefer one parent over the other when it comes to comforting us, even as adults.  There are still things that I find it easier to talk to my father about today than I do my mom.  I have tried to be that for both my kids, but D and I have often struggled to reach back to those moments of when D was young and would come to me for comfort.

Boo on the other hand, prefers me at night.  I assume it’s because I’m such a big soft cuddly bear type she sort of assumes I’m a walking/talking stuffed animal that goes by the name “Daddy.”  I could be wrong though.  Last night…or this morning depending on how you keep track of these things, Boo woke up and needed comfort.  So for the second time this week she and I went down to the sofa, put on some soft music, kept the lights turned down low and cuddled up to what I hoped would be a much needed couple more hours of sleep.  Alas, sleep was about as much on Boo’s mind as reading Stephen Hawking is on most dog brains.  So Daddy got jumped on, crawled over, kicked and punched as Boo tried to get comfortable, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was actually only an hour or two, she pushed me to the edge of the sofa (I like to keep myself between the kids and the floor) and then promptly fell asleep.  I spent the next thirty minutes or so, perched on about 4” of sofa left to me by my tiny tyrant, who nonetheless wanted me close enough to cuddle with and rest her head upon.

And it made me think… dangerous I know, thinking…

We spend so much of our lives pushing, stretching, trying to make room for ourselves to grow, while at the same time keeping those we love close to us.  Sometimes we’re smothered and pushed down and under by those who’ve come too close.  Other times we lose them as they fall over the edge.  But if we’re lucky, and we’re willing to work at it, we can keep the balance, sitting on the edge, where there is enough room for both – ourselves and the other.  And maybe that is a broader lesson to apply to more than just sleeping on the edge.

Staring it in the face

So it’s been a while since I put anything up…hmm… Not as long as I thought though. Maybe I am getting better at getting back to writing stuff more regularly?  Riiiiight.  I wouldn’t hold my breath either.

I came up against this reality not long ago.  But first I want to share something with you.  As I was praying in my room this morning, just sitting on my floor talkin’ to God, my eyes wandered around and across to an orange page on the floor not far from me.  After reading it the story on the page really hit my gut as being in direct answer to my prayer.  God truly can act in the most amazing ways in our lives…so, here it is —

The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck.  One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.  After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer.  “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house.  Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?  That’s because I have always known about your flaw and I took advantage of it.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table.  Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

This story really hit me today as I was thinking about how I felt my own efforts in my ministry, my work, my relationship were not up to where I’d like them to be.  But then there’s the moral too, just to add icing to the cake…

Each of us has our own unique flaws.  We’re all cracked pots.  But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table.  In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste.  Don’t be afraid of your flaws.  Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty.  Know that in our weakness [God can] find our strength.

I must admit I’ve been feeling a little like a fifth wheel some lately.  As I’ve mention previously I was recently ordained a minister and not only that but as of the first of this year, am also a co-pastor in my congregation.  I’m still busy at work and my son and I are starting a joint family therapy bi-weekly session to start working on how we relate to each other.  Things there are much much better than they have been, but at times it’s still a struggle.  And to top it all off, and this is really one of the most important things for me (and one of the most wonderful), I’m engaged to be married and the wedding is in about 4 months….  So… it’s not like I don’t have a bit on my plate I suppose.  But like the pot, I was feeling more and more aware of my flaws, rather than the beauty God had been (and continues to) using my flaws to create.  It was a good reminder and comes at a good time for me.

I am not perfect.  I screw up, make mistakes, don’t take advantage of the opportunities afforded me, ignore people I shouldn’t… but like the pot, if I listen to the water bearer, the bearer of the Word, acknowledge the flaws in my life and make room for His word… well, then… grace and beauty are only a part of what He can do with my life, and with yours.

Life is crazy…

Just about the time I think I get something figured out, I get turned on my head and have to find a whole new equalibrium.  Take my church involvement for example:  I agreed to start coordinating Young Adult activities mostly because I’m a bit of a social hound and really enjoy getting together, hanging out and meeting new people, so I thought I’d try to harness my talents in that direction.  I’m now in my fourth/fifth month of this and next month I’m jumping from one event a month to four (although I only have to be in charge of three of them).  I’m adding this on top of my son’s soccer practice, a weekly bible study, a monthly gathering of several of my close friends, bi-weekly game sessions and I’m not entirely sure what all else.  This is on top of taking over more responsibilities at work in dealing with the VA.

And of course, the whole point of all this… trying to raise my son to be a productive and positive human being.

I won’t say I’m feeling a little overwhelmed…or even a LOT overwhelmed for that matter… but it is a bit much to take in all at once.  Top that off with some happy, but surprising family news and as my father likes to say “Hang on to the roller coaster.!”

And whoa boy… I’m starting to feel it.  I can’t decide if I’m happy or not, or just hanging on for the ride.

My son and I have started talking, along with my father, about getting a family blessing for he and I to really ask for some joint healing.  It means as my son so pointedly put it “we’ll have to spend more time together?”  Hopefully we won’t kill each other.

He’s getting mouthier and flouting the boundaries a bit more, but that’s healthy and normal…even if I do want to strangle him when he cusses at the bus stop.  Fortunately threatening to wash his mouth out with soap still forstalls too much arguing and garners an apology.  Just the other day he tucked me into bed, got me a glass of water, and helped out around the house while I was down with a migraine.  All without asking.  I am so grateful for the kind and wonderful examples of people in my life.  He’s learning so much from all of them.

I’m feeling lead and have been granted some answers to questions my heart has been asking repeatedly and despite some effort on my part to not ask quite so often.  I would say I don’t like all of them, but that’s not entirely true.  I’m just not as patient as I’d like to be, but I’m learning.

I miss those friends I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to anymore.  My focus is shifting again and I’m only hoping it’s for the better.  I’m being challenged in subtle and obvious ways and trying to keep my eyes on the path.  There’s a reason they call it the straight “and narrow” one.  It’s so easy to get knocked off or pulled off.  Part of the reason I think I’m so looking forward to this weekend.  It’s going to be a silent retreat.  Away from the city and the noise therein, away from tv, phone, internet and all the distractions that come between us and God.  I need to take some time to visit with the Big G.  The next step is coming and  I need to make sure that I’m listening to where I need to be.  I can feel it coming…

“Hang on for the roller coaster…”

Thoughts on a Thursday night…never did get the hang of Thursdays…

Hear O Israel the voice of one crying in the wilderness…

the one crying may not be the one you think…

I know it’s been a while since I threw anything up here, it’s been a little crazy.  Work hasn’t been busy, but there’s always stuff going on that needs attention, which is good (job security), but after a days work I don’t really want to come  home to another dozen or so chores and things that need to get done.  Life… well, life is at the moment.  I think it’s funny that almost all my close friends tell me that their social calendar becomes fuller and busier the longer they hang out with me.  I don’t mean to do it, it just sort of swirls around me I suppose.  So why write those phrases at the beginning of this post?  What’s the big topic for discussion up tonight?  Well… it’s complicated… in part because people are complicated and peoples with theology even more so.

I was moved to put some thoughts up on one of my social network sites today in part to the way some members of my world church had been expressing their feelings about a piece of what we believe to be divine counsel to us, and what it means for our church.  The comment follows:  all our talk of toleration and inclusion is for naught if, in the midst of our celebration, we marginalize those who disagree. Remember our years as strangers in the land and be sure to treat them the way we wish they had treated us.

I was wrong to refer to the passing of support for the document as a victory.  Victory implies a loser and in this case I don’t believe there was, there are simply those who are accepting of this counsel and those who are not – honest, well intentioned people on both sides.  So how do we stay in community?  How can we?  How can those of us for whom this day was a wonderful blessing keep our hearts open and sensitive to those of our brothers and sisters for whom this was a major step in the wrong direction?  How can those who disagree so strongly keep the love of God for all of us in their hearts and keep fellowship with us?

The simple answer is “I don’t know.”

This is not something I’m good at determining, I only know I feel it needs to happen.  My friends who are more conservative help keep me grounded in the roots and traditions of my forerunners, keep me on the path of what has come before and how that shapes where we are heading.  They help provide me with a firm foundation from which to reach for the stars.  My more liberal friends are the ones who are standing on that foundation with me, lifting me up and encouraging me to stand upon their shoulders to reach for the stars, the ones who open my eyes to the wonder of creation in unexpected areas.

I need both to flourish.

I can survive with one or the other… but that’s not the point… not when we have the opportunity to do more than simply survive.

I am not always comfortable with either end of the spectrum.  To my conservative friends I’m too liberal.  To my liberal friends I’m too conservative.  To me I just feel a bit mixed and saddened by the sense I have that those on the fringe want to pull things so tightly to them that it rips apart the middle.  Fortunately we have avoided that thus far… but I’m walking on emotional eggshells as what has happened before still follows me, and shadows my thoughts on these issues.  I was just a child when it was finally passed…the counsel allowing women to be in the priesthood.  I watched over 3/5’s of the people I knew and loved… from a place that should be safe above all others…walk out, turn their backs and harden their hearts.  It made my relationship with God and my church very difficult for many years.  I still have problems with those dissenters sometimes.  But others are very very dear friends.  It’s crazy, but one of my best friends is Democratic, one is Republican and the other is an Independent.  We all know each other and we all get along.  How do we build bridges like that in our everyday lives?  To me, the mission of Christ is to build relationships.  Being in relationship with someone, whether intimate, friend, family or something else, is an opportunity to share, to learn, to grow, to love.  It’s what we are called to do and to be.

I’ve been humbled greatly by some of the things people I’ve seen for the first time in a long time, and some I see regularly, have shared with me this week.  Humbled and nervous.

I struggle still with the outcome of my life.  The long term goal, projections, etc.  I’m still trying to figure out what I want from this.  I’ve made many new friends, found a voice for the first time I feel like I can call my own, can occassionally be involved in things that impact more than just my own life.  I have witnessed miracles every day, both big and small.  I have seen the love of God made manifest in my life and in the life of those around me, through the smallest acts of kindness.

Why then do I still struggle so?  Part of me wonders if this isn’t part of the great mystery that is God, that Mother Teresa and others spoke of.  The sense that the closer we get to God the more alone we feel as the inadequacy of our finite vessel becomes clearer and clearer to us.  We are made to appreciate the mystery more and have to cling to hope and faith ever more the harder.  Faith…

“A belief in things hoped for but unseen”

I could share many testimonies of God’s love in my life.  But the truth of the matter is, I don’t need to know God exists.  I’ve had experiences that can’t be quantified, measured, etc.  I believe God exists… it is the faith that is a gift from God’s Holy Spirit.  A gift I don’t need science to answer.   And since I’m still more or less on the topic of conservative/liberal…sort of…I can talk briefly about this.

One of the things that drives me nuts about people is that they try to force religion and science to answer each other’s questions.  Religion and Science are not in opposition, but concert.  Science tells me how I got here, how the things around us in the wonderful creation act/work, the laws they follow.  Science tells me when things happen and how…and they can answer the little “why?”  But they can’t tell me why I matter, what the purpose of my life is, how to treat my fellow human being and the earth.  That is Religion’s purvue.  Religion answers the big “Why?”  That is not to say one is more important than the other.  I think it is too easily forgotten that some of the most influential early scientists in Europe were priests, men of God who wanted to better understand in our finite and limited way the glories of the world around us.  I think how wonderful that is… and how wonderful it could be again.

My denomination has just started a dialogue on several difficult issues, including homosexuality, baptisim and others.  It’s not the big dramatic step some hoped for and it’s too big for others… It is my earnest prayer that that means it could be just right… for all of us.  All of us are children of God.

http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/counsel/default.asp

Easter evening

The day after.

The obligatory egg hunt.  Ham, turkey, lamb, whatever foods grace the table.  Mandatory church attendance.  Pastels…

What does it all mean?  Spring, new life, the turning of the seasons.  I have made it through Lent, repented when I fell short of my vow before God, celebrated the resurrection of my Messiah.  Tomorrow morning, on my drive into work, what will have changed?  I didn’t have a moment on my own personal road to Damascus.  There weren’t earthquakes or heavenly hosts shouting or miraculous healings.  But today was an amazing day.  And today helped change my life… BECAUSE of the road here.  I made the effort to come to Easter with intentionality, to prepare myself to be open to the still small voice in my heart and soul.  It was not that God could not touch my life or move me or change me without what I did.  But what I did was offer myself to God, to be a willing participant in the journey He has called me on, rather than driftwood.

My son had a good Easter as well.  He may not have gotten as much candy as he’d like to, but he listened, and heard the Word in a way that  I’m not sure he ever really has before.  This was the first Sunday since he’s come back from camp and I was curious how it would be.  He’s been different this week.  He listens, follows directions better, is more attentive, more respectful, more affectionate than he’s been in a long long time.  I know only what he tells me of his experience there, but I can see the difference in him.  And I can feel the difference in me.  Our understandings of our situation have changed.  We have changed.  We have been changed.  And made new…

I praise God, and thank God.  That even in the depths of my human frailties… my fear, my frustration – God did not give up on me, or my son… and we did not entirely give up on Him.  This journey will still have struggles.  There will still be missteps and mis-communication.  But I know that all things work toward good for them that love God.  We may be lonely but we are not alone.

He will always be with us, even when we least expect it…discover new life!

Thoughts on Yesterday

What do I want to say?

What is it I want?

When do I I feel less alone?

I’m still trying to process yesterday and everything that happened.  I slept in, had been up late gaming, fell asleep on the sofa, climbed into bed somewhere around 4 or so.  Totally missed church, which my son had asked if we could do anyway, so that was one less fight I had on my hands.  We both woke up around noon.  Fixed breakfast, watched an episode and a bit of Stargate: Atlantis with him before I was reminded that I had rehearsal for a drama piece at church for Palm Sunday.  I checked FB before I went to get ready for the day, recieved a message from my Emotional Parole Officer who lovingly chastised me, which I both needed and deserved.  Went and showered…and then…

I don’t really have words for it.  I can tell you the thoughts that went through my head, what I did, the surroundings…but that’s not IT…or at least, not all the experience.  I started off getting angry.  Angry at myself for pushing the boundaries of my vow, angry at myself for making the vow.  Angry that the process of change that I’m in is taking so long.  Then ashamed that I was not more thankful for the blessings I have had along the way.  I’ve had several mantra’s on my bathroom mirror for the last two years, I tore off all but one (after punching the door-jam)…but the one I left up is the important one for me right now I think.

I admit that I am powerless over other people.  My need to be needed and my compulsion to rescue others has made my life unmanageable.

I am forgiven

There were others up about knowing my boundaries and being loved for who I am, but I realized yesterday, I’m not there yet.  I struggle with my boundaries, hence the Emotional Parole Office (a thankless job I’m sure, but I am so very very grateful for him).  And while I realize and hear others talking of loving me for who I am, and I appreciate that…first I’ve got to get to a place where I can truly believe I am forgiven.  And then I started crying.  Crying because I felt like everything and nothing had changed.  Crying because I felt very lost and very loved, because I finally admitted that for this change to be real, for me to be the kind of father, of man, of eventual husband I want to be – it can’t be something SOLELY from inside me.  I AM human….even if I hate to admit it, or at least to the weaknesses of it.

The only coherant thoughts I really have from the 45 minutes or so I was laying there, sobbing into my blankets, was that I had really mixed feelings about my son seeing me like this…and I was begging God to forgive me, asking God to help me forgive myself, and give me the strength to endure.  There were others but those were mainly feelings, emotions that colored everything else.  That and a profound sense of walls crumbling.  As I’ve mentioned earlier this year’s IVL was about letting go of the past, and old habits die hard.  It’s all too easy to fall into old ways of doing things if I’m not paying attention.  Much like an alcoholic’s first thought will be to drink when certain triggers are hit…I’ve got mine, and the reactions they produce.

So then I went to rehearsal – about 40 minutes late…and arrived right in time to hear my cue line:

“What’s going to happen now?”

my line – “Soon enough you’ll find out.” (did I mention that I HATE waiting and am NOT patient)

“Is everything alright?”

And of course….I’m there emotionally raw and bleeding and everyone knows it’s not entirely alright… but since I prefer joy to sorrow I laugh, a weary one to be sure and more than a little expressive, and we all laugh and rehearsal goes on as does the rest of my day.  After rehearsal I stay a while and pray, then visit with a minister there for about an hour before going home.  I check in with my EPO, chat with a friend for a while, watch some tv with my son, then tuck him in and stay up late – reflecting, reading, watching tv, etc.

Pieces of my life are still scattered all around me and I’m not sure what shape the puzzle is making.  I’m at a crossroads, the edge of the boat, as I’ve mentioned before.   My old life lies behind me, new self-destructive habits on one side, new life that I’ve been called to on the other.  I know which direction I need to go… what I’ve always struggled with is lining that direction up with where I WANT to go.  But the thought of turning back or away is a price that’s too high to pay… I just struggle with moving forward.  I feel like there is something I’m missing.  An insight, a clue – maybe some person I’m supposed to ask, some prayer to make.  I feel like I do when you reach that spot in your workout where you plateau and you have to kick it into higher gear to keep getting an effect, only I’m not sure how to kick it into higher gear.  And the dogpaddling is wearing me down.  I need help.  I need to ask for it.  It’s there, all I have to do is reach out for it, be willing to accept it.  But aren’t I supposed to be making this journey on my own?  I don’t understand.  And I feel like Luke watching Yoda effortlessly lift the X-wing from the Dagobagh swamp…I don’t believe it either… how am I supposed to do this?  And where do I find the strength to continue this journey?  (P.S. – b/c I know some of you will worry if I don’t, I’m NOT suicidal, that’s not the journey I’m talking about)  I’m just standing still instead of running… and I’m not entirely sure what’s next or what’s expected of me.  But I feel like the answer is right there and I’ll be ridiculed or let others down if I don’t see it…so I’m frustrated, and it hurts, and I turn away, because although my excuses sound exactly like what they are, I still can’t SEE any solutions…

but maybe there aren’t any…

more praying…and prayers would, as always, be appreciated…

Some days you wonder…

I.  As in me, myself and… I cannot do this alone.

This journey, this transition, this transformation… it’s something that utterly upsets the habits and balance of my life before and as such is beyond the entirety of my power to affect.  All I can do is be willing.  Willing and open to the opportunities and possibilities that are there for me to take if this is what I really want.  And I suppose at the end of the day that’s the question that matters more than all the rest.  I’ve been involuntarily liberated from my past and all the old ways of seeing and doing in my life.  Do I really want to go back to them?  I can, at least at times, see a partial picture of what might be laying on the horizon and I think it’s worth struggling for.  It’s just so bleedin’ far away…And I’m really tired.

I collapsed on my bedroom floor today for almost 45 minutes and cried…

Snowy Lenten thoughts…

So it’s late and I should totally be getting ready for bed and work tomorrow.  That’s the thing about weekends, you can’t wait for them to come but once here they disappear with a flash.  I’ve often wondered the older I get if that feeling would ever go away, much like children think the days last FOR-EEEEEEEEEEVER while we see the months just flyin’ by.  But I think not.  Weekends are like that I suppose.  Take this one for instance.  Friday night after work I went home, spent some time with my son finishing up our Yu-gi-oh card game we’d started the other night, fixed dinner and then I got together with some friends and role-played till about 1:30 in the morning or so.  Saturday I spent the day cleaning up my house and that evening I had about 12 people over for a game night, full of fun, food and board games which lasted till about 1am again, then a friend and I stayed up till about 3 watching a movie.  Sunday brought church, potluck (love our food!), then home to catch up on laundry and other cleaning up from Saturday, then roller-skating for about 90 minutes then home once more to get the kiddo ready for bed and then I settled in to watch a movie.  (Have I mentioned I really really like watching movies?)  And then this…

Where does my time go?

My son wanted to have someone over this week to come visit and as I started looking through my calender of this week it started looking something a bit like this –

Mon – Work, cook/clean, free rest of evening

Tues – Work, cook, roller-skating

Wed – Work, cook, Bible Study

Thurs – Work, cook, help at church with setting up rummage sale for sending our kids to summer church camp

Fri – Work, pick up drive-through, Game night with my friends

Sat – …..getting ready for my second IVLD day, but nothing else yet…

And I thought how amazing it was that I was the one so busy, not him.  Normally it’s the parents shuttling their children around, but this time it’s me.  But during this season of Lent we are supposed to spend the time in prayer and meditation.  Asking for forgiveness of our sins and spending time repenting.  This is a time of preparation, of getting ready to celebrate the miracle that was Easter.  But it has to start in the wilderness…away from all our business and the responsibilities of our lives.  One thing I found out this year as I was looking up some scriptures for church today was that the whole celebration of Lent arose from the scriptures in the Gospels of Jesus’ time in the wilderness before he began his ministry.  It was a time of preparation for him as well.  If Jesus needed such a time before he could go out and minister to the world around him, what does that tell us today about how important taking time away is?

And yet, can we do it voluntarily?  I celebrate my Involuntary Liberation Day the first Saturday of every March.  It’s to commemorate the day my ex-wife left me and I was liberated from the shadows of the man I was.  It’s not a celebration of my marriage ending, nor is it a celebration of the fact that she’s gone.  That’s the involuntary part.  I didn’t want it to end.  But WHEN it (my marriage) ended I was presented with the opportunity to be liberated from the mistakes of my past and the painful habits of a lifetime in a way I never would have dreamed of before.  So I celebrate the vista before me.  I have spent much of the past two years wandering in this wilderness.  Some of it has been my wanderings, other times I have allowed myself to be led.  Sometimes I have even managed to hear the voice prompting me in the direction I should be going.  It’s all been a part of my desert journey.  Moses led the Israelites in the desert for 40 years…not because they didn’t know the way, but because the generation that sinned against God had to pass from the earth before they could enter the promised land.  Those who had never known the spirit-crushing weight of slavery would be able to live and flourish in the new land God promised.  My spirit has been wandering because the parts of my life that have sinned against God must pass away before I can enter into a new covenant with Him.

I wasn’t sure I was gonna share anything about this here because as open as I’ve been on here before there are still some things I don’t like talking about…and I know some of the people who read this…of course part of it’s my own fault, I really don’t have to have this attached to my Facebook page…but this is too a part of who I am, and part of this is a public declaration of my desire to be made new in Christ’s own image and to become a better father for my son.  One of the things I am giving up for Lent is the negative images/thoughts/perceptions I have in my head of my own self-worth and of what women are like.

I struggle liking myself.  I have not had a really strong positive self-image since I was a teenager.  My experience with dating tainted, in many ways, my perception of myself and of relationships with women.  I won’t go into details, but I did not do well in the dating arena and got into situations where the decisions I made had very negative consequences for a number of people.  And for most of the past two decades I have not wanted to forgive myself for those mistakes.  Hindsight is not always 20/20 and the lens through which I viewed those times because the prism that delinieated who I was, what I was allowed to do, to say and to be.  I used the guilt, my guilt, and my shame from that time to build up walls around me and in time they twisted who I wanted to be and I became the kind of person who had to have others around me constantly telling me why I was worthwhile to feel loved.  I was a broken and needy soul who hounded others for approval and acceptance because I would not grant it myself.  I turned from those who could give it to me in healthy ways and instead indulged in a lifestyle of sex and drinking that was inherantly self-destructive, even as I sought out what I thought was love and acceptance.  The arrival of my son saved my life, in so many ways… but it did not uncomplicate it, nor did it suddenly make things all better.  Because of the circumstances of his birth and my relationship with his mother, I still struggle some days with how I view him and what my relationship with him should be/can be/will be.  But these last few years I have had several wonderful, challenging, compassionate people in my life who have challenged my old way of thinking in ways that I don’t always like, or want to talk about, or even think about in my own head.  It has hurt, it has caused me discomfort, examining BOTH the good and the bad actions I’ve done in the past and finding out where the ties are that have bound me down.  I don’t claim to know all of them yet, but I am on a path, and as I’m finding them this Lent season, I am letting go…or at least offering them to God, and trying to get out of the way when God takes them.  That has been my promise to God and my challenge.

I’ve also been struggling with reshaping my views on women.  They aren’t all crazy…well, not mean spirited crazy anyway.  😉

I have been hurt many times by women who saw me as a knight out to save them and then discard when no longer needed.  I have held my partners to unrealistic standards of what one person should be responsible for, it was not their place to heal all the hurts in my soul, nor make me into a whole person.  I need to do that myself with God’s help, and then if desired I can move slowly into a healthy relationship with someone.  But I have lots of trigger points, things that make me nervous, make me mad for no appreciable reason, that all arise from old arguements…  I have used and been used by past partners and desire a new way of thinking, living, loving.  All this is part of my penitential prayer –

God,

You who are our parent, lover, friend, and companion.  You whose love and joy know no bounds.  You who run to us with open arms.

I stand before you… broken…torn…ashamed.

I have turned from you, run from you, hide from you.  I have screamed at you, thrown myself away.  Still you chose to stay close.

I fought you until my strength gave out before the patience of your peace.

Holding me, you took me into the desert.

You walk with me, change me, mold me.  Even as the clay of my life screams out in pain and agony at the process I can feel something wonderful happening inside.

I know it’s not me that’s doing it.  But you require that we agree… that we invite you in.

I don’t remember everything that came before, weariness sometimes overtakes my mind.  But I remember the day I asked you.

I asked you to break me and make me new….and so we have gone to the desert together.

But now Lord, I stand halfway.  My scouring is completed for now… the temptations facing me are almost done.  Once again, my strength falters, once again weariness and shame press close in.

I beseech thee God, wrap me up in the joy of the life you offer.  Flood the wrinkles of my soul with your love.  May the peace of You bring balance to the stormy scene inside me.

My journey is not yet done.

I begin this Lent season with me.  With my sin.  With my repentance.  With my desire to turn closer to You.  Oh Lord, let us begin, and let it begin with me, that I may find new life in You.

Amen.

Going deeper

It’s not just a pretty slogan.

What does it mean to go deeper?  As a father, as a husband, as a disciple?  To  really invest yourself in what you are doing, to invest yourself with the people you’re with, to be fully present where you are?  We were studying a scripture from the book of Luke tonight in our Bible study, where Jesus takes Simon Peter out to the deeper part of the sea and has him pull up loads of fish, so much so that James and John are called for in the second boat and then both boats barely make it back to shore, where Jesus makes them fishers of men and they leave all behind to go with him.  There were a number of things that went through my head and heart tonight, but the two that struck me the strongest were “What happened to all that fish?” and “I’ll bet that that step from boat to shore was the longest one any of those brothers had ever taken.”

Being a parent is never easy.  I say this will all the accumulated wisdom of a man who knows just how little he knows.  I have apologized lots to my own parents and have managed thus far to not strangle my own offspring.  I don’t know very many people who chose to have kids.  Oh, I know people who were trying and people who were/are really excited, but timed it?  Planned, had everything really ready in their lives and then slam, bam, thank you… you get the idea.  No.  Not many like that.  Most of us had kids in the middle of everything else.  We were busy trying to live our own lives and suddenly here’s this thing, this life, this precious amazing gift, that you can’t tell exactly how you feel about it, because on the one hand it’s the most awesome thing in the world, and in the other, it’s gonna change EVERYTHING.  But it calls you to pay attention when you don’t want to.  It interrupts you when you’re trying to concentrate.  It frustrates you, embarasses you, pisses you off and generally drives you batty.  But when you are on your last nerve, just when things seem their bleakest, your child comes up to you and gives you an honest hug.  Not one that they think they have to give, or one that is to get something, but an honest-to-goodness “I love you” hug and it melts your heart.  They pull you to see how far you’ll go before you break, to see what they’re limits are, yet still they love you.  And somehow it still all (mostly) turns out all right.  Amazing to me…

Second only to being a parent has got to be a partner.  This is where the fish come in.  I mean seriously, these guys, Peter et al, had been out all night, working the late shift (which I can tell you from personal experience SUCKS) and then being asked by this interrerant preacher to go back out, back to work for just a little while.  Being partnered with somebody means making those trips, going out and sacrificing even when  you don’t really want to, just because somebody asks.  And then something miraculous happens, they succeed in ways they never dreamt possible…but that’s not the point of the story imo…and it’s interesting to me that after having this really cool thing happen Peter freaks out and in shame and fear tells Jesus to leave – “I am a sinner.”  Man, I’m right there with him.  When Jesus invades my crappy, smelly, hard working life to make amazing things happen, I don’t know that I want things to change, I don’t want any of this to get lost.  I know (or at least I think I do at times) who and what I am and what I have done.  But Jesus, like a good partner, looks past all that, sees the better person we are ALL called to be and loves us all the same.  And that call, to service and to discipleship means leaving everything you’ve known behind, even the most awesome catch that could set you up for life… because you realize how immaterial it all really is and are able to focus on what’s important.  THAT’S the amazing thing about this story, Jesus said there would be fish there and there were, and then he said to the fishermen “Come with me” and they DID.  Leading to my third point tonight…

They LEFT!  EVERYTHING!

There was no comment in the scripture that they hesitated, that they had to wrap up affairs or go say good-bye.  They pulled their leaky boats into shore, left the nets, catch, families, job, etc  behind and went to follow the Master.  Crap, I have a hard enough time making it to church some Sundays.  And these guys just left…or at least that’s what the story tells us.  But there is so much room in those words, as there is in all the rest of the Bible… it makes me wonder.  How did Peter get from “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man” to being one of those who left it all and followed Jesus, just from the boat ride back to shore?  Shore lines, like dawn/dusk and the edges of wild places have long been seen as places of holiness, where the divine leaks into this world.  Where people are transformed from one thing to another.  Jesus took them out away from shore, taking them deeper than they really wanted to go while they were tired, sore and I imagine, a little frustrated with this pushy preacher.  And transformed them upon their return… but I gotta think as they stepped off those boats to follow Him there was a lot going on in their heads.

That’s where I find myself right now.

I’ve gone deeper.  There are still plenty more miracles and things to learn ahead, no doubt of that, this is NOT the end but rather the beginning of the journey.

I’ve witnessed the miracle.  It terrifies me, awes me, encourages me, threatens me, lifts me up and offers me hope…yes… ALL at the same time.

And now I’m standing at the edge of my boat…staring at the shore…looking at the single longest step of my life I have ever taken.  I can’t do it myself.  As Paul talks about in Corinthians, something like this, this expression of faith, is not something that will come entirely from inside me.  It will be something bestowed from the Holy Spirit.  The question is…do I want it?  God is constantly giving us gifts and urging us forward to a better relationship with Him.  Taking this step means finally, truly, letting go of the illusion of control and following the wonder.  I don’t know how it will transform my life or the life of my son or those around me.  I stand here, waiting for a sign, a call, something, anything.  But I realize I’ve already received it.  The invitation is there and he’s waiting for me, there on the shore.  Arms outstretched and love shining in every movement, like we hope we have on our faces when our children turn to us.  And I am ashamed.  I am face to face with my lusts, my desires, my fears, my angers and all I want to say is God please, leave me be, I am a sinner, and not worthy of your presence.  But he stays…and calls to me to be a fisher of men.  God pushes God’s way into my busy, smelly, crazy life.  Where it’s not convinent, and it’s annoying and there are other things crying for attention… and God says “Love me.”  And go forth…

I can’t take this step on my own –

But I believe God wants me to take it…