So where does the Fall find me?

Inspiration Point
Rainbow at the point our last day at Yellowstone

Interesting places I suppose, would be the somewhat cryptic and flippant answer.  But in truth I’m not entirely sure how else to describe it.  So far this fall, I have become involved with a wonderful young woman in a relationship that probably was not a surprise to anyone else but me.  My son has started 7th grade and is dealing with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts and other such joys of middle school.  I’ve been dealing with stress and anxiety that may be behind what put me in the hospital for about 5 hours the other day on suspicion of having a heart attack.  I’m due to be ordained a minister in just over a week and a couple months after that take over as co-pastor in my local congregation.  I have hit a rough patch in my relationship with my best friend and am struggling to figure out how to move forward in love and friendship without causing any more pain to him as it appears to be largely my fault we got to this place to begin with.  There are family issues, health issues, friendship issues, work issues and other issues, but when is there not?

I still have a job, a roof over our heads, good friends and family, food on the table and a life filled with other numerous blessings.  I am finding time to spend in quiet prayer and study.  I am hanging out with my son more as we try to figure out how not to kill each other, even as it seems both our lives pick up speed.  My girlfriend lives just across the hall so I get to see her everyday.  I am surrounded by loving examples of God’s love for each of us and I thank God for it each day.

That does not mean I don’t struggle.  I am stressed about my son, although I think we have him in a good place at the moment, there is a part of me that struggles with feeling a bit like a failure as we go from family therapist to school counselor to psychiatrist even though plenty of folks tell me I shouldn’t.  We are both learning new coping skills and ways of handling stress although I think he is learning better than I am.  I hope so at least.  I would just as soon he not have as stressful a life as I have had the tendency to do to myself.

I struggle with how to be a better friend.  I get nervous when people get too close, start exerting too much influence in my life, even when it’s my decision to allow that to happen.  As I’ve been reading up and learning about reactive attachment, which coincendently may be part of my son’s issue, I am surprised at how many of the qualities apply to my life.  I don’t blame this for what has happened, but it has caused me to rethink how I have handled people getting close to me in times past.  It causes stress to me when people I care about and who are close to me do not appear to approve of my choices and/or decisions, even if they do not feel strongly one way or the other, I have had a tendancy to put my own uncomfortableness onto them creating an unhealthy/unhelpful view of how things really are which makes it difficult at times to find solutions.  I really would like close and healthy relationships with people and I have been getting help, counseling and training on how to do that, but don’t let anyone ever tell you this is something that comes naturally.  Being in community, living in community is messy and hurts and is not easy.  But the rewards of being in that sort of loving unity with other people is something that it worth giving up lots of other things for.

One of the challenges I suppose I face as I move forward is that I struggle with being vulnerable.  I am a wounded person.  I have scars, anger, hurt, loss and grief as part of the tapestry of my life.  That has been part of what this blog is about.  A safe, neutral ground to allow this stuff to get out.

But I am also a beloved child of God.  I have value, am loved, and am of worth.  The key is for me to be willing to accept that, not only from God but from those around me who are also part of the community I am a part of.  Only in this way can I be a wounded healer.  It is not up to me to be perfect or fine or for things to be 100% good in my life before I move out in ministry.  This is true whether I am a priesthood member or not.  The only thing priesthood does for me is allows me to broaden the way in which I serve the people around me.  It doesn’t make me perfect or make me more spiritual or more deserving or something.  It is a covenant between God and me and the denomination I belong to.  It is a willingness to learn to be vulnerable, to serve, and in one respect to fail.

What I mean by that is to fail to rely on my own strength and instead rely on God.  Part of the challenge I face is in letting go of the illusion of control over my life and place it in God’s hands.  I am still responsible for my own actions, the good and the bad.  But as a minister in the service of God it is not about me, or my desire for recognition or anything like that.  It is about failing to be proud and wise and strong as the world tells us we ought to be.  And it is about being humble and foolish and weak, so that what is shown through our lives is the power of God at work.

I don’t know yet exactly how to balance everything out on my plate at the moment.  I will admit that.  I don’t know that I am making the perhaps the best choice by accepting all this at once.  I know I believe in my calling to the priesthood.  It just took me not wanting to push for it to get here and now I have to figure out how to answer the call faithfully.  I know that I cannot do it all as pastor or even co-pastor by myself, without all those around me and in my community.  I will make mistakes, there will be stress and trials and I will see sides of people that will hurt me.  But I also believe that God is with me as I move forward into this as well.  Grad school is on hold at the moment and I’m okay with that.  Work is lightening up my load to give me time and space to deal with things and is looking to get me additional co-workers to help carry my responsibilities.  I am still on track to mix up my social calendar enough to open up more slots and am learning to say no with less guilt.  My son and I are working together to become a better unit.  We are both getting training and help from counselors, psychiatrists and therapists.  At the end of the day I’m not entirely sure if I could do any more.  I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and I will work to heal those rifts I have contributed to.

I am sure there is probably more I could say on all this, but this has already turned waaaaay more long winded than I planned.  But I am equally sure that this next year is going to be amazing, challenging, joyful, stressful and filled with new things.  May we share the path and walk the walk together in the light.  Peace and blessings.

Long overdue on silence…

It was recommended to me that I blog about my experiences several weeks ago at a silent retreat before they escaped into the recesses of memory.  Admittedly part of the reason I have not yet felt overly compelled to do so was because some of the experience of change was still flowing so powerfully through me.  The rest though… part of that was just plain laziness I think.  Or me being passive aggressive again.

So…

I don’t know that I’ll detail everything yet, some things I still feel like I’m processing, but one thing I definitely wanted to share was my time as a fisherman.  Or rather, what it meant/means to follow in the footsteps of a fisherman of God.

I started off the weekend with a strong sense of expectancy and for those who have never attended a silent retreat, you go the entire time without speaking, for however long the session is, in this case a little over 36 hours.  It starts on a Friday night, all day Saturday and then Sunday till early afternoon.  It’s at a campground far removed from road noise, cell phone signals and the like.  I leave my music, internet, tv, etc behind and bring just me, my bible (and this time St. Augustine as well, although we didn’t get to rekindle our conversation, he had to move aside for Peter) and stuff to wear.

I didn’t think I had an agenda in coming, other than to get away from all that is my life for a bit and re-connect, re-fresh with the source of all my joy and peace.  I thought I didn’t have an agenda…but I did.

I may not have wanted to recognize it, but it was there… and it made it difficult for the beginning of the weekend to get myself into the mood.  I don’t know that I have good words to describe what my agenda was, but what happened to me was I was reminded of and directed to consider two very important words – Forgiveness and Trust.

FORGIVENESS –noun

1.

act of forgiving; state of being forgiven.
2.

disposition or willingness to forgive.

TRUST –noun

1.

reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2.

confident expectation of something; hope.
3.

confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit: to sell merchandise on trust.
4.

a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.
Both these words resound in my mind and won’t leave me alone.  As I’ve stated before the first declaration I need to learn, to feel the truth of in my bones is the fact that I can be forgiven, that I can forgive myself, and that I can forgive those who have hurt me most.  I was reminded that in some cases the act of forgiveness is a matter of acknowledging to God that I can’t do it on my own, but to express a willing desire to allow God to move into that part of my life and begin to make it whole.  Forgiveness is a process, not an end product and it doesn’t mean all is forgotten, nor that the slate is wiped clean.  What it means, to me, is that the weight of the pain and anger et al is no longer chains binding me down, holding me back.  I don’t have to go be best friends with the people who have hurt me, but I can let go of my own responses and give them over to God who is big enough to handle it all and fill the space in my heart with God’s peace and love.  And if I’m going to keep moving forward on this desert journey, that’s one thing I have to do… let go and ask for God’s assistance, cause some things I am too human to forgive on my own.  But I am willing to allow God to work in my life to bring healing, and that’s a step forward.
Trust is something else altogether…
I suppose were I being completely upfront I’m not sure it’s something entirely different, but it too has been something I have really struggled with.  Trusting myself, trusting others…or not as the case may be.  Putting limits on the amount of trust I was willing to hand out, capped the amount of trust I was willing to receive back.  It made it hard to trust the one in whom I should have had the most trust.  To truly believe in where I was heading and the things I have been called to do.  See also me asking forgiveness for this…
Making the realization that these two watchwords need to be special attention in my mind I started doing a lot of praying and continued reading in my daily Bible.  I’m working on making all the way through the whole book in a year… so far I’m only a week behind… not bad all things considered.
During this time however, at the retreat, my father brought to my attention a book on St. Peter and the trials he faced and the struggles he failed to overcome and the ones with God’s assistance he triumphed over.  I started reading it and as if scales dropped from my eyes (and it’s the first time I’ve ever understood that phrase) the devotional prayers and the story of this man from Galilee hit me like a ton of bricks.  One of my earlier posts referenced Jesus’ call to Peter that first day when he called to him from the shore to toss his nets on the other side of the boat.  Upon reaching the shore I imagine Peter and I know me, struggled with taking  that first step off the boat to follow this Messiah.  I’ve written some more I’ll share on here later, but for now I wanted to share this.
After that weekend I’ve stepped off the boat…
My shore legs are still wobbly and I’m not sure how this all will turn out.  But I’m finally following the footsteps of one who wants to dance along the shore with me and bring me into the joy of a true fellowship with my fellow human beings.
The path begins here…

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!

Since I’m too miserable to sleep anyway…

I would ask who’s got time for a little dialogue on Nietzche or Plato but that takes a bit more than I’ve got in me at the moment, even if sleep, like a clear breath, is eluding me at the present time.  My best friend once asked me to consider if part of the reason I struggle with insomnia is because I don’t think I deserve sleep.  I think there is some truth to that…well, that and allergies and being so drugged up I can barely walk straight (*see allergies) but not so drugged I can fall asleep.  But in the meantime I wanted to articulate, albeit probably not really at the top of my form, what are some of the things I want out of this process.  I got a chip from my EPO marking the 1/4 portion of the way through.  It’s not quite, but close enough to matter, so this seems like a good time, since I’m sleep deprived, cranky and emotionally raw, to start…

1.)  I want to use this year and a day to review how I approach being in relationship with people, with particular emphasis to intimate relationships.  I was once told that “great sex comes and goes but it’s the company that matters.”  And I would like to learn how to be the second part of that phrase, be better company.  Honestly question what my motives have been over the years without becoming bogged down in minutae and hand-wringing, but seriously looking for the lessons I can learn and work to improve the man I occassionally catch glimpses of in the mirror and in the smile of others.

2.) I want to use this time to explore my relationship with my son.  Due to circumstances beyond his control I have had a number of issues being around him, particularly as he’s gotten older and I see more of his mother in him.  I’ve been uncomfortable with this duality, as my feelings towards her are hardly charitable at the best of times, but my feelings towards him are generally positive…but when they get mixed up…  I want to love and respect my son for who HE is, not what I have struggled to define… if that even makes sense.  Anyway, I want to be a better father.  I have managed to hold the two of us and this household together on my own these last few years.  I could NOT have done it without the love, assistance and support of my circle of family and friends, but I didn’t have to be in a relationship with someone else to raise my son.  I am NOT a victim of my circumstance, but a chooser.  And I chose to love my son and to be the best father I can learn to be…

3.) Regardless of what the first entry into this blog was about, I started this journey the moment I stood up in front of a crowd of people whom I had disappointed and hurt, but who loved me anyway and asked them to forgive me and promised to God that I’d stop running away from whatever it was God wanted me to do.  I started with a prayer… a prayer to be remade.  So the last thing I’d like to make progress on this year is my relationship with God and Christ.  Where does the ministry that I feel called to provide fall into my life?  Where, when and how will I make time for God and others?  How can I best respond to the love that is constantly being poured out upon me?  It’s a bit intimidating and in my opinion it aught to be…  The love of the Almighty should scare the pants off of us at first.  It’s not like anything our experiences here in this existence prepare us for and as it picks you up and wraps around you and gushes through you it takes your breath away.  There’s truly nothing like it… and that’s what makes it so special, and so freely given.  If I truly believe that God’s love has touched my life then how can I NOT respond?  I spent years looking…but I’m done with that now.

I WANT this.

I’m ASKING for this.

I’m WORKING for this.

To be or not to be… it really is the question.

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…

Wants.

Lust

Gluttony

Greed

Sloth

Wrath

Envy

Pride

Known by many different names and at times with a slightly different configuration, these are the most commonly known “7 Deadly Sins.”  This has been on my mind a bit the last day or two.  No surprise to those who read my last post about getting ready for Lent.  In looking at this list, in so many ways the three that I think I deal with the most are Lust, Pride and Wrath.  Those are the wolves I am working on learning not to feed.  But as often happens after our weekly Bible study I have something on these I want to write about.

Our scripture tonight came from Phillipians 3:17-4:1

Philippians 3:17-4:1 (New International Version)

17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 4

1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

The thing that struck me as we were discussing this passage and in thinking about the list above was how both this passage and that list are about WANTing instead of BEing.  As Paul is saying in this letter, the enemies of the Cross are those who want earthly things (not just material things), Lust is about wanting sex, Pride is about wanting recognition, Wrath is about wanting to harm those around you just to name a few, instead of doing as Christ and as Paul (by extension) have done and instead BE.  We were created to BE with God, to BE in creation, to simply BE.  If one is truly in the moment, there is a shift, a change, a recognition of something greater than the self that exists and for me at least that is part of what Paul is writing about.  He’s sitting here in prison about to be executed and he’s talking about how he is “awaiting a Savior,” not going to find one, not trying to escape, but simply being, placing his faith and trust in the one he’s come to know and love and follow.  It’s a challenging thing.  To contemplate setting aside these wants of mine.

That’s part of what this season is all about though.  Okay okay, so probably all of it in actuality.  It’s an opportunity to BE with God, put aside our wants, but not just for these 40 days, or even for a few months.  These 40 days are a long enough period of time that once over, we can be free of those wants if we wish.  They may come again at different times, in different guises, but these wants, the ones we leave in the wilderness as an offering, from these are we free… and as we learn to walk closer to Christ the easier it will be to turn from them in later times.  NOT easy… easier.  BIG difference.  I’m still learning how big, and I won’t deny that it’s been hard.

I’m almost through my second month since the divorce became finalized.  It’s been almost two years since things changed and I find myself in a weird position.  Because now I’m at a place where I can look at me.  Honestly look at me…not something I particularly enjoy or am good at, but am finding more and more necessary.  My view is not blocked by the pain and memory of what was, the want for that faded a while ago.  So now I can see the wants I have carried all the years before.  I see how they affect my life, my relationships.  I learn more about myself each day.  I struggle to remind myself that I still have far to go.

Wants…

Crazy things.  Necessary things sometimes, in healthy ways.  But at the end of the day, we are called to “Be” not called to “Want.”  So who am I gonna be like.  Who am I gonna model my life on.  Who am I gonna try to live for.  Who has and will part of me die for.  It’s all sitting somewhere between what’s wanted and what’s being.

I can’t wait till my ILVD and silent retreat.  More on those later…

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…