Initial Camp Thoughts

“I’m sorry Dad for throwing everything back in your face and being such a jerk.”

My son spent the weekend at a Jr. High Church retreat at our local campground. I was nervous, as was he.  He’d never gone on a trip like this and considering that most recently he still thought God hated him, wasn’t sure if this was a good idea or not.  But I wanted to offer him every opportunity to get to know God’s love and the love of the community of believers that has been such a strength for me over the years.  He was a little mad at me when I dropped him off because I made him leave his Nintendo DS at home.  I swear if he could replace his hands with electronic games he would.  But he made it through the weekend…and came home with a different attitude.  And an apology.

“I’m sorry Dad for throwing everything back in your face…”

He talked with me about how he had “broken the bottle in half,” the bottle he used to stuff and keep everything in including all his negative feelings.  He told me he was able to share some of what had been on his mind and he was somewhat mystified why so many of the girls at camp had cried when he spoke…and he wasn’t sure how he felt about all the hugs he’d gotten from them either.  But he made new friends and had a good experience as the camp gave him a group hug and prayed over him.  I’m pretty sure this feeling will not last forever, but I DO hope that the changes begun this weekend stick.

Several of my friends and I were talking the other day before church and out of a number of topics covered one was, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  And while I have my own views on this which I will elucidate on later, it just seemed very timely a subject.  God does not promise that life will be easy, we need only look at Jesus’ life for that.  Nor does God promise us a life free of challenges.  What God DOES promise is to be with us and to love us, unconditionally and always.

Big promises.

Scary promises.

Joyful promises.

There IS joy in life…in every instance of life.  Joy does NOT equal happiness. And so this morning…drinking tea after getting my son to school, and before work begins… I find myself joyful, and thankful.

“God, I too am sorry for throwing everything back in your face.  And I’m also sorry for being such a jerk.”

Studying scriptures, and ourselves…

So tonight I went to my first scripture study in more than 10 years.  It’s not much, four of my friends and myself in one of their basements for an hour every Wednesday.  But it’s a start.  As one of them said, “I’m a better person when I’m pressed up against the Word” and he’s right.  This path forces me to confront a lot of things about myself.  Like a thought I had the other day that’s not a particularly comfortable thought – I really think a large part of my flirty nature comes from feelings of guilt and shame.  I don’t think I am worthwhile unless I have the attention of an attractive and/or interesting individual (men and women, I flirt with both and find both interesting, although I am strongly hetro).  I don’t know if it’s that I don’t know where these feelings come from or the fact that I’m just not ready to face them yet.  I have a hunch it’s probably the latter.  But the scripture we began with tonight really touched on that issue and I want to share it here:

I Corinthians 12:1-11

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (NIV)

ALL have gifts.  ALL are of worth and equal before God.  I really struggle with that.

I believe it, I hope for it, I desire it…but I fight it.  If I truly accept what it means, than it means that God loves me just the way I am, just because I am and it opens the door for others to love me for similar reasons.  My son is not the only one who struggles with trust.  There is also an inference in this passage, that you have to get out of the way, you have to let go, let the Spirit move in you.  I’m a bit of a control freak.  I don’t like to lose control, I don’t like to give control up.  It’s scary to really understand and accept what it means when this passage and indeed this whole letter talk about how each one of us is needed and gifted and loved before God equally.  Equality is a nice concept, but it’s not a comfortable one in practice.  There are the people we like and the ones we don’t.  There are the stories we like to tell and the ones we don’t want to hear.  We discriminate in large and small ways every day.  And discrimination as a word is not bad.  It means to make a choice.  But before God, there is no choice, God IS Love, God loves us whether or not we want it, whether or not we listen, whether or not we have anything at all to do with God.  God Loves.  We’re the ones with the choice.  To accept the gifts that God has already blessed us with – TO GO FORTH TO OUR COMMUNITY with, or not… and stay at home and do nothing for the greater good of our fellow human beings.

This seems especially appropriate today in light of what happened in Haiti.  What are the gifts we have been given?  How can they impact the people there?  How can our gifts be used to serve those who hurt and are in pain or surrounded by lonliness and loss in our communities?

One thing that struck me tonight as we were discussing this were thoughts for this weekend.  I’ve mentioned it before but I don’t know how recently, but I am the young adult leader at my congregation.  And Saturday is what I hope will be the first of many monthly game nights.  There will be other events, some more specifically focused on church as such, but Saturday is a time for fellowship and fun.  And that’s okay.  That too, is part of building those relationships we are called to bring into being.  My church believes we are called to “Bring forth communities of love, hope, joy and peace.” [okay so actually the wording I think is “Promote communities”  I just like bring forth better]  But can I be more intentional with getting ready for Saturday?  What can I do to make my home a sanctuary for people?  A place to find any or all of those things – joy, love, hope and peace.  What actions do I need to take and just as important, when do I let go, to let the Spirit breathe?  These are the things going to be going through my mind the next few days.  This will be a no kid event, my son is spending the night over at this grandparents, I love him but it’s a little hard to host and harrangue at the same time.  I’m excited for Saturday, I think the people coming are excited.  And I’ll be praying – for joy (which is not the same thing as happiness), peace, love and hope…and to know when to get out of the way and let go…

Yeah… this whole studying thing is gonna be interesting…

What a difference summer makes…

Wow… so I got looking on here and hadn’t realized just exactly how long it has been since I last wrote something.  There has been so much happening it’s almost hard to know where and when to start from.  Well, for starters I supposed I should mention that I’ve finally finished the divorce paperwork…at least until some lawyer looks at it and tells me how much of it I’ve screwed up.  Called a friend of my mother’s in the legal profession to see if she could recommend some names.  Now I just have to pick one and call.  Still struggling with that one.  Not because I have any lingering illusions or desires to “save this one.”  Oh no… that’s also part of this, things have definitely moved on.  I come from a family and faith tradition however that very much is of the 1 marriage for life school of thought and this is the second one of mine to fail.

Granted, the first one, we were both kids who both knew we probably shouldn’t but did anyway, at least in part just to rebel against people.  But still…there is some sting to the idea that I have had two divorces in my life – by the age of 31.  And I’ve never been married to my son’s mother…ah well, my family loves me anyway.

Work is good but crazy busy.  Our department has become even more crucial to the institution I work for which is great job security but means longer hours, more work and more stress.  But in the current economic environment I say… “Thank you.”  I’d rather have stress from too much work than not nearly enough.  I’ve been there, don’t want to go back.  I like paying my bills on time.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year and a half or so since things ended.  I keep thinking about how long ago it was and suddenly get jarred by the fact that I suppose in the grand scheme of things it hasn’t really been that long ago.  But the person I am now is so very different… it really is almost like a before and after picture.  I know I feel it to.

One of my multitude of cousins (albeit a very special cousin) asked me a couple of weeks ago how my whole swearing off of women was going and I had to admit…well, I almost lasted a year and a half before I started thinking about it again.  I’ve begun spending a lot of time with an old friend who has known my son and I for almost 9 years and has had a good relationship with both of us.  We’ve gone on a couple of dates and talk most nights.  We’re trying to take it slow, for a lot of reasons, and by and large are doing okay with that.  I don’t mind the fact that I’m seeing her or spending time with her, but I don’t want to say we’re dating, not yet.  Although, for all practical purposes we are.  I suppose more than anything it has to do with the fact that although my divorce is done in all but name…it’s done in all but name…and because of who I am and who I was raised to be and who I am trying to  become, that matters to me.  I want it done.  I want to tell people, yes I’m dating again and have found this woman who I’m really into.  But I haven’t gotten to yet…although most of my close friends and some family know.  So I’m not really sure who or what I’m hiding anymore.

This summer has been absolutely crazy.

And, for the record, I HATE split parent, split state, split parenting.  I’ll spare you all the details  but suffice it to say that when I pick up my son, he will have been without his ADHD meds for two weeks and that the neck injury he sustained two days after I dropped him off at his mothers still is bothering him and still hasn’t been seen by a doctor.  That’s first on the list after we get home.  And then we begin middle school…wheee.

So.

I still haven’t gone back and read all these.  There are some things I don’t need to know or review yet.  I just need to know that I’ve written them, I’ve said them and they are out of me, no longer locked inside, eating me up.

If nothing else in the long run of my life comes out of this, although I have my hopes, there is that.  I have finally begun learning how to let go of things.  To truly experience ALL that life has to offer and not flinch or hide or ignore the pain, the fear, the anger.  It’s a smoother ride oddly enough.  But perhaps not so odd when you consider that now instead of a bomb going off inside fairly infrequently, it’s more like the fourth of July with little firecrackers going off more regularly.  And let’s face it, the little ones don’t really hurt.

Storytelling

My Grandfather and me
My Grandfather and me

Being a storyteller is a dying art.

There is a deep and powerful tradition of storytelling throughout human history.  People would gather around fires, in dining halls, cabins, and numerous other places to hear a great yarn, or to spin one.  Stories were how people communicated history, identity, dreams for the future, rules to live by and countless other things.  People always have their own ideas as to what quality is MOST human.  Personally I think it’s our ability to tell stories.  Other animals use tools, pass on knowledge, require companionship and have some sort of social hiearchy.  Other animals feel/show pain, joy, love.  Other animals communicate through amazing means.  But I don’t see any of them gathering around to tell stories.  Granted, I’m not entirely convinced they don’t…especially whales and elephants…I mean what else are those big mammels going to do with all their free time…but anyway…

Stories are how we pass on religious truths, family traditions, the importance of heratige, and yet…all too often as a society it seems that we defer that responsibility to others.  TV, movies, books – those who are gifted at telling great tales have a celebrated place, as they always have.  Their audiences are wider and tools flashier to be sure.  But is that the same?  Sitting in a darkened theatre with fifty other people, staring of moving pictures of other people having adventures, then leaving afterwards quietly to go on with our own lives…is that what we’re reduced to?

I tell stories to strech my imagination, to share hopes and dreams with friends and family.  I tell stories because I want to recount funny memories, share important thoughts, share beliefs.  I’ve often viewed my role-playing hobby and the ministry that I offer to be very similar.  Both rely on a sense of the emotional moment, appropriate use of drama and comedy, both bring people together and can pass on knowledge or raise important questions.  It’s one of the reasons I try to read to my son at least a couple times a week.  We end up talking about the story and what words mean almost as much as we actually read.  Sometimes I make up stuff too.  It’s the sharing that’s important.  That’s part of what’s missing in the stories we tell each other today.  Where is the sharing, the common bonds that bind us together?

We often hear phrases like “global village,” “common humanity,” “shared future.”  But what are the stories we tell to make it real?  How do we transmit the importance (if you feel it’s important…I do obviously) of these concepts to our own personal community?  One person standing behind a podium lecturing us changes nothing.  Repeated video clips of people requesting help, challenging us to change, encouraging us to a brighter future…they may help for a time.  But stories are what endure.  Stories are what remain.

One of the best moments of the last couple years for me, came at one of the most difficult times – the death of my maternal grandfather.  He moreso than almost anyone I knew lived a life of stories.  As the last day of my grandfather’s life here on Earth began he had been moved out to the living room in his bed, so we could all be near him and present with him.  He was unconscious for most of the day, but there, at the end he woke ever so briefly – my son got to show him the last picture he ever made for him as well as some toys he’d gotten for that Christmas.  I doubt that image will ever leave my mind.  My grandfather, a man of virtue, love, laughter and stories, creating one last memory…one last story, there at the end.

We are made of stories.

The stories we tell ourselves to get by.  The stories we share with others to define how they perceive us.  The stories that are told about us that shape others outlooks on us and our actions.  The stories that make us laugh, the ones that make us cry.  The stories that bring us hope, hope that, in the end, it will all mean something.  I love telling stoires.  I love hearing stories.  They may be the same stories over and over again, but sharing them with people anew, every time they’re a little different.  I think that’s one of the reasons I like stories better than movies or novels.  A story is a living breathing evolving thing.  Just like us.

I don’t know where my story ends.  I hope not for a while.  I’m not sure of how my son’s story will turn out.  I’ll do my best to share with him the stories that I think are important.  Others will share theirs.  Hopefully mine are funnier.  He is already making his own story.  And his story, our story is impacting the lives of many others who have tied their stories to ours.  We are woven together with words.  We are the story of humanity.  One of the greatest reactions I ever got out of my Sunday School class was when I told them they are creating the next set of Bible stories.  All of us are, every day as we live, breath, love and die in this world.

You are part of someone’s story.  Maybe part of mine.  Just by reading this, you slip in, maybe not say anything, but your passing is noted.  Your interest impacts somewhere.  Stories are strange and mysterious things.  They have a way of starting one way and suddenly veering off in a totally different direction.  But in the really good ones – it all ties down together at the bottom.

Below is my eulogy I wrote for my Grandfather’s funeral.  As you read it, ask yourself this – “What’s my story?  And what’s it say about me?”

It should be noted in history, that by common consent with tear-stained cheeks and bittersweet smiles, this was one of the best Christmas’ ever.  It seems strange to say but I believe Grampie would understand, and agree.

The love and support that has been shown to me and my family has simply been overwhelming.  Couple that with the stories, the laughter and the sharing that my family has done with almost all of us here…it’s been a long time since this many of us were gathered together.

I can’t define my grandfather, but I can share with you this.  Grampie was not a particularly demonstrative man with his emotions, especially the soft-touchy feely ones, but I never have known another man whose life was so full of love.  He showered us with it.  Me, the skunk, the prune, all the George’s, we’ve never doubted his love for us.

I was blessed with a rather unique opportunity in that for eleven years I got to travel with my grandparents every summer to various reunions, sorry family camps now, all over the country.  As I’ve grown older the memories tend to blur together but there are many things I still remember, like sharing the tranatuala with Phil among others, Grampie showing me how to shake out my shoes for scorpions, him and that bag of rattlesnake eggs, grammie taking me out swimming in Lake Huron.  Grandpa teaching me how to play harmonica in the back seat of their car.  Many more memories have been shared this past week.

With mom in the hospital a lot as a child I can remember spending lots of weekends with my grandparents.  Much of that time was taken up playing games, among them Carum & Crokanal.  That was grandpa’s and mine’s special game.  We’be break out the pieces and spend what seemed like hours flicking those small wooden pieces all over the place and oh how he’d jump and laugh whenever we sent one over the edge.  Many was the time he’d get a look in his eye and nod over in grandma’s direction as she sat blissfully unaware in her chair and then grandpa would let fly and it’d land right in her lap and she’d be all a flutter. Or driving with him in the car and playing tag the bumper with the car in front, or complaining about “female drivers”, just to get grandma riled up.  Of course I couldn’t talk about him and not mention circus peanuts and licorice.  Grandpa had a special drawer where he kept his bag of circus peanuts right by the bed and he’d parcel them out every time I came over.  I was also his guinia pig when it came to hot sauces and cheese and I have to admit, my own son has suffered some of the same EEEghhhewww and AAAHHHAHHAAH as I have over the years from gorgonzola and goat milk cheese to jalapenos and habenaros.

We are a left today with a legacy of laughter and love.  I’m reminded of that even as my heart cries because of something grandpa said to me about joy.  It’s not that joy means we’ll never have pain, it’s that we believe in the hope and promise of what’s to come in the midst of our pain that we may thrive and live with glad hearts and good cheer.

The week before…

So it’s the week before my I.L.D. (see earlier post for explanation) and it’s been going pretty much how I expected it to.  Not as I wanted it to mind, but as one of my friends would say “the universe is listening, even to the things you aren’t saying.”  So I can’t really complain, and honestly?  I don’t really want to.

I’ve been blessed.  And I try to have the first thing I say every morning be thanks for being alive.  Usually because by around noon I’m ready for the end of my day!

But back to this week.  Monday my sister goes to the hospital with a possible heart attack.  They still don’t know what may have happened there.  Tuesday work goes nuts, I’m a day behind and buried under new projects.  That evening I find myself in an uncomfortable position of knowing something I don’t really want to about several of my friends.  Wednesday, I manage to finally fully pinch the nerve in my neck that’s been bugging me the last few months…and still help my father move antique pump organs…and that’s a whole ‘nuther blog all on its own.  And my son gets into a fight with a friend and comes home crying and upset (forgot to do his homework, had a bad day at school), tries to start a fight with me about my (ex) wife leaving, then curls up in my lap for about an hour crying and punching the fish pillow to get out his anger so he “doesn’t destroy anything or take it out on somebody else.”  Oh and did I mention that at work the Platte Co Fire Dept is training so there are fire trucks, sirens and alarms going off at random times during the day…we were told to ignore them though so unless something blows up when the fire comes we’ll all still be at station waiting for the other person to leave.

Like lemmings at Pompeii.

So tomorrow’s Thursday.  I never really got the hang of Thursdays…

I sooooooooooooooo can’t wait for the weekend.

MS Walk-a-thon

Dear Friends and Family,

Imagine this: One day you’re feeling pretty good. The next day you can’t walk, or see, or even get out of bed. Like some bizarre nightmare, you never know when it will strike or how long it will last.

Moving is so much of who we are, it’s easy to take for granted.  Multiple sclerosis stops people from moving.  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society exists to make sure it doesn’t.

In April 2009, I will join the movement by participating in Walk MS to create a world free of multiple sclerosis. By making a donation on my behalf, you help the Mid America Chapter provide local programs and services to more than 25,000 of our friends and neighbors who live with the daily effects of this disease.  While the MS Society works to end MS, I will be helping people with MS move ahead.

Please help by making a donation – large or small – to create a world free of MS. Or, why not join me on the day of the event? Become a participant and side by side, as teammates, we can work together to raise the funds to make a difference. We need the wider world to understand what it means to live with MS.  MS robs people of the ability to move easily, whether from one place to another or from one thought to another, or to move ahead with their lives as they expected to do.

Whatever you can give will help! I greatly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress.

Sincerely,
Mark Robison

Click here to get to my personal page and make a secure, online donation.

To send a donation: Make all checks payable to: National MS Society Mail to: Mark Robison 407 W. Walnut Independence, MO 64050-3630


National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis. Learn about your options by talking to your health care professional and contacting the National MS Society at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/1-800-FIGHT-MS (344-4867). or

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National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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Rollerskating is hard after 20 years…

So I’ve started taking my son to a roller-skating rink that’s about two miles from our house every Sunday evening.  Skating is 50 cents admission, 50 cent shoe rental, and it’s supposed to be all 50’s music, so while Elvis and Motown bands are highlighted, I’m not sure that members of Def Leopard were even born in the 50’s.  However it has started to become a real bonding experince for us both although I will be the first to admit that getting back on skates after two major ankle injuries, adding about 100 pounds and around a 20 year hiatus means that this is not nearly as easy as it looks.  Point of fact, when we went last Sunday one of my best friends – “Troll” and his wife “Notchyamamma,”  Notchyamamma had a couple of nasty spills while trying to dodge the little Death Skaters who were weaving in and out like little demonic torpedos.

So why do it then?

First of all I do love skating.  When I was younger, every opportunity I got I was out on the rink.  I wasn’t ever very good (I don’t think I ever learned to do it backwards), but I loved the feel of the floor flowing past my feet and the wind against my face.  Trying to impress the girls probably also factored in a lil’ bit.

Secondly, my son and I don’t have a lot of things in common.  Or perhaps, it would be better to say that we have too many things in common, but not enough that we can share with each other.  It’s hard to share video games, I don’t care what the creators of those games may say.  My son’s playing style and mine clash almost at once.  We both like board games but again, we’re polar opposities in what we like.  He likes card and dice games – Yugi, Uno, Bangalore, Yahtzee – games that don’t take a lot of patience or planning and offer quick rewards; and I like strategy games – Risk, Monopoly, Axis & Allies, Clue – games that require cunning, planning and patience.  We like the same sorts of movies but generally don’t want to watch them at the same time.  We like books but that’s not really a group activity, although I do read to him at bed time.

So we go roller skating because that, that we can share.  We don’t have to be right next to each other or constantly involved with each other (last week I was ditched for a couple of girls from his school class).  But it is something that we can spend time doing together and when he wants me to skate next to him while he gets his feet under him, I can.  It was the same with our walks in the fall.  I can’t wait for nicer weather so we can start them up again.  When I would come to pick him up the first words out of his mouth many a time were “We’re going for our walk tonight right?”  Again it wasn’t that he was by my side during the walk or that he talked to me much.  Mostly he ran side to side while I kept moving forward but I think it was mostly the knowledge that my attention wasn’t distracted by fixing dinner, cleaning house, talking on the phone or any of the other imporant but painful distractions that kept me from focusing on him.  He was very sad when we had to cancel those due to cold weather.

Spring Soccer season is also coming up.  I’ve already gotten the flyer for sign-ups.  He’s been growing like a weed this year so he’ll probably need new cleats, shin guards and all the rest.  But will I buy them?  Of course…

It’s something else we can share in together.  And besides he loves it when I can round up 5 or 7 of my friends along with family members and we come out to cheer.  Secretly I think he loves having the biggest cheering section during the games, even if he does bury his head when his dad and dad’s friends spontaneously break into bad renditions of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and/or dance around the edge of the field when his team scores.

Somethings are more important than old injuries, being out of shape and practice.  Rollerskaing is hard after 20 years…

I hear parenting for that long is too.