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

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…

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…

Leaving the wolf behind –

Which wolf do I feed?

There is an old parable that talks about two wolves and I’ve posted it at the end of this post.  I don’t know if it’s an actual tale or not and it doesn’t really matter.  The story is true in the way that all good stories are and it posits the important question…Which wolf will I feed?

I find however, that the older I get the question is more a matter of how do I stop and leave the bad wolf, I like to call it Fenris, behind?  Leaving the wolf behind is no easy matter.  It all got started with a discussion with a friend of mine, whom I love with all my heart and the question posed to me was – “Do you think you deserve sleep?”

I had been sharing the difficulties I have had in my life with insomnia.  For most of the last week I’ve been sleeping on my futon out in the living room.  If I’m being completely honest with myself it’s because the bed was too big without someone else in it, and because I don’t like to let go (of anything, control is an issue I struggle with).  And after talking about my struggles this friend put out this comment for me to mull over and think about… Along with asking if I truly liked myself.  A wise friend indeed.

So.  As he knew it would the question sat on my head, and I’ve talked about it with a couple of other people, but I’d resisted putting on here.  I write here when I’m really looking into my life and when I can convince myself that I don’t have to be so introspective I stay away from here.  But my journey is not done yet, despite what my wolf says as it tries to pull me away.

Do I deserve sleep?

I’ve been fighting a cold that I probably got because I didn’t have enough rest.

I struggle with making decisions in part because I don’t sleep long enough.

What does it mean to deserve sleep?

My grandfather used to joke that there’s no rest for the wicked and the rightous don’t need any.  And then he’d leave it up to us to decide which category we were in.  My whole family has this philosophy underlying our actions whether we admit it or not.  When I look at my life and compare it with my cousins or even my aunt’s and uncle’s lives, it’s not that busy or full of commitments and responsibilities.  But when my friends look at it, they see someone going 110 mph who lives at the ragged edge, just barely hanging on.  “You can sleep when you’re dead” is not just a pretty saying in my family… it’s who we are.

But really, in the end, is it all that helpful?

What is the point to all this insomnia?  It used to be I was scared to go to sleep, pursued by my own failures and haunted images of things that could/would/did go wrong.  Sleep was when I was truly defenseless against the worst my head could throw at me.  Sleep meant acknowledging that the day might not have gone exactly the way I hoped.

It made only slightly more sense when I was dealing with an unhealthy relationship and two bad jobs, but I don’t have to deal with any of that anymore… so why don’t I sleep?  What is it that still drives me to avoid my bed, that whispers to me “not yet”?

I believe it is the Fenris-wolf I have fed for years, growing into habits of avoidance, passive aggression and fear that now are doing their best to keep me from letting go.  I’m in the desert, wrestling with these things.  I’m faced with the good things in my life as well as the bad… and I’m hard pressed to answer honestly which is the more difficult to look at.  But Fenris-wolf won’t let go without a fight.  The habits of my early years, reinforced by decades of decisions that pushed me farther from the path, will not walk away just because I say so.  I have to stop feeding him.  I must learn to forgive myself… and tell myself that although forgiveness does not mean that the things I did are right, I have the opportunity to move forward from them and leave them behind, here in the desert…until I believe it.

I’m working on leaving the wolf behind… for when the night comes…

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”




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…

Fiction vs Real life…and winning…

So I don’t really care who knows this but I like to play role-playing games.  Not quite the geeky stuff you see in the movies, or the weird freaky times people have acting out this stuff out in the streets of the world…but role-playing as communal story-telling.  Sitting around a table with a group of friends, working together within a framework of rules to tell a story with one person keeping track of the narrative, something all of us have done a variation of from time to time.  Normally it’s a ton of fun and I really enjoy it.  It’s the opportunity to play and be something other than you are, to explore other parts of yourself you don’t or can’t do in “real” life.  The funny thing is, this time around, for this particular game, I’ve created a character who’s a lot more like me than I usually play.  Someone who is conflicted about the path their on, someone who has had a rough past (to put it charitably) but is trying to turn away into something new, someone who cares about and wants to protect people but struggles with creating and maintaining healthy positive relationships.  Remember the whole point of the exercise is escapism…but, just as in good literature, the best stories are not always the easiest to read.

I love the members of my game group and I love what our Storyteller is doing with our characters.  The complexity and creativity involved in coming up with the situations we deal with is staggering for people to understand, even for those who have this as a hobby.  And my friend is good, really good.  Which is why it surprised me so much that the adventure tonight bothered me as much as it did.  My character was faced with the prospect of using something he would normally view as bad/unwholesome to destroy something that was truly unholy and evil.  This was not a compromise he made easily and is likely going to struggle with for a while in game time, and with the consequences of that choice.  The character was not defiant but diplomacy was not the action that felt right.  It may seem childish or outlandish that grown people do this sort of thing, but think of movies, tv shows.  In many ways it is nothing more than acting in place, using your imagination and some creativity to tell stories with people that explore all sorts of things.  Ideally, good role-playing is more than a variation on kill a monster, take it’s loot, go kill a bigger monster, get better loot, etc. Good role-playing, like good acting, explores a range of emotions and ideas… and the things that my character are going through are hitting a little close to home at the moment.

Granted we’re taking a bit of a break for a while as our real lives are sort of taking over…being adult means you can’t sit around and hang out till midnight every night of the week and sleep in till noon.  Unfortunately.  So there will be some time for me as a person to move beyond where my character is.  There are plenty of things on my plate at the moment, the last thing I need to do is to add something more.  It’s just weird sometimes how much fiction and real life intertwine themselves…

Skirting the edge

So at what point does being friends become something else?  I was thinking about that today as I was listening to other college recruiters talk at an education fair I was at today representing my school.  Recruiters being a naturally garralous bunch (and there being NO prospective students around) we talked about everything, from raising kids, to fond college memories, to favorite drinks, to the weirdness that is humanity, plus some.  One of the young ladies there was commenting on how tired she got of having to fend of her guy friends and expressed something to the effect of “why don’t they just get it?”  Seeing as how this particular topic is somewhat near and dear to me right now I did what sensible men have been doing around women for centuries… I shut up, said nothing and listened intently – trying to parse out the kernels of potential female wisdom being made available for the picking.  Needless to say I was disappointed.  Talking with my son the other night at skating also brought up a similar topic.  There was a girl there who my son has had an interest in for at least a year, but he can’t decide if girls are interesting or not yet (personally I’m relieved he’s not ready to date yet, I know I’m NOT ready for him to date).  He finally decided not to ask her to couples skate with him, but he did buzz by them every time he went around the rink.  Sitting there thinking about it, especially after we both admitted neither one of us wanted to date yet, made me wonder how long this would last….in both of us.  However, it did bring up the question I posited at the beginning of this essay.

I certainly don’t know the answer.  Sometimes I think it sneaks up on you, other times it may just reach up and slap you in the face.  My other question is, what happens to the friendship?  As I said in my bio with (I hope) some modesty, I’m an excellent friend, a good boyfriend, and a difficult husband to live with (but not difficult to love according to my ex’s, but since their my ex’s not entirely sure how to take that).  What is it that happens on the road between friend and boyfriend, boyfriend and husband that changes us?  I used to think that having that little slip of paper called a marriage liscence wouldn’t change anything, we could live together before we got married and when we did it wouldn’t change anything.  Much like other things I’ve been dealing with it doesn’t change anything…and yet, it changes EVERYTHING.

I don’t know exactly where I’m at, at the moment.  I like being free to do what I want, when I want (within the reasonable limits a single dad can manage), but I miss touch.  The caress of a lover, holding hands walking down the street, cuddling in front of a movie or fire.  But that’s not really enough to build a lasting relationship on, but it seems like that’s what I’ve done in the past.  I’ve been friends with my ex’s before we start dating, generally speaking.  But when I start to fall for somebody it tends to be fast, without taking the time to really look at what I’m getting myself into.  I skirt the edge of responsible relationship building, doing enough to get something out of it for me…but do I do enough for the other person?  It hurts to admit that I probably haven’t, after all, as the t-shirt says “The only constant thing in your failed relationships is YOU.”  So the changes need to come from me, to start with me.  I am not solely responsible for my past relationships, but I am for my part in their failure.  The real question I suppose should be, is what have I learned and what positive things can I take from my past, and how can I apply them to my future?

I’m tired of skirting the edge…

Old memories

I found my diary a couple of days ago.  My actual physical diary.  I’d been talking to my son about writing down some of the things he’d been struggling with, his feelings of betrayal, loss of trust, and abandonment.  We’d talked about ways we coped with what has happened and I’d been sharing about my diary and about this blog and he had stated that he didn’t know what to write about in his, if he started one.  So I shared with him the very first entry of my diary, from March 29th, 1991:

Dear Diary,

today was a bummer of a day.  we just left Bizmart and a totally awsome turbo graphic 16 for $125.00!!  & my dad wouldn’t buy it.

p.s. the day wasn’t a total bummer because I hit the jackpot, found money, and get to go to C.P. [Children’s Palace – btw] if dad doesn’t stay too long (he he ha he won’t!!)

p.p.s. He did!!

total bummer

After sharing this with him he had less trepidation about writing something down.  If I can just get him started writing something, to get in the habit of putting his emotions down on paper…it may not be a perfect solution but it would be a start to perhaps allow him some healing as well.  So since I hadn’t read my diary since I last put an entry in it I’ve been reading it off and on, skipping parts and going back to others.  The last entry in the thing however still strikes me.  Not the whole thing, but here is the last part of the last entry in my first diary, dated Jan. 6th, 1999:

Have you ever seen a man so consumed w/appearances that he even orders his own thoughts as to make them more poetic?  The thoughts that one utters when one is alone…?  I have, I see him every day in the bathroom mirror and we cross paths as we get ready for bed.  But I don’t really know him.  Or understand him.  His loss, his hurt, his anger.  Maybe one day I will.  Either that or maybe I’ll become the man on the other side of the mirror.  Never can say…

It’s interesting how things come full circle.  I may have come back to a similar place, a single father,nervous and unsure of what the future holds, but I have gotten to know the man in the mirror.  I have become the man in the mirror, and the man looking in.  It has not been easy blending the two, but I am who I am.  I am loved for who I am, I am forgiven, and I know my boundaries.  My need to be needed and to control others has made my life unmanageable.  I can let go, usually.  I am at peace with being alone – most of the time.  I am not perfect.  And those in my life don’t have to be.  There is a new day dawning and God walks with my son and I.  We don’t always realize it.  We don’t always want it.  But God is there.  And God will not leave us.

It has been hammered home how much my life means to the people involved in it.  People I am ashamed to say I have not taken the time to get to know as well as I should have, have reached out to me, via emails, Facebook, in person, to share their love and support with me.  And I am so grateful and so thankful.  I love you all.  And for those who have ridden this journey with me from the beginning… well, there really isn’t anything else that needs to be said is there?

And with that, I wanted to share the first poem I ever copied down in my journal.  It was from a book of Favorite American Poetry, a book my mother owned and for all I know, still does.  And a friend recently sent me a power point with the first verse of it, something else that was a blast from my past, but I think is very appropriate here:

Love

I love you, Not only for what you are, But for what I am, When I am with you

I love you, Not only for what you have made of yourself, But for what, You are making of me

I love you, For the part of me that you bring out

I love you, For putting your hand, Into my heaped-up heart, And passing over all the foolish, weak things, That you can’t help dimly seeing there

And for drawing out, Into the light, All the beautiful belongings That no one else had looked Quite hard enough to find.

I love you, because you Are helping me to make Of the lumber of my life, Not a tavern, But a temple, Out of the works of my every day, Not a reproach, But a song

I love you, because you have done, More than any creed could have done, To make me good, And more than any fate could have done, To make me happy

You have done it Without a touch, Without a word, Without a sign You have done it by being yourself Perhaps that is what Being a friend means after all.

Returning to the desert…

And yes, that’s desert, NOT dessert…the sandy kind not the sweet one…

In Old Testament theology, the desert is seen as a proving grounds, a testing place, a place to create a firm commitment, to lose all the chaff of one’s self, to be challenged.  It is never a fun place, it is at times a deadly place, but it is ALWAYS a necessary one for those who are sent there.  Without implying any ability/mission link with those people, I left my desert too soon.

I thought I was past all the hurt and the stress and the angst and the rest of the mess that was going along with letting go.  I thought I was okay with being single and with improving my relationship with my son and myself.  I imagined that I was ready, healed and roarin’ to go.  None of which was really true.

There were moments and lessons that I have learned this past year and a half that I will not soon forget.  And indeed I have traveled farther than ever before on this journey I’ve been put on.  But I got caught at an oasis in the desert.  It wasn’t the oasis’ fault, it is what it is.  But it become the destination, rather than a stop on my journey.  And I’m not done yet.  There is much still to be dealt with, to be learned and to let go.

This December has been the roughest one in several years.  We lost yet another family member (my son lost two more, one on his mom’s side) during this month.  It makes four for me.  My official divorce hearing to finally settle things is in about three weeks and I’m trying to get everything ready for it, myself included.  My oasis and I decided to call ourselves friends rather than push it towards anything more serious…but it still hurt leaving.  Then there’s the holiday stress, making gifts this year, rather than buying them, hosting Christmas for the family, dealing with work, etc etc etc…

But, there is still joy.

Joy in the remembrances of good times had with the family, joy on people’s faces when they tell a good story (or bad depending!), joy in the simple things and good sounds and smells of life.  And yes, I like to cook.

My life is still surrounded by music and love.  My son’s birthday party went off really well this year.  Pics to come I’m sure.  He is doing well, almost a teenager, so any advice on that front would be most welcome.  I have great friends, awesome co-workers, a great job, a loving family and a warm place to stay with food on the table.  I can pay all my bills and have a path to walk.  I have much to  be thankful for this holiday season.  And much I can share.

First thoughts back in the desert…I find it odd that it’s thankfulness…but it’s also comforting.

Cheers.

And Merry Christmas.

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.