Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting For The Muse

Where the heck is the muse? C’mon Muse, I’m waiting! In his book, The War of Art, Pressfield says if you show up to write (or whatever you’re art form is) then the Muse will show up. I’m not hearing from the muse. I don’t think I am anyway. I have tid-bits of thought for today’s blog post; love-hate relationship with cell phones, yesterday a good day with family, tiredness, turning 52, shopping with my wife---all possible post ideas all devoid of energy this instant.

Perhaps the ideas are devoid of energy because I am. I am hardly motivated. I gave up a run to the store with the wife figuring the muse would come once I sat in front of the computer and pulled up a new Word document. Ain’t happening. It’s been a long week of re-entry. School started this week. The kid started 10th grade. The wife started substitute teaching. I simply started another week at the same old job I’ve been doing for the last five years. It’s like we pushed through to the finish line on the first heat. More to go but we’re counting on the weekend for rejuvenation.

When in doubt blame the weather. It’s been crazy humid all week. Rejuvenation would come with cool wind or downpour of rain but the heat keeps beating down and the moisture keeps rising up. We lay down to sleep and can’t then are to tired to rise up at the alarm. It’s been one of those weeks. Work and school are laborious. We look to the fall and cooler weather. For now though we just keep going.

Perhaps the muse is tired too. She generally shows up on cue. Perhaps she got waylaid by the wind or thunderstorms and she is stuck somewhere out on the horizon. Now I find myself writing on the muse herself. The muse is by nature illusive. Trying to write about an illusive creature defies clarity. So I wait for the muse. I put my hands to the keyboard and hope that the ideas will come. Even as I do I sense a gentle stirring and whisper. She may be on schedule after all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On A Daily Basis

I’ve been doing it since high school. I started big and bound then moved to smaller and bound. People found out I was doing it and bought me custom sets, hard sets, soft sets and sets with pictures. I tried journalling every day but it was sporadic at best. I tried to be realistic. I journalled in big spiral bound notebooks and changed my script according to my mood. There was a freedom and uniqueness about journaling that way. I underlined in dark ink, I wrote HUGE words, or small words, or happy words or angry words. Truth is the words I most wrote in high school were angry words.

I’ve burned some of those high school journals. I had quite the mouth at the time and the words that came out of my mouth found my way into my journal as well. There were things I did and things I thought that I wasn’t proud of. I actually wrote them down.
I journalled through my teens, my twenties and through my first marriage. Later in my first marriage I had to lock up my journal as my wife (trust issues what trust issues?) was reading it. As I said, I held little back.  I was in fact an open book. Writing during that period was a good thing. It kept me somewhat sane. At some point during that time of duress I lost my sanity. Going back and reading those diaries I realized the depth of despair I was in and the dynamics that caused my heaviness of heart.

These days I don’t journal. This blog acts as that journal for me. It’s frightening at times because I don’t know how to burn this one should I ever want to. I put myself out there (within reason---I’ve learned some lessons in my old age) so that it’s interesting for all of us. This gives me a place of reflection and a voice to say things I’ve been thinking or a springboard to bounce around ideas. I expect I’ll be journaling in some format until I’m near my last breath. Being introspective and reflective is healthy for me---and I think for others. So I’ll keep at it. I hope the words I write today are no longer angry words. I hope they are words of life that move us all forward.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mormon President?

I have known some astute Christians and some clueless ones, some shrewd non-Christians and those that lack sense. Yet I know some fellow Christ followers that go rabid when they think of a Mormon in the White House. I understand where they are coming from but wonder if they’ve given their position any thought.

Isn’t America the place that we don’t judge people on their outsides but on their character? I seem to remember something about a plurality of people. We should have the best person to run the country. Certainly I want a noble leader of good morals. Having the moniker doesn’t guarantee that. Having the lifestyle does.

The forefathers left home and came to these shores to avoid a government run religion. Why then do some of my brothers and sisters want only a Christian President? Perhaps I am misunderstanding them. It may well be that they would be delighted with a theistic government. Whoa to them for not giving men the same freedom that God does.

Like anything in religion and politics those of us that are clear headed must continue to provoke others to think through their positions. Hopefully they will see truth and honor men and woman as valued because they are created in God’s image. I hope they will begin to think and not just go on gut reaction. Seems one of our important documents begins with the words, ‘Each man.’ May we continue to honor each man for who he is and not because of the label he wears. We do not want to go down that road. That road leads to destruction, chaos and brutality. That road will destroy the America we know and personal value with it. May it never be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Good With People

A major contradiction in my life is that I ‘work well’ with people and that people bug the heck out of me. Obviously most of the problems with people are more about my expectations. Since I am nearly perfect I have high hopes for the rest of the human race. High hopes which are often crushed. Seriously I have asked God to help me love people better. It’s tough though.

I came home tonite ranting because one of the folks in my bible study group that has been a Christian for many years has no clue about basic doctrine. One would expect somebody acquainted with any belief system to have a working framework for that system. There I go again disproving the saying that ‘teacher expectation affects pupil learning.’ I see similar instances while working with the public.

When I am finished ringing up a coffee order at work I tell the customer, “I will have your drink for you at the end of the bar,” then I point to the end of the bar. More often than not customers will nod when I say this then wonder where their drink is. I can’t find it in myself to believe the problem is with me. I just can’t figure out how these folks got through third grade. Perhaps they were in classes where the teacher never gave instructions and expected them to be followed. Perhaps there were never consequences for failure to follow the directions. This frightens me.

I don’t know how Christ did it. How did (does) He put up with a race that is clueless about so many things? That is my true key struggle. How do I love people that can’t follow directions, understand sarcasm, or buy a clue? Even as I write this I am typing with one hand and hitting my forehead with the other. That’s my continued prayer. I will continue to work on that this week. In the meantime I’m going to the store to by some of those orange sticks the Ramp Agents use to bring airplanes down the runway.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mole

When I do this it makes me feel like a bad parent. My daughter is taking Pre-Calculus and Chemistry this semester. Unlike her father she can handle it. She is ranked number nine in her class. She is motivated and a self-starter. I am certain that she will excel in these subjects though it will take some work. Why is she taking these classes anyway?

I received a ‘D’ in Chemistry. The only reason that Mr. Gobble did not fail me and my friend is that we were ‘nice kids.” Chemistry confused me. I could do the Table of Elements but the math killed me. To this day I’m still not sure what a mole is. Chemistry caused some sleepless, sweat-filled nights. Due to that experience I permanently shelved any thought I’d ever had of pursuing marine biology and becoming another Costeau. As for Pre-Calc I wasn’t even in the running.

The thing I’ll tell my daughter is that there is no reason on Earth for taking either of these classes. Finding a mole for Uranium? I think that there is an App for that. What percentage of her fellow high school students will ever use chemistry again? Regarding Pre-Calc, they have Calc-ulators that do all that work for you. The stress caused this semester by those classes will only be worth it for the character it produces not as a marketable skill for 99%.

I’m certain it will come up. My daughter’s forte is debate. So she’ll talk it out of me. I’ll have to admit at some point that it’s a worthless pursuit. I’ll focus on the character aspect. The classes will produce proven character, and proven character will produce hope which doesn’t disappoint though chemistry and pre-calc most certainly will.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Manhood Part 2-Wrestling and Winning

I treated my manhood like a secret sin. I was embarrassed about it. I kept it in the closet. Usually when it came out it was in an uncomfortable context. I didn’t know how to handle it in private nor in public. I knew it was there but all my life people had told me that it was wrong. I was under the impression that my manhood should be downplayed or totally ignored. So for most of my life it got squelched. I got married, had a child and began to wrestle with this suppression in my life.

I denied my manhood but it tried to surface and tell me it was there. Like any suppressed truth the danger is that it rears its head in unhealthy ways. I dove into pornography—hidden manhood hidden sin. I will shorten the story for the sake of brevity. My sin was found out and I sought healing through a group for addiction recovery. I read, and read, and attended the group. Layers like onion skins peeled off. In the process I grew comfortable with my manhood.

Those are my credentials. Unlike my eye doctor I don’t have a plaque hanging in my office with those. I think it’s important to lay them out there for anybody to care about what I’m saying. Through this ongoing life process I’ve come to some foundational cornerstones to manhood. For today’s post I’ve boiled them down to four.

Fully accept your manhood. As Eldredge indicates acknowledge that you are ‘wild at heart.’ Understand that you don’t fit in, that your mind wanders to your garage or the nearby forest when you are at work. Recognize that the warrior is a natural part of you though society tells you it’s wrong. Work on being comfortable in your skin.

Deal with the fake self. Pray for God to expose your sin and help you deal with it. Seek integrity in your dealings. You will find that stepping up to the plate will confirm your manliness. Be the best lover, protector, father, and friend that you can be.

Seek counsel with others that are on the same path. Edinger says to do what men do. Talk to guys, study with guys, hunt with guys and you will not feel so alone. Wrestle honestly with your struggles in the context of manhood. This will solidify and confirm you in your masculinity.

Read like your soul depends on it. Because it does. I am listing four books to get you started:
Growth Into Manhood by Alan Medinger, Tender Warrior by Stu Weber, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (if you only read one book on the list make it this one) and Healing the Masculine Soul by Gordon Dalbey.

I finish by quoting Eldredge, “Now, reader, it is your turn to write---venture forth with God….”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Manhood Part 1: Sam Spade Meets Mr. Milquetoast

I shoved him up against the refrigerator. He was a teenager and so was I. I was the cashier at a 7-11. He was the hoodlum trying to steal beer from my store. I was young with no fear of getting hurt and a heart for bravado and justice. He grabbed a six-pack and wouldn’t pay for it. I asked him to hand it over; he wouldn’t so I shoved him hard against the cooler. Though I forget much from my teen years that moment I remember.

I remember because it was a powerful and passionate moment. As the scene played out I felt like Clark Kent becoming Superman. Testosterone flowing I felt fully male. I had tapped into my inner Sam Spade and it felt good. The same Sam Spade came forth when I raced my car and when I packed gear into Mineral King for a weekend. My manhood came roaring out in those situations and I felt the fullness of who I was meant to be.

The challenge in my life is to maintain and establish staying in touch with real manhood. Unlike in my teen years true manhood isn’t only evident in high testosterone situations. It is as critical in the boring activities at work and loving the wife and kid on the home-front. It is yielding to God always and flashing sword when appropriate. It is not an easy task in this life.

I think that’s where most of us men lose it. We get tired of fighting on all fronts. We get bored and can’t remember the last time we felt like a man. Failure begets wrong thinking (we fail to pull the sword from its sheath) and the spiral continues. Manhood is traded for the life of Mr. Milquetoast.

Does the transformation to Mr. Milquetoast become complete? Is true manhood misplaced forever? How can I maintain manhood in this present world? Stay tuned for tomorrows post where I’ll explore ideas for maintaining manhood.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stuck In A Rut

My mind gets stuck in a rut. I pedal harder and it is still stuck. I look for ramps to escape the rut but can’t find one. That is what this morning felt like. I would try to veer off toward joy and positive thoughts but kept coming back to a negative center. People were friendly and upbeat and still I keyed in on worrying about trivial issues at home and political correctness at work.

It could be something as simple as not wanting to be at work. Part of the problem is that work was slow. I had little to do and too much time to do it. So I stopped to chat and joke with fellow workers and I did all the small chores that needed doing. For lunch I bought Swedish meatballs in hopes that cow from a neutral country would cease my spin toward the negative side. Still this black tinged cloud stayed with me.

The cloud stayed with me until I got home. Once I got home I turned on Pandora, puttered around the yard and brought in the mail. The cloud lifted and connection to reality was resumed. It’s not a consistent occurrence. Today home is where the rut ended. Something tells me that’s how it should be.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Patience Sounds Like A Curse Word

There are days worse than the days before where good isn’t remembered anymore.  The word patience sounds like a curse word and there isn’t enough strength for tomorrow. Each of us has been there. We wait on God for finances, health, our children and our loved ones. This is the situation the Israelites were in at the opening to the book of Exodus.

God sends Moses with a promise to the Israelites. Moses proclaims the word of God and---things get harder for Israel. Life feels like this sometimes. We pray more than we’ve ever prayed; we fast, we cry out and---life gets more difficult. Israel got to the point that, “they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.”

We become short-sighted and lose perspective. God has the eternal view and one week or year is a drop in the bucket in comparison. We live to one-hundred years if we are fortunate. The year long trial is a decent chunk of time to us. We close our eyes to the hope of deliverance though the messenger is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We’ve seen the movie and know the rest of the story. Israel is delivered “with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.” The oppressor is thrown off and Israel takes up new residence in the land of milk and honey. Today I need to listen to the message of deliverance. I need the long view to ‘see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He call them all my name…He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.”

“And it shal be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?,’ then you shall say to him, “With a powerful hand the Lord brougt us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

If not martyred is my reward in Heaven less? That’s the endpoint of a question I’ve been thinking about. The wife and I are currently reading a book called Radical. The point of the book the author (Platt) makes is that we are to let go of the American Dream and focus on giving everything for the sake of the Gospel. In reading it I feel like he is saying everybody should be involved with those who are least likely to hear the Gospel, oversees missions.

To what degree should we be involved. I’ve always heard that some are called to go and some to stay, pray and give. Have I put off going because of lack of courage? Should I have aggressively sought to go? Did I chicken out? Or is the reality that I would be a terrible missionary; near-sighted, asthmatic, to comfortable with my swamp-cooler, car and Lucille’s BBQ.

Platt puts forth a one year challenge part of which is to serve short term. Perhaps we just need to start incrementally. How much is my part and how much God’s part? Why do some feel the burden from the womb? What if I hate bugs and snakes?

Mid-life there are more issues to work through than if I had set my GPS to ‘missions’ from my youth. I trust that as we start moving God will start opening doors. Certainly God can provide his own version of a swamp cooler and everything can be BBQ’d (including me!). It comes back to Heavenly reward. Is Jesus worth everything? I’ve already died---that’s what it keeps coming back to, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” That’s the starting point for the questions and I’ll move forward from there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What The Locusts Have Eaten

My family of origin came with baggage galore. This left me with big holes where others had complete selves. Like a crop gorged by locusts areas were dry and barren. God knew my initial family wouldn’t cut it so he filled in the holes through other families. In fifth grade I met my friend Keith. His family was intact with two parents, two sisters and two brothers. This family modeled for me much that I had never experienced.

I’d never experienced a father that was involved intricately with his children. I’d never experience physical hugs. There were many blanks that got filled in and the largest was the God blank. This substitute family went to church, said ‘grace’ at dinner and talked about God in their daily lives. All alien concepts.

Forty years later and the holes are being filled in again. In the last four years my father and mother have passed away and my sister has gone rogue. Today was spent with the mother and father of my bride along with my brother in law and family. We played Ticket to Ride, went swimming, at chili and talked about life. There are times our eyes gloss over the promises of God though our heart cries out. It is said that God will redeem the years the locusts have eaten. Today the field looked green and fruitful.

Monday, August 20, 2012


“…and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot”

“So if you know the words, Then try to sing along,
And when you get the beat, Grab a hammer, bang a gong
Cuz you don't got to fight. Or make yourself belong
To be a revolution, yeah, To be a revolution”---Jars of Clay

If you read the news or listen to radio much you get whiffs of it, revolution is in the air. We live in a country that as its heritage has the Boston Tea Party. Currently we are taxed to excess. Our courts are in chaos, gold has rusted and chaos seems to rule. Being rebellious by nature I gravitate toward excess and would count Simon the Zealot as an ally.

Being a Christ follower doesn’t allow for that type of rebellion. Rebel against lies and injustice, yes, but not against rulers and authorities. Rattling cages has to be done legally and above board. The revolution has to be inside of me working its way out.

Tony Campolo said that during the Civil Rights Movement when he saw people being forcibly sprayed with hoses he knew we had won. That type of revolution isn’t glorious, isn’t glamourous. That type of revolution goes against my desire for comfort as true revolutions must. Truth ever brings me back to that main point. It is what comes from inside me that either defiles me or promotes others.  It is Christ living in and through me that will change the world.

"I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.---Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Between the Sheets

At some level I am tired and at another I’m wound up. Truth is I don’t sleep well when the wife heads out of town. Funny how we are wired as humans. The physiological functions react in line with our mental status. So she’s gone and I don’t sleep well though I get the entire bed. I even get full use of the sheets for the entire night-often I wake up with less than my fair portion.

Waking up will be easy. The alarm goes off early so I usually tip-toe around. I turn down the lights and try not to trip or groan as I shuffle out toward the coffee maker. Tomorrow I can turn on a searchlight if I want to. We spend all that time growing up and sleeping in our own beds. We are fortunate to be able to share them with a friend of the opposite sex when we are older.

In my case ‘second times the charm .’ First marriage we never really shared anything. Things were split or delegated it rarely felt like a team effort. It’s mind boggling to get a do-over. I guess that’s the equation the more you are connected the more the separation is difficult. In a good marriage there’s always that connection. I imagine it goes on as long as one of you lives. Then the bed is yours alone again. Not as a child looking forward but older giving thanks for the sharing of the sheets---and life and love.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Window

Sex or a dinner meal can take place in this window. A shower and shave can take place in this window so can the typical trips to work. For everything that can take place in this window there are more that can’t. A state mandated lunch can’t fit in this window; a dinner date with your wife could but shouldn’t fit but the evening child’s tuck in fits well. A daily blog post tightly fits in this window.

A fifteen minute window to do a blog post is difficult. The outline and frame for any type of art work can be done in a blip of time. Once that parameter is defined though the artist sees a myriad of possibilities for inside the frame. Certainly you can throw it up in fifteen minutes. After that the artist is inclined to massage it, stretch it, cut it, redraw it or rewrite it. Walking away from an incomplete albeit imperfect piece aggravates.

I confess I fudge the fifteen minutes. I committed in July to a nightly blog post created in this time frame. The ideas start flowing and time passes. My third paragraph in last nights’ post screamed at me to be the opening salvo. I couldn’t cut it, couldn’t paste it, couldn’t piece it together enough to make it fit. Not in fifteen minutes. The fifteen stretches on occasion. The post pulls at me as does my family, my work, my church, my life.

It’s the window I’ve chosen for my work this go-round. The challenge is the window frame. The time restraint is my boundary. When you look at life through this window my ardor is for you to stretch---to come alive. May the glimpse encourage and enlighten. I only hope the view isn’t obstructed---I didn’t have quite enough time to manicure the hedge.

Friday, August 17, 2012

California Exodus?

The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously and they made their lives bitter with hard labor...

Hearing the words cause me to wonder if God is directing through them.

“It’s like they want us to leave.”

“We are city people.”

“You’ll love Colorado.”

Californians work until April 20 to earn enough money to pay their tax burden.  This ranks the state 11th nationally which is not so great. In 1977 the state and local tax burden for Californian’s ranked fifth nationally at 11.8%. In today’s terms they have made a leap by just over one percentage point to 10.6% and now rank sixth nationally. As far as the Business Tax Climate ranking goes, California ranks near dead last in 48th place. This would give people and corporations, who are people, pause before relocating to one of the nation’s worst places to do business in tax terms.

If you spent any time reading this blog you will know I am not exceedingly fond of life in the California high desert.  In three years my daughter will graduate from high school. We are planning our escape for that time period.

There is some possibility that God will have us stay in the high desert. When that is made clear we will stop stomping our feet. John Steinbeck believes that ‘…Americans are a restless people, a mobile people, never satisfied with where they are as a matter of selection.” My dad suffered this wanderlust in his heart but never acted on it with his feet. As his son I should fulfill his legacy. Similarly the parents of my wife long for travel and adventure. It is in our blood.

We have time to seek direction. My hope is that like Israel we will find freedom in a land of milk and honey and escape the heavy hand of Pharoah.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This Awkward Forgiveness

Seven years and it’s still awkward. Another night of dropping off my daughter at the house of her mother, talking facts with my ex, exchanging pleasantries with the man that slept with her while she was still my wife. They are nice enough people on the whole. We’ve moved on. The whole picture, in my mind anyway, is still tinged with the act of violence that cast me onto the doorstep of the house I shared and the life I now lead.

I remarried to an awesome woman. Time has passed so the bone jarring emotion doesn’t exist. It’s just strange. Driving down the street toward my house I shrugged my shoulders and thanked the Father for His sons’ example. There is no way I could have moved on if I hadn’t forgiven. No way I could have forgiven but that I knew the violence and betrayal Christ suffered. As the blood of Christ forever changed the wood it touched so single events in our lives color our days and years.

I still don’t get out of the car when I drop my daughter off. I allow some invisible wall, some mental disconnect to continue. Knocking on the door that was mine is weird. The drive up and the drop off all possible because I gave up control and gave over anger. It’s complicated, strange and awkward-true. Over all of it though there is a peace that covers the past violence and questions and lets me move forward in wholeness. So I do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Zombies Among Us

They eat their salad without drooling. They work amongst us. They look like us. Until you look in their eyes. The faces and eyes are devoid of light and joy. They show up for work and put in eight hours but it is an empty eight. Still they keep multiplying adding number by number while they drain away our energy and life.

I have made study of these creatures in the break room and on the sales floor, in schools and at restaurants. They do not respond to greetings such as hello. They internalize the energy we expend in greeting them. If you challenge them to be creative or take initiative they nod but the head shake is as far as they go. Spend time around a group of them and you will feel your life blood seeping out.

They are the joyless ones. They go through life with no vision and no hope. Perishing daily they take others with them. One wishes that they could be captured and set into a white clean room then injected with joy or a hint of zeal. There is a scene in The Omega Man where the mutants are in a sporting arena and the field lights are turned on. In the brightness they shriek and cover their eyes---they run to the dark.

There is one who can breathe life into them. There is a joy freely received not by injection or ray but by soul and spirit. There is a life to be had. Until they ingest it freely we live and work among them. We seek our own for strength and dance joyfully in their midst. We shine the light. We hope they see. We fight against giving in to the drudgery that ensnares. ‘Oh zombies, zombies, may you awake and come forth like Lazarus.

Missed Moose

Today we went in search of moose. Moose are best found locally in the Grand Tetons. The ranger gave us a short list of the best places to drive to. Our first moose was a ghost. We pulled the car to a stop near a large crowd only to find we’d missed the moose by a few minutes. We continued the day seeking marshy green grass filled meadows but never saw a moose. Some days are like that.

I don’t have the perfect analogy for the missed moose. As we seek what we want most there will be missed opportunity. There will also be views of verdant green meadows. For me it is easy to miss the scenery for the seeking, to be depressed because the moose was never seen though there were a number of blessings which were experienced in the process.

It’s a big picture, little picture type thing. I’ve put my life into God’s hands that’s the big picture. The things I want but don’t get are little picture. The moose hunt is part of a fourteen day adventure. You know what? As the family sat by a mirror colored flowing river today hoping for the moose I had the feeling that he was going to show up. We had to get on the road but the moose was there and we’d just missed him. Next time though we will find him. Experience and opportunity will meet. The moose encounter will happen. We persevere and wait.

There Goes Discipline Out The Window

There goes discipline out the window. The great thing about vacations is that you get a break from the rigors of everyday life. For me this means that daily discipline doesn’t happen. On day one I managed to get some bible reading in while the wife was driving. I am writing in the evenings (though allowing myself to miss a couple posts) because my wife encourages it not because I have the fortitude for consistency. I brush my teeth but have put aside shaving.

Is this casting aside of routine a good thing? Legalism is easy for humans. Consistent discipline in one or more areas can be twisted awry. I am consistent because I am good. Since I am good God should give me what I want. God owes me. That activity we began in the Spirit to put to death flesh has now warped into full pride. Mt. Sinai comes into view again.

Re-entry back into normal life is difficult-back to work, back to bills, back to dealing with life. The burden of discipline then becomes like an old friend. Like coming home to your own bed and shower the routine of reading and exercise (or whatever you do daily) gets the train back on the right track. The ramped up stress you come home to is bracketed by familiar dogged routine. Out the table it went. Opening the door to it on return refreshes and energizes for day to day life in reality.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Coming Home

The rose petals are crispy, weeds cover the ground like grass and the milk in the fridge has gone sour. It’s good to be home after two weeks away. Now it’s time to get back into the rhythm of real life. It’s time to sort through two weeks of mail. Aside from the bad milk there is no food in the house. Returning home these chores don’t daunt-they excite. That is why vacations are important.

My wife and I are goal setters. We like to calendar, plan and set goals for the month, quarter and year. Beyond that we have our personal goals; bad habits to overcome, exercise routines, ministry, friends to stay in touch with. The list gets overwhelming. Two weeks ago I couldn’t face the list. I had no energy for self-improvement and didn’t feel a bit like loving others. Coming home we are rested and energized. The list energizes. That is why we drive to four National Parks in two weeks.

“Dad, are you excited about going to work,” my daughter asked. I’m not. I’m excited again about the big picture. What God is going to work in our lives and what we are going to work out. I look forward to digging into life again. Tomorrow I’ll trim the crunchy roses and hoe the weeds. Life begins again. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Lonely and Desolate Road

It is a lonely and desolate road. Some realize this early on. We call them prophets and poets. Some deny the desolation. They fill the emptiness with liquor and late nights. There are a thousand shades of gray between the two extremes. Those that have gone before us have made the call clear—to take the wide road or the road less travelled.

The narrow and real road is a difficult road. In strange juxtaposition it is the path where the soul is most fed and character deeply developed. It is a hard road so we choose friends and teachers wisely. Our neighbor Mr. Milquetoast isn’t the ideal companion for this trip. Our lovers and friends will be those that see the reality. They know the barrenness of the road and so choose to walk hand in hand with us on it. Sages and writers we read along the way have had their own ‘dark night of the soul.’ It is these sacred bonds that give us the strength to push forward.

We call out, we beseech those on the wide road to open their eyes and turn aside. Some like Francis of Assisi will burn their old lives and set out on the narrow stone road. More, many more, will get a glimpse of the hard road. Given a choice between buffeting body or being sated with self they will choose the latter.

The road is narrow and few are those that travel it. So we cry with our friends and encourage one another. We speak to one another in spiritual songs that recognize the reality and the reward to come. The going is difficult and we trip and fall on rocks and slip on smooth stone. We dare not walk such paths alone. Let us encourage one another. Let the words we read, the voices we hear, and the hands that hold be of those who have felt the agony of the road and the satisfaction of the soul.

Don't Want To Die Like That

There are things we do in youth that we put away in mid-life. This isn’t always a good thing. I look at my sixteen year-old and see how spontaneous she is. She is quick to laugh, quick to take fifty self-portraits in an hour, quick to be silly. I am not certain where that freshness goes. I am turning 52 this year and I want to maintain that spark. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ old people.

Those old people don’t take physical chances, they don’t backpack to aspen meadows, they don’t slide down waterfall propelled rock-slides, they don’t dance when they are alone nor do they dance with friends all about. Those old people play it safe. Those old people are boring and bitter. I don’t want to live like that and I don’t want to die like that.

Today we spent hiking with wildflowers and summit lakes. It reminded me of my backpacking days—how easy it was to get away, how it felt right to integrate the outdoors with my work life and love life. I don’t want to lose that.

I need to keep plugged in to that feeling and thought process. It’s a constant push to stay fresh. I need to do it in my marriage, in work, in raising my kid. I don’t know what the answer is to staying exuberant. Perhaps the question and the answer are all of one piece. To keep coming back to the outdoors and being sharpened on her precipices and washed in her lakes, to keep asking the questions and not settling for the easy answers. To spend time with daughter and wife and friends that don’t settle. I want to be coming alive not stagnating til death.

One Finds Balance

One finds balance between nature and reality. The family takes road trips to regain perspective, see new things and be surprised. Sometimes surprised by beauty, sometimes surprised by how frustrated ‘dad’ gets trying to pack the trunk of the car.

We’d spent the day sliding down rocks on the river and swimming in deep, cold pools of blue-green water made by waterfalls flowing in and water flowing out. Laughing and applauding, one by one we swam hard against the tide to touch the base of the waterfall. Then back to camp for dinner, Smores, and to bed. By contrast one wouldn’t expect such tenseness in the morning.

Trying to pack the trunk full I nearly cussed. Frustrated by my attitude and trying to help my wife nearly uttered foul words as well. The mood was broken when the project was completed. The night before we’d spent discussing finances and budgeting. Money seems to bring pressure when it is tight. Reality bursts in on the camping trip as we talk budgets with mouths full of marshmallow.

In the quiet one is reminded of beauty. In the power of waterfall there are hints of Creator and depth of soul. The cold water refreshes and we are reminded why we are out here. Reality intrudes but now we see in brighter perspective. We lock the car, shower and go to bed. The adventure continues tomorrow.

Friday, August 03, 2012

This Faith Walk

This faith walk is a mysterious thing. I am reading through Genesis. The snapshots like Escher paintings. At first look they are simple. Then you look deeper and realize the complexity and the questions come. Abraham believed God, Joseph ran rather than break fellowship with God, Moses beseeches God to show his glory; how did they learn these things?

How did we make it all about following rules? It is rather simple, isn’t it? One listens to God.  One hears God and listens both. The listening is followed by doing. Abram leaves Ur, Moses leaves Egypt, Joseph stays in Egypt, God directed and our forefathers followed. Why do I make it more than that?

I am like Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear of little brain. You would think then that the clarity of the faith call would be perfect for me. Simple directions for a simple man. I think too much. I question, I doubt, I seek control for my sake. The waters get muddy and I start thinking that, “If I do the right thing, God will love me and do what I want.”

Did you see how easy it was to reverse that? God is there to serve me. Whoops! Time to seek some quiet and gain perspective--back to walking with God again in the garden and cultivating relationship with Him. In my mind I hear Paul whisper, “Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity.” I want to do some significant penance. God says Jesus took care of all that. Time for me to be still and know Him, listen, and then move. Easy Peezy.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step.  The first step is to realise that one is proud.  And a biggish step, too.  At least, nothing whatsoever can be done before it.  If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceieted indeed.--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

A humble person is the most refreshing of people. Everyone wants to be the center of their own universe. From the early morning look in the mirror to the work cafeteria the ears are filled with people talking about themselves. The store directors I work for are filled with it. They are able to demand center stage. They make certain the spotlight is on them always even when they are deflecting. It’s quite the art form.

One is startled to come across someone that focuses on you. They listen to your words and seek to know your heart. In their humility they manifest all the gifts of the Spirit; peace, love, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

I want more. I wrestle with contentment. I fail to be thankful. Craig in my men’s group always reminds me to be content with what I have. Beyond that he strongly encourages me to be thankful. “Do you have a house, food on the table, clothes to wear on your body? Give thanks for those things.” Craig wrestles with health issues and job issues. God hasn’t made him rich but talking to him you would never know that. He is comfortable in his place at home and in the universe.

God meets with humble people face to face. Moses, Abraham, Stephen, Paul, Peter all humble, all humbled. Those of us who are proud fall. Into snares, traps, temptations and countless other big-name vices we hurtle. Rather let me fall on Christ for my example, Moses for my manna.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Road Trip Prep

There is a frenzied expectancy in getting ready for a family trip. Those who are travelers have certain routines. I wash my car. Tradition also has it that I wait until the night before to do most of my packing. I can use up the pre-flight adrenaline to pack which tires me enough to get some sleep before rising to begin the quest.

I am a chronic over-packer, an odd trait in a male. Once when hiking Mt. Whitney I brought boxes of triscuits, sardines, salami and cheese which fed many others en route but made my pack much heavier. I bring too many dress shirts and not enough T-shirts. I bring long pants that I never wear. I do this every year. Like the drunk the morning after the dog bit him I vow I won’t do it again. And I don’t until the next trip.

The worst scenario is the mixed trip—part camping, part city, part casual, part fancy. When you are spending your vacation in the city you can always buy what you forget. Once I forgot my medication but was easily able to get a partial refill at the local Rite-Aid. Not so much if you are camping and forget the stakes to set up your tent. I have been on trips where the pay camp site runs out of toilet paper. So on camping trips I bring extra. I don’t want to forget anything.

To avoid forgetting things I make lists. Then I go crazy trying to find the list I made while packing the night before I leave. The lists have sub-lists. Do laundry; sheets, underwear for trip, work clothes for return. If not focused I will start thinking about the sub-lists and forget the main list completely for a while. This is why packing takes me half the night.

I look forward to the expedition. There is a side of me that delights in the chaos of packing. In the quiet though I think it would be nice to enjoy it as my daughter will. To throw a few things into a bag, stumble out to the car in your pajamas and go where the road—and the parents—take you.