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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More birthdays...

May is a month of marathon birthdays. Aly's is the 15th. Kami's is the 24th. Heidi's is the 26th. I've already spoken of Aly's, so I thought I'd share briefly about a couple more of my beauties.

Kami's Birthday was wonderful. She turned 7. By the look of things, I think she thinks she turned 16. I loved her anticipation as she awaited the arrival of her invitees. She diligently cleaned the house trying to get it just so. She turned on certain lights, and then turned them off to see if the ambiance was as she wanted it. And then she waited at the window. She pull up a chair and just gazed out the window looking for the first car to pull in the driveway. I just watched her and waited for the first sight of a car. Sure enough, moments later, a car turned into the driveway and she came unglued. There was jumping and squealing until just before there was a knock on the door, then, all at once, she become composed as if she was taking it all in stride. Her friend walked in with a present and she quickly grabbed her hand and led her to the gift drop off point. Then, as if a dam broke, everyone started pouring in, parents and little girls alike. With every little girl added to the pack, there was a surge of increased excitement and confidence among them. They started moving about the house as a herd, Kami leading them to various places of fun. She took them to her room to showcase her wares. She then led them downstairs to see the dress up clothes and play houses and such. Finally, they ended up back up stairs just wandering around waiting for the last person to get there so that they could start the planned festivities. Finally, the last little girl arrived and it was time to begin the formal party, though things were pleasantly underway already.

Heidi had come up with a flip flop theme and the girls were going to do a craft whereby they would decorate their flip flop with sundry items of feminine flavor. Things like puffy pink, feathery stringy thingys, fake flowers, soft little balls of assorted colors, ribbons and bows...and my glue. I was the lord of the hot glue gun shooting little dabs of it on the girls flip flops so they could attach various accessories to their otherwise plane sandals. It was an hour of messy fun.

We then moved into the living room to open gifts. What I loved about Kami is that she was so serious about reading the cards before opening the gifts. The girls would watch her scanning the cards, looking at the pictures and reading the text. After she was done reading it, she would say, "I love it! Thanks for the card." I love that she cares about that kind of stuff.

She opened all her presents and everyone started playing with all the gifts. Dolls, make-up stuff, glowing balls, dress up stuff, etc. It was a riot. I just sat and video taped while Heidi took pictures.

After that, we gathered around the kitchen table and got ready to have some cake. Heidi had made a pair of flips flips for cake...huge size 18 flip flops. We sang Happy Birthday while Kami soaked in the moment, and then she filled her lungs with air and blew her brains out trying to extinguish the candles. It took two hearty tries, but she succeeded. The cake was cut and distributed and the girls proceeded to eat their hearts out.

I was eating at the table and I told all the girls that I felt like a girl because there were no other guys at the party. They laughed and their laughter only fed my desire to keep them laughing. They were calling me a princess and I insisted that I was, in fact, a Warrior. A warrior of epic proportions. They laughed and continued to call me a princess. To prove that I was a warrior, I told Kami to put war paint on my face. We didn't have any war paint, so she just stuck her finger in the frosting and covered my face with sugary cake icing...the girls laughed and laughed...Kami was having the time of her life. I took one for the team.

As the girls packed up and headed out, I was struck with how powerful the heart of a girl really is. How beautiful. How mysterious. It starts at such an early age, this unspeakable loveliness that fills the worlds with a delicate touch of creativity and tenderness. I love being in a house full of these creatures. Their spendor and majesty is sometimes more than I can bear, in a good way.

I love you so much, Kami Rose Holdridge. You are my firstborn. You are beautiful inside and out. I love being your father and holding you tight within my arms. Even this morning before school, we sat on the couch and just held each other. You kissed my cheek four times while we watched Lilo and Stitch. I felt every one and counted them with care. We were as snug as a bug in a rug. You are growing up to be quite a young girl...your mother and I are proud of you. I promise to be your "big daddy warrior" (like you used to call me) all the days of my life. I pray that your heart continues to open itself to the joys of Jesus. He is, by far, the greatest present you will ever get on any birthday.

I love you, Kamrose.

ps - I will write about my wife's birthday in the next installment.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

last night's musings...

I love to write my thoughts late at night. The family was gone last night, so I had some time to write some poetry. Man, I always want to have time to let my soul breath...

God, thanks for giving me some space last night to think...I love you.

The Wellspring…

It’s silly really to write down
The stuff inside my head,
One second I’m on top of it
The next I’m all but dead.

I want to keep it to myself
And yet I want to share,
To lock it up and toss the key
Pretend it isn’t there.

Most don’t mind to hear the stuff
That makes them feel at home,
But any time I vent the junk
I’m swiftly left alone.

The looks I get, the puzzled words,
Or no response at all,
Leaves my heart to question why
so few will catch my fall.

It’s like they want me to be real
As long as real means nice,
But when I show the darker side
It’s like I’m rolling dice.

The crapshoot of my honesty
Will either draw or kill,
What makes the one uncomfortable
Makes the other thrilled.

I look about for someone else
That has the heart to write,
The things that hide inside the day,
yet surface in the night.

I wonder if another soul
Is spending time tonight,
Penning random wonderings
Beside the candlelight.

I find more peace in nights like this
Than almost any other,
Wrestling to stay alive
Instead of under cover.

“Make up your mind, you stupid boy!”
This phrase keeps bugging me,
I’m thirty-one, for goodness sake
What could my problem be?

But here’s the thing that most don’t get
About the life I live,
The time it takes to bind my heart
Is time I gladly give.

I love to sit and let my soul
Come up for air and breathe,
Telling me what matters most
That’s buried underneath.

The questions that emerge from it
Have never led to death,
Even if they make me gasp,
They always give me breath.

They don’t depress my heart a bit
In fact, they resurrect
Desires that are going numb
When cause has no effect.

There seems to be a lot at stake
As it relates to living.
The days are short to change a life
And time is not forgiving.

Tomorrow is another day
But that’s no guarantee
That I will purpose to redeem
The life in front of me.

That is why I have to think
About these things tonight,
For I must greet the dawn prepared
To brandish sword and fight.

I can’t expect to just show up
And let my instincts guide,
They have a way of leaving me
And running off to hide.

Passion today is nothing more
Than yesterdays resolve,
A choice that’s made in secrecy
That in the night evolves.

Growing thick within the breast
And setting it ablaze,
Burning up the apathy
And clearing up the haze.

Even if the thoughts I share
Make me look absurd,
They keep me from becoming one
Who’s seen and never heard.

Seen as one who rarely aches
With feelings of confusion,
Looked upon as something great
Becoming an illusion.

But that is just the thing I am
Afraid I will become,
A figment of the carnal mind,
A fabricated bum.

A fantasy that just pretends
To fill a public need,
Never letting people see
The things that make me bleed.

Illusions satisfy at first
But over time they die,
That always happens when we trade
Authentic for a lie.

So even if at times I make
A person double take,
I’d rather have them see the truth,
Than get to know a fake.

Above all else, I will guard my heart
Even if I find
This wellspring of my very life
Makes me lose my mind

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

suprising beauty...

Have you beheld the sunrise
peeking over trees?
The colors of its countenence
bring me to my knees.

Its rays of hope come from above
reflecting on the river,
sparkling, dancing diamonds move
and life takes on a shimmer.

The trees are frist to see the shafts
of light that pierce the morn,
announcing to the sleeping world
the veil of night's been torn.

The echo of another day
rings in every ear,
wiping all our tears away
healing every fear.

The presence of the mighty sun
sheds abroad a light,
promising to guide you through
the darkest, coldest night.

For dark is life when light is gone,
and black the beating heart,
sitting in the shadowed death
waiting for a spark.

It only takes one ray of hope
to loosen midnights chains,
freeing all that's bound inside
till nought but life remains.

Monday, May 22, 2006

my babies...

I love my yard. When we met each other, she was so abused and neglected. Years of unraked leaves left her battered and tattered. Decades of life without fertilizer. No grooming, trimming or nurturing. She was abandoned, left to the brutal care of the wild, a wicked step-mother, indeed.

I found her breathing her last breath when I arrived and preceeded to enact some CPR. I'm not a green thumb per say, but I do have an affection for nature that would make some people question my psychological standing. I started by raking leaves and clearing debris. Old bear bottles, a water softener buried under piles of grass and rocks and downed trees. Old telephones, dolls, and musty clothes. Tires, hoses, balls, and gardening utensils. You name it, it was all over the place. It seemed like whoever lived there before discarded things out their windows when they were done them.

I ripped out the overgrown foliage around the house and labored to pull up the Boston Ivy ground cover that had taken over. All the Arbs and Yews had to go. There was no salvaging them. The only piece of landscaping that I kept was a Magnolia tree at the front corner of the garage. Somehow, it had cared for itself in the midst of the abuse.

With tender loving care, I leveled ground, picked rocks, and dug decorative edges that would serve as a border between lawn and mulch beds. I took up pen, and designed a colorful arrangement of shrubs and trees that would become my nursery. These infant bushes would need me for some time before they could walk on their own. I figured out the dimensions and locations of all the plants and left for Lowes to see if I could find the deal of a life time. I arrived just after they recieved a shipment of new plants. These were vibrant in color, supple and young like a babies behind. They were the $4.99 plants, but I could tell I was getting a whole year for free cause another shot of new growth was yet to come. I bought exactly what I needed to complete my design.

These are the babies I adopted that day:
1 Japenese Maple (that was 29.99)
2 Larger Alberta drawf spruce (19.99)
4 smaller Alberta spuce
5 Burning Bushes
2 Limemound Spirea
3 Goldmound Spirea
2 Sistena Plum
2 Verigated Dogwoods
3 Ornimental Grasses
6 Dwarf Boxwoods
2 dwarf Hydragea
6 Gold lace junipers
5 Blue Rug Junipers (ground spreading)
4 gold Euonymous
4 Blue Star Junipers
1 Weeping Cherry (59.99)
2 Bird's nest spruce
1 Pink Dogwood (39.99)
1 Golden Privot

That's my nursery full of babies needing affection and love from my gentle agrarian hands. This year, they are in a toodler stage of sorts moving along with a surge of growth that makes me proud, obnoxiously so. My Japenese Maple put out new shoots of growth that are nearly 2 feet long and counting. They are majestically weeping as well which makes for a more asthetic picture. Everything is at the peek of its color, bright and loud as if to yell, "We're back!"

I mulched for the second year in a row. Last year I needed ten yards of mulch spread at 5 inches to get a good base down. This year I got 7 and it just barely covered the ground. I put in another 2 yard mulch bed around my grouping of 5 large cherry trees. It's a sight to behold.

And my lawn, she is doing much better. I gave her a shot of ferilizer earlier in the spring that boosted her confidence and color and last week, I broadcasted a round of weed and feed all over her green surface. The next day, it rained, breaking down the granular pellets and soaking it into the ground ever so delicately. I'm looking forward to the by product of that investment in the weeks to come. I have another round of weed and feed for next month...but good things come to those who wait...that's what I keep whispering to my lawn when she pines for more. She knows I'm right. She also knows I good for my word.

I cut down three white pines that were under my soft maple trees and were being deprived of the sun needed to grow healthy. I think it opened up some good space that my lawn needed as well. The only casualties have been a thorn tree and an all-but-dead poplar that needed to be felled.

I just planted some hostas that were given to me and I'm fixing to plant some ferns that were given to me this last weekend around my apple's needs some covering at the base.

I love my yard. Can you tell?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Aly's Birthday Party...

In just about one hour, 25 girls will be converging on our property decked with princess decor and prancing about like they are attending a royal ball. Heidi has garnered the table with tea cups and muffins though I'm sure not a one of the girls cares for vintage tea. They will choke it down to play the part.

This morning, we unveiled the Gift of all gifts. Heidi had purchased a Briar Rose dress sometime in the last four years (if you aren't aware, mothers have the capacity to think years in advance for events such as this and the patience to actually closet something until it arrives), and wanted to give it to Aly before her friends showed up. The objective of this moment was to ensure that her dress was by far the "fairest of them all" since she was the princess of honor. This dress has long sleeves with puffy white fur down by her wrists. Her shoulders are exposed with only a bejeweled strap to hold the dress in place. White fur lines the entire pink dress like the silver lining of a cloud at sunset.

Her countenance is the most precious of sights as she squeezes her face muscles with a sheepish grin of satisfaction. Every dimple caves in to its capacity. Her eyes squint with the delight. Her hair, dissheveled from the putting on of the dress, shines in the rays of the morning sun bursting through the windows into our living room. Her blue eyes seem to shine with a fresh vibrancy. Her skin glows tan against the pink shade of the gown. She spun and twirled to see the air fill the dress with the breath of the fairies. She was, above all, raptured with her own beauty.

You have to understand, this is not make believe to them. One of the must cutting and cruel things I could say to my daughters is that they aren't acting like a princess. If I want to turn the knife, I just have to add, "You're acting like Cruella Deville." They come undone with horror, repenting in a sackcloth and ashes. I try to remind them that being my daughter isn't what makes them a princess, it's the whole idea that they are the child of a great King. I think they get it. But all good theology aside, they still think they are princesses because it's wired into their system from birth. It's days like today that only prove that girls are endowed by their Creator with a beauty and glory that radiates from within. Those that retrieve the heart of a child find themselves privileged to live it out all their days.

Aly, your daddy is bewitched by you, body and soul (Pride and Prejudice). To look upon you today reminds me of the precious gift God gave me when he gave me you. Your middle name is Grace, and I can't think of a word that I long for you to inhabit more as you grow into a beautiful young woman. Just know that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think upon you and pray for your little heart to fight off the assault of the feminine soul, and to move into this world with the strength and passion of the King's daughter. You are your father's pride and joy. I love you the mostess. Happy 5th Birthday, princess.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

something beautiful is happening...

Yesterday, I left work early due to sickness. My body was shutting down, cold chills, churning stomach, rank taste in the mouth, pounding headache. I crawled into bed and laid there for 4 hours shivering under a stack of covers that was so heavy it was making my ankles hurt. They were serving to pitch the tent of blankets when I would lay on my back. Though sickness was seizing my body, I was queerly drawn to read the Word. Since my dream about Holiness, my appetite for Scripture has not abated. I was laying there tucked under the covers reading in First Corinthians. My friend, Marcus, and I are trying to consume passages seeking to retain the content and context of what we're reading for easy access and retrieval in a discussion or conversation. I would read for a little while until it felt like I was going to puke and then I would close my eyes and try to still by body until I could take up the Word and consume some more. It's been far too long since I was ravished by this longing.

The last few days, God has been pressing in with his presence. I can sense him awakening dormant desires, fanning old disciplines back into flame and calling me to lead others toward the life of a "Zealot". Ones who desire to go into strict training (I Cor 9) and beat their bodies to make them their slaves. For too long I've been riding on the wave of convenience-based discipleship.

But Discipleship and Discipline are one in the same. I have tried to forge a new path of discipleship using techniques of relevence and modern conveniece. But my relevence turns into ambivalence and I'm left following my own vain imaginations. I'm tired of clever little counterfeits. I'm sick of weaving another spell of creative ministry. The Word must be the bedrock of my belief. It must rank atop the list of priorities without a close second. I must stand on my desk and say, "Oh, Captain, my Captain." It alone is my portion.

This morning, I again am drawn to the water's edge. I find my heart being distracted by God. In the midst of my tasks, he is tugging me away. His Word is tucked in my back pocket even now as I sit and stroke these keys. It's been two years since I've carried the Word with me in my back pocket like a wallet. I like the feel of sitting on my Bible. It isn't comfortable, but it is comforting. It makes my back hurt tilting me ever so slighty in my seat. Yet I am strangely healed by its precious presence. It's words are like honey on my lips these last couple days...It's been too long since I have been able to say that.

Something beautiful is happening inside me...I feel like the good 'ole days when I would stay up with my buddies at college and pray through the watches of the night. I feel like the early days in youth ministry when I was tasting first blood drawn from the viens of Jesus. I feel like the rabid zealot that used to exercise inconvenient spiritual disciplines to enter into the seventh heaven of God's presence. I remember tasting tears over sin...and yesterday, I tasted those salty tears once again. I remember being kept up at night by God over something noble and virtuous, I experienced that two nights in a row over the last four days. I even watched 24 last night and found myself drawn to shut it off and God upstairs to read. (if you haven't watched 24, that illustration means nothing to you...but if you have, you understand how miraculous this occurance really is) As my eyes dart back and forth scanning the words of God, I feel like it's reading me and I'm reading it. I'm taken with God's thoughts and desires and commands.

Something truly beautiful is happening...

Monday, May 15, 2006

deep down...

Last night I was in a haunted house. My own. I was haunted by holiness all night long. And it's not the "condemnation" kind of hounding that I know all to well, it's the "conviction" kind of wooing that makes you sick to your stomach at the sell out that you've become one day at a time over a long period of time. It's the whole over-used "frog in the kettle" illustration in living color. I'm a unsuspecting frog in a happy little hot tub of relevent Christianity.

I'm a cool follower of Christ because I say fricken and crap when I talk to people. People like it that I talk their language at their level. I bring the cookies down off the top shelf, so to speak. I don't speak in spiritual platitudes like a pedantic prude. I'm a popular pastor. I'm a day at the beach or a walk in the park. I'm your best little buddy ever. I'll tell you what you want to hear how you want to hear it. Not only do I let you be who you are, I let you stay where you've been. I'm so cool.

Last night and into this morning, I don't feel so cool. I feel like a sell out. I feel like I've sold my life to the highest bidder. I feel like too many things have been for sale in my moral garage sale for so cheap. Increasingly, I've noticed that I believe God to be this mysterious being who you can't understand or explain or follow for that matter. He's just so nebulous and arcane that it does no good to attach words or beliefs or principles or explanations to Him. Holiness is simply embracing the Great Mystery in the sky. But is that what Holiness is, really?

The fact of the matter is the Bible is chuck full of explanations of God and desires of God and demands of God and descriptions of God. It shows us what pleases him and angers him. It shows us the things that honor him and the things that unerve him. It demonstrates his wrath over rebellion and his grace over repentence. We can say that it's not about rules, it's only about a relationship...but it's not true. It's about both, cause any relationship has unspoken, ethical, inherent rules in order to function with health. Try nurturing a relationship without rules and see how far you get. We say that God isn't about lists, but this is simply an understandment made to attract turned off church dropouts or people who want to follow a God that has no requirements or restrictions. There are lists all over the Bible...all over. And we need them...we need to know what's right and wrong...we do. I need God to say, "NO." every once in a while. I can't turn everything about Christianity into an optimistic, positive family friendly radio type of spin. I can't just say that God wants us to be faithful in marriage, I have to say God wants us to not have adultery. I know that I tucked the "not" word in there, but most of the Ten Commandments are "nots". I can't say keep saying that God wants us to be alive without raising people's awareness to the things that are killing them everyday. I know it's negative, but sometimes the most positive thing you could say is something negative.

This morning, I feel like calling my parents and telling them how much I love them for raising the bar of holiness in our home growing up. I was just crying my eyes out thanking God for a family that wasn't scared of looking "out of touch" or "off the deep end" with their standards. No matter how far I stray from God's holy heart, I can feel my parent's teaching chasing me down. There have been so many times that I'm coasting along just fine...satisfied, ordered, pampered, successful...and out of nowhere God just puts something or someone in my life that reminds me God's desire for righteousness and I'm undone. Sometimes I can taste God's tears. I am so gripped with how far we've all fallen that I just want to snap. I want to snap over the perversion. I want to come unglued over the malaise over churches and families and individuals caught in a slow boil of sin.

My language has gotten out of hand. I don't ever swear and I feel like it's still less that what God has called me to pursue in my conversation. I'm tired of double meanings and hidden sexual connotations. I'm fed up with safe sarcasm instead of risky questions. I'm fed up with gossip, slander and rumors that are cloaked in humble honesty. I'm fed up with exaggerations and half truths and embellished stories. I'm sick of slang verbiage (crap, darn it, fricken, and any of the other of the 1000 replacements for swearing). I'm tired of settling for my thin and tired vocabulary and not advancing to another level of maturity in my conversations. God has shone his light into my heart and I am blinded by his eyes of fire. I want to crawl out the darkness into his marvelous light.

My mind has to be brought into obedience. I can't keep telling myself that what happens in my head, as long as it stays in my head, makes no difference. It is reality, it is not an alternate reality. My mind is real and it's where the real me resides and responds. Even if I've mastered the art of hiding it, I must deal with my responses, motivations and activities happening inside my skull in the most sober way. I can't harbor bitterness and tell myself that I can manage it like a domesticated lion. It can't be tamed. I can't play around with lust like it's a normative masculine thorn in the flesh meant to enjoyed on the inside. I can't forget the need to purify my mind with the "washing of the Word" thinking I've got enough Bible to last me the rest of my life. My mind is a cesspool sometimes.

I could go on and on. I'm just plain convicted by how much I've let go inside me and around me. I've been so desensitized lately that I don't know the counterfeit from the concrete. I'm tired of hearing the phrase over and over again in our culture, "Deep down, he's really...this or that." Either I am or I'm not, but this deep down business is a myth that keeps us from cutting the chase of reality. I've been to so many funerals where the charade continues on. "So and so was such a good man deep down. For any of you that really got to know him." I'm thinking to myself..."how deep did I have to go to meet this person you're describing and how well did I have to get to know him before I was introduced to this figment of your imagination that you are so eloquently making believe exists?" I don't want to be described this way to anyone. I want to be holy. I want to be passionate. I don't want it to be deep down, I want it to pour forth.

I might say more on this subject sometime later...I don't even care if this is cohesive thought...I just have to get some of this off my chest this morning. God, I want to be holy.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

every now and then...

Every now and then...something unique happens injecting beauty into normalcy. Like when my daughters consipired together this morning to bring mommy breakfast in bed for mother's day. Granted, it's a day away, but in their minds, they are beating the world to the worm. I was in the shower when I heard them traipsing up the stairs with giggles and whispers. I knew something was afoot, so I dried off with superhero speed and headed to the "Master bedroom" to see what was going down. There sat Heidi with a little make shift tray garnered with a couple pieces of burnt toast covered with blotchy chunks of butter and a bowl of cereal that looked like it had been sitting on the kitchen counter for just under a half a year. Heidi looked at me and said that they poured water in the raisen bran because we were all out of milk. That explained the eery film coating the soggy flakes. There's something about water in cereal that makes you dry heave just looking at it.

Heidi was surrounded by the girls watching her eat every bite. They wanted her to eat it all and like every minute of it. Heidi asked them respectfully if she could bypass the cereal which now looked more like a thick morter used to lay down tile in bathrooms. They gleefully released her from the obligation of choking it down. I have to give her credit for downing the toast with just shy of a half a stick of butter resting on its surface. It will take four weeks at the YMCA just to work off the butter say nothing of the toast.

These are the moments when you wonder why you are using birth control. These are the times when you want to fill your home with offspring and start an orphanage in your garage on the side. These are the experiences that break through the ominous overcast of living life and warm your soul with rays of meaning. The kind of meaning that makes it hard to leave for work.

Last night, I was sitting on the couch after practicing with our church softball team and Aly climbed up on my lap. They were watching Lion King, Simba's Pride and so I settled into the storyline while she curled up and tucked her slender body inside my arms. I just so happened to enter the story when a male lion and a female lion were sending out the signals of interest to each other. They were licking each other and rubby their heads against each others necks (this would be lion necking). Aly turned her head to catch my eye and said, "They are in love." I smiled and nodded my head. Just the way she talks when she's interacting about romance sends chills down my spine. Maybe it's the foreshadowing of her teen years. Maybe it's the beauty of the glory that God puts in the female heart, but whatever it is, it makes me a mix of scared spitless and overjoyed.

As the scene continues with a musical number whereby this lion couple frolics about like they had just rolled in a pile of catnip, Aly kissed my face and said as sweetly as could be, "I like love." That phrase stuck to me like dirty underwear. I went to bed last night with the cadence of that simple phrase filling my mind. I like love. How can a four year old wrap up the complexity of the human spirit so succinctly? This is the universal admission of the human heart created by Love Himself. We were created out of love and for love. Something inside us likes love. For some, they like it so much they avoid it so as to not be reminded of this longing. For others, they like it so much they run after anything that sounds, looks or feels like it. Still others rest in the simple truth that "love is all that matters" (I am Sam).

I like love, too. And though there are times I wish I had more of it, today I'm just thankful that I was raised in a family with truckloads of it, nurtured by friendships along the way that distributed it in bulk, and now am blessed to be smack dab in the fat middle of a household teeming with it. What's not to like about that?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

the attack continues - part 2...

Last night I returned home from work ready to hit the ground running. On my way home I chanted a mantra in my head, "Tonight, I will be amazing. Tonight, I will be amazing. Tonight, I will be amazing." The windows were rolled down, the sun was brilliant, the evening was poised for amazement.

It only took about 30 minutes to realize that my grandiose and lofty dreams were about to be trashed. Heidi was leaving for a meeting and right after she left, Taylor started to cry while holding her right ear. I thought to myself, "No...not an earache!" Sure enough, after 15 minutes of incessant wailing, I called Heidi and told her the wonderful news. She called the doctor and got a prescription called into the pharmacy. Through the screams, I dressed the kids and packed them into the family van to head to the pharmacy for the antibiotic. We got there and had to wait in the parking lot for 15 minutes while they filled the prescription. I sighed the sigh of a father disappointed and deflated. I so much wanted to have the "Focus on the Family" night of all nights with my family only to be thwarted and stifled by the middle ear of my daughter.

We got home and I gave her the medicine (bubble gum flavored). I tried to salvage some spirit in the evening, but I'm not sure I succeeded. The only creative parenting that happened that night was a conspiracy I orchestrated with Kami to fake like she was sleeping until the others were out cold, so that we could watch American Idol together. When I told her of my scheme, she smiled with delight and gave me a high five. She sat in my lap and we watched A.I. together while eating pickles.

The thing that makes Kami and I so tight is our affinity to drink the pickle juice once we've polished off some kosher baby dills. We passed the glass jar back and forth sipping the dill flavored vinegar until she drank the last drop. We consumed at least 4 onces of pickle juice together. These are memories that I can't afford to pass up. I have to press through the crap to get to these precious experiences...I just have to.

So here is me raising a glass of pickle juice to all of you saying with glee, "Here's to sitting with your children late into the night watching Amercan Idol and loving every minute of it."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the attack continues...

Yesterday we got a call from school that Kami had falled down and that her wrist was swollen. Heidi took her to the doctor for an x-ray and they said that it looks as if there is a little fine line on one of her bones signifying a possible hairline fracture. She has this little cast that holds her arm firm and still. On top of that, her left eye was filled with goop and was pink. You guessed it, pink eye. This morning, Heidi is taking her to the doctor to get some eye drops for her.

Last night Taylor was up alot of the night with restlessness and sickness. I didn't hear alot of it, but Heidi was the one most disturbed and affected by the late night shinanigins. Our kids are getting hit like a hurricane lately.

I sat Kami (our soon to be 7 year old) down last week and asked her if she realized what her father did for a job. She, without hesitation, said, "Preach about Jesus." I told her that what that meant was that we, as a family, were not liked very much by the Devil because we were trying to help people grow closer to Jesus, and that makes the Devil very mad. Because it makes the devil very mad, I told her that he likes to make our lives harder for us by making us sick and frustrated and tired. I told her that he tries to make us not get along and get into fights with each other. She looked at me like I was high. I didn't know how to share with her that it was partly my fault that she was put in harms way without apologizing for it. I want her to know what we are really doing as a family and what we are up against. Over time, she will come to realize these things. For now, I just have to keep praying a hedge around my family as these attacks are mounted against us.

Some days I have to laugh, simply because if I don't laugh, I will cry.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

just a little something...

Have you noticed that over the years you’ve sculpted a graven image named, Jesus? We have pieced together a wonderful collage of experiences, desires, Bible verses, influences, sermons, etc and have arranged all these bits and pieces into our own little Jesus. This Jesus is a figment of our imagination. You’ve seen, I’m sure, little kids interacting with an imaginary friend…playing with them, talking with them, telling them what to do and what to say and when to do and say it. I wonder if this isn’t far from what we’ve turned God into, an imaginary friend that we have made up in our heads that we role play with.

Most of us don’t know a lot about the Bible. We don’t. I don’t. I think I do, but I don’t. I think because I memorize 100 verses, I’ve mastered God. I’ve got Him down to a science. But I don’t, I just got the hundred-verse God. But there are 31,103 verses in the Bible; 23,145 in the Old Testament and 7,958 in the New Testament. Let’s just be honest, we know much less about God than we let on. Some of us know a couple verses about God, some of us know a thousand verses about God, but we all have constructed the god that fits our agenda, our personality, our needs and our desires. Without knowing it, we gravitate to the god that fits our preconceived paradigm. This god in our heads many times doesn’t look like the one true God. He is a graven image. He is an idol.

Though we will never know all of God, I think the place to start in getting to know the “real” Him is to recognize that we’ve all made up our own little version (or perversion) of God over the years that needs a second look, a double take. Have you ever had someone say, “Think again” to you. I guess that’s what I would say to myself and to you. If you think you know God like the back of your hand, think again.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

somewhat better...

We had a doctor's appt. yesterday and it went well. They really didn't tell us much other than it isn't a broken bone. It is just so weird watching your little girl limp around without much control over her left leg. It's almost like it had fallen asleep or something. Throughout the day, she learned how to walk on it so that she could tool around. It's funny how little kids just bounce back from things like that...they learn how to function with what's available at the current time. She would just tilt her foot out and compensate with her right leg. By the end of the night, her limp was just slight.

Yesterday when we got back from the doctor's office, we were at the church office and Heidi was holding Tay in her arms. They were getting ready to leave and all the sudden it hit me, "I need to pray for Taylor!" I looked at Tay and said, "Can daddy pray for you, Tay?" She looked at me and said, "Uhhu." I moved over towards her and put my left hand on her leg and my right hand behind her head. I thought that she would start getting fidgety and ansy, but she stayed still and quiet for about two minutes while I prayed for healing and strength. I couldn't believe it. When I said, "Amen", she looked at me and said, "I love you, Daddy" and then leaned forward with her lips pursed for a kiss.

I thought to myself, "Did she know what I was doing?" By the way she responded, it was if she understood her condition and the need to pray to God about it. I don't know why, but it just struck my heart so hard that a two year old can comprehend the need for God's intervention.

Last night before bed, I went into my daughters bedrooms and knelt by their beds and prayed for them. I prayed for their little hearts that God would protect them and pour his spirit into theirs. In the middle of praying, I opened my eyes and looked around the room and was just overcome with Satan's attack on my children. He was using them to get to me. I hate that my kids have to undergo attack because of what Heidi and I have chosen to do with our lives, namely, making Satan miserable. I looked around the room and said out loud, "Leave my family alone! Get away from my daughters and leave the premises!" I felt such a passion to fend off the assault on my kids. I need to do a better job of being the watchmen on the walls for my family's well being.

Keep praying for Taylor...we aren't out of the woods yet. This is an odd thing that the doctor's are oddly stumped by as well. We are believing that God will heal her tiny body. I, as her father, stand in between her and the attacker and say with all the heart I can muster, "You've messed with the wrong man. My family belongs to God...and we will make no deals with you. Take your negotiations elsewhere." As I write this, honestly, I am scared to say such things fearing an increased intensity in the battle. But the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing and forceful men grab onto it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

very scared...

I awoke this morning to a very different world than I drifted away from last night as I bedded down. Heidi shoke my arm and I was aroused out of REM sleep. Heidi, with an urgency in her voice, told me that our daughter, Taylor, for some reason, couldn't walk. She was laying on the floor all happy and playing with Aly, but when asked to get up and go downstairs, she just mumbled something about not being able to. At first, I thought she was just pulling a little 2 year old stunt that she learned from her sisters along the way. But as I kept bribing her with various things that normally snap her into action, she was sluggish to respond. I grabbed her hand and helped her stand, but she was quite shaky. Heidi told me that she couldn't move her legs, but there was something inside me that refused to believe that. I don't know what that thing inside you is that kicks in when something like this happens, but it's a mix of denial and hope that makes you feel like you can miraculously change reality. With every moment that went by, and with every failed attempt to lead her out of this funk, my heart grew more and more fearful. I had her come up and lay in my bed with me. We laughed and talked like nothing was wrong, but when it came time to get up and get ready to leave, she tried to stand and walk forward. She really tried, but it was like her brain couldn't move her left leg. Every movement she made was cohersed and unnatural. I tood her hand to help her forward, but she just complained that she wanted to be picked up. Heidi took her downstairs and she just sat on the couch the whole time and watched cartoons...the whole time without so much as an attempt to move around. This is not normal...we can't keep her in one place for one minute of one day. She loves to move about with unfettered joy.

As we got up to take Kami and Aly to school, we gave one final shot at her walking. Again, no response. None. What scares me the most is that I asked her if her leg hurt and she said, " hurt." NO HURT! WHAT THE HECK IS THAT ALL ABOUT! That's what my insides are screaming as I pick her up and take her to the car. All at once, my mind is racing with possibilities. Heidi said that it could be attached to something that happened a few days ago. She fell down the stairs pretty hard. Maybe there's some nerve thing going on. I cringe to think it could be something neurological...that is when my insides knot up and I start to feel faint.

I just hope that you'll pray for us today. We are heading to the doctor's office at 11:00am to try to find out what's going on. I hope it's a bruise or even a broken leg at this point. But I'm scared, I'm really scared it's something more...and I don't know if I can handle that.