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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

National Treasure...wow...

Do not go to National Treasure:Book of Secrets.  I repeat, Do not go to National Treasure:Book of Secrets.  It's a debacle in the most potent sense of the word.  Asinine. Complete inane rubbish through and through.  Some will say, well, there was no swearing...which is great so long as you don't mind that there is no plot, no acting, and no script to speak of either.  

Allow me to be your cupbearer this time and swallow the poison for you.  Visualize me convulsing on the floor as the poison infiltrates my bloodstream and attacks everything living inside my compromised body.  Think to yourself, "Self, maybe we shouldn't drink that cup of what appears to be perfectly fit wine.  Maybe we should enjoy another cup of fine spirits on this holiday vacation."  To that I would say as I breath my last, "At least I have not died in vain."  And with a final gasp and a choke of fleeting life, I would smile knowing that I served a purpose.  I was the one who ate the fatal mushroom.  I was the mate who took one for the team.  I was thrown under the bus that others may live.  

Gasp...ugghhh...I...I...agghhhh (eery silence)

familial...

We're over in Detroit with family.  We had a sweet time yesterday watching children open presents, talking about old times, watching our favorite YouTube clips, sitting around and chewing the fat until the wee hours of the morning, sleeping in...ahhh.

Today, the boys are heading out to a movie and a day on the town.  The girls are taking the kids and doing some shopping...which is not considered a girls day out considering the fact that carting around 6 children under the age of 8 cancels out the idea of recreation altogether.  But I pray for their souls as the shop with living blobs of Attention Deficit Disorder.  May God grant them immunity from the groans and murmurs of the mob.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have to rehearse the journey in the days ahead, but I'll give a valiant effort to that end.  I just love spending some time away from the familiar and with the familial.

Familial...that's right.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Our 2007 Christmas Letter...

our Christmas letter...

A Holdridge Christmas Chronicle

I hope this letter finds your mailbox cozy and free from icy build up. It’s traveled a great distance to get to you enduring many hazardous weather conditions, vicious manhandling, and claustrophobic conditions that would make even sardines second guess their often loathed plight and wise up to the fact that it could be much worse. This winter-cooled letter you are holding in your hands is an uproarious attempt to condense a years worth of life onto an 8½ by 11 piece of parchment. Since I’ve already used more than an inch of that space, I best move on to the actual grounds for this letter.

Kami Rose is now 8 and is currently sitting across from me at the dinner table eating a bowl of cereal with her mouth open…this is something Heidi has been trying to break her of from the beginning, but she is our incorrigible barbarian who refuses to be tamed into a prissy little American doll. She is in 3rd grade and loves to dance. When I say dance, I’m not talking about ballet or the waltz, I’m talking about hip-hop-shaking-your-booty-thrashing-your-head-flipping-around-like-a-hit-squirrel type of dancing. She came out of the closet with this gifting during church one weekend when the children’s ministry performed a couple numbers, one of which was a borderline rap of “To God be the Glory”. She was bustin’ moves like M.C. Hammer on steroids and throwing down her hand like a rapper when he exclaims, “Throw your hands in the aiya like ya’ really don’t caya. From the front to the back and the back to the front. Like this y’all, like that y’all.” You get the picture. She was in her glory; front and center leading the kids in a hip-hop hymn that would make my mother roll over into her grave. Not bad for a little Caucasian kid from the ‘burbs of Lowell, M.I. I was just reading a letter she wrote to Santa at school about what she wanted for Christmas and it reads like this: “Dear Santa Claus, What I want for Christmas is for my mom to be pregnant. If she says no, I will take a dog. Love, Kami”. This is literary genius! For the record, neither of those requests is an option due to the fact that, first, I closed the fertility shop this past summer; and second, because Heidi doesn’t want to add dog hair to the list of things that she already is neck deep in cleaning around the house. Kami will once again be disappointed for Christmas…at least for 15 minutes until she forgets about it and goes and makes a new friend in two seconds at McDonald’s Playland.

Aly Grace is now 6 and is currently playing Barbie’s upstairs in her room. She is our artisan spirit in the household, always detecting subtle shifts in someone’s emotional climate or pointing out historical discrepancies with our stories or bringing to our attention every “bad thought” she has had in her mind that is torturing her sensitive little heart. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that she confesses her every little immoral/amoral secret to her mother/priestess, Heidi, each and every night before drifting into R.E.M. sleep. She confesses everything from thinking someone is ugly at school to making her Barbie’s kiss each other for “a long time” to admitting that she sometimes says in her mind, “I hate my parents!” when we discipline her for some tiny transgression. She bursts into tears in movie theaters when characters are lonely, sad, or lost. This is how touched and touchy her little heart is at the sights and sounds of human emotion. She is in first grade learning to read all by herself, something she has been dying to do since she saw her big sister bringing home books and polishing them off. She still has some trouble with the pesky “R” sound. She was singing the song, “Whoodolf the Whednosed Whaindeewh” in the car this last week and one of her favorite books is about a character named “Baby Beawh (Bear)”. It’s the kind of book that says the word “Beawh” a thousand times just to help them learn to read. Sometimes I just hide behind a wall in another room and close my eyes smiling with God at the beauty and splendor of the child-heart. She needs to be kissed systematically every night by her mom, “I (kiss) love (kiss) you (kiss) because (kiss) you (kiss) are (kiss) lovely (kiss).” It’s impossible for her to function unless these unwritten rules are adhered to and carried out with unadulterated precision. This is our second born, and we love it. (most days)

Taylor Hope Lena’ is now 4 and is currently watching Santa Claus 3 in her sister’s bedroom. We spent the day together playing domino’s at the coffee shop, navigating our way around PBSkids.org, and then coming home and building a campfire out in the snow. She helped me collect sticks in the woods and we had a blast throwing snow in the fire and watching it sizzle and melt away. She has her mother’s captivating smile and is always making us laugh with her over-the-top personality. (I don’t know where she got that!) She is in pre-school and hasn’t met anyone that doesn’t become her best friend in less than 5 seconds. She loves to make up songs and sing them to our family. We literally cram our family onto the couch and let her entertain us with song and dance for as long as her little heart desires. She coined the phrase, “I la’ you” several months back before bed one night as we were tucking her in and it’s become a regular part of our vocabulary. She has been brainwashed by her mother into being absolutely deathly afraid of bugs and harmless vermin called mice that peacefully cohabitate our house with us. She is paralyzed by the sighting of a ladybug and will literally sit on the toilet trembling until I slay it with my bare hands. She brings a joy to our home that is rivaled only by the presence of God himself. There are times when I wonder if there is any difference to begin with. A night with Taylor around our house would make you wonder the same.

(I left this letter for three days and am now just returning to finish it…)

Heidi and I have just celebrated 11 years of marriage on Nov. 30th and 15 years of knowing of each other’s existence on Oct. 20th. Heidi invests massive amounts of energy into our three girls, the kind of energy that reduces your life expectancy by 5 years at least. Because there are no boys in our house other than myself, it increases the responsibility for Heidi to disciple, model, and bestow femininity. I’ve tried to bestow femininity over the years, and always hit an invisible wall for some reason I’ve yet to unearth. In fact, just today Heidi had to take Kami out to answer some of her persistent questions regarding males and females, and the variety of things that make them so very different and yet so drawn to each other. Heidi went to our local shopping mart last night to pick up a book on how to explain all of these profound mysteries to an over-zealous eight year old. I’ve yet to see my daughter since that conversation…I’m not sure that I’ll be able to make eye contact for at least the first few minutes of our reunion. These are the days I’m glad that we have 3 daughters, ‘cause Heidi’s the one that gets thrown under the bus and I can sit on the sidewalk and watch her get run over. Ok, so maybe that wasn’t the best word picture.

All in all…family is really good. Ministry is very good. Life is wicked (meaning unbelievably) good. God has brought us through another year and I’m stoked about the one that is to come. I’ve never been more in love with the life I live and the family I get to live it with. I hope this letter gives you a small sense of that reality.

Merry Christmas y’all…


Jason, Heidi, Kami, Aly and Taylor

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kami's Christmas wish....

Dear Santa Claus,

What I want for Christmas is for my mom to be pregnant. If she says no, I will take a dog.

Love, Kami

_______________

We live in a world where the difference between babies and dogs is ever diminishing, much like Santa and Jesus...















Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas "Evil" leading to "Scary Christmas"...

So we're in the middle of the December series called, "the Nighmare before Christmas" and I'm just looking at the genealogy of Christ and the battle against as well as the brokenness within his bloodline of Jesus. It's fascinating really. This week, I'm going to be looking at the birth of Christ through the lens of Rev. 12. Specifically wondering what it must have been like to emerge from the womb of Mary only to be eye to eye with the "dragon who was waiting to devour" you. What a "nativity" scene that is. One character that gets left out of the nativity is the dragon. It makes me wonder about childish little renderings of the Christmas story like "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night". I decided to rewrite those little jingles to depict the reality of warfare surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Here's my rewrite of "Away in a Manger"...I call it "He lays there in Danger."

He lays there in Danger
Satan wants him dead
The little Lord Jesus
Is Hell’s greatest dread.
The war in the sky
Goes on while he lay
The little Lord Jesus
Is saving the day.

The battle is growing
the poor baby shakes
One look at the dragon
reveals what’s at stake
The combat was raging,
As Jesus arrived,
While young boys were slaughtered,
this baby survived.

The clamor was vicious
Surrounding the child,
Just under the surface
Hell’s angels were riled.
With Infinite power
Lord Sabaoth fought
and with armored angels
our freedom was bought.


Here's the rewrite of "Silent Night"...I've titled it "Violent Night"

Violent Night, Gory Night
Angels poised for a fight
Demons circled ‘round the child
All of Heaven broke loose and went wild
Warring for Heavenly peace.
Warring for Heavenly peace.

Violent Night, Gory night!
Bethlehem filled with fright
Fury streamed from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts shout “Fight, Jehovah!”
Christ, the Warrior is born.
Christ, the Warrior is born.


Violent night, Gory night!
Son of God joins our plight
Valiant dreams for humanities race
Brings the dawn of accessible grace
Born again at Thy birth.
Born again at Thy birth.


I just sometimes feel like there has been so much censorship in the story of God. Stories in the Bible can so easy be abducted from their context and air-brushed to be kid-friendly. I wonder in the long run what this does to the gospel. I think it makes for a pretty boring story when you eliminate the dark side in hopes to compel people with the bright side. I'm sick of the bright side. I want the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. If the truth is fraught with danger and speckled with brokenness and checkered with salacious details that would get an NC-17 rating at the local theater...bring it on...with some popcorn and sour patch kids ta boot! Anyway...that's my two cents for the day.

Hope you enjoy my "morbid" Christmas carols.

It's my sorry attempt to blend Christmas Eve with Christmas Evil. Both are real. Both are true. And I don't think we do the gospel justice until we learn to sing both.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

the sky is falling...

The snow is gently falling outside my office window. There something so relaxing about watching snow fall and alight tenderly on shrubs, overhangs and windshields. I remember waking up and seeing piles of snow drifting in my driveway and begging my dad to cancal school (he was the principal). He would check around and see what the local schools were doing and eventually I'd hear him call into the radio station and say "uncle". The funny thing about that is that I would be so tired up to that moment, but instantly awake once I knew that I didn't "have" to wake up. I would put on my winter garb and trudge through the drifts as the first human to tamper with the virgin snowfall.

Branches would be bending under the weight of the crystalized water. The woods were pure and white...kinda like I imagined heaven to be minus the numbing temperature. I would stay out until I couldn't feel my toes. Then I would come inside, take off the layers of garment draped over me, and plop down in front of the woodstove basking in the pure heat of burning lumber. I don't care what anyone else says, woodburning heat is by far the most penetrating pleasure after coming in from the bitter cold. My toes would swell under the pressure of thawing so quickly...sometimes the pain would be so excruciating, I felt like I wanted to slice them with a jack-knife to relieve the expanding pressure. But eventually, like a brain freeze after too big of a bite of ice cream, it finds relief and tingles with a sensation that lets you know that you're alive...truly alive.

Hot chocolate only doubled the pleasure as the warm, brown liquid made its way into my bossom and eventually into my veins. Water was pooled on the linoleum floor making mom a little perturbed, but it was all part of the rigors of surviving the winter season. I would stoke the fire leaving the door open to just gaze at the blaze with a woolgathering stare of wonder. Something about fire and ice just balances out the human spirit and revives the dead places inside with feeling again. The extreme fringes are where reason and meaning dwell. I loved those places growing up.

So as I look out my window at the falling sky, I'm transported back to 319 Tug Hill Rd. where life was arresting my affection and I didn't even know it. I wish I could go back...oh wait, I guess that's what I'm doing right now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Daddy/Daughter Dance...

The time of year has rolled around
to join my daughter's world,
out on the dance floor of her school
where her heart comes unfurled.

She'd talked about it for a month
dreaming of the night,
wondering what dress to where
and whether to where tights.

The night before the big event
she asked, "Are you excited?"
And with her hands upon my neck
it felt like I was knighted.

Taken back to yesteryear
where princes went to balls,
to find the dance inside their dreams
with hopes in love to fall.

And as I gazed into her eyes
I said, "You've no idea
How much this night pounds in my heart,
I 'bout got diarrhea."

Her machine-gun giggle filled the room
with joy beyond compare,
I pushed her head down on her bed
and stroked her thick brown hair.

She said, "Dad, I love to dance
and hang out with my friends.
I just hate when it's all done
and all the dancing ends."

I could tell that it'd be hard
for her little mind to calm.
I hoped a little bedtime prayer
could be a soothing balm.

And as I snuggled with my girl
I talked to God above,
I thanked him for the times to talk
and for my daughter's love.

And as I exited her room
I whispered, "Nighty night.
She looked at me and quickly said,
"Don't let the bedbugs bite."

That was the last I saw of her
until the early evening
just before the Daddy-dance,
where seeing is believing.

Things you wonder if are real
you see before your eyes,
it not just Disney fairy tales,
this stuff is still alive.

Her mother curled up her hair
with spray and spritz and spice,
She dabbed some blush upon her cheeks
and rubbed it in real nice.

At first she cried and didn't like
the tighness of the curls
I thought as Heidi dolled her up
"I'm glad I'm not a girl."

Finally the weeping stopped
and we were on our way
Heading to the restaurant
with Heidi, Al and Tay.

We scarfed down food like animals,
and paid the hefty bill
Kam' and I hopped in the truck
and headed for the thrill.

Arriving at the lively school
Kam' hung her furry shawl;
they took the cafeteria
and changed it to a ball.

With softened lights and disco balls
the atmosphere was set,
the Dj flipped the wax for us,
our appetites where wet.

At first we stood and scanned the crowd
looking for her pals,
and when her eyes caught one of them
she ran to join the gals.

I watched her jump around with friends
and shake her little bum,
She danced footloose and fancy free
rev'ling in the fun.

Every now and then she'd look
to see if I was gazing,
beyond the lights and sights and sounds
to find her heart amazing.

I'd smile at her from 'cross the room
and she would smile back,
I watched her dance with all her might
while nibbling on a snack.

Every now and then there'd be
a song for a slow dance,
She'd find me in the teeming crowd
and join me for romance.

I pulled her tight against my chest
and kissed her silky face,
we swayed so gently back and forth
with otherworldy grace.

A tear was coming to my eye
while Bryan Adams sung
"Everything I do for you."
as to my girl I clung.

I held her fast within my arms,
the time was flying by,
it won't be long before these years
will pass before my eyes.

I'll wish that I could travel back
and have just one more chance,
to share an evening with my girl
and lose ourselves in dance.

I soaked up every little sight
absorbing every sound,
And as the final song was played
I saw my princess crowned.

Adorned with beautiful affection
streaming from my heart,
pouring over all her being
and filling every part.

She looked at me on the way home
and said with tender tone,
"Thanks for dancing with me, Dad
I don't want to go home."

I grabbed her hand and held it tight
I wished that time stood still,
but I didn't want this wish to steal
this moment's unique chill.

That moved so warmly down my spine
leaving me entranced,
cause on this special winter's night
I grabbed my girl and danced.

I love you Kami Rose.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Getting lost...

Tonight is the Daddy/Daughter Dance. Kami showed me her dress that she wants to where last night. She said that she loves how it fans out when she twirls. She asked me if I'm excited to go with her. She has no idea.

Feeling the ache in my back as I lean ever so slighty toward her 8 year old body swaying back and forth with her on the dance floor is one of the best dull pains in the small of my back I ever experience. I love the slow songs....the ones that let us hold each other without something pressing for us to get to. But I also love the fast songs that make us both sweat we're "bustin' so many moves". I love starting a soul train with all the daddies and their daughters. I love watching her dance with her friends in a cute little circle. I love getting punch and sitting at the table waiting for just the right song to go and "express ourselves".

So it's the big night. For Kami, there's nothing else happening in the world. No war. No hunger. No death. Nothing but a ball for the princess and the king to go to and get lost in. And in intend to get as lost as I ever have.

Monday, December 03, 2007

big fat lies...

this is monday...it is exactly a week since my last post. Mondays are strange days for me. For one, it is actually my Wednesday, my hump day so to speak. And yet it feels like a good ole' fashioned Monday regardless, because for everyone else I'm interacting with it actually is. So I'm caught betwixt two realities. A place that has become somewhat of a home for me.

The reason why this has become somewhat of a norm for me is that I'm always living in the middle of what is real (the seen world around me that I'm intersecting) and what is more real (the unseen world around me that I'm trying to intersect with everything I've got). It's like both are real and depending on the hour and who I'm sharing that hour with, I flop back and forth like a fish out of water, or a bird under water. Either way, I'm a cohabitant of two distinctly real worlds, but real in their own way. I must admit, the tangible/tactile world makes it difficult to pay attention to the inaudible/unseen world that, by faith, I believe surrounds me.

I feel drawn to thrown myself into both of these worlds. I love being a human on this planet. Sure, it has it's drawbacks and pitfalls, but all in all, I love culture and nature, and very much enjoy the opportunity to be alive in such a ripe age of history. And yet, I love the world that pulsates under and over and around and within what I see...so much so that I talk by myself (pray) and sings songs toward it (worship) and talk to others about it (preaching) and try to get other to order their lives according to it (discipleship). It's kind of crazy.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a client of the product I'm selling. It's a wonderment that can be quite unnerving. Days and weeks and even months can go by without second-guessing my infatuation with the unseen world, and all at once, I'll be struck with a pesky little thought..."What evidence has there been recently that I'm not just weaving a clever spell out of nothing (ex nihilo). Am I using the product I'm selling or am I mindlessly contributing to the glut of propoganda that comes from untested, unquestioned auto-pilot theory?" I've learned that I can sell something that I don't use or own over the years. It's not just possible, it's quite likely if I don't catch myself being a talking head or a lifeless sounding board to regurgitated so-called truth. I'm nothing more than a parrot, a puppet on some days. I've completley forgotten or discarded my "responsibility" to strain, filter, process, distill, and discern. These self-checks serve to keep my life and my ministry and my marriage from becoming different comparments in a scitzophrnic existance. I never want to get used to living an unquestioned existance. I actually would rather lived out an unanswered one if given the option. An unaswered one can at least be chalked up to mystery and glorious unknowns, something I'm getting more comfortable living with. But an unquestioned life leaves me feeling quite fearful that I'm actually living out a life that is nothing more than a big fat lie.

And I hate big fat lies.

Monday, November 26, 2007

6 days spent in 4 hours...

6 days to create a deep reservoir of energy and strength.

4 hours for it to leak out onto the ground.

6 days to get away and mend.

4 hours to get back and rend.

6 days to read and take in the beauty of life.

4 hours to work and take in the tragedy of life.


I can't believe how my first day back from vacation has affected me. You look for signs of life, but all around you see "dropping flies", "crashing and burning". I'm sure it's not as bad as I think it is, it's probably worse. Ha. (It's funny, I started that last sentence fully intending to say something optimistic and promising but as it emerged, I realized that I don't know the half of the depravity in the world in which I live). Humanity is injured serverly. People are going down by the droves. Marriages are crumbling at a whole-sale rate. Friendships are collapsing. Churches are falling apart. Poor people are getting poorer. Rich people have never been wealthier. Trust is diminishing. Hope is fading.

And yet, under all that debris there is the faint whisper of redemption. We are groaning for it, it is moaning to us. We are dying for it and yet running from it all at the same time. Pressure, fear, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive triggers, destructive defaults, rage, powerlessness, addictions...these crash in around us and well up within us constricting and suffocating us to death. But redemption is hovering just above the fray. Brooding. Breathing. I can feel it even in the darkness of this moment.

On top of the pile that was already forming on top of my heart, Heidi lost a cleaning job today. She lost her other cleaning job earlier this month. That's alot of money in our budget that has suddenly vanished. Hmmm. I'm not sure what else to say. Hmmm.

I feel a strength to lead in this place of desperation, but it sure isn't my own. It's an alien strength from without offered to those who are lost for words and out of answers. I can only pray that strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord to shine down and reveal the purpose of this dreary day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a poetic holiday #5...

We just returned from seeing "Enchanted",
where romantic love is severely slanted.

Fantasy and reality merge,
parts of the show almost made me purge.

I think the best part of watching this show,
was watching my girls cute faces aglow.

Staring at them as they stare at the flick
is something that you cannot beat with a stick.

There faces light up when the characters kiss,
I cover their eyes, but they wouldn't miss.

They fight off my hands and lean to the side,
taking in romance one frame at a time.

There's always the witch and the sinister dragon,
I might as well cart Aly out in a wagon.

She moves from her seat and onto my knee,
Strugglin' like a perfectionist getting a "B".

Tears start to form in her sky blue eyes,
you can tell that she's fighting interior lies.

But tonight she responded with much less drama,
she didn't freak out and ball for her mamma.

She curled up into my "lazy boy lap",
and didn't fall into the "phobia trap".

We had a great time taking in a good movie,
this holiday season has been really groovy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

a poetic holiday #4

Thanksgiving came and thanksgiving went
the food to digest is leaving me spent.

Turkey and stuffing and candied potatoes,
rolls and bean, salad with tomatoes.

I've neglected to speak of my favorite dessert,
apple pie with some cheese, do you want to convert?

I ate until I couldn't eat any more
moved to the couch and started to snore

while watching some football and tending the fire
hoping a game would come down to the wire.

There's nothing like vegging on Thanksgiving day,
with nothing to do and nothing to say.

Reading a book or taking a nap
Playing with kids or taking a crap.

And not feeling guilty one bit at all,
It's all part of soaking up the remainder of fall.

The weather was awesome, almost sixty nine
we basked in the resplendent rays feeling fine.

The kids ran around and giggled with glee,
the sounds of my childhood came back to me.

It felt like the last days of lonely September
At least from what my little brain can remember.

The weather is perfect, not too warm, not too cool,
Just a sweater on the first couple weeks back to school.

oh...i gotta get...it's time for some leftovers...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

a poetic holiday #3...

I sipped some morning coffee
at Barnes and Noble's bar,
A Carmel Macchiato
so hot my throat was scarred.

Books surrounding conversation
with in-laws, brother, dad,
talk of church and life and heart,
the good, the ugly, the bad.

I leafed through books for quite some time
looking for a read,
A paperback soon caught my eye
the title sparked a need.

"Into the Wild", a new release
the picture made me stare,
a guy was sitting on a bus
staring at thin air.

As I rooted through the book
some phrases tugged my heart,
I snatched it up and purchased it
I couldn't wait to start.

I've made my way to chapter two
and so far I'm transfixed,
The storyline reflects my heart
though my emotion's mixed.

There's part of me that wants to leave
the world refined, explored,
in search for untamed lands of life
modernity ignores.

Dressing up in custom clothes
walking rank and file,
takes all the self-control I got,
dashed with self-denial.

Some days I want to venture out
to places yet discovered,
With hopes of stumbling upon the life
that needs to be recovered.

So many days I march the beat
of this worlds standard drummer,
And every day I acquiesce,
the inner dance gets dumber.

I must admit, I love my life
but yet I must confess,
when I read books as true as this
my heart feels like a mess.

Mere survival doesn't speak
the language of the heart,
My spirit stirs at stories lived
that blow the curve apart.

That step outside accepted lines
and head for unknown lands,
in search of something never touched
by my uncallused hands.

This book unearths a buried part
inside my heaving chest,
inviting me to shake my wings
and jump out of the nest.

Soaring high above the plains,
of motions true to form
A spirit loosed from body cold
to chase a body warm.

Into the wild...to feel the warmth again...

a poetic holiday #2...

The fireplace is dancing bright
with crackling logs of burning light.

And as I stand with back to flame
my legs begin to burn with pain.

But just before it melts my pants
I hop away and start to dance.

Every time my jeans hit skin
I feel I'm fighting with a pin.

The funny thing about this trend
is that I'll repeat it all again.

I can't stop this warped desire
to flirt with flames and play with fire.

...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

a poetic holiday #1...

Well, we're in Philly for the holidays...and it' been a relaxing time thus far. The trip out here is close to 12 hours, which is no small feat given the fact that our three children are 8 and under. Essentially, you're traveling in a small metal box with wheels fastened to it...in light of that description, it's a formula for disaster. But I can't complain. We have a DVD player that occupies their restless spirits for shorts chunks of time. I don't even want to think about what a twelve hour trip would be like without that little technological babysitter.

I think for the coming days, I've decided to throw down my holiday thoughts in poetical form for both my enjoyment and for the reading pleasure of whoever it is that pulls off at this rest stop in their daily journey.

I woke today with a tender back
with muscles twisted and out of whack

I sat up straight and wiped my eyes
the sleepy seeds hung on both sides.

I thought about the day ahead
then laid back down upon the bed.

I looked up at the ceiling white
collecting thoughts birthed through the night.

I love this time to get away
there's nothing like a holiday.

The sleep is sound, the days are long,
the laughter deep, the coffee strong.

I'm looking forward to these days,
a time to rest from all the craze.


....more to come...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

rational lies...

right now...I'm telling you, right this very moment, I'm being stirred toward the holy heart of God. Certain seasons of my life beckon me into his happy heart, a treasured and vital piece of his heart indeed. But the joy is tasteless unless it comes from a place of peace with God. And peace with God cannot occur outside of a serious pursuit of holiness. And serious would not describe my pursuit for quite some time now.

It's like I've been drawn to being real more than being true. And truth will take you to the real, but real doesn't always lead you to the truth. We are in a generation of cool Christianity. Relevent, slick, cutting edge, culturally savvy, progressive, trendy, modern...and honestly I get quite sick of what it produces deep in my soul. I feel like it poisens me. It can numb me, desensitize me, put me in a stupor, a slumber of sorts.

I long for the days of my faith when I burned cd's, knelt when I prayed, wrote Scripture on memory cards and carried them with me, put my pocket Bible in my back pocket, posted Scripture on my walls, worshipped with abandon, and took sin seriously enough to treat it forcefully and unapologeticly. I feel like I'm so mature now, so politically correct, so scared of legalism, so worried about offending people or ruining the Chrisian curve, so blended and braided with the world I'm not sure where God begins or ends, where sins begins or ends. It's so blurry and so murky, I'm just saying I think I've bought into something shady sometimes.

I want to be more devout, more commited to creeds than needs. More rooted in devotion than emotion. More achored to truth than feelings. I want more reverence and less relevence. I want to stand out if that's what obedience leads to, I want to fade away if that's what obedience leads to. I want obedience to take me wherever it will instead of my obedience being contingent on whether it fits my lifesyle.

I just feel so far from where I should be and I've done it to myself. I need to graft myself back into the holy heart of God. Without legalism, withough judgementalism, without condemnation, without guilt, without shame, without fear. I need to long for righteousness because it's right.

I tend to rationalize which is not more than "rational lies". The lies I tell myself these days have never sounded more rational...that's downright scary.

Monday, November 12, 2007

in love with an idea...

It's really easy to be in love with the idea of community only to be quite unnerved by the reality of it. It's easy to say that you love the local church, but have you ever tried to be a part of one for an extended period of time? You can't control who you're going to run into, or who's going to run into you. You can't selectively weed out "crazies" only to have close relationships with the one's who fit your refined criteria. You are forced to have biblical community, which has very little to do with an idea and whole lot to do with a messy melding of mold, mothballs, and mildew; mud,muck and mire. There are personalities that annoy you. There are voices that are obnoxious. There are situations that are awkward. It's just plain messy.

You hold in high regard this ideal picture of community that you've manufactured in your fertile skull. You nurture it, journal about it, sculpt and shapen it, feed it and care for it...but in the end it's just alot of woolgathering (idle daydreaming) and mental role playing. It's not real. People, the kinds on the other side of your cranium crammed with clever contri"visions", are enigmas... hybrids of the image of God and invasion of Satan. Both Glory and Gory. Both awesome and aweful. And we have a choice of what to do with this "less than ideal" reality.

We can curse it and quarantine ourselves in regulated environments with firewalls to ensure only the worthwhile get welcomed into the inner sactum, or we can bless the mess with a presence that penetrates and permeates, absorbs and invites, melds and melts into the cracks of someones brokeness. We talk of loving the broken, but if you're anything like me, they never fit the brokenness that I've conjured up in my head...I want them to be the exact kind of brokeness that I feel compassion for...homeless, but not homely...lonely, but not loners...lost, but not losers. You know, rags without the rage...hunger without the desperation...filled with needs without being needy...starving, but not leachy...I think you know what I'm talking about.

So we all have these ideas of our dream "life group". We have concocted these fantastical pictures of "doing life with a community". We have dreamt up our own "Shire", our own "Narnia", our own utopian land of thoughtful wishing and wishful thinking. It's real pretty, but not real. It's quite literally unbelievable! And we wonder why we wander about looking for that which doesn't actually exist, stumbling from one friendship to another, one church to another, one job to another...we are looking for what is right in front of our face, we just have made a graven image that we bow to that distracts us from "Reality" and thus "Truth".

We have "read into" the Bible for too long. The woman at the well was a beautiful woman with an education that had some dirt on her face and a tattered robe. All she needed was attention and "whalla"...transformed into an upright, articulate model who now speaks at school assemblies about how wonderful it is to meet Jesus.

The little man in the tree is a shady business man that just needed someone to invite themselves over to his house and "Badaboom!", he's an emotionally centered soul who starts FPU classes for the community and becomes the lead character in the movie "It's a wonderful life!"

The woman caught in adultery just needed someone to defend her from her accusers. She didn't stutter and keep harassing Jesus every time he saw her from that point on with unreasonable conversation...no, people in the Bible that Jesus helped never were leachy with co-dependency issues and insecurity complexs and obsessive compulsive disorders. Nope, they were normal people with some dirt on their face that just needed someone to give them an "Extreme Makeover" and Presto...you have a well adjusted conversion that leads to a Great Awakening...and so on and so forth about "So and So" and "Such and Such"...it's fiction at it's best...and we buy it. We sell it.

And all around us the kingdom is pulsating. It's not the kingdom we've made up, but it's no less real. It's not the kingdom we're wishing for, but I believe it's the one we're looking for. It's less than ideal, but it's real. It doesn't make sense, it's not convenient, it's not pristine...but it's wasn't for Jesus either. We've just doctored up history with quixodic little stories and romantic fairy tales. And it's deception at it's finest. We are self-decieved.

You don't have to look any further than our portraits of Jesus that we humans have drawn...and then drawn conclusions from. "White, handsome, slender, blue eyes, muscular jaw, feathered brown hair with blond highlights, clean shaven face...Shouldering a little lamb, all the while playing with little kids who are propped up on his lap. He seems so calm, cool and collected. Wow...I wish I could be Christ-like!" Give me a break.

When will people die to their dreamworlds and come alive to the real world? Will we keep walking by the "guy in the tree" (Zach) and the "crazy dude in the graveyard" (Demoniac) and the "desperate chick looking for attention" (Mary) and the "religious zealot with an agenda" (Nic) and the "cocky guy who lives a double life" (Judas) and "the promiscuous girl who can't pull it together" (Woman at the Well). Who do we think these people were? Normal people with some dirt on thier clothes? Educated people a conversation away from being catapulted into Church Leadership? Broken people on the brink of breakthrough leading to healthy interactions and smooth success? Do you think they smelled like B.O.? Do you wonder if the continuation of the story was less exciting than the initial encounter? Do you ever think that Jesus needed to get away with His Father less to pray and more to recover from the onslaught of "real, everyday human beings"? I do. I don't really wonder...people are people, people were people, people will always be people. The same yesterday, today, and forever...until we are enjoying life on the other side of the Crystal Sea. And who knows that Heaven isn't going to be filled with people that get under your skin and on your nerves. It's free from sin, not personality. It's free from tears, not souls. I hope we're not cookie cutter robots without freedom of expression and emotion. And with expression and emotion comes tension and apprehension. "Be angry and sin not"... what that tells me is that you can emote without sinning. Hmm...I don't have time to go spelunking down that cave.

All I know is that everywhere I go I meet people and they never seem like the people in the books I read. I don't see quick change. I don't see radical transformation. I don't see rags to riches. I see humans being humans. I don't think they know about my fanciful ideas about who I wish they were, they just put themselves in front of me and I'm left to "can the ideal" and "embrace the real". And maybe, just maybe, all my stupid fabrications are the "vain imaginations" that Paul was so adamantly condemning.

The Vanity of our Imagined Stories can keep us from living the Epic Story of God's Redemption in Everyday Human Beings. Warts and all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

supping with Kama Lam Bam...

Kami and I supped together this morning. Over coffee and cookie.

I buy a cup of java, doctor it up, and we both sip it passing it back and forth methodically.

I buy her a cookie and she nibbles on it like a little beaver. Crumbs hang on her lips waiting to be discovered and raked into her mouth with her sticky, pink tongue.

And then we talk. We sup. We commune. We share stories and memories.

I love hearing her talk about how she sees things. This morning we talked about the importance of honesty. I affirmed her for an instance where she made a choice to do what was right even though we weren't present. She told me how good she felt to know that we could trust her. We camped out on that topic for a while. I love camping out with Kami in conversations. There are filled with storytelling and daydreaming. Two of my favorite past-times.

Supping with someone is fun...but supping with your kid is a particular piece of heaven.

Monday, November 05, 2007

dropping who you are...

Once a month, our staff gets “away” to find “A Way”. It’s no coincidence that the movement of Christianity was called “The Way” in its infantile form. It’s not happenstance that Jesus calls himself “The Way” in John 14. This way, this path, this yoke…this is why we get “A-way”. And today is a day to do just that.

We are at a Franciscan Life Center…a modern monastery. A place tucked in the backwoods of Michigan. A place of solace. A place of solidarity. A place to walk in the woods and nestle under an old pine. I found the best spot to rest this morning. The leaves and pine needles created a soft bed for my body to lie down and stare into the vast sky above me. The wind whistled and whisked across my limp body. The sun was pressing its warmth against my clothes, but the coolness of the wind would immediately chill whatever heat was being felt. It was a perfect blend of cold and warm putting me in a “borderland” of sorts. I was neither cold nor hot. I was neither happy nor sad. I was neither moving nor complacent. I was neither a leader nor a follower. I was neither a sinner nor a saint. I just was. Laying their on the mattress of natures surface, I felt like the only man alive on the whole planet. Me and God. I asked him to whisper himself into my heart. He didn’t, he just laid there next to me. I asked him to touch me in a tangible way. He didn’t, he just silently existed in that moment along side of me. I asked him to show me something from the Word. He didn’t, he just graciously sat their and kept his mouth shut so that I could soak in the silence and hear his creation cry out for redemption. It is the same cry for redemption that I feel surface in myself on most days. A groaning for Eden…a moaning for Heaven. I spent time with Jesus…and he didn’t say a word…He didn’t have to.

Now I’m in the Catholic chapel. Symbols surround me. Desert father are honored. It’s a place of reverence and reflection. I found two candles and a box of matches. I’m sitting between these two flickering candles smiling at how wonderful it feels to be surrounded by Catholic tradition. The meditations. The liturgical chants. The Artifacts. The history. The contemplative space to not feel the pressure of relevance. The quiet noise of a stillness and the invitation to die to “productivity” and “performance”. These candles are sending a dancing reflection of light along the walls the surround me making me feel what can only be described as the brush of angel’s wings tickling my heart like a feather draw across the tip of your nose.

I’m looking at a beautiful crucifix. Jesus is looking at me. I’ve always felt prone to mock such things, but today it stirs my heart…it speaks of something old, seasoned, ancient, rooted…eternal. I feel like I’m connected to his heart right now. I can see the lines on his face, the scars from childhood pimples, the rugged hands of carpentry, the tan complexion of a middle eastern man earning a living in less than ideal conditions. I can see his skinned and callused knees from to much horse play. I can see his crazy cowlick and his disheveled hair. I can see his big brown eyes red from exhaustion. I can see him slipping away to a lonely place to catch a breather and regain strength of the task at hand. I can see his tattered clothes and the kind of bed-head that only a man without a real bed could wake up with. I can see his shining face under the red soil caked on his skin. I can just about hear his voice…but I don’t understand it because he doesn’t speak my language…He looks like one of the guys who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers and yet there’s something written all over his face that tells you that that would never happen. He doesn’t need to be funny, but he is sometimes. He doesn’t have to be the life of the party, but people tend to gather around his picturesque stories. He has a way of living and talking and being that makes you want to drop who you are and be something different.

And that’s what I want today…to drop who I am and pick up on “The Way” he lives. Some days, I feel like we’re hand in hand…other days, I don’t even feel like I know this man that I say I follow. He has a way with words, a way with people…a way with everything that seems so different…so “Wayward”. But it is this wayward path that I long to walk.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A third place...

Have I said how much I love the coffee shop?

A third place. A third space. A third grace. I relax most fully here. I slouch. I lean back in my chair. I close my eyes and dream. I listen to the white noise of conversation mixed with music mixed with coffee machines mixed with the scuffling traffic of customers seeking their daily fix. You can mumble here. You can jumble words. You can stumble to and fro non-sensically. It even fits better if you do. You don't have to spend energy on composure. You don't have to fear exposure. You don't have to bring closure to any one idea. You can let things be. You can leave loose ends. You can stay unfinished. You can enjoy procrastination. You can find peace in falling to pieces. There aren't deadlines and dead ends. You can explore, then explode. You can dream beyond the seams, beyond what seems...this or that or those or there or them. You can drift and float, suspended and suspending what are universally considered "pressing things". Limbo. The Lurch. Betwixt. That's a coffee shop.

A place to be me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

pay it forward?

I conversed with a person from my past. I person I invested much time into, much heart into. It was trip down memory lane as I listened to his voice move through the phone line into my ear. It brought a flood of memories back to me as I listened to him share various thoughts on various pieces of subject matter. It's funny how just a voice can transport you to a former life.

As we talked, it stirred many disappointments for me. So many of the students from my former youth ministry are not "paying it forward" so to speak. They are indulging in hardcore sin. I did something the other day I never want to do again. I surfed through "MySpaceLand" and caught a glimpse of who was doing what out there. I was horrified at what I found. One girl is a "midget prostitute" using MySpace to get more customers, many of them posted pictures of themselves "plastered" at parties, so many of the comments from friends were crude and seedy, speckled with provacative sexual content explicit enough to make me feel like I was viewing porn, others were unreserved in declaring their hatred toward God and their desire to live hedonistically, while some where just simply drifting out there with sad commentary on how bored they were and how aimless life was. I must have looked at over 20 of those profiles. It made my stomach sick. Many of these were kids who were "on fire" in High School, plugged in, attended regularly, and seeking to live according to God's desires.

There are few things that wreck me more than sheep going astray. Even though I'm in a different ministry, it still stings. I've even seen that in my current ministry lately. A few that were so of fire only months ago are sliding back to old habits and removing themselves from community. It's hard to not take it personally when you've invested time and even gone so far as to "count on" these people as comrades in the battle for life. When people become casualties of war or even worse yet, missing in action, it stabs you something fierce...sometimes in the back. It's hard to keep your head up when people let you down.

But keep my head up I must. There are still many more who are fighting the good fight. So many who are aiming for the Kingdom and pressing through the depravity to find the glory embedded in our world. I mustn't forget their zealous pursuit allowing it to get shrouded by clouds of disappointment and apparent failure.

It's just sad to feel like so much of what you've done is for naught.

Friday, October 26, 2007

the time has come...

My 8 year old daughter came home from school and asked a very unnerving question. "Is it wrong to say the "F" word?" We have discovered that she may not always be thinking of the same word that starts with the letter "F" that we are, so we asked her what word she was talking about. "Frick", she said. We told her that we didn't want her saying that word. She then said, "Because it sounds like the other one?" We responded, "What other one?" She just looked at me and I could tell she knew, she just didn't want to say it out loud. So I spelled it out for her. She nodded her head. Heidi piped in and said, "That is the worst of all curse words." Kami just looked at us wondering how we were going to react.

Three nights ago, I was talking to Kami before bed. We were talking about our Family values. I gave her a few that came to my mind and then asked her if she would share some that came to mind. These were her top three...

1. Not lying.
2. Being a leader.
3. Not sticking up your middle finger.

Number three sort of caught me with my pants down. I wasn't expecting that to be in the top three. I didn't even think she knew what that gesture stood for. I, again, asked her what she thought that meant. Here was her response. (it was filled with dramatic pauses and voice inflections that sounded like a dramatic monologue for a speech competition.)

"Sticking up you middle finger is like saying all the curse words at the same time to someone."

Hmmm. Interesting.

I moved over to Aly's room and knelt by her bad. I began to tell her that I was just talking to Kami about Family values when she interupted and said, "I know dad, I was under her bed listening to you." (She has started to sneak to Kami's room on her knees crawling under her bed apparently to make sure I'm not sharing a closeness with Kami that she is not experiencing herself.) Since she was involved in that conversation already, I asked her what she thought our family values were. This was her immediate response...

1. Not lying.
2. Being a leader.
3. Not sticking up your middle finger.

I asked her what sticking up your middle finger signified...she couldn't remember. Wheww! Still a little shred of innocence left. I told her that she didn't need to know quite yet, but that she shouldn't do that because it isn't appropriate.

She then went on to tell me that one of her friends said a bad word and pointed to her collar bone and neck. I asked what that word was and she pointed to her chest. I said, "Sternum". She shook her head and lifted her shirt and pointed to both sides of her chest. I swallowed hard and said, "Boobies". She said, "NOOOO!" My heart sunk, I swallowed hard again and said in monotone, "Breasts". She nodded her head and said that she told the girl to not say that word ever again. My nostrils were flaring with inner laughter, and yet there was another part of my heart that was caving in with sadness. Lost innocence is one of the saddest realities of raising children.

Wow...middle fingers, F-words, Breasts...what's next?

I need to go purchase some hip waders today...we're going to be walking in some deep dodo in the days ahead I'm afraid.

God, protect my girl's hearts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The voice of the father...

Last night I met with my "Wild at Heart" small group. Those are bittersweet times. We explored the wounds given to us by our fathers...something I have done several times in the last 7 years since discovering the power of the father in bestowing masculinity to the son. In many ways my father was a faithful and consistent voice of love in my life. In other ways, he was silent and passive when it came to validating me in areas of risk, adventure, strength and pursuing dreams. It has a direct effect on my life even today.

Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed. I couldn't shake the voices I was hearing in my head. One of the predominent phrases I heard over over again was, "You're in over your head." It was like a record skipping over and over again in my mind. Other phrases accompanied it...

"You can't finish what you started."
"You have no business cracking open people's hearts."
"You're not equipped to handle what you're evoking."
"You're not who everyone thinks you are."

Another phrase that pounded in my head was "You're small town." I was transported to my upbringing and the humble beginnings of my childhood. I graduated in a class of three. I don't come from a long line of "power players". My past is simple and quaint, slow-moving and tempered, obscure and predictable. My present is opposite in almost every way. I'm engaged in things that surpass anything I've ever witnessed in the formidable years of my life. I don't have a great point of reference. I'm not sure that I believe in myself on some days.

The outside may appear poised and prepared, but on the inside, I would be lying if I didn't admit paralyzing fear. I feel like a house of cards waiting for the brush of a finger to cause an utter collapse. These voices that tell me I'm in over my head and that I'm a small town boy living in a big time world are believable.

The voice of a father is irreplaceable. Jesus even needed to hear from his dad when he was embarking on the great challenge of his earthly ministry. "This is my beloved son in whom I'm well pleased." He walked from that moment into the crucible of the 40 days of temptation. I wonder how much he leaned into those words when he was hanging by a thread. Don't you notice how many times he said things like "I do only what my father is doing" and "my food is to do the will of my father who sent me" HIS FOOD. His very sustanance to live. His supply of energy and nourishment to meet the insurmountable tasks before him. "My father who sent me." We are all dying to feel "sent" by our dads...

Sent out to conquer impossible feats.
Sent out to defy the odds.
Sent out to stand in the face of defeat.
Sent out to overcome obstacles and opposition.
Sent out to discharge the duties of our calling.
Sent out to reverse the curse of Satan.
Sent out to affect change in our sphere of influence.
Sent out to make our fathers proud.

Some days I feel sent out by my father. Other days I feel like I'm on my own...feeling around in the dark for any shred of confidence and support. I think alot of men feel like they are left to themselves to piece together their lives.

I sometimes wonder if my own dad needs me to father him. I'm not sure his dad knew how to speak into his heart like Jesus' dad did. I'm not sure whether my father ever felt "sent" by his father. I don't know if my dad felt the nourishment and sustanance of his father's will giving him the will to press through difficulty. The will power of our fathers isn't always a very pleasant thing to lean into. It feels like we're a part of a generation of young men that are called to father our dads. Validating their strength. Pursuing their dreams. Asking questions of their hearts. Seeking to apply salve to their disabling wounds. I wonder if modern day sons are being called to father their dads. I just wonder.

I just know that when I hear the voices in my head telling me to back away and play it safe, I'm starving for my dad's voice to speak deeply into the abyss of my soul.

Proverbs 20:5 -- The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

A man of understanding.

A man who goes--under--and--stands--there with their son.

I might be in over my head. I might be small town. I may not have what it takes to finish what I've started. But maybe there's something deeper inside me that I have yet to discover...a strength yet to be revealed. Maybe I'm more than what I think I am.

This is the question that John Eldredge says haunts every man...

DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

eye/hand coordination...

It's a been a little while. Writing seems laborious lately. Even now I'm not feeling compelled from a place of passion. It's like there's a lot of life happening, but nothing really noteworthy...nothing to write home about as they say.

I'm scratching my head to know what to say from here, but I feel I need to say something, anything. I don't want to get used to a sort of linguistic lethargy. It's so easy to get sleepy seeds in the eyes of my heart and forget to cherish the moments I'm experiencing. Writing helps me to not take anything for granted, whether it be a spider web, a fallen twig or a subtle shift in the temperature. These nuasical subtlties are what make life shimmer and shine to me. I can even tell that I've fallen asleep just a little lately because of my palsy pen and my lazy eye. Writing what I see...it's the beautiful eye/hand coordination that can get lost in the living.

I haven't been sleeping well lately. My mind is restless and disturbed...it reminds me of when I would get in trouble at school and return home only to be sent to my room to wait for my dad to get home and spank me. The knots in the stomach, the slow passing of time, the inner conversations, the confusion, and illusions, the daydreaming, the heartscreaming...it's somewhat the same sickness of the soul. But during the day, I'm doing well...it's weird. I'll go to sleep and be harrassed like a skinny boy in a locker room full of bullies. It's like Nightmere on Elm Street or something...going to bed at night is like knowing your about to enter the Twilight Zone of partial-consciousness.

Last night I felt a good bit of old-fashioned Fundamentalist guilt. The same feelings I would get when I was a child and I was scared the Jesus was going to come back and I wouldn't be ready. The same emotions I would lay in bed and fret over...fearing judgement and damnation, like it or not. I just laid there and felt flogged by self-doubt and impending doom. I felt like God was telling me that he was going to curse my kids because of my naughty life. Sometimes I feel this sort of conviction is good, but this bordered on condemnation and accusation, which I've come to realize has very little to do with God and a whole lot to do with Lucifer. Just the same, it's hard to fight off at 3:24am when you're not in your right mind. I prayed for deliverance and strength. I prayed for forgiveness and patience. I prayed for protection and safety for my children and wife. I just prayed.

Today I feel quite lonely. My Saturdays can sometimes be long and lonely as I anticipate the services for the weekend. I start feeling like I have nothing to say and wander back to boyhood insecurities. Just a few minutes ago I was changing guitar strings in the Worship Space and I was struck with how absurd it is that I'm a pastor and that this weekend I will be leading adults of all ages into an experience of worship and learning...that just didn't make sense as I sat there alone in that big room. I rewound my life back to when I was in high school and tried to imagine what a responsibility like that would have done to me back then. I was suspended between who I was and who I am...stretched apart by the reality of both of those worlds. There is never a time when it's more believable to think I'm a poser than when I'm alone in a worship space before the people get there. I get nagged and pestered by either my very own alter-ego or servants of hell itself. I become, for a moment, a helpless abyss of affection. Slowly, I climb out of that paralysis and onto a firm foundation of truth. God starts to whisper--never loud enough--that he is with me and that he believes in me. I struggle to believe him initially, but His voice is quite convincing. "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I'm committed to him against that day." Timothy. That is a verse that I learned in my Christian school growing up that just came to me right now. It's in the KJV vernacular, but I think you can still discern the gist of it.

Well, I've gone on long enough. For having nothing to say I'm quite verbose.

I hope my hand/eye coordination comes back to me this week...I can't lose my heart for jotting down the musings of this mind and the findings of these eyes. That would be, to my heart, a grave injustice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Other men...

I sat with a group of men as I shouldered the weight of their lives and shared the weight of my own. We were perched on a deck high above a large waterfall processing our heart's responses to the "Wild at Heart" dvd we had just watched inside. The explosive sound of rushing water crashed down against jagged rocks mixed with the sight of colorful leaves falling into the fast moving, foamy river. The old railroad bridge with dark beams sat still down the bending riverbed contributing a rustic energy to the moment. The sun was setting in the West casting shadows across the Milling Plant. Birds darted to and fro trying to take care of last minute details before retiring into the black of night. The air was crisp and cool smelling of leaves, agitated fresh water and old wood. My eyes struggled to adjust to the dimmy light of dusk...my regulating depth pereception was almost making me dizzy.

As we sat on this old deck, the company of men I have been blessed to share life with recently just split open like an over-ripe pear, dripping with the sweet fluid of the soul. Some things shared were held inside since childhood...if these thoughts and feelings were old clothes, they would have smelled like mothballs. The dust had settled over most of what was being stirred kicking up emotions and anger and questions and desires that had for too long lay dormat in untampered regions of their masculine underworld. With ever minute that wisked by, deeper thoughts and more loaded words and worlds were being shared and discovered. I haven't ever been with a group of guys that have gelled so quickly and gone so deep in such a short duration of time. It's like they are all so hungry from freedom they have bypassed trust to dive directly into honesty. Desperation has a way of dismissing the luxery of the "perfect time" to open up. There isn't a perfect time. And I think they are starting to understand that they will spend their whole lives waiting for this so-called "perfect time" in vain. Their motto seems to be, "There's no time like the present." I like that one much better.

Old wounds were lanced again. Bones that had healed crooked were rebroken. The assembly line was called into question and the process of "disassembly" with the hope of "reassembly" began. One of the hardest things to accept is that we don't have "it together" like we think we do. It's only when we allow things to unravel that we find the freedom that comes from redemption. And things were unraveling in the best way possible last night...and if they are going to come undone, what better place than the presence of other men who are piecing themselves back together with you. It was beautiful in a manly way.

I love seeing men cry over their desire to get free. I love seeing them shed the shell to unveil their fears and failures. I love hearing them speak into each other's lives with words of truth and grace. I love feeling them get it for the first time in their lives. The lights are going on, the sirens are sounding...they are just starting to understand what it really means to be alive. It is a meaning that changes everything.

Monday, October 08, 2007

God in my throat...

prophets yell
because their hearts are on fire.

they scream at the world
trying to wake us up.

they can't help it.

After all, God is in their throats.

-stephen james


I sometimes feel like a prophet. There are pastors, teachers, evangelists...but the one I resonate with the most is the life a prophet. The burning heart, the sleepless nights, the carnage after speaking truth, the fear that is sometimes disabling, the passion that is like a "fire shut up in my bones", the feelings of futility and failure. Prophets were in many ways lonely even though there were tons of people around them. They were largely misunderstood. They were sharing things with people that the people didn't want to hear and, on many occasions, the prophet didn't even want to share knowing the inevitable outcome of saying such disagreeable things. It is gain with great pain. It is rest with constant wrestle.

Some days I don't like being one of these guys. But I'm not sure it's something you choose...I'm beginning to wonder if it chose me even before I knew these sorts of things were at work in my life. All I know is that God is in my throat, and I don't know what to do about that.

What do you do when you have a sore throat?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

my worst nightmere...

Last night was one of the longest nights of my life.

I prayed with Kami before bed and spoke of my love for her and her beauty within the prayer.

When I said, "Amen", she looked at me with eyes of longing and innocence and said something that has made me cry several times throughout the night and twice this morning--and it's only 9:51am.

"Dad, I don't think any boys are going to want to marry me."

uuugh. I felt my spirit twist inside my body.

I calmly responded, "What makes you say that?"

She looked at me and pointed to her left hand, "This hand."

I asked her, "what about your hand makes you feel that boys won't want to marry you?"

She said, "They stare at it and say it's wierd."

I don't have time to engage the whole conversation with you. I have a meeting in a couple minutes. All I can say is that it has debilitated me. I feel paralyzed in almost all other areas of my life. Just thinking about it now is making my eyes well up with tears.

"Dad, I don't think any boys are going to want to marry me."

11 words that are tearing my heart apart.

I can't even keep going with this blog...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Fall...

The beautiful death of fall is upon us. As leaves lose their life and loosen their grip on twigs so fragile, this "fall" funeral is garnished with colors so brilliant and vibrant that words fall short of describing their glory. My ash trees are the first to announce their imminent departure. Yellow in a more shades than I could describe subtly surface and spread around the green globe of rustling life known quite simply as the tree. The soft maple trees are the only other species to rival the arrival of changing colors found in my one acre lawn.

The cherry trees are stoically resisting the change...the are die hards. It's like they band together with the Oaks to fight against the death of autumn. The cool nights and the cold days with soon break them down and they will give in to the inevitable winter of Michigan. But it is the fight of some species that make fall last so long, spacing out the colorful mirth of this season for months. How horrible it would be to have every tree respond simultaneously to the crowding cool of winter. How tragic to only enjoy the resplendent colors of fall for only two weeks and then be left with naked limbs shivering in the cold. It is the rebellion of certain trees that elongates the beautiful death of autumn. Dying hard isn't all bad.

I love that this season is called "the fall". Theologically speaking "the fall" would be associated with darkness and death and destruction, but seasonally speaking, it represents something quite paradoxical. It is a falling that is welcomed and warm. As leaves fall, we rake them into piles and jump into them. Falling becomes playing. Death brings life. Ending heralds a beginning. A funeral leads to a birth. Like Jesus said, unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it will not produce life. The tree doesn't die, just the leaves. The tree is more alive than ever. The sap is flowing, the roots are deepening...though appearance could fool you into believing the tree itself is dead. Like most things, appearance couldn't be further from reality.

I feel similarly about humanity. It is our humaness, our falleness that carries such a paradoxical power. As we let ourselves die and fall, we change colors and become such a beautiful picture of life. We fall to the gound and life springs from the very place we fell. The tree from which we fall is always alive and growing even as it pushes us away from it to spread the life to barren places. It's such a beautiful picture of the kingdom. The kingdom is always alive even when it looks dead, because the kingdom isn't about appearance, it's about substance. "The kingdom is in your hearts." It makes a showing every now and again on the outside, but it is primarily an unseen reality, and inner thing. And like every growing organism, it forces us to split and die in order to reproduce life. Cells split, Leaves fall...this is ongoing life, this is eternal life, this is everlasting life. And make no mistake, it's beautiful falling, it's a glorious death.

Fall. Color. Death. Life. This is my story. And I like this story.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm a human being...

For years you try to be unique...anything but universal. You look for a special role, search for an original contribution, seek to discover a concealed secret to life. You long to be anything but human...subhuman or superhuman, but just plain old human? To join 6.8 billion others in a universal commonality. To adhere to a standard procedure, to respond like everyone else desiring the same things and chasing the same dreams? Are you kidding me? What's the draw to something like that?

But I don't think it's so bad to relax into the God-idea of the human being...being human. Pursuing originality and novelty starts to get exhausting. Our search for significance will ultimately lead us to the same end...that God has created us with individuality and commonality. Unique, yet universal. Special, yet ordinary. As I give myself permission to be human, I'm realizing that everything I'm pursuing starts to pursue me. Influence just happens. Creativity emerges.

I'm coming to understand that the greatest gift I can give to humanity is my "humanness". I become one with those I live with, and this world becomes the natural habitat that God created it to be. Fallen though I am, I am a human being...and the quicker I live as such, the sooner I will realize/actualize my deep and distracting dreams.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cosmetic Conversation...

confrontation...

It's disturbing to my soul when I am placed in a conversation where I have no biblical choice but to be disagreeable and as such, the bane of someone's undisturbed existence. I'm such an amiable guy, such a genteel gentleman on most days. The better part of my life isn't intrusive and overbearing, I roll with the punches and allow my conversations and encounters to flow as naturally as they'd like. I try not to impose my agenda on a dialogue, I seek to understand instead of being understood, and I don't speak into something underground unless I'm invited to share in most cases.

But occassionally (and more frequently as of late for some reason) I'm thrown into situations with people where I feel moved by God to declare truth against the better judgement of my flesh. I sense God saying, "Are you going to tell them the truth or flatter them with silence?" I (the carnal me) would rather shut my mouth and let them carry on in the vicious cycle of self-deception that leads to self-destruction. But the voice of the living God pesters me with such annoying importunity, that I have more trouble living with God's conviction than the pending confrontation. Do I want my heart to be sick because I've loved God more than people, or people more than God? And if I really loved people wouldn't it smack of "grace and truth", instead of just grace? The truth hurts...yes...but the truth sets free. And I'm not sure you get freed until or unless you get hurt first...because that's what truth does.

Maybe if more friends were real friends, I wouldn't feel like I'm so alone in my confrontational care of people's souls. "A real friend stabs you in the front." Friends who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to someone's destructive behaviors aren't friends, they are quite possibly the worst of villans cloaked in sheep's clothing. The most dangerous enemy is the false friend. And though a friend won't continually point out falters and failures, they won't ignore habitual areas of glaring brokeness for the sake of social affability either.

Yet so many help people construct the gallows on which they will eventually hang themselves by simply ingoring the "purple elephant" that is in the room, in the conversation. Maybe they say things like, "Someone more qualified than I needs to address that." or "It's none of my business." or "I've got my own issues...far be it from me to be the one to point that out." But I'm not sure you can have diplomatic discipleship. There are times when subtle peace-keeping only serves to further damn the other person. All of this needs to be done in love and be motivated by endearing, enduring care for the other person's well being, of course. I'm not promoting an unfeeling approach to herding people like sheepdogs constantly nipping at their heels. That's dumb. The danger with a post like this is the demographic of people looking for a green light to go off on people. That couldn't be any further away from what I'm talking about.

I love people so much. And the thing that I hate about that love is that it forces me to speak truth that hurts before it frees. As such, that love feels like hate and then I'm confused and wonder if it would just be easier to just "hate" people in a way that makes you avoid truth and simply "share the love, man". If I don't rise up and hate the part of people that prevents them from being who they really want to be, I don't really love them. If I allow cowardice to govern my encounters with people...I will be everybody's nobody. I will be liked by more people and will, in the end, affect precious little actual soul-change. There will be a changing of the furniture, maybe a change of the scenery...but no change of the heart. And I can be that kind of coward on days when I just don't have it in me to say what needs to be said. I can retreat when I should run toward the roar. I can shrivel and buckle under the pressure to be liked with the best of 'em. I can, often I do, but sometimes I just can't. I just can't watch someone commit social, relational, emotional, or spiritual suidice without intentional intervention. I feel like it borders on inhumane if I watch this self-massacre without moving a muscle. Who wouldn't rush to someone's side if they threatened physical suicide? But when people are killing themselves in other arena's, we stand back with a mix pity and piety. It's mean. It's not nice to do that to someone. Flattering them with silence is just downright wrong.

But I'm tired from having to do this lately. I haven't gotten great results, responses. It hasn't born the most tasty fruit. I've left meetings with a knot in my gut. I've had people walk out of counseling sessions. I've had people shut down and then tell me they've got "alot to do" and they better "get going". It's funny how busy people become when you move beyond the fat down to the vitals. But cosmetics do nothing to remedy cancer. Cosmetic conversations are so much easier than Cancer conversations.

That's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

communal laughter...

Last night, the band I play with got together over at our house for some steak, potatoes, chicken, chips, dessert, and did I mention steak? I grilled twelve New York Strips, many of which caught on fire because my grill rots. It was fun to hang together. We ate like kings and queens while watching Brian Regan comedy. We laughed so hard our guts hurt....the same guts that we were filling with dense slabs of beef. The good thing is that the laughter caused regurgitation, so you had the pleasure of tasting the same bite several times. As you can imagine, this brings exponential enjoyment.

I started a raging bonfire and we sat around the fire while Ryder played favorites from the 70's, 80's and today. He even threw in some Bach for good measure. He's like a living Jukebox. We laughed, told stories, ate marshmellows, played glow-in-the-dark frisbee, talking about hunting, made up songs and jokes on the spot, got to know each other better and enjoyed an overall sweet experience.

One thing that I was thinking about is the power community has to unleash laughter. Laughter doesn't even make sense if you're alone. The one thing isolation cannot provide is robust laughter. In fact, if something makes you laugh hard when you're alone, it isn't long before you look around and feel somewhat strange that there is no one to share it with. Laughter is only fulfilling when it's shared. When something is funny, the first instinct is to look around and catch another eye who is on the same page. I love seeing people smile, but I absolutely live for seeing people laugh. As we watched the Brian Regan episode, I imagined life without laughter. I imagined a lonely, isolated life carrying on without shared joy. As we were watching this stand up comedian, I realized that 90 percent of my laughter was prompted by the laughter of others. If I was sitting there all alone, I would have sat there for 90 percent of that segment taking it in stride without so much as cracking a smile. But when one laughs, the domino effect evokes another to snicker, which stimulates another to crack a grin, which awakens the one next to him to soften and relax. Before long, 13 people become ONE. We are watching each other as much as we're watching the court jester. We find each other just as funny as the professional. Alone, we wouldn't find nearly as much to get excited about.

It happens with movies, too. You remember a movie to be good, but when watched alone, you wonder what you found redemptive about it in the first place. People make stuff better. They just do. They make normal everyday life shimmer and sparkle. They give spirit to substance. They give meaning to matter. They make a job a joy. Laughter has no utilitarian value, you don't need it to survive...an yet, you need it to be alive. Alival is so much different than survival.

It is not good for a man to be alone. It just isn't. On the surface, distancing yourself from people seems to solve alot of problems. Life gets simpler. And, oh, how I long for what is simple these days. But simple as a mission leads to simpleton as a person. And I'm not sure I feel that being a simpleton was God's dream for a human life. It is not good for a person to live in isolation...that's what God said in the beginning, even before sin had a say in the matter. It's funny, cause it's a humble thing for God to admit. He was essentially admitting his own insufficiency to meet every need of the human heart. He created humans with needs that he couldn't even fulfill. How cool is it that we have a God that did something as humble as that? He created us with an innate need for other humans. Life just ain't good when you're not sharing it with another. It may be a bit complex for a simpleton to navigate, but we weren't created complex for nothin'. We have complexions, and complexities, and complexes for a reason...we're complex creatures.

And the only thing that makes sense of complexity is community. When you try to figure out the complexity of life and yourself apart from community, you either implode or explode. People help you deal with the weight of glory...only in community does something as complex as the human being become appropriately simple again. Life gets boiled down. Why?...cause love covers over a multitude of sins. And it is only in the presence of love that compexity and simplicity aren't seen as mutually exclusive. In matter of moments, gravity meets levity. Heaviness meets heartiness. Laughter becomes the language. 'Cause laughter was meant for us. Not for you. Not for me. It's an "us" thing.

And I love that there are some things in life that can't be had until they're shared.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The undesirable life...

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

I'm 33 years old. There are days when I feel like I'm just starting to understand what it is to be a man. For many years, I've allowed my life to be governed by doing what feels right. This, I'm learning, is quite different from doing what is right. Infatuation and adrenaline and optimism have taken me as far as they can. They are not very durable vehicles of truth. They break down easily and leave you stranded roadside. They carry you through initial seasons of life in your twenties. But infatuation can only carry a marriage for so long. Adrenaline can only transport you around in a job for so long. Optimism is impotent to weather the unfortunate realities of living in a ransacked world. Convenience won't cut it. Emotions, for what they are worth, struggle to anchor/center you to make it to the end of life as a survivor, let alone a victor. Too many years of my life have been spent serving the taskmaster of "going with my gut". Being that I'm gutted almost everyday by something I witness or someone I encounter, my guts aren't what they used to be...they are insufficient to buoy me in storms of life. Guttin' it ain't cuttin' it like it did in my twenties. I don't know how to convey these thoughts with any more pathos than that.

This verse...this Joshua verse...really means something to me now. The funny thing about truth is that it will wait around for you as long as it takes for you acknowledge it as such. It doesn't force itself upon you. Truth doesn't have to jockey for position or legitimacy. It knows what it is. It's secure about its timeless value and changeless nature. Truth is relaxed. It flexes without changing and manuevers without moving. I love that.

This particular verse has waited around a while for me to revisit it and revalue it. And I do. "If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you..." Man, I love that. This is what happens in your thirties (allow me to make a blanket statement for the purpose of a point)...things that used to be desirable and loaded with feeling and passion and youthful optimism and emotions and gut-level living...don't float so easily upon these choppy waters. You feel your boat leaking and your heart sinking in that sea. Philisophical, Theoretical, Hypothetical...these things start to fade and REALISTIC starts to force itself upon you, like it or not. The alledged life is now being called into question and the apparent life is asking you to give an account. What is desirable is fine and good, but what happens when they start to disagree with what is right? Hugh? What do you do when you don't feel it like you used to? What do you do when you're not "in love" with her or him or it and them or there or that? What do you do when you're not in the mood, when you've lost that "loving feeling"? That's what Joshua is interacting with here in his faith community. What if living for God, and the cultural norms He's inviting us to comply with, starts to become undesirable to you...what do you do then?

He talks about freeing ourselves from the things our forefathers did, believed, felt and knew to be the "code of ethics", the "modes of operation"...he talks about seperating from the things that are held in high regard in the "land in which you're living" that pressure you to conform and comply. And man do we have "role models" from our forefathers and from our current culture that are leading us down cul-de-sacs of futility as it relates to "doing life".

"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." When feelings fade. When the rush is flushed. When the pep has lost its step. When the joy becomes coy. Joshua says this is what will happen. Not I might, not I should, not I'll try. I Will.

And it's a me thing. It's not a you thing. It's not comparing myself to what someone else is doing and measuring myself against the life of another. It's hearing God tell me what me is the best me. It's God directing me to make decisions regarding my household, my kids, my values, my boundaries, my discipline, my living room. It does little good to use other households as a benchmark to determine familial success. I will always and easily find the bottom feeders and gauge my personal take on normal using abnormal data to bring gladdening, yet deceptive relief.

Going after God has to be measured with "You and Your family" doing what's right regardless of the patterns of forefathers or the trends of "nowfathers". God will father us past the desireables to the Truth. When desire diminishes, I must set my sails to catch the wind of truth...truth that stands apart from will power and instinct and sensitivity and fads...truth that is relaxed and, as such, relaxing.

I want my house to serve God. With and without desire. With and without applause. With and without popularity. With and without government. With and without national support. With and without the amenities of America. With and without the church. With and without friendship. With and without our version of Christianity. With and without anything that you could think of. I'm not saying with "or" without. I'm saying with and without. I just don't want my commitment to lead my family to be dependent on that which is fallible, undependable. I want my commitment to be tethered to truth...to Truth Himself. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. And the older I get, the more that means to me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Parenting...

I spent some time outside in the dark tonight. It was drizzling. The cool temperatures of fall chilled to the bone as I looked up to the heavens and let them spit on me. I prayed for the women’s retreat and asked God to help my wife lead with freedom and peace and refreshment. I so desire for her to come back with stories of joy and friendship. The women of our church need this badly. I hope God is blessing them even now.

I went to Daddy Day Camp with the girls tonight…we were one of three families in the theater. We consumed a 16 dollar bag of popcorn and shared a 42 dollar cup of Coke and devoured a 12 dollar box of Jelly beans. The venue was gracious enough to give us free refills on the popcorn and pop. I can’t believe they can sleep at night gouging us so. But it was worth it to sit with my daughters pilled on top of me…we laughed and snuggled…that’s priceless.

I took them out to T.G.I. Fridays after the movie and we talked about boys, modesty, television, school, attitude, priorities, wealth, thankfulness, bragging, family, stories, vacation, soccer, friends, language, beauty, embarrassment, bullies, restaurants, movies, fall, tests, reading, memories, mommy, food, disco balls, distractions, American Girl dolls, shoes, Jimifin, church, giving, prayer, hairdos, laughter, coveting, divorce, honey mustard, etch-a-sketch, coloring, pride, listening, Dora, Spanish, Foster care, adoption, needy kids, femininity, pastors, vehicles, shopping, gratitude, simplicity and a host of other random subjects. I love hearing them interact about life and teaching them how to view those things that we come into contact with.

Kami was telling me about a girl at school the brags about how rich her family is and how she wants everyone to call her “the girl’s name” the Great. We laughed as she described how this girl tells fibs and tries to get attention by fabricating far out stories. This girl also said that she is friends with famous rock stars. So funny.

I guess we all have trouble growing out of tall tales that make us look a certain way. We get better at masking these chimeras as time goes on, but we all love the limelight. Sometimes I can’t get over how much people love to talk about themselves. There are times when I feel that I could leave my body, go elsewhere for a couple hours, and then reenter my body without the other person knowing I left. They just need a manikin who will sit there and act as a human leach field for their opinions, ideas and feelings. After they are done using you, they simply say something like, “Well, it was good talking to you. I hope we can do it again sometime.” I guess that’s the difference between talking to someone and talking with someone.

As my daughters grow, I feel like we’re bartering a little. I am helping them to discover and learn and live, and in return they are helping me to uncover, unlearn, and relive. I feel like I’m getting more than I’m giving…I sometimes don’t feel I could ever repay them for what they are pouring into my life. Parenting = watching your children teach you how to live while making them think it’s the other way around.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Theology for an 8 year old...

Kami has been memorizing a verse this week. I Cor. 10:31, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." We went out for coffee before school together and we were talking about glorifying God with our lives. I asked her what she things it means to glorify God and she said, "To make God happy." For 8 years old, I call that spot on. I told her that Satan gets ticked off when God is made happy through our lives to which she responded, "Dad, is Satan really real? Sometimes with Satan and God I wonder whether they are real." I racked my brain to come of with words to explain the reality of the invisible...hmmm.

We talked a little bit about Satan and God and how they used to be really, really good friends...like best friends. We talked about how Satan started to get jealous of God and wanted to be like Him. That jealousy started to make him so mad that he gathered together an army of angels that wanted to take God down. But there was one problem...God doesn't get taken down. Kami looked at me and said, "What were they thinking? Nobody can beat God!" I explained how they were cast out of Heaven and now they are trying to hurt God's heart by hurting those closest to God...humans. He likes to destroy humans by filling their life with selfishness, hatred, pain and bitterness. She didn't know what all this fully meant, but she was trying to track with me as best she could. All she knew is she wanted to make God happy.

We had to get going because school was starting in like 7 minutes, so we quick packed up and got in the truck to head to school. I started the truck and backed out of the driveway. Out of nowhere, Kami said, "So dad, what were we talking about in the coffee shop again?" I about fell out of my seat. She wanted to keep the conversation going about Satan and God and the invisible worlds of the great kingdom. So we kept talking about how to tick Satan off at school that day by reaching out to the left out, sharing with those who don't share back, and loving her classmates more than she loves herself. She nodded her head, gave me a crooked kiss, threw her backpack over her shoulder and ran toward the glass doors that lead into the halls of humanity that require her heart's engagement. Even at age 8.

Theology for an 8 year old can be some of the most difficult to explain, but it's the most beautiful to consider. I sometimes wonder if our lofty explanations really do anything but bore people to death anyhow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Raking Hay...

I was on my way back to work after a relaxing lunch break. As I made a left turn on Vergennes and headed towards Lowell, I glanced off to my left and a buddy of mine was raking hay in a large 80 acre field. The sun was beating down and the countryside was a vibrant green. The long rows of freshly cut hay were laying uniform on top of the hilly landscape. It was picturesque and I felt drawn to stop and climb on the fender of his large John Deere for a few passes around the idyllic field. I yanked the steering wheel to the right and put the truck in park on the shoulder of the road. I scooted across the highway and ran to catch up to the tractor moving along at 1500 rpm’s, the equivalent of roughly 18 mph. I whistled at my friend and caught his attention. He smirked as he pressed his left foot down on the clutch and pulled down the throttle. I bounced up on the fender and we were off.

We talked about how peaceful it is to rake as opposed to cut because of the lesser of two noise levels. He shared some of the things he was thinking about that ranged from relational to spiritual as we journeyed around the edge of this massive meadow. I love grassland as much woodland. Especially if the terrain is contoured with large mounds of grassy knolls casting agrarian shadows long and thick at the dusk of evening.

He then stopped the green beast and told me to mount the master seat. He gave me a couple pointers like where to line up the tires so that the rake caught the lion share of the hay, where to set the rpm’s to ensure the power take off was spinning fast enough match the speed of the tractor, and how far to overcompensate for the corners so as to no shortcut the rows. I took the wheel for a couple laps loving every minute of being a makeshift farmer. All in all, it was about a 15 minute escape from the trivialities of the 21st century. It was a beautiful transport back into simplicity and serenity. I felt somehow beamed back to the early 20th century where families farmed 80 pieces of property and quite literally lived off the land.

The smell of fresh cut hay mixed with diesel and sweat…the sight of fluffed hay laying in well manicured strips across the rolling hills tucked every so delicately next to dark wooded plots of land…the sound of a diesel engine blending together in harmony with metal on metal noises…these are the sights, sounds and smells of heaven to me.

I dismounted the four-wheel drive monster and ran to see if my truck was stolen, impounded, or ticketed by a local sheriff. Thankfully, it was sitting where I left it safe and sound. Something about the nature of those 20 minutes changed my spirit. I sometimes feel I’ve fallen into the wrong era. My place is far more simple and remote than this epoch allows for. Thankfully, I have a couple places I can go to nurse the lost longings of my generation. The farm is one of those centering places of retreat.