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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'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 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 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, 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 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"'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.