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Friday, March 30, 2007

thin lives...

I wonder how many people God created us to know.

We live in such a people-saturated society. Our interactions with other human beings is almost non-stop each day. Either by way of the internet, our jobs, television, friendships, telephone, text messaging, ipods, downloads, voice mails, emails, mail, meetings, appointments, interactions at the grocery store, ect.

I say this only because I feel that I reach a threshold inside my own soul. If I cross an unspoken line, my encounters with people become almost counter-productive. They anger me....embitter me. My eyes cross with fatigue. My mind starts to fold up into itself. I expend all my energy trying to "look alive"..."appear interested". My heart drifts into fantasies usually involving my pillow and my matress. I fight off feelings of apathy. I have little patience for rabbit trails and superfluous details causing a convesation to drag on monotonously. I dred human encounters that are on the horizon. I despise the thought of someone using me as their personal leach field. I start to get selfish in conversations noticing the unfair balance of questions and answers. I start to pick up on how often I'm listening and how infrequently people are listening to me. This selfishness starts to work its way into my perspective...I tend to become fatalistic and cynical.

So I return to my first sentence...were we created to be around people as much as we are? Were we designed to talk on a soul level with so many creatures? Can our hearts handle the watered-down nature of human interaction...the inevitable diluting of friendship that comes with multiple encounters. It seems that Jesus even maxed out at times...he would withdraw to a lonely place when people would be pressing in faster than his soul could put out. And he didn't have access to any human interaction beyond where he was currently present. No information age that transports us instantaniously to any person in the whole world. We are bombarted with incessant transferance of soundbytes...facts and feelings and conflicts and tensions and statistics and updates and letdowns....SPAM. Alot of what we are forced to engage is Spam-like in nature...things forced upon us by the nature of the culture we live in...the overpopulated, congested, closterphobic world of manic energy in the form of frenetic humans running about at a frantic pace.

"Hi, how are you?"...(interupted by someone else asking you the same question)...you turn, "Oh, hi...what's going on? (the other person waits to have you back...but you're quickly swallowed into a conversation you never asked to be in). How many times I'm I asked or asking, "How are you doing?" without the time or the care to really find out? Alot...we don't have time for the amount of relationships we've initiated or have been forced upon us due to the nature of living in an age of information-overload laden with piles of people coming through phones lines and satellite dishes and church foyers and coffee shops, etc. Our lives are crowed, cluttered with unprocessed stuff, unknown people...and we feel guilty that we aren't giving credit where credit is due. We aren't giving appropriate dignity to all that we are experiencing...who we are experiencing. People become objects. Life becomes homework. Living becomes trouble shooting and problem solving. And you are left to wonder what has happened to you, what is happening to you.

Again, how many things can we do, how many places can we be simultaneously before we implode. Multi-tasking has become a catch-word that is worshipped in our culture. The more the merrier. Bigger is better. We applaud break-neck speed and smashmouth aggression. We reward how thin you can spread yourself before you meltdown. We love watching the rubber band stretch to the limit just before it snaps...we want to test boundaries and push ourselves to soul-ceilings. We want to one-up previous generations with our efficiency. We want to show off our capabilities, our capacities to go beyond previously impossible barriers.

"I have 340 phone numbers in my cell phone!"..."I have 1,346 friends on MySpace."..."I have coffee appointments at 6:00am every morning of this week!"..."I'm juggling six high stakes leadership roles at the same time!"..."I'm traveling the world to meet with executives." Hmmm.

I am left to wonder what has driven us to these manic places. Our lives are thin. Our lives are tight. Our lives are diluted. Our lives are empty. And yet, we are on the go like never before. We know more. We see more. We get out more. We read more. But we are less. We have never been more "less" than we are right now as a culture.

More could be said...and I've probably confused the issue, but I can't help but wonder what unlimited access to knowledge, people, information, and congestion has really done to help us. Most humans are on the brink of breakdown, and I think alot of it could be remedied by just doing less and being more.

Don't get me wrong...I love people, but it is this very passion that many times gets me into deep do-do (no pun intended). I underestimate how much I need to simplify and down-size and download. I wonder if I was created to have a few friends, one hobby, one family, one wife, one job, one dream, one outfit, one house. I wish I was more single-minded...I think it would make me more whole-hearted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

spring...

You wanna know what really lights my logs? Springtime.
The aroma of thawing earth.
The songs of mating birds.
The emerging of green grass.
The movement of flooded streams.
The awakening of dormant wildlife.
The suspense of the hanging tire swing.
The noise that fills the woods at night.
The vibrant blue skies covering the planet.
The resplendant sunsets stretching across the horizon.
The furry buds covering the tree branches.
The raging waterfalls trying to give relief to swelling rivers.
The fragrance of what seems to be the purest of oxygen.
The color of a cardinal purched in an ash tree calling out for his orange-beeked lover.
The sound of branches rubbing up against each other in the evening breeze.
The joy of the girls as the play in the yard unfettered and free from walls.
The way my wife's hair glissens in the morning sunrise.
The smell of the first lawn being mowed.
The Magnolia bud's starting to bloom.
The geese migrating back to the marshland.
The pollen floating through the air.
The soft sod under bare feet.
The first bonfire with the family.
The feel of my sandels in between my toes.
The smiles on faces as you drive through town.

The long winter is giving in to demands of spring. I, for one, couldn't be more filled with mirth. It's these sorts of things that keep me alive.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Denominations are silly...

Denominations are silly, really. You wouldn’t know this until you’ve been a part of more than one. Things that you once thought were fundamental to the faith, you come to realize didn’t amount to a hill of dill.

I once was a Baptist. A Baptist cares a lot about baptism…by immersion. So much so that they decided to make sure everyone immediately thought of baptism the minute they drove up to the church property and saw it on the sign. It’s really funny. I think baptism is nice, but it’s not the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about God. It’s not even a close second. I would tell someone to get baptized, but I wouldn’t fight about it as a primary doctrinal virtue.

Baptists are really Calvinists. They don’t name their denomination after Calvin because he’s kind of embarrassing to them in my opinion. I’ve read some of his stuff…he seems pretty dogmatic, even angry in his approach to life and God. But boy is he smart. He’s one of the smartest stupid people I know. I use the word stupid because we all are really stupid compared to God. Any take on God that we have is going to be stupid on some level, because He’s monolithic and we are puny. I don’t like it when a man comes up with a paradigm, a grid, and then people bow down to it more than what the grid is trying desperately explain—I emphasis “desperately”. In this case, God.

I am growing more and more angry with Calvinism. It seems quite fatalistic to me. It believes that everything has been previously arranged and that we have little to no part to play in making any changes to that arrangement. Armenians on the other hand think that everything depends on them and that God is waiting around to see what our next move is. That’s hilarious when you really think about it, because God doesn’t live inside the dimensions of time or space. I feel bad for God having to try to explain life in our language, which is limited when compared to his. I think I’m a “Carmenian”. I believe that God knows the future and I have a part in creating it. I don’t know where the lines blur in between these two ends of the spectrum; I just know that when I wake up in the morning, I have to believe something like this to get out of bed. If I wake up thinking Calvinisticly, I want to stay in bed because I’m unmotivated by the idea of not affecting the future. Being a predetermined pawn in this epic table game just doesn’t arouse me to action. If I wake up thinking Armenianally, I want to stay in bed for fear that I’m the big deal and if I don’t make something happen, everything will fall apart in the world. I like to think of God as Sovereign just because the Bible says he is. That means he knows what’s going on and that he’s got it going on all at the same time.

When I wake up I like to think that God and I are joining together to make things happen. It’s like he can’t change the world without me and I can’t change the world without him. If I don’t do it, it won’t happen because I’m one of the human beings that he left behind to represent him and take action on his behalf…I’m his body. If I don’t move, the world doesn’t get to see God move. That’s scary when you think about it.

Paul told the Colossians that the mystery was this: Christ in me, the hope of glory. I don’t know what to call that theology, but I’m that. I like to think of it as “Christ –n- Me, the hope of glory.” Together, we can affect change and in so doing alter the future by seizing opportunities in the present. I think I’m going to call this doctrine, Carmenian theology. Or how about Armalvinistic Theology. Or how about this, let’s just leave it alone as the mystery it is. Then we won’t screw it up like we do whenever we extrapolate a piece of God’s word and immortalize it as the end all doctrine of the faith. I just know whatever this verse is saying makes sense to me. It brings together two camps that have expended far too much energy fighting each other as bitter rivals and forgetting Jesus somewhere in the whole war.

Being a Baptist also meant it was important to know exactly when Jesus was coming back. Even though Jesus tried to make it as clear as day that “no man would know the day or hour”, we wanted to prove him wrong by setting dates and keeping one eye on the middle east and the other one on the church constitution. (I’m just joking…kinda!) I’ve met so many intelligent theologians that are coming to different conclusions on this subject. That’s confusing since it seems to me that Jesus would make the things clear that are important and leave the things vague that aren’t. The only logical conclusion is that maybe, just maybe, Jesus didn’t want us to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the exact time of the rapture. I don’t mean to trivialize the countless hours that have been invested in this subject over the years by well meaning people, oh wait, yes I do. They could have been loving people instead of hiding in a study parsing verbs and piecing together abstract metaphors into books as thick as a Webster’s dictionary. Nobody reads these books anyway, except people that have time to care about such frivolity. Academiacs are the only subgroup that I know that expend so much time on something that the Bible refuses to divulge with fluid simplicity. Again, I don’t know where I stand on the Second coming of our Lord. My belief is as follows, I’m a “Pre-He’s coming back before I thought He would” or a “Post-He’s coming back after I wished He did.” Either way, it doesn’t affect how I live up to that moment. I think a lot of people just want to make sure they aren’t going to go through anything hard or hurtful in the future since that is what they base their faith on in the first place.

Baptists are funny people.

Now I’m what is formally known as a Wesleyan. I’ve been one of these for nearly two and a half years. Interestingly enough, Baptists make fun of Wesleyans for being eternally insecure, what with their whole belief in losing your salvation and all. I was led to believe that Wesleyans lived in fear every day that they were going to sin and then going to hell in a hand basket. I thought they constantly were preaching on how important it is to “stay saved” and how vital it is that Wesleyans believe they can lose their salvation. I imagined that they orbited around this one doctrine as the sun in their doctrinal universe. I have heard nothing about it in two and a half years. It’s funny what other denominations make up in their heads about rival denominations in order to feel better about what they believe.

But over on this side, the Wesleyan camp, they think Baptists are quacks. They have these pictures of people wearing suit coats to bed and having altar calls for family devotions. They think of them as the “faith only” camp that believes you pray a prayer and then live a life of self-indulgence until the rapture. They view eternally security as a free ride to glory with little to no effort needed on the part of recipient. From what it sounds like, they scoff the idea that you just “ask Jesus into your heart” and then live the way you want to knowing that there’s absolutely nothing that can “snatch you from the Father’s hand”. I think they think Baptists just talk about “eternally security” every week and have altar calls whenever they have a free moment in their day. Wesleyans are so misled…but I can’t blame them, just like their Baptist brothers, they don’t ever go over to the other side to see if their ideas are actually true. Neither side has pegged the other one correctly….but they think they have and that’s all that matters to them.

Wesleyans believe in something called “Entire Sanctification” or “Christian Perfection”. It’s this nebulous, ambiguous doctrine that hardly anyone in the denomination knows how to explain. Wesley wanted to be Holy. You can’t knock a guy for that. But in desiring this virtue, he came to believe that a Christian could attain absolute holiness with deeper dedication and fuller consecration.

Heidi’s uncle was a Wesleyan. He often would share with the rest of his family that he was completely sanctified. Heidi laughed as she shared this with me. Anyone that is holy won’t tell you that they are…that seems to be a conflict of interest to me. She said to me that he clearly wasn’t, but she didn’t want to tell him that.

I went to a week long class on “Holiness”. We debated “entire sanctification” in class for two days. We were all more confused at the end of the dialogue. We decided as a class to continue to pursue righteousness, but not ever think in our wildest dreams that we would ever arrive. We called it “Directional Sanctification” meaning that we wanted to be pointing toward God and continually moving toward his image. We agreed that the Bible was full of verses that said essentially, “Be holy because I am holy.”, but allowed for verses that also said, “Not that I have attained or have been made perfect but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me”. I love that the Bible continually contradicts itself in order to keep us on our toes, refraining from extremes. It makes me want to read all of it and not just the parts I like. I’m prone to do that. Wesleyans are prone to do that. Baptists are prone to do that. Let’s not do that.

Wesleyans wouldn’t let their congregants wear any jewelry only 40 years ago. No wedding bands, no ear rings, nothing. They have lists of rules that guide people toward Christian perfection. Mind you, things like anger, gluttony, gossip, lust and other inner battles aren’t specified, only stuff like not frequenting theaters, drinking liquor, and playing Texas Holy ‘Em. I don’t know who determined what got in the little blue book and what got axed, but someone did. I wouldn’t have wanted to be that person or grouping of people. That would be a huge burden to bear, to pick and choose what list the rest of the denomination has to follow in order to be part of the fold, the inside group, the family of God. It’s sad when we feel that we have to clarify what we feel the Bible doesn’t state as strongly as it should have by making majors out of minors and, as the story goes, minors out of majors.

Wesleyans are silly. Baptists are goofy. And yet, these two traditions are the lump sum of who I am. I’m a “Waptist”. And though there are things that I’m not proud of about both of these denominations, there are tons of things that I’m thankful for. Sometimes the only way for me to cathartically heal from both of their silly belief systems is to find humor in them. If you can’t laugh at denominations, you’ll probably cry. And today, I felt like laughing.

Denominations are silly, really.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Life...

This happened a couple years ago...I was revisiting this writing in my journal and thought I'd put it out there....

No wonder my days start with such restlessness. As if the rough night of sleep wasn’t bad enough, my body is awakened by the annoying sound of an alarm clock. This is just a hunch, but I’m thinking that my heart wasn’t created to handle the shock of some noise making machine blaring in my ear waking me from stage 4 R.E.M. sleep. I lean over to silence the noise that just filled my dark and peaceful room, trying to collect myself after such a disturbing and frightening experience. I know I must drag my carcass to the side of the bed and test my sleepy legs to see whether they will carry me to the shower. But I don’t want to. Just as I’m talking myself into moving toward the bathroom, two little bodies come barging into the room wanting to watch cartoons. I don’t feel like walking downstairs, but what choice do I have. At least my kids seem excited to start the day…they’re bouncing off the walls. They want juice and cereal and anything else that they can think of at the time. I know this sounds heartless, but I feel like saying, “Get it yourself you little selfish punks!” But as I think this, I deal with the guilt of what a cold hearted father I can be at times.

After I get them situated, I climb the stairs looking forward to a hot shower to massage my unmotivated body, soul, and spirit. Just as I open the bathroom door, I hear our youngest fussing in her bedroom. I know I need to get her out of her crib to change her diaper, but I just don’t want to. Instead, I hop in the shower and try to make like I don’t hear her screaming, screeching voice yelling at me to come and do whatever she wants, when she wants it. Needless to say, the shower wasn’t the calming experience I had hoped it would be. When I couldn’t take the clamoring racket any longer, I hopped out of the shower, rapped a towel around my waist and headed to her bedroom to quiet the raging beast.

I opened her door and the sight and smell made me want to run out in front of a fast moving tractor-trailer. She had unzipped her pajamas, ripped off her dirty diaper, and spread poop all over herself with her bare hands. It was then I thought, “Maybe I should have gotten her before taking a shower.” I knew I needed to clean her up, but I didn’t want to. I stood there looking at her hoping that I was just seeing things…that this wasn’t happening to me. The poop was all over her face and mouth, eyes and cheeks, stomach and legs…it was everywhere and it had dried. She just stood there and smiled like she was actually enjoying herself. I wanted to just go back to bed. After cleaning up the mess, I took her downstairs to feed her. I was so frustrated by then, I think I grabbed a cheese stick and whatever else I could find that would take her a long time to eat in her highchair. I went up to the bedroom and sat on the side of the bed. The day was just starting and part of me couldn’t wait to get it over with.

In times like these, I don’t need anyone to convince me that life isn’t as it was meant to be. It’s shattered and sometimes I feel like I’m simply here to pick up the pieces. I’m hoping this little story can offer you some warped form of encouragement that others are experiencing their own set of frustrations…you’re not alone.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

the choice to change...

This week I sat down with my daughters (7, 5, 3) and had a little heart to heart. They haven't been behaving well and alot of it has to do with making bad choices with regards to their talking back, whinning, and outright defiance of authority.

I talked with them about a fundamental truth that I believe with all of my being. As we were talking it came out in this nifty little mantra: "I always have the choice to change." I know that it sounds elementary, but it's really powerful if you apply it. I wanted them to know that whatever their emotions or circumstances, they have the ability to change what they feel and how they behave. They don't "have" to yell, they don't "have" to argue, they don't "have" to rebel. They can change their response if they learn "self-control". (this may be old news to the Love and Logic zealots)

We chanted this phrase over and over again...this most certainly will be brought up in counseling when they get older. A classic case of "brainwashing". But it is just the sort of thing I want washing over their brain everyday of their waking life.

I know this puts me in the camp of the Arminians...those individuals that take seriously man's responsibility in the business of life. But I'm learning that I'm a proponent of anything that puts man in the place to choose his destiny rather than living the fatalistic and defeatist attitude of so many who say things like, "That's just the way I am." or "I can't do anything about it." These sorts of attitudinal responses just tork me off.

I'm sure that God's soveriegnty plays a big, and maybe even a bigger, part in my children's destiny. But I'll be a monkey's uncle if I'm going to sit back and wait for God to transform my daughters for me. It seems to me that alot of that is going to come from them getting into their thick skulls that only they can control their attitudes and thoughts and behaviors and only they can do something about choosing to change those reprobate tendencies into holy ones. Like the old adage says, "Pray as though everything depends on God, act as though everything depends on you." Though that has some flaws to it, I get what the author was gettin' at.

"I always have the choice to change." Therein lies the power of the human spirit to alter the world in which he/she lives.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Christian Imagination...

I love any thought given to the combination of these two seemingly polar opposite words...

Check these out...

C.S. Lewis thoughts:
http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/pages/resources/publications/knowingDoing/2001/ImportanceImaginationLewis.pdf?PHPSESSID=9293f1cedb768ddf2cc21fd360e8e40d

N.T. Wright thoughts:
http://www.spu.edu/depts/uc/response/summer2k5/features/imagination.asp

I love the fact that imagination is part and parcel with following Jesus. I would go so far as to say the most effective abassadors of God are the ones who have learned to live out the truth of the gospel with vibrant imagination. Read and weep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why do I write?

Why do I write?

This question has followed me around lately. Does putting things into words cheapen them or ripen them? Am I penning thoughts to be read or to be real? Is the crafting of sentences overshadowing the feeling I'm seeking to get out there? Is the act of writing leading to a life of overthinking and psychoanalysis? Am I looking for something to write about or am I letting things naturally run their course? Do I have an agenda just underneath my words? Am I trying to impress as I undress my heart for all to see? Do I think I'm altrustic when I'm really egotistic? I'm I putting on a performance trying to arouse a response? Do I reduce the sacred to the common, profaning the hallowed subjects of life with empty words? Do I think I'm kissing my heart when I'm really killing my heart? Does my audacious pursuit of honest living come across to others like a false humility with a spoonful of shock value thrown in for good measure? Am I trivializing my marriage by bearing my heart's desires for my wife...should that be kept under wraps for us to share in secret? Does sharing my poetry online discredit the intimate nature of the thing itself? Is the rehearsing of my day the poisoning agent that reduces the beautiful nuances of life into words, thus raping the memory of it's simple and precious value? Am I turning people and dreams and thoughts and aches and beliefs and passions into mere propaganda? As it says in the Scripture, am I peddling the Word of God for profit? Am I peddling words for some human gain, am I?

I hate thinking (overthinking) about these questions. The paranoia that surfaces disables me. It makes me want to quit anything that could be misconstrued. My life takes a bitter turn toward "premeditation" on the front end, "psycho-evalution" on the back end. I'm caught in a vicious cycle of projection/introspection/retrospection. Worrying before, during and after everything I do, say, write, sing, think, etc. Before long, what starts as a seed of questioning motives morphs into a massive civil war of the soul. I start to stop trusting myself. I start to stop trusting others. I start to stop trusting God. I live in a queer fear of what I may not know that I don't know about what I don't see that I don't see. I'm looking over my shoulder...second-guessing every infinitesimal movement or mood or method to my madness. And madness is what life becomes.

Blogging poses a unique dilemma. I journal publicly. I muse in the open about my deepest thoughts. Is this an oxymoronic behavior? I crack open questions that are currently unanswered wondering if in the asking I will find what I'm looking for. Disclosure. That is what I'm aching for...a revealing of my gritty, unkept, disheveled self so I don't have to dwell in maniacal isolation. I don't trust myself when I don't expose myself to public scrutiny. I don't trust what secrecy will do if it has its way with me. I don't trust the gospel I'm sharing if my life doesn't have a place to run and play and cry and laugh. It is then that words scare me and I'm suspicious of myself. Composure provides a privacy that is seductive...I sometimes feel that I hang myself as I share my thoughts. No one is making me do this. I'm doing this to myself.

I'm just wrestling with this today...I suppose some of it comes from my life verse...

"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." - I Thess. 2:8

Sharing my life (the safe as well as the dicey parts) is not negotiable. I feel so much of my life I looked at people and only saw the surface issues addressed. Very few would let you into the messy core of their being. Very few would expose those places that throbbed with fury and fear and fire and faith. Very few would engage life on the level of reality...and I was left playing with fantasy. Fantasy is the world in which we will live until, or unless, our deepest thoughts meet something or someone to attach to that isn't afraid to go there (wherever the "there" is that you may need to go). I owe a great debt of gratitude to the few souls along the way that have risked their own reputations to engage the unspoken worlds often left uncharted. When those worlds are left uncharted, lives are left unchallenged. And when lives are left unchallenged, they are sadly left unchanged.

Why do I write? That's a good question.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

the way of a man with a maiden...

Proverbs 30:18-19
18 "There are three things that are too amazing for me,

four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,

the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.

Guys say they don’t like “chick flicks” because they have to. An admittance of anything but disdain for girly movies would get you hazed in the little boy’s bathroom by a crash of manly rhino’s. They say they gag at the sight of kissing. But, boy, do they love kissing! They can’t stand the syrupy one-liners, but I’ll be darned if they aren’t spinning their own when captured by “the beauty”. They scoff the ways a woman can get a guy to lose all sense of reason, yet when put in a similar situation, they start acting out like a housecat drunk on catnip. They say they aren’t drawn to sappy love novels and romantic films, but just peek around the corner when they aren't looking and watch them flip through the cable channels sometime…you won’t believe the places that stop them dead in the tracks…all I can say is “Hallmark”. Guys say a lot of things, but deep in their bowels, they are bewitched, body and soul, by the woman…she has a way of turning him on his head and getting him to whistle Dixie.

The way of a man with his maiden should evoke something so unspeakable and incomprehensible that it leaves people stunned in amazement. The treatment of the woman should be so delicate and yet so robust that it calls into question the rapture of any other object. The “way of a man” should confound philosophers and stupefy intellectuals. There are few things so intoxicating as the way of a man with a woman. When it’s right, there isn’t anything more right in the world. And as we discussed in the blog, an unloved woman, when it’s wrong, there couldn’t be anything more out of alignment in all creation.

A man who loves a woman is amazing beyond logic.
The “way” he rubs her back.
The “way” he looks into her eyes.
The “way” he watches her from across the room.
The “way” he smiles at her when she walks toward him.
The “way” he talks to her in his “baby” voice that only they share.
The “way” he laughs with her about simple things.
The “way” he cries when she is questioning her love for him.
The “way” he halts when she doesn’t know if she agrees with him.
The “way” he whispers into her ear in a crowded room.
The “way” he tilts his head when he leans forward to kiss her lips.
The “way” he handles her heart when she shares her dreams.
The “way” he listens to her as she talks about her day.
The “way” he fights for her when she’s under attack.
The “way” he interlocks his fingers with hers as they hold hands.
The “way” he gets weak in the knees when she flirts with him.
The “way” he stutters when he’s nervous in conversation with her.
The “way” his heart pounds when he’s asking her to marry him.
The “way” he praises her to others in conversation.
The “way” he cleans up his act when she’s going to be around.
The “way” he asks her permission to go out with the guys. haha.
The “way” he adores her in public and adorns her in private.
The “way” he pants for but the touch of her warm body.
The “way” he forgets about everything else in the heat of her love.

This “way” of which I speak is none other than the consummate picture of God with the crown of His creation, mankind. And when it drips with the dignity of its design, it is unrivaled in its ability to baffle its beholder.

There are times when I feel that my wife holds a power over me that is dangerous, otherworldly. It seems weird to say it like this, but it’s almost like I’m under a spell at times in her presence. Spellbound. The enchantment of this relationship causes me to read this verse and know exactly what the author is referring to. I don’t, nor will I ever, understand the way of myself when I’m with my maiden…she takes me places I love to be. What else can I do but chain myself to her heart?

Friday, March 09, 2007

an unloved woman...

Proverbs 30:21-23
21 "Under three things the earth trembles,
under four it cannot bear up:
22 a servant who becomes king,

a fool who is full of food,
23 an unloved woman who is married,

and a maidservant who displaces her mistress."

I've been married for just over ten years. It seems like a lifetime unto itself in many ways. I struggle to remember life apart from Heidi. I know I've lived longer without her than with her, but the B.C. years seem more forgettable since she entered my story. With every year we're together, I'm losing clarity in my remembrance of the first 18 years of my life. I think this is the magic of love. "It covers over a multitude of sins" as the Scripture says. Her love has covered over me so beautifully.

I read this text a few weeks ago and it has been pestering my heart like a little poodle nipping at your heals. I can't escape the power of these six words..."an unloved woman who is married". An unloved woman is unconscionable in and of itself. But an unloved woman who is married?...this is unbearable to creation itself. There is nothing that causes the universe to hide in fear like the reality of a marriage where the husband leaves his bride unloved, unwanted, unvalued, undone. It just can't bear up under these conditions.

I've left my wife unloved before. I've gotten busy with life. I've said yes to too many invitations. I've sought the rush of accomplishment. I've chased my own adventures apart from her. I've sat in silence in front of the television letting her take care of the household duties. I've seen her eyes hollowed out by monotonous obligations without so much as an acknowledgement of appreciation. I've seen Satan ravish her with insecurities without lifting a finger to fight off her inner demons with the "truth that sets free". I've let words stay inside me when she needed them...oh, has she needed them. I've complimented everyone but her. I've befriended everyone but her. I've changed my schedule for everyone but her. I've left her to wonder at her place of importance. I've made her feel replaceable. I've given her the name, "Afterthought" by my actions. I've left her to wander in a world of uncertaintly as to her role in our marriage. I've made her read between the lines too much. I've left her to fill in the blanks on too many occasions. I've left so much inside her unfinished, promising to come back and complete what I said I would do, and letting time take the edge off my vows.

I've left her at home with the girls too many nights. I've shrugged her off when she needed "adult" conversation. I've been a lazy listener. I've made her feel like a bother, a nuisance. I've seen her dying for my affection, and sadly left her for dead. I haven't asked nearly enough questions of her heart. I haven't done much to sacrifice myself to make her dreams come true. I haven't been the creative leader in the home that I am in the church. Some of these weaknesses go beyond neglect toward abuse. This is unacceptable.

I don't want my wife to be unloved. I want more for our marriage, our friendship.

Here are some declarations I must make in order to avoid the dread of this verse:
1. I will speak when I'm tempted to stay silent.
2. I will move when I'm tempted to stand still.
3. I will hug when I'm tempted to withdraw.
4. I will kiss when I'm tempted to stare.
5. I will ask questions when I'm tempted to just talk.
6. I will affirm when I'm tempted to attack.
7. I will enjoy when I'm tempted to endure.
8. I will create when I'm tempted to shut down.
9. I will date when I'm tempted to distance myself.
10. I will listen when I'm tempted to solve.
11. I will enable when I'm tempted to disable.
12. I will understand when I'm tempted to be understood.
13. I will sympathize when I'm tempted to criticize.
14. I will forgive when I'm tempted to forgo.
15. I will gaurd my eyes when I'm tempted to feed my flesh.
16. I will accomodate her interestes when I'm tempted to push my own.
17. I will give her freedom when I'm tempted to pursue my own.
18. I will look for the good when I'm tempted to point out the bad.
19. I will defend her when I'm tempted to dis"gaurd" her.
20. I will pursue her when I'm tempted to abandon her.
21. I will trust her when I'm tempted to question her.
22. I will serve her when I'm tempted to let her serve me.
23. I will help her when I'm tempted to let her do "it" herself.
24. I will honor her when I'm tempted to talk about her.
25. I will crown her when I'm tempted to "down" her.

I don't want my wife to be unloved. I want my chivalry to cause her to feel captivating. I want my romantic heart to break up things she's scared to try for fear of failure. I'm a guy, but that doesn't me I'm the incorrigible grunt that culture says I am...I'm created to love my wife with such passion that it confounds all of creation. And I want to...I really, really want to.

There is nothing so dreadful as an unloved woman trapped in a marriage with a misguided man.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

the storied life...

I heard a phrase that intrigued me a couple days ago. "so-and-so had a storied life." I don't know why it caused pause inside me, but I sat there wondering, first, if it was even a word. Secondly, I wondered how someone could have been so brilliant as to turn that beautiful noun into such a rivoting adjective. When being described, I hope that "storied" would be one of the adjectives that came to someone's lips.


There are few things, in my opinion, so transformational to the way someone shows up in life as the beautiful realization that one is living out a unique and, yet, universal story. The very moment that truth sinks into the core of your being, you wake to a new world and live a new gospel. Life suddenly makes a kind of sense that it hadn't up to that point in time. Your eyes are wider; your heart more poised. I can honestly say that the single most life-altering message I ever absorbed was this simple and profound truth. That life is a story and I am but a character in the story. I am writing new words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters every day of my life. I choose the adjectives to describe and be described by. I place the verbs in sentences revealing my actions. I live out the subject that gives something for the rest of the sentence to hinge to with supplemental support. I decide on the body of the plot and where the storyline leads or fails to lead. I, and I alone, suffer from writers block and writers cramp prohibiting the story from moving forward and, thus, moving people. Life is a piece of poetry, and I have the honor to contribute a verse. (loose translation of Deat Poet's society) Again, when this revelation hits you in the bowels (the deepest places), you can't help but being swept away into another kind of living, a fresher kind based on my experience.

I suffer from the same disease that plagues all humans which is to turn life into a prosaic program of events filled with robotic people fulfilling obligatory functions. Life is field dressed like a downed deer and the vitals are removed leaving but an empty shell of what used to be. The chest cavity that used to pulsate with life is gutted and left for dead. This is our story when we lose the storied life.

It is possible to live an unstoried life. This is a life that fails to live out the natural components of a great story. What are these natural themes that we gravitate to when we think of a great story?...

1. Adventure - Is my life pressing to the outer edges leaving me in a state of suspence? Do I feel a rush as I venture into places that put me face to face with the unknown? Do I take the road less travelled just to appease my curiosity of what might-be-if-only?

2. Risk - Am I a person that gravitates to the sure-thing. Is a risk-free approach to life causing me to only pursue what it is that I know won't hurt me. Am I willing to try something new risking failure in order to achieve grandeur?

3. Danger - Do I run toward the roar or am I always cowering away when things get dicey? Do I respond to crises with strength or do I wilt when things start to unravel?

4. Beauty - Am I a person that exalts the beauty of life to those who brush up against me? Am I a person that causes others to feel refreshed with the luscious goodness of life?

5. Romance - Am I a romantic at heart causing others to look at love with a purity and potency that restores the created wonder of the heart? Do I love my wife and daughters with the kind of affection that causes them to be the radiant females that they are? Does my treatment of them cause them to open like a flower?

6. Language - Does my communication bring life, nuetrality or death? Am I moving people to appreciate speech and the power of the written and spoken word? Do people find themselves appreciating the subtle nuances of life more because of the kind of storyteller I am?

7. Heroism - Do I rise up and respond valiantly when life requires a heart to engage and intervene? Am I thought of as a man of true strength and fierce love? Have I proved myself to be a man of strength in the midst of trial? Have a saved anyone's life with mine?

8. Sacrifice - Do I come against the flow of my flesh by living a counterintuitive life? Do I run toward things that are life or death, sink or swim, do or die? Am I a person that is known to lay down my life for what I believe in?

9. Friendship - Do I have intimate allies that I live with and fight for? Am I entering people's stories at the heart level calling out their glory? Is there small band of friends that I laugh with, cry with, talk with and dream with? Am I paralyzed and powerless without kindred souls?

10. Battle - Do I demonstrate the heart of a warrior as life crashes in around me? Do I have what it takes when unexpected opposition tests my strength? Am I known as a person who fights for the values of the kingdom with a tireless passion and a diehard devotion? Do I give up easily or do I have more fight left in me when others are losing heart?

11. Dreams - Do I live out of the vision in my heart with reckless abandon? Do I give due diligence to protect and handle my dreams with great care knowing that a life without a dream is like a body without a spirit? Do others find their own dreams coming alive in my presence?

12. Passion - Do I inspire people to live with greater urgency? Does my emotion cause others to seize each moment of life as if it was their last? Does my zeal lead others to feel stirred at the deepest places in their soul? Is my life attractive or forgettable?

I'm sure there are other themes that make up a "storied" life...but these are several that seem to surface in my own soul. When you're not sure whether you're living a "storied" life, you're probably not.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Memory Lane #2...

Letting my mind drift into the past centers me in the present...

- I remember cutting into my kneecap with a chainsaw and seeing the white flesh and sinew exposed. I just about fainted.
-I remember painting the barn and splashing red paint on my face and running toward the house screaming like I had busted my face. It was just so fun to see Mom get worked up.
-I remember picking rock in the garden with my dad...it was a neverending chore.
-I remember freezing down in my room at night. It was furthest from the wood stove. I would wake up and see my breath.
-I remember having to use bathtub water to flush the toilet and wash our clothes because our well would always go dry and we had no money to get more.
-I remember driving a 1981 Dodge Ram around like I was the man. I left school early one day to give it a wax job.
-I remember mom breaking a plate over my head because I made fun of my sister eating too many mashed potatoes and being fat. I stood there stunned.
-I remember getting saved a 1000 times the day before someone predicted that Jesus was coming back. I sat in my cubicle at my school and prayed "the prayer" incessantly. He didn't come back...I was ticked.
-I remember poking a tack in Joel Palmers ankle from under the desk and hiding. He never knew it was me, he thought it was a pinched nerve or a deranged spider biting him or something. I laughed inside my head so hard my veins nearly erupted.
-I remember standing in front of the whole school and quoting large portions of Scripture. Thank God for short-term memory.
-I remember playing kickball at lunch break and sweating like a pig in heat...we played for blood.
-I remember my dad putting up a basketball hoop and me climbing the pole, hanging on the rim, and promptly ripping it off. He was not happy.
-I remember holding a girl's hand for the first time in the bus on the way home from school. I was about 11 or 12 and I thought I was committing the unpardonable sin. My adrenaline was pumping blood through my body so fast I just about hyperventilated myself into passing out.
-I remember the famous song "Ghostbusters" playing in the bus on the way to school.
-I remember listening to Fiber McGee and Molly each night before bed on the Public Radio Broadcast.
-I remember pouring gasoline into bee hives in the ground at night and then making a gas trail away from the hole so that when I lit it I didn't explode with the bees. What a blast!
-I remember pegging bull frongs with rocks and cutting off their legs for dinner at my grandpa's house. It tasted like chicken.
-I remember playing house with my cousin and her getting naked in front of me. (we were about 7) She said this is what mommy's and daddy's do around each other. I didn't know what she was talking about.
-I remember laying in the middle of road at night and watching for shooting stars.
-I remember going to the bathroom outside at night when someone else was in the bathroom. I always made sure the neighboors couldn't see me.
-I remember delivering papers and being so deathly scared of killer dogs that I could just about see my heart pounding out of my chest.
-I remember shoveling driveways in the winter and making money. My brother and I got in the paper for doing it. We were famous.
-I remember watching the fisherman down by the river hooking into the biggest King Salmon you could ever imagine. One let me reel for a while...I was tired in about 30 seconds...it just about pulled me in.
-I remember watching "Tales from the Crypt" at my friends house and having night terrors for months...there was especially one episode that scared me...drowned people who came after their murderer. The had seaweed dangling all over them. I can still see them waddling toward the lake house.
-I remember the first time I swore and my Mom heard it. I said, "Oh my God!" and she just walked out the door. We were playing street hockey. I couldn't get away with anything.
-I remember getting kicked out of school for two weeks for looking at pornography with the other boys in our Christian school. All the boys were kicked out for two weeks and a couple were expelled. It was an all-girls school for a short season...I wonder what they did together at school those two weeks. They must have thought we were all a bunch off crazed perverts.
-I remember a guy swallowing a fly while he was singing on a Sunday night. He choked and the whole congregation laughed hysterically.
-I remember wrestling in the foyer and hitting my lip on a coat hanger. I ran outside, grabbed some snow and held it on my lip...the whole snowball turned red with blood. I had to go to the hospital and get stitches.
-I remember laughing with my family at the dinner table often.
-I remember my Dad trying to do devotions while everyone was finding things to be distracted by. He would get so frustrated...his jaw would clench with anger.
-I remember having crushes on older girls. I was like 5 and 6 and yet I was almost sure I could hook up with the high schoolers in the Spanish class. No kidding.
-I remember going to my buddy Otto's house and riding his three wheeler through the back trails and then shooting squirrels.
-I remember him showing me his new 410 shotgun and me pointing it at a mirror in the living room. I was about to pull the trigger and thought I would check to see if the chamber was empty. It wasn't...I just about blew a hole in his living room wall that day.
-I remember getting my buddy Art's truck hung up on a hill in between the Movie Rental and the Car Wash...we thought we'd take the short cut.
-I remember using my dad's "Groom and Clean" to keep my hair in place. It turned it into a greasy rock.
-I remember pouring on "Old Spice" and "English Leather" at gym class to impress a girl by the name of Tove Roberts. She was my childhood sweetheart. I remember I had a dream about her one time where we were on a hillside having a romantic picnic together. I was 6.
-I remember changing in a part of the locker room where no one else changed. I didn't want anyone to see me naked.
-I remember the open showers where alot of the guys would run from one side to the other and dive like it was a slip-n-slide. We had so much fun.
-I remember getting into an accident with my buddy, Jason. My neck hurt the next day.
-I remember my boss letting me drive a tactor trailer down the road for two miles to the barn. I was 14 years old and could barely see over the dash board. My stomach was in knots.
-I remember always sticking my finger in my Mom's candles letting the wax harden and then pulling it off and putting the molded wax over the wick.
-I remember Dad getting us up after midnight to watch March Madness. He told us to keep it a secret from Mom. I thought that was cool.


I love remember my past...it's rich with stories that served to shape me into who I am today...good, bad and ugly. I love where I came from.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The worlds we create...

Have you ever seen the Truman Show? For lack of time, I can't set up the plot with the subtle nuances it deserves. Suffice it to say that it's a guy, born into a particular world, that, over time, realizes that the world he's always known isn't all that it seemed to be. As he discovers this, he increasingly has an appetite to break out and experience life on the other side of this bubble. As the show carries on, his desire to step outside the prescribed box becomes almost maniacal. The movie concludes with him fighting his way through the smoke screens and oil spills and forest fires and hurricanes thrown into his life to prohibit him from leaving. It's fascinating really.

The older I get, the more I realize the multiple fabricated worlds that I've grown up in and created for myself for that matter. Worlds aren't always imposed upon me by others, I do a fine job of unknowingly creating these utopias myself. Sometimes I feel like Truman, caught between all that I've ever known and longing for what I've yet to taste. I'm in a straight betwixt two as it says in Phillipians.

I drift by default back to the comforts of my past. I daydream about the simplicity of having something and someone else think for you, entrusting your decisions to their soveriegn rule. I wish for the days when things seemed marked with such clear directives, distinguishing between the black and white, guiding you through the haze with hard, fast laws of living. I honestly do.

But then there are days like today where I feel that I've been trapped in a sort of thinking, a kind of living that has prevented me from entering into all that God had in mind when he created humanity in His glorious image. It's like I'm out-of-body watching myself interact with the life that's been created around me and that I've taken part in constructing. People move to and fro around me almost robotically, I feel robotic myself. I'm caught in a hypnosis of sorts, conscious of this reality, yet strangley paralyzed to change what is happening around me.

Christianity is a religion that I've grown less and less fond of. I watched guys yesterday scream from the corner at passerby's about death and damnation and wondered if we are both going to heaven and whether I even want to be in the same heaven that these guys are violently inviting people into. I wanted to pull my car to the curb, walk up to them and beat them to a bloody pulp. I was so angry inside, disturbed both by their actions and the depth of my own responses.

What is this faith I've espoused and clung to for so long? Why does it translate into this sort of evangelistic mode of operation? Why do I feel a weird guilt inside that I'm not living the "hated" life of a believer, arousing conviction in others and inviting persecution on myself? Again, I feel like I'm dislocated. I sit here in this coffee shop suspended in thought and wanting Jesus to sit down with me and talk some sense into my vacillating spirit.

I don't like Christianity this week...I've seen too many dark facets of this cult we've created, this sub-culture of protection and provision to keep us feeling good about ourselves. And yet, I'm sort of at a loss when I crawl through the doorways leading out into the real world...it's less regulated and more dicey. I don't know where my home is...out there or in here. Over there or over here. They both have their seductions, they both have their repulsions.

This I know, calling myself a Christian doesn't really give me the warm, fuzzy feelings it used to. I'm not sure what a Christian is anymore these days...

My home as of late has been the Gospels...it's the only place my heart can relax and smile...