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Monday, June 25, 2007

am I devout?

I’m a dedicated disciple; I’m a committed Christian
But I don’t feel devout.
I don’t know religious history enough to be devout
I have always resisted traditions as the enemy
Change has been my banner.
Modernity has been my tutor.
Progressiveness has been my catchword.
Forward thinking.
Relevance has been my ambition.
User-friendly faith.

The older I get the more I care about the old.
The more I understand the current, the more I want to engage the ancient.
I don’t value the newest, freshest, hottest or latest as much as I used to.
I crave roots more than fruits.
I want to know where I came from more than where I’m going.
I’m drawn to the mystery of the past
More than the novelty of the present.

I’m not devout.
I don’t know the legacy of our Lord.
I haven’t captured his culture.
I’ve only extrapolated from him what I’ve appreciated about him.
I leave behind his way of life.
I tweak his words, values, and desires.
I reconfigure his lifestyle to fit mine.
How convenient.

I don’t meditate. I don’t have the time.
I don’t study. I don’t have the energy.
I don’t pray. I don’t have the attention.
Oh, I do these…but with cursory conviction…
I’m not by any means devout.

It seems to me that devout people don’t have to work
So hard to convert people.
They aren’t going door to door,
They aren’t putting ads in the newspaper,
They aren’t trying to keep up with the culture,
They aren’t killing themselves to convince
People that their faith is valid.
Their lives testify to that reality…words aren’t needed.

Only weak religions need many words.
Only marginal believers need to argue for legitimacy.
Devout faiths speak for themselves.
Initially, they are shunned and called narrow.
Ultimately, they are trusted and called deep.
Devout…Deep.

The concern I have is the shallow ground on which I stand.
It’s as deep as the last book I read
The last movie I watched
The last conversation I had
The last sermon I heard.
The depth of my devotion is as thick as my current emotion.
Emotion is a great fuel and terrible engine.
What drives my life?

I love current events, modern ideas, and cultural trends
I must be a student of these shifting movements.
I must know the world I live in and the way it interprets life.
I must engage the customs of this civilization
And package my answers in terminology that can be understood.

However, I don’t think being understood is the mark of a successful life.
The greatest agents of change in our history
Lived lives that were largely misunderstood.
Allow me some space to make some touchy statements…
I would rather be misunderstood and transfer mystery
Than to be understood and underestimated.

Devout people may not be understood,
But they are not underestimated.
You may not comprehend the customs
But you respect the reverence.
You may not understand the traditions
But you esteem highly the conviction.
This is the mark of the devout.

Devout people are just fine with not fitting in.
They aren’t killing themselves to blend into the scenery.
They aren’t living for your attention or mine.
They are content with their beliefs.
Did you hear that? They are content with what they believe.

How many Christians do you know that are content with their faith?
Not many.
It’s baked with additives and supplemental spices to make it taste better.
Christianity is a so temperamental…
In one place a person is turned on to God
Only to change momentarily with a shift of location.
It’s like we have to be somewhere to be something.
Devout people don’t function with this flippancy.
They are at all times deeply conscious of their beliefs.
Environments don’t affect temperaments,
Conversations don’t change convictions.

I want to be quiet without people questioning my emotional stability.
I want to adhere to traditions that don’t make sense to our culture.
I want to engage my faith with a deeper sense of ancient mystery.
I want the history of my faith to be handled with reverence.
I’m tired of modern gimmicks and mimics trying to pass for the real thing.
I’m leery of the cutting edge.
I’m bored of the newest thing.
Who cares what’s next if we don’t know what’s needed?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

a breather...

What a gorgeous day.

I love days with no humidity, no bugs, and no clouds. I'm about ready to take a walk down by the river with Tony Phillips. For some reason I can't wait to take that walk either. I just want to feel the breeze, hear the rippling river and smell the wild land. I've been so busy the last few days. I just need a breather. And I think this is just the kind of breather I'm looking for.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I want to be a father...

I want to be a father. A real one. Not just a man with kids. Not just a guy who made a baby or two or three with my wife. I want to be a daddy in the deepest sense of the word. I want to know my girls so well that I can look in their eyes and tell what they need to hear from me at any given moment. I want to be able to hear a change in their voice. I want to be able to pick up on hidden signals, subtle shifts in their patterns or personalities. I want to know them by heart.

I want them to look at me and see me staring at them. I want them to listen to me laugh at life. I want them to feel like they could ask me anything and know that I'll take them seriously. I want them bask in the love I have for their mother. I want them to form ideas of what it means to be taken care of when they sit under my banner of love. I want them to trust me with every fiber of their being.

I fear that I will lose these desires lest I remind myself of them. Life seems to seduce me away from my girls. I can't let that happen.

I want to father each of them with custom care. They are growing ever so quickly...I'm already missing them in areas I'm sure. But there is so much time left to leave a mark in their souls. We have to wrestle more. I have to be more creative. I have to snuggle with them more. I need to have more daddy dates talking over life. I need to keep my eyes open to their changes. I have to be more consistent in my discipline. I need to give them more rides on the lawn mower with me. I need to push them more on the tire swing. We need to have more bonfires. I need to catch butterflies with them and feed the ducks down my the river. I need to build them that treehouse I've promised. I need to tell them more stories of make believe characters. I need to make the Bible come alive to them. I need to play games with them instead of asking them to play by themselves. I need to watch Anne of Green Gables, House on the Prairie and Pollyanna with them often. I need to watch them dance and dance with them when asked. I need to play house with them pretending with all the imagination I can muster. I need to always be playing "hide and seek" with them. I need to color with Aly, play soccer with Kami and dress dolls with Taylor. I need to take them to the movies. I need to play down by the river, rolling up my pant legs and wading in with them. I need to take them fishing and acanoeing. I need to take them on horse rides. I need to take my family to the beach and stay to watch the sun go down. I need to take them to get some ice cream at Ball's. We need to take walks as a family behind the Wittenbach. I need to teach them how to communicate to people, not just hope it happens along the way. I need to be intentional about training them to be godly young women. I need to show up every day ready to live life to the fullest with them. I need to play dress up with them. I need to go on adventures with them. I need to go on bike rides with them. I need to pay close attention to their hearts...very close attention.

I want to be a great father...the kind of father my daughters look back upon and say, "I always knew my dad cherished me."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rocketman...

I'm sipping some coffee and gathering my thoughts. That's a funny phrase, "gathering my thoughts". Almost like your thoughts can be scattered all over the place and you have to herd them like children on a vast playground. Trying to get my thoughts all in one place standing in line at attention is an almost impossible task these days. But that is what I'm attempting to do this morning...gathering my thoughts so that I can move ahead the rest of the week.

I sent off a rocket last week at Aly's school. They were having their end of the year field day centered around the theme of outer space. I had the responsibility of assembling and executing the successful lauch of a 16 inch rocket. I'm not much of a wires-and-explosives-guy, but I managed to figure out the logistics of intermediate rocketeering.

The children were alive and spry, perched on the side of a grassy nole. I was high fiving them and getting them all lathered up over that which I knew very little about, really. It's funny how you can distract people with personality and emotions so much so that your expertise is really of little value. The fact of the matter is that the kids thought I was the "Rocketman" extraordinaire and gave me unwavering respect. It was as if I was about to climb into the space shuttle as a trained astronaut, minus the sterile white suit and big, round helmet. They were poised for an exibition of pirotechnics and a display of epic proportions. And I, honestly, was scared that it wouldn't work. I had no dry run, no mock launch, no testing ground. When I hit the little red button, I was a novice crossing my fingers hoping for a miracle. I feared the worst, an anti-climactic finish to the festive morning. Kids sitting still on the side of the hill gazing at the open field waiting for the thing that I had fired them up about, wide-eyed and expectant, only to find out that the moron that they thought had "walked on the moon" was a fraud posing as a mad scientist and astrophysicist. I imagined that they would form a mob and gang tackle me. In my mind's eye, I visualized 74 children all weighing somewhere between 50-75 pounds crushing me like a grape and my blood pouring out like fine Italian wine. I was nervous this wasn't going to pan out like it was planned out. Very nervous actually.

But it did. It went without a hitch. The kids had a blast. I was brought to life with their intoxicating joy. It was worth the worry.

There's so much more that needs to be gathered by way of my thoughts, but I have not the time nor the energy to do so now.

It's important for me to write these stories down for my heart's sake. Random and rushed though they are, they remind me of the glory of life and the hope that still emerges like a root out of dry ground. When I read this in my old age, I hope that it will continue to stir in me the desire to fix my eyes on the glorious privilege of being alive and to appreciate life's wondrous delicacies.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'm out of my mind...

2 Cor. 5:13 - "If I'm out of my mind it's for the sake of God, if I'm of my right mind it's for you."

There are times when it takes a trained, seasoned theologian to understand certain concepts within the sacred text of Scripture. Other times, you just have to have a pulse, an optic nerve and the often overlooked ability to laterally move your eyes back and forth across a still piece of parchment.

This verse seems to prove the latter.

I love that God makes it very clear that insanity is a Christian virtue. You have to be nuts to live for God on certain days. It takes such ridiculous faith to carry on with your values. It takes an inability to connect with human reason and rudimentary logic. You have to disregard obvious odds and push forward without a snowballs chance in hell of making a dent in the day's tragectory. You have to lose your marbells when you wake up in the morning and advance into overwhelming opposition that stands against your youthful optimism and your unconditional love. You have to be one fry short of a happy meal to think that you, of all people, can stand out and stand up in a world of 6.5 billion human beings and push back the darkness.

I find a warped sense of encouragement in verses like this that seem to indicate that "losing it" is part of "having it". If you don't feel like your about to go crazy, it's a real possibility that you're not walking with the living God.

On the other hand, the verse also states that when I'm in my right mind, it's for the sake of people. You know how popular it is to be deranged? Not so much. It's important in society to be civil and to hold it together, giving off airs of uniformity and solidarity. Calm, cool, collected as they say. Composure is correct.

Have you ever felt yourself bitting your tongue or editing your true feelings to maintain an impeccable reputation with the general population? Have you ever felt a keen sense that you are actually pressing on with an unreasonable life? The best kind of unreason, yet unreason nonetheless. Do you ever say to yourself, "Self, we are not right in the head for continuing to chase after the kingdom paradigm. Self, are you listening to me! It's time for some level-headed, no-nonsense dialogue about the odds we're defying here! Your movement toward God is non-sensical and foolhardy...do you see where I'm going with this? Don't you want to mull this over and come to your senses with the rest of the planet? Come on, Self, let's go to therapy."

I'm out of my mind, for God's sake!

I'm out of my mind to think that I can make a difference, change the course of history, add value to the life of another, turn the tide of evil, quell the negativity, check the plague of pessimism, raise warrior-daughters, protect my wife's heart and make her radiant, befriend men and join forces against sexual impurity, cut the legs out from under apathy and indifference, intimidate the forces of darkness with the name and blood of Jesus himself. I'm on the verge of a breakdown if I feel any bit of hope that I have a fraction of a chance to make a change in the world...

And yet...I think just maybe I'll try...

anyone else game?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Doughnuts with Dad...

This morning was the special day
Where daddy’s go to school,
To eat some doughnuts with their kids
Who think they’re really cool.

My daughter, Aly, couldn’t wait
To munch some Crispy Creams,
For weeks on end this day has been
The topic of her dreams.

Each day this week she’s talked about
How much she cannot wait
To wake up early and go to school
For a special daddy date.

Her mom had dressed her up so cute
And pulled her hair up tight,
Her recent tan was glistening
Beneath the bathroom lights.

Her face was beaming with delight
As she glided down the stairs
She glanced at me with joyful eyes
and climbed up on her chair.

“We don’t much need our breakfast, dad”
“We’re having doughnut holes.”
“I’m so excited” she squealed with glee
You could see her soul unfold.

I grabbed her hand and headed out
To get into the truck,
She pranced her way across the lawn
With effervescent pluck.

I backed the truck out of the drive
And headed toward the town,
I grabbed her hand and laughed with her
Acting like a clown.

Her little fingers clung to mine
So soft and cozy warm,
Her face was wide awake with life
Each word was filled with charm.

When we arrived and parked the car
She climbed across my seat,
I could tell she couldn’t wait
To see her morning treat.

The classroom teemed with dads and kids
Sitting in their chairs,
Wolfing down their crispy creams
As happy little pairs.

Aly’s teacher greeted us
And showed us to the food,
We got our doughnuts and our juice
And joined the festive mood.

It wasn’t long before the kids
Stood up and sang a song,
They belted out a simple tune
So tender, yet so strong.

I felt a tear come to my eye
As I watched my little girl,
Her mannerisms captured me
I was lost inside her world.

She closed the song and ran to me
I drew her to my chest
Whispering my love for her
I said, “You are the best”.

I kissed her soft and supple skin
And stroked her silky hair
Taking in each sight and sound
Breathing childlike air.

Sometimes I find myself choked up
Watching Aly live,
She thinks of things that I forget,
And sees things that I miss.

I hope to never lose
The wonder that she exudes
To harden dry with time
and let the dark intrude.

As I felt my little girl
Propped upon my knee,
I prayed that I would always see
The dad I need to be.

Making room for little things
And living out a story
That fans to flame my daughter’s heart
And lets her see her glory.

So on this balmy day in June
I want the world to know,
That Aly Grace is beautiful
And makes her daddy glow.

I love you, Aly.