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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A wife matters this much...

"If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married."
- Deuteronomy 24:5
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I was thinking about this verse on the way home from Christmas vacation yesterday.  Don't ask me why...it just kept ringing in my head.

So many men are war-sent, duty-laden creatures gasping for air, and the world in which we live applauds it. They start their marriages with a rubust honeymoon, to many a blurry exception to the rule of reality, and then plunge themselves headlong into the dissipation of dutiful responsibilities.  And what happens to the wife?  Funny you should ask.

She basically gets the shaft, the sidelines.  She becomes the personified afterthought.  She gets the leftovers of her man's energy and creativity and curiosity.  She is old news.  And she feels like it, often in the first months of marriage.  Old news...and you're just getting off the blocks...wow.

And then there's this unbelievable verse that strikes a chord that has long been forgotten...namely, that marriage is a meaningful enough occasion that it demands a leave of absence.  A departure from all other voices and vices clamoring for attention and affection so that the wife becomes the sole recipient of her man's energies.  What runaway stagecoaches and inevitable train-wrecks could be avoided if we heeded this age-old commandment?  Can you imagine what marriage would look like if it was treated like it mattered? Like it was meaningful enough to give the time of day...the time of year?  My imagination can hardly muster a mental vision of the positivities and possibilities!  You wanna know why?  Cause I never did this.

I rushed into marriage and became a work warrior and a dutiful dude the minute I got home from the "moon of honey".  And you wanna know what happened.  I had the most depressed year of my life, bar none.  I was turning yellow with unhealthiness, like I had jaundice.  I remember--vividly--laying in the fetal position on my wife's lap and crying like a little boy saying, "I'm sorry that you married me.  I didn't know I was like this.  I wasn't lying to you, I didn't know this about myself."  She just stroked my hair and spoke words of validation into my thin and thinning heart.  I got three speeding tickets in the first year because my mind was blitzed with hyperactivity and hyper-analysis...I got in an accident as a result of running a red light that led to 8 hours of community service in a neighboring county at the Fire Station (remember, this was my first year of youth ministry!).  I went to the doctor to see if I needed medication to buffer the anxiety that was plaguing me and leading to horrible sleeplessness.  I was a mess of a man.

What would it have been like to just be with my wife, and to not just be with her, but to be with her for the express purpose of figuring out how to make her happy...how to bring her pleasure.  To have the space and time to let my curiosity run wild about her story, her body, her desires, her unique snowflake of a soul.  I don't feel like I got started real well in this thing called marriage.  And the smash-mouth start has led to crippled patterns of love along the way.  

There is actually a translation of this passage that applies this "making your wife happy" to the idea of sexually satisfying (or pleasuring) your wife.  Anyone who is married knows that the women doesn't just hop in bed and have an orgasm on command.  It's more of a relational and emotional thing for them.  They have to feel known and valued and nurtured and secured throughout the day in order to go to that special place.  The Hebrew culture was very well aware of this critical component to healthy marriages.  Men need time to figure out how to bring their wives to pleasure...but it isn't just knowing where to touch them and how delicately...it has much more to do with how to engage their world, their soul, their dreams, their aches, their insecurities.  If a man cannot (or will not) enter those places, sexual satisfaction or soul satisfaction will rarely, if ever, occur.  Women are delicate creatures with complex psyches that require much more than a cursory combing, their pleasure is unlocked and unleashed when they are treated meaningfully...so meaningfully that a man would even put life on hold for a year to get to his wife's deep heart.

I'm learning that my wife is a masterpiece, a work of art made up of textures and brush strokes and colors and layers that are boundless.  I could study her for years and still only scratch the surface of her womanhood.  I could devote focused energy and still come up short in the defining of her essence and presence.  But the reality is that I'm not a good student of my wife.  And I'm woefully deficient in my ability to know her pleasures and to lead her to them when she's forgotten what they are.  To make her happy.  To bring her mirth.  To penetrate her story, her soul...this is crowning achievement of manhood.  The penetration of the body is such a paltry pleasantry that can be enjoyed by whores and ingrates and womanizing perverts.  But to slice through to the girl inside the woman, to not just know her outside-in, but inside-out, that is marriage.  And that is worth a year, a decade, or a lifetime for that matter.

And this man that I speak of...he needs "to be free to stay at home".  To not feel guilty to be a family man. To not feel stir crazy when he's doing "nothing" with his wife and kids.  Oh, how I would love to feel a freedom from this "unwritten" external pressure to be out doing great exploits for the watching world!  To relax with my wife allowing that relaxation to bleed into my recreation with her.  Not preoccupied or overwhelmed by yesterday's issues or tomorrow's problems...but to be free to be home...to be commanded to be home.  To be at home with my wife and maybe, just maybe, to start to feel at home with my wife. 

A woman is in no uncertain words the most beautiful and intricately unique creature in all of creation...and she is worth getting to know...and known in every way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thoreau #5 (final)...

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.  For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.'"
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To suck the marrow out of life is quite the word picture, indeed.  Imagine gnawing through our rubber-like covering--some call it skin, others epidermis—and then through the fatty tissue underneath shrouding muscle and sinew which provides a protective armor for the base skeletal structure that holds us together…bones.  Imagine then, with blood and flesh spattered all over your face, most dark red around your mouth, chewing through a bone, crushing it with your molars and exposing the purplish-red middle.  And then, with barbaric and cannibalistic mirth, wrapping your lips around the fractured bone and sucking with all your might, vacuuming out every last morsel of marrow that is the deepest representation of our flesh.  There is nothing deeper, nothing.  There is nothing richer, nothing.  It is the core, the crux.  This is the marrow of our very life.

To live deep is to go to the top…but it is also to drill to the bottom.  It is to plow below the surface of things, penetrating layers and layers that cover the great deep…the hidden recesses…the dark caverns of life that are reserved for those who press through the superficial to what lies beneath.

To live sturdily and Spartan-like is to fight off all that counterfeits life.   All that seeks to dilute and pollute, all that tries to make sport of living.  To be a soldier for life, to be a guardian of life…a keeper of the flame.  To be vigilant in my protection of my story.  I want to kill all that is not life, to rout it---to the death if needs be. 

This, I know, will take all the effort I can muster.  I will become weary in well doing, as the Bible puts it.  Paul said that he did not want to lose heart.  That is another great description of this fight…this life support.  Losing heart and losing life are one in the same.  And it can happen overnight if you’re not careful.  If you’re careless.

And this carelessness is killing us, we humans are rotting away, marrowless—meaningless.  Who will plunge past the silky skin of appearance, past the fatty tissue of the trivial, past the muscle of meaningless movement, past the last line of defense…the brazen bone, and dive into the marrow of life’s meaning.  Who will care about that unseen reservoir of real life?  Who will look to the marrow within me?  Who will be unsatisfied enough, unsettled enough to press beyond all appearances to the rich resources within…the marrow of Jason. 

It is this bloodthirsty longing for life’s marrow that invites me onward…inward.  As C.S. Lewis said, “Further up…further in”.  Amen. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thoreau #4...

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. 
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There are several things about myself that I'm still very shy to share.  I'm coming to realize that the more I let Thoreau direct traffic inside my heart.  He seems to be validating certain emotions and fanciful wishes that I, for the better part of my life, have repressed and suppressed for fear of misunderstanding.   I wonder how many men live scared to expose this romantic longing for the woods, not for hunting or excavating or logging, but a penchant for the way the wind whispers to your heart and the smell takes you to places that blacktop and a laptop could never touch with a ten foot pole.

I used to run into the woods after school and dart back and forth around brush and over little streams to get to my favorite tree in the forest...a tall cherry that towered above the tree line.  It was in the middle of a dense part of the woods so there were no branches for the first 20 feet until you reached the very top where the sunlight had a chance to pour out its blessed photosynthesis.  Because of the rough texture of the bark, I could wrap my legs around the trunk and shimmy up to the top with velcro-like grip.  When I reached the top, I would climb into a deformed crotch that formed a sort of nest.  It was filled with dirt and little plants, a rich dark compost perfect for seeds floating though the air looking for fertile place to land.  The tree must have been injured in its seedling or sapling stage creating this perfect place to sit and sway in the breeze.  I would sit, hammock-like, closing my eyes and letting the wind rock me into an enchanted daze.  I would look up into the sky and watch the cloud formations swirl and mix and morph passing by at the speed of the breeze.  I would dream...wish...wonder...want.  

The woods have always been a place full of teaching for me.  I feel purged and cleansed of trivialities and pop cultural platitudes.  I feel drawn to the things that speak deep to my, often, suffocating soul.  There were squirrels that would join me in the tree top chattering with an A.D.H.D.-like temperament.  Birds would almost land on my shoulder.  Deer would play underneath me in the leaves completely unaware of my eavesdropping and voyeuristic joy.  Animals would call back and forth to each other from opposite sides of the woods.  There were some days when the wind was so fierce that the tree I was in would twist and make a creaking,cracking sound like it was about to snap.  Its branches would give a high-five to the neighboring trees clashing like two little boys in a sword fight with fallen sticks.  I was all alone...and yet I was not in some unspeakable way.

I have lost the deliberate nature of life.  The kind of intentional pursuit of life that attributes value to virtues that get shoved aside in the interest of productivity and utilitarian usefulness.  I miss the woods...they were my counselor and my confidant for so many years when I couldn't find a friend I wasn't embarrassed to admit my romantic tendencies to.  They took me in like a latchkey kid on the street called "Dog-eat-Dog Ave."  I was a stray.  A gadabout restlessly wandering about for another soul to share my love for the unnecessaries of life, the things that aren't needed to survive, the things you can "get by" without.  I was drawn to the superfluous sublimities of life.  I didn't know if it was childish or silly or not, but I didn't care.

I just new that I was most alive when I was in the woods letting them tutor me in the art of living.  Letting them school me and inform my passions.  Letting them train me in the delicacies of being fully present in a moment...something so sacred it's almost sacramental.  It was this kind of deliberate pursuit of joy that afforded me some of the most cherished of my childhood memories.  

When I come to die, I want to know that I've lived.  I, like Thoreau, do not wish to live that which is not life.  But I'm coming to understand the kind of ferocious vigilance it takes to fight for this kind of life.  You don't just wake up and hope for the best.  This kind of life doesn't happen to you, you happen to it.  Like the Psalmist said, "I will wake the dawn..."  Most are woken by the dawn, while a holy few wake the dawn.  Only a sliver wake up the day--happen to life.  

And when you happen to life...you just so happen to live.  It's a beautiful thing, really.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoreau #3...

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done."
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The ability to affect the quality of life is an extraordinary gift.  

There are days when I purpose to interpret every encounter through this lens.  The other day, I was sitting in the coffee shop and I made a decision to converse with people in a "fully present" sort of way.  That is, I channeled all of my energy to my face, even more specifically, my forehead.  I funneled all of my being through the core of my head, the center of my face.  When I do this, it's like all of the blood of my body rushes to my head and leaves all other faculties and appendages temporarily out of order.  I literally feel like my head is the only thing that exists and I'm completely centered therein.

I'm not thinking of standing, or gestures, or appearance, or even words...I'm simply dwelling in the moment...I'm taken hostage inside my head.  There is a word that a friend of mine uses to describe this discipline...splonkna, which is the greek word for bowels.  gravitos is another greek word that describes living with a gravity in the moment that is palpable.  Somewhere between these two words dwells a sacred space of human interaction.  It assures you that when you're talking with someone, something spiritual is happening, not just something audible or physical.

And when I set out to affect the quality of the day, I am a better human being...I'm better at being human.  I am tasked by God to make life, even in the most infinitesimal of details, worthy of this sort of urgent contemplation (Thoreau)...I think Paul called it "redeeming the time" or "making the most of every opportunity".  It is honorable to expend energy on the discipline of living...professio of victus (the art of living).  This again speaks of the divine and poetic life we, all of us, should be chasing after.  To put hundreds, yea, thousands of man-hours into the definition and refinition (that is refining) of life through deliberate pre-visualization and post-debriefing.  There is something to be said for self-fulfilled prophecy as it relates to the quality of one's life, for those who expend mental and spiritual energy speaking out (or writing) their dreams for a day's living, tend to bend toward those declarations even in the mode of default.  Life is worthy of this kind of intentional excursion of energeia (energy).  

He is not wasting his life who exhausts himself in the artistic living of it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thoreau #2...

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the day, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.  I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do."
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The ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor...this is what it means to be human.  To possess a will all its own, free to chose, free to alter life by the effortless unveiling of his or her own personality.  This unique brand each soul is impregnated with has boundless potential and possibility, and is, at every moment, able to be attached to and be dispatched into time and space.  The elevation of one's life and the life of another is, in Thoreau's words, the most encouraging fact he knows to exist.  

Each soul is a sculptor and a sculpture.  Each soul is a painter and a painting.  Each poetic soul can, through conscious endeavor, cause people to experience life differently.  This is where poetic life becomes more than just a scruple over semantics. It is not the difference between living and dying; it is the difference between living and life.  The difference between existence and presence.  We are called to exercise dominion over the earth, that is to nurture life, to tend it and be the husbandman of its vineyard.  The quality of the wine squeezed out of each grape is directly impacted by how delicate we are in our treatment of its emerging growth.  This is the conscious effort of which he speaks.  

I love to think of myself as an artist and a poet as it relates to life.  It impacts how I encounter people and drastically effects the medium through which I see life.  I am more alert to its subtle nuances.  More keenly tuned into its rough edges and soft contours.  More alive to its taste and texture.  

But it is more than how life is interpreted and absorbed by my own soul.  It is even more amazing to imagine that I can change the course of history with my execution of life, that I can change the world, expanding love and life...or maybe more poignantly, I can change someone world by the unique poetic combination of my words, by the custom carving of life by my artistic chisel.  I know of no greater power than that of an artist, no greater passion than that of a poet.  

Thoreau #1...

"The millions are awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.  To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.  How could I have looked him in the face?"

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The difference between a prosaic life and a poetic life couldn't be more stark.  I love to think of life in terms of poetry.  To find new expressions to lace together with fresh words.  To abandon the dead language and lenses of rhyme and meter and to function in free verse...letting your heart surprise you and others with its ability to soar by living on the fly...that is in flight.

Political living replaces poetical living quickly.  We are strapped to systemic rituals that have been in place for so long it's hard to envision life apart from these constructs.  At times, I try to cast off the bonds of these traditions at dawn, only to find them leaking back into my system by midday.  Codes of conduct and modes of operation press in and politic for control.  The poetic life is often discarded and made sport of.

But the rich and creamy life of poetry gives meaning to truth, and how badly truth needs a meaningful facelift these days.  We have outsourced meaning.  We have downplayed it and degraded it as superfluous and inconsequential.  What a tragedy.  What a travesty.

When lives again lay hold of the divine, that is the poetic spirit that swirls around us and within us, the very Spirit that hovered over the waters in the beginning, we shall once again know life in its most robust form.  Can you feel Him hovering over you now...can you feel the poetic life hovering about you, suspended and whispering into you ear, "Come over to the other side...the road less travelled by that makes all the difference.  Come live as a poet.  Come live"?

I can.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Henry David Thoreau pilgrimage...

It is time to push from the shore of civilized commentary and allow the poetic pen of H.D.T. to be the gusty wind in our sails nudging us toward the ineffable, unspeakable mystery of this thing called life.  Last night I was, again, filled with the rapture of his expressions and the way they give voice to what I often cannot find words to explain.  All I know is that when my eyes dart across the pages of his book, Walden, I am bewitched and enchanted in ways that I need to be in order to not lose heart.  I lose life in the living.  I don't mean to, it just leaks out on me.

So I've chosen to devote some time to extracting and expositing the text that you will find below.  It is found in the chapter titled, "Where I lived, and what I lived for".  This is my feeble attempt to call to order the first meeting of the bloggers "Dead Poet Society". (a movie I just re-watched last week that wrecked shop on my beleaguered soul)  

I don't even know who frequents by this blog, but I must tell you that we won't be doing much frolicking in the days ahead.  I encourage you to set down your snorkel and to show up with your scuba gear.  Henry has a way of taking the human heart 20,000 leagues under the sea...your ears will pop when you're down there, your head will feel like it's going to explode under the immense pressure, your ears may even bleed when you return to the surface and go about your life...but what you will see will infuse a life in the living that may be escaping you without your knowing it. 

Here is the text we will be diving into...

"Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering?  They are not such poor calculators.  If they had not been overcome with drowsiness they would have performed something.  The millions are awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.  To be awake is to be alive.  I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.  How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the day, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.  I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.  For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.'"

Monday, December 08, 2008

Lowell...

wow...the new coffee at Voyages tastes good this morning!  I don't know if you've frequented the place since it was donated to our church and transitioned last week, but the new beans are "to die for".

As I'm sitting here this morning I'm just blown away that we have this opportunity as a church to saturate the community with the visible gospel of Jesus via "Voyages Coffee shop".  I love this place.  I love talking to people strolling in for a relaxed environment to surf the net, or talk with an old friend, or read the new New York Times bestseller.  This place is like a hub of life for people during the week and it's fun to be one of the spokes in the wheel.

Johnny Cash is playing in the background, the snow is lightly falling outside, my fingers are still thawing, my coffee is still steaming, a couple of friends just walked through the door...and on top of that, our church is running this place...this space for souls to come away and rest.  This coffee shop for our community.  What a privilege.

It feels good to be me today.  I love the life that I live.  I love the people I partner with.  I love the little city of Lowell that I call my home.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

God in the bar...

Last night our worship band played in a bar...it's actually an old theater that is now owned by the bar and is attached by a paved courtyard.

It is always a disconcerting experience playing songs that talk about life, spirituality, God and humanity to a secular audience.  But I have to say that I very much enjoy it.  There's something about singing a song about God's love to a person holding a beer bottle that makes more sense that a person holding a Bible.  It's like most of time I'm peddling medicine to people who aren't really sick when I lead worship in church.  I mean, we're all sick, but you know what I'm saying.

There were several drunk people there last night.  I talked to a few of them.  They were incoherent and silly.  They were asking me questions about the most random things and I felt odd even trying to form a semi-reasonable answer.  A couple of them even attend our church, which is another unique set of circumstances to wade through.  But hey, we're here to reach people, right?  And we want them to be themselves, right?  We want them to come as they are not as we hope them to be, right?  Right?  Right.

So there they sit in front of us as we sang out songs like "We won't be Quiet" and "How He Loves" and "God of this City" and "Undignified".  The cigarette smoke was hovering all about us.  The people were talking and laughing and carrying on even as we sang.  The room was dark and club-like.  But it was awesome.  I mean awesome.

The last song, "Undignified", did not disappoint.  A mass of people, young and old found there way down to the front, near the stage.  They were poised to jump around and go crazy.  We started the song faster than I had ever sung it...faster than my mouth could move and my hands could strum.  The electric guitar was screaming.  The drums were pounding.  The bass was booming.  The atmosphere was steroidic in nature.  (I know, steroidic is not a word)  

We got the crowd clapping in double time.  You know, the hands above the head kind of clapping must commonly seen at punk rock concerts.  After the first run through of the verse, chorus, and "na na na na na na's"...I put down my guitar and started getting a little undignified by leading everyone in frenzied affection for God. (ironic in a bar)  I jumped, I clapped, I pumped my fist, I screamed, I shouted, I sang from the top of my lungs and the bottom of my heart simultaneously, I danced like I imagined David did when he got undignified before the Lord on the day the His presence came back to Jerusalem and the ark was returned.  I was out of breath, I was out of my mind, I was out to lunch and I was hung out to dry...but I needed to be.  And I needed to be in front of a bunch of humans that weren't cleaned up for church.  

I don't know this for sure, but I think God was at the bar last night feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and watering the thirsty and freeing the captives and binding up the broken...because his mission is as it has always been.  "I did not come for the healthy, but for the sick."  

I want to bring the sick to God....but I'm seeing the difference between that and bringing God to the sick.  It's the difference between inviting people to church and the church going out and being inviting. 

I can only hope God seemed inviting to people last night. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

the little boy is at the table...

In my post-Germany existence as a human, I have struggled to regain my bearings as it relates to time.  The jet lag is still lagging.  I'm tired much earlier and waking up much earlier no matter what I do.  This has been frustrating in some ways, but in one particular area I'm finding it to be quite positive.

I've been waking up, going down stairs, sitting on the couch, and praying.  But this isn't the same praying that I've been used to for most of my life.

I'm not sure of all the reasons, but I feel like a little boy spending time with God lately.  A really little boy.  I feel stripped of many of the adult covers and armors that have piled on me over the years since my childhood.  I'm not coming to God as a capable, high-capacity adult...I'm whittled down to my inner essence laying emaciated under the debris of dutiful professionalism and mature proficiency.  I am little Jay-Jay with Jesus.  Jason and Jesus sitting in my quiet living room without pretense or posing or posturing.  

I feel more sensitive and innocent.  I feel more scared and insecure.  I feel more joyful and hopeful.  I feel more overwhelmed and under-qualified.  You know, all the stuff you feel as a 6 year old as you press your face against the windowpane and watch the falling snow with woolgathering wonderment.  

I've cried a few times because I'm scared that my outsides are growing bigger and going faster than my insides.  On the exterior I may appear to be larger than life while on the inside I feel smaller than life.  On one side of my skin I'm passionate and poised and prepared, on the less known side of my skin, I'm a small town kid wondering if he's reached his threshold and entered into a zone that is out of my league.

It is probably why I feel like most people don't really know me...all of me, that is.  They know the one side of me, but very few know and are comfortable with the part of me that shivers in the shadows.  On the one hand I am confident and competent, on the other hand I am scared and skittish...very kiddish honestly.

As Jesus and I have been chilling together lately, I sense he is trying to show me how fragile and little I am apart from his enabling strength.  And I'm not just saying this when I say, I not only feel that, I know that.  Something about these early morning sessions with God have made these realities really real to me.  Not just a head-nodding-yes-man-bobble-head-thoughtless-ya-I-give-intellectual-accent-to-that-truth-kinda-crap, but a really real reality that settles into my little boy spirit...that little boy Jason inside of me that knows who I really am hanging out with a God who knows exactly who I really am behind the performance and positioning that coats and covers me over the years of pressured self-construction that happens as a reaction to breakneck, smash-mouth life.  He knows me.

Our times together have been precious to me.  He is becoming my strength.  He is taking the wheel again.  He is whispering validation into my fragility.  He is fathering corridors of my inner man that have not been oxygenated by proper rights of passage over the years.  He is being himself with me, and I'm being myself with Him.  

I, in some ways, will always be a little boy no matter how big life gets around me.  And I want to stay true to myself as the walls of expectation press in around me.  I want to stay close to little Jay-Jay and let him have a voice at the table of decision in my life.  I really do.

And I get a sense that God enjoys me more when I'm coming to him as a little-shot instead of a big-shot.  It's almost like it only works when it goes down like this.  Like we're hard-wired to be smaller than him.  Like we were never meant to take ourselves so seriously or let others take us so seriously that we start living the cold life of a snowman or the hollow life of a showman.  Where showmanship replaces sonship.  Where the poser eclipses the pastor.  

So jet lag isn't all bad.  The boy in me is getting a place at the table recently.  And though it's not fun to feel small, it's relieving alot of the stress that comes with dressing up and playing pretend...make believe.

He must increase, I must decrease.  (John describing his little boy encounters with God in John 3:30)

Monday, December 01, 2008

She keeps falling on me...

Snow.

White crystals that alight ever so softly on twigs, gravel and blades of grass.  Six-sided ice formations thrown down to earth by restless clouds with upset stomachs. Everything is pure after a snowfall. It is cleansed and covered. Covered.

"Love covers a multitude of sins."...one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  Love is a lot like snow.  Yesterday the earth was bland and dark and colorless.  It was emotionless and melancholy, like a wife slaving over dishes the day after hearing that her husband left her for another woman. Like a child staring out the window, bored stiff, on a lazy summer day.  Like a man sitting in a cubicle on Monday morning after a three day weekend.  Everything was just sad and sullen. Gray like the ghost of a former glory.  

Then came the snow.  It fell like cats and dogs...it fell like horses and hogs.  I walked out of my house this morning to a wonderland of white.  Pine branches bent under its weight.  My vehicle looked like a car-shaped cloud.  I took to shoveling the walkway and then the driveway.  There's something about the first significant snowfall that makes shoveling fun.  Granted, it gets old real fast, but the first "dig out" is nostalgic.

Driving toward the coffee shop this morning was heavenly.  It felt like "Bedford Falls", "Narnia" and "Middle Earth" all at the same time.  It felt like a snow day in 4th grade.  It felt like the eve of Dec. 25th.  It felt like the whole world was covered with a second chance.  A crisp and cold redemption.

My sentimental emotions were only heightened by my 12th anniversary last night.  Heidi and I went to "Australia" together and then shared an intimate dinner in a restaurant we had all to ourselves because of the snow storm.  

Time stood still last night.  Still enough that I could run my fingers across its textures and feel then subtle nuances that I had to be thankful for in my marriage.  My pallet had been cleansed so that I could taste each and every little thing I love about my wife.  And each thing tasted distinctly different last night.  

I could taste her soul.  I could taste her beauty.  I could taste her words.  I could taste her dreams.  I could taste her affection for me.  I'm sorry to say that often when I taste my wife, I have a mixture of flavors that all blend together into one generic flavor...and if I was asked what this flavor was I would say something like, "Good" or "Alright".  But last night I felt like I could taste each ingredient that makes up this beautiful creature that is "my wife".

Her love covers my life like snow.  It whitens and brightens.  Cools and cleanses.  

And for 12 years she has kept falling softly on me.  And after 12 years she tastes better than ever.

So on this snowy 1st of December, I'm reminded of the wonderful life I have and the beautiful wife I have...in fact, I'm covered with the whiteness of those reminders.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cathartic Cathedrals…

I spend a lot of time trying to clean up after religion.  It has made a royal mess of things in many ways.  I don’t feel like I could vouch for its history, but there are some “baby/bathwater” issues that must be delineated for the sake of truth and its endurance to all generations.  

I recently visited Germany and was surprised to feel how moved my heart was by the relics of religion.  I walked into a cathedral in Salzburg, Austria and stood there paralyzed in prayer. The statues, the crucifixes, the candles, the prayer benches, the stone columns, the pipe organs, the paintings, the confessional booths, the basin of holy water, the hard pews, the hand hewed wooden molding, the stone walls, the high ceilings, the spires…all these things just moved my heart so deeply.  At one point I was holding in tears.  That’s when I know my heart is being summoned. 

I’m learning that religion isn’t all bad.  Just because we can get caught up in the surface of things alone, it doesn’t mean the surface of things is meaningless.  In fact, quite the contrary.  There were so many moments on this trip when I felt saddened at how everything in the States is about three things…Is it cheap?  Is it quick?  Is it easy?  Because of this, we forfeit quality for quantity, aesthetic beauty for basic economy.   Religion cares about what things look like, to a fault to be sure, but at least they invested in quality and beauty knowing it represents worth.

Things were expensive.  Things were built to last.  Things were crafted with pain-staking precision.  Why?  Because they believed in symbolism.

Everything was made to symbolize something, to represent something.  That’s what I miss about ancient religious history.  Symbolism.  Imagery.  I miss liturgical practices.  I miss altars and stones of remembrance.  I miss phylacteries and recited prayers of forefathers.  I miss the cold feel of reverence instead of the warm feel of relevance.  I miss the echoing halls of stone and the Gregorian chants.  I miss incense and Latin.  I miss sackcloth and ashes.  I miss adhering to the church calendar.  I miss the silence.  I miss the stillness.  I miss the repentance. 

Cheap.  Fast.  Easy.  Comfortable.  Accommodating.  That’s the contemporary church in a nutshell.  And it’s just about small enough to fit into a nutshell.  But not the God that they built those towering, monolithic cathedrals for.  He couldn’t fit in a nutshell.  He was big.  He was beautiful.  He was exquisite.  He was overwhelming.  He was infinite.  He was awesome and awe-inspiring.  He was holy…and wholly other than us.  He was too hot to handle, too cold to hold.  He was beyond, yet within.  He was there, and here.  He was ineffable, yet approachable.  But you had to kneel before him then.  You couldn’t just waltz up to him in a nonchalant manner.  You couldn’t just talk to him like he was your little buddy next door.  You wouldn’t dare.  He was better than that.  He was God back then.

And somehow, even with all the gorgeous reminders without and within the cathedrals, they lost him.  They worshipped the created things instead of the Creator, but that’s no reason for us to stop caring about created things, now, is it?  That’s no reason for us to stop kneeling when we call upon his Hallowed name?  That’s no reason to abandon symbols of worship?  That’s no reason to hold in contempt church fathers and their patterns of contemplation.  That’s no reason to start building crappy churches barren of beauty.  That’s no reason to abandon repentance just because we don’t have to hit the parish on Saturday night with an indulgence.  Come on.  What has become of us? 

I was holding back tears that day, because I knew the baby was lying three stories down on the cold pavement badly injured.  The bathwater had long evaporated.   I felt myself descending the stairs in my mind trying to get to the ground floor of my faith and the place where the baby of religion lay ever so still.  I wanted to pick it back up and say sorry.  But instead, I just sat there on the pavement looking at it wondering how I could have done such a thing.  I’m still staring at it wondering what to do next. 

All I know is that religion isn’t to blame for every mishap along the way.  Sometimes it’s just ignorant people who need something to throw under the bus to make them feel better for their own stupidity.  This I know, it’s not the cathedral's fault.  Cathedrals didn’t lead the crusades, people did.  Ignoramus people.  

Friday, November 21, 2008

A theological discussion about toilet paper...

My recent trip to Germany got me to thinking a lot about an all too often underestimated utility of our society…toilet paper.

You don’t know how important toilet paper is until you experience a bad product or no product (aka – primitive camping). 

I’m not sure what the rich history of European toilet paper is, but based on my experience, it is neither rich nor fit for a toilet.  It isn’t toilet paper; it is quite simply just paper.  Rough, recycled, brownish card stock paper.

You know you’re in for a treat when you can barely tear it off the roll.  You know you’re in for a special experience when you have to fold it back and forth before you rip it at the crease.  You know you’re in for a harsh encounter when you could either use it to cover tables at a wedding, sand a antique piece of furniture or twist it up and use it as a tow strop to pull someone out of a ditch.  If you haven’t been to Europe, imagine wiping with reams of paper from Kinko’s. 

They haven’t been introduced to the idea of the “tissue”.  What we call toilet paper in our society could better be described as toilet tissue.  It isn’t paper.  It is sometimes doubled up for more cushion, it is often quilted, sometimes even impregnated with aloe to for a medicinal purposes.  No, we don’t have toilet paper…we have rolls of pillowed cotton made for pleasure as much as purpose. 

Pleasure is something that wasn’t associated with my bathroom experience in Germany.  If there was any pleasure or relief being experienced, it was soon clouded by the inevitability of having to wipe.  I never knew how important wiping was to me in the whole bathroom experience.

But I did say this was going to be a theological discussion about toilet paper, so allow me to explain.

When looking for a church home, how do you determine the health of a church?  So many people check out the church website to see how technologically savvy they are.  Others stop by the information hub and gather all the literature and pamphlets available for their curious perusal.  Others want to meet the leaders to get a horse sense of their people skills.  Many just want to attend the weekend service to see if they like the music and the preaching.  They look for creativity and relevance.  Still others are interested in the children’s program…is it safe?  Is it fun?  Is it biblical?  Many walk in and are tallying how many people introduce themselves and how friendly the church is in general.  Do they feel welcome?  Do they feel at home?  All these litmus tests and so many more are employed by many to determine the credibility of a church. 

I have a little different criterion for health.   I walk into a facility, past the greeters, past the welcome hub, past the worship space, past the coffee shop, past the pastors, past the ushers handing out bulletins and onto the bathroom.  I open the door and head for the first stall.  If there is someone occupying it, I patiently wait my turn.  When the coast is clear, I enter and close the door behind me.  Even if I don’t have to go to the bathroom, I lock the door to give the impression that I do.  For the next several moments I engage in a thorough examination of the “church toilet paper”.  How soft is it?  Is it doubled up?  Is it too thin?  Is it brittle and harsh? Is it quilted with ornate designs?  Does it tear too easily?  Is it see-through?  Does it tear easily enough?  What does it smell like?  Does it have an aroma or an odor?  What does it feel like on my fingertips?  What does it feel like rubbed up against the sensitive skin on my face?  Are their backup rolls anywhere in sight?  What is their girth prior to use? 

Toilet paper matters.  When a church doesn’t think it matters, I’m bothered by that.  And here’s why. 

If a church doesn’t think to take care of my butt, I highly doubt they will take care of my heart.

It is loosely connected to the verse in I John where it states that if you don’t love you brother whom you do see, how can you claim to love God whom you can’t see.  My rendering of this passage would go something like this, “If you don’t care about my butt which you can see, how can you possibly take care of my heart which you cannot see.”  It’s holistic ministry. 

I don’t know what it is, but when I go to a church that doesn’t cut budget in the toilet paper line item of the budget, I have a warm feeling rush through my whole being.  I can entrust my heart that that kind of church.  I can relax and feel at home in that setting.  They care about my rear end, not just the end times.  That gives me great confidence in their leadership of my heart.

Toilet paper matters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

some eye candy from Germany...






I'm not home quote yet (still holed up in the Atlanta airport), but here are some pictures to tickle your facebook fancy...
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A picture paints a thousand words...

Friday, November 14, 2008

the reunion of souls...

I'm sitting here in Germany trying to let my food digest after a dinner party with a bunch of troops and their spouses.  It was an amazing night filled with stories.  I just can't imagine being deployed for 15 months and then coming home to my family.  I find it hard to find words to describe what that reunion must be like.  

Tonight, we are actually going on the military base and watching as the last of this round of troops comes home and reunites with their loved ones.  The wives who were here at the dinner tonight said that you just have to see two things in the military...#1 - a memorial service for a fallen soldier and #2 - a reunion of troops coming home to see their spouses and children for the first time in 15 months.  

We just couldn't pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity.

So in about an hour we are heading out to see this phenomenon...

I can't wait to witness this almost holy moment...

These are the things that make me come alive...Advent... and adventures.  

Can a man's heart look for any greater pleasure?

I think not.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Daddy-Daughter Dance #3...

For the third year in a row, I got to go dancing with one of my daughters...this time it was Aly.  She's in second grade now and that gives her an important right of passage that she's been waiting for before the foundations of the earth in many ways.  

It's the annual "Daddy/Daughter Dance" at Cherry Creek Elementary for the 2nd and 3rd graders and it just so happens that my daughters were born 2 years apart.  That translates into 6 straight years of these festive balls.  I couldn't be happier about this 6 year tradition.

Aly looked dashing.  He little blue eyes that she got from her mother were sparkling like the blue reflected off a summer lake rippling with the stirring of a gentle breeze.  One time I actually asked her to look at me so that I could take in her gorgeous eyes.  I told her I want to peer into her precious soul.  She looked into my eyes and tilted her head in bashful embarrassment.  I wouldn't stop gazing...I know these nights only come a few times in one's lifetime...I wasn't about to let awkwardness rob me of this moment.  After she smiled with her little front tooth dangling by the thin skin of her gums (it needs to come out, but she won't let me rip in out with some dental floss...go figure!), she buried her head into the bend where my shoulder meets my neck.  Her head still fits in that curve perfectly.

Her mother dolled her up like a little princess.  Her hair was twisted and pulled back to a sideways pony tail in the back.  But the pony tail was curled and teased out with hair spray...she was really a little woman.

She had glossy lip stick that she would put on throughout the night in order to keep this shiny glaze on her cute little lips.  While I was driving, she would pull down the visor and use the mirror to apply what can only be described as something akin to the same substance used to coat crispy creams.  It makes you want to eat her lips it's so succulent-looking.  She would purse her little lips just like her mother spreading it around by pressing her lips together and moving them back and forth, and in and out.  Little woman.

We went to Ruby Tuesdays and she got a Coke (something she doesn't ever drink) and some Mac-n-Cheese (something she always eats).  We played hangman and tick-tac-toe on a napkin, laughing and giving each other high-fives.  We shared mild chicken wings and she kept coughing because of the spicy hot sauce.  We held hands a lot throughout the night.  She loves to hold hands.  (the interdigitated kind of hand-holding)

We left there and headed to Barnes and Noble to read books together.  Everywhere we went I would open the door for her.  Every time I did, she would sheepishly say "thank you, daddy".  She was trying to get used being the sole focus of my attention and affection.  It didn't take her long.  She was born to be the apple of my eye.

We got to the dance and got our picture taken together.  She hopped up on my lap and we pressed our faces together as the photographer's flash blinded us.  And with that we were on the dance floor cutting the rug.

It took her about 5 minutes to relax into the idea of being around a bunch of other humans living out a freedom that is rarely seen in the ruff and tumble of everyday life.  As she got a sense that everyone was o.k. with letting their hair down and letting loose, she started to let loose.  I love watching her when she's free from her preoccupation with other people's thoughts toward her.  She glows like a girl should, like a girl was made to.

As the night drew to a close, Bryan Adams started singing the song, "Everything I do, I do for you."  I grabbed her, picked her up and started swaying back and forth.  I whispered into her ear, "I've had an awesome time with you.  I love you so much."  She pulled her head off my shoulder and I could tell she wanted to cry.  She looked at me and said with a quivering voice, "Dad, when we have good nights like this together, it makes me want to be with you forever."  I knew what she was saying.  You see, if Kami said that it would have meant something a little different.  She would have been thinking about that night and staying up late together...almost like, "I wish this night could go on forever or I wish this night would never end."  That's not what Aly was saying, because she's Aly.

She was thinking about the day that she would leave our house and maybe get married.  She was thinking about way into the future and the reality of growing up and moving out.  She was dreading the idea of not living with me and staying with me for the rest of her life.  That's how Aly's little mind thinks in a moment like that...this is why she lives with so much fear and concern and insecurity...she thinks about past, present and future with such vivid clarity.

As she shared her mourning of the day when we wouldn't be together anymore, she started to cry really hard and, again, buried her head into my neck sobbing with sorrow.  I rubbed her back and said, "I will always be with you.  I will never leave you.  You will always be my daughter no matter where you go or what you do.  O.K.?"  She looked up with tears dripping down her face and nodded her head.  She squeezed herself into me and we finished the dance just hugging each other while I swayed to the rhythm of the 80's classic.

We left the dance and went to Flat River Grill for dessert.  She didn't know we were doing that.  It was already an hour past her normal bedtime and she knew it, so she couldn't fathom that the night was still young.  She smiled with the biggest grin you could imagine and we held hands all the way to the restaurant.  Her friends were there and they all sat at a table and got ice cream.  Their fathers and I got some coffee and talked about the West.  It was a great night.

We got home and I tucked her in bed and whispered into her ear, "This is my most favorite night I've ever spent with you."  She gave me a hug and said, "Thank you, daddy."  With that I went downstairs and crashed on the couch.  

Three dances down...three to go.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What's true and what's truth...

This was an email I wrote to someone from my life group last night that was inquiring about "staying in a struggle" and wrestling with God in order to get "a name change".  So many Christians "seize the day" (carpe diem) and try to look at the bright side of life dismissing nagging feelings and abiding discontent inside of their, less than amused, heart.  But I think it's just as important for Christians to get serious about "seizing the night" (carpe noctem) in their life and staying in that darkness until God sheds his light on it.  You can't just keep making like it's not there.  And you can't just keep saying, "I just want to be thankful for what I do have" disregarding the places inside that are screaming for a voice, an expression, a place at the table to be present and accounted for.  When we don't acknowledge the deep reality of our dark side, we do ourself no favors and delay God's process of refining us "with fire".  It hurts and heals.  It's the great oxymoronic paradoxical contradictory gospel of God at work in the nitty, gritty and sh***y of our everyday life.  God is big enough to handle our dark side...are we?

So here's the email I wrote this morning...
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Wow...you're questions are so right on the money.

I had something happen last night at life groups that doesn't happen often for me.  It was like being in a movie and forgetting you are actually in a movie because you're so enraptured with the story.  I literally caught myself forgetting where I was because I was wrestling with what I call the "raw footage" and "raw sewage" of life.  I was there.  I wasn't trying to be there.  I wasn't trying to be real.  I wasn't trying to listen or trying to lead or trying to ask good questions.  I just was.  I felt like I could just be...instead of trying to "be something".

This is critical to spiritual growth, in my opinion, and relates perfectly to what you shared about staying in something until you get a name change.  Maybe it's my background or maybe it's just broken human nature to prematurely escape painful stuff, I don't know, but I'm learning it doesn't go away.  It just gets re-buried and comes up later with three heads instead of two.  This stuff doesn't just go away just because we're trying to not think about it.  It sticks around like a virus needing a remedy that hasn't yet been discovered.  It's the virus of "unprocessed story".

When you don't process your story, you don't really grow and you don't really change, you just modify behavior and work harder on cosmetic cover-ups to make like things are better than they are.  It's called "make believe" in a child's world.  And that's what I fear many adults are still playing with their stories...Pretend.  

Even last night...with the raw footage of what was being shared and even the swear words that were being drudged up in the process, part of me felt like teaching people about how to guard their tongues and sharing in a more refined manner....but this is something that I'm learning about life.  Raw footage is so necessary if we are to even have raw community.  You can't just clean up and change in order to fit a formal environment with unspoken rules and boundaries, you have to show up and be who you are and let growth start from there.

There will be a time to talk about language and our tongues and honoring God with our words, but last night was not the time.  A couple of them are toddlers in their faith and it's more important for them to feel comfort sharing their hearts than it is for them to governed or legislated or policed.  So much of my background was spent trying to share properly, and what often was lost was what I "actually" felt and "actually" wanted and "actually" did.  I was too busy trying to frame it biblically and cast it maturely and couch it theologically.  I feel like I lost what was real and what was put on over the years.  And what ultimately gets lost is my heart.  I lose who I am and what I feel and what I really want.  I could go on explaining this, but hopefully I've shared enough that you get my point.

I love the Bible, I love theology, I love doctrine and I love truth...but these things are meant to bring freedom, not restrict reality.  If something is really happening, I don't want to hear people talk about what they "should" be the whole time, I want to here what they are being.  If it's a bunch of "would'a, could'a, should'a" the whole time...when are we going to talk about what is really real...I mean really happening now, what you're really feeling today...this is something I've been starving for as a Christian.  A place to stay in reality without aborting from truth.  Truth is patient...it can wait to be drawn upon in time.  It doesn't need to barge into a moment...it doesn't need to cut into a conversation...it's not the sword of truth in the armor of God...it's the belt of truth.  It isn't a weapon...it holds things together.  

I think that's what truth does in community...it isn't supposed to be used as a weapon in conversation to keep people in line.  It's supposed to ungird and support and hold words and feelings and thoughts together.  And again, it's patient...it lets honesty talk even if it's not completely true.  Alot of times we're honest, but honestly wrong.  But here's an important distinction...just because something isn't truth doesn't mean it isn't true.  What a person shares is true to them and as such must be respected.  What I love about truth is that is waits for someone to share what's true to them, and then delicately and precisely waits for a natural time to make what's "true" accountable to "truth".  

Last night, we were dealing with a mix of both.  What's true (or real) for people and what's "truth" (or really real) according to God.  I like it when both are occurring.  When either is removed, something quite sad emerges.  I'm getting more comfortable staying in what's true a little longer in order to extract the poison out of the wound.  Rushing to bandage a wound before letting the blood spill out and clean it from the inside out only leads to infection later.  If there isn't an inside-out cleansing (what's true) mixed with an outside-in cleansing (what's truth), I'm convinced that nothing truly transforming has a chance of taking place.  Again, these are just my knee-jerk thoughts.

Thanks for asking good questions...thanks for letting me give you broken answers that come from the real-time footage of my own story.  I hope it assists you in discovering for yourself what the world (life as we're experiencing it and see it) is saying and what the Word (life as God experiences it and sees it) is saying about TRUTH.  I'm learning God is speaking to us through both.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

intercession needed...

So I'm growing my hair out.

My daughter says I'm trying to be like Joe Jonas of the famous boy band, "The Jonas Brothers". She's dead wrong.  I'm trying to be like Troy from High School Musical 3 . . . a world of difference to anyone who is a connoisseur of Disney fodder.  

I haven't had a different style for nearly 12 years--since my Senior year in college when I sported the antiquated "ledge cut".  I've pretty much had the same "pineapple" look since then. You know, where it's short and in the front you have this puffy little tuft of hair spiked out all random and such.  But the time had come for a change.

My wife had been dropping hints over the last year or two that I should try something different. I could tell her attraction to me had plummeted after our 10th anniversary and that what worked for the first 10 years wasn't going to carry me through the next decade.  I finally took the red pill and freed myself from the 90's Matrix.  I've been born again (in a follicle kind of way).

The hardest thing is working through the greasy, gritty Jr. High transition from short hair to long.  I've spent weeks covering myself with a tarp (hat) in order to not scare off the normal people that are forced to interact with me on a regular basis.  There were even two weeks that I spoke in church with a hat to avoid a sudden drop in attendance due to the eye-soar-pastor syndrome.  It's been quite a journey thus far, and I'm not even close to the finish line.

I'm still wearing a hat about every other day.  It reminds me of the days when I had braces and I wouldn't smile real big because of my insecurity.  I would just sort of smirk like I was doing something naughty.  Most of pictures from my braces epoch showcase a sheepish Jason not wanting to be exposed as a tinsel-teeth fairy in his formative college years. (that's right, I had braces in college and Heidi still dated me).  This hair thing is akin to this "braces" wound I sustained from 1993-1996.  haha.

So I'm calling on everyone with ears to hear to lift up holy hands and engage in hardcore intercession for this hairy issue I'm having.  I'm trying to stay strong, but like a dog returns to its vomit, I wrestle with urges several times a day to hit the Great Clips Saloon and relapse into what is, to me, my default cut...high and tight with a little tuft of follicle love left in the front for the "hey, I'm-not-in-the-military" non-verbal.

I covet your prayers, my blog friends.

Monday, October 27, 2008

venting....

I just gotta get this off my chest.

Yesterday was my daughter Kami's baptism.  I was so excited for her.  Heidi and I were pumped to be able to baptize her together.  Family was in town.  The stage was set for something really amazing.

But then something happened inside me that I can't explain even with a good night of sleep under my belt and some time to process yesterday's emotions.  As I was sitting there in the service waiting for the baptism, I made a determination that I would not cry so as to not steal away the moment from Kami and turn the focus upon me.  A decision I now regret because I spent most of my mental energy trying not to cry and used up the energy that helps you be normal.  

The baptism came and I struggled to be normal.  I couldn't talk sensibly.  My brain was spinning around in circles and I couldn't frame what I wanted to say.  Here is my daughter sitting in the baptismal tank and I'm lost for words.  I communicate as a profession...and I'm sitting there stupefied in a moment of paralyzed pathos.  

My tongue wouldn't work, like a nightmare where you're trying to run from your pursuers and your legs feel like molten lead.  My tongue felt swollen and palsy.  My brain runny and restless.  Kami was looking at me and it felt like her eyes were saying, "Dad, why are you ruining my baptism with your incompetence?"  I know she wasn't, but it's hard for me to not feel that.  I was a "no show" and it was my eldest daughters baptism.  Of all times to go limp.

I started talking and said something that didn't relate to the next thing I said that couldn't have been further from the context of the next thing I said.  Nothing meshed together.  Nothing made sense.  To make matters worse I dove into a conversation Kami and I had about sex on the way home the other night.  It really did have a point, but after I led out with a couple sentences, I forgot what that point was until later in the day.  Thus, it just felt like I interjected two sex comments into a baptism moment for no apparent reason.  I wanted to share how much I loved her inquisitive heart and how I loved our deep conversations spurred on by her questions.  I wanted to affirm the richness of her heart and how proud I am that she cares so deeply about weighty things.  

Instead of that, I uttered detached logic strung together with nonsensical words leading to a feeling of "what the heck is my deal" filling my whole being.  After botching the whole baptism, we proceeded to dunk her and as she came up out of the water and we moved out of the tank for others to occupy, I just felt like I wanted to go somewhere lonely to hide myself away.  I wanted to cry...I was crying inside.  I felt like I got ambushed.  And my daughter paid for my idiotic showing.

I was struggling, for some reason, with being a pastor and a daddy.  The two roles don't often seem different to me, but they did during this baptism.  I was wrestling with performance anxiety.  I was overthinking.  I was overstrategizing.  I was overfeeling.  I was overwhelmed with a fantasy world inside my head.   And I couldn't break free from that.  I tried and I couldn't.  

I'm sure more could be said.  I feel terrible for my daughter.  

I went out with her for breakfast before school today.  It was more for me than for her.  I just needed to feel close to her and to talk to her about how I felt.  I actually apologized to her for not saying all that I wanted to say to her in that moment.  She probably wasn't listening anyway...but like I said, I just needed to say it for my own heart's sake.  I told her this morning what I really felt yesterday about her decision to follow God in baptism.  

Man, I wish I could go back and get my poop in a group.  But life is such that you have to go on and make the best with what you got.  

I just can't shake this abiding feeling of disappointment in myself and sorrow for my daughter.  I know, I'm messed up