Tuesday musings…

There’s been construction of some sort happening at work for so long I almost forget what it’s like to NOT have men (& women) at work, with things in a constant state of not quite finished. It’s a reminder that we can get used to just about anything through prolonged exposure. I guess that’s why its important to always invite “Outside Eyes” to look into our lives to point out the things that might be off, weird, or just need questioning.


Baseball is a metaphor for life. For so many reasons. Think about it: its possible to fail 70% of the time & still be considered an All-Star. You can knock the cover off the ball & make an out, or you can do THIS & drive in the winning run for your team in the bottom of the 9th. Go Giants.


The last few days I have been on a Sam Harfst kick – he’s a German musician/artist whose music I became acquainted with about 10 years ago when a dear friend gave me his Audiotagebuch CD. I’ve been a fan ever since… a lot of the music is in German, but he’s got quite a few songs in English… & I think one whole album. THIS is a video of one my favorites, “Das Leben ist schoen,” or “Life is beautiful.”  To me, what he does is a better version of Ed Sheeran – thoughtful, melodic, simple, & easy on the ears. Check his music out on Spotify. You’ll thank me later.


Its funny to me how God speaks to people in different ways… it seems a lot of the time, He inspires a thought or idea, one so simply placed that it seems to originate in one’s own heart/mind… & then what follows from acting on that initial thought is so obviously something He had a hand in orchestrating it makes me wonder how we could ever have thought the original idea had its genesis with us. Case in point: last week, our preschool team leaders, theBean & Steph, had a request from a couple of parents of existing students if we (the preschool our church runs) would be open to taking babies into the school when they delivered their kids at some point several months in the future. Now, we’re licensed for babies, but we haven’t done baby care for years because of the amount of work & labor they require. But, this time, with these requests, it seemed like a good idea. We could do 2 babies. And be open to the idea of more should there be anyone calling needing baby care. This was Thursday, May 19. As of yesterday, May 23, we have 5 babies on site, with 2 more coming soon. Not counting the original 2 we agreed to open the baby side of daycare for. Boom!


One of the things I underestimated about my boys getting married: the oceans of love that I feel for my daughters-in-law. What incredible gifts they are.


I saw pictures of my daughter, theWeez, in her wedding dress, all decked out with Swag & a veil… pictures taken during a fitting last week. It must have gone well, as the dress has now been squirreled away until its time… I could see hints of my little girl in those pictures. Mostly what I saw was a beautiful woman… with all the hopes & dreams of life & love in front of her. Makes me cry happy tears. Go figure.


Everybody has a story. A past. Many have unmentionable things they have endured, survived. And they’re somehow functioning, making their way through life with varying degrees of success. Reminds me to be a person who lives out & extends God’s grace to people, even when its tough. Because God gives His grace to me.


Read something yesterday from Jerry’s journal – his thoughtful take on what it meant, to him, to be a spiritual person. I thought his 7 points were spot on, & even better, they provide some concrete reference points in a world where its hip & cool to identify oneself as “spiritual, but not religious.” Check it out, & click the links for the verses he references:

7 ELEMENTS OF SPIRITUALITY – from Jerry Cook’s Journal

1. My awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence (Heb. 13:5; Col. 1:23-27)
2. My ability to recognize and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25)
3. My ability to sense and respond to the needs of those close to me (James 2:14-17)
4. My ability to verbalize my faith (1 Pet. 3:15)
5. My ability to see and appreciate beauty (Psalm 19:1-4)
6. My ability to live a life of worship (Psalm 117:1-2)
7. My sense of destiny (Eph. 2:10)

Sure miss that man. Once he called me “A little piece of Jesus…” And each day, I do my best to live up to that… Jerry could really say, maybe better than anyone I’ve ever met, “Follow me, as I follow Christ…”

Still following…

A birthday remembered & other musings on a Tuesday…

Johnny 1988Today would be my brother Johnny’s 40th birthday. 40. How time has flown since I last saw him at 17 & death separated us for a breath as long as the rest of my lifetime here on the earth. The picture you see is his sophomore class pic from Carson High, 1988. He took my red-bow tie for the day – my PeeWee Herman costume bow-tie. And he rocked it, as usual, with a sense of style that would have made Elvis Presley jealous.

I’ve been celebrating Johnny’s life in a special way today – through the music he loved. Johnny was one of the first people I knew to create mix-tapes (remember, this was the 80s). He painstakingly would take tracks off of CD’s & other audio tapes, & put them on his own high quality audio tapes for me, then create a custom playlist to serve as the tape/CD liner so I would know what was coming. I took it for granted that this is normal – this is just what one does with ones free time.


Thank the Lord for Spotify – Johnny would have loved it. All the joy of a mixtape at the click of a keyboard. I recreated several of the playlists he made for me with his favorite artists to serve as a soundtrack for the otherwise mundane activities of my day.

It’s amazing to me how music, a song has the power to stir memory – to vividly recall glimpses, faces, events, & remembrances from long ago. More than once I found myself wishing for windshield wipers on my eyes so I could see my computer screen – only to hit “repeat’ on a song because of the sweetness of the memory attached to it.


Time doesn’t heal all wounds. And at the same time, this wound is not infected. I know my brother is experiencing the presence of God in a way that is my own hope & dream. And at the same time, there is a family here that is like a tree with a missing limb – a tree that has recovered, but that is forever scarred by the loss of a vital branch.

Though he’s been gone for almost 23 years, I see Johnny everywhere. I look at my family of origin – my parents – still loving Jesus & each other, committed for the long term to be people who intentionally look for the dancing after the mourning, to be living life fully in the here & now, with a firm grasp that this Here & Now is but a glimpse of the Real Life that is to come.

Joel (Moe) is married to Jenny – with 2 great little ones (both boys) under the age of 4 – T-Bone & TyBone (my names for them that I only whisper because they have real life grown up man names that will fit them well when they step into adulthood.) So proud of Moe & his fam – & the compassionate excellence with which he/they live their lives. Moe is world class in his work, but even moreso as a man.

Ben (Benny, CTC) is married to Jessica – & has 3 little ones (2 girls & a boy) under the age of 6. The kids reflect their parents’ joie d’vivre, & Ben reminds me of Johnny’s funny side – a side that often manifested with wit & with a discontent for the status quo (if that makes sense.) Proud of Ben & the fam. Happy that their pursuing their dreams.


MytheBean & I dated for about 6 months before Johnny was diagnosed with cancer – so she knew him well, both before & after, something I appreciate more with the passing of time as she holds me in the times when tears overwhelm & laughs with me other times of recalling the LIFE with which he lived. The gentle, humble, fierce strength which which you live each day, mytheBean, is a reminder of how fortunate I am that Jedi mind tricks work & you committed yourself to me so many years ago.

Then there’s my kids. Pasty, (actually his uncle’s namesake,) one of the whitest kids you’ll ever see, with the rosiest cheeks in the world. Sometimes just looking at his resemblance to my brother catches my breath. My Pasty.

iDoey – no longer a kid, now a man. His personality & “Never give up, never surrender” attitude, determination, & fierce loyalty most closely mirrors that of the uncle he never knew. Time & time again, theBean has asked me how I can so accurately predict what iDoey will say/do/respond in a certain situation, & I have to answer – “I grew up with this.” And I smile.

TheWeez – Johnny would have been amazed that I could have such a beautiful daughter & would most definitely (& correctly) have attributed it to her mother. He would have doted on theWeez – & I see him in her eyes when they flash, & when she speaks her mind, standing for truth, justice, mercy & life in her interactions with the world.

Something else that stands out to me is that running through our family is a trait of perseverance, hard work, a “never give up” push in the face of adversity, no matter what. We have what Eugene Peterson refers to as the “ability to engage in a long obedience in the same direction.” I have to believe it goes beyond human genetics & is a part of the spiritual DNA passed down to us from generation to generation of Christ-followers, that we would be people who, in spite of our many failings, human frailty, & other weaknesses, carry a relentless commitment to love Christ & love others. The longer I live on this planet & the more I experience the temporal nature of this life & the fleeting, often unpredictable nature of human relationships, the more I appreciate this & desire to embrace it as a part of my own character & hopefully, what is left in the wake of my life.

Happy birthday Johnny – see you soonish. Save me a spot at the dinner table. I get the corner.

Saturday morning musings, over coffee & spoonfuls of skippy crunchy peanut butter

Sitting in the quiet of the morning enjoying my hot foff (coffee for those of you that don’t speak Isaiah Scofield,) & my occasional breakfast of spoonfuls of Skippy Crunchy Peanut Butter. Peanut butter tastes best solo & from a spoon, though I would not mind it on toasted bread. Right. Now. Thinking deep thoughts this morning, and random ones as well.

It would be possible to never add to the collection of what I call “my” music – which usually means the stuff I listened to when I discovered the radio in middle school (Huey Lewis & the News, Journey, & the Talking Heads,) & the oh-so-sophisticated “New Wave” sounds that I gravitated towards in high school (New Order, Tears For Fears, U2, INXS, the Hooters, & several other now-too-obscure-to-drop-as-a-reference groups.) They even occasionally play ‘my’ music on BOB 97.3, & on 103.7 (OLDIES? My music is on OLDIES?!) & Pandora, the “Music Genome Project” (which sounds so hi-tech its funny) makes it so that I can get what I want musically, when I want it.

Music provides cultural insight, so years ago I determined that I’d at least try to stay up on what my kids preferred, & anything else that might serendipitously drop into my ears. On that note, a couple of bands I’ve come across that have held my ear: Mumford and Sons and Burlap to Cashmere . Both have hints of Simon & Garfunkle & the Hooters – thought provoking lyrics, simple (& yet intricate) musical arrangements. Good stuff.


Haven’t had a Bible study in our home for 2 years now – after close to 20 years of just about every Sunday night, theBean & I decided to take a hiatus that got extended longer than I thought it would. I’ve missed it, especially the people in the living room, over food, good coffee, & lively conversations about the just-read-aloud-Scriptures.

Missed it, did I, so I decided to tag-team with Katy for a study through Revelation, & to have it in the main office of the church. Revelation came & went, but the desire for study didn’t, so we invited the group that had come to Revelation to keep coming Wednesdays as we decided to go through a collection of other Bible books… Finished Esther a couple weeks back; now we’re in Daniel.

My favorite parts of being in a Bible study, long-term, are the relationships that develop with the other people that participate. Looking over the last 6 months, a perspective of life & growth emerges, & I can see where each person has not only grown closer to the others in the group, but also has grown in their understanding & love for Scripture, & in their relationship with God. And then there’s the power of the Scriptures, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, to transform lives – inevitably our discussions begin on something we’ve just read out loud, & somehow end up on an area from the depths of our hearts that is being plumbed, challenged, & healed. Its water for my soul.


Somehow, it doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I make in the morning; if I sit here long enough, the whole pot manages to disappear. Like clockwork.


Heading into our first weekend as a family of 4 since theWeez was born. Pasty is in Knoxville, hitting job interviews & preparing to move into his quad on Monday. I’m noticing that I miss his routines; he definitely isn’t a loud person (especially in the morning – because being loud in the morning is wrong. The Bible’s against it. See Proverbs 27:14 if you don’t believe me.) No, Pasty’s routine meant that no matter how caught up he was in school, work, MissAlexandrea, or ESPN, he always managed to be in the same places, doing the same things, at about the same times each day. And when his alarm didn’t go off 24 times this morning, alerting him it was time to call his girl, I noticed. And missed it. Sigh.


It’s Eddy Dueck’s birthday today – he’s the pastor of our sister church, TPLF, in Frankfurt, Germany. Please join me in praying blessing & favor for Eddy & Laura today – he’s a good man, husband, father, friend, and pastor. My life is richer because he’s in it.

Time to take on the day.

Resolute…

res·o·lute
/ˈrɛzəˌlut/ Spelled[rez-uh-loot]
–adjective

  1. firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion.
  2. characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper, spirit, actions, etc.

The New Year is knocking on my cold, cold (have I mentioned it is absolutely frigid?,) front door. Which leaves me taking stock of me & mine, & of life… pondering, musing, thinking & re-thinking through, almost ad nauseum, as I am oft want to do.

New things are here. Sigh.

I start a Masters program through Life Pacific College with a week-long intensive starting 1/10. For the last month, I’ve been trying to read through the ‘pre-intensive pre-requisite’ books. I’ve found 4 of the 5 to be great, more than I could have hoped for.

Thought provoking. Challenging my status quo. Antagonizing, even, in the best sense of the word.

I’ve got pages & pages notes that I’m transcribing from scoey-scratch & notepads to the Mac so I can easily search & access them when it comes time for The Writing.

And then there’s the One book. The 5th of the 5. I got 1 chapter in & laid aside my notepad. Put down my pen. Muttered a ‘you have GOT to be kidding me,’ or 3. Put it away to save for a time when I need: a) a cure for insomnia, or b) something to tick me off so I can get through a 90 minute kettlebell marathon workout.

For reals.


Thinking through the next weeks where my crafted routine will undergo massive change. Part of it is flexing time so that I can take care of the school requirements (reading & writing, no rithmatick :) , but a bigger part of it is wanting to grow, develop, learn, & be becoming as a husband, father, & pastor – which means heading into new areas with new things to do.

I want to be ‘resolute’ – set on becoming the man God made me to be, knowing that I can’t plan for every eventuality, but I can prepare to take whatever waves come my way… & to do all that I can to be ready in-season & out of season. To set my will upon God’s purposes, with a face like flint, not easily discouraged, cowed, or frustrated.

To not be a complainer. Or whiner. Which makes me wonder, “Was I whining about Book 5? Or was it just commentary?” Hmm.

My brain whirs. Music helps.

Rich Mullins. A little Tears For Fears. David Crowder. Akiko Suwanai’s interpretation of some great Bach.


Suddenly, I realize It’s there.

You are a failure.

Where did that thought come from? From some dark recess, some pit of despair & fear, the place where the accusations & lies come from, recounting past & present stumblings, mocking me with memories of my shame, my lowest points. Words biting, some spoken in ignorance, others in spite, by people who have passed through my life’s 41 years.

Taunting.

Failure? No.


It’s taken practice, learning to take thoughts captive. At times, (like today,) its an all-out battle. But who & what I am, the purpose I live, cannot, WILL not be valuated by a liar, no matter how many old stories & current challenges are dredged up.

Cause I’ve been made to be someone who stands. And to remain standing. To look for opportunities to put into practice God’s commands. To hold tight to His Word, hiding it deep & secure in heart & mind. To intentionally & strategically look to encourage & pass on what I’ve learned to others. To never give up, never turn aside, never quit.

Failure? No. Cause I belong to Christ. Forgiven. Changing. Transforming. Growing. Loving. Encouraging. And I’m not gonna stop… I’m

res·o·lute
/ˈrɛzəˌlut/ Spelled[rez-uh-loot]
–adjective

  1. firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion.
  2. characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper, spirit, actions, etc.

family, the 80’s, the collision of 2 worlds, & other musings on a Friday…

Today on the way to school, theWeez started asking me questions about the “old days” – you know, the 80’s. Turns out she saw a Journey video, & was intrigued by their hairstyles… namely the flowing & often frizzy pseudo-mullets sported by the band.

She said, “So, Dad. Tell me. The hair. Was that cool? I mean for REALS.

I had to say, ‘Yes. Yes it was. Or at least it was perceived to be cool by the people sporting said hair.” TheWeez thought that was pretty funny, & remarked at how lame Those People were, & had absolutely NO sense of style &/or what looked good or was appropriate.

Indignation rose up in me in response to her laughter – time to turn the tables: “So, Weez. Is there anything – any fashion, hair style, clothes, music etc. that you think MIGHT be just as silly to your kids as the stuff from MY generation is to you?” She pondered it a second, & replied, “Nope.”

20 years from now, I will revisit this conversation with her. And tell stories on her to my grandkids. Booyah.


Speaking of the 80’s, style, & my music, world’s collided today, namely mine & theWeez’s when I discovered a collaboration, an intentional one at that, between Def Leppard (aka MY Music) & Taylor Swift. There’s even a concert DVD available. Watch it at your own risk. And don’t complain that I didn’t warn you. All I can say is, “Oh, goodness.”


Had to go buy some large storage bins yesterday to put the church pastries into… normally, I’d have just gone into a Local Superstore to find such things, however, theBean knows about these kind of things better than me, better than me. So she sent me to RESCO. Lots of restaurant-style equipment, stainless steel, industrial. Cool. I almost enjoyed it, especially thinking how I could put a monstrously ginormous stainless steel fridge in my kitchen. Somewhere. And then the silence surrounding my dreaming about the Industrial-ness was shattered by Bob.

Bob was loud. Like using his outdoor playtime voice loud. Like standing way too close to be talking this loud. Like, ‘Dude? What’s up with THAT!’ loud.

He proceeded to tell me he was there to take my money. Ha-ha. No, really, he said that. I didn’t laugh. Which wasn’t good for Bob, evidently, because he then told me that I needed to smile more. Really? I’m buying tupperware, you’re loud, & I need to smile more?

I paid & made my way to the car, my irritated nerves soothed by the cool breeze, blue skies, & a glimpse or 7 of the sun.

Again. Oh, goodness…


Which of course got me thinking on Philippians 2 today, especially the part about doing everything without complaining, arguing, contention, & bad attitudes…



Learned something new today – 1 tear does NOT equal crying.


Pasty & I are off to the gym & then Guitar Center today. Because we’ve been reaaaaalllllyyyy good boys. Not going to buy anything, but Boy Howdy! we can pretend.


My iDoey is now officially able to look me directly in the eyes. Sigh. Another big kid.

Smug

A personal favorite of mine… Roland Steven Taylor. A great teacher using the medium of music & video, laced with sarcasm, satire, irony, & absurdity, asking Christ-followers to be more than clones… Shaped my wit… sense of humor… dislike of “christian” posturing… & some other stuff.

From the album “Squint”. Lyric posted below.

SMUG
Strike this little pose
Chin up in the air
Lips together tightly
Nostrils in a flare
Now look like you care
Very nice!

Practice in the mirror
Brushing back a tear
Very sincere
A promising career could begin right here at home
If you’ve got that smug…
That smug…

CHORUS

Hey mama hey mama lookee what your little babies all have become
Hey mama hey mama don’t it ever make you wish you’d been a nun?
Vain and fickle, were we weaned on a pickle?
Is it in our blood?
Rome is burning
We’re here turning smug

Strike another pose
Power politics
Swallow their conventions
Get your power fix
We love to mud wrestle
We love to be politically Koreshed

Practice that smug
Post it like a man
One part Master Limbaugh
Two parts Madame Streisand
Now pretend you’re in a band
My, my, we’re looking smug
Very very very very

CHORUS

All you smug-starved millions in the thick of the search
Welcome to our church
Whatcha wanna solve?
We can help you evolve from merely self-righteous
To perfectly smug

Strike the proud pose of our country club brethren
Friendly as a tomb
Fragrant as the bottom of a locker-room broom
Now what’s the matter?
Hey…get off your knees…that part don’t come ’til later…
God will not be pleased…

Rome is cooking
My, we’re looking smug

Everybody Must Get Cloned…

If you’ve ever wondered how I’ve ended up like I have, take a look at this:

Steve Taylor shaped my thinking about Christ, Christianity, & living the life of a Christ-follower, often using irreverent, sarcastic lyric/music… stuff that made me think & ask, “Now why is it we do it that way again?” And, “Is that REALLY how we’re (aka: The Machine called church) coming off? And if so, why?”

Thanks to Pat D for sending this my way – you made my day.