Monday, September 25, 2006

voice

Everyone wants a voice. At least everyone wants to be heard in some way. It may not be audibly. It may be visual. You could argue, I suppose, that visually means that they want to be seen. I don’t think so. I think that they really want to be heard and if seen equals heard for them, then that’s just fine by them. You may not agree, but this is my blog so I get to be heard at the moment. If you want to be heard then you could always respond. I simply mean that people want to know that they’ve had influence or that they’ve been recognized for a contribution that may last beyond their natural lives or at least beyond their immediate circle.
Visual artists want to be heard. They have a message. They want their work to communicate it. They want you to listen. Writers obviously want to be heard. Teachers want to be heard in order to convey a lesson. Lawyers want to be heard to convey truth, …or not. People who have bumper stickers want to be heard. They want their views and ideologies known. Protesters and parents, ball players and baristas are all trying to communicate something about themselves, their team, their authority, whatever. They want to be heard.
I will confess that my belief in the concept of “heard” is based solely and selfishly on personal experience and observation. You may feel differently. That is your right. However, if you feel differently, and feel it strongly enough, you would tell me, because after all, you’ll want to be heard. Anyway, I also believe that this desire to be heard goes all the way back to the dawn of creation in the garden known as Eden. God wanted to be heard as creator and so He spoke everything into being. Satan wanted to be heard as preeminent, so he spoke as a snake that, except for in Narnia, should have no voice. Eve wanted to be heard as a pair so she approached Adam with the forbidden. And Adam wanted to be heard as innocent so he passed blame before God. And so it goes. King George wanted to be heard, Adolf Hitler wanted to be heard, Joseph Stalin wanted to be heard, Chairman Mao wanted to be heard, Fidel, George, Saddam, Osama, and everyone on the current world stage wants to be heard. Andy Worhol wanted to be heard. Maya Angelou and Pearl Jam want to be heard. Billy Graham wants to be heard. I want to be heard. And I want to know why? What is it that cries out within us to make us want to cry out to see if someone is listening?
I’ve written before about a desire for significance. I think that this explains only some of it. Some of those who read this stuff have told me that they have some degree of agreement with the significance thing. I think that there is still something more. There is a magic that is deeper than the deep magic before the dawn of time. It has something to do a bit with the story of the prodigal son, or the prodigal God, however you choose to read it. From the dawn of time, when our fabric was woven in the depths of God’s design, He has been calling to us. We have wandered, we have stumbled, we may even have lost our way, but all along, throughout our existence, the still small voice is calling to the depths of our being. And the voice that we seek is the same one that Abraham, Samuel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and all those others recorded in history who, on hearing, leaped within themselves and yelled “Here I am”. We all want to yell “Here I am” just as if we were a child, lost in the overwhelming expanse of women’s wear in the local department store, hearing our mothers voice over our panic. All of us find a way to declare “here I am”.
Unfortunately, like Adam, Eve, and those of us who have followed behind them, we sometimes yell to the wrong things and for the wrong reasons, even using wrong methods. What I mean is that the methods may be destructive. It’s not very PC to state that certain things may be wrong or right, but believe me, sometimes they just are. I’ve not always yelled to declare “here I am” to the right source of my identity. I’ve been known in less than stellar days to yell to the world of success, financial and otherwise, to find my identity in respect. I’ve been known to yell to popularity to find my identity in parties and intoxication. I’ve been known to yell to recognition in my various professions. I’ve not yelled in appropriate ways or appropriate times and I know this to be true because I have also yelled to the voice that calls me home. I know what it feels like to be identified by the one truly searching for me and my best. I know what it is like to be lost and I know what it is like to be found. You can argue all you want about right, wrong, truth, error, and all that we waste our time arguing about. What you can’t argue with is outcome. I see it everyday. I see the outcome of trying to be heard by that which can never really hear you. I see it and it’s hurt and empty, and tragic, ultimately. I also have the privilege of seeing the outcome of yelling to the only one who can truly hear, because He created us. It’s comfort, and care, and peace. I’ve seen them all. I’ve lived them all. I know what it is to have a voice.

voice

Everyone wants a voice. At least everyone wants to be heard in some way. It may not be audibly. It may be visual. You could argue, I suppose, that visually means that they want to be seen. I don’t think so. I think that they really want to be heard and if seen equals heard for them, then that’s just fine by them. You may not agree, but this is my blog so I get to be heard at the moment. If you want to be heard then you could always respond. I simply mean that people want to know that they’ve had influence or that they’ve been recognized for a contribution that may last beyond their natural lives or at least beyond their immediate circle.
Visual artists want to be heard. They have a message. They want their work to communicate it. They want you to listen. Writers obviously want to be heard. Teachers want to be heard in order to convey a lesson. Lawyers want to be heard to convey truth, …or not. People who have bumper stickers want to be heard. They want their views and ideologies known. Protesters and parents, ball players and baristas are all trying to communicate something about themselves, their team, their authority, whatever. They want to be heard.
I will confess that my belief in the concept of “heard” is based solely and selfishly on personal experience and observation. You may feel differently. That is your right. However, if you feel differently, and feel it strongly enough, you would tell me, because after all, you’ll want to be heard. Anyway, I also believe that this desire to be heard goes all the way back to the dawn of creation in the garden known as Eden. God wanted to be heard as creator and so He spoke everything into being. Satan wanted to be heard as preeminent, so he spoke as a snake that, except for in Narnia, should have no voice. Eve wanted to be heard as a pair so she approached Adam with the forbidden. And Adam wanted to be heard as innocent so he passed blame before God. And so it goes. King George wanted to be heard, Adolf Hitler wanted to be heard, Joseph Stalin wanted to be heard, Chairman Mao wanted to be heard, Fidel, George, Saddam, Osama, and everyone on the current world stage wants to be heard. Andy Worhol wanted to be heard. Maya Angelou and Pearl Jam want to be heard. Billy Graham wants to be heard. I want to be heard. And I want to know why? What is it that cries out within us to make us want to cry out to see if someone is listening?
I’ve written before about a desire for significance. I think that this explains only some of it. Some of those who read this stuff have told me that they have some degree of agreement with the significance thing. I think that there is still something more. There is a magic that is deeper than the deep magic before the dawn of time. It has something to do a bit with the story of the prodigal son, or the prodigal God, however you choose to read it. From the dawn of time, when our fabric was woven in the depths of God’s design, He has been calling to us. We have wandered, we have stumbled, we may even have lost our way, but all along, throughout our existence, the still small voice is calling to the depths of our being. And the voice that we seek is the same one that Abraham, Samuel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and all those others recorded in history who, on hearing, leaped within themselves and yelled “Here I am”. We all want to yell “Here I am” just as if we were a child, lost in the overwhelming expanse of women’s wear in the local department store, hearing our mothers voice over our panic. All of us find a way to declare “here I am”.
Unfortunately, like Adam, Eve, and those of us who have followed behind them, we sometimes yell to the wrong things and for the wrong reasons, even using wrong methods. What I mean is that the methods may be destructive. It’s not very PC to state that certain things may be wrong or right, but believe me, sometimes they just are. I’ve not always yelled to declare “here I am” to the right source of my identity. I’ve been known in less than stellar days to yell to the world of success, financial and otherwise, to find my identity in respect. I’ve been known to yell to popularity to find my identity in parties and intoxication. I’ve been known to yell to recognition in my various professions. I’ve not yelled in appropriate ways or appropriate times and I know this to be true because I have also yelled to the voice that calls me home. I know what it feels like to be identified by the one truly searching for me and my best. I know what it is like to be lost and I know what it is like to be found. You can argue all you want about right, wrong, truth, error, and all that we waste our time arguing about. What you can’t argue with is outcome. I see it everyday. I see the outcome of trying to be heard by that which can never really hear you. I see it and it’s hurt and empty, and tragic, ultimately. I also have the privilege of seeing the outcome of yelling to the only one who can truly hear, because He created us. It’s comfort, and care, and peace. I’ve seen them all. I’ve lived them all. I know what it is to have a voice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fall

The leaves are beginning to change. To be sure it’s the early stages here, but they’re changing nonetheless. I’m gauging it by the tree across the corner from my new caffeine port. A maple tree, nicely trimmed from beneath to politely allow pedestrian passage, begins on it’s lower reaches in a summer emerald tone. As it progresses towards it’s ultimate upward reach though it begins to tan slightly through the middle. The uppermost branches are a bit of burgundy, finally yielding to a Fall orange as the tips are reached. It’s early Fall here. Most are probably not even recognizing the subtle shift. I do. I’m not from here. I mean I am, but my memories of Fall still move me back to earlier days in Upstate New York and the unbelievable blanket of color that has already unfolded by this time. It takes about a week longer here in the Northwest and the coloring doesn’t compare and it’s probably the only time now that I still feel as a foreigner.
I think that this is probably because I know what I’m missing. It’s not a postcard for me. It’s not a poster in a Hallmark store. It’s a real experience in a real life for a really long time. I’ve had it and I miss it. There’s a hole now of sorts. I have an opportunity to travel back in a few weeks through parts of the Midwest and into the Northeast and whenever I contemplate it, the imagery that comes to mind is sunshine, Indian Summer blue sky days and color, real color. I don’t think of the people I may see, I think of the sights, the sounds of crisp leaves under my feet, the smell of orchards. I also think of grain elevators rising above nearly forgotten towns with tree lined streets, but that’s for another time. It’s still the color that draws me. I feel it. It wraps around my memories and it’s encouraging me forward through the next few weeks. I don’t realize that I’m missing it until I begin to see it revealed more and more here. For sure it’s not perfect, but it leads me to what is perfect in my memory.
I’m beginning to see my faith community that way. We have grown significantly in the past few years and I think it’s even been magnified as of late. We are so much better at sharing family moments than we have been. We share life, death. We share victory and defeat. We cry some and laugh much. In many ways we’re becoming more family than the biology that we’ve existed in. We have become real and honest. Color has come in great waves and it’s becoming attractive. Don’t be mistaken, our community has many faults. After all, I am leading them. That should tell you something. It’s a bit foreign for me, to be honest. I’ve not been known for hospitality. I’ve not been known for an affinity for family. I’m still pretty independent and self centered. But I’ve become surrounded by people who aren’t and my faults have been lessened by their strengths and it also works the other way around. Color is coming to our lower branches and beginning to bleed outward, and the further outward it bleeds, the deeper it becomes and more it draws. And I believe it’s drawing people who are yearning for the color that they once had.
Everyone had it at one time. They were created with it. We were all created with it. And ever since it left, if indeed it did leave, we’ve all been drawn back to every hint of it wherever it gets revealed. We yearn for relationships that are open and honest and true. We were created for that. In the garden, the one named Eden, we were created for relationships and we were to be surrounded by color. We yearn for family that is close and caring and even a bit boundary setting. We were created that way. It’s color to our souls. It’s attractive to most. I say most because I’ve seen those who run full tilt away from anything resembling intimacy. Some are only comfortable in complete anonymity. I’ve come to believe that those types are shocked deep within themselves, so deep that they don’t even comprehend it. Their inward selves are shocked by the great chasm between what is and what was meant to be. It’s not unlike how magnets can either attract or repel, depending on how they are situated in relationship to each other. But that’s the exception and not the rule. Personally I’m tired of living my life according to the exception. We’re different now, the faith community and me. Some may come and then run like the wind out of our midst. That’s alright I guess. I’m not sure that I’ve come to the point of being able to help them bridge that chasm. God can though so I leave them in His hands. But others will see the color spread and they’ll stop long enough to watch. And when they do, they’ll be hooked. My prayer is that they’ll stick around long enough with us to witness Fall return once more to the garden.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

vapors

I’m sure that I ought to know better. I’ve told others this before. I’ve taught about it. It’s gone through my ears but not stuck in my head. I’m talking about planning. I should have known not to begin planning out how my life was going to go so far in advance. Actually it was going, sort of, according to plan just the other day. Then came Monday, just like all of the other proverbial Monday’s that we deal with and Monday did its Monday thing and decimated all of my plans. Actually I shouldn’t sound so selfish, because it took a lot of lives with it. Within the scope of just hardly any time at all, the plans that I had laid out before God for His blessing were totally altered. Personal, professional, physical, financial, social, you name it. It was all altered. I guess that I should know better knowing who it is that really controls my life and destiny. Why am I shocked when I lay my plans before someone who wonders “why do you say today or tomorrow we will go here or there when your life is nothing but a vapor, a mist that’s here today and gone tomorrow”. I lay my plans before Him and usually walk away expecting them to be blessed, but not really waiting to see if they will be or not. He knows what is ahead, He’s already been there, and He’s probably even trying to get my attention as I walk away confident in my own ability to live my life or life on behalf of others. “Uh, excuse me…..” I can imagine Him saying as I wander away.
I know this, the futility of planning I mean. I know that I should pull back a bit more and plan a bit less and enjoy the ride. But sometimes the ride is a bit like Space Mountain and I’d just like to see what’s around the next sharp jerk of the car. Anyway, plans change and here I am trying to refigure. It’s like those annoying Magellan GPS car navigational devices. You plug in an address and you follow this sultry techno-voice and at some point you miss a turn and she seductively exclaims “recalculating”. Which means, “Can’t you even follow direction?”. I wonder if the people who named this device realize that Magellan died on his journey. Anyway, it’s a humbling experience all the way around. I like to think that I’m in control and I’m not. I like to provide security where there is none. It’s only a mist and I’m only a vapor and it’s all very challenging to scheduled people like me.
I’m not as good as I should be with that vapor thing. I ought to be. I live in the land of marine layer where the morning mist dissipates by early afternoon and things are totally different than they began. The thing is, the altering of my plan is usually a better plan after all. It doesn’t seem so at the time, but I think that this is only because of the trauma of realizing that life is not mine in the moment. It causes fear. When the fear passes though and the reality unveils itself, peace sets in. And that’s really all I ever wanted in the first place.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

familiar

You may have heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt”. I’ve not really been all the sure about what that really looks like in real life. I think that it means that the more familiar you are with a situation, the more you take it for granted and the less you dwell on certain possible consequences. We’ve all been reminded of this with the passing of “The Crocodile Hunter”. It could be said that he died doing what he loved. I’m not an expert and have no great insight into the circumstances, but it has caused me to pause and wonder if some people don’t die because they are doing what they love. What I mean is, because they are pursuing a life long passion that has become second nature to them, their guard is down and danger happens. Statistics show that an abnormally large percentage of auto accidents occur relatively close to home. Many serious injury accidents occur in the mundane routine parts of everyday life. We may try to keep to the familiar to feel safe, but the paradox is that the familiar can indeed lead us straight into danger.
Every once in awhile, for some bizarre reason, I find myself consciously watching cars fly by at ridiculous speeds only inches apart from each other. It’s amazing really. It’s also frightening. I don’t really remember the process of learning to drive myself, but I remember teaching my kids. We took back roads and side streets for some time until they became familiar with the concept of speed and other 2 ton missiles being guided by other unconscious souls along the same pathways. When I stop to think about it, it’s not comforting to know that we are relying, in large part, on the wisdom of engineers to insure a reliable missile in which to propel ourselves. I should know…I spent a great deal of time in engineering. Take my word for it, you’re better off not thinking about such things. Anyway, when you think about it, considering that we’re relying on human engineering and human training and human consciousness, we shouldn’t be shocked and surprised when fatal accidents occur. We should be shocked when they don’t.
We have been lulled into a subconscious dream state of the familiar in which bad things do sometimes happen. It causes me to pause this morning, as I approach 43 years of successfully navigating and dodging bullets. I wonder what I’ve missed during my “take for granted” periods of existence. Have I missed friendships because of it? I’m pretty sure that I must have. I’ve certainly neglected them, assumed that they’d always be there for me on a day less busy than today. The sobering fact is that I can’t remember a today that was less busy than a yesterday. I know that I’ve missed “growing up” moments with my kids. I imagined that they’d always be little. They’re not anymore. I imagined that they’d always live at home. They don’t anymore. I know that I’ve missed romantic moments with my wife. The flowers will always be there, right? I’m sure that I’ve missed teachable moments before God. The sunrises painted for me in the mornings should tell me everyday that He cares. The sunsets should comfort me that He’ll be there again tomorrow. I talk too much and listen too little. And I know that a primary reason in all of these instances is familiarity. I’ve been lulled into a subconscious land called “been there”. It’s a land of no surprises, no challenges, and no goals. It’s the autopilot that we inadvertently engage in the morning when we think we’re turning off the alarm. We imagine ourselves living each day, only to realize in later years that we were sleep walking.
The good news is that I’m awake now. I can work on now. I can focus on now. I can pay attention to now. I can learn, I can experience, and I can thrive in now. I can keep my guard up for as long as possible and not let the minutes slip away into a meaningless dream state. The minutes and days and years that I pass through will know that I’m there. It may not keep me alive any longer, but at least I’ll be living.