Tuesday, December 01, 2009

the end

The sun is glowing rose from the snow capped peaks across the water. The ferries are gliding calmly. I should have a camera instead of a laptop, but I’m in my chair and, wonder of wonders, the fireplace is on in Starbucks. December is here once again. It’s time for gingerbread and red cups at my “home by the sea”. All in all, it seems like the perfect day to be writing my final installment of this blog. I have come to the conclusion lately that this piece has come to it’s conclusion. Nearly 5 years have passed since I began basically writing to myself while you all have looked on.
There is a book in the Book of Books called Ecclesiastes. In this book, written by the wise King Solomon, there is a phrase used throughout the centuries that says “there is a time for everything under the sun”. In other words, all things whether bad or good, must come to an end. I began this with two kids in High School and I end it with one married, one engaged, and a beautiful new granddaughter. As this journal has progressed I have added and lost valued family members. While most of you choose to read from a distance, there are also some who have encouraged and even challenged me on various points. It’s all been appreciated.
This piece began as an exploration of whether or not I could ever be an author to any degree. If nothing else, it has given me a greater appreciation of authors and the incredible discipline that is involved with preparing a written work. I have concluded that I do not have that discipline. The fact that it has been increasingly more difficult over the past few months to even write a weekly page has proven that to me.
So while the sun is still shining, the fireplace still crackling, the coffee is still hot and the retired club hasn’t arrived yet, I’ll conclude by expressing thanks for sharing the journey with me. The archives of this blog contain many images and memories. I wish that you could all see the view this morning from where I sit, but perhaps you already have.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

parallel

I knew that I had gotten down here later than I wanted when I pulled up across from the beach and there was only one spot left along the curb. That can only mean one thing….parallel parking… not the most enjoyable start to a morning. I handled it quite well this morning thank you. The second clue to my later than desired start was the amount of faces staring out at me from inside the spacious and usually vacant windows. There was a line at the counter and upon finally getting my usual morning kick and turning around I discovered that my usual allotment of chairs were being occupied. Actually I handled all of it quite well, which might be a surprise to those who know me well.
I attribute it to the parking. That might seem odd to those of you who don’t live somewhere that you park sideways more than you park front ways or back ways or long ways or short ways. Some of you haven’t had to park sideways, parallel wise, since your driving test. I envy you sometimes…more now that I have smog belching, fossil fuel consuming, road rage inducing, ozone depleting SUV. Now I have to measure my parking requirements in yards rather than feet and when I can find one, it usually takes the same touch as docking a space shuttle trying to coax my beast into line. Depending on the day, I may be either in the “when at first you don’t succeed” kind of mood or the “shut up and drive away” mindset. Either way, my parking can mirror how my day is going.
This morning, as I’m waiting for my drink, and searching for a seat, and wireless, and headphones, and isolation amidst a sea of retiree’s I can take heart because I mastered the parallel… in one take. Now if I can just apply the same skills inside as I did outside I’ll be alright today. Successful parking is a dance of multitasking. You have to reference yourself around the other vehicles. You have to watch mirrors and curbs and bumpers and pedestrians and dogs, landscaping and an occasional mailbox. You have to guide yourself from a position of being parallel to other travelers to one that is in line with everyone else on the block. The type of vehicle in front and behind you don’t matter. All that should concern you is whether or not your vehicle will fit into the space you are trying to fit it into.
Why people attempt to shove themselves into spots that they have no business in is beyond me. In my opinion, their problem is not skill. It’s an issue of denial. Occasionally I’ll watch someone in their attempt while thinking “you have no business trying to put yourself in there”. Sometimes I am the one. Do you know people like that? People with no reference points and very large bumpers. Some have seemingly no awareness of their surroundings, and worse yet, no regard. I guess that might be why my parking attempts can seem to mirror how my day is going. It’s all too familiar in this living metaphor.
In the end though, what we all need is a place to park. Don’t be fooled into thinking that one size fits all, or that you’ll just make your own with your own efforts or denial. There is one spot… and it was made for you. It might be as easy as pulling into a full size spot with a compact car, but for others, not so much. We might drive around a bit. We might even have to make an opposite side attempt on a one way street, but it’s there for you. We are all created for a spot and a spot is created for us.

Monday, November 02, 2009

leaves

It’s been rumored to be the case for awhile now. I’ve known it and certainly my muscles have known it, but the arrival of a beautiful baby girl has confirmed it. I’m old. I’m a grandpa. Lillian Joy was born 9 days ago as a permanent antidote to denial. I decided that I needed to come down this morning to attempt a readjustment. My chair feels good. The sunlit snowy mountains are amazing in their reflection on the water. The air is cold and so is the fireplace. You can’t have it all I guess. It’s been a crazy month.
We began the month with the adoption of a rambunctious kitten named Lucy who has taken it upon herself to entertain us and make a valiant attempt at living in the memory of a household legend named Sassy. In addition to all of the extra time and focus that goes with my graduate work, I have to make my 8 day pilgrimage to Portland for face to face classes. Two days after returning, Lillian Joy made her appearance which meant that we had our grand puppy Oliver while everyone got to adjust to a new baby. And thus began the week long dance between Lucy and Oliver to negotiate a balance between dog and cat and whom is chasing whom. Add in a life as a pastoral artist with an active community o’ faith and some Halloween fun and I have no idea how 30 days can go by like a Facebook update. I’m exhausted.
So now it’s November and I have a determination to put the brakes on. Although it’s a bit like Fred and Barney trying to stop the Flintstone mobile; I hope my fee hold out. We’ve had some fairly windy days lately and I’ve been watching from my living room window the leaves, all aflame in reds and yellows, trying desperately to cling to their branches for just a few more days. I’m cheering them on. The bare branches that lie underneath are a stark reminder of the winter approaching. The longer the leaves hold on, the more enjoyable the color. Once they lose their grip, they are at the mercy of the breeze and then all bets are off. Today the winds are calm and they have hope for one more day of peace.
Right now, as November begins, the winds are calm for us, and we’re holding on for one more day of peace and enjoyment of the season. It’s not simply the seasons passing quickly that get to me. Seasons represent years and years add gray to my hair. I’d like to slow down enough to accumulate memories along the way. Some days go by so quickly that even a digital camera couldn’t capture them. This begins the season of “Baby’s first everything” and I plan on being alert and attached. I’m just praying for calm winds.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

vote

Throughout my time, both as a follower of Jesus, and especially as a leader of other followers of Jesus, I have felt a pressure to engage my beliefs and convictions into the political system. Just as there is a, perceived by some, moral formula to how live my life as a follower, there is also a, perceived by some, moral formula guiding how followers of Jesus should vote.
In my part of the world, as in many parts in the States, there is a political referendum on the ballot this time around of the sorts that can tend to blur the lines of politics and faith. So it goes without saying that well meaning and not so well meaning people on both sides of the issue have distinct views where one should take their moral stand. As a leader of a community of people who follow Jesus, I’ve been asked by other leaders of neighboring faith communities to publicly make a stand in a published letter to the editor in the local print media. That’s a given on any issue of this sort. One side had a specific view on how I personally should vote and how I should “encourage” (ie., coerce, guilt, shame, …) those I lead to vote. The problem is this; there are just as many leaders of Jesus followers who have signed, and encouraged me to sign, a letter stating the total opposite view on the issue. Two groups, two opinions, but one God…. How does this resolve itself?
I’m not an expert, but in stepping back here is what I have concluded. First of all, the issue at hand, as in all of the rest, has multiple sides to it from a faith issue. On one side, we have a life style choice being challenged, and I do feel that the Book of Books does have something to say on the matter. This is not always a popular choice with one camp of people who follow Jesus. On the other hand, I do also feel that the Book of Books has much to say on love and respect and how, as people created Imago Dei (in the image of God) we are all worthy of these things no matter what our opinion may be of choices, one side or the other. This leaves me in a place between, removed from the Christmas card lists of both camps…..whatever.
Here’s the thing…. I am absolutely going to vote. I am absolutely not going to tell anyone how I will vote as a follower of Jesus, nor will I tell them how they should vote. I have been called to lead a group of people into the greater mission of God, far beyond our personal views, country and state objectives, and general moral dilemma of the day. I have not been appointed as a representative or political delegate to the people of my congregation. I am fully aware that this statement in and of itself is enough to gather enough disdain from both sides. That’s fine by me. I have a sign positioned as I leave my office that reminds me to “stand up for what’s right, even if I’m standing alone”. As a follower of Jesus and a leader of followers of Jesus, if I am to be faithful to His teachings contained in the Book of Books, I could lead from either direction. I have always believed that if you can’t win, then you do what’s right. So the best anyone will get from me is the admonition to vote, not from your own self conviction, but with the lead of the best counselor we have, God’s Holy Spirit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

teeter totter

So… inspired by the generous act of a friend, I am back on my blog for a momentary return from self imposed exile. My chair feels wonderful and the view, on what’s likely to be the last sunny day of the season, is gorgeous with the sun coming up rose colored and reflecting off of the mountains. I don’t even remember my last time here and really don’t know when my next will come. I’m heading for Portland tomorrow and a week of wringing out my brain in grad school. By the time I get back, if not before, a granddaughter will be born and then all time will most likely stop. So in the mean time, for one more time, I get to listen to Pandora while chasing this cursor across my screen.
Much has changed in the blur of the past few weeks, I guess it’s good to slow down for an hour and get my bearings again. It’s been one of those “I have no idea where we’re going, but we’re making great time” months in my house. Life, as it should be I guess, has been a combination of the arrival of new things while some old things slip from my grasp. All at once, looking at the inventory, I realize the paradox that some of my life has become. I’m a grandfather and I’m a grandchild. I’m a father and I’m a child. I’m an uncle and I’m a nephew. I’m a student and I’m a teacher. I’m an artist and a piece of art…. or is that a piece of work. I’m a creator and I’m the creation. When I put the list on a screen like this it is easy to see how each of these are an uneasy balancing act. My own personal experience is that I can’t seem to put equal focus on either end of these. One side always is demanding more time and I am frequently sinking on one side and trying to scramble to the other. I’m either teetering or tottering.
The reality of a teeter totter is that you never have equal sides. You are either the bigger kid or at the mercy of the bigger kid. And most of the time, it’s the difference between the two that creates the motion. It’s those fleeting moments, when the balance is reached, where there is rest. They are few and far between. In my personal teeter totter world, sometimes I can just muscle my way to balance just as I would use leg strength to overcome the weight of the big kid on the other end. But sometimes life ends up like a couple of bigger kids piling on and my legs are no longer of use because they are three feet in the air. When that happens I have a choice. I can kick and scream at the wind…. Or I can sit quietly and wait. I hate that. The kicking and screaming only serves to wear me out and I’m usually still hanging up there. Usually, sitting quietly for a period of time will cause the one on the other end to get bored and let me down, sometimes slowly, sometimes by jumping off.
I am finding, after years of kicking and screaming when I’m off balance, the wisdom of quieting myself. “Be still and know that I am God” in the Book of Books has become very real to me of late. Prayer and nothingness, though against every fiber of my being when I am hanging, has the ability to bring balance. I may not make sense, but it works. One way I can find to explain it is that, just maybe, when the bigger issue has you hanging three feet off the ground, prayer and nothingness invites God to join you on the teeter totter. And let’s face it, there certainly is no bigger kid on the playground than Him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

presence part 2

As I was beginning my life transition from an occupier of corporate space to pastoral artist, one of my professors imparted some wisdom which was so subtle it almost was not consciously caught. Not catching this piece of advice would have been tragic for my new life’s calling. Very simply, somewhere in a conversation that I don’t even specifically remember he advised that, for all the academics and theories and scholarly answers, sometimes the best thing that you can do is just to “be there”. In fact I think it was actually “be there and shut up”. How’s that for thousands of dollars of tuition well spent? How many times had I already been told to just “sit there and be quiet” for free? My own kids probably could earn doctoral credit for the amount of times that I shared that bit of wisdom on them.
His voice has saved me and served me on too many occasions to mention. All of those grief experiences that I’ve shared through the years with people; the inexplicable deaths, and the ones we saw coming…wayward children, wayward spouses, natural disasters. When words would have been so idiotic, inappropriate and hollow, silent presence became great wisdom, and apparently valued comfort.
It becomes even more personal as time goes by. I think of what shows value to me. What is an indication that someone is with me? What shows me that someone might value what I value? Undoubtedly it is their presence. A lack of presence communicates that they don’t care. At least in my universe, and after all, that is all that matters…..Whatever. I’m going out on a limb to bring you into the inner circle of pastoral thought. Presence matters. If you are in my community o’ faith, your presence matters. There….it’s out there.
I used to struggle with whether or not it was a measure of my security. Am I just taking this too personally? When I stand up on Sunday morning in front of my community o’ faith and open the book of books, what does it really matter who is there week to week? There is no cosmic attendance being taken. Maybe I just need to get over myself? In the last few weeks, for whatever reason, it’s been magnified. It finally hit me the other day. The reason that it matters so much to me is that presence really does matter. There doesn’t have to be words, presence says it all. Whether it is me showing up at a hospital or whether it is someone in my community o’ faith showing up on Sunday wondering what God has to say about all of this and what we ought to do about it, presence matters. If the same things are valued by a group of people, really good things can result. Not much good comes from apathy, apart from a nice long nap.
It doesn’t solve anything, really. I just realized that there is some justification for my feeling. It does though, reinforce my understanding that I need to renew my effort to just be there for people who need or want presence. Whether it’s in my own professional realm or personal relationship, or yours for that matter; perhaps the best lesson that tuition can buy is to just “be there and shut up”.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

pages

Yesterday, being my birthday and a national holiday on top of it, I decided to take the day off from writing…. and most other things for that matter. This morning I am in the comfort of my own chair in what’s become known as my “man cave”. After the calm of the past few days, life is cresting like a wave today. Grad school begins right now as I’m sharing this. There are a dozen last minute details to help my honey with as she prepares the preschool for tomorrow’s start of a new year. Of course there is also the issue of my own role as pastoral artist around here and the fact that I get paid to be one in this community o’ faith. All in all it looks like another 16 hour day lined up, so at 5:30 in the morning, it’s just my coffee, my chair, and my self trying to take a few moments to align my brain with my world.
I’m finding myself this morning in an odd, probably birthday induced, unfamiliar tension between past and future, while trying to focus on the needs of the present. My own personal feelings towards the observation of my birthday can be categorized in various stages throughout my history. There were the early years, when it’s been reported that I cried each time my family gathered and sang to me. I’d imagine that it was more a reflection of their harmony than my own feelings of mortality at that point. As I grew older and my ears grew accustomed to their well intentioned tunes, I , like most children looked forward to these annual celebrations. Somewhere later in high school and continuing into early adulthood, I became ambivalent to the whole process and mostly endured them for the sake of others felt need to celebrate. When I had my own children, I was a bit more enthusiastic because of their obvious desire to celebrate. As they grew older, I have once again become less engaged in the process, except for the occasional milestones like 40 and last years 45.
Except for the occasional selfish feelings of entitlement that I should be able to do whatever I want to on my annual appointed celebration, I haven’t really been affected that deeply during these moments. Oh, certainly, especially on the big ones, I have reflected on where I’m at, where I’ve been, where I might be going….all of the usual thoughts that one has. This year has been different though as, due to the great social networking invention called Facebook, my worlds and eras have collided into one big birthday card. I have shared before that my tendency, as I’ve jetted through the years, has been to close the pages behind me as I’ve passed through each chapter of existence. Each part is neatly packaged behind a section for me to come back to, or not, at my own leisure and convenience. This year, as I’ve received the, more than generous and less than deserved, birthday greetings through the wonder of the internet, all of those pages were opened at the same time, for the first time. I have connection with people from every point of my life including elementary school, all on the same day. It was somewhat overwhelming for someone who has been known for my less than enthusiastic approach to reunions of any sort.
I have, during the last several years, looked at the passing of my birthday’s as being one more year towards being able to do and say whatever the heck I want to. I still look for that magical day when I get to just because “I’m old”. For the time being though, I’m going to enjoy thumbing through the story that God has written with the generous and colorful ink of people in my life.

Monday, August 31, 2009

heaven


The beach front is pretty much unrecognizable this morning with the fog that is blanketing the water. The Alki Statue of Liberty seems to be waving at no one in particular. Everything is a pale gray backdrop to the street side monuments and the people walking by. I suppose it could be a bit like a scene from heaven if you believe that we’ll be walking through clouds in the afterlife. I don’t. So there you are. I certainly believe in an afterlife, it’s kind of a requirement for my line of work, but the whole cloud thing is not part of my vision. To be honest, I’ve not thought too deeply about what it might be like. Every time I attempt to it seems that some Hollywood depiction seeps into my brain and waters everything into silliness. Personally, if it’s something Hollywood was able to recreate, then it wouldn’t be all that impressive.
I remember watching “What Dreams May Come”….actually I think that I own that one. The imagery that I’m left with of heaven because of that film is people floating and flying oddly about, the grass smearing away like melted crayons, and Cuba Gooding Jr. walking around naked, but blurry. I only bought the movie because I love the depiction of Hell. Not that I’m a fan of Hell, but I think it has some interesting concepts that might be closer to how I imagine it. Then, I’m almost ashamed to admit, the Warren Beatty film, “Heaven Can Wait”. That’s got the whole cloud thing going….not very much imagination.
Any vision that I have of heaven comes from the only place that I’ve ever seen anything recorded significantly on the subject, apart from those “I died for 45 minutes” books that are in the spiritual section of a Barnes and Noble. I’m referring to the Book of Books and all of the descriptions of heaven that are contained there. Specifically, I like to turn to the section at the end in the book called Revelation, chapter 20 to be exact. It’s a fascinating, very vivid picture of gold and jewels and walls and gates and all that. It’s interesting to note that there are no clouds though, no smearing, melted crayon, grass, no floating or flying, and no Cuba Gooding Jr’s blurry backside.
There is plenty of singing though. That used to be the worst part of it for me. I can’t sing to save my life, but I like doing it now a whole lot more than I used to. It’s a good thing too because what I see in earlier descriptions of heaven, there is a bunch of singing, almost non stop and church like, only without the organ. It’s like one cosmic, eternally long, church worship service, except it’s a really good one that you don’t ever want to end. Now do you understand why I have a hard time imagining it? I do find it interesting that most people that I encounter express either a desire or an expectation of being in heaven when they die, but an enormous amount of them wouldn’t hardly consider going to church now when they’re here on earth. If you couldn’t stand it for an hour here in this life, why in the world would you ever want it for eternity in the next. I guess maybe they figure it’s better than the alternative of being in hell. Obviously they haven’t been in some of the church services that I’ve been in. They also express a dislike for “church people”. Obviously they aren’t aware that many of those same people will be there when they get there. After being a pastoral artist for the past 17 years, I’m counting on a few missing that train though.
Most of us are too busy surviving this life to seriously consider the next one, that’s why we like Hollywood to fill in the gaps. It keeps us from thinking. We only think about our own mortality when we get to witness someone else’s…. or when we run into the fog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ruts

The Monday after a 2 week break can be a bit of a surreal experience. I’m back at Starbucks on the beach, perhaps for the final time. I think that it’s time for a change once again. I’m getting restless. Mile posts are passing and they seem to be picking up speed. I just brought my youngest back to college. I celebrated 25 years with the greatest gift ever given to me and in two months am looking forward to the arrival of a granddaughter. We are now in warp drive. One might say that this is to be expected when you are “over the hill” and headed down the other side. Trust me, I’m not there yet. I’m still trudging uphill at the moment. I’m listening to the Eagles sing about wasted time this morning and it’s forcing me to contemplate some things. First of all, how do these guys, older than I am, harmonize like that in a live setting? Really..... Secondly, I wonder how close I am to slipping into wasted time?
There is a point, I’m thinking, where the familiar becomes all too unfamiliar. As we crossed back through the mountains of Eastern Oregon after delivering my daughter to college in Boise, we passed by many markers of the Oregon trail. For those of you not up on Western US history, that is one of the main routes for settlers travelling West in the 1800’s. More than 150 year has passed since the majority passed through those mountains in their covered wagons and the most fascinating thing for me is that there are places where you can still see the ruts from their wagon wheels. So many travelled the same path for so long and each passing one etched deeper into the mountains.
I have an idea, with my limited knowledge of ruts from my days on a dirt bike, that in the beginning, this trail gave a sense of direction, familiarity, and security for those who followed behind, like footprints in the snow when visibility is bad. I can also see that, after some time, it became almost a necessity to run your wagon in those ruts. It probably became an additional hazard to try to straddle them and carve your own path. Years down the road I would imagine that they were deep enough that it was extremely difficult to get out of them. So there they were….thousands stuck in the same path. Perhaps they were safer that way. Maybe they did have that sense of security that comes with following a genuine path. But as much as they were able to experience along that trail, imagine how much went missed along the way because they were travelling in the rut. I fear this in my life. As a pastoral artist, I have placed my faith in the one who promised me life and life abundant. It was not intended to be life in the safety of the ruts that I have created.
So as much as I like my view, and as much as I like my chair, I believe that it may be time for me to haul myself out of the rut and look around. Every minute that passes is another that I’ll never get back so I want them each to be filled with wonder. Perhaps I will find more challenges. I’ll definitely find different scenery. Who knows what I’ll find. It might be a bit unnerving, but I doubt that it’ll be as unsettling as the feeling that I have now that the familiar has become unfamiliar.

Monday, August 03, 2009

whatever

I stopped by Hotwire this morning since I’m running behind again. It’s been a profitable stop since there were still some of my wife’s scones available. I’ve never been into the scone thing since moving out here….that is until my wife began her baking company. I don’t like scones because I don’t like dryness coating my mouth like a blanket. Really…if I wanted a mouthful of baking soda, I’d just pour some on my tongue. Hers are different. I’d eat them like a bucket of KFC if I had the chance. Anyway, it might sound odd that I have to pay for some of my wife’s baking, but it’s a sacrifice that is well worth it. I’ll do whatever it takes.
I don’t encounter many people anymore with a “whatever it takes” attitude. Oh I know many who will say “whatever it takes”, but when encountered with various opportunities for “whatever” they shrink back with a “but not that” attitude. In my life as pastoral artist, I used to encounter communities o’ faith that were in desperate need for a change, many even used to tell me that they’d do “whatever it takes” to change. Then out would come the “but not that” lists of things they wouldn’t be willing to address, which ultimately became a recipe for paralysis and dying. I’m happy to report that in my current community o’ faith, they had professed a “whatever it takes” attitude, for some reason I believed them and moved 3000 miles to help, and in 10 years a “but not that” list has never appeared. Guess what? They are younger and healthy again and more importantly attractive to and serving in the community that God has placed them in.
I’m told that this is the “place of pioneers”. People tell me all of the time that this or that is the result of the pioneering spirit of the Northwest. Whatever… none of them came over the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. None of them have families who died in the passes. The pioneering spirit would undoubtedly result in a “whatever it takes” methodology….if it were really present. What I see more of though is the same “but not that” kind of hesitancy that is prevalent everywhere else. People want the marriage relationship that my wife enjoy after 25 years, but they won’t invest in it. For all of the smiles and PDA that people see on the outside, there is plenty of investment on both of our parts. There is sacrifice. Come on, I have to buy my own scones. There is humility. There is serving. There are investments of time and at some points there have been financial investments with professionals who know far more than us about the inner workings of our emotions.
I deal with people who want quick fixes. They have long “but not that” lists. They refuse to afford investments of either time or money. They say things like, “but you don’t know my life”. They can’t get over themselves. They change relationships like Microsoft changes windows. I know couples who will invest in a rental but not a relationship. They’ll commit to a mortgage, but not a marriage. Then they want what I have? Excuse me if I sound a bit annoyed, but that’s because I am. Sometimes you not only have to do “whatever it takes”, but you may have to invest everything that it takes.
I pray for these people. I really do. It’s all that I can do. As a pastoral artist, I try to focus on and lead others to the source of my faith, who lived and died a “whatever it takes” life. In order for me to be able to be back in community with God, he invested everything he had. In order for people who don’t even give a rip, he paid the ultimate price. I’m thankful that he didn’t have a “but not that” attitude.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pandora

In the midst of a Seattle heat wave, I’ve taken a break from the beach for a moment and am getting caffeinated in another chair in the secret garden of Hotwire Coffee’s outer courtyard. The perpetual plant sale and conveniently placed fencing are providing some good cool relief. It’s just me, the plants and Pandora out here at the moment. Pandora has been a constant companion over the past several months. It’s basically an online personalized radio station. You type in an artist or a style or even a song, hit enter, and a radio station is created. Each time you open Pandora, it begins at your last chosen station and away you go. The interesting part is that you have no idea what’s coming next on the queue, although you do get the opportunity to rate the choice either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. After time, if you hang with it, it compiles your own approved and personalized station. If something comes up, then you also have the opportunity to just skip over it.
I find the name especially intriguing….Pandora… because I am very familiar with the legend of Pandora from Greek mythology, and this is not exactly an accurate portrayal of Pandora. Actually, to me anyway, and at the moment I’m the only one that matters, the Pandora ideology represents a fascinating blend of Greek mythology and current Western culture. The story of Pandora, in it’s barest form, is that Zeus gave her a box, actually it was a clay jar, along with the instruction to never open it. He also conveniently gave her the gift of curiosity. In modern times, I think it translates into the gift of shopping. What he was thinking, I have no idea. Well apparently, as incredibly unlikely as it might have seemed, she opened the box, or clay jar. Out of the open jar sprang, supposedly all the ills of society, including reality TV, televangelists, and instant coffee. Anyway, the assumption was, she opened it without having any idea what would come out.
That, in my opinion, is where the similarities end between the myth and our online version. You open it and are not really sure what will come out. However, while she was powerless to now do anything about these great ills that were loosed on the world, we, in our continued attempt at social engineering, get to eliminate that which we deem to be bad selections not personally chosen. We get to skip over song choices less desirable, either to eliminate them entirely or to wait for a more convenient day. You may think I’m being cynical here, it has happened on occasion, but I find the metaphor here to be very interesting.
The imagery is our vain attempt at engineering our choices, wise or otherwise, to have only outcomes that have passed our acceptability test. The Greeks knew the reality of choice. Choice brings outcome and her choice brought the outcome for the entire society, fair or not, guilty or not. Our culture says that no, I can make a choice, but the outcome, if not entirely acceptable to me, should be passed on until I can experience a suitable outcome. This is technically known as mental illness. I deal with it all of the time. I have a personal version of it in my own life. None of us is totally exempt.
So lest this become really depressing, I will share that, it is said that at the very bottom of her jar, despite everything that had already escaped, there lay “hope”. Although I have a knowledge of Greek mythology, I am not a follower of it. I do however hold this appreciation as it parallels my own faith in Jesus. We do share some important commonalities. I have my own beliefs in the origin of the “ills of society”, but the“ills of society” certainly do exist. Secondly, what is left for us is indeed hope. So, knowing that, as I enjoy my daily interaction with Pandora, I have in recent months refused to “engineer” my own stations. I realize that this probably defeats the purpose of what the creators of this program intended….sorry. I choose to put on my station and then “hope” for the best outcome. It doesn’t always work out for me, to be sure, but I choose to deal with whatever Pandora gives me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

litter


I pulled a shoe out this morning from under our shoe rack near the front door. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I keep sweeping and cleaning, cleaning and sweeping and it still somehow seems to live on. I find it in cracks, in vents, behind the magazine rack. The fact that it has found its way into our living room in this past year has been almost too much for me. It’s the worst part of having a cat. She and I were constantly at odds these past few months about her toilet being in my living room. But now, in some cruel act of fate thumbing its nose at me, the cat is gone and all that remains is her litter.
A week ago, Sassy, my friend and nemesis for 17 years, was tragically killed in a fight with a pit bull. To my wife, she was an angel….actually her own personal angel. Anyone who watched their relationship over the years would agree. Those who knew her will say that her end was, in a way, a fitting exit. She went out in a final burst of attitude. If I hadn’t been there in the midst of the jaws and the shaking and the fur, I might have agreed. If I hadn’t been toe to toe with the pit bull (what was I thinking?) even while realizing that this was one jam that I was powerless to save her from, I might have agreed. If I hadn’t held her and looked into her eyes while trying to, in one last act of denial, comfort an already dead friend, I might have agreed. I had to do all of those things, all with the sound track of my wife’s anguished cries coming from inside, somewhere behind me as friends thankfully kept her from the worst of it.
Afterwards, in the brief quiet that comes immediately after a traumatic, did I just see that, kind of moment, I was able to carry her across the street to the quiet and comfort of our back yard…to find a box that would be her final resting place. I’ve done plenty of funerals in my life as a pastoral artist. I’ve worked with many funeral directors. I’ve never been one, and never wanted to be one. But that was our relationship… She seemed to take great joy in making me do things that I never wanted to do, like swearing, buying cat litter, and placing it in my living room. She took great joy in reminding me that I’m not all that. She was my humility “fail safe”. In recent months, just when I seemed to have a sense of my own dignity, she had me buying “Old peoples” bed wetting pads at the local drug store. She had this curious habit of climbing in the litter box and then peeing over the side, all the while looking at me with an“excuse me” look on her face.
Not long after the trauma of Monday night, I took her litter box out of the living room, near the shoe rack, and swept, once again, the floors surrounding it. I was trying to remove, quickly, the practical reminders of her. It’s kind of hard to do though with a 17 year relationship. She was nearly as old as our children. She was family in every close sense of day to day living. If you knew us, you knew her. She has been in every year of our lives of ministry, from the Midwest to the Northeast then onto the Northwest. She was small town, she was country, and she was city. So the sadness comes in waves and unexpected moments. We were walking through Target the other day and without realizing, walked right by a big display of litter on sale. The sharp blade of grief quickly stabbed through what had been a light hearted moment. This morning, as I fumbled for my shoes, only to find remnants of her presence still in hidden places, I felt it again. So I can resolve to sweep those floors one more time, but to be quite honest, I’d be happy to have the litter back again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

choice

This morning, in the early morning hour on my way to the beach, I saw a familiar vehicle parked nearby…. and I avoided it. It was in the parking lot next to my house. You might wonder why I’d bother avoiding a parked vehicle, especially one parked nicely in a lot. It’s not like I’m not used to them, except for the fact that this one was actually between the lines, which, I’ll admit, can be a rarity around here. It wasn’t the car, it was who I suspected was sleeping in the back of the car.
During my 10 years here in the urban world, I have become acquainted with a great many homeless individuals. A handful of them have become more than casual encounters. I have developed personal relationships with them. In the lives of these individuals I have seen homelessness from a few different angles. I have seen it come as a result of mental illness, as was the case with a man known as Father Joseph who, for some reason known only to babies and dogs, found me to be a sympathetic friend. I have seen it as a result of life circumstances, being privileged to play a part in a fresh start for a school friend of my daughter. I also get a courtside seat to witness it as the result of stupid choices. I know, being the respectable pastoral artist sort that I am supposed to be, I should put it in more PC terms. I should say that they are “poor” choices” I’ll stick with “stupid” thank you. Don’t write me letters unless you have people who are homeless ,because of their own repeated stupid choices, parking outside your window in the middle of the night so that they can catch up with you and whine about the results of their most recent stupid choice.
As a pastoral artist in a community of faith that teaches the Bible as the Book of Books and the Word of God, you might be surprised to hear that I am pro-choice. Let me clarify, you don’t want to experience unwanted pregnancy? … then choose not to participate in the activity that leads to it. You don’t want to be tossed in jail as an accessory to a crime?....then choose better friends. You don’t want to be wandering, sleeping in your car?... sometimes that might mean (and I said might, so relax) making better choices when they are presented to you. I’m not talking about addictions, illnesses, or circumstances totally out of your control. I’m talking about choices. We live in a culture which has invested heavily in trying to eliminate the consequences of poor choice. I was somewhat starry eyed I guess when I began the calling that I am in the midst of. I thought that when you presented better choices, people would at least consider them. Now I understand that my role is better defined as presenting a better choice, then being there to help pick up the pieces when the same old choice has been made anyway.
Life is a series of choices. It is my personal belief that worldly success is simply the owning of your own choices along with the results that come from them. Imagine what would happen if we owned our own choices and where they led us instead of wasting time, money, and effort finding someone else to blame. Imagine how many lawyers would be looking for another line of work. Imagine how many counselors and psychologists would have the time to diagnose their own issues. Imagine how many people of faith would actually live out the beliefs that they claim. Imagine how many resources would be made available to those who truly need them. Imagine the parking lot next to my house without anyone sleeping in it…… “it’s easy if you try”.
I might be a bit selfish, but I’m not a heartless SOB. I’ve known plenty of individuals who are homeless not by any choice of their own. I work at shelters regularly. I volunteer with food banks. I buy newspapers from the guy or gal on the corner. I extend a hand nearly anywhere I can. But I also know choice when I see it and the poor choice people, parking their vehicles outside my house in the middle of the night are making it more difficult to choose compassion.

Monday, June 29, 2009

stroller

On the beach one more week….my chair was calling me. So here I am with the chair, the sun, the mountains across the water and perfect families pushing their children in baby SUV’s . I wonder if kids who spend their early years being pushed in these huge contraptions will be predisposed to driving Escalades when they are older? Whatever happened to the umbrella stroller? I don’t see those much anymore in the land of excess.
Not many people are staying in here this morning, they’re on the run it seems, even more than usual. They’re running to their busses, running with their dogs, running behind their baby coaches, clinging to handbrakes. It would seem to me that any transporter of cute helpless little humans that is in need of a handbrake just needs to slow down. What are we teaching our kids anyway, that life is always about running? You’d never see anyone running behind an umbrella stroller. One bump and those things fold up like an accordion.
I remember, one thing that made my childhood so rich in experience was the time that I got to spend seeing the sights as I passed through life. It might have been long walks or long drives, but regardless, I was able to sit back, relax, and observe. I see families travelling now, and it seems as if every kid has an ipod fused to their heads and their own video screen. Whatever happened to “ I spy …….” And the concept of travelling games? I’ll tell you what happened…. Baby SUV’s and the parents who run behind them. Walks for these little ones are not for experience any longer. They are for endurance. Walks used to be social events as the little riders would see other little riders and be able to have their cute little rider conversations. They could laugh and point and grunt at each other. Now they are flying by each other so fast, it’s about as effective as yelling your order at a” drive –through” kiosk at 60 mph. No one is recognizable as everyone is a blur….but hey, at least mom and dad are fit in their multi-tasked kind of lives.
I remember some wisdom that came from the lips of my principal when I was in elementary school. He was a Richard Nixon type of figure, which was fitting because it was in the 70’s. Anyway….when any of us were busted for the terrible infraction of running in the halls, he would yell “Hey…take life easy!” He’s no longer principal and that wisdom would no longer be welcome in the training of our next exhausted generation. They’re being taught at an early age, that if you’re not running, you’ll be run down. As Ricky Bobby claimed, “if you’re not first, you’re last”.
It’s no wonder so many of us have dumped our spirituality somewhere along the journey. We’re running so fast that even God can’t keep up. I’m recovering this week from some excessively fast running of late, but I will tell you that the only reason I have something to recover is that even in the midst of this latest round, I remembered the words of my principal many years ago and I took some time to “take life easy”. I still stopped along the way for a bit of the experience. For all of you stroller parents, my prayer is that you’ll never be pushing fast enough to need the brake.

Monday, June 22, 2009

chair

This morning I’ve changed up my routine. My daughter needed a vehicle more than I needed to go to the beach. Don’t weep for me because, as this is Seattle, all I had to do was walk out my door and I’m in another purveyor of caffeine. This morning, I’m not just in some old substitute. I am in the one and only Hotwire Online Coffee drinking my favorite caramel latte highlighted with cinnamon. I also have opportunity to actually eat an amazing breakfast concoction from by favorite baking establishment, Companion Baking Co. The bakeress is none other than my own gorgeous wife, and yes I have to buy the stuff once in awhile like any other neighborhood consumer. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The only thing I’m missing is my favorite chair and the crowd of the retirement group that has been following me around for the 3 years that I’ve been writing this blog. I doubt they’ll find me here and even if they did, there’s no room to congregate. Starbucks was good for the view but the community was certainly lacking….everyone in a hurry, running for a bus, running after their baby stroller SUV’s or like Forrest, just running and running, and…. whatever. This place is a virtual “Cheers” among coffee places. You know the kind, sometimes you wanna go “where everybody knows your name”. And here’s cool concept….there is free WiFi. In my opinion, charging for WiFi is not much better than charging for air to breathe…I mean really. I don’t even have to play Pandora on my laptop if I don’t want to because they’ve already got it on. So why do drive my gas guzzling, smog producing, global warming, Ford Explorer past all of the hundreds of other coffee shops including a number of other Starbucks here in the greenest city on earth, when I could just walk across the alley to my favorite? It’s the chair. I love the chair.
You wouldn’t have any idea if you saw it. It’s a pretty non-descript piece of furniture amongst a bunch of other pieces of nondescript furniture. It’s a sort of suede like fabric and the best thing about it is that if I drop some of my pastry of choice in it this week, I know that it’ll still be there for me next week. I’m not commenting on their cleaning ability there, I’m just sayin….. Anyway, the point is, it’s a friend. I can be myself there. I’m comfortable there. I can sleep there. I can pray there. Sometimes I sleep while I’m praying and sometimes I pray while I’m sleeping there. Most of these posts have originated there and If I miss weeks with this online journey, most often it’s because I can’t get there.
But life goes on whether I want it to or not, and changes come and eventually, it won’t be there for me. So I best begin to consider that reality now. This morning I get to step off for a minute and consider alternatives and prepare for the inevitable day when I walk in and discover “remodel” has happened. You may think I’m ridiculous and indeed I can be, but this off center type of exercise actually helps me cope to the idea that everything goes on whether I like it or not. I can enjoy the experience of the moments, but then I have to let them go as memories because reality changes every day and there are more moments to experience. There are even more chairs to sit in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

dandelions

And so begins day 29 with no rain here in Seattle. If we make it through the day, we’ll set an all time record for this time of year and possibly severely damage our reputation as a rainy, gloomy, fleece and umbrella haven. And yet, Al Roker continues to talk about “clouds and showers in the Pacific Northwest”. I wonder if he’s ever been here? My lawn would whole heartedly disagree with his observations.
All of this sun has come at a price. The emerald city has become a bit more brown….at least on my block. My own water bill has become an investment as I try to keep some green in my back yard. This has become my own version of an automobile bailout….investing way too much and way too late. My back lawn has become a parable of sorts for me. It is a living example that no matter how much the investment, if the foundation is suspect, then you’re simply peeing in the wind. If you’re a guy, you get the analogy.
A few years ago, some very well intentioned people made the investment of time and money to lay down sod in about one half of my back yard. I’ll have to admit that, at first, I was a bit bothered that the whole back yard didn’t receive the same treatment. The first summer it was down, it was like a thick green carpet. It was pretty amazing, but it was also a glaring reminder of how pitiful the rest of the yard had become. I secretly began to resent that old growth crap and berate it for becoming such a poor excuse of a lawn. I would sit on my newly finished deck and dream of the day that I could dig up all of the old stuff and replace it with this new rolled up wonder grass. Throughout all of my verbal abuse and disdain, the old stuff quietly took it and patiently waited beside the” new kid in town”.
The change came subtly. It began as a lone dandelion last Spring. Before I knew it, by the end of July it was crumbling into a dusty mixture of concrete like dust and plastic mesh screen with clumps of green scattered about. Now all of you “green thumbs” can save your breath. I have done everything that could be done to maintain and now revive this piece of real estate. Did you…….? Yes I did thank you. What about…….? Tried that. You should…… been there, got the t-shirt. Don’t send me advice, I’ve got the encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and google, all in my court. Anyway, this lawn has cost a fortune and my thought is why should it continue to cost a fortune just to do what it was supposed to do in the first place….grow. Guess what part of my lawn hasn’t cost a dime? Guess what part of my lawn is still green even with a month of Spring that had no rain. Oh yeah, that would be the old original stuff.
People are like lawns I suppose. How many have I seen in my role as pastoral artist that are trying to hide their crumbling base beneath the veneer of whatever looks good at the time? How many, if they had to endure extended times of stress, would be able to hold up under the pressure? How many are looking at their neighbors, grateful that they don’t have the same dandelions growing within their thick lush coats? How many eventually find out that dandelions may not be the most desirable, but hey, at least they’re green?

Monday, June 08, 2009

stadium

Some days are more “Monday-ier” than others. I know that I’ve shared this sentiment before, but today it has come to pass once again. Arriving down here at the beach quite a bit later than usual, the first sign should have been the lack of parking. It’s a gorgeous day, to be sure, but it’s easier to enjoy when I can park. The other sign was the “retired bunch” beating feet to get their caffeine before I could get to the door. Apparently it was important this morning for the eight of them to get ahead of the one of me. Whatever…. it was enjoyable to have contributed to their unplanned morning jog. It didn’t matter to me, even though I’m the one on my way to a JOB! But the sun is out and the only thing bitter here is the coffee. At least I have my chair, and my headphones, and my live DVD of “The Boss”.
Not really having any idea where I was going to go with this today, I decided to enjoy the concert footage for a bit. It’s very therapeutic . It inspires me that guys who are even older than I am can put as much passion into something they’ve done thousands of times before. Each song is performed like it was their last, and at their age, let’s be honest, it might be. I guess that is what makes them great, legendary even. You might not agree or even appreciate my music tastes, but when a group as old as the “E-Street Band” is still together and packing stadiums instead of headlining the “Piggly Wiggly” tour, you really have no argument against them. These guys have a relentless passion that drives them to play each song like’s it’s their last. It kind of makes an encore anticlimactic.
I wonder what my life would be like if I attacked it with the same relentless passion. I wonder what Sunday’s would be like if I thought every sermon might be my last? Some people who listen to me week after week might secretly wish for that. I wonder what my faith would look like if I saw every moment to make a difference as my last. I’m learning more every day that life was meant to be participatory. It’s like the difference between white water rafting and a log flume. You get wet either way, but with one it happens not matter what you do, and the other is proportionately determined by what you do…or don’t do. This morning, I just went along for the ride. I was on autopilot and waded through what was less than an ideal beach experience because it was brainless. If I’m honest, there were so many variables that I could have invested in to wring out every bit of experience that was mine for the taking. I could have gone, dare I say it,….somewhere else. After all, I’m not here for the coffee, or the company. I’m really here for this stupid chair. This is Seattle, I passed 332 coffee shops in the 5 minute drive to get here. I bet some of them even had chairs. Routine is like “the Ring” for me, I both love and hate it.
I have a choice as I leave here this morning. I can take the raft or the flume. I’m going to get wet either way, so it might as well be by my own doing. These old people might have beat me in here, but I’m going to beat them out. I have a date with the stadium. They can have the Piggly Wiggly.

Monday, June 01, 2009

bearings

So yesterday afternoon, after what has seemed like years, I finally began to feel like I was getting my bearings. You know what that it is….it’s your internal balance and sense that all is right with the world. It’s been a long haul in the weeks since our house was broken into. I’m not sure if that was the start or not, but at least that is as far back as I can remember at this point. I haven’t felt at all like life was much of anything that is familiar to me. I haven’t been to the beach much, which is never a good sign, and even when I did come I wasn’t interested in writing anything. We even threw in a weeks vacation that was wonderful but really probably only served to keep me from going completely over the edge. Anyway…..back to yesterday afternoon… I was feeling level again. Last night we relaxed out on the deck with the urban version of a campfire, a chimnea. I even had to buy the bundle of wood from Safeway. I did bring it home and split it so I keep a bit of my masculine, outdoors, dignity. We are in the midst of the kind of weather that keeps me in Seattle during the Summer months…sunny and 70’s.
That was yesterday. Seems like a long time ago. I woke up this morning at 5am because of the birds who have established their own version of urban renewal in the rain gutter outside of our bedroom window. No problem…I’ll just head down to the beach early. Maybe I’ll just lay here a bit longer and contemplate that thought, and then next thing I know, it’s 6:30 and somehow I’m thinking that I’ve just lost an hour and a half that I shouldn’t have even had in the first place. No problem…I think that I still have time to write some and even get some good reading in for my grad class, maybe watch a lecture while I’m at it. I was even in a good enough mood to feed the cat without any resentment involved. Showered and ready to go now, open the door and look what my demented senile old feline deposited for me….in the doorway….on some of the last remaining carpet in the house. I’m convinced that she’s bulimic. Now the resentment kicks in, especially after I learn that her continual gastrointestinal habits have depleted our lifetime supply of “Spot Shot”. Now a few choice words kick in which my wife says are futile because she doesn’t understand them anyway. It makes me feel better and by the look on her furry face, I think she knows exactly what I’m saying to her.
Finally….two and a half hours after first having my dreamy thoughts about coffee and the beach, I’m finally here. The sun is warm over the bay, the air is slightly heavy, but breezy with the smell of sea and a slight tinge of fish. The coffee is hot and the fireplace is not, which is all good with me. I sit down here to write, look for my headphones and discover they’ve been left behind. Over the past few weeks this might have pushed me over the edge. Not today, my bearings are back.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

wilderness

I tend to use my writing as a barometer of how life is going for me. As I look back over the years of these posts, I can usually tell what general frame of mind I was in. Whatever seemed to be the general tone of my existence usually leaked out through my keyboard to leave a permanent recording of my mental state. Someday, someone could come along and trace my progression into madness….whatever. Probably some first year Psych student could pull that one off. If the writing can tell something , then I guess probably the silence can as well. Some weeks, the words just run over from my life onto the screen. Sometimes the inspiration doesn’t come so easily. It’s been so long since I’ve even felt like writing. It may be the longest gap since I began this almost 3 years ago. I’m not really feeling very much inclined this morning to write either.
Last week, my wife and I took a short sabbatical to worship the mouse down in LA. We took full advantage of the sun, the palm trees, a wonderful hotel , and a low attendance week to ride ourselves into a relaxed state. We watched people, gave other people something to watch, and generally enjoyed being unplugged and unattached to cyberspace for the week. When we got home we engaged in some gardening and other domestic niceties. I was quite empty by the end of it, but it was a good empty. I highly recommend it.
While I was gone, wanting to feed my love for reading, but needing to not read “work” stuff, I took along a used copy of Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It’s the story of a recent college graduate who gives away his savings, his car, disconnects from his family, and sets out across the country for a couple year odyssey living on his own, eventually being discovered dead from starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. It is a fascinating account pieced together from interviews with people he encountered along the journey and through journals and photos left behind in the wake of his travels. It has also been made into a movie that I have yet to see.
It was the wilderness aspect that was fascinating to me. In my younger years, I was fortunate to spend many days in the Adirondack mountains in northern New York. As remote as some of that experience was, I was never in danger of starvation. At worst, I might have had a meal delayed for a few hours while I pursued some renegade trout up a mountain stream. It hardly compares. I do remember the ability to have a clear mind while in the wilderness. To have no thoughts but the moment, and no worries except the next adventure is something that doesn’t come along often. As odd as it sounds, I had some of that again in the midst of thousands in a place called Disney. Could that have been wilderness? Didn’t look or feel much like the environment I was reading about. But it was peaceful in an odd sort of way. Being not that much of a people person, living an urban existence, that realization is very encouraging to me. Wilderness can be where you make it to be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

innocence

This past week we had the, quite unplanned, unwanted, unnecessary, uncool, opportunity to know what it feels like to be a victim of idiot thieves. We joined the thousands who have been victims of “forced entry burglary”. Our house was broken into on Wednesday afternoon within the one short hour that we were across the street at the office. The general theory is that we were being watched…..like I should feel important or something that low life thieves with bad family histories were watching my life. The only thing that I take comfort in is that, for all the effort they went through to turn our house upside down like a CIA raid, there was not much to be had. I wonder why that is? Oh, yeah, because we don’t have much. Don’t get me wrong, as far as much of the rest of the world goes, we are wealthy beyond measure, and we are grateful and enjoy everything that we have. What I mean is, in the land of thieves, it wasn’t exactly “Oceans Eleven”. Certainly not worth going to jail for, or being very physically injured if either myself or my wife caught them in the act.
I can’t really describe to you how it feels, and we’re certainly better off than many who have gone through this. People who have been through this type of thing say that you feel violated and insecure. I guess so. The officer who took the report was very kind and really felt bad for us. He called us “nice people”. I guess so. It would still be a crime though even if I were an ass.
Stolen from us, besides a sense of security, were the usual things that low lifes, who’d rather take your stuff or mine than get their own, take. I’m sure it was to feed a drug habit or some such social illness. The “nice” people would say that I need to be compassionate, these people are victims themselves….whatever. My practical self would like to pound the crap out of them, one shot for every minute that I have to wait at the department of licensing to replace m stolen license. And I’d like to add a shot for every stupid piece of identification that I need to bring with me to prove who I really am.
Sitting here this morning, consuming caffeine by the beach, I am reminded what was really lost in all of this. Because of an unusual dose of sunshine, there are an abnormal amount of little cuties wandering around the place this morning. The looks on their face are a mixture of wonder, joy, amusement, and innocence. I hope that they can be spared this kind of crap for a very long time. I still remember the time we lived in a small Midwest town and had to explain to a two year old why some low life would have stolen her bike. There is too much innocence lost, way too early, in what we arrogantly claim to be the greatest country ever formed. Excuse me if I’m not always impressed with our version of greatness.
In my Pastoral artist role, I am asked to defend a God who “allows” these kinds of things, and infinitely worse to happen. It’s an obstacle to their own belief they say. My thoughts are simply these….with the evil that permeates the world in the forms that we read about or experience every day, I have to believe that there is an alternative. There is a remedy to evil. I have to have faith in God, because it’s too painfully obvious where the alternative lies. The Book of Books, clearly spells out evil in all of its forms. It is no surprise to me, being robbed I mean. Statistically it’s only been a matter of time….although statistically I’d rather have won the lottery to be honest. My role tells me at times that I should pray for these individuals that I currently refer to as low lives. The best I can do at the moment is to pray for lost innocence.

Monday, April 06, 2009

collage

In my early days of existence, I can remember being asked if I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I came to understand that as a social commentary about the mood that I was in. I didn’t really know what that meant, I mean really, as long as there is floor on both sides for me to step down on, I don’t see what difference it makes which side I wake up on. Unless it has something to do with the olden days, when people were so poor that they could only afford one side of a bed. I’m not sure how relevant that saying was in my formative years. However, every once in awhile, I do feel as if I woke up on the opposite side of the world. It’s not like it’s the wrong side, it just feels opposite. It may be because the first ¾ of my life has been spent on the east coast, I don’t know.
This morning it was sparked by listening to an old Jackson Browne tune on Pandora that I used to listen to quite often in my dorm room during my days at the University of Buffalo. For a brief moment I lost 25 years….until my recently cracked rib brought me back to the reality of 45 years. The interesting thing is that there aren’t many memories from that period, probably lost along with the brain cells sacrificed on the weekends. There are only faces…like 2 dimensional cutouts from some elementary school collage project. I wonder when that happened, the collage I mean. At what point did the three dimensional memories become a two dimensional collage? And whose collage am I in?
Being a pastoral artist, I spend a good deal of time considering the afterlife, and quite frankly the purpose of this life. Early on I used to think that it was all about the afterlife, that the point was to get there at all costs. I have a feeling and a fear that this is when the collage began to form. I’m afraid that I taught others to think the same. When I began to look beyond the experiences and relationships, the images from the past lost their dimension. The lessons lost their meaning. Later in life, I pay more attention to the meaning and purpose of the time I have here. The afterlife will take care of itself. That’s called faith. Jesus always referred to the kingdom as being a present reality, not merely a future promise. I missed that for a time and as a result, I became a collage artist. I’d rather be a sculptor. I’d rather teach others in my community o’ faith to be sculptors. So my encouragement, no matter what side of the bed or the world you wake up on; invest in the day. Become a sculptor. Leave the collage to someone else.

Monday, March 30, 2009

missing

I just put my youngest on a plane back to Boise at the end of her Spring break. A few weeks ago I find out from my oldest that I’m going to be a grandpa this Fall. A few nights ago we celebrated my honeys birthday with a bowling party. If all of these things don’t send me the message that I’m not as young as I’d like to think I am, then maybe the arthritis in my elbow will help reinforce the point. The encouraging thing is that I get to live to fight another day.
I’m not sure if it was the realization that I would now have another family members birthday to remember when memory is getting thin, or the pain in my elbow, but I have just recently begun to have a crisis called “what difference do I make?” If you haven’t experienced it yet, you someday will. You might be in the middle of it yourself. It’s not necessarily an age thing. Actually, it is how I wandered into the pastoral arts profession 20 years ago. It just seems to come when the dust settles and a moment of clarity arrives and the image of your life comes into focus. At that moment you get to really see what your life consists of. Sometimes, there is satisfaction and an appreciation of where you are. Sometimes you might not like the reflection at all, and sometimes it is somewhere in between. It is those in between times when you begin to wonder if you are missing something.
Now I’m not that old, but I am old enough to understand that this is, regardless of what you think your faith might be, a spiritual experience. It is, in my opinion anyway, critical to understand this point. Many lives have been ruined because we don’t understand the spiritual nature of this. Instead, it is seen as circumstantial and therefore we must change the circumstances. People try to change their marital circumstance, their family circumstance, their employment circumstance, their residential circumstance, or whatever quick pick solution seems to present itself. That is the tactic of the great deceiver who whispers that you are not right in comparison to everyone else. The truth lies only in your comparison to what you yourself were created to be, and only your creator can communicate that to you. It is a spiritual unrest and no matter how many spouses or houses or leases you exchange, you will never find rest.
As I said, I’m at the point where the whisper is back, the dust is settling and something is off just a bit. I think that this is more frustrating than being totally off center. Those adjustments are clear….difficult, but still clear. It’s the little nagging, Charlie Brown teacher, voice that I can barely make out, mumbling “You’re almost there” except I don’t really know where “there” is. I know from experience though that I won’t know until I actually get “there”. I’ll let you know when it happens. Until then, it’s still missing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

mirrors

I’m enjoying a few days way from reality while I recover from a mystery illness that has annoyed me for the past few days. As it is completely possible that one of the causes may have been stress related, I’ve chosen a few days away from the source of said stress, namely my office. Anyway, something within me thought that perhaps a trip to the beach and a grande drip from the new purveyors of instant caffeine drinks would be somehow relaxing….. must have been the drugs talking. I forgot that the Tuesday crusaders against peaceful coffee existence would be in force….namely the retired group that has pursued me through numerous caffeine excursions over the years.
One humorous episode that came from them this morning was their insistence that the music be turned down as it was just too loud. This, in the midst of them driving everyone, who didn’t have the benefit of headphones, far from them to the other side of a fairly spacious room. Personally, smooth jazz was far more appealing than a boisterous medical report of recent physical exams. Whatever….I can turn up the headphones, but it took some fairly intense vocals from Mick to drown them out this morning.
I find it interesting that we as a culture are so quick to notice what annoys us, while missing the whole reality of our own annoyance to others. We’re a culture devoid of mirrors I suppose. Here in the kingdom of nice, we strive for consensus and tolerance while we refuse to extend them ourselves. What results is the surface look of agreement and harmony, while underneath, resentment and frustration are festering. I come from another land, far, far away where consensus is not valued as much and sometimes it seems as if rudeness is the native language. While I make no excuses for rudeness, could it be that much of what gets classified as rudeness, is actually honesty that we’d rather not deal with? It might just be an inconvenient truth…..sorry Al. It might simply be an unscheduled look in the mirror. The result may not seem harmonious, but everyone knows where they stand. There are exceptions to that, to be sure, but as a whole, I had a fair assessment of where I stood. You knew your friends and your enemies and could adjust accordingly. It also helped in the humility department. Rarely did I get a chance to think that I was all that, for very long anyway.
I seem to have lost my footing here trying to stand in the midst of so much shifting sand. I imagine that part of what makes leading a community o’ faith in this environment so difficult can be attributed to this whole consensus harmony thing. When I read in the Book of Books about Jesus and his message, he was never one to build consensus. The refreshing thing about him was that you always know where you stood, and you always knew that he was leading in his direction. He had this concept called truth that was, and is in fact, inconvenient to many. Looking in his eyes was looking in a mirror, and as a result, lives were changed. The reality of our lives cannot be altered by turning up the headphones or by reaching consensus with that which seeks to keep us from the mirrors. I may be irritated by retirees who enjoy keeping loud company, but I’ll be there one day, and somedays already am.

Monday, March 16, 2009

dreams


You’ve heard the term “dream job”? Some of you are living it no doubt. I can appreciate the idea of having a dream job. There are some days, most actually, that I think that my existence as pastoral artist within my community o’ faith is a dream job. After all, how many of the rest of you get to do research and study time at coffee shops and caf├ęs? If you do, I hope that the fireplace is working for you Anyway…., dream jobs are one thing, but I hate it when my actual dreams are invaded by my actual job. Far be it from me to complain but, since so much of what I do is for others, I’d prefer to reserve my dream energy just for myself thank you.
I woke up this morning with the annoying realization that my dreams, at least the part that I remember, and who really cares about the rest…, were invaded again by my working environment. It makes it seem that I was working even in my sleep. Now there are some in my community who probably feel that I must have been working in my sleep when they’re listening to me teach on Sunday’s, but I’m talking about really working while I was physically in bed sleeping. I don’t like it at all. I went to bed exhausted last night, mainly from my chosen vocation. That’s ok. As Neil Yong sings, “it’s better to burn out , rust never sleeps” and now that I’m gonna be a grandpa this year rusting out is looking more prominently on the horizon. What is not ok with me is when my chosen vocation chases me into the safety of my flannel sheets.
Some of you, or most maybe, know what I’m referring to. Working in your dreams can be a double edged sword. Besides all the weird Pink Floyd, Alice in Wonderland activity that tends to happen in dreamland, sometimes, in your work/dream, you get to tell your co-workers exactly what you think of them and why….unless you’re a Seattle dreamer then you still fear offending someone. The rest of us will be able to finally tell it like it is. On the other hand, there is always the risk in your work/dream that someone will tell you exactly what they think of you….Seattle or not. I don’t need that crap. I get letters already. I know fairly well what they think of me, I’d like to keep my dreamscape illusion if you don’t mind….whatever.
So I wake, frustrated, still tired, and seeking the sanctuary of a hot, black grande drip, a smooth croissant, and the sun peeking through the clouds at the beach while Bruce and the band are singing “Out in the Street” in my headphones. A tug boat is gliding by, the wind has died down, the snow melted, the retired people have not shown up yet, and my favorite chair was open. If only….a working fireplace….alas, not even in my dreams.

Monday, March 09, 2009

daylight

Being the morning person that I am, I have to tell you that I’m not a fan of the Spring version of daylight savings. It doesn’t help that the first two days of it have come cold, dark and snowy. Part of the benefit of moving to Seattle was to get away from those places where it was still snowing in March. It didn’t happen for the first few Spring times that we were here….just long enough for us to settle in and decide never to move again and now….global warming in reverse. I know, don’t write me letters…global warming doesn’t mean that your place may get warmer, it might mean that the climate is all screwed up. Well it certainly is here and no amount of Dave Matthews in my headphones can take away the fact that I’m sitting at Starbucks on the beach while it is snowing and the only thing matching the daylight savings darkness outside is the darkness of the fireplace inside. But hey, at least we have instant coffee……whatever.
Does anyone know if the theory behind stealing an hour in the Spring and then giving it back in the Fall is still bearing any weight in our culture. We have a tendency of allowing things to far outlive their useful lives just because, “we’ve always done it that way”. I’ve even heard rumblings in recent years of certain parts of the country wrestling with the idea of voting to not observe daylight savings. That, to me, sounds like a democratic process gone completely off the deep end. I mean really, when you decide that you can vote on time and whether or not it does or does not exist. It makes me want to put a measure on the next ballot to declare next year 2030. That’s the year I’d like to retire. Or perhaps, we could declare that next year is really last year and then my clothes would be back in style. Can someone remind me of the practical benefits of daylight savings; I mean the real practical benefits, not the scientific theory.
Perhaps this should have been included in the stimulus package? We’ll appropriate 15 million dollars and create a department to study the effects of daylight savings. I’ll volunteer for the documentary. It can be called “An Inconvenient Truth” or …..wait, that one has already been taken. Somehow I can probably wrap it in as a sequel. It will soon appear in court rooms as a new diagnosis for an insanity plea… Daylight Savings Disorder… or DSS for short. Or more than likely Walmart is somehow benefiting from this I’m sure. Or we’ll have senate hearings on C-span regarding daylight savings reform and its affects on the steroid usage of professional athletes……. Or, Oh sorry, I just drifted off somewhere. It was obviously a dream. I open my eyes and I’m staring at daylight….and no more snow. What time is it really?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

fruit

It’s morning at the beach, Bruce is in my headphones asking if Rosalita is gonna come out tonight and I’m mourning the passing of another great ideal gone with most of the rest of the credibility and self respect that our economic system once held dear. It’s like listening to the great big flushing of a toilet as you watch all manner of honor and dignity swirling down the hole. Listening to Bruce reminds me that at one time in our history hard work and honorable character might eventually bring respect and success. Now it seems we need either the instant fix or the government bailout to keep our self esteem intact which, God knows, is the most important commodity being traded on our cultural floors. It’s bad enough that I’ve lived through this era of cold damp days with dark fireplaces. I’ve now seen the once proud ideal of the Starbucks experience breathe it’s last.
I should have known that something was up this morning when the gulls were shrieking at me in unusual numbers out front. They were trying to warn me. I had heard the rumors, but like a big 3 auto executive, I tried to close my eyes to reality. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s true. This morning is day one of Starbucks “instant coffee” era. My how the great ones have fallen. After studying the rise of Starbucks and the ideals that they once held dear, I am just speechless. This once proud empire was built here in Seattle on first and foremost the promise of good coffee, which has frequently been called into question as it is. The genius behind this whole experiment though has always been not so much the coffee but the experience. Love them or hate them, they established and validated the American version of the coffee experience. In knowing their history, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the determination that built them into a worldwide trademark for coffee experience.
I come here every week and it’s never been for the coffee. It has always been for the experience. I’m a coffee snob and if I want quality, I’ll walk half a block from my front door to Hotwire in West Seattle. I come here for the experience, although the fireplace issue with me has dulled even that in recent months …. I should have seen this coming. Which is why this act of desperation cuts so deeply. They’ve sunk to Sanka. They didn’t just lower the bar, they dug a hole and dropped it in. There is no experience with instant. It doesn’t come instantly. I’m crushed, like their tiny little ridiculous crystals that you just add water to and stir.
Let me be clear on this, the coffee is not the point. The sellout of an ideal is almost more than I can tolerate as I’ve watched the rest of our ideals of free market, cause and effect , self sustainability and self respect being flushed while we just stand around like dogs watching the bowl empty. I don’t think that I’ve seen a more desperate attempt at gaining market share since the ill fated McDonalds venture into selling pizza.
Being of the pastoral arts profession, I tend to look for the spiritual implications in the cultural realities. This one for me is crystal clear as I get prepared to teach on the concept that a tree is known by the fruit it produces. Words and claims don’t mean much and can’t hide much when the fruit appears. Reality always trumps the “ideal”. To claim quality and experience means little when the result is “instant”. In the end, as we worry about bailing out those that a true free market economy would never bailout, we watch ideals fall like domino’s. And speaking of Domino’s, whatever happened to the simplicity of delivering decent pizza in 30 minutes or less?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

yesterday

It’s so interesting to me, if you live life slow enough to pay attention to it, that you can wake up one morning in one part of the country and then literally wake up the next morning in an entirely different experience. I’m back in Seattle, by the beach….again, in the snow….again, with a cold dark fireplace….again, when only yesterday morning I was waking up in a Portland hotel ready to wade through one more day of grad school. A few hours on the road, a few stops to catch up with friends, a few hours of sleep, and just like that I’m waking up to snow. I’ll have to admit that I’m not too disappointed because my pessimistic self thought that we’d not experience snow again this season since buying my SUV last month.
It wasn’t enough snow to deal with 4 wheel drive this morning, but I sure felt the confidence that I could have had I wanted to. So here I am, the sun is out on the mountains and the waves are high and crashing over the bulkhead. It has that really cold, if I fell in I would die instantly, look. You know how sometimes the sea looks warm and inviting, especially in the heat of August. Today is not one of those days. The sea today looks cold, like Bering Sea, “Deadliest Catch” kind of cold. I’m trying to assemble my thoughts from the past several days in anticipation of the task of “shoe-horning” my way back into the life I left behind since last week.
In these past several days I was privileged to share life with some friends from all over the country on the same journey towards a Masters Degree. I wandered through a prayer labyrinth in the sunny hills west of Portland. I briefly joined a band of artists and art students during the 10 day process of firing an anagama kiln in the early morning countryside. I met a new friend in a homeless gentleman named Billy living on the streets of downtown and we were able to share our stories with each other. I pray that he found warmth last night as the snow came down while I slept in flannel sheets.
Now here it is, one day after, and I’m back again, like falling back through the doors of the wardrobe after spending a lifetime in Narnia. Things appear the same, as if time hasn’t advanced since I’ve been gone. But according to the mail that was wedged in my mailbox and the crap piled up in my office, life did indeed continue as usual, with or without me. It makes me wonder how much of life we do all get to impact. Life continues after we leave, no matter where we’ve been. That could be a sobering idea I suppose, except for the realization that we get to make a difference wherever we happen to find ourselves. If anything has changed, even a bit for me, it might be that I’m gaining a better backwards perspective. I’ve always been a, forget yesterday, while looking beyond today, always seeking tomorrow, type of person. I’m thinking that I’m beginning to prefer myself to be a, concentrate on today, while learning from yesterday, not worrying about tomorrow kind of person.
I’ve read that somewhere in the “Book of Books” and Billy reminded me of it on the streets of Portland. He’s a widower with 72 years behind him, not sure of how many are ahead, but not really all that concerned. For him, he’ll spend the day with his memories and working towards his next meal or cup of coffee. That’s as far as he goes. He’s not concerned with Wall Street or Main Street, just his street. I makes me wonder, which of us is better off. Yesterday and today are all he is guaranteed and somewhere along the way, we all need to be reminded of that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

blink

A new week has managed to manifest itself right on schedule. It seems as if I’m still in the last one. In fact, it seems as if I just blinked and 5 years has gone by. I’m heading today for round two of my grad school marathon week of classes. I’d swear that I just left round one, but according to the calendar that was over three months ago. It is startling how fast time flies when you hadn’t really decided if you’re having fun or not. Maybe it’s the over the hill thing manifesting itself in my life. I hadn’t realized that I was over the hill. Thing used to go slower, or so it seemed, like steadily climbing uphill. In my headphones this morning Bob Dylan is singing to me about being “Like a Rolling Stone” and according to every bit of physics that I’m aware of, they pick up speed on the down side.
It all happened in a few blinks. I blinked and my kids were not babies any longer. I blinked and I was living in the Midwest. I blinked and I was back in Syracuse. I blinked and then I was in Seattle. I blinked and my kids were graduating. I blinked and I have a daughter in law. I blinked and I’m taking my daughter to college. According to my facebook page, many of my relationships didn’t make the journey with me. According to the pee on my hardwood floors this morning, my geriatric cat is still tagging along. I know that one of these blinks and she’ll be gone as well, so I’ll put up her senility for as long as we have her.
I’m almost reluctant to sleep any more; afraid that I might miss something while my eyes are closed. This might explain why I hardly take the time for a nap any longer. Its sobering to realize how fleeting life is and how little time you have to make a difference. In the Book of Books, there is a part written by James that describes life as a mere vapor, or something like a mist. I’m well acquainted with that picture living around here. His point is simply this; why do you spend so much time and effort worry, planning, scheming, and even dreaming about tomorrow when there is so much of life to be lived today? You can be so fixed on the future that you miss the present and forget the lessons and richness of the past. It’s all lost in a blink.
For a planner and schemer and dreamer like me, it’s a clear message. I can’t stop the inevitable rolling down the hill. I can, however, slow it down enough to enjoy most every turn of my stone. When I think back to the days of my purposeful rolling down grassy hillsides, I remember that those slow rolls were fairly enjoyable and relaxing. It was the speeding, out of control ones that left me disoriented and wanting to puke at the bottom. I’m trying to relax. I’ll find time to nap again. I’ll not be so worried about another blink.

Monday, February 09, 2009

shimmer

So who said that I’ll never see any more snow once I bought my 4x4? It didn’t take long. Waking up this morning to the little bit of crippling white dusting that unexpectedly came overnight, I said a prayer for those in parts of the country with real weather struggles this morning. After all, I’m still down at the beach, the coffee is hot and wonder of wonders, so is the fireplace. Maybe that body wash I used this morning really does make a difference.
It, and by “it” I mean the body wash, is supposed to make a difference in my life. It is supposed to add shimmer, whatever that means. A friend this past weekend said that she noticed a new glow about me. I think she’s full of crap, she just had some insider information from my wife regarding our personal toiletries. ( I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence) Anyway, I’m never at a loss for amazement when it comes to advertising claims. If I’m ever at a point in life where I need the advertisers to shore up my self esteem or to create a better self image, then I’ll know that I’ve been swallowed by the dark side.
Of course I’m really not one to talk I guess. I’m sitting in here at Starbucks nursing some fairly good but undoubtedly overpriced coffee. I’m sure at this point in my life, the coffee snob in me would never allow me back into “Flo’s Diner, home of the ten cent cup”. I’m sure that there are some things that are beneath me. After all, I have shimmer.
I’m fortunate to be in this point of life. If ever I were to really forget the lure of “the next greatest fix”, I am quickly brought back to earth by the people I get to interact with all of the time. Mostly the less experienced, which is a kinder gentler way of saying younger, remind me of the constant fascination with shimmer. I can still remember the lure of “The Midway” at the New York State Fair, when I was a kid. It was mostly the games that promised incredible, status building, prizes that could never be won. Everyone knew they were rigged, but that all you had to do was figure it out….like the WWF. Then if you did spend enough to “figure it out” and won the 8 foot gorilla, you discover that you had actually paid enough to take an African safari. It is a great system, built on the American dream. Everyone wins….except me. “I got a rock.” No matter how many times I lost my kid savings, the shimmer always called me back, like the ticket guy at the bearded lady’s tent. As my own children grew up on the Midway, I was finally able to see the shimmer for what it really was…quicksand. It still lured them though as it had me, so we set limits, allowed them to be fleeced for every quarter they had, have a little fun in the midst of it, but over time, the shimmer left for them as well.
I’ve realized that it is only experience that dulls the lure of shimmer. I can influence others who are less experienced than I, not because I am “above the lure”, but because I have experienced it and that experience has worn the shimmer like 60 grit sand paper. Some aren’t as appealing as they once were. Some still have the slightest hint of attraction. I now have more empathy, pretty hard to believe but it’s true. I understand more the more the experience wears on my own items with shimmer. I once heard someone say to a group of students, “Don’t demand the right to make your own mistakes”. I thought that to be true at the time….not so much anymore. I wish it were different for people. I wish they didn’t have to go through the fire of their own mistakes, but I remember my own and realize that it is only through living with their own that the shimmer will fade. After all, it’s only 9am and mine has faded already.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

crossroads

I’m in another crossroads kind of setting this morning. You know the kind….dusty flat fields that you can see for miles around, somewhere in the Midwest undoubtedly, four way intersection of 2 country roads, no sign markings and no one around to ask for directions….like I would anyways. Let me clarify….it’s not like its 7 am Tuesday morning February 3rd, 2009 and I have to turn right, left, or go straight. It’s taken me awhile to get here and there’s no hurry to leave this intersection…it’s just that eventually I will have to leave. I’ll have to step one way or the other. I have thoughts and dreams as to which way I’ll go, so it’s not without any idea, but just as it is with many of these crossroads, they may all look the same, but they are far from it. I don’t have experience with this one. Like Gandalf in the mines of Moria, “I have no memory of this place”.
In case you’ve never been at a crossroads, let me tell you that you don’t just wander up to it. You get there in the midst of a whole variety of life circumstances all converging at one point. All of a sudden the dust clears….and there you are. This is where the dust begins to settle for me and I can make out the crossroads. I’m here at the beach, sun is shining, coffee is hot, fireplace is not, typing my very first official document on a brand new, beast of a laptop. I just passed 200 posts and have turned that corner, wondering if it should continue this typing therapy that I engage in every week. I’m grinding out a graduate degree, my wife has gone through somewhat of a career change and is now the hottest barista at our favorite coffee place (no it’s not Starbucks), son is married, daughter in college, senile old cat is on her ninth life. Things have become simpler and far more complex all at the same time. Even my community o’ faith has celebrated a milestone this past week when we opened our new building. All of the swirl of the past several months has begun to settle around my feet….and there through the drifting dust a crossroads appears.
Which way to go? The thing about life is that as long as you have it, there is so much of it to live. Don’t get this confused. It’s not that I need a change. God knows that I’ve had plenty of that for one life time and I’m sure plenty more regardless of choices. I just don’t want to miss anything… so the best thing to do when you get to this place is to sit for awhile. There are many things that I don’t know, because I’ve never been at this particular crossroad before, but I’ve been at enough of them to know that, eventually, if you wait, God will show up, and the path that is set for you will be revealed. If you’re fortunate, it’ll be like lights along a runway. But it might only be an arrow drawn in the dust. Either way, that’s the time to get up and begin walking again.
It’s like this beagle sitting outside my window right now. It’s not his idea of a good time to be hanging around outside a coffee shop waiting…but wait he must. I can see on his face a sort of beagely confidence. He knows that his owner will come. At some point they’ll be off again together, with new hydrants to explore and new butts to sniff. My wait, by comparison, doesn’t seem so bad. Eventually the crossroad becomes just another road and I’ll be off again. Towards 300…maybe? I’m not sure. I guess I’ll know when I get there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

200

It’s been an interesting day so far, maybe not so much for a Monday. It’s kind of like the Twilight Zone. I woke up this morning to clear skies….that should have been a clue right there. I came outside and started up a new, for us anyway, vehicle that we just bought yesterday. Down at the beach, there’s plenty of cars and even plenty of buses, but not many people at all. Inside Starbucks, the fireplace is actually on. … Now I’ve realized that something is definitely wrong. I boot up this trusty laptop only to have, for the first time ever, the file transfer wizard appear asking me if I’m ready to transfer my files to another computer. This can’t be good. It’s very confusing to me until, upon opening my “Office” files, I discover that, at the moment at least, none of them exist any longer. That could be bad. Now I understand the file transfer prompt….too late for that.
Interesting…… This very weekend my wife and I have been praying for realignment, to focus on what is important, to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t matter. We have even talked about my needing to put this laptop friend to rest and begin life with a new and improved model. Today, this day, this post is actually my 200th post to this blog. It’s a milestone of notice for me. Some have said that I should write a book and that they’d actually buy it…at a family discount of course. This is my book. You can read it for free. Scroll back through the years and enter in to my life if you are exceptionally bored. Almost 3 years ago I sat down and began to write weekly about my life and times, and I’ve not stopped. I’ve written through graduations, vacations, relief work in New Orleans. I’ve written though birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and weddings. I’ve written about surgeries and back problems, excitement and exhaustion. I’ve written about faith and friends and family. You can look back through the pages, it’s all in there.
And as I drove down this morning I was anticipating writing something for the occasion and where we’re at in life and to reflect on some new beginnings that I begin to focus on today. I didn’t realize that all 3 years of my previous life contained within the walls of this overgrown keypad would vanish like a vapor. Maybe it’s part of answered prayer. It just may be because, while I should be beside myself with anxiety, after all, these writings are just a small part of the entirety of my existence contained in here, my calmness reflects some type of attitude adjustment. I mean really, I have a whole semester of grad school on here and the first two weeks of this semester. I should be giving this thing mouth to keypad resuscitation. The paranoid part of me could settle on this just being the worst of some very bad Monday’s. I’m not choosing to go there. After all, let’s be honest, if the fireplace is on here at Starbucks, and the sun is out in the winter, both in the same day, then this day offers much promise. And it’s been 200 times I’ve entered and left the digital confines of my blog. So new cars, new focus, new computers, new files, it all fits in. This is my life today, and I’m just happy for the chance to start again.