Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter

All is quiet and as it should be at the beach this morning. The rain has stopped. The ferries and the busses are doing what they do. My Starbucks chair has my butt in it and the fireplace is still on. This morning kind of resembles the calm before the storm in my world. I’ve just come from a week of mom visiting from the East, a daughter’s wedding shower, a few more days of princess Lily, and generally not much structure or schedule whatsoever. It’s been a decent time of head clearing…not that I can afford that any. Now it’s time to focus on the week that lies ahead.
In case you didn’t already figure it out…this week is fairly big in my world. Being a leader in my community o’ faith, I tend to look at things like Jesus walking out of his tomb as a big deal. And just as a bit of defense for my beliefs, this one event is fairly unique in the world of religion and faith. We have the only faith whose originator and leading figure walked from his tomb. The rest are just….. well…they’re just dead. Sorry… I don’t know any other way to put it.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this fact tends to be overlooked by people of my tribe while we wallow in stupid things. History has plenty of stones to throw at us for the ignorant things that we’ve been a part of. Yeah I’ve just about heard them all… the Crusades, the Inquisition, colonialism, homophobia, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson… blah, blah, blah. My response is simply this; What does any of this have to do with Jesus? What does any of this have to do with the historical reality (look into it) that Jesus did not remain in his tomb? Answer…. Absolutely nothing. What it shows is what happens when idiot people who claim Jesus forget this event central to our faith. We ought to be different. We ought to be but unfortunately too often we’re not. Although, let’s be honest in this…most people ought to be different because of what they say they believe in but they’re not. I live in the most “environmentally conscious” part of the country. It’s also, with the possible exception of Texas, home to the greatest concentration of SUV’s that the world has ever known. Car pool lanes remain relatively traffic free right alongside thousands of single occupant vehicles containing people who’d rather be unemployed than share a ride. We ought to be different, but too often we’re not.
I’m beginning a social experiment this week. I won a one hundred dollar bill last week. This week I’m going to see how far some goodness might go, originating from this bill…one person at a time. I’m going to undertake this “pay it forward” kind of thing, not for myself, but in honor of the one who walked out of his tomb 2000 years ago for the sake of idiots and ingrates throughout the ages. I should be different because of it. We should be different because of it. I apologize for myself and others when we’re not. It doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus.
This Sunday may pass you by like the Easter Bunny. You may have little regard for people like me because of past history, and that would be understandable. All I would ask is this; that you wouldn’t base your opinion of Jesus on your opinion of those who claim to follow him. The reality is that this Sunday, many of his “followers” will decide that they can’t even get out of bed. However, the rest of us will celebrate the fact that he got out of the grave. If nothing else, this event should give overwhelming evidence of the need for Jesus. We ought to, all of us of any faith or lack thereof, be different. We ought to, but too often we’re not.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

storage

I’m up and moving just a bit earlier than usual this morning. I’m picking up my daughter at the airport from an early flight. She’s flying in for a Spring Break visit and one of her wedding showers. Another transitional week in my life I would suppose. At least it means that I’ll need to clear out room in the garage to store the gifts until they have an apartment. Let me pause here to give those of you who think that once the “kids are grown” that you can downsize your living arrangements. I know, as my parents before me know, that this is not a good idea. Your job as a parent is to reside in a home larger than your children until such a time as they buy their own home. In the mean time, you become a “U Store it” outlet. Some of you, with children more numerous than myself, may have to own your own franchise.
I need to do a good job with the garage arrangements. Besides the wedding stuff that will begin to arrive, I also happen to be storage for a Spring garage sale. And don’t forget that we actually have some of our own stuff that seems to get lost in the mix. The other day, as I was shuffling through stuff out there and trying to make a preliminary assessment of the situation, I came to the realization that I’d lost 20 years somewhere. I’m out there pulling boxes and bags off of shelves to see what needs to be saved and what might have “gotten lost in a move”. Anyway, I begin to uncover an assortment of items stamped with the Fischer Price logo. It’s like a time capsule. As our kid outgrew them and went on to cooler and more expensive things, my wife encouraged me to “hold on to these for our grandchildren”.
Some of you don’t understand how ridiculous this sounds to a guy trying desperately to find space for the craftsman toolbox. Like a good husband, I honored the request. Through five moves, totaling about 4000 miles these remnants of childhoods past have accompanied us to places most of my tools never saw. They survived a dozen garage sale seasons. They came across mountain passes like the Donner party, except they survived. They’ve fought off mold and spiders and rats and….. well you get the idea.
And all of a sudden, quite without warning, 20 years vanished in the time it took for me to open a box. As I peeled back the tabs on the box, I realized that it’s time for them once again. Princess Lily will experience the same joy that they once brought to her dad and like the “ring of power” they will draw all children unto themselves once again with the promise of being the cool kid with the retro toys. I have to admit that it was a little unbalancing to open a box and be flooded with memories of 20 years ago when I couldn’t remember 20 minutes ago. It was like a U- haul induced Alzheimer’s moment. It’s possible I guess, that as I spend time this weekend making room for more boxes, I’ll catch glimpses of these past 20 years. And hopefully, this new stuff going in won’t be around here for 20 more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

IKEA

Another fabulous morning is beginning at the beach with some extremely hot (think lawsuit) coffee, big comfy chair, and a fireplace that is actually on. It’s quiet here in my little corner of the world. It’s still dark out thanks to daylight savings. I can still see the lights of the ferries as they shuffle people from the seclusion of their islands to exposure of their city. The 37 is shuttling a new group of weary workers downtown. I could feel guilty, but I’ve given it up for lent.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather this morning. I think it’s the residual effect of princess Lily’s less than peaceful sleep from the other night. It gives me an even greater appreciation for parents of younger children, although I must admit to enjoying the seniors tour version of parenting that is otherwise referred to as grandparenting. I just wish that it came with better instructions.
Speaking of instructions…. as I have been leading my community o’ faith through a study in the book of Ephesians, we are being led to the reality that what’s contained on these pages might be known as life instructions for Christian faith. When asked what insight that they are gaining from our journey through these pages, it was overwhelmingly agreed that the impression is that “this faith thing in incredibly hard”. It might not be the most theologically astute answer, but practically speaking (and I always look for the practical) they are right on the mark. My response is, to quote an unknown source “of course it’s hard, if it weren’t hard then everyone would be doing it”.
As one who teaches from it, I’ll be the first to admit that one of the most difficult parts is in interpreting the Book of books, also known as the Bible, also known as the instructions. Let’s be honest, just taking the time to read the instructions is a monumental task. It just may have something to do with the reality that the Christian faith is more readily accepted by women than men. After all, with any given project, who is more likely to try to wade through the instructions, and who is more likely to just toss them with the packing material and head out on their own….just sayin.
Anyway….having been to IKEA a number of times over the past few months, I am reminded me how impossible these instructions can seem to the faint of heart and the unmotivated. You’ve not lived in American culture until you’ve assembled something from IKEA. The tagline for IKEA is “You don’t have to be rich, just smart”. They’re not talking about the wisdom of purchasing their multilingual erector sets either. Their talking smart, as in the ability to put something together completely from worthless instructions and a brilliant inner mechanical intuition…and then to be satisfied when the end product reveals a number of unclaimed screws and bizarre, MacGiver like, tools. They have even given up on printing words with their instructions…they just use pictures.
One of the greatest realizations that a human can ever come to grips with is that faith does not come neatly packaged, nor does it come preassembled. It is a promise of extra screws and somewhat tenuous connections that somehow are going to, at least on the outside, look pretty decent. That is why it is called faith and not assurance. The only thing that we can have assurance in is faith. All of us have lives that are held together with contact cement where screws should go. Many have hinges that need to be shimmed and some of us need special tools to shore up one side or another. The bad rap that IKEA stuff gets is that “it won’t last”. If you count longevity as constructing it and then using it relentlessly without any additional attention, then you’re right…it won’t last, but then again neither would you. In psychiatric circles that’s know as denial. Something purchased there will need adjustment and extra bonding assistance from time to time. The doors might sag and the drawers may hang up, but with some love and attention, it can be back to functional.
I personally believe that IKEA is another metaphor for how we ought to honestly be living our lives, especially when it comes to matters of faith. If you encounter someone who tells you they have absolute assurance of their own faith lives and how they should be lived, I have some advice for you. Run. Or as the Bible puts it, “flee”. I don’t care how much they paid for it, it’s not true. Unless you have screws left over and a bit of wood glue added here or there, it’s not an honest life of faith. I know some who would look down on the IKEA side of life. At least it’s honest.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lily

So like Bret Favre, minus the athletic skills and the unbelievable salary, I’m coming out of retirement. It’s not all that its cracked up to be. I went on this sabbatical of sorts a few months back because I found that I had run out of things in my brain to write about. The schooling, the schedule, and life seemed to have taken its toll and I was running on empty. Now I am finding that I need to write again to maintain a sense of balance and sanity, and we all know how important that is. Also, believe it or not, this early morning journey to the beach every week gave my week an anchor and sense of order. All of you who know me can appreciate how important that is in my life. It gives me a schedule again.
I’m happy to share, as I begin this journey once again, that my chair is right where I left it, and miracle of miracles…. The fireplace is on this morning. Must be under new management here…or else it is a definitive sign that economic recovery is upon us. Either way, the sun is out, the waters are blue, the mountains are snowy, and my coffee is very hot.
It’s Tuesday, which is a change for me anyway in my writing schedule. I now have a beautiful little reason that Monday’s are no longer free. They are dedicated to the ever lovely princess Lily. My wife and I have the joy of having our granddaughter from Sunday evening until Monday evening, so the entire 24 hours is dedicated to her. She is part of the reason for my need to write again. I am learning and being reminded of so much from my time with her that I just needed to put it somewhere. She helps me have a greater appreciation for parents and parenting. She reminds me often of how I must look to God and the great lengths that he goes to on my behalf.
One of the major changes that she has brought for me is that I find myself living more carefully. I choose my words more carefully before I speak when she is around, especially when speaking to our idiot cat. When she is with us I must consider another schedule above my own. It’s not that I have to do this, but if you’ve ever been around her when the bottle time has come and gone, you’d adjust too….and quickly. She unknowingly helps determine even where we live. I’d seriously consider really becoming an urban dweller, complete with an apartment with a roof top garden and all. However, we have a house with a yard and she can have her own room. It’s grandma and grandpa’s house. There just doesn’t seem to be as much romance in grandma and grandpa’s apartment. When grandma and grandpa get an apartment, it’s probably going to mean assisted living time. I’m tired, but not that tired. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. I change her clothes, her diapers, her messes. I change my clothes when her messes become mine. I feed her and bathe her and rock her and walk her and try every thing that I can think of to make her smile. Most of the time she appreciates it. Some of the time she tolerates it. Occasionally she doesn’t like it at all.
It has occurred to me recently that I have someone in my own life who loves and responds to me even more that I do to her. No it’s not my wife, even though she is amazing. It’s not my caregiver either, I’m not yet that old. In the reality of my faith in a God who has done all of the above for me and more, I can find an appreciation and a parallel. For all that I’ve ever done for her, he does for me and more. For all that I’ll continue to do for her in her life, he is and will continue to do for me. It occurred to me yesterday, as I took her for a walk down the hill to the store, that, like my own kids and my own wife, I’d give everything up for her. And in that moment, I was reminded once again, that he already did.