Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Princess

It’s a gray morning down at the beach as I get caught up on some of my work that is screaming for attention. I’ve been serving a princess these past few days and these other things have taken a back seat. Like so many others of royalty, she is not as much concerned with my agenda, she has her own. As I would assume it would be in any other circumstance where one would get to serve royalty, it’s been a privilege to accompany her as she explores the world that she’s only had 7 months experience with. We have this honor, Joanne and I, every week, and every week it’s a new lesson and new experiences. I’m not sure who is learning more, her highness or her servants.
It is true, what someone has wisely said in the past, “Grandchildren are reward for you not killing your kids when they were younger”. Every moment is a wonderful adventure of learning and self discovery….. and I’m not talking about hers. I think that the greatest learning along with plenty of relearning is on the side of the grandparents, and the princess is just happy to be able to teach. Some things that I have learned or been reminded of these past several months are as follows:
• Poop happens … it just does and it is most often experienced after having just changed to a new diaper.
• Sleep is overrated … but enjoy every minute that you can get, especially on a snuggly lap of someone you love deeply
• Bath’s are meant for fun, not for washing… so splash all you want to
• Peaches are way better than peas … even if they do start with the same letters
• It is much more fun to see where you’re going than where you’ve been … facing backwards tends to lead to a deep sleep
• Chubby and toothless can be very attractive … hope for my future
• It may not look all that good, but taste it anyway, you might be pleasantly surprised … or not
• Whoever invented the “Onesie” has never had to wear one …. Or put one on
• There are a lot of infomercials on late night television
• Sweet Potatoes can be a colorful accessory
And so it goes in our house … life as you’d come to expect it. Grandpa is the transportation and Grandma is the entertainment. Each and every week I look forward to another round of lessons with Princess Lily and when she’s not around, every bit of me misses her…. Except for my back.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

push

Another welcome spring morning down here at my caffeinated beach front view. I don’t have much of an agenda after having just finished a required posting along the way of my perpetual quest for higher learning. I’m at about the 2/3 mark towards completion of a degree and it seems as if I’m once again at the “push through” point. It’s the place where you finally step off momentarily to consider the costs, financial, emotional, and physical, and weigh them against the “imagined” outcome of having this paper in hand. I’ve been in this place before. It’s when the question “What in God’s name am I trying to accomplish here?” comes front and center. I am too far from the origin of this journey to clearly remember what I was trying to accomplish, so it’s time to just put my head down and push for the finish. Maybe if I just fall forward, the forward progress will carry me across the line.
This time around I’m 16 years older and not sure of the reserves that I know I’ll need for the rest of this quest so I’m trying to dig deep and remember what this is really all about. And I will tell you that it’s not all that helpful when you are in the midst of a grouping of classes that you are having a hard time engaging in…. the ones you have to take as opposed to the ones you want to take. Anyway… I can honestly say it’s not about money, unless by that you mean paying out lots of it. Some get advanced degrees with pay raises in mind. That doesn’t necessarily work in my realm of pastoral artist. It doesn’t matter how many papers in handsome leather bound folder frame things that I have. People are really only interested in my charming personality and selfless demeanor…. And did I mention the humble servant part…. whatever. I can honestly say that it’s not about a greater level of respect. Most will never know that I have this degree when it’s done. That’s because of the “humble servant” part.
I used to think that it would bring a greater competency to my role as pastoral artist. That is the what the voice in my head kept telling me as I was filling out the applications and buying the first round of books. I really don’t know if that is true or not. Some have told me that they notice a difference in some of what I do but I’m not really sure if it’s the schooling of the past two years or the “schooling” that I’ve gotten over the 20 years in this profession. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of benefits along the way. I have gotten connected and established friendships with people from across the country that I never would have enjoyed. I am learning some invaluable stuff from some invaluable people. I get to spend a decent amount of time in a very cool place called Portland. And then there are always the books… I’m a book junkie and this only validates my insatiable buying of books and my membership at Barnes and Noble. It just may be that this, like many undertakings in life, is more about the process than the outcome. If I’ve learned one thing it is this; Enjoy the journey. I’ve always been an outcomes based individual when all along the way God is trying to teach me to enjoy the process. I may get nothing ultimately out of the end product, but I can surely enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

frontier

It’s another good looking morning at the beach. Spring is here, at least for a day… the coffee is hot… and an Eagles concert is playing on my laptop as I think back over the last two weeks since I’ve gotten down here. Our 3 week DIY reality show “What the Hell Were We Thinking?” has just officially ended last night. I might add that it was very successful and we are more in love than we were when we began the kitchen renovation experiment. It all looks fabulous and my wife did an amazing job of managing the dream throughout the process. Last night was the first official meal as well as the shakedown cruise for the new stove and both were a great success.
In the midst of this process, we took a much appreciated break in Sun River, Oregon which probably saved us both mentally and physically, even though we were nearly snowbound during our run through one of the mountain passes. You’d think, since I’m a native of upstate New York, that snow in May would not get to me, but it absolutely does. You’d also think that, as much as I’ve travelled through these passes in Spring, I’d be better dressed for the possible random blizzard, but I wasn’t. I was thinking it a bit more than ironic that the night before we left, we were watching a segment on the Donner party disaster in another snowy mountain pass.
I will say that, along with a much needed physical break from the remodel, our time in Sun River was a great mental break as well. Unexpectedly it became a time where I was able to answer a question that has been plaguing me ever since we moved here 10 years ago while passing back and forth through these mountains. This area was known as the western frontier, Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail and all that. I find it difficult enough to travel it by car and every time I do, much to my wife’s questioning of my sanity, I always ask the question “Why?”. Why would anyone, in a wagon of all things…. without suspension or air conditioning or heat, or surround sound, or rest rooms… continue across some of the most desolate areas that I’ve ever seen. Why would you stand at the edge of an unending plain, after just crossing the previous unending plain, immediately preceded by a desert of sage brush, not to mention the wild canyons filled with raging rivers, and decide to continue on? What was it that drove these people to drive their wagons into the snow covered peaks and through the passes to somewhere they’d never seen?
I think that I finally found my answer through a time travelling volunteer at the High Desert Museum between Bend and Sun River. This gentleman, dressed as a traveler in the mid 1800’s, answered my question, just as clearly as if I had gone back in time to join he and his family. He shared very simply, yet very profoundly, that there was nothing for them back in Central Illinois any longer. After having lived there for four years I can concur. Anyway… He shared that, for his family, times had become hard, and that the expected and assumed comforts of life were no longer there for them. They had lost the security of employment, of health, and even home, and that, on the suggestion of a family friend, they had set out to start over. Basically they were going to keep going, based on the hope from the stories of people who had come west and had come back to tell others about the promise that it held. It occurred to me, for the first time, the desperation that drove these people to follow the hope experienced and then shared by someone else. Personally, I think that I’d have been tempted at times to find one of those story tellers and beat them to a bloody pulp. This journey, as difficult as it was, offered more promise than the lives they had left behind…. And it was all based on the stories of those who had already gone.
This revelation has challenged me, one more time, to consider my own story and how it might offer hope to some who are falling victim to the uncertainty that lies in everything they were once certain of. Those who are of my persuasion, as followers of the creator of The Story, hold great hope for those who have lost theirs. Many that I know hold tenuously to the empty promise of perpetual employment, health and home, while deep inside understanding that there must be something more. Those people of the 1800’s imagined that there must be something more on the other side of the endless canyons, deserts and mountains. But it took the encouragement of those who had already made the journey, coming back to offer confirmation of the ache in their gut. The trouble is, too many of my kind… the followers of Jesus… never come back. They prefer to live in their newfound bubble, afraid of anything that might corrupt it, or too selfish to look back. For any reading this who may have already made the journey, don’t forget that you once stood at the edge of the desert and wondered. And just like you, there are people standing there today, and it just might be that the only thing between them and a new frontier is an encouraging story from you.