Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keys

What began as the promise to a new day with coffee and A chocolate croissant in my new home away from home quickly turned into an hour long search for the key that would enable me to get to my caffeine refuge. It's interesting that one little piece of a specifically carved alloy can determine one's destiny. When you find the right one you can open closed doors, move inanimate objects and begin a journey to a destination that you didn't even realize was possible before turning it. I can, in a sense, become the legendary "key master" of Ghostbusters fame.
So I'm looking on a new year with a sense that there are many destinations possible by the end of it and I hold the keys to many of them. I, like many of you, travel in circles where I, depending on the keys held, can influence the destinations of many lives beyond my own. As a Pastoral Artist responsible for the direction and leading of a community o' faith, the keys I choose to turn or not turn can influence hundreds. As a husband, a father, and a "pop pop" there are more precious lives influenced by the keys that I hold, just as I am affected by theirs.
You can fill in your own blanks as to whose keys you hold and who holds yours. Some are delusional in their thinking that they create their own destiny. Not so...you are certainly the main influencer, but someone out there holds at least one of your keys. I'm not sure how you may feel about this, but for me it makes life so much more interesting and engaging. It keeps me from sitting on the bench. I am part of the story. I can turn a key and change course forever. I can open a door to unknown place or start the car to an unknown destination. That ability is very appealing, however knowing that it's not just me thrust through the door or launched on a journey is also very sobering.
This past year has been one of the most engaging along my journey so far. But I still have many keys, and a whole new year in which to use them. I just hope that I take better care of them than my car key.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conflicted

Ok... So I've been enjoying the relative peacefulness here for what, 3 weeks??? Guess who just showed up? If you've read my earlier posts you know the answer to this one. That's right... A new group of retired "women" walkers are now holding court in my upstairs sanctuary. Nice...merry Christmas to me. The week just keeps getting better and better.
A few days ago our source of video fulfillment decided that it couldn't do "It's a Wonderful Life" one more time. The little red light just blinked mockingly in the void. Experience told me an the manual validated that it was time to call the Sony service man. Right...like that's going to happen. What it really means is check the papers for the best sale on a new one. There will be no repurposing, reconditioning, or redeployment for the beast. I call it the " beast" because it literally is. Lets face it, when you need a chain hoist to get it up the stairs and then a mini crane to load it on the truck, it qualifies as a beast....and no I'm not exaggerating, that is what it took to get it out of our family room and onto a truck. It was one of the original Sony HD flat screens that weighed in at 480 pounds, give or take a hundred.
I share all this to get to the point of this, which is to say I'm now conflicted. A big part of me has been looking for ways in which we can cut back on the runaway train of luxury costs to be able to put more resources in play for things more meaningful and possibly eternal. I'm wondering how much of what I have is really meant to be "mine" anyway. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking socialism or any of that...its just that there is so much more that could be done with whatever I can turn loose to the source of it anyway...that being the Creator.
Another part of me has these collections of very cool movies that should never be viewed on anything smaller than a hi-def 42 inch screen. I have arguements debating all day long. I can get a new unit so cheaply now. In 27 years of marriage we've never bought a new one of our own. Even the "beast" was given by a friend. I'm entitled aren't I ? Doesn't that qualify me from some exemption? But still... The money we'd save on our satellite alone could provide for 2 more children in a developing country. Neal Postman once declared that we, as a culture, were/are entertaining ourselves to death. I think that's true, and not only to our death, but while others are dying.
I just need a sign...something to guide me...I was intending to pray about it this morning in my new found refuge...that is until the "walkers guild" showed up for their morning meeting. Maybe I'm supposed to give up coffee too? Now there's some serious resources.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Occupied

So it's now week 3 here and I'm pretty much settled in on my new place of inspiration. The final push has been made this morning as I finally succumbed to the chocolate croissant...exceedingly good plan. My intent for these next several weeks is actually to simply post things from the past as I wander through my archives and edit along the way for an attempt at a book during 2012. However, the spirit of the season has begun to mesh with the spirit of protest and I'm beginning to get more and more unsettled about how this is all beginning to be played out in the realm of influence that I have, that being pastoral artist.
Since I live in a city where the occupy movement has had a significant presence, I am perhaps more enmeshed in these thoughts than others of my profession in other areas of the country. The best way that I can process is to write, and so I've set out to write down some of my thoughts. Many are not going to like and or agree with me and that's entirely ok. We can still be friends.
Here's the basic conflict for me. I am having an increasing number of conversations with people of my faith persuasion who are trying to get me to identify with the movement because, in their opinion, if Jesus were here he would be marching with the protesters. I'm sorry, but some well thought out people have tried to sway me that way but I just don't buy it. I have no doubt that Jesus would be amongst the people serving and loving them in some way, but the Jesus that I read about in the Book of Books was not the one to join in protests. He was not the political subversive that many liberal scholars would have us believe. In fact, his general opinion that's recorded for us is that, in the realm of government, you have to play the cards you've been dealt. That's my interpretation of "give to Caesar what is Caesars". That same sentement is supported throughout the rest of the story as well. The reason that so many have come to this Jesus as political/social subversive ideology is that they read scholars who have that ideology and naturally convey it through some very talented and convincing writing. My encouragement...go back to The Book. The only institution Jesus was concerned with subverting is the religious institution. Don't accuse me of being anti scholar or oversimplifying. If I thought that way I wouldn't have spent thousands of dollars and years of my life on graduate seminary studying these and other writers. I'm sorry but the reality of it all is at it just isn't there. Jesus yielded to the ruling systems of the day, hence a crucifixion.
Now don't get me wrong on this. God and therefore Jesus are absolutely concerned about poverty, oppression, and justice. He absolutely wants us to speak for those without a voice. I believe that this passionate belief on this subject, which I also share, is what leads many down the road of spiritualizing the protest process. Here's the thing though, and this is where I fall at this point in my journey. He is so desperately opposed to that for those who are created in His image that he wants the others of us, created in the same image, to stop talking, stop marching, stop whining, and do something about it. I mean really physically go and do something about it. Stop deconstructing and start reconstructing. People of my faith are so good at observing all that is wrong with the established communities of faith, but they are terrible at being part of the rightness. They would rather stand on the outside and find fault when what we really need is that same passion engaged in the solutions. Yelling loud enough to convince someone else to do it for you is getting us nowhere fast. I think the same thing is happening here in the occupy process. We want to yell and block and march and occupy. The motives are pure but the methods are not really helping those who we claim that we are fighting for. Don't believe me? My challenge is that if the very same people, expended the very same energy, not to mention the economic demands that these protests have incurred, on the very real people really living very real stories of poverty and want, then you would see change in those people's lives. But know this...it is change that happens one life at a time. We want sweeping, instant change to processes that are hundreds of years in the making. I am obviously biased. I am in the fight for clean water access for all people. Do you know what I see in the Occupy movement? I see millions of dollars that could really be invested in the fight against poverty being needed for crowd control, law enforcement, sanitation and everything else. I see resources that could flow to people dying of water born diseases being flushed down the toilet to uphold people's right to free speech. So in the end, our free speech is upheld, but very few have bothered to personally connect and use our own speech and presence to serve these people. You want to find Jesus in this? It just might be that he's been left behind to care for the "least of these" because the rest of us are pre"occupied".

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas and Sand

Week 2 in my new neighborhood...I have to say that I'm still liking it. It starts off slowly and then gets busier as the morning progresses...then it's time for me to leave. It's a perfect arrangement...economic success and sanity for me all in the same morning session. As the season marches on I am trying to be more creative in finding the right mix of social and personal time. In the land of pastoral artistry, there is precious little "personal" time, yet at the same time it is essential to my role. It's a paradox of sorts.
I'm sitting here in the loft area of my newly adopted hangout and contemplating the greenery of the season. I'm wondering who the first person was that thought it was a good Christmasy thing to do to hang some form of green stuff to bring out the spirit of the season. I'm sure that Wikipedia could give me some clues, I'm just too lazy to investigate. I mean really, for my own heritage remembering the birth of "The Baby", wouldn't something in the browns or tans work better communicating the real thing? We spend a good deal of time effort and cash on providing snow for the occasion, wouldn't sand be more appropriate? One of the curiosities that my wife and I have seasonal discussions about is the tradition of "flocking" Christmas trees that takes place on tree lots here. If you don't know what that is, basically it's a christmas trees version of a spray on tan. It doesn't naturally have snow that stays on the branches, unless you live in the fields, so you can get spray on snow that will stay. To a native of the northeast and snowy Christmases, this is just wrong. I'm told it makes it more authentic. Authentic to who? Jesus wouldn't recognize your noble fir sprayed with the magical white stuff.
In the quest for a more authentic Christmas feel, I believe that for next year I am going to investigate some new options. For one a ban on flocking will be put in place. I am proposing a repurposing of all the flocking equipment. It seems to me that the white crap that gets spewed all over the greenery could just as well be sand. Out here you can get your trees imported from the Blue Ridge of North Carolina through Williams-Sonoma. I am considering opening up a lot with trees imported from Israel. I'll provide the sand

Friday, December 02, 2011

Inspired

So this morning I have finally clawed my way out of the routine and familiar and am exploring a new possible source of morning inspiration. I've left The beauty of the beachfront for the early morning serenity of a neighborhood. It's a new place actually that I've had my eye on for the past few weeks as I've driven past on my way to the familiar land of corporate caffeine. There is great promise here. The din of the countless groups of retiree's has been replaced by the friendly chatter of the baristas. The corporate bakery has been replaced by some local ventures. There are no big comfy chairs but their is a library like loft to enjoy. It seems as if most people wandering through the doors at is time of day are neighborhood people on their way to other morning destinations. Gone is the frantic rush of commuters trying to replenish for the day before the bus leaves the stop. Gone are the high school girls seeking social coolness with their frilly iced drinks on a December morning. Gone are the polite, yet rushed acknowledgements of the staff...replaced by actual conversations.
While I'm still in a chain, it has a local feel...quiet and peaceful...and did I add good coffee to go with it.
It occurs to me as I have been considering my move to a more peaceful place that I have put on my consumer filters. That pains me to say, considering that, as a pastoral artist operating in the spirituality of consumerism, I really tend to push back on it....when it adversely affects me that is. The honesty of this quest is that I left my previous environment because it was successful. All of the signs of success, the noise, the lines, the chaos, were the
things that I've become tired of. What I seek is a quieter, more peaceful existence and in the land of retail, that generally indicates or inevitably leads to failure. If not failure, it's at least not as beneficial to the bottom line. Don't get me wrong...it's of course in by best interest to see this place succeed...just not too much. I may have to move on. It is after all, as a good consumer, all about me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

space

Starbucks again on a rainy morning, although I do have my sights on another space in the near future….stay tuned. I’m only really here for the view anymore. Everything else has faded for me here like the last credits of a late night movie. The coffee is not a catch. My chair is gone…and there’s only so many cheese Danish that I can consume before someone will need to break out the paddles. The community feel is gone for the most part.
Take this morning for example. I stopped for gas and ended up just minutes off my intended schedule. That’s all it took for the curious space phenomenon to shift into high gear. It has always been interesting to me that while Starbucks and others like it have built an empire on creating community, when you actually come into a place, unless it’s a prearranged group, people have a specific method of insuring that they aren’t seated next to someone until absolutely necessary. Individual tables tend to be occupied, every other one, not next to each other. Seating with multiple chairs at one table have people at every other seat, even if it appears that they might be together.
Like I said, take this morning or example. Every other seat at every section of seats was occupied. As I, and nearly every follower behind me walked through the doors you could instantly sense the dilemma. Who was going to break the cycle first…and next to whom would they break it? I was the first this morning, and once I did, the pattern was off and every seat began to fill. It was still a reluctant filling, but you could sense that everyone now felt permission. The only one oblivious to this social experiment was a curious toddler of about 18 months who doesn’t yet understand social boundaries. I envy him. I found myself jealous that he could just bop around the room exchanging toddler greetings and staring like someone who suddenly found himself in a land of giants.
It makes me wonder at what age do we develop space issues? Now, to be sure, some adults have never acquired space issues. We all know these people and we tend not to invite them along on outings with us. They also never really developed the inside voice either. I’m not sure though when this felt need to separate by at least one degree came about. I just find it ironic that this morning, in this place at least, I was the one to break the pattern.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leaves

In the Fall I tend to be in a sort of self evaluation mode for one reason or another. It has come naturally for me over the years. Perhaps it is watching the leaves Fall to the ground and being swept off that helps me to wonder which leaves of my past year have fallen and been blown away to insignificance, which have taken seed, and which have been taken home to a place of prominence by an eager wondering preschooler.
I wonder what will last and what will will disappear, what will be remembered and will matter and what was wasted. It's important to know such things when you are in the realm of the pastoral arts. It can be a good measure of worth, whether or not your influence is lasting.
Interestingly....or not, in my profession, I find it is likely the "other" things that have the greatest longevity. By other things, I mean things that are not seen as "spiritual"by the pious saints. The evidence I have for this is simply the difficulty that I have investing in the "other". I can find plenty to occupy my time in the expectations of a community o' faith on it's leader. I can program myself and my community into a virtual spiritual death. As I understand the workings of the deceptive one, I understand that his goal for my life is to keep me from what matters and immerse me in what doesn't. If this has an ounce of truth, then what really matters and what really lasts are things like time spent with my wife and a community friend wandering last night during the Art Walk. It is coffee with
friends. It might be stopping in on a local business owner to shop. It is holding the hand of a 2 year old princess. Those things may not seem spiritual, but I have a sense that they hold tremendous value because they are so hard to come by.
I spend so much time figuring out what to say. I justify it by the thought that it is what God would have me say. This makes it alright...this time I spend with my head down and Pandora on. I get paid to have my head down and the door closed. It's a bizarre place that we put ourselves in... We meaning pastoral types like me. Don't get me wrong...I am not negating the value of the art of dissecting and communicating the sacred words in the Book of Books. I just think that we've gone about it in a closed system that misses the value of time spent in the lives that are valued by the Book.
So the leaves come down and are blown down the block. They come and they go and it's not for me to determine. I just need to be with them.

Friday, November 04, 2011

fast

So even though everything was seemingly wrong for it this morning, I’m back here on my blog for a visit. It’s a bit like sitting down with an old friend. Which is probably just code for I need a real life. It’s been more than a month since my last post here. I’ve spent a bit more time with the main focus of my life @ my other blog. I was getting a bit stale so I felt a need to spend some time with this venue that has proven to be a friend and a support in times of transition over the years.
The return of Fall has ushered in some fantastic views of the snow covered peaks across the water. This place is full of people seeming to be going nowhere fast. It’s an all stages of life day. Dad’s proudly clutching their infant daughters, old guys discussing local politics, self absorbed individuals tethered to cell phones, and the rest of us plodding along on keyboards, are assembled for one cosmic period in time. It’s a bit amazing to consider that this exact combination of people in this exact place, or any place for that matter, will never happen again. This thought reminds me to enjoy the moment. Once it’s over, everyone here, created in the image of God, will be out the doors into their own journeys facing endless combinations of gatherings of other individuals, all created in the image of God. This thought reminds me to marvel at the creativity.
I’m beginning to realize just how comfortable I have become with what has become of my life. I’ve fallen, nearly imperceptibly, into the familiar. As the Fall breezes are stirring the leaves, something stirs in me again to remind me that no matter how comfortable I may be, this endless dance of interpersonal relationships with others created in His image continues on. What I was sure of last year, last week, yesterday, becomes a look ahead in anticipation of what might be different tomorrow. Some things I want desperately to hold on to; things like time spent with a 2 year old. Last year she was being carried around in a carrier, and next year she’ll outrun me…but now she holds my hand. And at the same time she has grown beyond memories, I have a renewed experience with a newborn grandson. I get to see his first smiles and satisfy his insatiable appetite simply with a steady hand on a bottle. Too soon he’ll be holding my hand while his cousin will be learning to ride a bike. On it will march.
So I sit here, with a seasonal red cup filled with Thanksgiving blend, and I wonder “what’s next?”. Each and every time I roll, literally, out of bed, paths are set before me. I get to choose. Actually, my soul mate and I get to choose. The one thing that has never changed is how excited I am for every adventure that we get to experience together and we have had many. Sometimes it consists merely of watching the leaves change and enjoying the familiar. Sometimes it is developing and appreciating what is and what has been. And sometimes it is following the whispers that there is more in store. The thing about this time on earth that we’ve all been granted is that it shouldn’t be wasted, because it never returns. In the words of Ferris Bueller “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

trauma

It seems as if the more I feel the need to write, the more I struggle with any sort of coherent flow of thought to put down. Sometimes it seems as if I am just chasing a cursor across a screen trying to catch a fleeting bit of insight or meaning and it never seems that I can catch it. I’ve even put down the Ipad this morning and returned to the old standby to see if that has any effect. I’m trying to build in a few moments of space to enjoy the beach, enjoy the caffeine, and to allow my mind to wander free on a fabulous Fall day in Seattle. It still seems hemmed in though.
My mind drifts to my 2 week old grandson Aiden as, at this very moment, he is enduring the first major trauma of his life on this earth. To protect his privacy, I won’t say any more than that this is one procedure that the male species best participates in as a baby…and the younger the better. On a grander scale of the traumas that he’ll most likely face along his journey, this one is relatively minor, but at the moment, I’m guessing that he’s not seeing life that way. Someday he’ll be able to appreciate what is being done on his behalf today, but not on this day. On this day, he just knows pain and discomfort.
Trauma is like that I guess. It can be a very subjective occurrence. It is all about context and experience. A great deal affects what some people see as trauma and others see as a growing experience. Some people use it, others wallow in it, and others still struggle back and forth between growing and wallowing. In my realm of influence, as a pastoral artist, I deal with the whole spectrum of people, their traumas, and also their responses to them. The paradox is that, while I am helping them to put theirs into perspective, chances are that I might be going through one or two of my own. People have asked me about pastoral loneliness…That’s where the pastoral thing can get a bit lonely.
I’m sure that, right at this moment, it would be difficult to explain to Aiden why this is happening to one of his most precious parts. He is not going to care, even if the doctor gave him a complete scholarly dissertation on the procedure. The hardest thing to explain to people of faith, in the midst of their trauma, is that they are not immune to it. Somewhere back in time, things got lost in translation as far as faith goes. Someone began the rumor that faith trumps trauma and if you have it, you won’t have to experience it. That is a lie from the pit of hell. The authority that we have on this issue is the “Book of Books” and it is one case study after another of good people going through bad things. The key to each is not what happens to them, but rather what they did with the experience. So it is with us. I see so many who are stronger from perfectly horrendous circumstances. I see others who are victims of relatively minor discomforts.
In the end, Aiden will neither remember this nor list this on his list of life’s 10 biggest challenges. Right now, it doesn’t matter. But he does have one saving grace. When it’s over he gets to rest in the arms of a loving parent. I know him well enough to know that this is all that he’ll need to get through this time. It’s really all any of us need.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

forward and back

So today is my birthday… and to celebrate, I’ve wandered down to the beach to grab some coffee, a cheese Danish, and some time with my laptop to ease into everything else that I need to be about today. As far as days go, let me just say that this one is spectacular. There is not a cloud in the sky as the sun shines over the waters toward the mountains. It is one of those days, as Fall approaches, that begins with just a touch of a biting breeze but promises 80 degrees by mid afternoon. I guess that I couldn’t have scripted a better one, regardless of the occasion. This day isn’t about presents for me. My best present arrived yesterday afternoon with the safe delivery of an 8’ 3oz grandson. This day isn’t cake or ice cream or cards or balloons. Although I’m not opposed to celebrating at a happy hour with my gorgeous wife.
Birthday’s, in the past several years, have been like the center point on a teeter totter for me. On one side I get to stop just briefly and remember all that God has allowed me to experience this past year. On the other side, I want to imagine where He might take me in this next. I get to set down and own a dream or two as I reflect on those that came true since last time.
I have to admit that this last one will be hard to beat. In the past year I’ve been able to fall deeper in love with the one who really does complete me. We’ve been part of two journey’s to bring clean water to villages in Guatemala and Honduras. We spent two full weeks on our own wandering vacation/exploration up the West coast. We’ve spent this past year watching our granddaughter become more enjoyable every day, and yesterday experienced the joy of the birth of a new 8 lb adventure named Aiden. I’ve been honored to fall more deeply in love with the community we live in and the community we worship and serve with. I’ve begun a new sideline business/hobby to help other churches and pastors fall more deeply in love with their mission.
So what could I possibly have to look forward to moving forward on the teeter totter from here? Well… I guess in all things I’d just like to be more of everything I’ve been able to be. I’d like to be more of a husband, more of a dad, more of a grandpa, more of a friend, a son, a brother, a pastor. I’m not sure what it all looks like, but I guess I’ll see along the way. I’ve done just about everything that I’ve wanted to do with the life I’ve been granted so all that is left is to do it better.
Practically speaking… there are 3 things that I’d like to accomplish in the next year. Number one is that I’m going to finally get a tattoo… actually both my wife and I are…the only obstacle has been and continues to be the question of “what” to get. Number two is our next well drilling trip to Central America and along with it the ability to reasonably converse in Spanish. Number three is that I’d like to begin finally writing a book that someone will publish before my 50th birthday, so I’m on a two year plan. So another year starts right here and right now … see you on the other side of it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Early

It's a bit early, even for me, to be down here at the beach. Morning came easy for me today, which is just as well since I have 2 days worth to get done in less than one again. The fog, or "marine layer" as we prefer to call it, is still fairly heavy over the water. The buses have just begun assembling to shuttle their cast of characters downtown. The question looms, "what does this day hold?", for all of us. It's still too early to tell.
Things look promising though. There is an orange glow in the haze where the city usually sits. I imagine a sunrise covered in the shroud, optimistically letting us know that the probability is good for another clear day. It's that time of year, late summer, when things look promising, but the verdict is still out. A new school year approaches...new teachers, new subjects, new friends...so much promise of what might be. It's still early though. One never knows, there could be things so much greater than anticipated...joy and challenge...laughter and tears. I'll take laughter for 500 Alex.
It seems like I'm in that phase everywhere I turn. I'm approaching another year older and deeper in debt. Really it's just another year older...my wife keeps us out of debt. I'm about to become g-pa for the second time. It seems like just last year that my little girl was married. Oh wait, it was just last year. In my life as pastoral artist things are gearing up for Fall. It's like the calm before the storm. Many new faces making new commitments. It has all the signs of being the best season yet as a community of faith, but I've been around long enough to know that it's still too early to know how much early promise will turn into actual practice.
The fishermen are out now and drifting across the bay. They don't question. The marine layer is just fine for them. The bus schedules are not a priority. For them it's never too early to tell. After all, everyone knows that a bad day fishing is still better than a good day at the office.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tides

It's low tide this morning. I love low tide. You really get to see what's beneath the surface. Most mornings I come down and everything looks glassy and smooth, waves rippling on the sand in even patterns. Not this morning...today it's ooey and gooey and slimy and green. Tide pools hold little creatures hostage. Crabs scurry for cover to elude the gulls. It's open and raw and honest. In a few hours the tide will come back in and cover it over again and for a time the illusion will hide the reality. The longer I've been in the pastoral artist profession, the more intrigued I've become by the process of the tides. It has become so much a visual image of the invisible process of an honest pursuit of Jesus.
I'm not even sure where in history it began. Perhaps somewhere before the dawn of time someone first articulated it innocently enough. Maybe it was in the form of encouragement. It might have been an innocent admiration. It could have been a form of optimistic aspiration. Somewhere back in time the notion was put forth that if you claimed a life and relationship with Jesus himself, then you were good to go. The hurdles came down. The temptations ceased. One brain was plucked out and another inserted to the extent that there had been both a personality and intellectual exchange with a better model. There was nothing to do, it was done for you. This, in my opinion, was the most powerful and insidious lie ever put forth on humanity.
Just when the hope of the world was delivered, literally, into our midst, a lie was whispered which became the single most effective weapon ever launched to neutralize and marginalize the message of the cross. And the lie is this... "the tide is never low in the life of a Christ follower". You were washed. You were cleansed. You were covered. The ooey gooey of the ocean floor doesn't exist for you any longer. Christ followers believe it and either create a false and unattractive facade or they perish in the strong undertow that they refuse to acknowledge. Skeptics believe it and are repulsed by the glimpses that they get when the tide inevitably goes out.
The truth, or the whole truth, of the matter is that the relationship with Jesus provides us with the hope of high tides and the promise that, in the end, we will be covered...but until then we all lie with the reality of an ocean floor and all that goes with it...and it's ooey and gooey and beautiful and messy all at the same time. The good news is that, knowing that I am created in Gods image, and acknowledging my love for walking in the low tide, I can only imagine that I inherited this from Him.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy

Yesterday marked the celebration of 27 years that I have been privileged to be connected with someone who really knows how to live a journey. For a good share of the day we were wished "happy" anniversary from various friends across the country. It was a good day. It was actually a "happy" day. It wasn't a blow out celebration that we have enjoyed some years. It didn't cost a great deal of money. It was just two people enjoying the journey and some simple pleasures that we have come to appreciate during within the chapter of our lives known as the Seattle years.
This morning, as I look back on the day and the years, I am contemplating the idea of "happy". I wonder, when we offer it, if it represents the idea of simply enjoying a day, or does it reflect more than that. We say happy birthday and I have to imagine that, for the most part, it means celebrate the day. Have your cake and eat it too. I know that, speaking for myself, I am not really happy that another year has passed and another years worth of crap is clogging my arteries. It is an occasion that I'd rather be looking backwards than forwards. My back hurts, my arms hurt, my knees hurt, happy birthday! I'm one year closer to dirt...or ashes. But an anniversary...that, for me, is a time to look forward.
It is when I look in a mirror and wonder how someone who looks like her could ever find someone like me desirable. Then I feel as if I just won a free pass and I determine in my heart to do a better job of making sure that she finds me desirable. I start thinking about the gym ... I said thinking... And I start thinking about my clothes, and my manners and my attitudes, and I determine to do better. I want to look forward, to the celebration next year, to feel like I, in some way, deserve someone like her. This past year may have been her year of benevolent love for the somewhat unlovable. I don't want to tempt fate a second time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Push

As I pulled in here this morning it occurred to me that it's been 3 months since the last entry in this chronological journey. I'm not even sure why I'm starting back up again, to be honest. I guess that maybe I'm needing a place to process again all that transpires along my journey. It's a way for me to stop and smell the roses along the way. This year there have been so many and sometimes it seems as if I've barely noticed.
Honestly, I've lived more this year than most people live in a decade. As one adventure rolls into another and age prevents my memory from always keeping up, I'm left with the fleeting dream images that are sometimes so clear when you wake up in the morning, only to disappear with the morning coffee. It's a shame really...to determine to live a better story, make a decent attempt at it, and then forget where you put the pages.
So here's to living a better story. I can tell it's possible if you set yourself towards it. The trick is to establish what would be considered a better story. It's a simple process really. The better stories are the ones that last...the classics...not those that you read in college literature classes these days, I mean the ones that used to be read. The ones that ACLU members hide in their closets because they can't bear to throw them out. They are the ones with the lines that most people could quote and they'd probably be horrified to actually find out where they came from. They are, may I say it... Eternal.
Living a better story means simply answering this question. " in five years, will this have mattered?". Most of us are caught up in stuff that wouldn't make that cut. I just came back from drilling a well for a village in Honduras. That is eternal stuff. Yours doesn't have to be that exotic. In fact most will probably not be. How about just be the parent that your kid needs you to be? In five years, will it really have mattered that you worked those hours to buy that stuff? I can tell you that my kids are now grown and couldn't tell you what they did or didn't get growing up, but they did get time and time is eternal. It's the better story.
Here's another that is close to me. Being a church follower is not living a better story, being a follower of Jesus...now that is the story to be lived. Following a church is scheduled and subjective and honestly, a decent amount of the time, fairly boring. Being a follower of Jesus is wild, unpredictable, dangerous, and challenging, all hopefully wrapped around a vibrant church life. I'll let you in on a trade secret though, from the perspective of a pastoral artist. If we had more Jesus followers and less personality followers in our churches, we would once again live in the pages of a best seller.
It happened once upon a time. I believe that it can happen again. I'm betting my story on it. We just need a little push.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Destiny

Back again at my home by the sea...ok so it's only a temporary home enjoyed periodically and it's not technically by the sea...but it is salt water all the same. Officially, in all honesty, which is a good trait for a pastoral artist to have, I am once again situating myself down at alki beach, in the great city of Seattle, on the shores of puget sound. The last time that I posted from here was in early February. I found myself in survival mode from grad school and life. The good news is that I survived. The bad news... Well guess what? There is no bad news.
Part of the reason for my sabbatical from here is that I was becoming far too cynical for even my own good. When that happens, it begins to be reflected in my outlets...those being either my teaching or my writing. Since the teaching/preaching thing is a paying gig, I needed to focus on that and then let the other go. At the time I didn't even know if I would ever come back. I will tell you that it's been calling to me ever since. So here I am... Seems it's a destiny of sorts for me.
Speaking of destiny, I've been in a discussion of sorts lately around the idea of destiny. My gorgeous wife, a few friends, and myself are in a small group where the subject matter is currently the idea of destiny. I'll admit to not having had much time to consider the topic, which is a shame really. The more I seriously wrestle with the idea, the more that I have to believe that destiny shapes everything about me.
Here's how I would describe it, although I will warn you that this is not really deep, nor is it necessarily theological. Destiny is the accumulation of choices, some of them thought out, some of them in the moment, that you have made, leading you to this exact moment in your life. I am on alki this morning, sharing these ramblings on my iPad because of some calculated choices made between last night and a few moments ago. The reason I have this blog at all is because of a random conversation with a friend, visiting with us years ago, about a good place to explore my love for writing. The reason that we were having that conversation is because he was visiting, and the reason he was visiting was because we had moved to Seattle and the reason we had moved to Seattle was because of a chance contact on a random web page which I was on because of some unsolicited interest in my pastoral abilities.
On and on it goes...life in reverse, full of choices made by me or for me. Choices that cannot be remade and choices that have all led me to this moment in a Starbucks on the beach in Seattle. Some call it random. I call it destiny. One of the questions posed in this discussion was "what fears keep you from making a choice to change your destiny". I realized that I am blessed with not having any at the moment. My wife and I feel the freedom and security to do anything that we might possibly feel led strongly to take on. I could, if I felt led, go anywhere, do anything, be anybody that I was feeling called to go, do, or be. That's not to say that we don't have hesitation. We absolutely do...her name is Lily, our granddaughter...and now a grandson Aiden is being added to our hesitation list. But hesitation is not fear.
So what does it all mean? It means that for now, for this moment, in a Starbucks, on a beach, in Seattle, God has me right where I need to be. I'm a grandpa, I'm a dad, I'm a husband, I'm a pastor. It's my destiny. What's yours?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

finished ... almost

While many of the rest of you are still wrestling with wind chill, snow blowers and shovels, I’m enjoying the view near the fireplace as the sun peaks over the skyline and gleams rose colored on the mountains across the water. It’s a pretty exceptional day for a place rumored to be the gloom and gray capital of the world. Te ferries are making their trek to the islands and the cargo ships are heading north towards open water. It’s a fairly normal day here on the beach, with The Civil Wars playing in my headphones and people lined up for their morning fix.
I just finished another round of grad school discussions online and now I need to begin to put my mind into the realm of my paying gig, that of being pastoral artist to a wonderful community o’ faith. Wednesday morning is my transition point. I’m off on Mondays and I enjoy spending the day with my princess Lily. Tuesdays are a sort of admin, make sense of my office, day. Wednesday I transition into what is really going to be necessary for the week. And so it goes until Sunday morning when hopefully it all comes together for us and we move one more step towards the people God has called us to be. In the midst of that I have to remember that I’m a grad student, a husband, a friend, a community member, an artist, a dad, and a grandpa.
This forum to write and vent and wonder and dream has been a valuable part of that existence for the past number of years, but I’m at the stage of thinking that, as with all good things, it might just be time for this to end. I have other projects going on and other forums to participate in. I have a new venture just about to leave the starting blocks and I’m just thinking that it is time for this forum to at the very least transition into one of my other lives and head in a new direction. I am beginning a new project that was actually influenced by some of the meanderings of this site. It’s my own book project that I’m calling “Theology for the Rest of Us”. At least that will be the subtitle. It’s a book inspired by the collision of my spiritual musings and my journey into the academic world of Seminary and higher learning. When I say it’s my own .project, I mean just that, it’s my own. In other words, no one else cares at the moment. I don’t have a publisher or an agent or anything beyond this laptop to put it on. It may never leave the pages of cyberspace… that’s fine with me. I’m looking for it to be useful.
I have come to the realization that most of what comprises the rich world of theology is communicated in such a bland, academic, and outright boring format that it is beyond a normal persons comprehension and caring. My goal is to present the story of God and the study of all things God (aka theology) in a format through which His greatest creation can enter. I don’t even have the site where this will all be coming together identified yet. Next week, as my last post on this forum I’ll have a link for any who might be interested. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

tomorrow

One of the things that I most appreciate about life is that it is different every day. Don’t misunderstand… some days just suck. The promising thing though is that there is always another that might suck less. It also could be magnificent, beyond anything you could have imagined. It could happen. This day is hardly the latter, but it could pass for one that sucks less. In the life of a pastoral artist, you look for inspiration and promise wherever you can find it. I’ll let you in on a few trade secrets. Some days in the life of one attempting to be a follower of Jesus, it’s not all Joel Osteen. My own personal opinion…with a smile like that, either he’s not really a pastoral type or he has Rembrandt for a tattoo artist.
Here’s some insight into reality. Some days it’s hard to find Jesus. Some days the last people I want to be around are other people who claim to follow Jesus. Some days the sermons are just terrible. It’s not a reflection on the message…strictly the messenger here. Some days babies die and grumpy old people live. Some days people who have never stepped foot into a community o’ faith and think that God’s last name is Damn take great pride in schooling me on how a “Christian should act”. Whatever…. many days it’s all I can do to figure out how humans should act. I’m expected to always have the answer and to never be annoyed at those who don’t. It’s assumed that I’m a walking infomercial for all things faith related. It’s more likely that I’m an episode of “Renovation Realities”.
Don’t take this as complaining. I love my life. I wouldn’t trade what I do for any real job that you could think of. This is more a reflection on reality when you are trying to follow Jesus lead day in and day out. It’s the same for all of us, paid or not. Just look at his life. On Sunday he’s riding into town like a Superbowl hero and on Friday he’s hanging on a cross. Why would I think that my life would be any different.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

moments

Did you ever have one of those moments that forced you to question the real value of all of your efforts? What I’m talking about is a moment that draws deep into your motives and methods and causes you to ask the underlying, “why do I (we) do all of this anyway”? It is a profound “What’s the point of this exercise” reality check that helps one look deep into Alice’s mirror and wrestle with what is real and what is not, what matters and what doesn’t.
Let me just say this; if you haven’t then you need to, everyone does. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the ones that we need to have do not happen with our choosing. They are thrust upon us unexpectedly. They are often induced by tragedy, either our own or others who might be close to us. For me, in my position as pastoral artist of a vibrant community o’ faith, it often comes as I witness it in the lives of the people I serve beside.
My problem is that I am a planner. I live in the future and I’m always planning on how we’ll all get there. I plot courses. I develop teaching. I seek new hills to climb and oceans to cross and I wonder relentlessly how to encourage people to join the journey. I am the one running ahead and then stopping on top to yell back, “come on, you can do this”. Most of this happens in my mind, somewhere in the future, and with the illusion that it matters and that people have nothing better to do that humor me and to run towards the sound of my voice. I am terrible at living in the moment, within the realm of everyone’s everyday existence. Ironically I think that this enables me to be halfway decent at what I do. But on the other hand, while I’m running along ahead like a five year old in a field of dandelions, those who I envision following me are living real moment by moment lives.
And here in lies the problem. These people…. In fact people in general… have to live in their moments. And in their moments, babies don’t make it to term, jobs are lost, relationships fail, and spouses die without warning. In short, what they thought was their future turns out not to be so and they are faced with the deep black abyss of uncertainty. And I’m left realizing that I’ve probably missed the point one more time. It seems almost heartless to be chattering on like a preschooler about the exciting things we’ll get to do in the months to come when some don’t even know how they’ll get through this day. It seems pretty pointless to be the one dancing on the top of the hill yelling down excitedly about the view to people who are too wounded to climb it or care about it in the first place. What they need is for someone to walk alongside, propping them up when necessary, and telling them that they’ll make it and its worth it and they’ll not let go till they get there.
Tell me whether or not you think this is true. All of us, to one degree or another, are in the place that I’m in. We have our lives planned out…or at least how we perceive them to be. They generally don’t turn out that way. We can dream about what it looks like on the top of the hill, but all we are guaranteed are the moment by moment climb up the side of it. Live in your moment, and live with others in theirs…and don’t be in too much of a hurry to imagine what it looks like from the top.

Friday, January 14, 2011

selfish

Holy crap I am out of sorts this morning….how’s that for a way to start a reflection for the day? One thing that speaks for itself is that it is Friday and I am just getting to sit down and write. I’ve made attempts the past 3 days to keep myself in a balanced equilibrium and to maintain the holy grail of my schedule, but here we are. This week, as school has begun along with some critical points of life in my community o’ faith, I have felt like the voice track in a Godzilla movie. I always seem to be one phrase off of real time. Just in case you were wondering, it doesn’t work well for a driven, perfectionist type of individual like myself.
Just as I thought that perhaps all was lost for this week, I opened my class site and God delivered once again in the form of conviction…not that I needed any more conviction, really. It’s just the way He chose to deliver it. In the opening of my section of journaling, a quote jumped out at me from Parker Palmer’s work Let Your Life Speak. In it he writes “Self-care is never a selfish act-it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” I’m doing ok with the selfish part, but self care has been lacking.
So I’ve never really considered my life as a gift, however it seems to be true that it is the only thing that I have to offer others. I happen to believe that we are on this earth for two things, and only two things. It is to offer ourselves in relationship to our creator and to offer ourselves in relationship to His creation. In that light, it’s only when my own self is fully functional, that I have something to offer either area. It encompasses a great deal of area, spiritual, relational, emotional, intellectual, professional and all. Yes George Bailey, yours really can be a wonderful life.
I don’t know about you, but for me damaged goods can be a bit annoying. I don’t mean used, or previously used, or gently worn, or whatever the correct terminology might be appropriate. I mean the “broken with no attempt at putting back together before being delivered to me” stuff. This applies to stuff and to relationships. Each of us has the responsibility to make an attempt at “fixing our stuff” before trying to pass it off on others. Gone through a bunch of relationships? Quite possibly you are the common denominator. Filtered through a number of “career changes”? It might be you. It might not be, however we owe it to the next relationship, employer, spouse, whatever, to at least stop long enough to look in the mirror.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t always like what I see, and it’s not just because there seems to be more gray than there was. So allow me to seem a bit selfish while I take on a little more self care. Trust me, in the long run it’ll probably be the least selfish thing that I can do.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

refills

It’s dark down here this morning although there is also an unusually large number of people for a Wednesday morning. It’s generally an older crowd which now, unfortunately, I’ll have to admit to belonging to. Some days it still seems as if we’d just moved here, which would mean I was still in my 30’s. Other days, like this day, it seems as if that were a whole lifetime ago. Pink Floyd is in my headphones and I’m realizing that it’s now considered an “oldie”. Whatever….. It’s a new year and another year in which I can still live and work circles around my former age group.
Joanne and I celebrated the entrance of a new year by treating ourselves to a trip to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. It was actually our traditional Christmas gift of an experience that we began last year during our Advent Conspiracy campaign within our community o’ faith. Instead of shooting the moon with relatively short lived gifts, we treat ourselves to a memory building experience and then give the rest towards a new well being drilled for a village somewhere in the world without clean water. This year the well is in Honduras and our experience was in Victoria. It’s a beautiful city located on a beautiful harbor on the Island. It still has plenty of British influence, left over from days gone by, and was a very helpful lift over the hump of a new year.
While I was there I had an experience that I rarely have anymore.