Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Are You, Christmas?

It's weird how fast Christmas has come upon us yet how un-Christmasy I feel tonight. The days seem as though they've turned liquid, flowing down insanely fast to this most holy of days. I don't know if it's been the simply pitter patter of life that's crafted it's own beat that's muffled the passage of time or what but I do know that it's gotten here quick!

Yet, as I'd mentioned, I'm sort of missing the Yuletide spirit. Okay, that's not entirely true; I've got a bit. But, I don't know, I just kind of feel like I keep missing the true spirit of Christmas. I had great intentions of truly celebrating Advent this year but that aforementioned pitter patter got in the way. So here we are, almost at Christmas Eve, and the bulk of my worship and remembrance has occurred in hurried prayers on the way to work. Sad.

The thing about it is that I love Christmas. It's probably my favorite time of year with the whole deal. I love the cool air, the shopping for loved one's, and the simple vibe of cheer that seems to permeate things. Yet, for whatever reason, I'm a little out of the loop right now. Now, it could just be that it's been a long day and a crazy week but I'm just saying...

I don't know...I could ramble on and on incoherently but you don't want to read that and neither do I. So until I've something useful to offer, I'll just shut up...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's been said that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. Interesting....

Writing for Wrecked

I've added a new site to my writing resume, Wrecked For the Ordinary. Ironically, it was through one of the artists we reviewed over at Soul-Audio that I came to know of the site but they seemed to have a mindset similar to mine. And no, Mom, they don't pay. And yes, I probably have the largest resume of non-paying gigs in history. But at least someone likes my work...

Here's the first review I've done for them of Jim Palmer's Divine Nobodies.

On a Different Note...

Despite my frustration over the overplayed Mariah Carey Christmas jam this year, I've snagged a new track to my Christmas favorites. It's Dan Fogelberg's "Same Auld Lang Syne." Have you heard this? What a wonderfully written song! And poignant to the point of being painful. Here're the lyrics:

"Same Auld Lang Syne"

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling christmas eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didnt recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldnt find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didnt like to lie.

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasnt sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne..

.The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain --

Simply beautiful.


So it's officially 3:21 AM and yes, I am awake. I don't wish to be awake; in fact, I wish that I was snug in my bed, dreaming of a fluffy cloud land and various nighttime pleasures while allowing my body some much needed rest but, alas, I am not in control of the universe. Actually, I'm finding that I'm in less and less control of pretty damn near everything these days and it's driving me a little crazy. That, and that pesky early mid-life crisis thing and the fact that I can find zero time to myself these days.

I don't mean to be cranky but, like I said, it is 3 in the morning and well, I'm just not all sunshine and roses right now. I think that part of this bit of insomnia is simply my brain working overtime, pondering, thinking, compiling. It's frustrating, this particular phase of life. I want to have some greater sense of direction, of knowing at least which way is North. Yet, I feel like I've landed in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and am watching my compass spin wildly with abandon. And I hardly have time to even look at it.

In good Christian fashion, because I always have to assume the possibility that my sleeplessness is being caused by Someone greater than me, I turned to the bible this early, early morning to see if God had something to say. I guess, in a way, he did. Here's the passage I ended up with:

Ephesians 1:22-23 (The Voice) : "God has placed all things beneath His feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all."

There was more prior but, well, I don't feel like typing it all out right now. Suffice it to say that it was a prayer of the Apostle Paul for the church at Ephesus to embrace the wisdom of God and so on. I want to embrace the wisdom. I want to be a part of something. But something is holding me back. Is it pride? I don't know, maybe. Is it fear? In some ways, yes. I don't want to experience the hurt again. I just don't know.

Yet, I know I have to do something about it. Erin shared with me last night that she really misses being in church. My kids need to be in church. Yet, here I stand, reluctant. Why is it that I can love God yet find His people and places so frustrating? I know it's not fair to paint all believers with so wide a brush but I just see so much crap. And I know I contribute my share as well.

God help us all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

...is for them to stop playing that "All I Want For Christmas Is You!"

It's a good song but, come on! Every three songs? I can't take that much Mariah!

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Perhaps it's the Christmas season or just my recent frame of mind but I found myself thinking about my children a bit this week. I'm petrified of the day when they lose their innocence. Now, by legal standards, neither of them are really all that innocent. I mean, they've fully indulged in the wonders of lies, assault, and other fun stuff that kids learn right out of the womb. Yet, I'm talking more about that full-on, veil lifted from the eyes painful revealing that shows you how much darker the world really is. Now, if that sounds a bit, well, cynical, it is.

But I hope that day is a long time coming. I hope that my son will still love playing with his Star Wars toys and zapping bad guys for a long time to come. I hope that a game of UNO with his dad or a 30-minute episode of Blue's Clues will continue to bring delight to my kids' eyes forever. I fear so much for that time when they become over-busy, cynical (yes, like me), and scarred. The freshness of their youth, the wonder of the world around them, I don't want them to ever lose that.

Yet, how do we as parents help them to avoid those paths? Do we help them to avoid them or simply follow along that it's just the way the world works? I don't want to shelter my kids because that's simply foolish, and quite frankly keeps them from so many other wonders that they may experience. But I don't want them to just jump out there either, for as soon as they do, I fear they'll be swept up into the rat race, desensitized and run dry. It's a quandry for sure.

As I was thinking about some of this, the words of Jesus came to me:

Luke 18:15-17 (MSG) : People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."

What is that simplicity? What is it about a child that makes them so readily available to the Kingdom of God? I think it's the ability to focus, to allow the one thing to really become your all. And to maintain a sense of wonder, of trust. We, or at least I, have lost that to some degree in this hurried world. Who can we trust? The government? Our churches? Our friends? Our jobs? All will let us down eventually. All will ask more of us than we truthfully feel we can give. And we will run ourselves ragged looking for acceptance, money, pleasure, and more.

Yet, the little child, while still having so many of these same needs, learns to trust that he will be provided for. He doesn't lose sleep over where his next meal, his next set of clothes, or his next toy will come from; that's Mom and Dad's job. He also finds glory and wonder in all that is around him. The simple sculpture of sand in a sandbox provides amazement for the child as does a simple song or time spent coloring. And the darkness of this world? Again, Mom and Dad will protect us!

I mentioned focus but neglected to flesh it out. If you've ever been around a kid or, God bless you, have a child who's set his or her mind to something like, say, going somewhere or doing something, you know what I mean. This thought, this idea, becomes the driving force for that child. It never leaves their mind, nor their lips, as they constantly remind you of it. And as I think of our relationship to Christ, and our reluctant reliance upon him, this is the quality that we most lack, that of focus. We need to learn to make our relationship, our time, our desires, to be his and his alone. Only then when we do that will we find true peace.

It's funny because so often I'm excited to be teaching my kids new things, letters, numbers, words, and more. Yet, it seems, I'd do better off learning from them.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Great Heaviness

I'm sensing a theme here as of late within my updated blogs and it seems to be one of heaviness. There's a sense of weight, and an ensuing fatigue that seems to be following me here as of late. I'm not entirely sure why that is but it certainly seems to be holding fast.

This week, it's been the idea of "church" that's been looming over my head. Perhaps it's the time of year, this remembrance of the Incarnation and it's beauty that makes me long for renewal, for that true sense of community. I don't know but the concept, or at the very least our lack of involvement in the concept, keeps nagging me.

"Maybe you're afraid," you're thinking. You're right; I am. There is definitely a part of me that is scared to dive back into that fracas. We were wounded by the institution, something I keep trying to lay down and constantly find myself picking back up, absentminedly running my hands over the scars, but that's not entirely it. I'm just not sure where I stand anymore.

We've been to church off and on since our ministry time, and in those times have tried our best to be faithful to the fellowship we were attending, present time excluded, of course. Yet, in those times, we just haven't been able to connect. And truthfully, it just feels hollow, wasteful, almost worthless. Yet, there are all of these other people who lock in, who seem to get "plugged in" and have these life-changing experiences. And this is coming out of communities that (yes this is spoken with cynicism) by and large tend toward fairly shallow teaching and the like. What gives?

I realize that I've just entered into a rambling state here (truly the mark of a great writer) yet bear with me. Yes, part of me is scared. Yes, as I approach the entrance to the building, my chest tightens up and my defenses go up, to some degree. Yet, there's more. There's an idealogical change that's taken place in me over the past several years that I can't quite put words to yet will here in this meandering blog.

I'm not sure that I believe in the institutional church anymore. I love people, usually, but I'm fed up with our services, our programs, and our events. They're not what God has called us to. We're called to live our lives out together, sharing and, here's the biggie, caring for not only one another but for the "least of these." While some may point to XXX retreat that they just did or XXX small group or XXX event that was just held with the purpose of doing that, it just doesn't seem to be the overall heartbeat anymore. Service and love can't be contained in a program or an event; sure they can be part of them sometimes but just because you've held this event doesn't mean you've hit your quota. It's a lifestyle!

Add to that our certainty, our obnoxious "I've got it figured out and you don't" mentality that allows us to decide the eternal fate of others based solely upon a few questions and I'm just not sure I fit in anymore. Yet, what else is there? Do we simply leave the team, joining free agency and hoping to find something better? That's not really my style. Yet, what do we do? What do I do? Thus far, I feel as though I've been wearing concrete shoes and long for something meaningful, something of worth. And I do feel as though I've something to give, something to offer that will make a difference. But where? How?

Forgive the over the top rambling but, like I said, just feeling a little heavy today...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Meanest, Worst Parents in the World

"You guys are the meanest, worst parents in the world!"

Thus were the words that sealed my son's fate the other night as he was quickly ushered to bed and forbidden television the next day. The outburst came as the result of our asking him to (gasp! the nerve!) go in his bedroom and study his spelling words. He apparently thought this had breached the every tenuous line of cruel and unusual punishment and opted to let us know his thoughts on the issue.

At the time, I was relatively nonchalant on the outburst and allowed Erin to vent the steam. Yet, as I pondered those words later, I found myself a little sad on the inside. Granted, Erin later found out that Tyler was, to some degree, repeating a sarcastic slogan that yours truly tends to throw around when the kids are in a wonderfully whiny mood but, either way, those words found some purchase deep inside.

Now, I know that my son didn't mean what he said. In fact, I bet that he doesn't even remember what he said at this point. But that doesn't matter. It stung. I don't want to be that guy, the one who pushes his kids away, who is more of the authority figure, looming over their every movement with the threat of retaliation. I want to be the dad that my kids love, whom they respect, and obey thusly.

Yet, as of late, I find my fuse short with the kids. Maybe it's because we haven't really had much time as adults together and are simply at the refueling point. Maybe it's just that it's been a long haul here as of late and we just need some sleep. I don't know but I do know that I don't want to be that guy. For those who look at the cuddly Christmas pictures on cards this year, be forewarned: Despite the window dressing, parenting is HARD WORK!