Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Tongue, To Hold Or Not To Hold (Part 1)

I thought I would share some of what I have been learning as I prepare for the college class on Sundays...So, last weeks lesson:

Ahhh, the tongue. A wonderful muscle (centimeter for centimeter, the most powerful muscle in the human body): It moves food, tastes it, detects texture, makes funny popping sounds, helps us whistle, rolls, folds, sticks out, touches noses, licks lips, sticks to frozen things, etc... But have you ever considered what trouble our tongues get us into?

From tongue tied, to tongue lashing; tip-of-the-tongue to the cat getting it, it has it's problems. For example, James says:
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. James 3:6

That's a bit harsh...but James was, after all Jesus' half-brother and witnessed first hand the harm unbridled speech could cause. So, he points out, not only is the tongue a source of spreading destruction (consider the "rumor mill") but also, "set apart among the members of our body" as "that which defiles the entire body." Defile is such a harsh word. I found a couple of things when I looked it up:

1) Defile, as you might expect means to make dirty or unclean. Ok...that makes plenty of sense, I can say some pretty nasty things, and I recall going through my Junior High cussing phase when I punctuated everything with four letter words. I felt pretty nasty...and I wanted to be back then, nasty was "cool." I found something else though:

2) Defile also means, "To violate the chastity of" and "To desecrate." It strikes me that James might just be using a clever play on thoughts there. On the one hand, we Christians are to be "set apart"(consecrated) from the world. And on the other, the tongue is "set apart" from the other members of our body as the portion which can soil a consecrated being.

So, I think to myself, what is it that I say that could be so bad? Well...I won't repeat those things here (this a family blog)...but I wouldn't say them in front of my daughter. And I guess that makes me pretty special doesn't it?

Yeah, right. As I thought about this last week and this, I realized that maybe letting a four letter word slip out in front of her might be better than some of the trash she listens to me spew. I really try, but James is not talking about curse words...that's just first line stuff. He seems to me to be talking about those things which keep my eyes and mind, and the eye's and mind's of those listening to me focused on the "world." The problems, the "dirt" on that guy, the ridiculous decisions being made by the U.S. Gov. right now (do I have to tame my fingers too?), and how come we can't have this or that...?

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and filled with deadly poison. (But didn't you just say we should tame our tongue...why try if it can't be done?) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. (Oh) (James 3:8, 9)

Say what you want to say about me...but say what you might say about my daughter....made in the image of ME...and you can take it up with me.

As James says: "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way!"

So, let's recap:

1) My tongue not only defiles me, but it destroys others, whether with fire or deadly poison.

2) I can't tame it.
3) It makes me worse than a hypocrite, praising God but cursing His creations...which is the same as cursing Him.

"Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?" Romans 7:24

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1,2

Yes! (Fist pump)
I found something really practical to help me try to do my (small) part in taming my tongue. I learned a long time ago to pray for a watch guard to be set over my lips. ("Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalms 141:3)
I found this great suggestion...if one guard is good...why not four! My challenge to myself this week is this, to consciously work to tame my tongue by checking what I say against these four criteria:

Watch 1) Is what I am about to say the truth?

Watch 2) Is what I am about to say being said in love...is it loving (and all that comes with loving others)?

Watch 3) Does it need to be said, is it necessary (or am I just saying something because I think it is time to talk)?

Watch 4) Is what I am about to say wise with heavenly versus earthly wisdom?

I can't tell you how many times I have kept my big mouth shut over the past three days!

But! Are Christians just supposed to shut up, sit down, and stay quiet? No, I don't think so. We are set apart for a purpose, our members tools for the Master, and our tongues the most powerful of those tools...

Part 2...coming soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My New Teaching Job

Five years ago I was granted the opportunity to teach psychology at our local Junior College. I was, and still am thrilled at the incredible opportunity. The chance to affect young lives is an awesome responsibility which I take very seriously.
Five weeks ago, I was granted the opportunity to teach the college class Sunday School at our local First Baptist Church. Seems like a logical choice...college teacher by week, Sunday school college teacher by weekend. Guy knows how to present a message to a group...etc...
I have prepared two lessons so far. The first took me 7 hours, the second took me 8 (and I was wrong about teaching that week anyway so I never got to deliver it). It is REALLY hard! I wish I had a Master's in theology versus a Master's in Psychology.

Doling out man's wisdom is easy compared to comprehending some of the mysteries of God...and getting it wrong...well, that would be bad.

It doesn't help that the topic for last week was James 2 (Wherein he seems to contradict Paul's contention that we are saved by faith and not by works.) Even bible scholars have shied away from that one.

It gets better though, next Sunday, when I am (for sure) teaching, I get to deal with James 1. This is where James (probably the half-brother of Jesus) says that we are blessed when we face trials and hardships.

GREAT! If I were a religious man, and I am, I would say there is a conspicuous irony in ME being the one to present these passages with insightful commentary. I worry that I might see this a bit differently than some in the Baptist church.

One preacher whom I respect a great deal once told me he believed that trials and test come directly from God in order to test us, to temper us (like steel). I don't like that answer. C.S. Lewis is quoted, erroneously I might add, in the movie Shadowlands as saying that hardships on us are like "blows of the Master's hammer upon our souls, which hurt us so much at the time, but make us perfect." My thought there is..."ummm, couldn't we just skip the blows of the hammer and start out perfect please."

Anyway, the movie progresses to the point where he is challenged in his earlier views to see such trials as coming from God. Indeed, James himself says that we aren't to consider temptation as coming from God because God can't do anything evil.

It's all very confusing without a real grasp of things like .... GREEK!

Yes. Quite ironic. Anyway, fortunately for me, my church membership, and my sanity, I own a really good bible commentary...and there is one for free on the Internet which sells in stores for several hundred dollars.

That's why it takes me so long. Understanding, much more teaching the Word of God involves understanding Who it is all about, and the fact the He is a much more capable people builder than I.

So once again, I am reminded that, IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!!!!!


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Brain Peek

So, we are sitting outside enjoying a "Sunday evening in the park" church service when my little one climbs on my lap and asks, "Daddy, how long did it take to get over losing your parents because it took me like 30 minutes to get over losing a light up reindeer." (Two years ago some miscreants stole the lighted Christmas deer we had purchased for her...Those were tears which made me want to hunt someone down...)

Just like that. Two disparate pieces of information combined in her brain with no apparent prompting. I love those little peeks inside of her brain.

The singing had started and I barely had time to say, "A very long time." I know she is at the age where she is really starting to process a lot of information which has been "over her head" so I will probably go back and build on that answer...I just wanted to record it here and note that every once in awhile our kiddos stop being the cared for and seek to be the caretakers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's great when a good plan comes together.

That's what I realized this morning on the way to drop Dora Diane at school.

My plan for her whole (8 year) life has been to model for her how to "look on the bright side" and "think positively." I tend to NOT be one of those people who automatically looks on the bright side but rather, have been accused of "worrying too much." That has not done much to make me a better person so, of course, I want to give my daughter the gift of seeing life differently. Over and over I have stifled my instinctive response in her presence and put a positive spin on whatever is happening at the moment.

Now, I also did not want to create a Pollyanna. Exchanging the delusion that everything is "bad" with the delusion that everything is "good" is no gift. I have worked to be realistic. I have found myself looking for and pointing out the "but at leasts."

Every once in awhile it seems as if my plan has crashed and burned...Dora is quite the dramatic when things are not going her way. But I try to hang on and have faith in the human spirit.

This morning I realized that the heater in my car is not working. Dora was quite interested in this and suggested I try this and that with the switches. At one point repeating something I know she hears from me frequently, "Well, let's give it some more time." Finally, when it was clear after 10 min. that the air was no warmer coming out of the vents she said in her best official sounding tone, "Well, that's ok, it's not TOO cold (it was 40). I'll bet it can be fixed."

I had to agree with a big knowing smile, "You're right Dora Diane, we'll get it fixed soon. And we are, after all, the 'Cold Team.'"

More on "Teams" later. But you know, it really is great to see a good plan come together. Now to work on the "Stay away from boys until you're 28" plan.

And an aside, my good friend just hit a "number of blog follower's milestone," and so did I! I broke 10. Thank you to everyone who follows! I appreciate your interest and hope that every once in awhile, you get a smile out of it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Better...but ever so slowly.

Well, she survived (again.) Every illness for little one still pushes me out of my comfort zone (where everything should be perfect and she should never get a bruise). Her flu was very, very mild and after the shot, she never complained about her throat again. The weekend involved NO fever but a lot of sleep. It was hard to watch her drag herself into the school this morning...which she did like a trooper. I was very proud of her.

She has Tiger with her, in his school hiding place in her backpack, so that made her smile.

Boy did we have some clashes this weekend though. So hard being so strong for her...I've realized that the strength I use to love her and play with her must be applied as well to disciplining her. It takes a special kind of strength to listen to her cry, close (slam) the door, and tell me to "go away" after I have sent her to her room.


She took the family for a walk last night after her 3 hour nap. Something we never would have done of our own accord. It was wonderful, the weather was perfect...and she only almost fell off of her razor scooter twice!

Hope you are having a GREAT day at school little one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No Wishing For More Wishes.

Remember the elementary school game of “Three wishes?” Someone asks you what you would do if you had three wishes. Well, I ALWAYS used my first one to very cleverly wish for “Infinity more wishes.” This unfortunately negated the purpose of the game however. With “infinity wishes” one never had to prioritize nor even be all that clever about how the wishes were spent.

As I have continued to think about my earlier post on prayer, I realized that the line between praying and wishing is sometimes blurred; which possibly means that the line between a God who answers prayers and a genie who grants wishes has become blurred as well.

I know for a fact that, depending on my situation and my perspective, my view get’s blurry. In fact, I get angry when God doesn’t behave like a genie who answers my prayers on command. If my own personal genie refused to grant my wishes, I’d tell him to get back in his darn bottle and stay there.

Come to think of it, I’ve done the same with God. “Well if you’re not going to change this situation then you can just get back in the bible and stay there. I’m not going to believe in you anymore. I don’t neeeed you anyway.” (childish sarcasm too often mine).

I thought of another crowd by the way (see “Three’s a Crowd" blog below). It’s the crowd my mother told me about a long, long time ago. The “God always answers prayers, He just answers them in three possible ways, ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Wait.’ crowd.” I don’t know if it’s because she told me about it or if it’s because I STILL don’t like to be told “No,” especially when I am as old and wise (smirk) as I am now; but I really resist that crowd.

I also resist it because, to me, it sounds like a cop-out. I don't want to think of it that way...but it sort of allows God to "win" all arguments. If I pray for my child to get well, and she does...God said "yes." If she gets well a month later, God said "wait." If she doesn't get well at all, then God said "no." Ummm...that seems to me to be kind of convenient. I'm uncomfortable with that. So much so that it makes God's response to Job sound more reasonable.

To Job, who lost EVERYTHING but his wife and his own life, God said (and I paraphrase): "Who are you to question Me? Are you God? Do you know everything? Did you create everything the way I did?" I've always read that as rather arrogant and dismissive of Job's suffering...but I have to admit it IS a God-like response. It's even a parental response: Child says "Why" parent says "Because I said so." "Because I said so" is a time saver and a recognition that my child CAN'T understand my reasons in the same way that I can. My child doesn't have the benefit of my experience, or goals, or wisdom. If I tried to share those with them, they would be more confused, possibly misinterpret, and still they would ask, "But why..."

Hmmmmm. Brings to mind: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Cor. 1:25.

I have worked really hard on this blog. It's important to me. I want it to represent my "wisdom" to date. But when I apply my "wisdom," I come up painfully trite. I tried putting myself in God's shoes to see if I could understand and explain why some suffering occurs. Unfortunately, I can't. If I was God...I feel like I would do it differently. But I don't know what God knows. I can't understand even basic chemical reactions in the body...much less imagine how I would have created them.

I went on some sites I usually don't frequent, which are wholly designed to tear away at the argument for God. A couple in particular make VERY powerful and damaging arguments that God is an illusion...even an organized delusion which is self-perpetuating. As I read, I took pleasure that I found some cracks in those arguments...but I felt the air escape from my puffed up balloon as I also found some chasms in my own apologetics. I am reminded that my belief in God COULD be wrong. I could be, as the more harsh attackers say, a weak, scared, little man who has bought into a comforting delusion to feel stronger, safer, and larger.

That doubt kicked me in the gut today when my wife told me from the Dr's. office that Dora has both strep throat AND the flu...and her lungs are VERY congested. I had 5 minutes so I prayed....and couldn't help but pray "...if You're there...." Then I apologized for my doubt, because I didn't want to hurt my child with my doubt. And then I paced, imagining a world where there is no God looking out for my child; no God who can keep her from getting sicker; no God who can comfort me and keep me from "freaking out," and no God to receive her if she succumbs to her illness and, on a fluke, dies.

That really stunk. I was lonely....profoundly lonely....and very, very frightened.

"Oh God. You might not be there! THIS might be all there is! 60 hours of work a week, a cheap vacation once a year, weekends, my family...and then I die. I've never even been scuba diving!"

When my faith is under attack and threads start to unravel out of the careful tapestry of belief I have woven, I go back to Jesus Christ. But wait, not in the prayer/savior way. But to the fact that this one man, 2000 years ago, changed world history in 33 years. He spoke authoritatively with an intricate wisdom which rivals and bests any Plato or Confucius. He turned expectations on their head and created a movement which, though adulterated often, continues to challenge mankind, and provide hope to those who seek to understand.

And then I think of his friends. Not priests, not great speakers, just fishermen, laborers, and tax-collectors. Stay with me. Think of your friends, average people who are not looking to become religious leaders. Think of what it would take for them, or for you to abandon your work, to go on the road and spread the word about a carpenter's message and life. They lived with Jesus, watched him and learned from him. Then he was tortured and died...no revolution (which they expected him to lead). These ordinary men then make the most extraordinary claim...that he rose from the dead after 3 days.

The Old Testament is early, primitive history of man trying to find God. The New Testament is eyewitness testimony of God trying to help man find Him. These ordinary men, who could have made it all up went on to write about his life, agreed on his message, and died for the man. Some in horrific ways. One was hung on a cross upside down, one beheaded, it goes on. None recanted, some fell into the black hole of history, but some live on in their letters. Found in the New Testament. They wrote with authority, conviction, and confidence that they had been in the presence of God himself. They risked everything to tell this "good news." And they didn't get anything in return...except persecution and painful death.

Finally, I think of the greatest argument I have heard...where the "rubber meets the road" of just who this man was. Jesus Christ existed, he was a real person, historians do not argue this point. Jesus Christ said that he was the Son of God...and died for that claim. There are three possibilities which would account for his claim:

1) He was insane.

2) He was evil.

3) He was telling the truth.

The teachings of Christ, reported by his friends, were not the ravings of an insane man. Would they ALL fall for his insanity? Would they DIE for his teachings....could an ordinary group of very uneducated men even come up with those teachings? I tend to conclude that he was sane and revolutionary. I would cite Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.

If he were evil, would he really have died the way he did for his great hoax. About the time the cat-of-9-tails was ripping the flesh off of his body he probably would have broken down: "Guys, guys, it was a JOKE! Come on, you think I really believe I'm the son of god...please...now, may I please have some band-aids?"

That only leaves one choice.

So. Tonight we knelt at Dora's bed and prayed fervently that He comfort her. We thanked Him for bodies and immune systems and doctors and medicine. (Though Dora does NOT agree that she should have gotten that "world's most painful shot!") And here I sit. Finishing this blog once and for all.

I figured out the end.

Those blogs could be correct. God could be a soothing delusion, my ancestor an amoeba, and my ultimate destination a hole in the ground.

But that must be taken on faith. Those are assumptions, not proven science. My faith is equally as valid.

Christian assertions could be correct as well. God could exist. The Bible could be the "instruction manual" and his invitation to us. He could have sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. And He could listen to, and answer, our prayers.

It is indisputable that He does not answer prayers, nor deal with the suffering of his creations in a way which satisfies me, or makes it easy to believe in Him. But, if I accept that He exists as God...then He is my superior...my creator...my Father. When I ask "WHY?", He can very well say, "Because I said so."

I'm still left with the “no” problem. After all that, I sound like a pretty good guy. I don’t pray to hurt people, only to help. When I pray for something which hurts no one, for an innocent for example...I should be reasonable assured that God will say, "Thanks for your attention to that matter, You bet." I don't understand why He has chosen to say "NO" to some of my most fervent prayers.

All I have is a model:

Once, there was another really good guy (actually he was perfect) who prayed a prayer and asked to be “given a pass.” God said "no" and the guy was beaten to a pulp and tortured to death. (Death by hanging on a cross from the nails in your hands makes water-boarding look like a soothing sponge bath.) God’s own Son said (and I paraphrase) “PLEASE Daddy, I don't want to die like this! Can't You fix it another way?” And God looked at His only Son, who had lived a perfect life, and He said, “No.”

How I hate them, how they infuriate me, how I suffer for them but every once in awhile, I have to thank God for His “no’s,” especially that one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Just In Case...

I was talking with my little one briefly about my Grandma Retta today. That prompts me to give a brief nod...

I don't know if I can ever adequately express what this one human being meant to my life. I could say that I owe nearly every good quality that I possess today to her patience and unconditional love for me...but that is too wordy...for me, I believe I have found the closest I can come:

Some people believe that the streets of heaven are paved with gold. Some say we will have wings and harps. I used to think it would be cool if we would be able to play video games all day long. At the ripe old age of 42, I want to make the following offer...

If I get to choose ANYthing for my stay in heaven...I would choose to live in my Grandma Retta's house, with her, as I experienced my time with her during the summers of my youth. Just return me to the smells, the sounds, the sights, and most of all, the feeling of complete unconditional acceptance. That is enough. I don't have to fly, or play the harp, or ever see a video game again. Just let me walk through the door, sound the bells, and hear the clank of the glass as the floor vibrates with every step.

And God, I really, really disagree with you for disallowing my daughter to experience the joy of grandparents. I think that was wrong......................I know it is wrong. I know You do too. Please allow me to make up for that lack.

I pray she can get a small glimpse of the love I experienced from my Grandma through the love she experiences from me.

Maybe someday, when we are forever together, we can share my Grandma Retta.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Three's A Crowd

Tonight we as a family will say our prayers; as we have done every single night since before Dora Diane was born, Her Mommy and I will kneel by her bed, she will squirm and fidget and I will start: "Now I lay me down to sleep..."

That's how my Mom always did it. Then we would do "God bless ______, God bless _____, etc..." It's important to me that I start that way, though there are some who frown on "programmed prayer" or prayers that are the same every day. We move on from there though; praying for him or her, this or that, etc. Each of us take our turns and Dora closes it out, always signaling the time to say "In Jesus name..." in unison by making her incredibly unique and, I believe noteworthy final prayer that I hope some day will sell some books when I expound upon it so I'm not going to share it here since SO many people read this blog that it might be borrowed......


I know Dora Diane believes that I believe that God listens, hears and acts upon those prayers. Unfettered by adult skepticism born of "unanswered" prayers, humanistic indoctrination, etc...she has no doubt that if Daddy prays it, it will be done...if God decides to do it.

I do too. And therein lies the reason for so much doubt and disbelief in the world; that last little disclaimer..."If God decides to do it." Imagine if God actually answered all the prayers of the faithful. Who would dare to disbelieve?

Joe Johnson's car breaks down by the side of the road. He prays, "Dear God, please let my car start"...and it starts. Sally has a horrible headache and prays, "Dear God, please let my headache be gone." and it goes away. Fred's mother is diagnosed with H1N1 flu, ends up in the hospital and all of a sudden, someone realizes that they forgot to pray, says a quick fervent prayer and, Mom sits up, smiles, and says it's time to go home.

If it worked that way, the way most of us probably secretly believe we would run it if we were God, hospitals would not exist. There would be no need for heart transplants or chemotherapy. No cancer, no hemophilia, no blindness, no hearing problems, no tumors, no need for hospitalization for baby delivery because there would be no birth complications...

And there would be no crime. No murders, muggings, no abductions, no theft; prisons would not exist, rehab would be a thing of the past. For, if there was a crime, the victim would pray that it not happen, and it would be thwarted, then the criminal would notice the miraculous thwarting and give up a life of crime in favor of praying for a job, which he would get.

And his job would be a "good" job with a nice boss who lets him take as much vacation time as possible, which would be ok because the job would be really easy because no one would really have problems. I doubt we would really need banks, because no one would need loans because everyone would have plenty of money. In fact, everyone would win the lottery...but there would really be no lottery because no one would be attracted to it in the first place because no one would suffer from a feeling of want.

This would equalize everyone. If Steve makes $500,000 a year then I don't think, if I could pray for what I want, that I would really settle for less. We would all make $500,000 a year...unless we needed more for a big LCD HD TV...which I would.

But...it doesn't work that way. God is God, not me.

There begins the problem.

Why doesn't it work that way? Impracticality aside, why don't "good" people live easier lives than "bad" people? Is healing a person of a disease really more difficult or more impractical than creating that person in the first place? When Jesus was physically on earth, he did a lot of amazing things. Including healing and raising from the dead....so we know it is possible.

I think it is interesting to note how many different ways great thinkers have worked to reconcile the problem of believing in an all powerful, all knowing, all good God in a world with wars, poverty, famine, plague, murder, disease, and computer crashes.

1) The "If you are suffering it is because the Lord is punishing/testing/tempering you crowd.
2) The "If you pray and it doesn't happen then you don't have enough faith" crowd.
3) The "Suffering is important and necessary for growth" crowd.
4) The "Suffering is really blessing because God gives the suffering so you can avoid worse suffering down the line" crowd.
5) The "God is good, and God is all knowing, He just isn't all powerful" crowd.
6) The "Suffering is allowed so that through it God may be glorified" crowd.
7) The "Prayer is not for God anyway, it is for me...God already knows what we want - and need" crowd.
8) The "Because there the bad stuff exists in the world, there can not be a God" crowd.
9) The "The bad stuff comes from the Satan, who is prince of this world." crowd.
10) The "I don't know but let's not talk about this because it may cause some suffering" crowd.

(Forgive me if I left out a crowd.)

Now by no means do I mean any disrespect by calling people crowds...I have been and am a member of several of those crowds myself. I'd like to talk more about it in another post.

For now, I will keep praying and I will marvel at my little girls prayers. Her faith "like a child" is certainly beautiful.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Hate Hospitals

For those who read this and know Dora Diane...no, she did not have to go to the hospital. No one in my family has been in a hospital in a very long time.

But through the flow of life, I have spent quite a bit of time in hospitals. I have been in really fancy hospital rooms, with guest beds, a couch, many chairs...the rooms they reserve for the families of people who are dying. I have served my time sitting in ICU. I have held hands with the most precious people in my life in small private rooms...and watched as they "coded." I watched the 2000 summer Olympics in a hospital room with my wife going through pre-term labor. I kept watch over my 2 week old only natural child in a hospital room, grabbing 2 hours of sleep here and there, waking to the sound of alarms on monitors, medication, IVs, nurses and more nurses. I've held the line with my good friend, waiting for the surgical outcome for his toddler son.

I've followed the maps of the halls; ridden the elevators, purchased and eaten the food...and there is nothing like hospital cafeterias...to their credit, they actually do a good job, most of them.

I've listened to doctors who cared, who were honest, who were concerned. I've listened to doctors who were an embarrassment to their profession.

I've spent my share of time in hospitals...and I hate them all.


People are honest in hospitals. Transparency is expected and accepted; a nod of familiarity among people who are staring into their own personal abyss. It's okay to cry in hospitals. It's okay to walk down the halls with tears on your face and Kleenex to your nose...in fact, there is honor in it. Everywhere else, we must wear the mask. "I'm okay, I'm tough, I'm in control of my emotions." But in the hospital, you aren't expected to be "in control."

I like that. I appreciate the acceptance. I tend to be transparent anyway, so...well, guys might cry once every two years...so it's nice to be in a place where you have permission.

I hate hospitals...but I know I'll be back. And I'll be honest...because I won't have a choice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The End of Innocence

My wife and I have been giving this some thought lately: the "birds and the bees" talk with our little one. I have never been one to be fearful of WHAT I say in that respect. I've learned to be pretty tactful over the years. What my primitive brain warns me about is that after the talk...she will not be the same. She'll know the BIG secret. I know that she learns about life every day and I have not yet found her to be shattered or markedly changed by anything she has yet discovered. Learning how babies are made will not be that different...though we are never quite the same once we learn that are we?

Dear Dora Diane,

Today, I write this too you as the innocent child who still believes that all babies somehow get placed in mommy's tummy because a mommy and a daddy pray real hard. You know that Daddy's have a role and that little sperms find the little egg and that that is the beginning of a baby. What you don't know we will have to share with you soon because, though I don't wish to be the one to shatter your innocence...it is my job to ensure that you hear the truth from me first.

It is ironic we have already had a "bad word" talk. I didn't tell you about some of them because, though my father did a wonderful and gentle job of telling me about the birds and the bees, he told me at the same time as he taught me what the "f" word means. I think that colored my perception of what the Bible teaches is one of God's greatest gifts to humans: The union of man and woman.

So. We will have our talk about Mommy's and Daddy's and closeness. About how it is the ultimate gift from one to the other. About how it is reserved for marriage. About how it is more than just a physical act...how it involves the spirit as well. And I will emphasize the points with gentle seriousness, hoping to make a lasting impression; because the pillars I am working to help you build, the world will very soon work to tear down.

From the world you will learn, for example; that your sexuality is for you to enjoy and share as you please. That reserving sex for marriage is an outdated concept and that actually, you and your boyfriends must learn if you are sexually compatible in the first place, before you get married. That it is just a physical act, that you can engage in it casually with no lasting effects. That everybody is doing it, and that you are uncool, or prude, or scared, or rude if you don't.

Yes. I am conservative in my beliefs, especially in this area. I am also an idealist...I have to be when I face the statistics that say you only have a 25% chance of taking purity into your marriage bed. (And less than that if we are praying for a husband for you who does the same.)

We have two more weeks until you start 3rd grade. From what I remember about third grade, I think it is time for you to know a bit more than you already do. Now it's just a matter of finding a time to talk to you...maybe in between your playing "talk animals" and watching re-runs of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.



Monday, July 20, 2009

"There's paint on your foot!"

We have been painting my daughters room for the past week or so. The first time was pretty easy since we were slapping pink paint on a white wall...Now, we are slapping light blue paint on a dark pink wall. That means that I have now actually painted her walls 3 times each (so far), plus the ceiling.

I would never do that for our own room. We haven't even thought of it. But since it is my little ones...hey, we are willing to spend the time and effort.

I have noticed that I am not one of those who likes to share tasks. I kind of want it done my way and would rather do it all myself. Ask my daughter if that is the way she likes to do things. NO. She feels that we should all be in there together, the three of us, painting. I love having her there...but she tends to get paint places that I do not want paint.

I have been really good for the most part...only barking at her a couple of times...but still. I recognize that actually, SHE is right, and I am wrong (of course). We are painting our child's room. OF COURSE it should be a family affair. OF COURSE we should be doing it together, and OF COURSE we should get paint in our hair, on our hands and feet, etc. That's what makes it memorable, that's what makes us family.

I once heard a speaker note that he looked forward to the problems encountered on a family vacation almost as much as the vacation itself. We are crisis driven people who would get bored without the flat tires, the lost room keys, the blisters, etc. Not to mention, those difficulties force the family to work together...and reveal the hidden strengths within each member.

My daughter has the gift of mercy (unless I've told her "no" or otherwise upset her...then, she's ruthless). Every drip, every mis-step and I can be sure she will chime in giving me an excuse ("Well, you didn't mean to daddy. Every body drops their paint brush sometimes.")

My wife on the other hand just grins and remembers all my warnings to her and my daughter to "Be careful, or else you'll get paint on that."

And by the way, the paint was on MY foot.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Who Gets Me?"

Yesterday my little one asked a lot of questions about who would "get" her if her Mommy and Daddy were to get a divorce.

What kind of a world...

I HATE that a child has to even THINK this thought...much less know anyone who has had to deal with this tragic occurrence in their life. Much less, MY child. I want to protect her from all of these things. And to think that MY life has led to some of her questions? Well that's just sick.

Talking with her revealed that she is not overwhelmed with the thought...just morbidly curious. Oh course we all do that on occasion:

"What would happen if I lose my job?"

"What would happen if I lost my house?"

"What would happen if I lost my spouse?"

"What would happen if I got a disease?"

"What if I lose my sense of sight?"

"What if they made a blockbuster movie about ROM Spaceknight and my whole series of ROM comics sold for $5,000,000?"

I try to throw a little wishful thinking in with my morbid curiosity from time to time...

(Yup...I have ALL of them...in little plastic bags...in a box in my closet...(oh no, I'm still a geek!))

Anyway. I think her Mom and I did a pretty good job of helping her understand that we would not do that to her...AND...that there are plenty of people to care for her (Big Brother, Auntie Hill, Auntie LaLa, Auntie BoBo....etc....)

Besides, she used her fears to reassure herself that Mommy and Daddy would indeed fight over her (and she demonstrated for us by having us act this out by playing tug of war with her arms.)

So, until her next bout of morbid curiosity...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Can't I Fly?

Sitting here preparing to blog, I experienced one of those sudden dream memories. Two nights ago I had a semi-lucid dream in which I was walking somewhere and thought to myself, "I wonder if I can fly in this dream." Low and behold, I spread out my arms and willed myself off of the ground and into the air. Though I wasn't streamlined darting through the skies like Superman, I was certainly high enough to land on buildings and such. I even grabbed my wife by the hand and flew her up to a building with me. It was a really great feeling...a great dream.

So, why can't I dream like that every night? Why do most of my dreams involve random silly things like driving around (at night...all of my dreams seem to involve night-time) looking for a store or wandering through the halls in a school looking for the classroom in which I am supposed to teach? And then there are the worst of the worst, the apparent dreams were I am trying to count to a high number....Really?....That's the best my mind can come up with, counting? How disappointing.

I've studied lucid dreaming or "gaining conscious awareness while in a dream." It takes practice for most, comes naturally for a few. I don't practice....and I don't follow "good sleep hygiene" which means, among other things that I don't sleep 8 hours a night, and I don't go to sleep at the same time each evening. Perhaps that has something to do with the lack of frequency in my lucid dreaming.

Come to think of it, I haven't been flying much at all lately, asleep or awake. (I believe the two are related as well...when feeling burdened by life or self...it is probably difficult to dream about being light, carefree, and soaring like an eagle.)

Along with a host of other issues and burdens I imagine for myself, a main culprit is a lack of "lucid living." Lucid literally means "easily understood, intelligible." That works well for the term "lucid dreaming" as in understanding your dream while you are dreaming and thus, being able to take control. I am learning that, for me, it is easier to be lucid while dreaming, than it is to be lucid when awake. I expect my dreams to be ridiculous and often apparently meaningless. When they start to take on intelligible shape...I wake up and take notice. My life? Well that I expect, and even demand to have intelligible and occasionally easily understood meaning. When it does not, I feel as grounded as

When I looked it up, I was reminded that there is another meaning to the word lucid:

"Mentally sound; sane or rational."

Yup. That fits me to a tee right now. I have been walking around in the doldrums as if the reality I perceive is the reality in which I actually live. That's.....schizophrenia...or at least the illusory world of depression and anxiety.

I was venting to my wife the other night that my frustration with myself has rarely been higher since...things in my life are actually quite good right now. Health, spouse, child, job(s), vacation....all peaches. So what the heck do I suppose is wrong with me?

If God were like my earthly dad, I'd be hearing a heavenly "I'll GIVE you something to gripe about!" right about now...fortunately, I am pretty much finished with the old Pity Party. (It was certainly a nice one though... complete with popped balloons, dark brooding colors, wasted time, and oh the irritability!")

I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I (and don't forget ME!)

We're engaged in an excellent study in Sunday school right now about spiritual gifts/strengths. I was struck this morning ONE, that I pretty well figured mine out and TWO, that unless used for service, the gifts lead to total brokenness. For example, for those of us who have a gift of sensitivity (Read with an Eddie Murphy lisp as in: "He's so sensitive.."), when used for service it becomes a tool to identify and build up those who are emotionally broken. When used for self...you guessed it...it leads to self-pity, hurt feelings, and isolation.

I was not designed to be this -

I was designed to be a part of this -- Thank God for His provision for the numerous back-ups needed when I decide to go it alone for awhile!

No wonder I feel useless while serving self....I am.

Lucid living...get plenty of rest, pray, eat right, bad stuff in moderation, spend time with my child, love my wife, and open my arms...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Daddy Cried"

Quite a bit has happened here in this small town since my last entry. Not much of it is really important enough to blog about...but it has been a busy beginning to the summer. I am well into my "summer funk" which lets me know that if/when I retire, my wife will have to kill me to put me out of her misery. You would think that I would be happy that I don't have to work at my teaching job during the summer, but no. Although I am still teaching online, and still see people in the afternoons, I get mildly "depressed." Maybe it's boredom, maybe it's lack of "doing important stuff," maybe it is my genetic link to my father, probably it is a mixture of all of those and more. I know it's not pleasant to me, or my wife. Fortunately, I am a "professional" and know how to fake it.

Unrelated...or maybe slightly related, I turned 42 last Friday. As my wife informed me, I am very easy to buy for but very difficult to celebrate for...as, I like to make my birthday kind of a "week long national holiday, treat me super special" time. She is really good at it however, and I recieved some royal treatment leading up to my special day. My sister arrived a day before and had arranged to have live Maine lobster's shipped to our home. I don't think I have every had a 2 lb. lobster...until last Friday. It was awesome!

Then my daughter got into the act and, without knowing it, made my 42nd birthday more special and more important than any other. She gave me a card. Actually she gave me three cards. She loves the cards that play songs when you open them and so she had been collecting them for quite some time to give to me.

One of those cards, happened to be a father's day card she decided to give me for my birthday, was one which allows you to record your own message prior to the music playing...(have you put this all together yet?) Well, she recorded a message for me. She did it all by herself, worked really hard to get it just right. I had no idea and so, when I opened it and heard her voice, I cried. Not that little crying which you can hide; not the couple of tears sliding down my face cry but a real live total loss of composure. She has never seen me cry before. That's probably not a great thing to admit, but it is the truth. I am as guilty as many other men of hiding that range of my emotional expression.

She probably had no idea what was going on for a short time, then I remember someone telling her that she had just made her Daddy VERY happy and she understood that these were happy tears. Well then she climbed on my lap and held me very tight...which of course touched me even more so I had quite a little cry with my daughter (who by now was crying too).

I was assured after the fact by my sister that Dora Diane would forever remember that day as a wonderful day when she deeply touched her father's heart. Indeed, she has been quite close to me since that time, even more so than usual...and we are pretty close.

I'm glad she got to see that. I tell her I love her all the time. I show her I love her too, but tears like that say "You're awesome and I love you!" in a very powerful way. I knew it would eventually happen...like when she graduates, when she gets married, has a child....oh man, my macho eyes are going to be red.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Earning My Stripes

Sometimes loving someone does not take much effort, it simply flows from the deepest place in our soul, effortlessly enfolding it's object with tenderness, good will, and joy. When my wife is smiling, talking, and marveling at my insights and sense of humor (not to mention my strength), all the while watching Star Trek TNG with me, it is no heroic task to "love" her.
When she reminds me I havn't fixed the bathroom, the trash is piling up in the laundry room, and that I'm wasting too much time on video games...that's when I earn my stripes in this love battle.
The same is true for my daughter -- though I have only begun to appreciate this reality. My love for her is so complete at times, it causes my heart to swell. At others, I suddenly find myself wondering just what I've done wrong -- as if I have somehow broken her and created a difficult to like monster.

When she is stubborn, I find myself frustrated with her willfulness.
When she is sullen, I find myself angry with her selfishness.
When she complains, I want to tell her what she is taking for granted.
When she pouts, I want to withdraw (and I do), but it claws at me.

It is during those times and others that this Daddy earns his stripes. It is then that I have opportunity to really understand who she is, the chance to teach and mold her, the responsibility to correct her.

This weekend at Scarborough Faire was one example -- we arrived and were all ready to start the day when our little princess became little gloomy Gretchen (Guss's sister). Immediately I was ticked! Here we were, spending all this money, traveling all this way, ready to have fun, yadda yadda yadda, and she's going to start complaining and stop smiling?!

I exercised supreme patience for some time and finally pulled her aside and sounded REALLY intelligent..."Dora, we can leave here right now if you don't change your attitude." She looked at me with honest eyes and said something truly intelligent and insightful:
"Daddy, I'm okay, I promise...I'm just not used to all these people."

And that's when Mr. Psychology realized what I should have realized before it started, she was nervous, just like her Daddy gets when he is around large groups, or even small groups of people. Her behavior was symptomatic, not characterological. What a joy and priviledge to gain that insight in that moment. I immediately understood her mood change -- and could be who she needed me to be for her.

I recognize my difficulty to "love" those I LOVE spawns from my taking their "misbehavior" personally. My wife comments on the bathroom being unfinished and I experience an unintentional blow to the gut which says "Can't you do anything around here?" My daughter pouts and whines when I think she should be happy and I experinece an unintentional slap to the face which says "You failed to make me a happy, optimistic child."

It's hard to love someone while you feel the need to defend yourself from them. But it's all an illusion. Social psychologists call it the Fundamental Attribution Error: When someone is rude to us, we tend to attribute it to a character flaw rather than a passing situational circumstance. Thinking "He's a real ....jerk..." when someone cuts us off rather than, "Wonder why he's in such a hurry." for example.

I know my wife's character. I know my daughter's heart and soul. Why does my brain so easily assume these qualities that are imbedded within them are transient when I know full well that, when I'm having a bad day, I'm going to get over it and go back to being my lovable old self? I afford myself unconditional love and acceptance, why is it so difficult to offer it to those I love?

Selfish, self-serving interest...imagining my stake in their behavior and feeling the need to change it for myself leads to anger and resentment and thus, defensive posturing on my part.

Loving concern for their own wellbeing leads to something else however. When I see my daughter misbehaving and can remove thoughts of it being a reflection on me, then I remain open to her. I have no resentment, only compassionate concern for her current and future wellbeing.

Again and again and again life hands me my hat and reminds me that it's NOT about me. God help me to take myself out of the equation and be there to serve, and not be served.

And thank you God for not taking my sins personally.

Unconditional love - awesome. How freeing to know that when God looks at me, he sees me as I see my daughter: full of potential, a jewel, an "Heir to the throne." In my finer moments as a father, I look at my daughter when she stumbles into a whine or a pout and think (or say) "Honey, you don't need to ruin your time with that...let's think about something happy and good."

I want her to find peace. I want her to soar and experience all that her life has to offer. I want to give her everything I can to make that happen...and I hurt for her when, because of inexperience or lack of understanding, she falters...and I hold on tighter, letting her know I'm there, and I love her, and I believe in her.

In those moments, I get a glimps into where God's mind is all the time. If THAT's how He sees us - If that's how He loves us, what else do we want? What else do we need? The God of the universe doesn't take our sins personally...He knows where they come from, and He knows what we need to correct them, and He died to free us from the ultimate consequences. He suffered the true stripes, so I wouldn't have to.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Wait, my bear..."

I don't know if it was because it was 2:30am this morning when my daughter called for me to come get her and bring her into bed with us, but at the time, I thought this would make a good blog topic....if nothing else to share with her later.

So, I'm lifting her out of bed to carry her to our room when she says "Wait, my bear..." Setting her back on her bed she looked around and plunged her hand through a hill of stuffed animals and pulled out a little stuffed "Webkin" elephant. Happy as a clam (I guess there is research to suggest that the molusks are particularly resistant to depression), she held tight as I moved through the hall. By the time we made it to our room, I think she was nearly asleep again. (Makes it sound like our house is huge doesn't it...I'll let your imagination run).

I guess my question is, "Who needed whom?" Did she worry that the webkin would feel lonely or did she feel connected and in need of the webkin? Now, though Dora has a special love for her stuffed animals, she does not have one in particular which she always carries around. It just seems to be on a whim; sometimes it's Tiger (my favorite), and sometimes it's someone else.

To me, the beauty is in her innocence. She was in the arms of her father, going to sleep with her mother and father, safely in their room....and she remembered her "bear." That is one of those "make you smile" moments when I just felt awe at the gift of this child."

Another which I've seen a couple of times recently is the "can you keep a secret" whisper which children use when sharing surprises with adults. An example, we have a new portable DVD player (that's 3 in 8 years...longevity is not their strong point...but boy are they awesome on trips). It is an RCA so it has the RCA dogs on the front as the start up picture. Dora liked that almost more than the player itself and, when she saw her Auntie Bobo, she shared her new player with her and then: "It's new, and when you turn it on..." (she cups her hand to the side of her mouth in secret telling style and lowers her voice to a whisper) "it has dogs on it." I love that! The adult implication is "Don't tell anyone, but listen to this!" Such juicy gossip! But it's not a secret...just special information that she was sharing just with her Auntie Bobo.

I have a million of those "I wish she could stay this way forever's." that I could record in Daddyspeak.

(Writer cups hand to mouth and lowers voice to a whisper)

I hope you don't mind.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Daddy's Girl - Part 1

Dear Dora Diane,

What a gift you are! Every day you say and do things I can only begin to try to put into words. For example, the book that you wrote and illustrated for Mommy and me about how "Parent's Rock." I'll have to try to scan that into the computer. Or the shirts you very carefully planned for us to make with iron-on letters. One, in blue, says "Daddy's Girl". The other, in black, says "Mommy's Girl".

So true. You belong to both of us and our hearts belong to you. What a joy it is to see you so proud, and so innocent in your pride and joy at being loved by, and loving your parents.

That makes it all the more difficult when that innocence is dashed by the reality that some men have failed to overcome their selfishness. These are the men who have failed miserably to create a loving atmosphere in the home. Sometimes these men fail to even hang around so that their children know that they are loved. This is why that girl in your class made fun of your "Daddy's Girl" shirt. I am sure that she would love to be "Daddy's Girl" and to see that you are was painful for her. She hurt and felt jealous so she lashed out at you (people in Daddy's business call this displacement).

As angry as I get at those children for hurting you...I try not to be unrealistic and blind to where the blame really should fall. Failed fathers - or sperm doners for a graphic label. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are married, some are out for a good time, others are afraid, and still others are simply evil in the depth of their self-centeredness. But why are they like this. Why are fathers failing so miserably? The reasons are numerous, but I like to simplify it down and call it the mashmallow syndrome.

These are the marshmallow inside, cookie crust outside guys. They feel whimpy and soft inside becuase they have never discovered their strength...probably no one has ever told them they have strength, or that they should be proud of their accomplishments, whatever they are. These men decide early that, rather than face life as a marshmellow, being picked on themselves for what they believe is their deep weakness, they begin early to build a tough external layer (the cookie crust). Sometimes it is thick, sometimes thin, but always it is false. Often it is made up of exactly what these men lack in their core: confidence, verility, or strength. Always, the cookie version is brittle, and might break if attacked. Thus, these men spend a lifetime building and protecting their tough exterior until they forget about their marshmallow inside....until they fear it will be exposed. Exposure of the inside leaves these men feeling oozy and sticky...all the things many men fear and refuse to face.

Exposure is threatened by all sorts of things: criticism (real or imagined), failure (real or imagined), and strangest of all, love. The love of a good woman threatens to expose this tough exterior for what it is...a very false and very fragile front. However, rather than give in and reveal that they are gooey and sticky inside, and attempt to change. These men often choose to hide behind additional layers of cookie crust, or run; leaving behind the people who didn't understand that these were just cookie men, with a marshmallow center.

Why do I tell you this? Why do you have to understand about cookie men?

Because you will meet the offspring of cookie men. In their own attempt to cover their vulnerable marshmallow center, they will be building a cookie crust. You are a target for them as you have no crust. You have no need for a false front as you have been taught that you are lovable and acceptable just the way you are. Your innocense and transparency allows you to be a real person: clumsy sometimes, silly sometimes, sad, scared, and joyful. You are not afraid to fail as you have been taught that failure is ok, and natural, and important. All of that is true, yet for marshmellows, it is horrific. A marshmallow boy or girl can't tolerate failure. In themselves they cover it up, in others, they pounce on it; tearing it down in an attempt to build up their cookie crust.

The offspring of cookie-men hate you just as a starving person hates the one who has plenty to eat. Some will wait for you to fail in some area and then pounce with glee. Others will try to make it happen, so they can then pounce and kick you while you are down. They may not be able to take what you have, but they will work to ridicule you and tear you down enough so that they can imagine you don't have it anymore either.

You may even fall for a cookie man one day. Your loving nature and willingness to make excuses for everyone warns me that when one of these pitiful cookie men comes along, you will see right through to the marshmallow and figure you can help them...love them enough to help them become whole and shed their crust.

I have very bad and very serious news for you. You must listen to me and understand that I am telling you the truth; that I am right. Your whole future, and that of your children centers on your understanding and accepting this very bad news. Here it is...and you're not going to like it:

You can't.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Be afraid, be very afraid."

I had to look up the original use of the phrase. Not only was it from The Fly, but it was said in response to another character saying, "Don't be afriad."

If I didn't know better, I would think there was a vast conspiracy to make the population of the US, and the world utterly terrified of everything. If there should be a national motto right now, I think it should be that one.


Terrorists, might strike. The economy might collapse. We might lose our jobs. We might lose our savings. We might get the swine flu. We might ALL get the swine flu. There isn't enough money. There aren't enough bullets. There aren't enough hospital rooms. Our children might be abducted. Muslims are taking over. Christians are taking over. It's getting hotter on the earth. It's getting colder on the earth. The sun is too quite. An asteroid might hit us. Earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, war, famine, pestilence, pandemics.................................

I think I'd stay home...if I wasn't afraid of losing it.

Doesn't it all seem just a bit too convienient? Doesn't it seem a bit "wrong?" Is that what we are here for...to live life as a 70 to 80 year dash to the finish...desperately hoping nothing takes us out too early. No. That's not why we are here. But it IS just one more way to rob us of our time and our peace.

"...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:14-17

America used to have a motto which understood this. "In God we trust."

I'm sick of the spirit of fear which has gripped America for so long.

And I'm SO sick of being personally afraid. I'm not going to be afraid anymore. Cautious, concerned, and careful...but no more fear.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

I wonder if that means things will be racheted up a little more.

I'm with my good friend who is facing many more reasons to be afraid right now than I:

"Bring it."

Where oh death is your sting, where oh death is your victory.

My hope rests in eternity. I know my family will be there and I know I will as well. I will hold to that with every ounce of my being and I will live a life which glorifies the One who decided to give me life. I have nothing to lose, and eternity to gain.

Tying this in to Daddyspeak...being a daddy has done this for me. I used to be rather fatalistic and uncaring about living or dying...until I had a child. Now, the main source of my fear is not what happens to me for me, but for her. "What if she dies is replaced by what if I die and she loses her father or mother", and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Letting God's spirit move in me though has helped me see that "I DON'T HAVE ANY CONTROL OVER ANY OF THAT AT ALL!!!!." Worry does not equal control, it is the semblance of control. I can not allow myself to fear anymore. Ironically, it will kill me faster than some of the things I worry about.

"For you did not receive a spirit of fear but of sonship."

The swine flu can't kill a son or daughter of God....only release us to be with Him.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


My dog died last night.

That makes me feel yuk. Seeing her lying on the ground and "knowing" in the way the subconscious mind instantly knows things, but calling her name anyway and then consciously knowing gave me that sinking feeling in my gut. That makes me feel yuk too.

She's been dying for a long time. I knew that so I have tried to make her more comfortable. There was the medication for her joint pain, and the daily expensive soft dog food for her. I didn't take her to the vet when she lost her eyesight in one eye because actually, for the past 6 months she has been obviously feeling much better than she did for at least a year prior. She even wagged her tail when she knew I was there.

Joy was my dog and I was her person. I have a couple of stories which demonstrate that more than ever....

When we lived out in the country, I let Joy run free. I know; not supposed to do that but, she was fixed, and our distant neighbors didn't seem to care. When I say free...I mean, she went wherever she wanted and did whatever she wanted and killed whatever she wanted. The time I am thinking of, she found a den of skunks and not only killed the adult, but killed all five of the babies. I know this because she very proudly brought them to the house to show me her handy work. They were layed out in a straight line near the porch when I found them...Joy lay nearby, panting and wagging her tail.

"Good girl."

Living in the city limited her freedom to a certain extent, but we are blessed to have a pretty large back yard. One night, the neighbor hunting dogs tunnled under the fence and came into our yard. There was some growling which brought me outside. Lance, Joy's adopted child was there wagging his tail and Joy was no where to be seen. I was a little wary of these strange dogs and stood there not quite knowing what to do when the oldest looking one growled at me. My little medium sized Joy shot out of her dog house and went straight for the older dogs throat. She was protecting her human. I've never had an animal do that for me before, nor will I ever probably again.

"Good girl."

Death of someone, or something I love brings up guilt feelings in me. "I should have..." or "I could have..." I asked my class today to write their legacy, how they wish to be remembered when they die. While I was waiting for them to finish, I was suddenly touched with Joy's answer:

"I want him to remember that I belonged to him, that I was happy, and that I loved him."

"Good girl...and thank you."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gutter Races

Lo and behold it rained here in the desert yesterday. My daughter and I were alone for the afternoon and she delighted in playing outdoors, generally making a mess on the back porch. I stayed inside doing something I thought was pretty important at the time.

While taking the dog out front I realized that we had a mini flood moving down our gutter...just enough to splash your feet in. An immediate conversation in my mind went something like this:
"Glad she isn't seeing this...she'd want to come out here and play."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, I'd have to play with her and I have very important things to do."

"Like what?"

Thank goodness my "god-father" side wins out over the "selfish-father" side.

All I had to do was remind her of our previous rains and she was out the door like a shot with a toy in hand to toss in the water and watch it rush down the street. I used the match I was going to light the grill with (for the steak dinner I was soon to make). We had a great time racing flower's, leaves, and tiny sticks down the street. She was in heaven splashing bare-footed in the water.

The good/bad thing about the gutter races is they are over as soon as the run-off from the streets above runs out...which it soon did. After our last race, as we walked back up to the house, she skipped along and joyfully announced, "That was fun Daddy!" She also gave her mother a detailed report of our gutter races, and how she used this and I used that, and she won this and I won that that evening.

God, please KILL my selfish-father side. It threatens to rob my daughter of so many opportunities for joy and learning....not only that, it threatens to rob me of the awesome reward of a happy, healthy, loving daughter (selfishness betrays itself by limiting one's life rather than adding to it).
I think the next time it rains, I'll race her out the door...barefeet and all.

(I note that she had nothing to report to her mother about the cartoons we watched, nor the video game we played earlier that day....hmmmm. Could it be that those are not really important nor memorable to her?!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


With appologies to Tolkin, Lucas, and Le Guin, I have been constructing quite an elaborate fairy tale for my daughter each morning on the way to school. My daughter has taken to simply saying "Aragorn!" and I am expected to weave away. Some mornings, though I'm "not allowed, I would rather listen to the radio...but other mornings, what joy to hear her laugh when I make up something funny, or even to have her participate in the story making.

I found a recent extra benefit to this routine. My daughter is not perfect in her appearance like some of the turds in her second grade class think she should be and they, in their magnanomous benificence shared with her that has xxx and yyy. After being made aware, she experienced the usual response of staring at herself in the mirror, wishing xxx and yyy would go away. And then she faked sick for 3 days in a row (we made her go to school anyway).

[An aside: If you are an idiot parent who doesn't have the compassion to teach your child at a very young age not to make fun of other people...I hope you enjoy it when you child grows to be an adolescent and makes fun of you, among others. Have fun with that.]

I realized I had a perfect opportunity to teach a lesson without directly personalizing it and drawing up her defences so I wove a story about how the young daughter of Aragorn, Chastity (yeah, Sonny and Cher) had a very tiny nose, and a large birth mark on her face. She too was made fun of and after threatening to throw the bullies in the dungeon (which she made me say several times), her mother (Joy -- named after our dog) taught her how to deal with those kind of people.

I felt especially proud that day. And especially grateful to other's more creative than I who wove the stories I use to weave mine. But most of all, I'm grateful to Dora Diane, for reminding me how very important it is to tell stories and laugh in the morning.

I wonder if she's too young for me to work in the horrible death of Chastity's boyfriend brought about by his attempt to kiss her...

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Cross, The Tomb, and Candy Eggs

40 is a wonderful age. I recommend it to everyone who has not yet been here. For me, strange and wonderful things began to happen at 40. For one, I appreciate life more than perhaps ever before. This is a drag, but also an inspiration as, I am in good physical shape as well as better emotional shape than I have ever been. I realize things that I knew, but never really grasped before. Insights abound nearly every day. I think it is a great time for the mind as it develops wisdom...slowly but surely.

This past week for example, Holy Week leading up to Easter. I found myself approaching Easter in an entirely different way than ever before. Perhaps it was our new preacher and his sermon the Sunday prior. Perhaps it was wisdom. Or perhaps, it was the fact that Dora Diane was ready to learn more about the death and resurrection of Christ. Either way, I worked to take it seriously. We even watched The Passion on Friday night (just my wife and I). It was really rewarding, though very difficult to watch. Somehow Jesus is more real to me these days...something I have probably prayed for to the extent that it is now being answered. Anyway, it is helpful for me to imagine Christ himself walking with me through the low places, as well as the high ones.

I'm pretty sure that Dora didn't gather the full meaning of what Christ did for her...but I do know she understands that the easter bunny does not give meaning to Easter. Part of me marvels that we Christians celebrate the cruel and painful death of an innocent man. I know, I know, we celebrate his resurrection....but really, partially, we celebrate his death. Watching the Passion, I realized how primitive this all is. We humans try so hard to be civilized...but we're not. If Christ was alive today, He would not have to worry about our "civilized" society failing to put him to death. We'd find a way. Maybe he would be beheaded by Muslims. Maybe he would be placed in a mental institution. Probably he wouldn't even set foot in America...to much bad press. I'll bet he'd appear in a little backwater town in an occupied land...I hope not Afganistan or Iraq...but that would be just like Him. (No, I'm not comparing the US to the Romans.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

"I know it's all part of God's plan."

I've been doing a lot of thinking about "God's Will" recently. I like to try to figure things out. After all, God gave me a brain and I like to pretend to use it every now and then.

I attend a baptist church in a small town. That is a bit different than saying that "I am a baptist" but still, close enough for most. Baptists, if one didn't know are rather conservative. That is to say, when my old pastor came upon me in the local grocery store with a 30 pack of bud light under the basket...well, he was nice...but I don't think I ever lived that down in his mind. Good baptists don't drink, smoke, dance or gamble. (Well, one out of four aint bad!) (Brings up the old joke about the guy who says he's a old time baptist, pats his shirt pocket and say's "Sh**, I'll bet you a hundred dollars I left my cigaretts at the bar in the dance hall!"

Anyway. Some Baptists also deal with tragedy in a way which is difficult for me to swallow. When bad things happen, they first ask themselves if there is any "unconfessed sin" in their life. I don't. Remember, I just attend a baptist church and keep my amazement to myself. If anything causes me to tumble down the hill over my faith however it is that belief, as well as this one: Someone dies, gets shot, loses a child to an illness, whatever and their self-soothing is, "I know this is God's will." or "I know this is all part of His plan for me."

I've worked really, really hard on that and two things come to mind:

1) If I am a competent enough father to find ways to teach my daughter things she needs to know without kicking her in the literal or figurative gut...I believe God can do the same.

My plan for Dora is that she never get electrocuted. I'm not going to cause her to lose her hands so she never has an opportunity to stick them in the light socket. Now, if she does step outside of my plan and sticks something in the light socket and I'm not around to help, she will suffer. That's NOT my plan for her; in fact it is way outside of my plan for her. So there she is, lying on the floor unconscious, her hand black from an electrical burn. I would immediately swoop her up in my arms and rush her to the hospital. I would do everything in my power to help her overcome and live on despite her bad choice. Thus, I would continue to work out my plan for her, despite the obstacle she thrust in my way. Perhaps her bad experience would be useful to her in the future. But it was not in my plan...and I didn't cause it to happen...and I didn't NEED for an accident to occur to get her attention. I'm competent enough to find other ways to reach her.

I know enough about God's will to starve an ant, but the above reflection on my own imperfect fathering leads me to assert that God is not a bumbling uncle who watches me trip down the stairs and then says, "I saw that coming 'and allowed it to happen' becuase I decided you needed to learn a lesson about stairs." Rather, I think He is there with me, at the bottom, weeping and hurting with me, while He begins to work out His will for me, now that I have a broken leg. (He "taught" me all about stairs back when I was a very young child and experienced gravity for the first time. The brain He designed learns from those early mistakes and is supposed to remind me to be careful.)

2) Consider the following:
  • "Josef F., 73, admitted that he locked his daughter, who was 18 at the time, in the cellar, that he repeatedly had sex with her, and that he is the father of her seven children." He kept her a total prisoner for 24 years. She never saw the light of day.

This was discovered 6 months ago and the guy is soon to be sentenced. Of course the girl and her seven children are all in a mental institution. If THAT was the 'will of God for her life, and the lives of her seven children;" if THAT was God's plan for them...well, just imagine what that would mean about God.

What does it mean about God if the plane crash victim whose life was saved and says, "I guess it was just God's will that I live."? Does that mean it was God's will that the rest died? I humbly suggest "no." God's will for all of us is that we "have life and have it abundantly." Anything which limits or hinders abundant life is outside of God's will. Human error or Evil which entered the world to create chaos, disease, and death is the culprit I choose to blame.

What gives me hope is that God is all powerful and able to use "All things for the good of those who seek and fear him." He has a perfect plan and is not ultimately thwarted by evil. I remember playing with ant beds in my youth and thowing obstacles in the ants way just to see what they did. Over and over, their initial will was challenged but they would always find a work around.

So what do I say to people when they are the recipients of one of these "obstacles?" The first thing is "I'm sorry you have to endure this." The last thing I would say (and if I got to it on the list I would cross it off and not say it) would be "God's will is hard and mysterious." To me, at this time in my spiritual growth, that's just ignorant and mean.

I know God has a plan, and I know He is bigger than any tragedy which should randomly fall on me or my family. I know He has a plan for my daughter, and I know that He will continue to work it out. And in the end, wherever she is on the journey, He will bring her home to Himself.

Sorry to any and all who disagree. I'm not a good baptist. But do want to be a good Christian. I do want to be in His plan and I don't want to have to figure out the "magic" formula to keep from getting a spiritual kick in the gut. I've never come across that passage in the bible. (Ok, ok. Someone is eventually going to read this and think about the verse which says "The Lord Chastens those He loves." and "God will not allow you to face more than you can bear." Let me work on those further and elaborate later.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cause She'll Be Gone

One of my favorite songs is Dance With Cinderella. It is a beautiful and poinient challenge to take advantage of the time you have with your child because eventually, "She'll be gone." For most, this brings tears at the thought of her leaving home and living with someone else. Me too. But in my experience, it means more. It means that one day soon she may die.

My melancholy bluntness stems from recent events in the lives a people I care about. A dear, old friend faces his infant son's debilitating illness...and nothing seems to be working to heal him. Another acquantance at church lost their unborn child.

My wife and I have been through terrifying trials with our daughter...but not like that. Yet I can imagine the worst. My life experiences have taught me that she could be gone by this evening. I am helpless to stop that. Probably why we humans eventually seek solice in a "higher power." The Alcoholics Annonymous organization has it right...step 1: I admit I am powerless over my _________. I give control over to my higher power.

Fill in the blank.

But I don't want to be powerless! It's really not fair. If others get their time with their children, watch them grow up, have the luxary of time, why not I? Job said the same. Lost everything unfairly. And God's response...it blows me away.

"Who do you think you are to contemplate?" "Help me understand your great human wisdom which allows you to dictate fair versus unfair." Paraphrased, much of that seems to scream: "It's not about you Job." "There is a much bigger picture."

Could we be let in on the bigger picture then. If a child had to suffer, could we not see how it's all supposed to work out in the end. Just let me know who benefits, and how. What will I learn at the cost of this child's suffering. Worst of all...why do so many refuse to learn those lessons and repeat the same failings over and over again?

It doesn't make sense. But I should be used to that...there are a lot of things my mind doesn't wrap around. But I'm brooding. I don't have to suffer anything but the fear of those things. When I thought I was in the moment...I wasn't. Relief fell and all was right with the world.

It's not about me...but I am decieved to believe that it is. My child's suffering becomes my suffering...and I grieve because I hurt. "Why Me?"

Why not?

Dance now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just When You Think You've Lost Them

Spring break was nice for us. Low on funds we spent most of the week at home. This allowed for many "Daddy and Dora" mornings. I am especially blessed with a job which, during certain times, allows me to stay home (summers and holidays mainly). My wife works in the mornings and I work in the afternoons. This is where Daddy and Dora morning or days began.

Being an only child, our daughter needs playmates and who better to play with her than her dear old dad. So it started one morning long ago (about 5 years ago actually) with my daughter asking me to play "talk animals" with her (that's another story altogether). This became routine and Dora began asking "Is today a Daddy and Dora day?"

Though they have evolved over time, we still have our Daddy and Dora mornings and sometimes days. (I even have the t-shirt.) Spring break allowed us 6 Daddy and Dora mornings (and one whole Daddy and Dora day.) It was nice to connect with the princess.

This morning, day two of our return to normal post holiday life and thus, our Tuesday trip to 2nd grade drop off, my daughter forwent (?) her usual request of "Aragorn" (o.k., that's another story too) and simply informed me, "I love to read" as she opened her Calvin and Hobbs anthology (well, it's mine really). Silence on the way to school.

I didn't like it. Is this what we will become, my own parents and I not speaking on the way to places? She'll do her thing and I'll have to sit here and try to think up something to say to pull her into a conversation. Gosh I hope not. I want her to talk to me. I want her to want to talk to me. I need the connection, and I know that she does too.

She was still reading as we neared her school when all of a sudden she said, "Aragorn!" I looked and she showed me she had once again finished off a rather large book. "We're at the school already!" I half kidded, and told her a small bit of the story we were working on (Aragorn and Chastity (Daddy and child). She figured out the riddle I posed (part of the story) and beamed at her cleverness. (me too) It was time to exit the car. Time to run into school. Time for our separation, a harder time for me I think than her...but today, just when I had been thinking I was losing her, she took several steps toward the door, turned, and ran back to the car for a quick kiss and an "I love you Daddy."

If she only knew.