Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Some Guys Will do Anything to Lay Around a Bit

I’m in the hospital.

Don’t fret. I’m not dying.

Well, perhaps I am, we all are. But I don’t expect that I’ll be shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon.

So... they let me bring my computer in and I thought I’d do a little writing rather than watch one of the three Law and Orders or two Crime Scene Investigations that are on TV.

I was mowing the lawn yesterday and after a half hour or so I felt a little funny. I thought I was just dehydrated.

But my left arm tingled, and the muscle in the upper arm felt... odd. I woke up this morning and the tingling was still there. And it was still there when I was in a meeting at the end of the day. So I went to the doctor, they did some checks, and now I’m back from chest x-rays and a cat scan.

Interesting place...

The RN, Sally, is really sweet, kindly...

Bits of conversation drift in from the hall...

“...are you feeling any better?”

“...We’ll be back to see you in the morning...”

“ my butt hanging out?...”


A few friends just dropped by. My “moon howlin” buddies. We laughed a bit, they threatened to take my laptop away because I’m still working (got to type up some lesson plans!).


It’s almost 9:00 p.m. I have a promise to keep...


Dear Lord...

Thank you for my family. Bless them tonight.

Protect my son Jeremiah. Keep all forces of darkness, all things that are not of You, far away from him. bless his sleep tonight. May he sleep well. I cannot place my hand on him tonight, so I ask that You touch him for me.

Be with Isaac tonight. I know he is afraid for me. Most people do not see how sensitive he is, but I know his fears, Lord, and I ask You to please give him a sense of peace, a calmness, a serenity that all is all right and that his daddy is fine. Bless my beautiful child, bless my son.

Comfort my wife tonight, Lord...

--phone rings--

It was my family! They were praying for me while I was praying for them. The great thing was I was able to pray for them with them.

I really have no idea where this post is going. It certainly isn’t going to be the polished type of writing I like to do. But it is a weB LOG... my online journal... so since I have some time on my hands... I’m going to ramble on... But, if you are looking for something pithy, perhaps you should move on to the next blog you like to read, or check on one of the blogs I have listed over there to the right.


A local hospital is an interesting place. Full of memories. Here is where brought Jeremiah a few months ago when his bloody nose didn’t stop for so long. Here is where I was brought 12 years ago when I was hit by a car while riding a motorcycle. Here is where I saw my first child lying dead on a metal table.

This is the place where neighbors and friends and chuirch family come when they need help (there is a man from my church in a room across the hall). Births and deaths. Small owies and life-threatening injuries are dealt with here.

My pastor visited me here last night, a few hours after being here for the man across the hall.

What a blessing to have such a place...


Good morning! I usually wake up at 5:00 and here I am still in bed at 7:30. No coffee either.

It’s hard to fall asleep in this place. It was after 11:30 when I finally did. The rounds of tests, EKG, blood, weight, blood pressure began promptly at 5:00. It would have been better if it included a massage.

They’ve been great here.

My boss called me this morning. He’s a great guy. I’m really looking forward to working for him next year. Our school is dividing. It has gotten too big and we are building a new one. I am staying at the old school and the staff that is going to be there with me is a fantastic group of educators. We have some great ideas on how we will reinvent ourselves.

I could say a lot about pedagogy and education and programs and curricula that will help so many kids... but I keep thinking about the people who work there.

Many are believers. Protestant and Catholic. Every morning at 7:30 up to a dozen of us gather in a conference room or an office, shut the door, and say the Lord’s Prayer. One of that regular group isn’t a believer. So, at this very moment while I write they are praying, and I am sure they said an extra little prayer for me.

Many are not believers. They have their own philosophies and beliefs which are important to who they are. Artists and golfers, vegetarians and “slaughter it, dip it in boiling fat and put gravy on it meat eaters”. They are democrats and republicans, new teachers and nearing retirement veterans of decades of teaching.

Believers or not, they are wonderful people. They love kids so much. They do not work just eight hours a day. They get there early, they leave late. They come in on weekends and they grade papers, write lessons and tests and quizzes. They take summer graduate courses and workshops on how to deal with ELL, NCLB, CIM/CAM, IEPs, 504s, TAG, and a host of other alphabet soup pedagogical entrees.

I love them. They are such good people. It is a privilege to do anything I can for them. I want to serve them as I serve my students. As I serve my Lord.


I wasn’t afraid last night. Perhaps I really don’t think that I am in any sort of danger from a heart attack. I think I have stopped thinking of myself as mortal. It has been a long process, but I have an eternal perspective of who I am and the idea of dying really doesn’t seem to frighten.

I am concerned about my family... that they would be able to make ends meet should I no longer be here...

I have gotten into the habit of thinking in terms of greater spans of time than a human life. The intellectual part of me, the curious scientist, has contemplated millennia, and eons, and the billions of years since He made all things for such a long time that I am comfortable in imagining the spinning of galaxies, sparkling with the regular beats of birthing and dying stars.

I have also gotten into the habit of thinking in terms of greater spans of future time. The spiritual part of me, the Curious Servant sees an eternity of joy lying ahead. I see those spinning galaxies cooling and darkening in some distant future while I view them from an eternity which runs parallel to this time, this place. I picture time as a two-dimensional plane which will permit me to walk beside the universe, watching all of it unfolding to reveal mysteries that a human mind cannot begin to behold. That will be mine. I believe this two dimensional time will allow me to move to any point in creation and view it for as long as I wish. I am certain that the crucifixion of my Master is the most visited event of all time. Some day my heart will fill beyond the emotions a mortal can bear while I watch those nails driven into those wrists. That is where I am headed. I am already immortal.

So, what if I do have heart disease today? It means I will have to change some things. I’ll probably forgo the burgers, and the sausage, and onion rings. Sigh... I’ll probably stop having the huge plate of biscuits and gravy when I’m returning from the coast at Camp 18 on Hwy 26. I might let my wife talk me into riding a bike to school. I’m not talking about a motorcycle. I can’t pictue me in spandex, but a reclining bike could be cool.

I need to finish raising these kids, and Jeremiah may always be needing me. Isaac is slowly turning into a young man and I need to see him off and running his own race.

So I need to stick around.


Well this post is long enough. It is a rambling one... a wandering journey through rolling thoughts in this weird mind of mine while I lay in this hospital bed. Which is getting tiresome. I’ve said enough here for now. I can provide updates in the comment section.

God bless!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Playing Poker

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(Podcast works best if you let it get a head start on downloading. hit play... wait, then hit rewind and start playing. I think this file will work better than my previous attempts.)

Elvis was fat.

As he walked, his belly swung from side to side.

I blamed Brenda.

I kept telling her not to give him snacks. She loved feeding him bits of cheese at bed time. Toward the end, before we put him down, he had such saggy parts folks had trouble telling his gender. (Sorry for the mental image.)

Now we have Rocky. He’s six years old, acts just like a puppy, and weighs a hundred pounds.

For six years I’ve told Brenda not to give him snacks. She’d sneak them to him subtly, and sometimes not so subtly.

Ticked me off.

She’s turning this dog into a flabby geezer like the last one. Can’t she see I’m right? Doesn’t she respect what I think and feel? Isn’t he my dog too? Why is she defying me on this? (Sounds a little like primitive chest thumping, doesn’t it? It is.)

We don’t always see eye to eye. And not because I am four inches taller.

When I was younger it was a bigger problem than today. Our disagreements seemed larger (they weren’t, we just felt they were). They seemed bigger because there seemed more at stake. I wanted to count, to be important.

We live as if we are playing poker. We put much value on every interaction, every conversation, discussion, debate, and argument, as if important hands are being played, showing all the world our true worth. We want to win. We need to win, want to make sure our points are made, that we get the shortest line at the checkout, the best seat in the theater, the sweetest piece of the pie.

When we talk with those close to us the stakes are higher. We are hurt easier. We hurt others more easily. We avoid tough talk with those we want to impress, talk tough to those we feel owe us.

I try to be fair, honestly I do. But I want to win. It is some sort of default setting. I like winning. I must win. Who I am, my value, my worth, depends on it.

This blog is a good example. My statements are made in a voice of authority. I write as if I am pronouncing great truths, instead of the ramblings of a middle aged man living in a moment of no particular significance. I’m pompous, self-important. (That’s what is cool about a blog... here I have full control.) As if these words are important.

It isn’t just in our personal lives. We judge what we say in meetings, in conversations in the produce section, in the aisles of church, with an eye to what others think of us. We want to seem wise, intelligent. We want to be respected. We want something persistently elusive.

What is so important? Why do I, we, feel we must win? Why do we feel slighted by trivial things? Why do I sometimes feel my position as the head of my home is threatened by a tone in her voice, some trivial act? Such as giving a piece of cheese to a dog.

Because, secretly, deep down inside, I, we, suspect we aren’t important. We want to be, but we suspect we aren’t. Perhaps we can convince everyone we are, and so convince ourselves.

For men it seems even more important. Perhaps it is biology. Perhaps culture. Men tend to get angrier over disagreements. They seem to have more ego involved in having their words tested, seem to be told from an early age that they must always be right (hence our reluctance to ask for directions). Men tend to abuse more, demand more, posture more. We seem to feel that those we love, those we have within our homes, must demonstrate their proper role, their proper position. There can only be one alpha. (It’s true, but it isn’t us.)

I’m sure this is an exaggeration. I mention it because it is something I struggle with, probably from trying to measure up to an overbearing father.

I am consciously trying to break out of my father’s mold. I want to embrace the philosophy that I am a servant of all.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as better than yourselves.” --Philippians 2:3

It kind of goes against the grain, doesn’t it?

The truth is we haven’t much to be proud of... but we are extremely important.

We are craven creatures... We are selfish sots, lazy liars, deceiving doubters, pernicious peeps. We are ever failing, ever self-motivated, ever less than we are meant to be.

And that is the good news. We are less than we are meant to be because we are so much more than we dare to admit. Animals do not fail. They are just as they are designed to be. They do not cheat, or are less than they are.

We are wondrous creatures. We have souls. Though we have a base, an animal nature, we have a divine element that is precious. We have the ability to fail, the predilection for screwing up. That would not be possible if we weren’t endowed with free will and a soul.

If we consider what we mean to Him, we will see we are extraordinary creatures. We haven’t the single-minded focus of angels, that purity of devotion which can carry us through centuries, millennia. They have souls, but they haven’t the free will.

Which makes us precious.

Ah... there it is. We suspected as much! It is exactly as we have been ineffectually trying to tell ourselves, tell others.

Something deep inside tells us we are important. The problem is the evidence denies it. We number in the billions, we aren’t all that rare. We are impure, unlike the divinity we sense in our spiritual lives, or even in the purity of the beauty of our world.

Our failings tell us we are not important. As a species we are destructive. We may be creative in small ways, art, poetry, literature... friendship, family, self-sacrifice... but the majority of our lives seem consumed in hurting and being hurt.

But we feel we must be important... somehow. We should be recognized, honored for our small, miniscule, contributions to this world. People should move out of the way of our vehicle on the freeway, they should wait on us quickly in the marketplace, should respect our authority in our homes. That’s my desk! That’s my parking space! That’s my place in the pew!

Why do we feel we are so important?

It is because of the whisper. There is something inside each of us that whispers to us. That tells us we are special. That we are unique. That despite our failings we are worthy of great compassion, great love, the greatest love. This whisper, the barest hint of a voice, speaks deeply to us. We recognize its truth though we have a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

I have been a jerk. Many times. I have been offended by trivial things. I have let my wife’s views, her opinions, her disagreements, offend me. As if my value is somehow diminished, rejected, by the thoughts and comments of another.

Here is what shows my true value: I am a man, a member of the species which the Creator Of The Universe cherishes enough to sacrifice ultimately for!

(Oh dear Lord God, oh my Master, how can that be so? Bless me Lord with the wisdom to understand.)

I am designed to walk in the cool of the evening with Him, and talk about my day, my way of experiencing what He has given me. I am supposed to be in a place, a beautiful setting, which holds me in honor, as the peak of creation, and share it with The Maker Of All Things.

I have learned that my value is very high, very great, because I am worth dying for. I am worth being tortured for. Someone did that for me. He let Himself be beaten, and whipped, and scourged, and mocked, and pierced, and nailed to a piece of wood.

That scares me.

Something has always told me I was important, and I have tried to act like it is true. But there has been another whisper which tells me that I am a fraud. That I am unworthy of honor. Unworthy of even the merest recognition. Of anyone!

Who am I that people should recognize me? Who am I that someone should stand up in my defense? Who am I that someone should pay my fines, make reparation for my crimes? Who am I that the Maker Of All Things, the being who holds the universe together, should stand before the might of an empire, the condemnation of a society, and say, “I’ll pick up the tab.” That is the truth of the bloody death and the triumphant victory of Christ.

The universe is billions of years old. And, at the proper distance, the proper perspective, it looks like a clump of soap bubbles floating in the darkness.

Drawing nearer we would see the film of those bubbles is galaxies surrounding huge voids of dark energy.

At the intersection of those bubbles the film becomes denser, the galaxies closer to each other, and in one such clump are a couple of spiral galaxies with a few elliptical galaxies orbiting nearby.

On the trailing edge of one of the outer arms of one the spiral galaxies is a medium sized, middle-aged main sequence star with a handful of planets circling madly.

On one of the smaller continents of one of those worlds I live in a valley about 150 miles long. There is a smallish town at the north end of that valley.

I live there. In this time, in this place.

I’m a mayfly on a speck of sand in the greatest of all deserts. An ordinary man who struggles with his own identity.

This ordinary guy, who is proud of all the wrong things, tries to be the alpha male in his own little pack. A silly little enterprise, borne of misconceptions. Borne of the fears of who I am not, the whispers of a dark voice that says I am nothing, and the whispers of a voice of light tells me I am loved.

The tragedy of these misconceptions is the stupid little game of poker I am playing with my life. I am so concerned about what people think of me, how I can hoard up political clout with careful husbanding of my resources, that I am missing the point.

Now, to the awful truth. Because I so crave the approval of others, especially of those I love, I am willing to let them die without knowing that they are loved by the Maker Of All Things. Because I want my dad to like me, to love me, I so crave his approval, I dare not displease him with a conversation about the only thing that is important.

Because I am so full of doubt about my true worth, I am willing to listen to the dark whisperer and believe I am not worthy, that I risk too much in telling my dad that Jesus loves him.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


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(It can be opened with Quicktime)

It isn’t a very masculine word, but it fits. It is lovely today.

The sunlight on the trees, is lovely. There are hundreds, thousands, of types of green. There are verdurous mosses, darker ferns, rich trillium. The nearby meadow shimmers a waving yellow-green, the blackberries are reaching across paths with their own spectrum of hues. I see aspens shaking their leaves in the light breeze, shimmering an emerald song of life, of spring. Majestic douglas firs stand nearly motionless with their deep verdant psalm of praise. This is Oregon and the word “green” is too brief, too simple to express what I see. The forest marches away into the distance, the hills are clad in trees, turning bluish green with each successive wave that climbs and falls as they march toward Mount Hood. Even the base of that beautiful mountain, forty miles away, wades through a distant blue green which peers from below the cloak of winter snows.

A few white clouds are sauntering across the afternoon sky. Not large, grand thunderheads. Simple wisps of cotton, dreamily sliding against a cerulean canvas.

It is so lovely; it makes me tremble.

I am rather scientific by nature. I like things measured, proven, well-considered. I ground my thinking on firm foundations of rational evidence. But there is something about faith which defies measurement, testing, debate. This up-welling of my spirit shouts of a creator, offering proof that brooks no debate.

Do you wish to argue the existence of God, of a creator? I’m sorry, I have no eloquent words to give you. But there is proof.

There is a deep, intrinsic beauty to the world (when I turn my eyes away from the sorrows born of Man). There is a loveliness that cannot be explained twofold.

First, I cannot explain why I feel it. Why does my heart leap at such things? Why do I feel a twisting, beating, shouting, singing joy within my heart? What part of who I am is responding to this? What do I have within me that makes me feel this way, and what evolutionary benefit could it possible have? For this joy does not make me more likely to pass on my genes. I experience joy at the beauty of the world, and there isn’t any scientific reason for it.

Secondly, I cannot explain why it is here. We must concede the point that beauty exists, even if we are at a loss to define it. We can point to what is beautiful and what is not. But why is it here? What function does beauty serve?

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? --Psalm 8:3-4

Beauty exists for a very simple reason: Yahweh. God does not make unlovely things.

That rising passion I feel within my heart is the recognition my soul has for seeing the craftsmanship of my Lord, my master.

May all things praise the Lord God Almighty.

He is a wondrous God. For He has provided all I need. He gives me food, shelter, love, life...

...and beauty.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I want to try podcasting. I have the following post and the links are the picture or the links below it.

I am trying a service I noticed on another blog (thanks Fred). Any suggestions? Should I keep it up? Is it worth the download time?

It Isn’t Indigestion

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I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 1:3-6

Lately I sense something in my life. Something different. It isn’t exactly unpleasant, or unnerving.

Jeremiah is doing well. He is starting to confess small errors of judgment even though we didn’t have a clue about it. He is excited about our garden. He is joyfully watering and weeding the four rows of corn, the row of tomatoes, the five strawberry plants (Oregon grows superior strawberries!), a jalapeno pepper plant, a large variety of herbs, and the sunflowers framing two sides. He enjoys my prayer time with him each night and the devotional we always do after dinner.

Isaac is doing well. He is praying for a friend who thinks she may be pregnant, tough issues for teens to deal with. He is working very hard to get good grades, and wants to build up his muscles to compliment his new height. He loves to walk and he feels free to talk to me about many personal things. He is growing quite a bit. (The other night at dinner he said that he thought he was feeling a growth spurt right there at the table.)

Brenda is doing well. We love each other, and want to keep things open and honest between us. We have had tense discussions of late. She is frustrated over the pace of life... the trips to Jeremiah’s counseling sessions, her many weekly meetings, her cooking, and cleaning and washing, and dealing with the myriad of details born of the many hair-brained projects her husband starts.

I am doing well. Midterms have passed and so I’m caught up on grading. I am involved in quite a few projects... several professional ones, several spiritual ones, keeping a 65+ year old house livable, three simultaneous paintings, mentoring a high school student, producing a cable tv show, writing a blog... stuff like that.

But there is something else going on. I feel something... coming.

It is difficult to describe. It’s a feeling that has been growing for a little while now.

I’m not sure how to describe it.

It’s not indigestion.

The past year has been pretty rough (much smoother now). I don’t believe it will continue to be easy, things don’t work that way. I know difficulty often leads to growth, especially spiritual growth. But perhaps other things lead to growth as well. Maybe I’m feeling a growth spurt.

I am a lump of clay. A work in progress on The Potter’s wheel. I am unfinished. What an exhilarating feeling! What will I become? I feel His hand upon me, shaping me.

Do you feel it? Is there something happening spiritually in your life? I think it might always there... but sometimes it seems more present, more real.

Do you remember puberty? That time when your body was growing, changing, and there was a rushing feeling about being alive. I see that feeling reflected in the eyes of the middle schoolers I teach. Often they look confused, uncertain, wary. Other times, especially in spring, they can hardly contain themselves. They bounce off the walls. They are alive and they know it.

That feeling of change is in me today, this week. I have been doing a lot of praying, a lot of thinking. I’ve been doing some of my prayerful paintings, and reading from my Bible. And through all of it there has been a sense of expectation.

There are sometimes dry spells in our spiritual lives, times when The Potter has decided we need to sit on the shelf for a while. But there are times when we are in His hands and we know it.

Who will I be in a year’s time? I do not know. But I know that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

I feel something coming...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother’s Day

She turned 18 two weeks before I was born.

Her's hasn’t been an easy life. Still isn’t. But it’s been a life full of faith.

She had three boys and a girl, spaced about 14 months apart. Then she had a miscarriage, another daughter, another miscarriage, another daughter, and another son.

She was divorced after her first five children, remarried later for the final two. These are the basic facts, which tell nothing at all about her.

There are two primary elements to my mother’s life. She is an artist, and she is a believer.

She has followed her art throughout her life (I have a painting/calligraphy piece she did as a teen). The exploration of her artistic talents has been constant. It has placed food on her table and paid the rent, for nearly all of her life through paintings sold, lessons given, art traded. She went to college briefly, but most of her techniques have been self taught.

Her faith has been astonishing.

Once, when I was five, my father was away, hauling grain, 500 miles away. We had nothing to eat. She sat us down at the table. She told us the Lord would provide. She started to pray. A Canadian goose landed in the yard. We ate.

A few years ago she told me that she felt she was supposed to go on a mission trip to China, to tell people of God’s love. She had her passport. She had her bags packed.

“How much money do you have Mom?”

“Five dollars.”

“You can’t go to China on that!”

“Sure I can. The Lord will give me all I need.”

“How much did the ticket cost you?”

“I didn’t buy one.”


“I don’t have one, But I’m sure it will all work out. A friend is going to drive up to San Francisco and I’ll find a way onto that plane.”

She did. She went to San Francisco. At the last moment someone had an emergency and gave her the ticket. She wandered around with others on the mission trip. People invited her into their homes, fed her, she told them about Jesus. Someone paid some sort of fee she needed on her return. It all worked out.

She still lives life one month at a time, with no clear idea how she will pay her bills, no certainty of where her food will come from, yet there is always something for her to eat, a place for her to live.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!...Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
--Luke 12:22-29

I do not know of anyone who has faith as strong as my mother’s.

She has been treated roughly. My father left her with five children to feed. Her second husband kicked her out of his home, threw her clothes and paintings and brushes into the front yard. Yet she visited him constantly, cared for him until he died a few years ago. She is a cancer survivor. She grieves for her children and grandchildren who have wandered far from our Lord’s flock. She is a gentle soul with a gentle heart.

She says she gave me to the Lord when I was born, dedicating her first born her true master. I believe that act of faith, fifty years ago, is what set me on a path which has kept me returning to the Lord.

Once, when I was doing a bit of the hippy thing, hitch hiking, reading Brautigan and Castenada and Gibbons, she painted me a picture.

There is a carousel horse, flying over the waves, stormy waves. It flies, yet is tethered to the world, circling a light house.

(Click to Enlarge)

She said nothing about the painting. She simply told me I would understand it soon enough.

Over the next few weeks it slowly came to me. I felt a grieving in my heart, an ache from being away from a close relationship to my Lord. I sat looking at the painting, wondering. What was it about the image that was working its way into my heart?

Suddenly I just knew I was the horse. I am a creation, a made thing, a thing of beauty set free from a spinning walkway, from the ordinary life, that I was created to fly. But instead of flying free, or flying toward some goal, I was circling in the sky, over churning water. What was I circling? A darkened light house, its windows cracked, its guiding light was not shining in my life.

Suddenly I saw it. Over the light house, in the sky, the clouds formed the letters...


I knew what I was missing in my life.

My mother loves me very much. My mother has an intense faith which shines through darkness, through tears, and trouble. She has no material wealth. She has a car that runs only sporadically. She has no home, no real possessions except a faith that sustains her day by day, year by year, decade by decade.

Oh I love her so.

I know she prays for me constantly. She has prayed for me when I have wandered. She has prayed for me when I have stumbled. She has rejoiced when I have flung myself toward the Lord. She prayed for me when my heart was ripped from my chest by the death of my first child. She prayed for me when I ached for new children (it was her prayers while massaging a missionary’s feet which led her to the woman who was rescuing my children from Haiti). She has prayed for my marriage when things have been rocky, and when things have been blessed. My mother is a constant in my life.

I only speak to her every few months or so. But she is always there.

Oh... my heart is so full when I think of her. It seems silly, a grown man, fifty years old, getting misty-eyed over his mother.

She is a gentle soul who has suffered and rejoiced greatly, deeply.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bless me Lord

Bless me Lord. Heavenly Father... my Lord, my God, my Master... Bless me.

Lord, I ask for great blessings on me. I ask them not so I may gain anything, but that I may be a better servant for You, a better husband for my wife, a better father for my children, a better leader of my household, and a servant of Yours who demonstrates the kind of master I have so that others may draw closer to You. I ask for undeserved blessings, undeserved grace, so I may better serve You.

Lord, grant me wisdom... that I may better serve my wife, guide my family. Grant me discernment Lord, so I can make better choices, know which way to lead. Lord, grant me wisdom.

Lord, grant me peace... that I may walk my days, tranquil in the shadow of Your guidance, willing to go onto any path, travel any road, so long as it serves You. Grant me peace that I may be gentle with my family, my wife, my students, my colleagues. Grant me peace, my Lord.

Lord, grant me humility. Help me to remember there is nothing which I made, is truly mine, and not given to me. All I am, and all I have are gits from You. Help me to remember that I am Your servant and therefore a servant to all I meet. Help me to remember to give water to the thirsty, food to those who hunger, comfort to those who ache, grieve, and moan under their burdens. Grant me the humility of a true servant. Help me to remember to treat others with the knowledge that I am at their service.

Lord, grant me a heart which always seeks after You. Help me to always wish for, always pray for, always seek for have a heart which wishes for nothing greater than to honor You. Grant me a heart that seeks only You, my Lord.

Lord, grant me the blessing of being Your servant in all I do.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Designed to do the Macarena

The woman was slapping her arms, patting her head, and wiggling her bum. The long version of “Macarena” played on. Her eyes sparkled. Her serious expression was belied by the gleam in her eyes. She danced with seriousness, doing her best at having a good time. Behind the intent look in her eyes was a playfulness, a joy; she was having one of the best times of her life.

There was a sense of Deja’ Vu. I had watched a similar dance during many Christmas seasons.

The dance floor was filled with many athletes from Special Olympics, most of them doing their own version of the dance, all with great joy.

Two Special Olympics coaches, married a few minutes before, were joyously mixing it up with them. Dancing or not, everyone in the room was smiling, grinning.

Brenda and I danced to the first song, a slow song. I passed on cutting loose to “Staying Alive” or “Y.M.C.A.” But it was a lot of fun to watch.

I especially liked watching the man who’d led the bride down the aisle. He had done so with seriousness, displaying a sense of importance, he knew what an honor it is to play that role. Now he was gyrating, his right hand alternating between pointing at his left foot and 11:00, back and forth, back and forth. He was “staying alive.” A regular John Travolta.

Once through "Y.M.C.A." would have been plenty for me, but these folks loved it so much... they needed a second time through it.

One guy’s shoulders hunched up, then fell, his head twisted to one side... shoulders up, head twist, shoulders drop... Like the kid in the cartoon, in the yellow shirt, doing the same dance.

Watching these people, many of them older than I, was special, a treat, one of the best weddings I can remember. They have such big hearts...

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
--Matthew 18:2-4

Watching those Special Olympics athletes made my heart grow. One woman cried when she failed to catch the bride’s bouquet. A man my age caught the garter. Where I would have been self-conscious, embarrassed, he was so happy!

These people were childlike. Not childish. Not acting immature, less than what God made them to be, but purely everything He wanted them to be. They are so full of joy, happiness, abandoning themselves to the moment. They are perfectly designed to be who they are. Designed to do the Macarena.

I watched my son, smiling a smile that has been rare (since our church burned down last June when he was playing with a candle).

I have agonized over my children, especially Jeremiah. It was so hard to believe his IQ is only 46, because he performs so well, he works so hard at being everything that his mommy and daddy want him to be. I have thought how I would be glad to give him half of my IQ to make him complete.

But Saturday, he was so happy. I watched him as he danced (shuffled) around, glad to be alive. I realized how perfect he is. He is just as he should be.

I thought about how much I would give to him. I know that if there was a moment that it was his life or mine, if he needed to be shoved out of the way of a speeding car, or needed a transplant, or anything at all, I would gladly sacrifice myself for him. He means that much to me.

Watching the athletes at that wedding party I knew that each one of them is as special as Jeremiah. I don’t know them that well, but I could see that each one is a very special person.

I realized Jesus loves each of them more than I love Jeremiah. That triggered a small spiritual epiphany.

Just as a parent is willing to sacrifice himself for his child, our Lord loves us even more. He is willing to sacrifice Himself for us. He did such a thing. And it wasn’t the quick sacrifice of jumping in front of a train, but the long, torturous, shameful death of a criminal. The perfect man loves us with infinite, perfect passion.

Jesus would have done all He did for any one of these people. He would have removed Himself from glory, from that intimate connection with the trinity, taken a human form where He sweated, and ate, and grew tired, and taught, and suffered, and was derided, and defiled, and tortured, and put to death. He would have done all of that to claim back just one of us, even the “least” of us. He did such a thing.

Amazing! I am so ordinary, such a common man, and yet the God of the universe loves me enough to be whipped for me. He would let them spit on Him, beat Him, kill Him. His eyes watched the blood spurt from His palm, and He did it gladly, that I, that we, might share that intimate connection, that eternal relationship. So that I may dance with abandon with beings having lived for eternity, living for eternity, in a joy more perfect than the greatest performances of Beethoven, more sublime than the beauty of cathedralic forests, mightier than the power of a white dwarf sun pushing the gases of its nebulaec womb aside to shine upon the universe.

I believe He would have done it, all of it, even if it was to save only one of His children.

Even if it was all just for me.

Even if it all was just for you.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My Apologies

I am sorry... but I am going to skip the post tonight. I am not feeling well and I need to rest. I began a post, but I am not able to complete it tonight. I am unsure if it will be tomorrow either. Perhaps.

But here is a hint of what it is about:

Friday, May 05, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad

It’s my father’s birthday. Cinco de Mayo. The fifth of May.

He’s sixty-nine.

Going on nineteen.

I gave him a call this morning. He is doing well. He has been to Thailand twice this year and is preparing to go for another five weeks pretty soon. He says he is planning on renting a house this time. He is also scheduled to go there later this summer for 42 days, and again in September for 60.

He loves talking about his trips to Amsterdam, and Belize, and wherever his fancy takes him.

I love him.

I also fear him.

I haven't anything to fear, it is just a feeling I get when I am near him, an echo of my childhood.

He has had an interesting life. He has had many adventures, many close calls, many ups and downs. He was beaten as a child, and grew up being pretty tough, pretty rough.

He turned 19 about a week after I was born, my mother had turned 18 three weeks earlier. It isn't easy to start a family that young. He worked in a battery factory, cared for an orange grove, grew popcorn, and dismantled old farm equipment to sell as scrap.

When I was five there wasn’t much money. He was renting a farmhouse, reduced rent in exchange for taking care of some wheat fields. He worked as a truck driver and supplemented our table with pheasant hunting and frog gigging. When he had to haul grain and would be gone for a few days, my mom fixed him a sack full of peanut butter sandwiches, no jelly, just peanut butter. He lost his truck's brakes on the grapevine headed down into L.A. on one of those trips. He's lucky he managed to get down that long grade in one piece.

He started messing around on Mom, and by the time I was in fourth grade she had moved us five times. There was no chance they would get back together (but I hoped).

He married the teen he had been fooling around with and that turbulent, on again, off again marriage ended with a child obviously not his. He claimed that child, my sister, with a determination that spoiled her... She killed herself four years ago. Now he is raising her son.

He scared me. He thought the best way to discipline children was violently.

I once tried to pad my butt with a paperback book before a spanking (hand, stick, or belt, depended on the severity of our crimes). That didn’t work. It was a big mistake.

I was afraid of the "Boogie Man" and set a trap one night. I ended up catching my father in a snarl of ropes and wire clothes hangers. He wasn’t amused.

There were good times. Once, when we were living in Chico, (northern) California, he bought my brothers and I BB guns. He took us out to the river bed and set coins up on rocks. Any we hit we got to keep. For the longest time I kept a quarter in my pocket that had a satisfying little dent in George Washington’s forehead.

He taught me to hunt. On that first trip I learned how to clean a deer, eat fresh liver, and throw a three day drunk. He tried to treat me to a prostitute, to lose my virginity, on that trip. But I refused. He was angry I rejected his generosity.

This is sounding pretty negative. I don't mean it to be. I really love my dad. He taught me to ride a bicycle. He taught me to ride a motorcycle. He taught me to operate a loader and a motor grader, how to tear down buildings, and what it meant to be a man, at least the macho kind that drinks, and swears, and womanizes. He taught... but I just couldn’t seem to learn those things very well. Not his fault.

We used to play stupid games on the demolition job sites, usually something demonstrating mental acuity. The penalty for losing was always some stupid prank. We'd sit around eating jalapeno peppers, cottage cheese, and avocados with our fingers and broken bits of plastic, and create interesting penalties for losing. One time he suggested the next loser would have to pee on the stop sign on the corner. This was in downtown L.A.

He lost.

He sidled up to the sign, looking nonchalant, and paid up for losing. In a big way. Our grins turned to outright laughter when he began dancing around that corner, exposed, because he had forgotten the jalapeno pepper juice on his fingers.

Once he found me without much to do and put me to work. He had me picking rocks off the slope above the building pad where we dreamt of building a house for all of us, him, my brothers and I (it never worked out). I was seventeen. I just wanted to find an oak tree to climb into and read on that summer day. But he had me chucking rocks off that hillside and I didn’t like it. I was petulant, and whiney, and didn’t want to be out in the California sun. I was chucking the rocks angrily between my legs. I felt one of them twist as it left my hand and I knew it wasn’t flying right. I straightened up and saw that rock whiz past his ear, sending up dust as it bounced on down the hill.

“What the F--- was that?” he snarled.

I knew I was in a tight spot. "Come here!”

I started walking down the slope, at an angle. not looking up so it would appear I had an excuse for not having an accurate path toward him.

If I could get across the building pad, past the cow shed, and to the top of the steep grade of the drive, I figured that the momentum of the race down the hill would be enough for me to outrun him.

“Over here, damn it.”

I angled my path so it looked like I was trying to comply. Just the bare minimum, a hint that I was obeying. I got to the bottom of the slope and ambled casually in his direction, but really more toward the cow shed, as if I might be going to get a drink of water.

“Where the hell do you think you're goin'?”

It wasn’t going to work. I swerved right and ran with all I had toward the road. I heard him curse and start scrambling down the hillside after me.

My heart was racing. My breath was blowing hard. If I could just make the top of the grade I would race down that 12% slope with all I had and just concentrate on keeping my feet under me. He wouldn’t risk injuring himself speeding down that steep dirt road pursuing me.

I heard him behind me. His longer, stronger legs were gaining on me.

With forty feet to go to the top of the road I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I would have to slow down to make the turn of the road and I didn’t have the time to manage it. He would have me. So I wouldn’t go down the road. I would just run straight on out, over the steep 50% slope of the hillside above the creek, fly out into the air, hoping I'd land in mesquite brush, and that it would roll me to a gentler stop than the one he'd give me.

I put on all the speed I could. I heard him do the same, very close behind.

Twenty feet to go.

A strong hand grabbed the back of my neck, yanked me to a stop.


Dad’s getting his fifth divorce. He owns at least two houses (I suspect there may be another in Mexico and he might be looking for one in Thailand). He has a girlfriend near where he lives, and I think he has another in Thailand.

He has set two world motorcycle speed records. He holds the record for open stock frame gas engine, and closed stock frame gas engine, set on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He lost a lot of teeth a few years ago dumping a Harley at 163 mph.

One year from today he wants to set another record. He wants to be the first seventy year old to go more than 200 mph on a motorcycle.


I have so many mixed feelings about him... it is hard to sort it out. When I sat down to write this post I thought I was going to write a tribute to him. To the strong man who refuses to let life slow him down. The man who lifted himself out of years of an alcoholic binge and made himself a successful businessman.

Instead of honoring him I have dredged up painful experiences, laid those old wounds open. I have explored the discomfort that grew from his questioning glances at my stack of books, my lack of dates.

I called him this morning to wish him a happy birthday and since that call I have been thinking about the times when he nearly killed me... the times when he went into a rage... the times when he questioned my sexuality and my fitness to be his son.


I have heard it said that how we view our fathers colors how we view our Lord God.

Perhaps that is true. There is something about drawing near to God which terrifies me. There is something about meeting my creator that makes me grateful Jesus is sitting to His right.


Happy birthday Dad. I know you will not read this, you don’t use computers, but if you do come across this somehow, if someone prints it off and hands it to you... I want you to know something.

I love you. I love you very much. I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need any of your money. I don’t need any of your things.

I want you to know that if you were to ever need anything from me... anything at all, all you would need do is somehow let me know. I know you wouldn’t want to ask. You wouldn’t have to... I'd just have to know there was a need and I'd be there.

I want you to know that if it all comes apart, if you need anything I have, I would be there.

I want you to know I love you, I want you to spend eternity with me, with all of us... my friends, my family. I know you are aware of what it takes to be saved, and perhaps you have met the bare requirements for that, it isn’t my place to judge.

It is just my place to love you, and I do. I love you more than I can say.

You weren’t the best dad in a lot of ways, but I know there were many times you thought of me. Loved me... and that is enough.

May God bless you, Dad. May you find the source which quenches your thirsts. May you find peace, and joy, in this life as well as the next.

Happy birthday Dad.


(Heavenly Father. Bless my Dad. He is my earthly father and I love him. Bless him Lord. Please draw him near to You. Bring people alongside of him, people who follow You, people he will listen to, people he will hear, notice. Bring him examples of joy, and peace and grace, so he may wonder where they get such things, and that he may look beyond what he has and to what is missing and have real rest and happiness. Lord, I worry about this ambition of his a year from now. It sounds suicidal to me. Help him to see that the only record worth setting is one which places his name in Your book. Bless my father Lord. --Amen.)