Category: The Journey

“Why Don’t You Do What You Dream?” Pt 3

Check out parts 1 and 2 of this ponderous piece of… exposition, that ye might understand from whence we have come and wherefore art we goeth.
OK – so I have some ideas of things that I dream – things that exist in my heart and mind, a lot of which may never see the light of day. They’re important though, because they’re a little window into how my head works. For my own mental development, as well as for my beloved to see some of what’s going on in there (instead of having it mumbled at her, shotgun style and random), it’s worth the time to wade through it all.
First though, this real-life note…
My mom had zero patience for dreams. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” was one of her standard replies, fired off anytime I would articulate something she considered foolish. Another chosen smackdown was to ask why my head couldn’t get around practical things, instead of all that junk I would fill my mind with. Get my head off of those useless things and on to the stuff right in front of me.
(Like math, for example. She could never understand why math makes no sense to me. Ever. When I got A’s and B’s in geometry, she was convinced I had been playing games with her head all those prior years of D’s in math. After a seminar on “Hemispherical Tendencies,” my left-brained mom called her right-brained son and said, “now I understand why I’ll never understand you.” Have you ever seen or heard a frustrated teacher-mother try to drill multiplication tables into the head of a right-brained dreamer? No? Be very VERY grateful…)
“But the mother and child reunion, is only a motion away.” – Paul Simon
Thanks. Steve the Hamster and I feel much better now…
Now, this isn’t a “resolving issues from your childhood” therapy session. Really. It does say something to those of you who live with dreamers, though –
Dreamers, especially young dreamers, are tender souls, and contained in those ponderings are some deep windows into their hearts.
Impractical? Usually.
Useless? Probably.
But that ridiculous, improbable dream contains a little nugget of what makes a dreamer tick. There’s a little bit of them in there, mixed in with the whimsy and wishes, and when the steamroller of reality comes in, doing 60 in a 35 zone, a little bit of a vulnerable heart turns into roadkill. And part of what remains of that heart gets a little hard.
Yes, reality must rule. But it doesn’t need to rule with an iron fist.
Just a word from a dreamer, who’s been squashed a few thousand times. I’m impractical, I dream useless things that’ll probably never ever EVER come into reality…
(Like getting our old sax quartet back together, expanding it with wind controllers, recorders, and technology that didn’t exist back when we played together, and making it into a totally gnarly awesome group, dude!
Oh, and a contrabass clarinet and a bass sax added in there too. I miss playing contra.)
(How about a dream of hooking up with a couple of other musicians, along with computer assistance, to do a live performance of “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield – the whole, original album. Only the tympani would be in tune this time, unlike on the original recording. Vicki, my personal tympanist, cringes every time she hears it.
Three musicians, extra tracks, Tubular Bells… *sigh* Did I mention I’m a Mike Oldfield fan? Or that I own almost every version of Tubular Bells on CD? Or that I even know that there are multiple versions of Tubular Bells? Shower my wife with your sympathy sometime, ‘k?)
(And yes, I do even know who those other musicians are, what parts and instruments they would play, and how the thing could lay out. When I dream music, I dream in 3D.)
The preceding dreams brought to you by Steve the Mental Hamster, sitting in the corner laughing at me…
The danger is, there’s a little bit of me in every one of those dreams, and that little piece of Cal can get flattened easily. Dreams are all well and good, and in balance they are breath for the soul and light for the eyes. There are a couple of dangers, tho, especially for young dreamers:
1. If all dreams come into being, roll around for a bit, and then fade away (or get squashed into oblivion), then the lesson we learn is to never dream, because none of them ever become real. This can be a hope destroyer – don’t bother dreaming, because they never happen. Things never change. It is what it is.
To quote the bard, “A man will grow tired and his soul will grow weary, living his life in vain.” (“Ammonia Avenue” – The Alan Parsons Project)
A dreamer needs to learn the balance between dreams and reality, and where the two intersect, but that’s something they have to discover for themselves. It can’t be beat into them with a rubber mallet. (or a rubber chicken, for that matter…)
2. The opposite is true – if we dwell in our dreams, but never live in the here and now, then life, real life, becomes dead and stale, never joyful, never beautiful because we’re always waiting for our dreams. Nothing is ever quite good enough, nothing is ever quite fulfilling enough, because it’s never quite as amazing as what I’m dreaming of.
For example, I have to be very careful what movies I go see. Sometimes, I get so taken with a movie that a part of me wants to stay there. I’ll imagine extended story lines, complete with how I’d live in that world. Imagination is great, as long as you learn how to let it flourish without trying to live there.
Dreams are beautiful, wonderful, fragile things, but they’re never strong enough or real enough to live in. (Albus Dumbledore reminds Harry of this when speaking of the Mirror of Erised in The Sorcerer’s Stone)
Thus endeth the mini-lesson about dreams and dreamers. Amen.
In her book “Smalltopia,” Tammy Strobel (she of the Rowdy Kittens blog, one of my faves) writes about defining our dreams, and small steps toward bringing them into reality…
Pick one dream, then pick one step you can take today to bring that dream one step closer. Repeat.
Being the short-sighted just-barely-starting-to-grow-up-even-though-I’m-fifty-two-years-old person that I are, this is a good plan for me, for a couple of reasons:
1. I have a terminally short attention span when it comes to long-range planning. I could be working on surprising Vicki with a trip to the Shack (bed and breakfast – not the book…) and need to sock away every penny I can scrounge to make it happen, but I’ll throw it all over for some bright and shiny thingie that grabs my attention, forgetting all about the bigger goal.
Dave Ramsey says that the difference between a child and an adult is the ability to delay gratification and keep your eyes on the long-term goals… I’m growing up pretty fast, but not quite there yet. “Ooooh… Shiny! Pretty! MINE!”
(The only quote I ever do from Finding Nemo: “Mine? Mine! Mine? Mine! Mine? Mine! Mine?”)
Oi.
2. Along with that short attention span, I have a tendency to get bored with projects that take a long time, or get so overwhelmed that there is so much to do and it’ll take so long to finish, that I just give up. (This had its roots in the days when I weighed 480 pounds – back then, EVERYTHING took too long to finish, was overwhelming because even the simplest things were hard to do, and there was no energy left over for anything, so all dreams die and despair reigns. Things have changed, thank the Good Lord above, but digging out the roots takes time.)
Interesting but sad and pathetic note… This last reason – my tendency to just give up – explains my musical career.
“Wha?”
Take someone blessed with a tremendous amount of natural ability in music, (God gets the glory for this – it ain’t nuttin’ I done did myself) who can pull off a lot without having to work really hard at it, and add that tendency to get bored with things that take a long time or a lot of work, and what do you get?
A person who can play almost anything, but doesn’t play any one instrument excellently. Or as I put it, I’m not outstanding at any one instrument, but I’m really passable at many. In other words, I’m a musical Swiss army knife – good for a lot of different functions, but not the best tool for any single, focused task.
———
** Before you roll your eyes at me, say something like “I wish I was that ‘adequate’ at anything musical,” or slap me upside the head the next time you see me (head or body slaps are fine, but please – no face slaps…), understand a couple of things:
First, I love you. Thanks for leaping to my defense.
Second, I don’t deny the tremendous gifts God has placed in me, nor the way He allows me to use them – to fit into any space, wherever I’m needed in a musical setting. I’m one of those musicians on the worship team (not the only one, ’cause we are blessed with some amazing people!) who not only needs to know when I’m playing, but WHAT I’m playing on a given week.
(One of my favorite memories from early college: I was home, for a weekend I think, and came in late to Oscoda Baptist. Came down the aisle during a hymn while all were standing, and Jim – songleader and musician maximus – caught my eye and looked over at the piano. Cue received. I went over, sat down, and became the pianist du jour for the service. I love doing that sort of thing!)
God knows me best, and knows that as I’m growing up, I still have issues with getting bored with just one thing. **
———-
So, (If you can even still remember where the heck I was going with all that… I had to go back and check.) the plan of “pick one dream, then pick one small thing you can do today to make a step toward it” is a good plan for me. And as I take one small step, I’ll hopefully find that perhaps I can do two or three steps in a day. Maybe I can take some bigger steps, while keeping the longer view in mind. Then I can make some bigger moves, learning to see where it’s all headed.
Then Vicki finally gets that trip to the Shack. (the bed and breakfast, NOT the book. Just so we’re clear.)
Steve, ramp up the “Final Thoughts / Winding Down” theme music, please… No, I don’t think the tiny bagpipes give the feel we’re looking for here… No, not the tiny accordion either… Ah, the very tiny harp. Perfect…
So what have I learned from this long, rambling, self-centered, introspective examination?
No clue.
(Ba-dum-DUM! He may be a mean hamster, but Steve is always ready with a rim shot…)
But seriously, folks…
• I’m a dreamer.
• Dreams are fragile things, that contain a tiny piece of the their dreamer.
• Dreams change and grow, just like we do.
• Dreams can come into fruition with time, patience, and small steps.
Working a long time to bring a dream into reality seems to get a little easier, the more that we grow up. (not being grown up yet, I’m not certain about this – I’ll keep you posted…)

The whole “growing up” thing also shapes and molds our dreams. It helps a dreamer learn that while dreaming is good, not all dreams are possible, nor should they be. Growing up allows us to focus the lens, to really see what matters, and to see the clear and shining path God lays before us. (For the record, I’m not giving up on the Chapman Stick, no matter how impossible it seems. There. I said it.)
Dream one, I think, will be to live a smaller life. It’d be nice to do that in a tiny home with a big garden, but there’s no reason we can’t start living tiny in our present home. We’re already starting on small steps – you wouldn’t believe the amount of junk we’ve already launched, and you would be horrified at the amount there still is to get rid of.
(If you’re an Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist or any other kind of selling ninja, and would like to help a scatter-brained old fart actually make a little coin while launching tons of stuff that I’ll never need again, while keeping some coin for yourself, contact me. I’m deadly serious, and I’d rather slip some love to a friend than pay someplace to sell it for me. Goodwill is all well and fine, but it’d be nice to get a little return for some of this stuff…)
Steve – put down that trombone! Sorry – he thought it was closing music time…
So, like most things in this journey I’m on, it’s a work in progress. I never would have seen this stuff coming on the morning of March 30th, 2010, but I’m so glad it has, looking at it from my chair here in February 2012. Vicki is too, for the record – she’s gladly traded many trips to the Shack (b&b, not book) for a husband who’s alive and shows potential of actually becoming an adult – soon.
Maybe.
In some ways.

This transformation only changes so much – there ain’t no cure for crazy.

(Ok – maybe electroshock. Don’t suggest that to her, though. Seriously.)
‘lemmie sum up…
God provides the best dream of all – not being who I was yesterday and making steps toward who He wants me to become. Together, we’ll keep taking those small steps toward the goal, the one He can see and allows me glimpses of. Not all of it – just enough for me to handle.
After all, I am and will always be…
a dreamer.

“Why Don’t You Do What You Dream?” Pt 2

Check out Part 1 of this post to be pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down… Part one is the intro, Part two is the list of dreams.

Obviously, everything on this list will require work. No dream just pops perfectly into reality, fully born and working in all its glory, regardless what the movies would have us believe. So this list is not the place where I try and keep my feet on the ground, to realize the impossibility of these things. These are my dreams, not my to-do list. So no squashing, no moaning that they’ll never happen, no discouragement. When and if the Lord points toward one of them and says, “Go!”, He’ll make the path open before me. But it’s hard for Him to point out the path if I’ve not even opened my eyes.
So here’s some of the answers to the question, “What do I WANT to do?” Actually, the first is more about “How do I want to live?” And the answer is “Small. Very small.”

Living small is my primary, starting place dream – #1. Of course, this has multiple layers…

Becoming clutter-free – Vicki and I are both messies and have lived with that all our lives. But we yearn to have a home that doesn’t look like a bomb just went off, to actually be able to find things without a half hour of searching, or to be able to say to friends, “Come on over!” That’d be amazing…

Living much, much smaller – I’m not going to smack down a dream with reality here… We’d like to someday move to a new house. Now, by “new,” I don’t mean “bigger.” We’d like to go small – very small. As in less than 600 square feet. There’d be a couple of extra buildings for other activities, but the main living space would be really small. Look up “minimalism” to get a feel for my shift in attitude and outlook.

Staying a one-car family – we’d like to have one vehicle, one that’s capable of pulling small trailers, or of putting a whole load of equipment for a gig inside. Front runners include the Ford Explorer Sport Trac or a Honda Element. (I’m leaning toward the Element, but only if we get it repainted purple. Vicki’s leaning toward, and I quote, “Anything we could afford.” Amen.)

In order to remain a one-car town, we’d need to have pedal power available year round. Enter the Velomobile! Feel free to look up these wonders of the modern age, and imagine the Captain scooting down the Beltline inside of one of these puppies, laughing at the frigid temperatures right before he gets buried in a drift all the way up to his… um… April.
But still smiling.
A little land – with the idea of the small house and a couple of extra buildings for specific things, we’d like a little bit of land to produce some of our own food. I’m not talking totally self-sufficient, off the grid, greener than Yoda – just to be able to garden, to can and preserve, and to live at least partially off of the work of our hands.
Areas for tasks – in this grand plan would be a few outbuildings:
1. office / music / writing studio (potentially could be separated – office / music / technology lair; and a writing / thinking / devotions place);
2. hobby / craft / making stuff and selling it place;

3. garage / storage / wood / metal / glassworking place;
4. guest accommodation – living in a tiny (or at least small) house, it’d be best for guests to have their own little space, that they might not feel run over. Oh, and able to use the necessary without the whole world hearing the outcome.

(I saw one amazing example of a great guest room for a tiny house – a couple bought an Airstream trailer in need of some work, refurbished it inside, parked it in their yard, and built a roof over it to keep it from leaking in the rain. That’s their guest bedroom – brilliant!)
5. Greenhouse / prep kitchen – I do think this is a bit brilliant, and I don’t say that about my ideas often…

Attached to a moderate but useful greenhouse would be a moderate but useful kitchen space, complete with freezer, dehydrator, sink, stove and lots of counter space for cleaning, chopping and washing. Why? To take our produce after harvest and prep it for storage – either canning, freezing or dehydrating. And to be able to take the produce, cook it into soup or whatever, and can it right there. In a small house, we’d have a kitchen sufficient for day-to-day life and a little more, but to do the kind of tasks that food preservation requires, it’d be nice to have a little more room to work with. Wouldn’t need all that space daily, but having it available for use would make things run smoother.
6. Exercise – I’m not talking home gym, spa, or anything extravagant here. Just a space to have room to do Tai Chi without standing in a snowbank, to have the trike on the rollers without having to try and find a place in the living room to set it up, or to use a treadmill without having to redecorate. A few weights, a balance ball and some resistance bands would keep it simple.

(Those last two might be combined, by the way – greenhouse with room for exercise and kitchen addition. Working out in a sunny space always makes Cal a happy boy…)

7. Outdoor entertaining / clay oven – if you look up the word “yurt,” you’ll see what I’m thinking of as an outdoor space that would allow for entertaining or even guest lodging. This could also become the exercise area. The clay / brick oven would let me do some baking and other type of cooking – ok, it’s an extravagance, but a pretty cheap and fun one to build.
Does that sound like a little much? Why not just one house, with areas for all that garbage?
Honestly, I’m easily distracted and a messy person, at least in my home persona. I tend to be neater at work, where it counts. In order for me to actually function, multi-tasking is my nemesis. So one area, one function is my path to efficiency, or at least making one area do multiple things by being able to completely switch it over from task to task, getting rid of distractions and clutter in the switchover.
Dreams sometimes are shaped by reality, and how we’re wired.
Ok, now we live in Smalltopia (to borrow the word from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens). Now, what do I want to do when I get there? Well…

(Steve ramps up the “suspense / big revelation” music, using not only his tiny kazoo but a really small hurdy gurdy...)

Storytelling – being able to tell stories in churches, camps, libraries – wherever – is the most amazing thing I could imagine. Of all the many things I do, being a storyteller brings me so much joy.
One of my fondest memories happened in the fall after Mom retired from teaching… We did something we had promised each other we would do for years – we went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. Three days of some of the most amazing storytellers I have ever heard. On that trip, Mom discovered that she was a speaker who likes to use stories – I confirmed that I AM a storyteller.
One area of storytelling I’d like to explore is Kamishibai – Japanese paper storytelling. It’s amazing, and I think it could be a niche that would work well with my gifts. I just realized that an area of ‘telling I’d like to explore is hospital visitation, especially for children. Kamishibai would be a great technique for this, as would some of my musical gifts. (Probably not the tuba though, for the record. Tuba good – hospital tuba bad.) Anyway, I’d like to see how it would work to be able to minister to sick kids in that way.

Writing – I had no idea that I’d ever consider this one, but I’m learning and growing so much from my writing. And I’m finding myself desiring – even compelled – to spend time at the keyboard, writing away. One of a gazillion bloggers, typing away, believing that someday our words will catch on, thousands upon thousands will flock to our doors, and we will be “there.”
Yeah. Right. I’m a dreamer, not delusional.

If the Lord would show me the link to be able to write stories that I could then tell, that’d be amazing. So far, not yet. But there are seeds here that could lead to something else – more than one person has whispered the word “book” in my hearing, and they weren’t talking about the type of thing that happens on “Hawaii Five-O…”
(Too old of a reference? How about on “Cops?” Better? Alrighty then.)

(Here’s a Steve the Hamster Memory Moment: The whole dorm was gathered in Quincer Lounge, watching the last ever episode of Hawaii Five-O [before it was ushered into rerun pergatory], waiting for the ending, and the last uttering of the immortal words by the terminally tough Jack Lord, “Book ’em, Danno…”
And he said, “Wait, Danno – I’ll book this one myself.”
“ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!”
Thanks, Steve – now get back on that wheel…)
Moving on…
Gospel magic and clowning – this goes hand in hand with storytelling. I love being a magician, because I love the wonder of it. Being able to teach or tell a story and have some of the wonder of it happen right in front of others is such a kick!

As for Eye-Bee the Clown, the only reason that he got stuffed into a trunk for years was my physical condition. I never lost the desire, even though I said I did. I just couldn’t do it when I was way over 400 pounds. This past October, I wandered around our church’s Hallo-luia party in face, doing some marginally funny stuff, dreadfully out of practice, but found that it’s fun once again. So I’d be open to working on my character and routines, and getting back to “bumping a nose.” (The clown equivalent of “breaking a leg.”)
BIG DREAM… I’d like to go to Clown Camp this summer. It’s the week before our 30th anniversary, and it’d be amazing to go and camp there. I’d toddle off to clown camp while Vicki has the days free, and I’d get to learn so much. There’s no way it can happen from what I can see on the horizon right now, but these are dreams – no stomping.

(Alright – I did stomp a bit… I didn’t fill out the application for a scholarship since I knew that there’s no way we could make the rest of it work, even if I had gotten a scholarship. “The difference between an adult and a child is the ability to delay gratification.” [Dave Ramsey] Since the Lord didn’t open a path, that’s enough for me.)


Music
– If you know me at all, you know that just saying the word “music” opens quite a vast chasm – I do need to narrow that dream down a bit, but continuing to use my musical gifts is important.

For the record, I still really want to learn to play the Chapman Stick. And the cello. And possibly a folk harp. I have plans for a series of hymn albums called Quiet Strength, as well as finishing the series The Church Year (my Advent album was the first of these), but reality has put most everything on hold. So we’ll give those dreams CPR when the Lord says to.

The amazing man to the left, by the way, is Emmett Chapman, the inventor of the Chapman Stick. I sigh, I swoon, I drool. Sorry about that last bit…

Fiber arts – this includes loom knitting, weaving, sewing, machine knitting, and (since we’re dreaming here) learning to crochet. (I’ve tried, I’ve died. My dad had the gift of crochet – and didn’t pass it along, apparently.) Weaving is a biggie – I’d love to get a floor loom.

Woodworking – building stuff, doing things with a scroll saw, making stuff. I’ve always wanted to work with wood ever since I was little and my great-grandpa cut me a very simple bunny out of some plywood with a bandsaw. No time to learn growing up, no dad in the house to learn from (and a mom who wasn’t a handyperson) or anybody else for that matter, and shop class always conflicted with music – thanks, public school. 😀 No complaints – I’m a musician born and raised, but it would have been nice to make some sawdust along the way. Someday, Vicki may even trust me with tools. Maybe.
Jewelry making – I love bending wire, either in sculpting a pendant or weaving a bracelet. And I really like soldering and making pieces with that technique. I like metal work in jewelry more than beading or stitching.
Glass fusing – this has applications in jewelry but there are many, many other projects for fused glass, and I’d love to explore them. I love glass and the boundless things you can do with it.
Audio workI really do love editing and sound design, even though I have to kick myself to get to work on the projects on my plate. The storyteller in me finds it so rewarding to take a spoken word performance, adjust it to make the words have the best rhythm and impact they can, and then add to it the special touches of sound effects, music and those other things that bring the story to life.
Those are pretty much all personal dreams. They all have Vicki’s support (although the instruments she wavers on a bit – she’s more behind the Chapman Stick than the cello. And is neutral about the harp. She is VERY positive about me continuing to record music, loves it when I do magic at children’s church, enjoyed seeing Eye-Bee get out of the trunk, and would join me in glass fusing. She also wears the jewelry I make and the scarves I knit.

Floor loom for weaving? Um… not so much.)

As for dreams involving the two of us…
Traveling – I’m not going wild here, not dropping everything to trike across the country (although triking Route 66 did cross my noggin – wouldn’t that be amazing?…). But too many people that I know, including my mom, said for too long that they’d always like to go to *insert selected destination*, or to see *insert selected attraction or other cool thingie* and never did. Life interrupted, opportunities never came, and it didn’t happen. I think seeing some stuff is really important, I think it deserves a place on our radar and, in my world of dreams, getting out and seeing new things is a biggie. So here’s some traveling stuff that is on the list:

First of all, to make traveling possible, we’d like a teardrop trailer of some sort – it’s basically a mobile bedroom, camping at its simplest without putting two people in their nifty fifties in a soggy tent, (ok – Vicki has a few months before she joins me in that happy club) and just about the right size for the two of us. Vicki would like one that we can sit at a table in (a “standy,” as they’re sometimes called), but I’d be happy with a very small one – just enough room to sleep. Taking our own tiny home on wheels would make traveling affordable, and it can be pulled by a tiny car instead of a honkin’ truck or SUV. Best part – this could be something that we build ourselves, if I had some of the aforementioned skillz (or could get some guidance from some of the dreadfully talented folks I know.)
As for where to go…
1. Route 66 – ever since I saw “Cars,” I’ve been wanting to get my kicks on Route 66. I’d like to travel the length of it, not necessarily in one trip, although that would be outrageous, but I don’t want to wait until I’m too old to remember what I saw yesterday.
2. Alaska – we’d like to see it someday. I’d really like to do a short term mission trip to our denomination radio station in Nome, even in the dead of winter – that’d be a hoot!
3. San Francisco – I was there when I was like 8 or 9, and I’d love to take Vicki there someday. I still remember Fisherman’s Wharf – loved it.
4. Florida / Disney World / Universal – I was at Disney World in the first year they opened. They set a record for reaching park capacity early that day, so the lines were obscene, the crowds immense, and my memories vague. The only ride I remember is “It’s A Small World.” *shudder* I’m told EPCOT is amazing – I’d like to find out for myself.
(Alright – you got me. Yes, I do really, really, REALLY want to see the Wondrous World of Harry Potter. There, I said it. Happy now?)
5. New England – does one really need a reason? I think not.
6. West – Montana, Mt. Rushmore, and other big ol’ amazing rock formations – Land, spreadin’ out so far and wide…
For the record, you’ll notice that these are domestic locations. I don’t have fantasies of flying off to exotic destinations, since you can see some pretty awesome stuff right here. But there are a couple of places…
1. Ireland & Scotland – I’m a whistle player. That’s all the reason I need.
(Our eldest Niecelet left for some studying abroad in Scotland, and although we’d dearly love to go and see her while she’s there as well as to do a little touring while on that side of the pond, unless the Lord makes a way, that won’t happen. No squashing – just truth.)
2. Israel – as Brian Hardin puts it, to see the Bible in 3-D.
———-

“Ok, Cal – this is all interesting, but utterly useless for most humans. Why in the name of Fats Waller would you put this, a cross between pure flights of fancy and a very useless letter to Santa, out there for public view? Who cares??”

That is a fair assessment and question.
Bear in mind that this blog and journal are tools to help my mental recovery and rebuilding. These are the things in the physical world I use to help remake my inner landscape – to try and sort through all the twists and turns on this path of being reborn. If this list were all fantasy, there’d be a LOT more stuff, MUCH more whimsy, and perhaps a few ponies.

Or at least alpacas.

What it gives me is some sort of picture of the many, many things rolling around in my noggin. If I ever needed proof of being reborn, consider this: I’m a 52 year old man, who still thinks that maybe someday I’ll have time to learn the Chapman Stick or the harp. That I might be able to learn to be a clown – a good clown. That I just might start on that writing career, “tho’ no one read me, still I will write-o.” (Just trying to make it fit the song…) Honestly, dear ones, there’s nothing on this list that seems ridiculous or fanciful to me – they all seem good, noble, practical (sort of) and possible. Nothing so outrageous that it’s out of the range of what might just come into being.

In short, “Hey – it could happen.”

Maybe buried someplace in all these ridiculous notions is a glimmer of reality, a nugget of possible, a tiny diamond of hope in the rough of the mundane. And therein would lie a compass, a spark, a direction to help point the way in this adventure God lays before me.
And maybe, just maybe, someone else dreams. Maybe someone else feels like they’re looking at a brick wall, no path, no way to move. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll think, “If an old dude like Cal can dream like this, maybe I can too.”
Hey – it could happen.
This is the dream list, with stuff that catches my attention and imagination. Some of it is downright fantasy, some of it possibility, all of it resides somewhere in my heart. Getting it out into the world gives me the opportunity to sort through it, see which ones really move me and which ones don’t. Hopefully I’ll reduce some mental clutter, get some focus, and allow God to shape my sight and illumine the path.
To continue this grand experiment, Part 3 will ask the question, “What do I do with this stuff now?” Steve, play us to commercial, then we’ll be back…
(insert sound of “Hampsterdance” being enthusiastically played on a very small kazoo, along with bongos being played by tiny hind feet…)

The Disparity

Today, January 27, 2012, would have been my mom’s 78th birthday. And though she would have loved to have seen what I’ve become in the last two years, she would also remind me that everything happens exactly at the time God has for it – not a moment earlier, not a second late. Thanks for the seeds of faith that have bloomed into my own walk. I love you, momma – see you someday!
The disparity: the difference between speaking a blessing over someone one night and getting lost in useless wanderings the next, which can lead to believing that one negates the other or that, because we swing from one extreme to another, we have the word “hypocrite” tattooed on our foreheads.
Were that true, here’s some of the folks that should line up behind the needle, awaiting the artist’s loving and painful touch:
David
Paul
Solomon
Moses
Abraham
Asa (along with bunches of the kings of Israel)
Peter
Jacob
… and pretty much anybody sitting next to, across from, behind or in the same room with you in church, including (and especially) the person sitting in your chair. And (by their own humble admission) the dude or dudette up front behind the pulpit.
To those who are inclined to believe that religion is a crock, a shelter for the weak-minded or superstitious, the disparity provides a perfect scapegoat for the uncertainty of their own conscience. “If I can’t live the life without being one of those religious hypocrites, then I just won’t live it at all.”
(“Whew – dodged that bullet. Now I can sleep in on Sunday morning…”)
Nice try – but the easy way isn’t the right way. Using that excuse to avoid striving with the war of our fallen natures is simply giving up.
To those who, every time they prove in a most profound manner that we all are just human, spout off that most tired of excuses, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven!”, the disparity provides a Get Out Of Jail Free card with a lifetime of grace expiration date.
Nice try – was the death of God’s Beloved worth you getting to use the grace excuse every time you indulge your lower nature? Or is that all you think He accomplished in His sacrifice?
“Holy cow, Captain – did you wake up on the wrong side of the bunk this morning and set the phasers on ‘extra crispy?’ “
Yeah, and then I pasted a bullseye on my own backside. “Among whom I am chief…”
Speaking of the Apostle Paul, here’s how he put it:
“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” Romans 7:15 (The Message)
Yup, that’s me. And that’s the disparity.
In my first life, Sightblinder could use the disparity to paralyze me. Since both light and dark could and did dwell in me, it must prove that neither has a majority vote. Remember the whole “lukewarm, so I spit you out of my mouth” thing? Yeah, that was thrown up to me (sorry – no pun intended) at every moment. “Obviously, you’re useless for the kingdom since you don’t ever grow, you don’t ever put the darkness behind you and live totally (without exception) in the light!”
And, in my first life, I’d believe it. Hook, line & sinker. And the whole rod. And the fisherman. And the cooler full of worms – the whole shebang.
But in life 2.0, things have changed up a bit. Ok, a lot. Ok, a whole honkin’ lot. And I’ve been realizing that some of the flowers that are blooming in life 2.0 are from seeds planted long, long ago. I’m thinking of some of those who planted, hoping for but never expecting to see a harvest, let alone one that looks like it does today…
My theology professor, opening the door to how I view most everything in my world with the concept of “Both/And” – for most theological views, there can be a balance where two things that seem to be opposites can dwell, equally without conflict.
Want an example? OK… Jesus – fully God or fully man?
Answer: both/and. Both, equally, without compromise.
So the gentle balance of both/and stabilizes my world in many ways. Interestingly, this seed really bloomed when I began Tai Chi, which, at its core, is totally about balance.
My counselor, who has gently been speaking truth over me for years, reminding me that we are never meant to live in guilt and shame but in love and grace. Even when we walk in darkness sometimes, we still live in the light.
Just because we pass through the valley, we don’t move into a condo there and put out a change of address form. The enemy can assail our minds but can’t overthrow our hearts.
My heart belongs to God alone.
My beloved, whose clear vision of who I really am inside shone through the layers of weight, depression, unbalance and insecurity, allowing me to see who I really am in her eyes. And no, she’s not perfect.
(I pause to allow those of you who know my beloved to recoil in shock… Breathe deeply. Use a paper bag if you have to.)
But she never allows darkness to define her reality – she lives in the light.
(Yes, dearheart, I really was listening all those years. I’m glad that you’re finally seeing the harvest of what you’ve sown for so long.)
My Father, who knew before I was born that these days would come. He knew every moment that would lead up to this, through all the lonely roads and confused paths. He put everything in place so that someday I could come out the other side shining like gold, blazing with light.
As for the disparity…
– Both/And shows me that both darkness and light are in me. But even though they both dwell there, I don’t live in the darkness – I live in the light. Falling doesn’t make me a resident of the concrete… I get up, I dust myself off and I get on with the step by step adventure of living as a follower of the Christ.
– I don’t live in regret and guilt because those things aren’t who I am in Jesus. Sightblinder can confuse and oppress my mind but he can never have my heart. At the end of the day, He who has my heart wins. Every time.
– I am slowly and gently becoming what my beloved has seen all along. Every day I’m a little closer to what she sees with her clear gaze and further away from the things that concealed me. If I have a day when EvilCal seems to be back in control, I need to remember that it’s just a game of mental hide and seek – I’m still here, and can easily be found, if I just look around a bit. The important thing is to look.
And the path goes on – I’m not there yet, nowhere near. So there will be bumps and trips and falls. There will be dark passes, times of blazing sunshine, and times of absolute flat roads where it seems like I’m not even moving – miles and miles of absolutely nothing.
But it’s never about what I can see.
My eyes are easily fooled, my senses are easily overrun and my fallen nature is oh-too-quick to take over. No, the One who puts the path before me can see all of it, perfectly. He knows where I will stumble, He knows right where I’m going to do a face plant and, though His Daddy’s heart winces when I scrape my knee or get a lovely case of road rash on my cheek, my Father knows what lies far beyond what I can see.
And it’s gonna be amazing.
No disparity – just a fallen creature in need of redemption, a recipient of grace who is learning to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with His God. I am a complex, wondrous creature, bearing the image of He who made me, astonished by wonder, frustrated by my own shortcomings, and deeply grateful for unconditional grace. I stumble and stub my toes in the darkness but I live and walk in the light.
And someday the darkness will end, the light will blaze, and “ever after” becomes “now.”
Like I said – it’s gonna be amazing.

The Last Words

No, this isn’t to announce my departure from the writing world. Hold off on those celebrations of untamed joy. Also those comments about how I shouldn’t get your hopes up like that. Or the ones about giving you a heart attack before the morning coffee, and how dare I sneak up on you like that. Or anything about Chuck Norris.

Thanks for your restraint.
I’ve been noticing lately how important last words are. Parting words, blessing words, benedictions – all things we may or may not notice, or place value in, but that I think are more important than what we see at one glance. And so I’m trying to mindfully change my actions to match these new thoughts.
As I say so often, ‘lemme ‘splain.
When my mom was in her final months and weeks and days here in this world, the importance of those last moments came into crystal clear focus. When any moment might be the last one, they all become essential.
But really, doesn’t that last sentence apply to every moment?
Anyway, when my final moment with her came, I had no idea it was the last one. We had moved her into a care facility (at her request), we came that evening to see her settled for the night, Vicki was off getting something for her, and God prompted me to do something that I am so grateful for.
A blessing.
I placed my hand on her head, and spoke the words we’ve all heard so many times… “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and grant you His peace, now and evermore.” I don’t know if she heard those words – she was in and out of this world and in and out of the new world. But I heard them, and our Father heard them.
And in the morning, He granted His peace and brought her home. So those were the last words I ever spoke to my mom in this world. She departed in peace, and my heart was left in peace as well. No regrets.
This tells me that our last words are essential – more important than we sometimes think. For those we love, if they are our last words, and they go on, those blessing words will stay with them.
But if we are the ones to go on, we will know that we parted with something more significant than, “Catch ya later.” There’s nothing wrong with casual departures – life, with all its complexities and fast turnings and twistings is filled with them. But when time, circumstance, and God’s spirit align, those parting, blessing, life-giving words are more than just spouting off some pithy phrase.
To those we leave behind, they are a blessing over their heads and a light along the road.
To those who are left behind, they are closure and peace when the unexpected threatens our sanity.
In a weekend recently past, we spent time with family, those we don’t see often because distance separates us. It had been a year since we had seen one another, way way too long, but time and gas prices sometimes rear their ugly heads to drive a wall between intention and reality.
Or perhaps I’m just too lazy – after all, gas prices don’t really matter to a trike, only time does. Oh, and luggage – camping stuff, for example. There’s fuel too – the fuel to keep the legs pedaling and the fuel to keep the mind clear and functioning. Got to take training into account too – one can’t just take off without at least some preparation. Well, one can, but one will find himself kicked in the can not too far down the road.
Can one justify months of riding for a short visit, then months of riding the return trip? Let’s see… months on the trike, off the grid and out of the loop, traveling at snail’s pace under my own power? *sigh* Let me think about it, and get back to you…
(I wonder if Greyhound or Amtrak would get me and Big Blue part of the way, to trim a couple of months off the trip…

This random thought brought to you by Steve, the Mental Hamster, who reminds me that whither I goest, so goest Steve. Months of just me on the trike, with Steve for a co-pilot… That may kill the whole thing right there.)
So when my dear ones left, I took the time to speak words over them.
To myself, I was thinking, “Here you go again – putting the ‘Weird’ in ‘Weird Uncle Cal’. A little pompous, isn’t it – pronouncing a benediction over them? Who do you think you are, a pastor blessing the flock on their way out the door and home to pot roast?”
And myself told myself to stuff it.
I don’t know when I’ll see them again – I hope it’s soon, I intend for it to be soon (after all, their trike riding season starts WAY earlier than mine, so a spring fever trike trip in, say, early March would do a lot to take off the chill of Michigan February!), but my intentions can easily get splattered in the aftermath of the reality steamroller. It could be months or a year or more until I see their faces and hug their necks…
Or never.
Life is fragile and fleeting, and although we can’t live on eggshells, like every moment is “the” one, we can live realistically, intentionally. So it may be weird, it may be pompous, but I think it’s only weird and pompous in my own head, and so I veto my own vote and get on with it.
Words of blessing at our parting. Words that will stay and light the ongoing path, or will grant closure and peace at the end of the path. To that end, I’m becoming a blessing collector. I want to have many, many words of blessing in my head and heart, a wide palate of choices so that when the Lord prompts me, He can speak the words He chooses over my loved ones, my friends, or whomever He wants.
——————–
There is a leather bound journal, made for me by my nephew who was one of those I spoke a benediction over that particular weekend, and I’m using that book to write blessings. When I find blessing words in scripture, they get written there by my own illegible hand in my own faulty penmanship. When I come across blessing words in something I read, a post I see, a sign I remember, they get written in the blessing book. Sometime, someplace, those words will be used to become a light on the path or peace at the end… even if those words are only for my own eyes and heart, to remind me to be watching and waiting for those times when blessings must be spoken.
Weird? Perhaps. Pompous? Hopefully not, but I guess you could see them that way. But way, way too important to just let them slide, to worry about being seen as odd, or to allow my self-conscious self to shut them down.
Parents? Speak the blessings – always.
Families? Speak the blessings – always.
Lovers? Speak the blessings – ever and ever.
Friends? Speak the blessings – over and over.
After all, the One from whom all blessings flow speaks the blessings over us – always, ever and ever, over and over.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 (TNIV)

Did It Once… Do It Again

I’ve always thought of myself as having no willpower whatsoever.
That’s typical of fat folk, by the way. After all, “everybody” will tell us that if we had even a little willpower, we’d eat less, exercise more, and voila (pronounced: “Voy-LAH!”), we’ll become skinny, well-proportioned, automatically beautiful, and unreservedly popular instantly.
(And by “everybody,” I mean well-meaning people directly involved in our lives; well-meaning-but-skinny people directly involved in our lives who are clueless when it comes to the multi-layered issues involved in obesity; not-necessarily-well-meaning-or-snarky people who don’t know us at all; and, most obnoxiously, all types of media, who don’t even care that we exist, except as a huge potential market that they can guilt into buying whatever poopy they want to sell us. We be sheep. And dumb sheep at that.)
Of course. Why did I never see it’s just that easy?
So through that haze, you and I, the fat persons du jour tend to believe the idea that we have no willpower whatsoever, and that whatever fancy enters our weak minds, we will succumb to – after all, we have no power to resist.
Quick quiz:
1) Have you ever been so angry at (insert person who is the target of your wrath) that you could have done physical violence to their mortal being?
1a) Did you?
2) Have you ever been so frustrated at a service provider that you wanted to throw (insert heavy object of your choice) through their front window? (Or their virtual front window, in this age of technology, with a desire to bomb their servers back to the stone age?)
2a) Did you?
3) Have you ever gotten so ticked at your (insert your make and model of vehicle) that you said you’d be better off driving it into (insert body of water of your choice) or off the (insert bridge of your choice, but not the Mighty Mac, ’cause you might damage it and I really love that bridge)?
3a) Did you?
If you answered any of questions 1, 2 or 3 “yes,” congratulations! You’re just as human as the rest of us. (If you answered “no” to all of them, I don’t want to know – you are dead to me.)
(Just kidding. Really. But you do live on a different level of existence than I do...)
If you answered questions 1a, 2a and 3a “no,” congratulations! You have willpower – the ability NOT to act on something your mind brought forth and conceived of, even possibly entertained, or pondered, if only to allow yourself a cartoon moment involving some product labeled “Acme.”
(If you answered “yes” to ANY of questions 1a, 2a or 3a, by the way, please seek professional help immediately. And I DO mean immediately.)
(And yes, I do have some names I could pass along if you need ’em.)
(But not because I answered “yes” to any of questions 1a-3a, just so we’re clear. I have issues, but those ain’t them.)
Isn’t that all willpower is? The ability to NOT act on something our mind could entertain? Allow me to elucidate (thus getting an opportunity to use the word “elucidate,” which is a fun word):
– Ever shown up for an appointment on time? Or a meeting? Or church?
– Ever dropped off / picked up / transported to various and sundry activities your kiddos, and got them there on time?
– Ever done something exactly correct in a timely manner because someone was counting on you? Or because you love them and didn’t want to disappoint them?
– Ever withheld something from your child / pet / other being in your care because you knew that the “something” in question was not only bad for them, but dangerous?
“Yeah, but that’s just common sense.”
Yup. It’s also willpower. The ability to NOT do something when it’s within your power to do it is exercising your will. Ergo, willpower.
So perhaps even us fat folk (or reformed fat folk – my outsides may be different, but my house is still on the same street…) have some willpower. We are not as powerless as others would have us believe, or that we would allow ourselves to believe.
When some folks have the type of surgery I’ve had, a response that they fear (and actually sometimes get) is, “oh – you took the easy way out.” (Which can bring about a question 1 thought, and dance close to a question 1a response…)
I’ve not gotten hit with this one, probably because those close to me know my journey, both the sublime and the unmentionable; the glorious and the downright disgusting. (Aren’t you glad that there are indeed some things that I don’t put out in public? Don’t you wish there were more of them?)
Anyway, a post-surgical patient has to exercise a great deal of willpower, not just to keep losing weight, but also, especially in the case of my type of surgery, to prevent malnutrition and becoming very, very sick. My will comes into play when I keep after my maintenance, taking my calcium and extra vitamins, drinking all my water, and sticking to the types of food I can and must eat, while staying away from others that will cause issues.
So I do gots some willpower. I ain’t gots good grammar (or grampar for that matter), but I gots some willpower. Yay me!
At my last counseling appointment, we were looking at an area of my life that still is difficult – something that I am able to do, something that when I finally get to it, I really do love to do, but so far am dragging my heels on. It’s right there, there are projects overdue, I have all the tools and skills, but I simply don’t do it.
Why the HECK not?
Near as we can suss out, I’m being a little bratesque. I’m not pushing myself, I’m not working on it with focus and effort. I’m not using my willpower.
And, sometimes, knowing that can change everything.
See, I’ve already been down this road. My morning routine, which I’ve discovered is not only essential for my mental health but feeds my soul as well, has grown from something that got thrown under the bus anytime I felt like it, to something that I knew was important but I could do without easily, to something that I knew I needed to do, even sacrificing other things to make it happen…
To today, where I eagerly come to it each morning. Listening to the Daily Audio Bible, spending some quiet time thinking and meditating, then turning to my keyboard and iPad and writing. Some days, it’s just time in the Word and then I move along. Other days, the words flow and God uses them to frame my mind and heart for the path ahead. But each day, to be here, to offer it to Him, is something joyful.
So, I’ve taken a task that wasn’t that important to me – or that I didn’t understand was so important – and made it into something that I’m eager to do… Something that I must do.
And since I did it once, made that kind of a change, I can do it again. I can apply those lessons to another area, another task, another opportunity, and make it work. I know that it’s hard, that it takes time and a lot of effort to make the new behavior stick, but I also know the satisfaction of what comes when it does stick. When it moves beyond obligation or habit, becoming important and essential.
The trick is, as my list of those essentials grows, can I stick with them all? Can I keep each one in the place it should be, not forgetting or shrugging off any of them because it’s too much work or I just don’t feel like it?
———-
As I was writing this, I just got a great visual to help me see how this flows…
I’ve always thought of all the tasks in a day as juggling, trying to keep them all in the air, all moving in the pattern, not dropping any of them, all soaring in time perfectly.
*Pause here to let the lovely vision of objects smoothly floating through the air fill our minds and hearts. Aaaahhhh… inspiring.*
The problem?
I can’t juggle. Not at all. So the image of juggling is one that makes no sense to me – it doesn’t help me navigate the chaos, but rather it intimidates me and makes me want to shut down. But that was the only image I had to see my day with, when it’s filled with multiple tasks and stuff. Throw it all up there, and try to keep it all moving without dropping anything.
*Pause here to let the awful vision of everything crashing to the floor, making a mess, fill our minds and hearts. Arrrrrgggggghhhhh!!!… and don’t think I don’t hear you laughing back there! Stop it!*
So, for this visually-oriented non-juggler, here’s a better picture… a charm bracelet.
I have a day ahead of me – one day, one bracelet. And it’s the only one I get today. On this bracelet are some beautiful things – some are silver objects – tasks that are before me today; some are beautiful jewels, lovely joyful things that are waiting for me today; and some are woven into the structure of the bracelet – things that are a part of every day, and must be in each day’s bracelet.
Here are all these wonderful things, all together, that will make up my day today. And my goal is to not let any of them drop off. Just like when I make a bracelet or a necklace, I make sure that all the links are closed, all the wires tightly wound, the piece finished and ready to wear. It’s everything I have to be aware of today – not trying to keep balls in the air in a certain pattern, but mindful of the jewels and charms of the bracelet, that none of them drop off and get lost.
Now, some of them might get moved to tomorrow’s bracelet – but not because I dropped them, picked them up, and then stuck them on because they were just laying around. No, just as I choose the elements in a piece I make, or in something I write or music I play, I choose where they fit on tomorrow’s bracelet, just in the right place where they will work the best.
The mindful, careful progression of day to day, item to item, link to link. To me, that’s way more amazing than trying to keep all the balls in the air. *shudder*
———-
Can I build my willpower and structure my mind to insure that these jewels that are hung on my day don’t fall off and get lost? I think so.
After all – I did it once… I can do it again.

The Grace of Moving Step to Step

Watching my teacher move is sheer poetry.
It’s been a year since I began my journey into Tai Chi and, although I love it, I’m not great at it. Of course, no one is after just one year. Some are getting good, some are really moving along, and some actually practice every day and are getting downright amazing, but we all are students. And that truth is obvious.
My teacher will say that he is also a student, just one who got started a little ahead of the rest of us. Here’s another obvious truth – “a little ahead of the rest of us” is an understatement.
When he demonstrates a move for us, shows us the transition from one move to another, or shows us how they link together in one continuous flow, I understand the phrase “sheer poetry.”
I have an instructional DVD with Master Yang – we are learning Yang style Tai Chi, and Master Yang is the 6th generation of the family that invented this style. Watching Master Yang demonstrate the form is like this: if my teacher is sheer poetry, Master Yang is a symphony. Absolutely beautiful.
(As opposed to faltering student me, who looks more like a baby giraffe sliding down a muddy slope while being assailed by penguins bearing Nerf bats. Sheer slapstick.)
So how does one get from fumbling sub-part-time student to the Master Yang symphony? Simple – one step at a time. Add countless hours of practice, season with years of study and pursuit, and serve something that looks effortless and is beautiful to behold.
As I’m re-learning life, in my second year after being reborn, I’m trying to figure out how things move forward. I’m getting the basics down, turning the necessary little things that I have to do for the rest of my life into habits. My weight seems to have settled, and I really like where I’m perched, at least for now.
My wife thinks I’m cute. And some days, very quietly, I’m inclined to agree with her. I actually allowed myself the rather non-modest thought that I’m kind of… sort of…maybe… possibly (a little bit)…
cool.
I guess wearing a beret can do that to you.
So now what? How do I expand my horizons? How do I increase my world to match how I feel inside? How and when do I transition from “waiting and learning” mode into “mindful and active” mode?
How? One step at a time.
When? When God says to.
So I’m learning the grace of moving step to step. I’ll admit – it’s a slow, frustrating road that I simply don’t get sometimes. I see things coming so fast all around me, I hear the cries of the urgent yelling for my attention, I feel the pressure of the immediate and all those demands push and pull me.
But to go any faster than step to step is to lose my balance. To ignore the graceful way of slow movement is to forget my path. Interestingly, in the last day or so, I’ve begun to wonder if what I see as being stuck, being shelved or cast aside might be something else altogether:
Being intentionally set aside, carefully nurtured and tended, and prepared for a specific purpose – one whose time has not yet arrived.
I’ve noticed that the faster I move, the less mindfully I move. Slower means I take more notice and more time with things… always better. How I think of this, the language I frame it in, can totally change how I live and how I view life. A conscious step away from impatience, frustration, and feeling useless, and a step toward patience, understanding, and anticipation of when the waiting is over and my time arrives. It’s all a matter of perspective…
———-
One of my all-time favorite books is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. I totally identify with Milo, the main character, who is surrounded with things to do and see, but is usually bored. All too often, I miss the wonder and the opportunities all around me and stare at my shoes. Yeah, way too often I relate to Milo.

But I think my favorite character in the book is Alec Bings, who sees through things. In the Forest of Sight, Milo meets Alec – he stands about three feet in the air, which puts his feet right about Milo’s eye level. In Alec’s family, everyone is born with their heads at the height they’ll be when they grow up, and their feet grow down toward the ground. So their point of view stays the same regardless of their age.
———-
Alas, not so for me.
My point of view, my perspective, changes almost daily. Sometimes it changes by itself, adjusting to new input. But a lot of the time, it has to be changed from the inside out. I have to mindfully, actively change how I perceive something, change how I think of it or how I see it, and work to make that change stick.
Not easy.
Changing your perspective can be tough, requiring time and attention, making the subtle and not-so-subtle turns to keep your sight toward a new direction. Perspective wants to snap back to the rut it was used to running in – it likes the path of least (or less) resistance. It really likes auto-pilot and prefers not to have its little world rocked. Perspective, or point of view, is fond of the big comfy chair and snacks. Getting up, moving, changing the furniture around, eating carrots instead of popcorn – these are things that perspective does not love. Being reborn does not a happy perspective make.
Well, it does – eventually.
Eventually comes in the grace of moving step to step. The slow, mindful learning and repetition that results in a symphony or poetry. And in that slow graceful progression, perspective shifts and point of view moves.
And, at any age, when our perspective shifts, we all grow up a bit.
So, for the record:
I’m not stuck – there is a purpose, but it hasn’t arrived yet in my slow, mindful journey.
I haven’t been shelved, forgotten or “Plutoed” – the One who in His grace brought about my rebirth is the One who will move me into place at exactly the right time.
I hear the loud cries of the urgent all around me but, with focus and concentration, I choose to listen to a calm Voice, guiding me in graceful movement.
There are things to be done, responsibilities to fulfill, obligations to keep, and I can and will do all of them – but I have to do them in the grace of moving step to step. To try and move any other way is to lose my balance.
And get hit by penguins with Nerf bats. Nobody wants that.
———-
Alec tells Milo, “Once in a while, someone is born upside-down, with their head toward the ground and their feet pointing up. But we try to discourage that sort of thing.”

“What happens to them?” Milo asks.

And Alec replies, “They grow to be giants, and walk among the stars.”

The Unclenched Hand

I’m getting older.
I’ll pause for the shock and denial of that statement to pass through you. After all, I’m Momma O’s baby boy, youngest of my clan, with all the baggage that implies – how could I, the kiddo of the family, possibly be getting older?
Oh, the horror…
(and if nothing else proves that I’m the youngest in my family, the preceding dive into melodrama certainly does…)
So what? Age is something we all have in common – get over it, baby boy.
Really, I am over it. I didn’t have much of a hump turning 50 a couple of years ago; I passed 52, the age at which my dad died, so that was a biggie. From here, then, the getting older thing really isn’t an issue.
It’s the stuff that goes with it that I take umbrage to. Specifically the aches, pains, creaks, groans and other strange sounds and experiences that hover around aging people like seagulls in a Wal-Mart parking lot. (Or is that just at the one in Sault Ste. Marie? Makes me think of “The Birds” every time we go there… *shudder*.)
(Of course, that makes me think of the scene from Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety” – the dark suit, the park bench, the BIRDS, the run to the dry cleaner’s, the people running out… Now I’m laughing. Loudly.)
I watched members of my family age: My great-grandmother, who was so tough of an old bird that were she still around, she could still whoop my hiney without breaking a sweat. Honestly, somewhere along the line she HAD to have been an ancestor of Chuck Norris. Seriously. My great aunts and uncles, who slowed down gracefully and faded, each one of them still able to whoop my hiney without breaking a sweat or straining a muscle. My mother, who could and did whoop my hiney just with a glance…
(I tell you this truly – when I saw her laying in the casket, the expression on her face startled me… it was the same expression that her face bore when in church on a Sunday morning I was being perhaps a bit too boisterous and, as her eyes remained focused on the Pastor, her hand, on my coloring pad, was writing – in her perfect teacher penmanship – “just wait until we get home…”)
(*mega-shudder*)
And then there was my grandmother, Wilma Ardra Carlton, who went by Ardra. Yes, my grandmother’s name is a palindrome. Envy me.
Grams was a woman of faith and a woman of an open heart. She constantly taught us all the gift of giving, and I’m ashamed to admit that I learned the lesson way, way too slowly. In fact, the lesson is hardly evident in my life… yet. I’m getting there.
She rose before the sun almost every day of her life, often around 3:30am, to go downstairs to her restaurant and begin the prep work for the new day. She owned that restaurant for 28 years, open every day but Sundays and holidays, sometimes opening way early for the deer hunters, and she showed us all what faithfulness and hard work looked like. She was smart, savvy, and above all, giving.
She knew the lesson of the unclenched hand.
In fact, when and if some of my friends and loved ones from Oscoda (my ol’ hometown) read these words, they’d be able to tell story upon story of Grams and her giving heart.
Where this story intersects with today is in my hands. Something that I share with Grams and my mom is arthritis and all the joy that implies. Mine has been showing up mostly in knees and back, since an early age actually, multiplied by weight, but I’m noticing in my later years that it’s making its presence known in my hands. I love having things in common with Grams, but I was hoping to pass on that one…
Grams’ hands were stiff – very stiff. At times, she couldn’t close her fingers. What she did with those stiff painful fingers was magic – the work of her hands was blessed indeed, as was the work of her heart – but I saw her suffer. And I was hoping that my own hands would stay free of it, since as a musician I tend to be really, really protective of my hands. But the stiffness seems to be coming. Slowly, I’m thankful to say, but still there.
The interesting thing I’m noticing, and remembering from Grams’ life, is this: things get worse with clenched hands.
When I’ve been loom knitting for a while, my right hand, the one that holds the tool, locks up and becomes sore (so does the left, the one that holds the loom). Too long without stretching and my right thumb stops being able to do its part. Too much of any activity that requires a closed or clenched hand produces pain and stiffness. If I’m playing wind controller and don’t take the time to stretch my hands between songs or in places where I have a break, the fingers will lock in a curved position for a bit, and I have to carefully work them a bit to get them loose again. I don’t seem to have that problem on bass guitar, for which I am grateful. As for whistle, the low whistles use a technique called Piper’s Grip or “flat fingering” that lets me keep my fingers stretched. Thus explaining why I’m happier on the low whistles.

(More detail than you ever wanted to know – that’s what I live for. That and Ramen noodles. Oh, and chicken. And beans. Like I said – more detail than you ever wanted to know.)
Why this all hit my radar this morning is wrapped up in today’s Daily Audio Bible podcast, in the reading from Proverbs:
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine.”
Proverbs 3:9-10 (NLT)
Brian Hardin, the voice (and heart) of the DAB, commented on this, asking us what if this becomes an opportunity to open our hands and experience freedom? What if, instead of clenching and hoarding and worrying over our wealth, we open our hands and give it all over to God? What kind of freedom comes when we know He is in control of it all and we can just let it go?
Freedom comes by being obedient to God, and not just paying our 10% so that He will bring all sorts of prosperity and goodies into our lives. (Sorry if I offend by this, but I do believe that the phrase “prosperity Gospel” is an oxymoron. Just sayin’.) Obeying God is not playing the lottery or dropping coins into a slot machine, expecting a payback. “I did my thing, just like the rules in Your book say – now gimme, gimme, gimme!”
In obedience we acknowledge that He owns everything – all we have and all we are, by the fact that we offer our best, our first to Him above all. Even when we can’t see how we’ll put food on the table or keep the lights on. When we can’t see how we’ll put gas in the tank or find somewhere to go to earn anything to buy gas with. We clench, we hold, we buckle down to survive and endure. We dig trenches and foxholes and we hold on to the little we have, because that’s all we know how to do.
There has been a lot of clenching going on in our house lately. We’ve gotten ourselves into some very deep water, very tight situations, and no hope on the horizon of digging out.
Actually, let’s dispense with the royal “we” here – I’m clenching. I’ve gotten us into deep water. I don’t see hope on the horizon. Not wallowing in pity or blame or regret – just truthfully admitting who the “free spirit” in our family is (to use a Dave Ramsey term…).
So I grasp, I tighten in anxiety, I wring my hands over worry and regret and frustration…
And wind up with closed, locked, painful fists.
There’s still no hope on the horizon, at least not from my limited view; there’s no resolution I can bring with my small power, and my feeble efforts can’t move the mountain before me.
There’s a little too much “I, Me, My” in that preceding sentence, don’ ‘cha think? Me too…
In my unfaithful, faltering, infrequent pursuit of Tai Chi, I’m learning not just poses and postures, but a new way of movement, at least for my stiff ol’ bod. In Yang style, the form I’m learning, the hands remain open, not stiff, with the thumb extended – the “tiger’s mouth” (the space at the base of the thumb) is open. The hand is soft, not rigid; the fingers relaxed, not stiffened. When the hands need to close, to make a fist for a punch or another movement, they are able to do so because they are relaxed. When that movement is complete, they open and become relaxed once again.
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces.”
Grams knew the freedom and blessing of the unclenched hand. So did my mom. So does my wife, who models a servant’s heart in everything she does.
So Lord, I confess a clenched, painful, stiff hand, and the clenched, stiff heart that goes with it. All my grasping, my holding, my keeping back – even from You – is wrong. I’m creating more frustration when trying feebly to relieve it. I’m causing more insecurity when I should be letting go. I’m creating instability while trying to find solid ground, because I’m looking at the wrong things.
Come and take Your proper place, Father – the head of all I am and all I have. I open my hands, Lord. All I can see and all I can figure out screams at me to close and clench, but my own wisdom is, as always, flawed. Holy Spirit, close my ears to screams of desperation, and open my eyes to Your freedom. When I get rid of it all, when I open my hands and put it all in Your hands, then I’m truly free. The problems I’ve created, I confess them and ask for Your forgiveness. Remind me that the solutions are Yours to reveal – my job is trust and obedience. Help my resolve to give You the first and best of it all, and to leave the rest with You too, guided by Your wisdom and Your economy, resources that You can use according to Your perfect will.

My hands are open and relaxed. And all that they held is Yours.

The Beautiful Ugly Clock

“Broken Time” by Andrew Van Zyll
Check out his creative pursuits at
his Etsy store


God’s timetable: the clock is always 100% perfectly on time, but it’s an ugly clock.

I’m sorry – was that a little impious? Should I couch it in more Psalm-esque language? Yelling stuff like “HOW LONG, O LORD??” Nope – I’m stickin’ with hows I sees ’em.
I do not doubt God’s timing – in my limited, narrow view over the past 52 years…
(Come to think of it, it was more like 51, since that first year is pretty much a blur, an “eat, cry and poop fest.”)
(Come to think of it, that first year wasn’t so bad, except for the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, that’ll pretty much sum up most of my final years, I should think – up to and including the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, I think we’ve discovered that Cal really shouldn’t “come to think of” anything. Especially sitting in front of a computer keyboard. Ever.)
Anyway, I’ve seen God’s timetable work its perfect way in too many places to ever rail against it or deny its existence. Everything falls to His sovereignty, willingly or unwillingly. We can accept the roaring flow, go with it, or we can try to buck the tide and end up on our hineys, flying downstream, producing the kind of facial expressions captured for all time in those photo thingies they always take at the most horrific moment of the most mind-numbing amusement park rides, then sell you at a “bargain” price for this souvenir that will bring back wonderful memories for generations to come. (Like panic, screaming, and bile, to name a few.)
But just because I accept and surrender to God’s timetable does not change that fact that, in my limited and narrow view, it’s an ugly clock.
Maybe I see it as ugly because I simply have no way to read it or understand it… It’s like one of those LED clocks that tells the time in binary code, thus prompting smug looks from geeks and geeklets in the room, sharing their secret knowledge of being able to read the thing while us lower mortals wander in confusion…
Until we look at our phones, see the time, and get on with our uncaring agendas, leaving the geeks and geeklets frustrated, their lake of superiority dammed up with the concrete of indifference. Hoover dam, baby. Deal with it.
I stare at God’s clock with no comprehension. I can’t even see the whole face of the thing. The hands move in ways I can’t perceive; the units they measure have no meaning in my existence; and the outcome of its progress is beyond my understanding.
Now, I do admit that I’ve never been the sharpest chisel in the tool box when it comes to clocks. I didn’t learn to read the clock until fifth grade, even though I started reading at age 3. There was always someone around to tell me what time it was, so no need to learn the significance of “the big hand is on the 3, and the small hand is on the 8.”
Yes, no digital clocks. I am indeed that old.
Anyway, I came late to the party with the whole “learning to tell time” thing. I did make up for it later, when I started working in broadcasting. When one is responsible for every second of every minute of every hour of an air shift, you start to gain a sense of time passing, really understanding just how long it takes to do some things. Learning to read something out loud, so that it comes out to exactly 27 seconds (to allow 3 seconds for the music hit at the end) teaches you a lot about time. So does having to vamp the weather forecast when you have 30 seconds to fill, and a forecast that says “partly cloudy, partly cloudy, repeat repeat repeat…”
So I do understand how time feels.
And I think we all understand how time feels in the long, long silences when we think God has gone south for the winter. Those stretches of darkness where we wonder if we’ve ever really heard from Him at all. The heavy night curtain that falls after a long, sunny, extended period of His blessing, when things go from bright to dark faster than the switching off of a lamp in a basement room. We all, or at least most of us, understand how the dark rises up, immeasurably fast and overpoweringly strong.
At times, we believe that not only is God not in the same time zone as us, but that He’s changed over to another calendar, one where seconds, minutes, hours and even days and weeks are graded on a sliding scale. Where time itself becomes elastic, and it ebbs and flows in harmony with the One who exists outside of its steely grasp.
Time is NOT finite in the hands of the Infinite.
But we feel every dragging second in our small world.
Right now, I’m in a place where the clock is very ugly, moving so slowly that I have to fight the urge to keep replacing the battery, and it doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon. I’m on the other side of almost two years of very fast change, where time flew beyond my ability to catalog it. I tried, vainly, to grab some small pieces of it, to note the events in these pages, to be aware and keep reminders before it all blew past, never to be seen again.
Then it all stopped. We got stuck in a holding pattern while the runway is being cleaned by three Oompa Loompas with toothbrushes. It’s gonna be awhile.
Meanwhile, to stir the pot of ugly clock soup, throw in a few years without employment, add in someone not wise enough yet to learn to live within his means, and whip into a financial frenzy.
** before Vicki or a few others jump in here, I probably should have said “gainful employment,” or something like that. I have been pursuing an occupation – learning my new life so that all the things that come with it become habits, a part of my normal life. It was necessary, it’s equipped me to live in this new body and keep it working well, and everything is happening exactly when it should. I just didn’t learn the bigger lessons, and I took a little longer to grow up, so it’ll take a little longer to dig out. **
Always on time, but it’s an ugly clock.
Sometimes, some of that ugliness is self-imposed, I’m discovering. The clock is ugly because it has a highly polished surface and shows me all the mistakes I’ve been making while the timetable moves on. Maybe the ugliness I see in the clock is just the choking regret I feel for lessons not learned, time lost, resources wasted, failures committed. In the mirror of the clock, I see my own ugliness.
I don’t think God intends us to look at ourselves in that harsh, unyielding place. With nothing between our limited viewpoint and infinity, how could we ever stand the sight? How could we perceive anything but LOSS… LOSSLOSS
“In the fullness of time, God sent His son…”
“God works all things together for good…”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…”
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 (TNIV)
By itself, God’s timetable is perfect, always on time, always on track.
From my limited view, it’s an ugly clock.
From His view, He makes all things beautiful, even where I only see ugly…
In His time.

The Lost Puppy Lesson

In high school, there was a group of guys. And they, in my view, were cool. Not cool by the standards of how others would gauge cool – hot looks, mad sports skillz, that sort of drack. They were cool because they were unique. They weren’t afraid of being themselves. They fired off Tarzan yells from a little cassette player at the drive-in movie during love scenes. Now THAT’S cool!
And I desperately wanted to be one of them.
A couple of them played guitars. They played in bands. They did, at least in my own imagination, many other amazing and wonderful things each day, the details of which, were mere mortals like myself to know them, would make them weep with the sheer weight of their awesomeness.
Wow.
And boy howdy, did I ever want to be one of “them.”
And boy howdy, was I ever not one of them. Not even close.
Not to say that I didn’t know them, that we weren’t at least acquainted, or that they were so snooty and cliquesque that they wouldn’t even notice my existence. Nope. I just wasn’t one of them.
Like most teens, I wanted desperately to belong, to be a part of some group someplace. It would be years and years before I ever came to understand that I’m not really a “belong” sort of person. I’m more of a “hang on the fringes and observe” type of person or a “comfortable with my beloved and a small list of close friends but not really totally integrated into any group” type of person. And years and years more before I came to accept that.
And every once in a while I catch myself in that behavior. I’ll hover around the edge of a group, imagining all the camaraderie and fun they must be having together, and begin wishing I was a part of their “club.” Trying to fill some sort of void I think I perceive in my own existence by filling the lonely hole with belonging.
I call it the Lost Puppy Lesson. Hovering around the edges like a little lost puppy, hoping that someone will take me in and give me a home.
(I think my mom first gave it that name when she would laugh a bit about my attempts to fit into this or that group. Not quite sure why she needed to revisit those memories, or find amusement at them, but there it is.)
Recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m dancing around that lesson once again, hovering around the edges of somewhere I was employed for a very long time. I do a little bit of part-time work there, which is cool, but I’m wondering if, by keeping my “foot in the door” (so to speak), on some level I’m doing the Lost Puppy thing, hoping to get taken in, to be welcomed back and officially be part of “the group.”
Which isn’t cool, for the record. At least, not for me.
What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that I don’t need to look for something external to “belong to” in an attempt to fill some sort of hole or void. If there’s a hole, the solution won’t be found out there – the place to look is within, usually in the area of having stepped away from where I belong in relationship to my Father. As always, if I feel distant from Him, He’s not the one who moved. If I’m feeling disconnected, I’m probably the one who pulled the plug.
Ok, so knowing that, I now have a grid to process things through. In the case of my part-time work, am I hovering around the edges, hoping to be let back in and to belong? Honestly, maybe a little bit – but I think it’s more a desire for some sort of regular work and income. I don’t think I’m searching for something to fill an emotional hole, but rather something to help in an increasingly tight financial situation. A little stability in a stormy sea.
I think God uses our past lessons to help us navigate our present path. The question is, will we mindfully look at where we are through the lens of what we’ve learned?
One more thing to add to that – using the lessons learned is alright, as long as we allow Him to teach us through them and not let our past be an open door for all sorts of regrets to reach out and choke us. God doesn’t intend for us to live in our regrets, but rather to commit our past to His keeping, and our present to His grace.
The final thought: sometimes, in God’s grace and timing, good can come from the Lost Puppy Lesson…
If I hadn’t wanted so desperately to be a part of that group from high school, I wouldn’t have fixed my eyes on a certain instrument, one that would enable me to jam along and (hopefully, in my eyes) let me “in.” At the very least I wouldn’t have pursued that instrument so desperately at that time. The group of guys came and went (and I’m friends on Facebook with a couple of them!), and I moved on to other lessons and other puppy pursuits from time to time, becoming a little wiser for the wear.
Yet that instrument – my attempt to become one of them – remains a huge part of my life. I think of the guys sometimes on Sunday mornings when I’m part of the worship team at First Cov…
playing my bass guitar.
The one I play now has six strings and no frets, but the black and white four-string Electra bass that my grandmother bought me (after much begging, I’ll admit, and much thankfulness) set my feet on the path. Thanks guys, especially Jeff – I had no idea at the time that a case of wanting to be part of the cool dudes would turn into a lifetime of joy playing bass.
The moral of the story? Sometimes puppies learn cool tricks, that they still do as old dogs.

Many, Many Questions

In this blog, there are number of categories, or “tags.” And, one that I’ve mentioned a number of times is the tag called “The Stones” – the signposts and reminders I leave myself as I continue this journey into my new life. Those things I need to look back on to see where I’ve come from, where I am going, and the goodness of God who walks with me through it all.

Along the way, especially in the last six months or so, I’ve been acquiring a number of questions – things that aren’t going as I expected, or areas that don’t seem to be falling into line with the rest of this new life. Things that seem to be resisting the new and holding on (with a death grip of steel) to the old. And some things that just seem to be confusing the stuffing out of me.

(Like, for example, why oh WHY did my hair decide to not only start to fall out, but to turn rebelliously curly in the process, thus leaving me with a bad case of Chia Pet? I liked short straight hair – I knew what to do with it. This shaggy mop? Not so much.)

(For the record, the mop got cut. Chia Pet gone, short hair back. Ahhhh….)

So, here I raise a stone of questions, so that when I look back, perhaps I can see that the answer finally came, or the question became meaningless. Perhaps by the act of bringing these questions out into the physical world, they’ll rattle around a little less loudly in the ol’ noodle, and make room for other stuff that might actually be more important.

So, to all 1.927582 of you who regularly read this poopy, here be the questions. If you decide to bail at this point, no one would blame you. If you read these, and the answers jump out at you with the full brilliance of a summer day, let me know. Gently. With great compassion, ‘k?

Here’s the windup… the pitch…

Why do I find it so difficult to work at home? What is lingering there that causes me to want to just sit down, numb up, and lose a day? Is it just me being stubborn or spoiled? Are there habit patterns from my old life that are so imprinted on my life at home that I can’t rewire around them? Is it the clutter and chaos that keeps me from forming new habits?

How can I move from seeing all of the clutter around the house to actually getting rid of it, and to actually selling a whole ton of it? I have books, ebooks, ideas, inspiration – enough to make a band across Kent County, and yet I do nothing with it. I don’t take a step, even a faltering one or a wrong one. Or I try one thing (like listing a bass amp on Craigslist), it fails, so I give up.

Why do I waste so much time? Why am I perfectly content to allow everything to run in slow motion?

How is it that I manage to make a commitment to play a gig, practice, show up early with all my needed gear, do the gig well, tear down in an efficient fashion, and execute the whole thing with total focus, but can’t manage to bring the same focus and determination to a list of things to do in a single day?

Why does an external structure always make me respond, but any internal structure I try to create gets ignored? What part of me thinks so little of myself that I feel free to take my goals, ideas and dreams and flush them down the biffy?

How can I justify taking things that Vicki depends on me to do, and just letting them slide? Or things I’ve committed to do, but that don’t have a firm, in stone, do-or-die deadline? How can I just let those shuffle off and not feel shame at disappointing friends?

What am I supposed to do when I grow up? When am I going to grow up?

How do I narrow down my many, many interests into the few that I actually should do? Who decides what I should be doing and what I should let go? If I’m the one that decides that, how do I decide it?

Why do I almost never have a simple answer to the question “what do you want to do?”

Why, even though I’ve tried to shift this around in my thinking, do I always find myself asking “what am I supposed to do?” Not “what do I want to do?” or “what do I get to do?”, but “what do I have to do?” Why do I not see joy and freedom in those choices, but just numbing indecision when I have to make those decisions instead of having them made for me? Am I afraid of screwing it up?

How can I consistently shift my worldview around to begin and end with God’s abundant grace? How do I frame each day with the same view that I see my journey with? Why don’t I see every day as a gift – as great of a gift as when God brought me into this new life? Why don’t I view everything in this and each day as another outpouring of that same boundless grace?

Why is it so hard for me to make a plan for the day, write down the plan, and then actually DO the plan? Why do I so easily take the plan, use it to wipe crud off of my shoes, and then do whatever I jolly well please with the day, which usually ends up being nothing?

Will I ever be able to work by myself, either at home or in an office or studio? Or will I always need to work somewhere where there are other people around, in “public?”

How are we ever going to survive financially? Will I ever have a job that brings in regular, dependable income, or will my dear wife have to rely on her income alone, not knowing when or if her free spirit muffinhead of a husband will bring home some bacon… or turkey… or beef… or beans for that matter?

How do we dig out of a hole that’s so deep that it swallows any chance of seeing our dreams? Can someone ever recover from that kind of darkness?

How does one go about selling all their crap? Actually selling it, not caring what kind of income it brings in, just wanting the freedom of no longer having it around? And the blessing of no longer paying to store the mountain of crap from my Mom’s house that we simply don’t give a wet slap about?

Why do I have all these amazing ideas – things to get done today, ideas to develop in music, things I could do as a magician or storyteller, stuff I could make and sell on Etsy, things that might actually help justify my existence on this planet, stuff that would make Vicki smile because she’s been waiting so long for me to get my crap in gear and get it done – and when it comes time to actually get started on them, I go blank? Numb? Shut down and do nothing? Where’s the disconnect that happens between walking in the door with all these great ideas and intentions, and having them all collapse into oblivion by the time I hang up my coat? How do I heal that fracture, make the connection whole?

Why do I feel like the light gets sucked out of me daily?

How is it that I listen to the Bible every day, but most days it seems to have so little impact my life, or how I walk? Yes, it keeps me mindful of how I must start my day with God, how I should walk with Him all through the day, and end the day in Him, but I’m so quick to drop that and just go off into numbville that I get lost in the shuffle.

Why do I spend so much time asking questions, and so little time actually doing things?

Why am I just sitting here now asking questions, instead of doing something to find the answers?

(Ok – I know that one. Writing / working through stuff is an important part of my journey. Without the journaling, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as far along the path as I am today. The time I spend writing is time well spent, and essential to my future.)

Again, and again, and again, I ask “what am I supposed to DO?” This is such a huge issue, such a major lynchpin, that I’ll be wading through it in another post. Soon. Like, very soon.

Is it time to ask my doctor if Cimbalta is right for me?

(I know the answer to that one too… besides, I’m already on enough happy pills as it is.)

How is it that we’ve had a new garage door, paid for and waiting at the store, sitting there since April, and here it is, November, snowing, and the thing still isn’t even at our house, much less put up? And yes, we’ve had friends offer to help us haul the puppy home, and others offer to give us guidance on putting the thing up. We (and I mostly mean me) just haven’t done anything about it.

*** You really need to take a moment to pray for Vicki. And give her a hug if you see her today. This is the kind of stuff she lives with on a daily basis, patiently waiting as her husband is being rebuilt before her eyes. She rides through the triumph and the confusion, the delights and the disappointments, the joys and the hardships, and yet remains so delighted at the progress so far. And remains patient as I then write down all the stuff that I probably should keep away from the light of day, trotting the ups and downs of our lives out there for all to look upon.

I can’t say enough about her that adequately expresses how much she means to me. As I said, give a hug if you see her. ***

—————————————————

(the following imagery brought to you by the “Cal really wants to learn how to weave and is getting a little obsessed by it” foundation…)

The Master Weaver makes the tapestry. Sometimes, He has to unravel many, many threads to correct the weaving and produce the design He has in mind. Most often, he takes the dark places, the threads that we consider repulsive or ugly, and uses them to strengthen the design in ways we couldn’t possibly expect or imagine.

It’s been said before that we only see the underside, where the threads cross and get knotted, where there is no design, only chaos. And someday, only someday will we see the design that He was producing all along.

I don’t buy it.

If we only saw the chaos, without a glimpse of the beautiful, the order, the wonder, the final magnificent design, we’d never have the heart to carry on.

Yes, we trust the Weaver, sometimes in blind faith, trusting that He who holds the shuttle and the threads in His hands knows exactly where each thread goes. But I think that He also knows that if we never have a glimpse of the design, the purpose, that we’d never learn to endure the chaos. So every once in a while, He lets us peek at the other side. He shows us the beautiful, the order, the plan, the wonder of His weaving. He gives us a glimpse of His hand at work.

He gives us hope.

So, Father, Master, Weaver, Keeper, Sustainer, I lay my questions at Your feet. They are a burden I can’t carry alone. I see the knots, I see the twisted fibers, I see the dark places where the threads bring me shame. I see the places where You’ve cut away and remade the tapestry. And I see those glimpses of hope when the skill of Your hands reveals wonder and beauty I could never dream of. Thank You that my questions never offend You, they never make You cross or impatient, and that the answers to these and many others are all in Your keeping and in Your time.

Thank You for hope. Thank You for grace. Thank You for mercy and patience. Thank You for abundant love. Thanks for knowing all the answers, and sharing some of them at the exact right time. Remind me that the weight of them is something I don’t have to bear, but instead to ask them and then hand them over to Your keeping, just as I am in Your keeping, woven into something beautiful in Your time.

Amen.