Author: topher

Re-Publish – The Advent Writings, Day 8: Reformationis

See that train in the distance? It’s the fresh post train – should arrive here around 14 or 15. Yep. Thems the facts.

Reformationis: transformation; reformation;

(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
What creates lasting change?
You’d think I’d know that. Since being changed literally from the inside out over the last 21 months, I should think I’d have a good handle on lasting change. After all, the redecorating of my innards wasn’t done with Velcro – there’s no going back, baby.
But that doesn’t keep me from trying.
Old habits creep in when I’m not mindful. An attachment to food that I thought was long dead will insidiously rear its ugly head, and I’m mindlessly snacking without realizing it.
Although my new frame and form are capable of doing an astonishing (to me) amount of things in a single day, I can easily find myself slipping into veg mode at the drop of a knitting loom. Or numbing out in front of a movie. Or letting hours pass while surfing the web. Or doing anything but moving forward on the many, many things that are worth my interest and attention. Mindlessness.
I’m finding that the same vigilance I’ve had to use to even start to make habits of my new way of living continues to be required to make my new life stick.
Excuse me for a moment – need to take my mid-morning calcium, vitamins, and such…
Like I said, vigilance. (And yes, I really did pause right then, take some pills, and am chewing away on the first of two calcium chews for this time around.)
Transformation doesn’t always equal change.
Imagine someone who loses a leg to some sad occurrence. They are truly transformed, permanently and irrevocably, but are they changed? Perhaps, since the reality is that they will have to learn to accommodate what is now their reality. They will have to adjust, to relearn, but the change is forced upon them. How deep it goes, and what results from it is up to them.
How my body processes food is permanently changed and, if I don’t live that way, it can result in some mild discomfort all the way to serious malnutrition and a St. Mary’s vacation. Not a great way to “make the Yuletide gay.” But how deep the change goes is up to me. I can follow the new requirements, I can “mostly” follow them, or I can go ape-crazy sometimes and totally blow them off.
That last one not only results in major discomfort, but large protests from the other members of my household. Yes, even Ezzie the Wonder Dog looks at me as if to say, “Dude, I’m a DOG, and that’s still a bit much for me to handle.” Don’t believe me? Spend 24 hours with me after I drink a 20 oz soda – especially a Diet Coke. You’ll be cryin’ for yo mama in eight.
And how do I know these things? Because I HAVE gone ape-crazy, and I have danced around the edges of obedience, and I have had days where I didn’t take care of the basics. After everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve been through, I’ll still do the dumb and shrug off the new while returning to that which is bad for me.
Sometimes, transformation doesn’t go deep enough into change. Sometimes, transformation remains external, and change never penetrates below the surface.
With all the trappings of Christmas surrounding us, focusing on Advent and the reason we celebrate seems a no-brainer. We see it all around us, our hearts are moved by the story once again, and we find ourselves turning toward the One who was always there, all the time, waiting. Transformation – our vision realigned; our hearts refocused; our resolve renewed.
Then the other shoe drops in January, and we learn that transformation does not equal change. Are you inclined toward New Year resolutions? Things that you will accomplish/change/address in the year to come? And how many of those goals/dreams/hopes/resolutions have gotten laid by the wayside, victims of change that hit the surface and bounced off?
(Cal’s honest admission: I’ve got a long, l-o-n-g list of ’em, and enough regrets to repaint the White House a lovely shade of grey.)
Something worth noting: We KNOW it’s coming. Every year, we know that the joy of the holidays is followed by the deep plummet into the valley of the shadow of the new year. Like the light on an oncoming locomotive, we see it coming down the track, and turn into Bambi in the headlight – frozen stiff. The holidays fly through, leaving light and joy and fuzzy stuff and some tinsel in their wake. (Because no matter how carefully you clean, there’s ALWAYS some rogue tinsel left. Always. Oh, and fruitcake. That always gets left behind too.)
(“But deadly for 10,000 years is carbon-14.” – Sting, We Work The Black Seam Together)
(“And fruitcake. Seriously.” – Cal)
(Cal’s honest admission: As much as I use the recurring fruitcake gag, I do like the stuff. And even in my altered state, I usually find a way to get some fruitcake – usually too much, which results in the aforementioned dire consequences.)
What the heck was I talking about?… Oh yeah – Bambi in the headlights eating fruitcake. Not really – he’d never touch the stuff.
We know that the new year approaches, and that we’ll always try and buckle down to make this the year that the change sticks, the resolve remains firm, the dreams are realized, and the fruitcake disposed of. (That’s enough of the recurring gag for this installment…) But change, real lasting change only comes from habits, real lasting habits carefully learned and constantly renewed.
So now is the time to be working toward habits that lead to change in the new year, which brings us to the whole “Advent is a season of preparation” thing. What if the point isn’t preparing for the arrival of the King, but preparing to walk with Him every day in this and every year? To place Him in His proper place, at the head of all things, and to live life this and every year acknowledging His sovereign Lordship? What if we turn the daily Advent calendar into daily time hearing His word? What if Advent family devotions become daily family devotions? What if the reminders of the tree and the nativity scene turn into daily reminders that our lives are well-spent when they begin and end each day with Him?
What if the best, most worthy resolution we can make is a daily walk with God? So simple and wonderful! From that, all sorts of amazing things can follow because He can and will lead us there.
(Cal’s honest, fruitcake-free admission: My habit of listening to the Daily Audio Bible, which is a podcast that I highly recommend, is not perfect. I sometimes get a week or two behind. And what results is not guilt from failing at my resolve, but rather a sadness, a missing piece from not having a daily reminder that God walks with me, each day. He is always there and always will be but if I am not careful, I’ll walk away and wander. I’ll turn away, even though He’s right there, and there will be a hole left behind. I am made less when I fail to turn to Him daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.)
Behaviors lead to habits. Habits can lead to change. And change can lead to lasting, deep transformation. We can be reformed, reborn, renewed, but only in daily behavior, daily habit, daily resolve to walk with Him and follow hard after Him.
And so, we prepare. We celebrate. We wait for the coming King. And personally, I want to use this time to remember where I walk. To refocus my vision. To follow the Christ. I follow… failingly, imperfectly, falteringly, hesitantly… but I follow.
Reformationis: transformation; reformation
“Out of my sorrow, bondage and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come…”
– William T. Sleeper

Re-Publish – The Advent Writings, Day 7: Memoratus

The reposting frenzy continues. Freshness shall be obtained, somewhere around 14 or 15. 

Memoratus – remember; be mindful; mention/recount/relate, remind/speak of.

(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
I’m a firm believer in raising stones. Actually, I’m a firm everything – my beloved refers to me as “bony” these days. Folks give me a pat on the shoulder, and hit skeleton. I look at my upper chest and can see ribbage. It ain’t pretty.
Where was I? Oh yes – stones.
There’s a tag on this here blog called “The Stones” made up of things that I need to remember; to keep in front of me; to hold in; to use today’s word, memoratus. Things that I must not forget, that I must be mindful of. Signposts of God’s faithfulness, reminders of where I’ve been and pointers to where I am heading.
What does this have to do with Advent? Not a thing – I’m running dry here.
Just kidding.
In this season of preparation, of getting ready, knowing where we are, where we have come from, and where we are heading is important if the King is to be given His proper place in all things.
Sorry – that had overtones of “A Christmas Carol” in it… The Ghost of Advent Past will not be making an appearance, rest assured.
Where have you been? Has the King been on the throne this year in your life? Did situations, feelings, responses, thoughts all find their right perspective under His just rule?
(Cal’s totally honest response: Nope. Things have been shifting in the last few months, to His praise, but I ain’t there yet. At least I’m in the same area code.
Which one?
906 of course – everyone knows God lives in the 906 area code.)
Where are you now? Is it the same old same old, another hectic holiday haul, go here, do that, buy those, wrap them, watch this, listen to that, all the usual trappings that so obscure what it’s really all about?
Do you find yourself empty, longing, unsettled, bitter, disillusioned, or just generally feeling blue? Are you so extreme that you’d gladly be the one driving the sleigh and running grandma over with the reindeer?
(I had the um… joy… of working at a little bitty station in da U.P. when that song started getting airplay. Lovely. I know my life will never be the same…)
Do you bury yourself deep, so that all the jolly and jingle bounce right off? Keeping the holiday at bay, because it’s been bad for so long that you have to import daylight?
(Cal’s honest response: My mom was the heart of our Christmas celebration, so when she was gone in 2003, Christmas kind of went too. There have been good times, dark times, and numb times. Stay tuned for current conditions…)
Where are you going? Has everything felt perfect on the outside, with a yawning emptiness inside, leading you to decide that this year the King returns to the center, His rightful place? Has Advent opened your eyes to making Him central every day? Are you sweeping the house, cleaning the dirt away so when the King arrives, you can welcome Him with joy and open arms?
(For the record, He will enter in anywhere, even if your house looks like the result of the last freight tornado to Oz. Trust me – I’m an expert in this.)
So what stones will you raise to help you remember?
What will remind you of the past, the places where you slipped and fell, and of where He gently lifted you up and carried you? Where His light shone so brightly all around you that you felt sure your eyes would never recover? What will make you take notice of the darkness, to help your resolve to live in the light?
Where will you place reminders of your present, of either a steadfast steady walk, or a rough path that reached a crossroads in 2011 and took a sharp turn toward the light? What will remind you of an Advent that opened your eyes and rocked your world with its gentle presence?
(Cal’s honest response: You’re looking at my signposts right now. I place “the stones” here on the blog, so that I can look forward and back and remember. My beloved looks here too, and we walk the journey hand in hand.)
The stones help those we love too. They see where we were, where we are, and the mindful journey we are on. The stones give our family and friends tangible reminders of our path, our choices, our resolve, and help them understand more fully. And perhaps to join us on the journey.
We are forgetful critters. It’s that simple. Nothing evil in that statement, no declaration of the frailty and fallenness of peoplekind, no loud shouting of the deceitful wickedness of the heart.
(Those are all true, for the record… I’m just not the shout and declare type of dude, at least not in my new life.)
Without real, physical, tangible reminders of Immortal Invisible God only wise (to quote the hymn), we will let slip the most important things. I’ve said it before – the presence of the mundane clouds our eyes, stops our ears, captures our senses and pushes God to the background. For me, wrapped up in the stones is this phrase:
“As He has been, so He shall be.”
He does not change. The same God who put stars in place is the same God who spared Abraham’s son; is the same God who moved ahead in fire and cloud; is the same God who keeps His promises through all generations; is the same God who sent His beloved to be born and live and breathe and die and rise…
and is the same God who said He will continue His good work, and will complete it.
We put up our tree, then decorate it with ornaments. Some have a short history with us – on sale 50% off last year the day after Christmas, picked up at a yard sale in July, that sort of thing. Some have a long history, full of memories and family and Christmases long, long ago. And the act of putting them on the tree brings back those past jewels, or past shadows. We remember, sometimes in delight, sometimes in gratitude for how far we have come, and usually in joy for it all.
And there, in a nutshell (a chestnut roasting on an open fire, if you will), are “the stones.” The things we collect and hang on our days to keep us mindful of things we need to remember. As we unpack (or have unpacked – I’m usually weeks behind…) the Christmas treasures, hang them for all to see and recall their stories, let’s take that with us into the new year, placing the stones and recalling their stories as we walk with the King, listening to His voice and learning His ways.
Memoratus – remember; be mindful; mention/recount/relate, remind/speak of.
” At the right time, God wrote Himself into the story. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.’ And that’s the reason that All is Well. Remember?”
– Frank Peretti, “All Is Well”

The Light Went Out of Her Eyes…

Beka had a very fun weekend… she went to doggie day care and got to play with other dogs, including her new “boyfriend,” Ace, a puppy near her age who became her #1 playmate.
And boy, was she worn out. She slept and slept and slept Sunday night after we brought her home. I’ve never seen her that zonked out, other than her brand new puppy stage or after her little operation – Beka 2.IT
Monday morning, back to “normal” – get dressed, gather stuff for the day ahead, then utter the words, “Beka, it’s time to go bye-bye…” 
And the light goes out of her eyes. She lays down in her (my) chair, and has to be majorly bribed to go into her crate for the day. After a couple days of freedom, playing, hanging out with others of her kind, and being worn out from the sheer joy of it all, “normal” slams the door and throws away the key.
Vicki thinks she’s just still tuckered out from her weekend of fun. I hope and pray that’s the case, but I fear… I don’t know what I’d do if I saw the light go out of Beka’s eyes permanently, leaving her shuffling through the days, losing the joy and adventure she felt so keenly this weekend.
And I fear for me too…
I fear that the light has gone out of my eyes. That I’ve lost the joy and adventure of the past two years, shuffling through the days as “normal” slams the door and throws away the key.
Upon what do I base these depressing thoughts?
– I’ve gained 10 pounds.
– I’ve made junk food one of my major food groups. Now, anybody can go on junk food binges, but when I do, it throws up a HUGE red flag that I’m medicating with food.
– I’m consuming a staggering amount of carbs, which has the double bonus of packing on weight AND making me miserable on the “other end.” In fact, Vicki has said she can’t understand why I keep doing this to myself, when I know the discomfort it’ll produce as an aftermath.
I don’t know either.
– I work someplace where any of the aforementioned carbs or junk food is available without blinking an eye. Want to medicate with food? I work at the food addict’s crack house.
(The above does not in ANY way say anything about the fine, fine establishment where I spend my days walking around trying to find my way and do something good in the process. It’s my issues here, not the place I am…)
– I haven’t been on my trike since the first week of August, I haven’t been to Tai Chi in a year, and, by my reckoning, I haven’t posted anything to this blog in a couple of months which means I haven’t been writing, which means my mental plumbing is backed up so bad that Mr. Roto Rooter is saying, “Dude – I’m not touching that…”
– I’ve stopped believing and living my own story. The stones stand forgotten, neglected, ignored. Life is now a series of go here, do this, go there, do that, sleep, repeat. The discipline of mindfulness, the habit of awareness, the practices and routines that my new life requires have been left behind. Every day brings me a little closer to the life I thought was gone for good.
The old dead corpse still hangs around my neck, it reaches out to move my hands, to shape my actions, to cloud my vision – 
To take the light out of my eyes.
Ever notice how not all of the Psalms are happy-happy-praise-praise-praise? Ever read the stuff from David’s “Blue Period?” (which nobody has ever called it, for the record…) Well, I’m in my blue period, I guess. And I haven’t gotten to the place where I’m lifting up my eyes, I’m not looking to the hills, I’m not realizing where my help comes from. I’m just trying to get from this place to that place, to do this thing and then that thing. 
Steve, the mental hamster, has stuck me in his wheel, and it’s going round and round. 
For Beka, I will fight and move and strive to make sure that we find ways to keep the light in her eyes, to give her the joy and adventure that her little puppy heart so needs.
For myself? I don’t know…