Category: FaithAsLife

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.

The Face of My Father

“You have forgotten the face of your father!”
This is a very serious rebuke from the world of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, which I do not, and I mean DO NOT recommend. OK, as with most, if not all of his writing, the story is compelling and draws you in, so that by the time you realize just how deep, dark, graphic, and disturbing the landscape is, you can’t pull the handle on the ejector seat – you have to hang on for the ride, to see how things come out. But it’s a tough ride. Well written? Yes. Hard, disturbing, dark? Mega yes.
So, in Mid-World, in the reality of the Gunslinger, when you have done something shameful, you hear this stern rebuke – “you have forgotten the face of your father!” If you have done something with honor, the inverse is true – “you have not forgotten the face of your father.”
A day ago, I forgot the face of my father. As with just about everything in our lives, there are multiple layers and reasons for this, so we’re allowed to pursue some measure of balance between “I’m a boneheaded dufus of titanic proportions” and “hey man, give me a break – I’m only human.” The balance between extending ourselves grace and holding ourselves accountable.
BUT… I had forgotten the face of my father.
What does that mean? Well, I can’t speak for Mr. King (or for the legions of Dark Tower fans, most of whom would threaten me with vile retribution at an incorrect interpretation of the “sacred” writings – which is to say, “any interpretation but theirs.” Help me…), but I can speak to my own view of these words, poor and unlearned as I am (thus trying to deflect a few of the fiery darts of the raving fanpersons and their swift and terrible e-responses).
When I have forgotten the face of my father, I’m not talking about Oscar. Truth be told, if I want to see his face, I only need look in a mirror – when the dust settled on the majority of my weight loss, I turned into his doppelganger. I wear the face of my dad – my father.
When “I’ve forgotten the face of my father,” I’ve forgotten my history. I’ve forgotten what brought me here – what has taught me, forged me, what makes me who I am. I’ve forgotten the path, the struggles, the triumphs, the lessons learned and the grace and mercy of my Father. When I have forgotten the face of my Father, I’ve disconnected from my center, my purpose, my call, my hope, and my heart.
A serious rebuke indeed.
In this sense, you could hear Nathan saying to David, “you have forgotten the face of your Father!” The Hebrews gathered around the gold cow – “you have forgotten the face of your Father!” Peter hearing the rooster crow – “you have forgotten the face of your Father!”
David replies, “I have sinned.”
The Hebrews wail and cry. Moses tosses the tablets.
Peter weeps.
To realize that you’ve forgotten the face of your Father, is to know deep, deep shame. To feel the weight of responsibility for your wrong actions or attitudes. No dodging, no guilt shifting, no blame game – you are face to face with the absolute knowledge of your wrongness.
“I cry pardon, sai.” That would be the response of the broken one in the world of the Gunslinger.
I realized that I had gone through my day being snitty, lazy and impatient. I was trying to use food to self-medicate, as I had done so many times in my past, making myself not only ashamed but sick as well.
(I can force my new system to do something like this, but it will let me know, in NO uncertain terms, that I have not only forgotten the face of my father, but his innards as well.)
I numbed up and shut down in my chair, instead of going to Tai Chi class, which I had planned on doing, and was actually looking forward to (it was Halloween and I was planning to show up in clown face. Would have been funny – doing Tai Chi in my big blue and yellow shoes. Don’t know how my teacher would have felt about it, but I’d have laughed a lot…).
I forgot the face of my Father. I turned away from my history, what has brought me to this place. The things that have made me the new creature I am today. The grace and mercy that has so illuminated my life that it shines out from me, blinding at times. I stepped off the path, I turned back toward the bondage of my past, and I embraced the things set aside instead of holding to the new life God has set before me.
I cry pardon, sai.
Now, it’s time to begin to restore the balance. Not to wallow in the failure, but to learn from it and step away from it. And not to just shrug it off as a “bad hair day,” (since I have those most every day in my new Chia Pet life) but to accept accountability for my choices. To neither punish myself or to just ignore it. To see what really happened, why I responded the way I did, and to make mindful plans to help correct this in the future.
To remember the face of my Father.
Will I forget again? Absolutely. Will I have to revisit and relearn? Yup. Will I ever get it down perfectly?…
Someday – when I see the face of my Father.

Passive/Active

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins”
II Peter 1:5-9

I’ve not been writing about my present journey a lot, and I guess the reason for that is we’ve been through it all already – twice. But my friend Liz has encouraged me to start writing about it… and if she can keep a daily journal with all that is going on in her life, I guess I can too…

Last night was a major blowout… not in terms of the program, or my “diet,” but rather in finances. I’ve went a little nutzz over the past month or so in spending – perhaps the spoiled little brat who is my inner child decided that if he can’t get the food he wants, he’ll find other ways to rule the roost. Anyway, it pretty much tanked what little restraint and control I had managed to learn about finances, and caused Vicki to hit the wall of frustration.

And I wept. Because the purpose of what I’m doing right now is not weight – it’s self-control and perseverance. Learning these two traits is so much more important than losing weight. (I’ll catch up the back story later, but let’s pursue this thought…) And this blowout shows that those two characteristics are NOT being learned. I’m losing pounds, but not gaining wisdom or understanding. And that makes me very frustrated.

This morning on the way to work, I realized what’s gone wrong…

Right now, I’m in a state of passive self-control and perseverance. See, if I stray from the medical fast I’m on, it changes my balances, takes my body out of ketosis, and I end up hungry, out of balance, and not feeling well. I can drift a little bit – a bit of lean meat here, some cheese there – but if I wolf down a hamburger, it’s not gonna be pretty. So I’m exercising passive self-control – operating within a certain framework, but not being the one who decides the framework. I can go over the bounds, but know if I do things won’t work well – thus, deciding not to binge and break the fast is a small amount of self-control and perseverance, in a passive form.

What is needed is active self-control and perseverance. The kind that comes into play when no one is watching you. NOT snatching a handful of brownies when you’re alone. NOT eating a bag of cheese curls when you’re the only one in the building. CONTINUING to do this day after day, week after week, year after year. This is what is mentioned in II Peter.

And that active self-control and perseverance is what I so sadly lack. And what I so desperately need.

Since the path I’m on is not producing these traits in an active form, how do I develop them? For make no mistake – the active strong exercise of self-control and perseverance is what He desires for me, and nothing less. I could just say, “well, I’m learning it in baby steps – practicing passive self-control and perseverance is better than nothing…” But can I be sure that eventually it will grow into an active form that gets stronger every day? And, knowing the lazy son-of-an-Olson that I am, with the voice of my spoiled brat inner child screaming in my ears, I seriously doubt that I’m capable of turning this passive obedience into active obedience.

Perhaps that’s where God steps in… As Jeff Manion said in the sermon that got me started on this whole process, “This is not work that God will do for you or without you, but He will do it with you and through you. You have to get into the game.”

“Lord, help me. I know that left on my own, my desire to obey You and to grow in You would remain passive, lifeless, and would never produce the results You so desire. Thank You for allowing me to see where the problem is – now grant the grace and strength to do what I can’t do myself. Together, we can turn this from passive to active self-control and perseverance, so that I can take another step on Your path for me. Kýrie, eléison; Christé, eléison; Kýrie, eléison. Amen.”

A blast from Cal’s past…

Here’s the reason I first started playing the recorder:

Yup. The Friendly Giant. Specifically, the closing music. He’s playing an alto recorder, but then after the castle is closed up, the music modulates and he plays another verse on a tenor recorder.

And my ever-patient mom, when we went to the music store, didn’t make me get a little soprano recorder. No, I got the one just like Friendly plays – a tenor. Explains why my first whistle was a low D, doesn’t it?…

Thanks, Friendly – for many years of recorder (and whistle) music. 😀

The $10 muffin debacle

So, here’s where I am at:

Started a 6 month program at Weigh to Wellness, including 12 weeks or so of a VLCD (very low calorie diet) on nothing but liquids or protein supplements. Similar to what I’ve been through twice before.

One may ask, since it obviously didn’t stick the first two times, why go through it again? Good question, and one that I’ve asked myself a LOT lately…

1) Because doing something, ANYTHING, is better than doing nothing, especially since I’ve come way too close to 486, the weight I was when I started this whole process years ago.

2) Since I was turned down three times for bariatric surgery, we think the Lord must be saying, “this isn’t the path for you.” Or at least now now…

3) I’m trying to give this time through more focus, more attention, and more commitment – seeing what happens if I really get in the game for it, instead of going through the motions without my whole heart being there.

So, we’re in the process – drinking my meals, working on balance, getting rid of distractions, remembering to journal my food intake. Then I hit a rock in the river.

I was in the Meijer gas station near work, grabbing a couple of diet sodas (including one with caffeine to help wake me up), and I looked at some of the snack cakes I’d normally grab a handful of. Read the labels, got totally shocked at the calories therein, put them back, and headed for the register.

Within one foot of the register, almost home free, I snatched a muffin, threw it up there, and bought it. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!! My peeps on Facebook were quick to encourage me to dump the muffin, including one offer to buy it for $10. (didn’t see that one until today, unfortunately!)

And, that afternoon, I ate the muffin. 680 calories. My total for the day is supposed to be 1000. Not good.

And here’s what the $10 muffin taught me: Eating something like that throws everything so far off that I don’t want to do that again. My balances were all shot, and all night I was so hungry it’s amazing I didn’t eat everything in the house. Because my calorie budget was gone for the day, I couldn’t eat my usual supplements at the right time to keep hunger under control. So, I felt so hungry and so uncomfortable that I was obsessing about food – something that hasn’t happened to that degree since I’ve been doing this.

Now I see what happens when I eat one high-calorie thing, and throw everything else off. And now I have a clearer picture of what my food structure needs to be for the rest of my life, to keep balance. And balance it what it’s all about.

Should I have ditched or sold the muffin? Absolutely. But at least I learned something from it. Hopefully next time I can think through things BEFORE I “do the stupid.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my alarm just went off. Time to eat my 10:30 snack and keep balanced. 😀

The Small Graces

Bob Bennett says it best: “These are the small graces, the little moments when the miracles occur.” And if anything has been the continuing theme of my life over the last year, it’s the small graces.

Was feeling frustrated tonight with a decision that I made earlier – a dumb one, I might add, that cost us money that I had, but that would have been better used elsewhere. That’s keeping me awake a little longer than usual tonight.

I open my email, and find an order for 4 CDs. Yesterday, it was a contact from a retirement home, requesting a program. I never know when they’ll come – extra payment for a gig, a check paying for a jewelry order, selling music through iTunes and having it add up to over $40, someone ordering a CD, or ordering a new jewelry piece. Or asking me to repair a piece. A week of storytelling and magic for a church’s missions conference. A Sunday School class booking me for their Christmas party. One at a time, these small graces where God reminds us that He cares, and He’s the One who is faithful and true.

I am not a good businessman – not like my grandmother. For not having a high school diploma, she was a wise businesswoman, running her restaurant with both business savvy and high ethics. The ethics I got. The savvy? Not so much.So, in my weakness, the Lord remains strong, helping me learn and keeping us afloat as I figure this stuff out.

And along this path of learning, the small graces. Sunny days and reminders of spring. An email from a friend. Encouragement and connections when someone comments on the blog. A picture. A request from Ezri for a belly rub or some cuddle time. Watching an incredible sunset.

The small graces – the little moments when the miracles occur.

A prayer request from Cal & Vicki

Many of you who read this will have gotten this info in an email, but for those who didn’t, Vicki and I are asking for prayer…

Vicki and I got some news tonight that’s pretty serious, and the only thing I can think to do is to let our friends and family know about it so that you can join us in prayer.

My aunt discovered tonight that the heat had been turned off at my mother’s house (the one in Oscoda that still hasn’t sold…) and that everything is frozen solid. The funrnace and even the thermostats had been shut down (we weren’t aware of that), and so the house froze. All we know at this point is that the downstairs toilet tank has split. Tomorrow (Wednesday), the plumber will be bringing a Salamander heater over to begin slowly heating the house – that’s when we’ll find out what kind of damage was done.

To put the icing on it, the house has hot water heat. So, the damage could be not only in the plumbing, but in the heating as well. 🙁 And, potentially, could leak and damage the new carpet, walls, etc.

The finances for the house are bad, to say the least. It’s been on the market for three years, and hasn’t sold. We’ve put money into improving it, and so this could be the thing that breaks us. So many things that Satan would love to have me dwell on… “If we only…” “If we hadn’t…” and so on, and so on. The enemy would love nothing more than to wrap Vicki and I in the darkest of thoughts, until we’re up all night with worry and regret.

So, I ask you, brothers and sisters, to come to our aid. Please remember us before the throne, so rather than being wrapped in darkness, we would be wrapped in God’s glorious light. Intercede for us, that we might remember Him who goes before us in all things. He has shown us His faithfulness through this last year, and I believe He will again, but it’s hard to see it right now. We ask for nothing more than for God’s people to intercede for us, so that we will wait on the Lord and not listen to the enemy’s lies.

Thank you, brothers and sisters. We love you…