Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sideline Society

OK, so I'm hearing and seeing all this news about a family in collapse and I'm wondering what makes it so different from any other family that melts down. I mean, I understand that they have 8 kids. But, some High School friends of mine were from a family of 10 and their parents seemed to do OK. I get the fact that they've had cameras shoved in their faces for the past several years. But whose fault is that? I understand that trying to raise that large of a family, especially when they are all mostly the same age (and young) has got to be a strain. But what merits the media coverage Jon and Kate are getting today?

Especially when there is flaring unrest in Iran. Not to mention a fatal train crash in DC. I guess I just don't get it. Why do we, as a country, seem to be so fixated on watching other people experience life while we sit insulated and isolated in our sealed-up homes? I'll admit that there are several shows that we have our DVR programmed to record. I don't miss them. I'll stay up late to make sure I see how one episode ends so that I won't be confused next week. So, I guess I'm as guilty as everyone else.

But, the question still stands. Why do we do it? Wouldn't life be more interesting if we'd just get off our backsides and live it? What could I do if instead of watching Alaskan crab fishing for an hour, I went out for a run with my dog? What could I accomplish if, instead of watching one of umpteen different shows about Crime Scene Investigation or Naval Criminal... I was working on one of the book ideas that is crowding my head, or simply sitting down and playing a game with my kids?

What makes us so voyeuristic?

I wish I had an answer. But I think it's the same thing that causes us to go to church and learn about God when we could be out experiencing God in the world. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of going to church. Heck, my livelihood depends on it remaining an important part of many people's lives. But, all-to-often, it stops at church. Our impact never reaches beyond our own front doors. Our faith doesn't seep into the majority of our lives, but rather sits in it's isolated Sunday and Wednesday pockets, which are hermetically sealed against contaminating the rest of the world.

We hold God, like reality TV stars, at arms length. We enjoy watching what's going on, but are afraid of what the bright lights of attention might expose in our lives. It happened to one TV family. Why couldn't, why wouldn't it happen to us?

I pray that something good will come out of the tragedy that has gripped the headlines today. Maybe someone will realize that kids don't fix the holes in our lives, nor do our spouses. The only way to fill those holes, that emptiness, is to confront the brokenness in each of us. I believe that there exists in each of us a "true self" (if you will.) A true self that is the image of God. An image in which each one of us comes into being. Only when we begin to understand that we don't find some magical Garden of Eden that exists outside of ourselves, but rather a mystical, still, small voice that calls to us to encounter God in all our nakedness and brokenness.

My wife does not complete me, nor do my children, nor do my athletic endeavours, nor my job. I am only complete when I find myself, broken, incomplete and vulnerable: and yet loved by God. In the mean time, I believe I'll chose to live my life: not as a voyeur but as an active participant. I probably won't ever make the national headlines. Frankly, I'm OK with that...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Losing a friend.

I know for some people it may be hard to understand why I'm having so much trouble saying goodbye to a dog. After all that's all Dakota is, right?

Maybe, but I don't think so.

Jennie and I found Dakota at the Humane Society in Lebanon, Missouri in the late fall of 1998, right after we bought our first house. I vividly remember seeing him in a pen with a bunch of other young puppies. They were all yapping and clamoring at the door, but not 'Kota. He simply sat quietly in the midst of all the commotion and waited. I knew he was the one right away.

Several months later, I remember helping the lady who lived across from the radio station where I worked (KJEL) load her injured malamute into the back of her SUV after he had been hit by a car. I sped home after work that night and went straight to the back yard to hug my puppy.

Since Dakota we've rescued 2 more dogs, Patch and Evie. And one cat, Chalice. They are all part of the family, but none to the extent (at least for me) as Dakota. In many ways he is my oldest child and dearest companion. Though he would never hurt a flea (especially if it was on a hardwood floor, more to that story in a moment) his dark fur and Rottweiler-escue markings, coupled with his deep throaty "woof" helped me feel comfortable to leave my family at home when I had to leave early in the morning to go to seminary, or to a retreat or seminar. I knew with Dakota around, everyone would be safe.

When he was a young and precosious puppy Dakota decided that I wasn't paying enough attention to him. So, he decided to exploit a small tear in the vinyl flooring in our kitchen/dining area. After a chastizement, and with the help of a dear friend (of the human variety) I replaced the torn flooring with laminate. Whether it was either that he knew the change was as a result of something he did, or because he didn't like the sound of his toenails on the floor, we'll never know; but Dakota never wanted to cross a hardwood floor again. With his hips going recently he wouldn't even cross the couple of feet of vinyl it would take to get from the front room to our bedroom. Rather he prefered to keep watch outside the kid's rooms. I like to think he was just tyring to keep them safe.

Now, almost 11 years after that first day we met in the Humane Society, almost all of the spark has drained from his eyes. He can't hardly get up the stairs into the house anymore, and in the morning he essentially falls down those same steps to get back into the yard. It's hard to watch someone (yes, I said someone) you love get older and less able to do the things they once did. And, I know that it is my responsibility as a pet owner to put his health and wellness before my own needs, wants and desires. But, that doesn't make it any easier.

You might think that having been with families as they have grieved the death, sometimes sudden and tragic, of their loved ones would make it easier to deal with the death of a "mere" dog. Well, at least in my case you'd be wrong. Sure, I've had grandparents, friends and classmates die. But never anyone to whom I have been as close as I am to Dakota. I'm not sure what that says about me, or my ability to form lasting friendships. And, right now, I'm not sure I care. I know it's time. I can't make him suffer anymore for my own selfish needs. But it still hurts like hell. (And, yes, I said it.)

So, if you see me blubbering uncontrollably over the next few days, or weeks, you know why. It's because I miss my buddy.

So long, my friend. You've been wonderful to me, and I can only pray that I have learned from you some of the important lessons about loyalty, love, and life that you've tried to teach me over the years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New desk, same mess

So, I was given a very generous gift of a nice oak computer desk. I was able to pick it up last Thursday. Now, several days latter, it is just as much of a mess as my old desk was less than a week ago.

Why is it so stinking hard to keep the flat surface on which one works, clean?

After all, it's not like I use a lot of paper in what I do. It's not as though I don't have enough time in the day to clean off this perpetual paper-catcher.

So why is it a mess? Someone? Anyone?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Shack


What an amazing book. William Young deals with one of (what I believe to be) the largest issues facing most folks today- theodicy. OK, that's a big word that I really ought to "explain." Basically theodicy is asking the question of "If God is good, then how come there is so much evil in the world." Or, alternately, "Why do bad things happen to good people."

I think it's something that almost everyone I know deals with at some level. It's why some people are de-churched, having been hurt by established religion. It's why others have no desire to get to know God, especially when the God they've heard about is one that damns people to hell for breaking rules.

Before I fully jump on my soap-box, please read this book. Whatever your religious background or lack thereof, what-ever your take on God, whether you even believe that there is something bigger than all of us, you should take the few hours it's going to take to read this book. It might just change the way you look at the world. I know it's changing the way I do.

I'd be glad to let local friends borrow a copy, when I get them bought. I'll be buying a few to have on-hand and a few to give away. It's that important of a book. Really.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Resolution time!

Ahh, it's that time of year again. Some folks think it's important to have your resolutions decided upon by the time the new year starts. Thank goodness I'm not one of them. This year I have several different types of resolutions. I'll do my best to categorize them as I go.

Physical Health:
Run 750 miles
Bike 1000 miles
Swim 75,000 meters
Be able to do 100 push-ups in a row
Eat more healthy foods
Decrease percentage of body fat
Compete in at least 1 triathlon and as many running and cycling events as time allows.

Mental Health:
Take at least 1 day a week as Sabbath
Set priorities and stick to them
Spend time with each member of my family

Complete Constitution and By-Laws revision
Revise/Review all policies
Visit every member of the congregation outside of church at least 2 times.
Be regular and intentional about nursing home and home-bound visitation
Explore new methods of preaching
Build intentional foundations for all church activities and ministries (Theology of practice.)

Enjoy each day!

Well, that's what I'm hoping to accomplish in 2009. Some goals are going to be pretty easy to reach, others are going to take a lot more work. But, there's nothing on this list that I would label as "impossible." Audacious maybe. Impossible, no.

Read 50 books

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In Memory

I went to a funeral yesterday for Carrie and Kara Johnson, the infant granddaughters of some church members who were born way too early (only about 5 months into the pregnancy) and didn't survive. During the funeral, the pastor talked about how they had gone right from birth to heaven, and how they would have avoided any pain and difficulty here on earth that way.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't find that at all comforting. As a matter of fact, it kind of makes me angry. It stinks that these young girls never got a chance to live, that their parents never got to watch them go to prom, walk down the aisle, hold them as they sobbed over a break-up...

I can't see how I can ethically live my life waiting for heaven. There is too much joy and sorrow to be experienced here on earth. Then he (the pastor) actually said that it was "God's pleasure" to call these young girls home. What the? The God I'm getting to know isn't at all pleased that these young girls died. The God I believe in is sobbing, bawling about this tragedy.

Oh, well. I guess that someone may have found comfort in those words. Personally, I did not. I guess I need to work up some notes just in case I ever have to preside at such a tragic funeral...

Don't get me wrong, I still have great faith in God. But I'm also VERY sad that the world will never get to know those two young girls. I'm heartbroken, and that's going to take some time to heal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Living

So, I was worried for no real reason. Easter came and went, and was a WONDERFUL day! Everything in the service seemed to flow well and I came out of the day energized to get some things done. I've been quite lax on my reading over the last few weeks, so I "read" an audiobook that my dad lent me the other day. I guess I can get more out of that format that I thought. So, now I have to see if there's anything interesting at our local library that I want to let my ears read.

It's only Wednesday and I've had a sermon draft for almost 24 hours already, been to Springfield twice to visit a congregation member in the hospital and I'm headed out (after a bit) to do some more visiting at the local nursing homes. My desk is fairly clear and I might actually be caught up on all the things I need to do.

I guess that means I need to resurrect my book-writing on the side. Maybe I'll have some good news to report on that in the near future.