I’m the good guy!

The other day River and I were playing a game where we both have a team of several matchbox size cars and the two teams do “battle”. Our battles include everything from simple crashing, to lasers, to gathering power and strength from absorbing star and planetary energy from parallel universes that eventually collide in the form of our two hands holding our team leaders.

As one might guess, there is more description of the action going on than actual action, but I like that. It feels good to stretch the imagination muscles and I love hearing his ideas. At one point in our conversation though, he casually referred to my guy as the bad guy. I was like “Wait, my team’s the bad guys? I though your team was the bad guys!” River looked at me like I wasn’t speaking English. Clearly we had gotten lost in our own perspectives.

It was funny in that setting but how often does this happen in real life? We engage our surroundings and assume that we are the “good team”, that our point of view is the solid, time-tested perspective of the smart or moral or informed, and never for one second take a step back to ask the powerful and humble question “What if I’m not right on this one?

I know that I need to do this more. Maybe next time River and I need to figure out if we’re going to battle each other or take on the multiverse as a unified front of unbeatable supercars.

The last of the 30 somethings.

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One more year to say I’m still in my 30’s. Surprisingly, it’s not as important to me as when I was 31 or 32. By the way, when did this blog basically become my birthday updates peppered with a few morbid thoughts? Bleh. Perhaps Wisconsin winters will do that to you. You pensively write when it’s ice and death outside but when it’s nice out there, you certainly don’t sit around inside writing about it. I don’t know, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s not.

It’s been an interesting year. We added a dog and 2 cats to the family since we moved into our new place this January. I guess 5 people and a cat under the bed was too much like an empty home? Farley the dog is great. He’s a designer dog named after the great Chris Farley. 2 cats; Louie and Keyser, neither of which have had a solid poo since they came home from the shelter. I guess you could say they can’t seem to get their crap together?

Like the last few years, this one has been filled with redefining. Redefining how I see the world, redefining how I fit into it all. I wish I could say that this has been a freeing or peaceful process, but for me it’s been laborious and pretty constant. This year I witnessed overwhelmingly beautiful moments and unspeakable tragedy. It made for a heart-wrenching balance that tenderized and grounded me.

I guess the 2nd most important thing that I’m taking into this next year is to slow down and find the joy that abides in every moment, even it’s crowded with screaming and obstinate kids. I really want to realize that their voices won’t be this little for long. Before I know it they’ll be yelling with low man-type voices.

The most important thing I’m taking into this last hurrah of thirty-something-ness is how huge it is that I’m understood and loved the way that I am. Alissa has been an amazing friend to me since a little bit before my 26th birthday. The last few years have been tougher to connect with that friendship, what with all the little beings that urgently call upon her special mother-y skills, but the last few months we’ve had a lot more of those moments where real connection happens. I know I’m lucky and lately when I look at her I see a woman who has met all the challenges that the kids and I have thrown her way and she weathers them all and loves us even more on the other side. With that kind of resilience, life doesn’t beat a woman down, it refines her beauty. She shines even brighter, stands taller, walks stronger and smiles in a way that if I slow down just a bit, knocks me to my knees.

Moral of the story: Sometimes it’s the lessons that you learn that make you grow and other times it’s who you learn them with.

my funeral

Last night I had a dream and the entire dream was looping footage. The footage was in the genre of those old 60’s family videos; grainy, square and silent. It was of me, Alissa and River. I was in my early 3o’s and wearing a slightly wrinkled white t-shirt, khakis that were rolled up but still wet at the bottom, and bare feet standing at the edge of a lake. Alissa was just a few feet to my left and I was grabbing up a 2 year old River and swinging him around playfully.

As I watched this repeat over and over I was keenly aware that people were watching this at my funeral. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there. I could sense that they were thinking what I always thought when I would attend funerals and look at pictures of the deceased and their family; “These are those few seconds of visual media that sums up this person’s entire life”. I could almost hear their thoughts as they saw little River in the film and then looked over at this tall grown man and wondered whether or not he could remember that day when his dad was strong and quick and had most of his hair. They felt sad for him because who remembers things from when they were 2 years old?

But then I could feel that they were also sad for themselves, because my aging and death had made them realize that if they did a quick scan of their lives, only a few major events could be conjured up in complete clarity. And I felt that loss in my own heart because I remembered skipping through SO. MUCH. TIME. without really holding on to it as something precious.

And I wept.

I wept for the unfortunate state of being only a certain amount of “aware”. I wept that my default setting had been “just get through it”.

Staring at that home movie of myself play again and again, I wept myself awake. It was two minutes before my alarm was to go off and I lay there under the weight of what I’d just felt. A few breaths later soft radio static came out from behind the red numbers on my clock. It was time to start this day, this opportunity to notice what it feels like to be alive.

Later in the morning, I looked at my kids who are changing and growing so quickly and took mental footage of them as they sat there eating breakfast together, with a world of possibilities in front of them. I recognized that none of us are guaranteed another day, so this breakfast matters. This laugh with my family really matters as the coffee sits patiently in the corner of the counter, the sunlight reaches through the kitchen window, my boys exchange knowing glances as dad pontificates about living life with gratefulness, my baby girl tugs at my pants for me to pick her up, and my beautiful wife rushes around the house no doubt thinking about how handsome I look today in my slightly wrinkled white T-shirt. 994055_10153520960745313_175561804_n

Today I won’t live outside of my body looking out in the distance for another day. I will constantly inspect this one for its beauty, its joy, its sadness, its turmoil and let it happen under the peace of letting “now” matter.

Turning 38

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A few weeks ago I turned 38. There’s certainly nothing magical about this age. It’s basically an age that asks “Are you ready for your 40’s?” I don’t know what my answer is. I guess, some days I am and other days I nearly hyperventilate at the thought. I do know that I’m emerging out of this idea that I have a bunch of wisdom or enlightening thoughts to share. I suppose that’s why I haven’t blogged very much this past year. Inspired thoughts in paragraph form are few and far between. Though, I have read more this year than I have since I was a kid. I used to read all the time, because what else did kids do that didn’t have a TV in the house, let alone all the crap that kids have to stare into these days (my kids included)?

I do know that I’ve been “in the moment” a lot more this year. By that I mean; noticing and embracing the little-ness of my kids. Sure they can be completely annoying and unreasonable and well, I could go on but let’s keep it fun shall we? Last night, after the boys’ swimming lessons the three of us jumped into the hot showers with our swimming suits on. As they were standing with the water dripping down their faces, just… two little boys that are short and loud and funny, I sensed the temporalness and beauty of the moment. I constantly remind myself that when Briar sits in my lap while I sit on the couch that it’s a precious short time that she’ll be so little and cuddly.

I’ve also been trying harder to notice all that Alissa does as a mom and writer. My selfishness about “me time” still gets the best of me. But I know (and Alissa knows and reminds me) that I could never do what she does day in and day out.

Bottom line: I know a blog can be anything you want it to be: a journal, an outlet, a way to teach or reach. And I haven’t had the time or the energy to do any of those things. And maybe that’s what being a 38 year old dad to little kids is; getting through the day so you can sit on the couch with your wife for a bit before you quietly crawl into your tiny spot in the bed because your wife and little daughter take up more space than they need.

Mercury

The past couple of weeks I’ve been fascinated by the planet Mercury. I have a picture of it as my background to my computers, phone, iPad. Here are some facts about Mercury.

-It’s “year” or full orbit around the sun takes 88 of our days.

-It takes 55 of our days for it to rotate around as a night/day. That means that from sunrise on one day, to afternoon snack-time on the next day, it’s been a year. Wait, something went wrong there. Or did it? Time is relative to space so… it’s snack time right now?

-Mercury’s orbit is oblong so part of it’s year it is quite close to the sun and the other part, it’s relatively far.

-This means part of the year/day it’s crazy hot as in 800 degrees F., and then on the far side of the orbit it dips down to around -300 degrees.

Did you ever see The Chronicles of Riddick? Remember the planet where it went from bitterly cold at night to light-you-on-fire hot in the day? Well, that’s sort of like Mercury but without the cheezy one-liners. I’m guessing of course.

Sometimes I feel like Mercury. I go through stretches of time where I feel like I’m on fire (in the good way). Everything is clicking, my to-do lists are caught up, my family is happy and healthy and I’m livin’ the dream as they say. Other times I feel just way out there, no light, no warmth, no air. I’ll admit it’s a bit dramatic to say that one feels like they are suffocating in the freezing darkness but to varying degrees we’ve all been there. Maybe that orbit is small for you or maybe those times are few and far between.

Thankfully for Mercury, the Sun is huge and it’s gravitational pull is strong and constant. No matter how crazy it gets on Mercury, change is on it’s way. Now I know the similarities break down eventually because we like our 70 – 80 degrees and an atmosphere of oxygen but I guess what I’m trying to say is that in the tougher times we can breathe and know that this is not the entirety of the story. This is not the sum of who we are.

img249Last cool thing. The way Mercury’s orbit goes around the sun (the oblong pattern) it actually makes this daisy looking pattern. To me, that speaks to the fact that along with our personal journeys that include what we would define as good times and bad times there is indeed a big and even beautiful picture that is made as we stay centered around that which gives us light and life.

no straight lines

empty-parking-lot.jpegA couple days ago I was in a virtually empty parking lot and as I looked down through the spaces I could see that not all the lines were perfectly straight. I know for sure that the lines that were drawn work great and that no one would look at the job that the line-painters did and ask for a re-do or a refund. I think that when it gets right down to it we all understand just how hard it is, even with help, to be perfect in anything.

My immediate reaction to these thoughts was to “social media” this out: “We cannot, with our bare hands, draw a straight line or draw a perfect circle. It is by and for grace that we were not meant to.”Receiving grace from another is a blessing and giving grace to one another is, I believe, a blessed obligation. Why is that?

A good friend of mine claims that we are all striving to return to Eden. He’s referring to the Garden of Eden in the Bible. Whether you believe that the Garden was an actual place where God created Adam and Eve, or a poetic symbol of a pure and simple time with fresh wonder and partnership, I believe that we could all find some truth to that claim. I also believe, in the context of our human journey, that with each breath everyone of us is given the chance for grace and to give grace; and that grace ultimately leads to redemption.

Be it redemption to right action, to regaining self-confidence, to restoring peace in relationships or finding the joy in giving and forgiving, there is much to be done. And do we not have a responsibility to point each other in the best direction that we know? Divinely, we were not made with the capacity for perfection. Indeed none of us can claim to have lived a straight line, but this need not be the focus when grace is available to us at every turn to restore, to inspire, and to redeem. For all the grace that you have been given… give those around you that draw less-than-perfect-lines some of that grace.

Luke 12:48 “Everyone to whom much was given, of them much will be required,”

where’s my voice?

About a month ago I came down with a vicious sickness that left me with walking pneumonia and since the 10th of December I either haven’t been able to sing at all or I’ve been squawking it out with a pretty limited range. As a vocalist and as a church worship leader, this has been an incredibly frustrating month. Not to mention that Christmas Eve, even though it worked out beautifully (and it really did!) was not what I had planned. But what are plans right? Our personal dictation to the future? The future snickers at us.

So I’ve been feeling sorry for myself quite a bit as of late. Wondering how long this will last and taking it personally; like life is being mean to me by not letting me “express myself.” Sure, to a degree there is a physiological response when we can’t fully do what we normally do, be it physically, mentally, artistically or even professionally. However, as is usually the case, I had a much needed wake up call the other night.

Through a video I saw, I was reminded of the millions and millions of people around the globe that essentially have no voice. They are stuck in their situation of extreme poverty and hunger and sometimes violence with no way out. They live in tin shacks, or tents or nothing. Sickness prevails with little to no treatment. Their water is polluted. Each day is an intense struggle with no end or hope in sight.

Then there are millions of us that sit in warm houses with cabinets full of food. And while we sit on cushy couches turning up the volume on our favorite show or game, those with no voice get quieted that much more.

Yeah, my singing voice is crap right now and I have no clue when that will change, but I’m not mute. My “voice” is not limited to notes sung into a microphone. There are other ways for me to speak out in compassion. Whether it is listening to someone who is hurting, giving to a charity, figuring out what is at the root of my kids’ tantrum, spending time volunteering in my community where there is need, educating myself on what my spending or eating habits are doing to the planet, animals, or even my own body, and then acting on that, I have a voice and so do you.

We each have our own songs to sing in 2013. Don’t shy away from the mic. Someone is counting on you to take your turn.