Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sometimes life is a tapestry with easily traceable threads.

Sometimes life is a mosaic of multi-colored tiles.

Sometimes life is a broken mirror. 

Always life is God's artwork.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Give

It is better to give than to receive. You've heard it said a million times and yet do you believe it? It is a famous quote and yet do you know who said it? Have you ever really thought of the intent of the quote? I have. You hear it quoted often and in many contexts by many people, but what the heck does it mean?

I believe it's a statement about giving and receiving rather than the givER or receivER like so many would have us believe. It's a statement of fact, not a judgement on giving versus receiving. The word 'better' seems always to be the focus rather than the statement as a whole. Jesus simply said it as a matter of fact, not as a beginning of an argument. I've heard it used mostly to urge people to give--usually monetarily--and often followed by, "God loves a cheerful giver!". I'm pretty sure God loves uncheerful givers too. He loves everyone! I think Jesus, as the giver of all givers, stated it like he would have stated, "the sky is blue when the sun shines", not as a way to compare giving and receiving. It's just a fact.

If you master the art of giving you might never feel the need to receive ever again. Giving is an enjoyable act. In fact, God enjoys it so much that he does so every time He gives me another second; another breath; another day to understand redemption. He's like that.

I wanna be like that.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

I Am Not My Friend

So that I have no reason not to write, I am going to answer a few of these questions this year.
Here goes:

If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?

The answer to this question is simple. And yet it is not.

The simple answer is this: I would not be a friend to this person for very long. I would be hurt. And hurt is not something I look for in friendship. I tend to withdraw from hurt.

The not so simple answer is this: I do not consider me a friend to myself. You see, I speak to myself poorly--and by poorly I mean down right mean, at times--because I know that, unlike a friend, I can never leave me. I have an expectation of at least a modicum of politeness from my friends. I think friendship deserves that. I want my friends to be honest--even brutally so at times--but I think it can be done in a respectful and kind manner. When I talk to me I dispense with the formalities of friendship. (Even as I wrote that last sentence I realized that honesty, respect and kindness are not the formalities of friendship, but rather the foundational blocks of friendship) Somewhere in the back of my mind I must think that I need or even deserve the negativity I spew at myself. As if I know myself better than my friends do. The truth is I only believe one perspective of myself if I can so denigrate me. It's a false perspective that I perpetuate by my own words.

It's time to look in the mirror and ask for forgiveness...kindly.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas nonsense

Christmas is nonsense. It's for fools and charlatans. It's outlandish to think that God exists, much less that he sent his son to the earth as a baby to live among us and teach us things like love and kindness and sacrifice and then to die to wipe our slates clean. All these songs and and stories and quotations of how Jesus is real and still with us? The celebration of Christmas is wrought with improbable, unprovable nonsense. It's enough to turn one's stomach. My head is getting light just in the writing of it. It's ridiculous! realize it is love.

Love is nonsense. It's for fools and charlatans. It's outlandish to think that it exists, much less that it teaches us to love and to be kind and to sacrifice. It even washes our slate clean. All these songs and stories and quotations of how love is real and still with us? The celebration of love is wrought with improbable, unprovable nonsense. It's enough to turn one's stomach. My head is getting light just in the writing of it. It's ridiculous!! KNOW it for yourself.

Happy Christmas all you fellow fools and charlatans.

I LOVE God for giving us Jesus AND love.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Giving Thanks.

Well, it's that time of year again. The time which we call Thanksgiving. I'm kind of a word guy so I like to think of Thanksgiving as a time for giving thanks, not just listing them. If you're on Facebook--and what planet do you live on if you're not--at all, you will notice people listing off things that they are thankful for. I see no harm in that. In fact, I think it's rather cool. However, being the somewhat cynical man that I am, I sometimes wonder if it isn't just another arena in which we can blather on to each other about the exterior life. Like I said, I am not against it, but I wonder if the whole intent of Thanksgiving was to spout off to each other or is there someone to whom the thanks should be given. I mean, don't you want to thank someONE?? I do.

So, with that in mind I shall, in writing, thank my Father for the uncountable and practically imperceptible blessing He has poured on me. Not the least of which, in fact quite the opposite, is overwhelming me with a love so deep and pure that it makes me wonder why. Why, oh why God have you let me thank you? You loved me before I was me and some days you still have to talk me into loving you. I am glad that at times you are unbelievable, for that is what I need to keep my faith strong. You are unbelievably believable! Thank you for EVERYTHING!

Rejoice and be glad this Thanksgiving, people.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grand Father

A happy Father's Day can be achieved just by knowing that my kids are all well and well aware of how much they are loved. That being the case, I am a happy father this Father's Day.

Being a dad has been--and remains--the greatest joy in my life. It is how I have learned how much my Father in heaven loves me. It matters not to Him whether I am feeling great and glorious or down and desperate, His love for me isn't dependent on ME. It's who He is. His love for me doesn't hinge on me at all. He loves me because He is my dad. There's nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there's nothing I can do to make Him love me less.

For the record, that makes me feel grand and glorious!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

While I haven't done an ounce of research on the subject, I doubt that there is anyone who doesn't believe in conscience. Or at least some form of inner compass. Even so-called savage peoples have a degree of ethical behavior. There are some things they just won't do for fear of losing their lives. I would dare say that there are espousing Atheists who believe whole-heartedly in such a notion. They will tell you that it is their conscience which guides them in their choices, not God. Which I find to be ironic since it holds up to none of the empirical evidence they seem to need in order to believe in God. You can't touch it, see it, talk to it, dismantle it or point to its molecular structure or a mountain of data to prove it. Has anyone ever held a conscience in their hands? No. You just 'know' it exists inside you. I guess you could say it takes faith. And if there is a God then the world would not be so evil. To them I would ask this question then: "If conscience exists then why is the world so evil?"

The answer is quite simple, actually. You can't impose your conscience upon (or inside) another. People will either ignore their conscience or override it through rationalization. I think that makes perfect sense. People with God in their heart do the same thing all the time. You cannot impose God on another soul, you can, however, love them and point them in God's direction. I don't do that often enough. And that, my friends, is why the world is so evil.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

I know that ignorance is not bliss, but I also know that knowledge is not power. It seems the more I know about how broken the world is, the more ignorant I wish I was. When I was young I think I thought the world in the future was going to be much better than it was then. I say 'I think I thought'  because I really don't remember. Maybe it was just a deep, deep wish. You know, the kind of thing you carry almost naturally with you as a child. You don't know you're wishing it or thinking it, but you are, most likely.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On Average

There is no such thing as an average person any more than there is such a thing as an average cloud. Every person is as constantly in flux as a cloud. There is no way every one of us can be studied and measured at every moment of every day. An average is a number that corresponds to a statistical reality, not a person...or a cloud. The average is affixed to the highest number of people that fall into a certain percentile. For example: no one has 2.6 children yet that is what the average American family is said to have. Some have 4, some have 3, some have 2, but when you do the math the average comes in at 2.6.

So? What point am I trying to make? I guess I am, at times, struck with how the world seems to want to make me average. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not one of those Rah Rah " I'm spectacular" self esteem guys. I don't get my esteem from me. My esteem was given to me when the Son of God said I was good enough to die for and then proved it by dying. Any 'self-esteem' is almost laughable given that fact. No, the point I am (with much effort) trying to make is this: we are, none of us, average. We are not even faintly the same as each other. Oh sure, we have similarities, but sameness and similarity are nowhere near synonymous. I am not close to average and neither are you and that is what makes life marvelously, interestingly difficult, challenging and captivating.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The case for more creative speech

Whatever happened to decency? Lately I have just become more and more tired of vulgar language. Where I work it's always sort of been a given. It's kind of a 'man's world' workplace so it's to be expected. But why? How did it become expected? Where's our restraint?

I grew up in a 'G' rated world and, quite frankly, I miss it. I heard my dad swear once (in his native Frisian, but I knew he was swearing just by the context of his demeanor). It was such a big deal that I can remember to this day, the whole circumstance clearly. Once. That was the only time I ever heard my dad curse and I am glad of that fact.

I'm sure it makes me sound old, but I don't care. I think it takes more of a man to find creative ways to communicate his thoughts and feelings than to merely spout off obscenities. (Note: they are still called obscenities. Why then, are they so easily spewed?) Don't get me wrong. I am not offended by most swearing, nor am I a prude, I'm just sick of it. I don't want my mom walking around, hearing 'R' rated language at every turn. I think she deserves a better world than that. I realize that most people are just too lazy to think of a new, different way to say something so they use the old, tired standby by default. I think it's indicative of the larger societal problem called: lack of consideration for others.

So, rather than just spout off my distaste without offering a solution, I'm going to offer some of the alternate 'swear words' that I use from time to time. If for no other reason than to let you know (once again) how strange I am, here are few choice morsels:

Stink puppet!
Dinglecheese! (insulting, no?)
Skunk Pirate Jones!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What are we doing here?

Since the shootings at the school in Connecticut I've been thinking about the conversations I've heard about how such a thing could happen. Some people say guns don't kill people, people kill people. Some people say it's strictly a matter of getting guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. I am not anti-gun, I think it is both guns AND people that kill people.Unless we uninvent the gun, people are going to get killed by guns. Some would argue that we simply need more capability to help the mentally ill, which I can't argue with, but at what cost? And by that I mean, how many who have been diagnosed with 'a disorder' will suddenly be branded 'mentally ill'? It seems there are more disorders than there are people these days, so who gets to decide who is next in line for help? Won't there still be cracks for people to fall through?

I would argue that it is neither a guns issue nor a mental illness issue. It isn't something that we can eradicate with laws or an overhaul of our mental health system. It goes much deeper than that. I believe it is a condition called 'evil'. In some circles it might be called the depravity of mankind. We are evil. Yes, that said WE. While it's easy to point our finger at the violent acts around us and argue that surely we aren't THAT evil. I agree that most of us don't act in what's known in an evil way, but I'm talking about evil as an overarching behavior. For example: I saw a man walking down the street on Christmas Day with a ragged backpack on his back and what I suppose was supposed to be his sleeping bag in his hand and I thought to myself  'wow, how awful must it be to be homeless on Christmas Day'...and continued to drive home to my warm house. Not an ACT of evil, but evil, nonetheless. We tend to think of evil as if it's at the far end of the man made scale of  'badness'. Which one of us doesn't have leftovers in the fridge that will likely be tossed out soon while a large portion of our world starves to death? Evil? I think so. Perhaps the worst evil we do is to ourselves when we let the callous on our heart thicken and deaden our compassion for others. I am doing it right now by using 'we' instead of 'I'.

My point is this: We will not stop evil unless we are aware of it in our own lives and then strive, with the help of God, to use the heart He gave us to act kindly toward each other. We can't change the whole world, at least not in one fell swoop, but we can change to the point where our circle of influence is changed and each person's circle of influence touches someone else's circle and so on. Kindness comes from love. That is why, I believe, God tells us to love one another. It's the most important, most challenging thing there is. And while it won't reverse the depravity of man, it might just slow the swing the pendulum seems to be on.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

There are times when I have to challenge myself to overcome my sense of complacency. Is complacency a sense or a chosen state of being? Who knows. What I do know is that it isn't a good place for me.

My daughter and her husband live in Texas now and my sons are off at college clear across the state. While I didn't think it was possible, I am in a whole new level of alone. Now, lest you think I'm telling you this for sympathy, I must clarify that I am not. I'm am merely stating it as a matter of fact. Until everyone was gone there was always a chance that some level of interaction beyond a phone call or text message was possible. We'd meet for dinner, they would stop by to hang out, you know, sort of normal living. When they left, the possibility left. I must admit, I thought I was going to be okay with it. After all, I've been alone for 14 years. It is what I've done. But now I'm an empty nester. Not an empty nester, mind you, with someone staring at me from across the table asking, "who are you?", but one who has to ask the question of myself. And I'm not okay with that, because I can tell myself to shut up without much repercussion. This is where the complacency comes in. I can either do the hard work of answering the question or I can just see where this new level of alone leads me. I'm not sure I have the energy or endurance for either.

Maybe the first step outside of complacency is to sit here and write about it. Maybe.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Maybe This, Maybe That.

Having not written in a long while makes it difficult to know where to begin again. I guess the best thing to do is ask myself why it is that I am sitting down to write. Something must be up. Something must be stirring. There must be a reason I've prompted myself to finally try to recognize and organize my thoughts in a way that makes sense.

Maybe it's this: My youngest son just graduated from high school and will be heading off to college in approximately sixty-two days. That could be it. I mean, that's a pretty momentous occurrence. It means I'll be an 'empty nester'. Ha! That makes me laugh. I've been an empty nester for nearly fourteen years now. Well, not really. Real empty nesters have the advantage of another viewpoint, which, while it might not be seen as an ally, it really is. I have the mirror and my own words and thoughts, and, sadly, only the mirror is really accurate.Getting to spend time with my boy kept me fine-tuned even though it was only  for a few hours a week. The old adage that iron sharpens iron rings true. Our Tuesday nights at Taco Time in the second booth by the window, talking about myriad of subjects, ranging from politics to humor to how to be kind to his brother, will likely just be slid into the closet marked 'things we used to do'. And that's okay. Closets are made for storing things like that. It beats throwing them away. Maybe what's stirring is my fear and/or trepidation on what to do with this new level of aloneness.

Or maybe it's this: I got my first check in fourteen years that had a big zero under 'other deductions' (read: child support)! In the divorce decree I was entitled to pay until my last child graduated from high school. Now, while I'm not complaining, I must say that I've suddenly found myself thinking about spending money in a new way. I'm not sure I like that. I have the possibility of retiring in a little more than two years and this money could make it so that I could erase the word 'possibility' and put in it's place 'probability' if I do it right. But what does right look like? There are some strange ironies in it all. Now that I can afford new furniture, the people I would have done it for (my kids) won't be around to enjoy it. All the house-fixings that were back burner can be front burner now. But what for? I know, I know, for me. I'm not big on spending money on me. I grew up in a family that was austere before the world ever heard of the word. I'm not cheap, I'm frugal. And a couple of my brothers would laugh openly if they heard me say that because compared to them I'm wasteful. My point is this: I'm not going to spend more money just because I can. I want to be smart and responsible with it. I realize that its a nice problem to have, but it is, nonetheless, a problem.

Or perhaps it's this: My friends all know because they've heard me say, "I'll start dating more when the kids are all gone".  My friends are good people, but it seems like they're chomping at the bit to set me up with a friend of a friend of a friend. I know they mean well, but I'm not a fan of being set up. I have eyes of my own, and they work just fine. I know a pretty girl when I see one. (If you're a woman and reading this remember that it's very attractive that you be yourself--not what you think we want--authenticity is an aspect of beauty that is not discounted. You needn't be 'all that', you only need to be YOU.)   What's pretty to me might not be pretty to another. I think that's understood. What's not understood, at least by those doing the setting up, is that when you set two people up it's as if you've set up a judge and jury box and the participants are on the clock. I would love it if after being set up on a date as such, the person doing the setting up would simply ask, "did you meet?" and not ask for a verdict. Why is that not enough? What if I thought she was adorable but couldn't get past the fact that her name was Hazel and it always made me laugh when I thought of a TV show in the 60's. What if I thought she was sweet and kind and smart and I might call her again...sometime. Then what? Why can't the set-up be considered like any other gift? You give it in the hope that it is something the person wanted, needed or at least enjoyed for a moment.

Having not written in a long while makes it difficult to know where to begin, but it still seems obvious where to end. And this was that.

Friday, April 06, 2012

While this isn't how I feel today, it was how I felt on at least one particular day. I found this in a little notebook that I write in once in awhile. I'm wondering if I should name this notebook~ 'Not quite country songs'...

Why can't I turn off my brain
and be stupidly, blissfully happy?
Why can't I just drain off the pain
and sing a song all sappy?

The clouds keep rollin' in
The sky keeps not turnin' blue
I can keep on bein' somethin' else
But never somethin' new.

...or maybe I'll just leave it alone. After all, things left alone have a tendency to turn into something else.