Uncategorized

Liberty

On an island, off the coast of a mythic land, stands the New Colossus, “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land-to-land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightening, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emma Lazarus, November 2nd, 1883 – inscribed on a bronze plaque located in the Statue of Liberty’s museum – 1903).

You want to ‘make America great again? Then don’t fall into the soviet trap of building a wall (which a former GOP president mentioned in a famous speech). Live the ideal of a country newly rebuilding from a “civil” war taking the first steps to allow the “thems” to vote. Struggling mightily with inclusion that comes at a snail’s pace. While the hard-liners sought to maintain the exclusive boundaries, other Americans fought to add more voices and votes.

If you are a person of Christian faith – I ask you simply to love your neighbor, and do for the least as you would do for Christ.

If you are not, I ask you to please consider this. If we are “preserving” our country by keeping others from corrupting us, then what are we preserving. If we are ‘great’ then how do we demonstrate it? By caring for our aging? By helping those ravaged by storms? By lifting up those damaged by economic hardships? By treating illnesses? By feeding and housing hungry children? By treating our veterans with kindness and compassion? By educating our children? What are we preserving? Is it worth keeping? Have we solved the problems of hunger, health, race, gender inequality, scorn for others – have we accomplished “United we Stand” or are we dividing for a fall?

If we are to stand for some “thing.” Should we stand for a wall to keep others out – or should we stand for a noble idea that seems to be forgotten?
Light your lamp, not in anger, but rather lift it beside the golden door. Welcoming the homeless, the tempest-tost is not just a Christian thought, it is not “communist” it is not “socialist” it is liberty – for those “yearning to be free.” Yes, we have failed in our history, we have stolen land, stolen people, stolen ideas and corrupted our noble experiment – but we have also struggled to improve, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Which trend do we want to continue? The one that struggles to improve, or the one that seeks to preserve, at any cost, a systemic separation contrary to what our Lady Liberty stands for?

Do not misunderstand me – This is not a call to vote, it isn’t even political to me. It is ideological. Your heart, your mind, your daily life. If you are a patriot, do you stand with Lady Liberty, or wrap yourself in the flag and carry a different type of torch. To me the flag is not a cape that makes us a super-hero, it is a blanket offered to comfort. I am one voice, but I could maintain my silent lips no more.

Uncategorized

What I Wish I Could Say: Divorce & the Aftermath

These “WIWICS” are purely meant to be entertaining, not “advisory” especially legally. Any similarities between this and actual divorces I’ve witnessed, been through or seen in movies is purely intentional, because you can’t make some of this stuff up – at least no names are used. I know, as a pastor, people think I’m supposed to be “divorce is never good” but sometimes it is. And here is how I came to this conclusion.

At least ten times in twenty-years of ministry a couple comes in to my office for “marital counseling.” I generally refuse. I’m not a psychologist, counselor and if you come to a pastor to “fix” your marriage, I can almost guarantee you within a year, you’ll be just as divorced and neither of you will be members of the church you currently attend. You’re asking your pastor to get in the middle of your marriage and hear this clearly – we will. Some are gifted enough not to blunder in aimlessly, but most of us are conditioned to respond, mainly by telling you both where you’re wrong and to get it together. Even worse, some of us will just say, “You can’t get a divorce or God will damn you.” If you hear that – leave that toxic church immediately and don’t come back.

Case in point. I had a gentleman named Roxy come in with his wife Dave (the names have been changed) and while she sat on the couch with her head bowed he looked at me, with all seriousness and said, “I want you to tell my wife how she’s supposed to be submissive to my will.” Roxy was a good guy, I liked him, but this is a common thought. I sighed, “Why would I do that?” At that point Dave looked up at me – knowing this wasn’t going to go the way she’d feared. Roxy continued, “Because, in the bible it says that the woman is supposed to submit to her man.” I asked, of course for chapter and verse, and he gave it to me. I read around it and said, “OK, so I guess my first question is, Do you love your wife as Christ loved the church?” He was dumbfounded. I continued, “I think that’s a condition to the subservience, you have to be a man worth following in order for her to follow.”

He got mad – because this wasn’t about him, it was about his wife. He used the metaphor that I’ve heard 100 times. “IF we’re both on a horse, one has to be in front holding the reigns. That’s the guy, that’s me. She supposed to sit behind me and hold on to me.” I nodded, “Ok, but what if we look at it like this. You are both on a motorcycle, you’re in front, and everything is fine when you’re going straight, But then you come up on a turn and you lean… but she doesn’t, what happens?” He stared, “Well, you go down and eat pavement before you slide off the road You’ve got to be worth following before you can lead.”

Needless to say, this is not how a trained counselor would respond. So now, I have a list of counselors to make referrals. People complain that it costs money, which is a really nice way of saying, “We’re using you because we consider it to be a free service offered in return for our donation.” Well – you get what you pay for. Fixing a marriage is a long process, it involves grief-work, self-actualization, analysis, and hours and hours of a professional’s time because it isn’t like people come in at the first sign of trouble, usually visiting the pastor is more asking for a blessing for the divorce (both people defending themselves before God’s proxy) instead of “saving the marriage.”

Now, I don’t recommend divorce, but in some cases it’s a good idea. Not just the minor things: loading toilet paper/the dishwasher/the laundry etc. correctly, being in charge of the money, etc.” But major things: abuse, addiction, avoiding legal consequences, for the safety of the children, abandonment… notice I didn’t mention many scriptural reasons – you should already be familiar with the “endorsed” list.

Divorce is awful. Even an amicable one with no children or lawyers involved causes pain, anger, all sorts of emotions that can’t be labelled.

You’re going to feel worthless, angry, betrayed, and all those other things. You may even feel murderous or liberated. Here’s the thing, don’t be a dog. Remember, whatever you’re feeling is probably not only something similar to what your friends felt once-upon-a-time, but it’s not how you’re going to feel forever. I know this is trite, but here me out. Remember, there was a time in your life BEFORE the partner that recently ripped your heart out and squished that sucker flat. No love on earth is eternal – because there was a time when it was not. The reason I point this out is because you lived (in hope probably) quite well before that person came along. It wasn’t perfect, but it was livable, and during the divorce you want to be able to recognize livable. Take the time to notice things. For example: the car does not magically fill up with gas (bad) but you can sit down on the couch any way you want, even knee first (short-term good). The lawn will not mow itself (bad) but the dishwasher will loaded correctly (good). No one else is going to use “the last” of anything (Unless you have kids). Now, you’re going to buy some things (because one person takes the good ice-cream scoop and the other got the good pizza cutter), and it really does matter what chemical you use to clean different surfaces. Guys – unless you were previously fussy, buy cheap furniture, because you have no idea what spaghetti sauce can do to a “stain-proof” couch. And to all – avoid the leather furniture, apart from recliners.

Plan to “hotel” your life for a while. If you’ve been married for a long time – you probably don’t know what you like. One guy I know LOVED NCIS, Law and Order and programs about wives killing their husbands… then he got a divorce and realized he wasn’t interested in those programs at all. He even went so far as to get rid of his cable-box because it turns out, he likes online streaming services and does just fine without broadcast channels. One woman I know (Steve) lived on her phone, always texting, social media, etc. When her husband (Rose) left she realized that she was avoiding dealing with him, and discovered a lot of other things she enjoyed and now she can’t find her phone half the time.

Like it or not – divorce is going to change you. If nothing else, it pushes “reset” on your personality and you regress to back to the time before you were held accountable. Many people go off the rails for a bit, buying stuff they can’t afford, drinking too much, becoming “that old lady” or “that old guy” in their local bars, and it’s all just trying different things out. As Lucille put it, “I was ready man, I was going to get back out there, the day my divorce was final I hit one of the coolest clubs in town, I walk through the door, don’t recognize the music, everything is blurry and dark, and a twelve-year old girl in a very inappropriate dress asked me if I was her friend’s dad – apparently she was drunk and needed a ride home but her friends didn’t want to stop partying…” and my favorite part of the comment was the end, “… I”m not even comfortable using the word party as a verb.” Here’s a tip – if you’re unfamiliar with the terms pansexual or cis-gender, stay out of the clubs unless you see license plates on the wooden-plank wall. You’re living in a world of 1s and 0s (binary) and the world just won’t compute to you.

It’s ok – no one expects you to be sane, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be sad.

The main thing you want to do here is avoid the “forevers.” Don’t pick up a disease that will be with you until the day you die (and if you use the term STD, you’re as out of date as VD). Don’t pick up a life-partner until the insanity has run its course, lest you become “that old guy’s dad” or “that old girl’s mom.” Don’t go broke on a car. I met a man, I’ll call him Sally, who had just purchased a brand-new convertible Corvette ZO6 (still had dealer tags) in what looked to be a canary yellow with a tan-leather – I couldn’t look at it all that long, it hut my eyes. He was wearing, a yellow long-sleeve shirt, tucked in, jeans and a brown belt where he’d missed a belt-loop, white socks and one black shoe and one white shoe. I asked him, “So, I’m sorry about the divorced, but at least you were finally able to get it done.” He just stared, as did the people that were around us. He looked at me and asked how I could possibly know. “You have a new Corvette convertible, which you are apparently using to help match up your clothes in the morning, you’re dressed to show off your health, you’ve got a deep tan, apart from where your sunglasses are, you’ve missed a belt-loop and your shoes don’t match – so obviously no one saw you before you left the house, and your left ring-finger is still indented from the wedding ring you wore for more than a few years.” He stared. Then shook his head, and said he was doing quite well, later we talked in private, and that was a lie. He was sad, and doing everything he could to figure out a way to be happy again. I suggested he ride in the passenger seat while I drove his ‘vette – at least that made him laugh.

Now, to the many genders – you’re going to get mad, but don’t steal other people’s joy. Your misery doesn’t want company, and the people that now welcome you into “the club” of divorcees are not going to help you. It’s like when you were married and you took advice from your single/divorced friends about how to have a healthy relationship. If they have a formula or a scheme, and they’re single, it obviously doesn’t work. Picking up people is really pretty easy, carrying them is possibly illegal and getting them to follow you anywhere is like trying to motivate a well-fed cat to get up out of their spot… not likely.

If you thought you were good at dating, and maybe you were, but now you’re not.

Middle-aged dating is like a series of job interviews. First off, it’s more popular than ever to engage in on-line dating. Here’s what I’ve heard from the rather small sample I’ve taken, “It either works fantastically well or it’s a mistake of biblical proportion.” The biggest reason? Lying. No one looks like their picture, very few “enjoy hiking” and “reading” usually includes their friend’s facebook updates. Tinder, Snapchat, Zoo, REpatha… are now fodder for data-mining. Most of your information is available from a cursory Google search and even if you lock all your stuff down, at some point you’re going to date someone from HR or Finance and they’re going to know your credit history better than you do – and that’s before you show up for your first date. Here’s the deal – don’t freak out when someone you have known for ten minutes says, “I’m sorry to hear about your father’s death.” He/She/They just found that information because your name was listed as a survivor in an obituary. It’s public record- it’s creepy, but standard operating procedure. Get yourself linkedin, and keep it honest, because lies will be cross-checked. Long stretches of unemployment will be questioned, and my personal favorite was a guys I know that isn’t the most attractive guy in the world, but he made a shirt that said, “Employed since 1992, Insured, 775 Credit Score… how do I look now?” And that shirt has started more conversations than a Trump tweet.

Everybody has game, and the “non-game game” isn’t a thing anymore. Just be yourself, a good version of yourself (don’t kick babies in a restaurant, it’s apparently bad, even if it wasn’t on purpose). Go for coffee (and get tea or hot-chocolate if you don’t like coffee). One of you show up early, and one show up late so you can’t track the cars, park behind the place, and leave separately so it doesn’t have the appearance of creepy – oh, and just so you know, the harder you try not to be creepy or not to be needy, the needier/creepier you seem.

You are going to meet a lot of people – either on line, set up from friends – and you’re going to have absolutely no interest in them whatsoever because you will find yourself stunned that they’ve managed to live this long without a catastrophic accident of their own making. Famous lines within the first three minutes, “I don’t want you to think I’m here to steal a kidney or anything like that” (Well that’s good, because the odds of two serial killers meeting on line are pretty… well now that I think about it, probably fairly common) or “How come someone that looks like you can’t get a date?” (I think it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been in prison for the last 11 years) or “I usually don’t do this, but you looked like you might be ok.” (well thanks, you’re pretty ok yourself.) “I’m leaving my husband soon, and he has a violent temper,” (Does he own a gun and have you turned the tracker on your phone off?) “I have more piercings in more private areas, if you’re nice you can see them.” (No thanks, I think that’s a very manipulative way to see something that’s probably free on-line somewhere – this is my favorite and the woman that shared it with me is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met – I’ll call her Matthew).

Don’t judge the others – because they’re probably not thrilled about being with you if they’re saying these things. 

I know, you’re wonderful, the last person just didn’t see it. And this is the thing I really wish I could say. It may not have been all your fault, but at some point (even it if was picking the wrong person) part of it is your fault. And THAT’s the hardest part to admit, especially while you’re in the process. Until you admit that in any break-up (especially a divorce) you’re only ready to make the same mistake you made before. Trust me, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who date the same personality with a different body-type or hair color before they figure this out. Many people take the easy way out, “I”m never getting married again.” And I wish I could say “You probably will, and it will end the same way unless you work on being you.” All that “He/She/They never understood me” stuff is a subtle way of saying, “I wasn’t open and honest about who I was” or “we were so different, but I convinced myself that it was all ok.” IF someone says, “It’s always about you.” It means that you’re either self-centered (which may be true) or could possibly be their way of saying, “This isn’t about me enough” and if you think/feel that you’re already doing everything you can, it’s already over.

That’s the hardest part of the divorce, admitting that we were wrong. We were wrong about the person, we were wrong about who we were/are, we made mistakes, and they probably contributed to speed-up the process that was probably coming at some point.

And this is why I support divorce. Because sometimes everyone’s life is improved by it.

One final story. I have a friend, well, not anymore, but I had the opportunity to officiate his wedding. It was a lovely service, and his second wife was a vision. He was incredibly happy. We’d done the pre-marital counseling and they were so similar, I almost thought they were putting me on. The worked through money, family, friends, faith, children, every “deal-breaker” I could think of and were within range of agreement. And I thought they were honest. After his first marriage, that ended with everything but gunplay, I was happy for him. They left the chapel, climbed into their limo and headed off for two weeks, one on a cruise and the other staying put in an adults-only all inclusive in Mexico. He was a good guy, great job, well-paying, and he was surrounded by nice things. She was a funny/sweet woman a few years younger than him, also a professional in the medical field.

A couple-months later, he was sitting in my office in tears. They had just finished up the settlement in court. His truck was parked outside. In the front seat was a 19″ color television, in the bed was a folded up camp chair. That was all he had left.

Apparently, while they were out of town, the bride’s mother had posted a picture of her daughter in her wedding dress in the local paper, a great black-and-white (sorry, grayscale) picture that showed off her beaming smile. When they arrived home, she apparently checked their voicemail at their house. On the machine was a voicemail from his first wife, wondering why he hadn’t bothered to divorce her before getting married again. (They were married in the same county and the clerk’s office didn’t catch it when they issued the license.) The second, now voided wife, went a little more than nuts and threw him out of his own home. During the divorce from one, he lost his house, had a new order for child-support (and back-pay) issued along with her getting many of his belongings/cash/investments. His “voided” wife took what she could of the rest while he tried to avoid a fraud trial, and was awarded damages.

He was on the couch, and suddenly he just stopped crying, and sighed, then laughed. “At least I don’t have to live the lie anymore.”

Divorce: The perfect time to figure out who you really are, even if it is the discovery that you’re a jerk.

 

Uncategorized

Checking in…

Ok, so I’ve taken some time off from blogging, and without getting into particulars, here’s pretty much why.

I quit my gig as a chaplain. No plans for another gig, but it became apparent that with the work-structure I was going to have neither the time nor the energy to pursue what I felt called (wanted/needed depending on your theological perspective) to do. I’d been hemming and hawing about it for a couple months, looked at my savings account and realized I could pretty much live for a year without an income and said, “Well, I don’t want to do this anymore” and handed in my notice. That was a good thing.

I had a plan for insurance, rent, incidentals etc.

But a funny thing happened on my way to my last day. It didn’t go to plan. I wasn’t shocked, because I didn’t have high expectations. Ultimately, I left in a way that I could sleep well. I decided not to blog about it, because it was emotional and my singular experience. No good could come from my emotional responses that would be akin to me complaining about my ex-wife. There are good reasons that it ended the way it did (on both sides) and frankly, everyone is better off.

During all that petty nonsense (I speak for myself only), I managed to run across a church that had an information form that I could have written for myself. I talked to many churches while searching (before my last day) and by the time I drove off campus I had a good idea of what was coming up in my life. I didn’t blog about it, because in the PC(USA) there are “many a slip ‘twixt a cup and a lip” and it wasn’t appropriate to discuss publicly. That’s all resolved, and in October I’ll become a pastor again to a congregation that, paraphrasing from their statement, takes their faith and service very seriously, but doesn’t take themselves all that seriously. Sounds like my kind of people. A couple Skype interviews, some visits to town, a neutral pulpit, some committee meetings… and the way turned out to be clear. I start in October (which wasn’t according to my plan – but frankly, I hope everyone is better off).

So – time to freak out. I hate moving with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. I’ve only moved 13 times in my life (less than every four years on average) and I am not a fan. Combine that with the discovery that rental property in the town surrounding the church is difficult to come by and I don’t plan on moving again, rentals were out. It was time to buy a house. Did you know you can buy a house with no income? Thank you Dave Ramsey and your financial peace university, if you have no debt, a high enough credit rating and enough savings, you sure can. I picked one out, then wandered through looking at it calculating the hours of repair/remodel and the cost of replace/reuse that was going to have to go on. Five days later I walked through another one that was more expensive – I’m now under contract hoping the inspections go well. I didn’t blog about it because it hasn’t finished yet, but I’m including it here because … well, now I don’t have to.

I haven’t written anything about my son in a while because he’s doing very well, hanging out with his friends, spending more time with his father (mainly when his friends aren’t available) and not having major problems in school. To say that he is “not enthusiastic” about school at this point is probably accurate. He’s ten. But, he seems to be trauma and drama free at this point, so I’m just riding this out until he notices the little girl that sits at his table-group has a crush on him (it’s been two years and he doesn’t care yet) and then I’m going to stake him out in the backyard (which I will have shortly God willing) until he’s stopped frothing at the mouth long enough to get a job and move out.

I haven’t written about the Steps or any advice either, because I’ve been too busy living life (travelling, spending time with family, hanging at the pool and (don’t tell) napping and binge-watching movies I missed the first ten years of the boy’s life). I’m also quite smitten with a particular woman – and I’ve always found it to be smitten to only one woman at a time, so I may start a new blog under the heading “Miss Advice” because I can’t really give advice (get it). Most of it will sound sexist and be condescending, and I do recommend people read it because it will be both of those plus funny and not a tiny bit helpful.

And the most important thing is I became aware of something after leaving my chaplain gig. I’d pretty much hit “empathy burnout” on some levels. It was there for residents, but not so much for staff and was getting to the point where I would have no patience at all for administration. That’s my own work that needed to be done. That was changing me, as a person, into something I refuse to be. That part of my personality is a defining principle in my life, and I was violating it on a daily basis. I was “prioritizing care” of individuals, because I was exhausted. Part of my writing is thinking about the “other” persons perspective, and I lost that for a bit, and needed to find it before settling in on the corner of west main and… well, I’m not sure what the other road is.

So from time to time, I’m just going to post random nonsense rants about everything but politics because quite frankly – discussing American politics at this point is impossible, it’s just shouting prejudice (preconceived ideas) at each other until someone loses their voice or leaves. Anyone that honestly believes any of the women and men in Congress have the collective “our” best interests at heart I invite them to sit down, have some juice and I can read them a story about the giving tree – which is either about grace, co-dependency or communism if you want to get uppity about it – which is why you shouldn’t get uppity about it.

But that’s what we do – like today, I thought you’d be interested in this.

???

And now it’s time for my most difficult decision of the day. Pool v Nap. I think you’re right, I CAN do both.

(I have been writing outlines for series, sermons and yes, blogs in my trusty Elfinbook)

 

Uncategorized

FREE #3 Fitness

Here is something you’ll rarely hear, “I’m a fat guy that is going to give you advice about fitness.” I’m talking body fitness too, and my BMI is 33. I know you’re thinking, “How can I take advice from someone who is obese? or even morbidly obese on some scales? Because a little more than 14 months ago, my BMI was 41. That’s 60 pounds down if you’re scoring at my home, or 27+ kilograms. I would have lost more, but my body started changing. I started losing “back fat.”

Turns out, it doesn’t show up in the mirror, or really on the scale because I’m apparently developing what I’d like to call “flabs.” I swim about three times a week, not doing laps or anything too stressful, I started doing it because honestly, it was a way to stretch without getting stuck in weird yoga positions on my living room floor. I still hear the shoulder and knee cracks when I’m underwater. But my arms are more defined, my legs look great and if I had a bottom, I’m sure it would look more impressive. My belly still has some “dun-lap” (as in ma belly dun lapped over my belt).

I still can’t run/jog. My left knee won’t have it, even after losing almost 20 percent of myself. I can do minimal yoga (which is funny to watch I’m sure). And I still have a tan that only extends from my mid-thighs down, my shoulder to my finger-tips and my face/neck. To my eye, I still have a big-ole white belly. But other people have noticed. One friend even complimented (?) me by saying, “You’re not as fat as you think you are?” And therein lies the problem.

I’ve told myself I’m an obese slob for years of my life. Exercise? Why? I’m an overweight slob. Eat better? Why? I’m an fat-tub of goo. I was “actively” working against myself, and since I was passive, I didn’t mind drinking 3 liters of coke a day, having a pizza every couple and “eating healthy” by having a couple sausage mcstuffins for breakfast, hitting a Chinese buffet for lunch and then eating chicken on pasta (with an alfredo) for dinner. If Chik-fil-hey is healthy, maybe it’s time to rethink healthy.

Yes, I still eat that stuff, but that’s only because it’s delicious, but I stopped eating it as often and started watching what I was eating. I seriously started tracking my steps with a free app I got for my phone (please turn off your notifications). As the weight sluffed off, I noticed it was easier to do certain things, like actually walking 10,000 steps in a day. I started “pushing” myself to get more steps, and started skipping seconds. I also started getting a “to-go” box with my meals so I could just take half of it and pop it in before I started eating. I started intentionally slowing down (which people at work hated) and low and behold, I don’t get “hungry.” I stopped “bored” eating. I don’t have snacks in the house that I like. And lately, I’ve done the strangest thing. I started cooking food on my own.

So far, in the past 7 months, I’ve saved an average of $45 a week, which doesn’t sound like much, until you look at it this way. I gave myself a $1345 cash raise in the months I tracked it. By not tracking I didn’t pay attention. I was passive, but decided to be active.

Now I’m not going to be participating in the Iron Man anytime soon. And that’s not my ultimate goal. But I don’t look at myself in the mirror and call myself names anymore. My active voice can overcome those negative thoughts. So yes I do tell myself that I’m going to be an active participant in my life, and I tell myself I’m going to eat healthier and move more.

That is my new truth.

Uncategorized

Free #2- ACTIVATE

Before I go any further with my “free advice” I have to share a secret with you, it’s not entirely easy and it’s not difficult. Everything I’m going to share is something I’ve picked up somewhere else, and you might have components of it already (hear that good news). But the key active ingredient is you – and you alone – have to do it. That’s simple, but complicated. But here is the first “truth” I want to share with you.

Only you can activate the change. 

And the second “truth” is this.

It may not make a darn bit of difference unless you change your attitude.

You have to make the first big decision. Are you going to be an active participant in your own life? If you are not – then stop reading anything labelled “free” on this page because it’s not going to work for you and you’re just going to blame me for some bad decision you made, or worse, a bad circumstance that arose because you didn’t make a decision. If you’re not going to participate in your own life, if you’re just going to continue to roll along and not take risk, or responsibility, the world is going to eat you alive. The ideas I’m going to share are for someone who genuinely wants to improve their circumstance. It may lead to you being more satisfied with life, it may lead to more of what you want, it may also lead to you losing friends, quitting your job or getting a divorce. If that happens, and you fall back into the “why is this happening to me when I’m such a great person?” trap, then start over. You may like the drama & chaos and “keeping it real” which is my personal favorite because it announces to the world, “I’m a jerk who cares more about my own sense of the world than your situation.” (it’s rare that people fly their “jerk” flags so obviously).

So, now that I’ve turned a few people off, I want you to find a mirror and say to yourself, “I am an active participant in my own life.” And I want you to say it to yourself until you realize that you’re a sheep following the directions of some blog you read on the internet. Seriously though, it is a good thing to tell yourself from time to time, especially when you find yourself in the middle of a tough spot, because it harkens back to “old-school” parenting, but it is a phrase couched in modern self-help language. What it means is really, “What am I going to do about this?”

So, what are you going to do, are you going to get mad? Go off on a gossipy tangent with co-workers that accomplishes nothing? Complain to a boss (that might get you nowhere). From Sean Connery in the Untouchables one of the top five “macho-movies” of all time, “What are you prepared to do?” (Gladiator, Tombstone… I’ll let you pick the other two).

When you are, then you can move on into the realms of your reality (doesn’t THAT sound weird?) or spheres of your psyche (that one only works when you say it out loud). Aspects of… whatever. I don’t have time to come up with a name. I’m too busy getting stuff done, and you can do.

IF you want to be an active participant in your own life.  IF you do, the feel FREE to read on.

Uncategorized

Free #1

A year ago, I sat on this couch and I was scared. It was on the other wall. That’s important to know because I had set my new apartment up after listening to advice about space and flow. I’d been searching the interweb about a lot of things, I’d been in counseling and restarted my twelve steps that I’ve grown all too familiar with. I’d made my fearless inventory… and then something hit me. Why don’t you make a faithful inventory? See I know the twelve steps. I know them professionally, because I was trained twenty+ years ago, and a certified facilitator by a Christian organization out of Charlotte NC. I know them personally – because when I get overwhelmed, I fall into old habits and don’t keep good boundaries. I also avoid making decisions on my own, and tend to follow advice.

And that is why I have rearranged my furniture three times in twelve months, bought four mattresses and despise my dining area. 

A year ago, I was divorcing, facing being a solo dad again, had just moved out of a six-week stint in my parent’s basement (where I lived until my apartment was ready) and felt it. I was a failure… to the church, to my son, to myself, to God… I was a cliché, I’d destroyed friendships, lost yada, yada, blah, blah… you get it, you may not have been there but have at least driven through the neighborhood. Short version – I felt worthless, I feared what would come next and I just wanted to crawl in bed and sleep for the rest of my self-loathing days.

I used to look at my son and think – “This is why I can’t fall apart.”

He used to look at me as if to say, “Dad, you’re not fooling anyone, you fell apart before I met you.”

But at least we had a pool – and I had a plan. I worked my steps, again. But the questions kept nagging at me. Why haven’t you made a faithful inventory? Why don’t you have a list of where you draw your spiritual energy? What is your well? Sure, you’ve admitted you’re powerless countless times – but where does God’s power show through you? You’re an expert on your own sad story… but aren’t you the same-level expert on your glad-story? You’ve never hit ‘rock bottom’ why do you keep forcing yourself into laying lower than you are. I think secretly, you LIKE this.

The first steps are easy for a martyr, poor lonesome me, all broken and used up. But six – asking God to remove all defects? How the heck does that fit with reformed theology? Believe me, the last thing my ego needs is to think I’ve been perfected… that’s what gets me in to these messes in the first place. I need my inner idiot, my flawed self, my humility, lest I become even more insufferable to those atound me. That’s why self-help never really works for me beyond a few months – the same person that dug the whole is in charge of filling it in.

So I sit here, with my $25 paintings of an artist’s impression of a guy who heard of Van Goth on an episode of Dr. Who wondering why I didn’t do what I wanted. 

See, I didn’t want a dining table, I wanted a booth. A diner’s booth. But, if you’re going to have people over, everyone needs a chair. I still want a booth. I wanted (specifically) a 3/4 circle-table diner’s corner booth, blue and white. Not dark blue, but a Lake Placid blue. Sure I live in a second floor apartment, but still… why didn’t I buy that booth? Why is my couch-type-thing a cho-fa? A loveseat with a chaise attached? I love my Charlie Brown striped chair on a swivel. That I bought later on a whim – that’s the most “me” thing in this “long-term stay” hotel existence. And it hit me…. this was never meant to be more than a transition place. Non-descript, non-unique – apart from my grey-orange-black-tan chevron chair. 

Everything in here is “safe.” Everything is one-person mobile. Every piece could be lost in a move (apart from a stool, a chest and two chairs) and I’d care more about the price of replacement than the pieces themselves. And it isn’t because I’m a guy and don’t care – it’s because I didn’t know how much freedom I’d have in just a year. The divorce would be final, and I would quit my job with no idea what I was going to do next. In 12 days my calendar reads “sleep late, cook breakfast, nap.” I’m not sad.

I’m free.

I don’t owe anyone anything – no debt at all. It’s called financial peace.

I have made amends where I can – and carry no resentments towards others.

My regrets are mostly about hurting others – and I live with them, but they demonstrate who I was, they do not define who I am.

Whatever I choose to do next is MY choice, my responsibility.

I can buy a hearse (full service ministry). I can buy a custom-couch made from seats out of an old El Dorado. I can get my corner booth. I can be exentric, eclectic and energetic. I can invite others along for the journey. 

I can chose.

Freedom – by recognizing forgiveness. I am forgiven…

Uncategorized

Image Is Everything (and nothing)

(My son Karts indoors @ French Lick Indiana. 2018)

The picture above is all about image. It’s a chance shot that paid off. If you glance you can draw several conclusions. First, he’s flying. Second, he’s about to nail the apex and then the gas to carry the speed through the corner. He looks for all the world like a young Rob Nguyen, the Australian born (Vietnamees descent) racer, showing his focus, skills and determination pursuing another win.

Of course, I could let you think that, except for the fact that it isn’t true.

Truth is, dad panned the camera so the background would be blurry. He’s the slowest car on the track by about 3 seconds a lap. He’s driving carefully because, as the lightest driver in the cars, that Kart will swap ends fast. He’s already had 2 dad’s (not his own) put him into the wall & it’s his first lap in the “big boy” carts that top out around 30-35mph – and his legs aren’t long enough to nail it.

To him, “Apex” is the company that made the portable DVD player lost somewhere in his closet.

In other words, he drives on a racetrack like 98% of the driving his dad does on the roads. Too slow, too deliberate and too concerned with the idiots in the other cars.

My son is blissfully unaware of many things. Part of that is parental shielding, but part of it is his makeup.