It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Some of you gave me a nudge to get another post out. I really appreciate that. It does help. I’m humble that anyone is interested in reading any of this. I do write down thoughts and notes as they come. It’s not unusual to be jotting down notes as I read in the morning or at the local coffee shop during lunch. On occasion I even send texts to myself to capture a wayward thought here and there (am I the only who does self-texting?). Eventually, it just takes a series of sit downs without interruption and distractions to get some semi-intelligent and randomly coherent thoughts out. In the end; however, I realize on pre-post proof read that my words may not make sense to some and perhaps to no one. I just allow for that. Such is the nature of churning.
There is risk in sharing some of these thoughts. Words simply fail to capture everything. One risk is that a reader might assume I am completely miserable. I am not. Another is to assume that when I reflect on a truth or a needed and desired life action – that I have my act together and am now ‘getting r done’. Not so. Change and certainly sanctification are a long uncertain processes with a lot of mystery and inevitable failures.
It seems I tend to write long blogs. I think shorter blogs would be easier for the few readers who have decided to delve with me here. But that does not seem to work for me right now. It comes as it comes.
The goal here is not content management. I find this ironic, as my job title at present is – Content Manager. God does have a sense of humor.
If there is a theme in this blog, I think it would be, “The Confessions of a Contumacious Monk”. I try to explain that below. Note that I did have to look up the definition of ‘contumacious’. It does fit me I fear.
Phone Sighs. Renee just called. We don’t usually cry on the phone together. Sometimes we do. She had heard a song that reminded her of Micah. We do laugh more than we cry but they are often mingled together.
Pause and Pray: Jesus please guide my words. Even in my lamenting, let me not detract from your work… in me or in others. Let the Spirit speak to me and through me.
January 17, 2015.
Today is January 17, 2015. It’s been 90 days without Micah. I’m down right mad as I write this. I want my son back and I’m furious that he is not coming back. Today I have screamed, pounded my chest and waved my arms in the air. It changes nothing. Who would have known that emptiness weighed so much? Not sure what will come out of my ‘pen’ – but here it is. Let the soulful-ink flow!
Lamenting Prayer I wrote this in my journal recently:
“Deliver me oh lord from wasted living – whatever the cost. The cost already seems too high. There is no turning back now. Let’s get it on Lord. No games. You are the king. You are God.
You know my past. You know my future. You know the burden of my soul as I write this. Reign in me now oh lord!
I surrender to whatever you would have of me. I surrender to the crucible of your love. I plead with you lord to break the strings that bind me from total surrender.
I willingly surrender my mind, body, soul, spirit and will to your love. I confess my flesh (all that crud… pride, arrogance, addiction to comfort, greed, envy, judgment, slander, demanding my way, unkindness, ingratitude, grumbling, laziness, self pity, self-obsession …and all that other crap – must I name it all?
You know me. JESUS! Jesus! …Jesus…?
Help me oh lord to be emptied and annihilated that I may know you more.
I want escape Lord. I want to feel better. I want to be distracted forever.
For all my Jesus talk …. courage evades me like the plague. What does that say of you? Of me?
I want some hope and I want to feel it right now ..damn it!
My self-obsession is …self-obsessing me. Go figure.
Teach me Lord to seek you in my pain, increase my thirst for you, turn my passion to you. Zap me, transport me, fill me, or do whatever is necessary for me to surrender fully to you.
What will it take lord to transform me into a grateful person? A contagiously grateful person. A dude who gets you, abides in you and with that – loves in action the world around me – in EVERY circumstance …with goodness and Joy.
Open my eyes to see! Take me there lord. I cannot get there on my own. I cannot see it.
I surrender everything I know about me to everything I know about you. I surrender to your perfect love. I love you Abba.”
As I was texting this week – I was reminded that I still have my texting history with Micah on my phone. Sometimes I will look at his texts just because it feels like he is talking with me again or so I want it to. It’s pretty obvious that I did most of the talking in our conversations …even with texts.
Kind of weird I guess but I sent him a text today:
“I miss you so much. Love dad”.
No bounce back. I suppose AT&T does not reach that far. There are lots of ways to pray.
Grief is not an emotion. It is a process. It occurs to me that grief can take on an unhealthy life of its own. Another grey flesh prone reality to mess with. Yet we have to allow for the process.
I was remembering Micah’s last day. I was not able to hold him in my arms. I so wish I could have. Painful memories.
A Haunting Question
A pastor friend is supporting an upcoming youth rally. He approached me and asked if I would be willing to comment with an answer to the following question. It is a great question. I love the question but I must admit – the question is haunting me:
‘Where is God in our broken places and where and how do we find a handful of peace in the midst of storms?’
I’m asking that question a lot myself right now. However, my soul tends to get stuck on the question more than yielding to the answer. The answer is super crucial to me – now more than ever. Renee and I had a conversation the other day where we discussed – if we could go back -before Micah left us- but now know what we know and with our now (after Micah’s death) perspective – if we could do that, then how would our conversation change? The answer is super crucial. I should be able to give this answer to my own soul and to any trouble soul who crosses my path.
What would your answer be? How would you articulate it to a troubled soul?
I want to be haunted by this question. It must be answered – well. More to come on this.
Anti-Thesis Dirge: Heaven Is Not My Home
I’m going to try and explain something here. I’ve been churning on it for some time. It has to do with perspective on hope and a future of desired grateful living. My perspective has changed and is changing more I think. This is no small thing because any life of gratitude lived is a life that also experiences and acknowledges pain and suffering. It is a difficult resolution. For me, I feel it is the crux of my faith walk. Its failure seems to me at present to be the potential failure of a faith walk. It lives or dies here.
There is an old hymn I have favored over the years. The version I have on my ipod is titled, “This World is not my home” with familiar lyrics that include, “if heavens not home oh Lord what will I do…. I can’t feel at home in this world any more”. It’s kind of a corny cutesy country twang of a song. But I must admit it has at different times actually brought tears to my eyes. Indeed I it was on my playlist for a reason. It soothed my soul and seemed to bring comfort when I was down. This is no longer the case.
The song started to play the other day and I had an immediate reaction of – anger. I realize now that these words represent the anti-thesis of my present outlook following Micah’s death. I now find the song to represent a cop out, a cowards mantra – a self-pity feeding instrument of the enemy. I’ll try to explain.
Today on planet earth, heaven is not my home. The world I find myself breathing in is my home. Furthermore, I believe more than ever that I am called to make the most out of the life I have in this world and indeed to do everything I can to make this world a better place. I readily admit that I fail at that much more than I succeed.
I also acknowledge that too often – arguably, even as my norm – I have been and am a self-obsessed ungrateful stick in the mud. I have the audacity to be miserable and complain simply because things have not gone my way, or my comfort is negatively impacted, or my abundance is scarcer than I want it to be…etc. etc. etc.
Instead of dwelling on the mud I seem to think I’ve found myself in – while soothing myself by singing jingles of “if heavens not my home, oh Lord what will do” (now said sarcastically in the squeaky and intentionally insulting voice of a munchkin), I need to repent of my grumbling self-obsession. And so I shall over and over again.
Happy about it or not – I’m in this world and it’s time to embrace it, learn to celebrate what is worthy of celebrating and seek to become – truly grateful. Please be clear: I’m not pulling this off yet …not in any way shape or form. Here ..right now … I’m simply acknowledging my real calling to make the world a better place and to at least attempt to learn to be grateful in the process.
This world IS my home. This is where God has placed me. Right here and right now – with the hurt, the pain, my failure, shortcomings, sins and weaknesses but also along with the good and the ever so many things worthy of thanks.
Whether or not I ever mature into a grateful person – I will no longer be soothed by this pathetic theme song and the lie (within me) that it has supported. END diatribe. BEGIN to contemplate anew – Unconditional Gratitude.
In his book “Ruthless Trust”, Brennan Manning refers to grumbling as the “antithesis of giving thanks”. I’m beginning to understand that more. Manning also quotes a work by St. Benedict where he stated that he ‘considered grumbling a serious offense against community life’. I’m sure I’m not up for the ‘rules of monastic living’ but I like the response St. Benedict suggested and Manning’s chapter close:
…he describes the appropriate response to a “contumacious monk” who is creating discord in the monastic community. ‘Let Father Abbot send two stout monks to explain the matter to him’. The saintly founder of Western Monasticism implies that a left jab to the solar plexus and a right hook to the jaw would swiftly clear the grousing brothers mind.
To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.
(Ruthless Trust, kindle location 464).
As a self-confessed “contumacious monk”, I think a left jab and right hook might be deserved on occasion …as I hear myself grumbling all too often. Even so it’s probably best to not tell that to my 4th degree black belt wife.
Pondering the path to grateful living in a world of pain. Its a narrowing road.
THE FAM, WEIRD PONDERINGS, LIFE-N-STUFF LIKE THAT
We did ok over Christmas. We never did get many decorations up. Renee bought a small live tree. We had a few lights on it. There was only one ornament on the tree – a red-bull motorcycle (Thank you Kaitlin & Chris). We all seemed quite fine with the decorations as they were.
On Christmas day our friends and next door neighbors joined us along with a friend of Paul’s who does not have family in Alaska. We shared a red-bull toast for Micah. I think that is now a Christmas tradition. We allowed for personal preference on red bull substitutions (it really is nasty stuff!).
We exchanged some Christmas gifts. However, I must admit I did not buy anyone a single gift. That does seem really selfish when I think about it now. Renee bought some things for the boys from both of us. I just had no desire to engage in the shopping and wrapping thing. Normally I go nuts with gag gifts in the stockings. We did not hang any stockings this year.
Renee surprised me significantly when she handed me a gift and said it was from Micah. It contained a bag of premium coffee beans from a roaster in Vashon Island, Wa. Renee said it represented the kind of gift Micah would have gotten me. That’s so true. It also contained a small roll of cash. Indeed this was from Micah as Renee had found some cash amongst Micah’s belongings – and subsequently split it between Paul, Noah and I. I was not expecting this at all …so it hit me hard.
I am sending the small amount of cash to our compassion international child in Uganda. Please be clear, there is truly no real sacrifice in that…it’s not a lot of money. It’s just a born of a need to express our love for Micah in any way we can. I plan to drink the coffee over the 4 days we are camping in June – where we will spread Micah’s ashes. Micah and I often enjoyed a good cup of French press coffee together. …as do Paul and Noah and I.
This holiday recap seems heavy as I’m re-reading this. Honestly though, we were not hanging our heads in misery. We did enjoy the holiday and the time together. We did a hobbit and lord of the rings marathon and then we all went to see the new hobbit movie together. We have also begun a chronological watching of every James Bond movie (Noah has them all).
Christmas was just different and I think will be for the duration.
Renee and I have shared that many things right now have a bitter-sweet nature to them. For example, I greatly enjoyed watching my favorite team win the NFC championship game. It was a blast. I truly enjoyed celebrating with the family and a few friends (our neighbor said she never imagined I could jump so high). However, within seconds of jumping and shouting with glee over the last-minute victory – a wave of tearful sorrow came on as I thought of how much Micah would have enjoyed this and again of how significant his absence is and how much I miss him. His absence pierces so many moments…and I want it to.
Renee and the boys did not believe me when I told them that I cried during the last Hobbit movie. I’ve been mocked severely with laughter.
Seriously thought (no really… Seriously) I was impacted by the perpetual – and often severe – battle between good and evil. With each victory there is more pain and another battle brewing. Yet help comes from unexpected places and at times from unexpected characters. Friendship involves trust, sacrifice, and sometimes betrayal.
Forgiveness requires intentional sacrifice in love.
There is loss along the way.
Sacrifice in love can be ever so difficult and not always well received. Doing so can take immense if not also stumbling courage … with the outcome never sure. Sometimes indeed, we need to see those whom we perceive as our enemies with an awareness of our own self-obsession and propensity for evil. We each deal with our own internal demons.
Most importantly it was a reminder of how important it is to be grateful and enjoy what you can with every opportunity along the journey – before, during the lull and after each battle. There’s nothing like a good puff on some long bottom leaf from the Shire to lighten the spirits and fill the soul with gratitude (or in my case some occasional Arturo Fuente leaves). Ok..ok.. the Hobbit metaphors go on and on. At least I’m not crying over some chic flick.
Paul did find us a new family dog. Technically it’s his dog which is a key point Renee makes when it comes to walking, feeding, etc. Gimli is an American Bull Dog / Terrier mix. Paul rescued Gimli from a local dog shelter. Gimli is basically a big powerful but gentle lug-of-a mutt. He is very mellow. It’s pretty clear that he likes his new digs and family. He does not like having his new collar removed. I’m guessing he equates that with abandonment perhaps.
It’s good to have a dog around again although our cat would share a different opinion. Well done Paul.
Tragedy, Comedy and Love
Noah and I have been meeting two or three times a week for about 6 weeks to prepare a message for Sunday services on Jan 11, 2015. I’ve include a link to the podcast below for anyone interested. Basically we used the concept of “Holy Curiosity” and asked each other to answer the following questions: Question for Dad:
1. Where do you see room for comedy and humor in spiritual life? 2. When in your life do you think you were weakest in your faith?
Questions for Noah:
1. How do you see your role as a faith leader/Pastor in your everyday life right now? 2. What has affected or influenced your faith walk most in the last 3 years?
Shared Question 4:
Where do you think your faith walk is most challenged right now?
These questions really hit home for each of us in different ways. By far the best part of the experience was the time, discussion, coffee and chess shared with Noah. Thank you Gus.
Quote Shared: Improvised Shakespeare Company: Acting, Improv and Public Faith. http://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/acting_improv_and_public_faith
Message Closing Prayer:.
“May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness. that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is father, son and spirit. …Today on planet earth, may you experience the wonder and beauty of yourself as Abbas child and temple of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Brennan Manning quoting his spiritual director Larry Hien. Abba’s Child, Kindle location 121 and 117).
Quotes of Note of late:
- “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude.
- “The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment.” (Brennan manning).
Other stuff I’m thinking on
- Second Conversion (Brennan Manning)
- Ruthless Trust (Brennan Manning)
- Aware of fear of being insignificant and marginalized and then thinking of where I may be making others feel that way.
- Propensity to seek distractions as an escape. How hard it is to just allow time to take in what is.
- Grace Before Meat (an old article Noah introduced to me)
- Huddle. A huddle is a high commitment small discipleship group that meets for a year with intentional focus that includes the concept of invitation and challenge. I’ve participated on several and now I’m wanting to start one. Prayerfully looking for willing and interested candidates …or victims.
- Gratitude for Renee, Paul and Noah. They are awesome.